Estonian musician Meigo Märk has recently completed walking in Vietnam, the 19th country in his walking journey named ‘The Walk Around the World.’
The 27-year-old walker said Vietnam is the country where he has stayed the second longest during his journey so far, and also one of the places he has been most warmly welcomed.
With a love of traveling developed at a young age, Märk began his trip in May 2014 from Estonia’s capital Tallinn, after being inspired by people who had achieved similar feats.
“There was a strong feeling inside me that pushed me to do this,” Märk told Tuoi Tre News.
The man expects to finish around 40,000km in eight to nine years and has covered more than 15,240km up to now.
Märk shared his experience in Vietnam during an interview with Tuoi Tre News on April 24:
Could you summarize your Vietnam trip?
I entered Vietnam on November 1 from Laos. From the central city of Dong Hoi, on Ho Chi Minh Highway I came to Vinh, then back to the highway to Hanoi. I was actually planning to go to China but I didn’t get a Chinese visa so for 1 month I was in Hanoi. I gave English courses voluntarily and people gave me places to sleep and eat. I really love being in local homes, because homestays help me understand more about the local life and culture.
Later I changed my route toward Vietnam’s southern region and walked back along a different road from Hanoi to Vinh, then to Hoi An, Da Nang and Quang Ngai. After that, I crossed the hill to Kon Tum, then to Pleiku, Buon Ma Thuot City and then crossed another hill to Da Lat before reaching Ho Chi Minh City.
I don’t like walking on highways much, I prefer small roads through villages, or coastal roads, because they are much more peaceful. My whole route in Vietnam took in more than 3,000km.
You posted a lot of photos of people accompanying you on Facebook. Are there any interesting stories from your time in Vietnam?
I became very close to many people in Vietnam and this country is the first place where I’ve had large groups of people accompanying me. It was a very interesting and special experience. A group including 13 members contacted me and said that they wanted to walk with me to Ho Chi Minh City. So we met in Duc Linh District in Binh Thuan Province. I was very impressed by the group’s energy, some female members had to arrange their family, children, work, while some members flew from Hanoi. On the second day, people had serious leg pains and blisters, and I thought they would give up, but they didn’t. Finally we overcome everything and reached Ho Chi Minh City.
I had the chance to experience Vietnamese Tet (Lunar New Year) in Dong Hoi. As I stayed in a local home, I got a very close look at the rituals and customs, ate foods, and drank a lot of beer [laugh].
Did you often receive help from Vietnamese people?
Oh pretty much. That was touching. Many people contacted me and said if I passed by their places, they were willing to host me. Even when I was in Laos, I was invited to Vietnamese homes twice.
Also while walking in Vietnam, people gifted me many things like shoes, socks, and food. Almost every day I saw people greeting me, stopping me and giving me tea, coffee, and water. Around 10 people a day stopped their motorbike and asked if I would like to be driven, but I refused and replied that I also “di bo” [walked]. Some even gave me money to support my trip.
Once I met a medical student who hosted me in his dormitory in Buon Ma Thuot City and walked with me for one day. On the way, he taught me to sing the northern traditional folk song “Beo Dat May Troi,” which I had heard before and was in love with the melody.
I was also presented with two Vietnamese bamboo flutes and was invited to a kung fu class by a master in Ho Chi Minh City.
The journey through Vietnam has made me love Vietnamese people very much, and I would like to express my gratitude toward them. Thanks to them, the trip was much easier.
Does your family support you to walk around the world like this?
My family loves traveling so they understand the value of it. I have also lived away from home since the age of 11. I wanted to study in a very special music school in my country, there’s only one school like this in all of Estonia. For five years, I was the youngest in the school, I had to cook for myself, had to worry about money, bus tickets, wash the clothes, everything. This has helped me to become more independent and my family also trusts me.
During my walking journey, I met my sister in Greece and we climbed Mount Olympus. My mother also came to Greece, to Turkey, and to Nepal to see me, and recently she flew to Da Nang.
We had a very interesting journey because I traveled only by walking, so we bought a new bicycle and put bags on the bike. She was riding the bike and I was running for two weeks. We covered around 200km from Da Nang to Quang Ngai. We traveled through small villages so my mother really saw the villages in Vietnam and really liked the landscape. We also visited Ly Son Island. After we reached Quang Ngai, my mother had to go back and so I sold the bike and continued walking.
Such a long journey must cost a lot. How can you afford your trip?
I started with less than 15 euros. I bought some bread and in the beginning I ate some edible leaves I found [Meigo Märk has been a vegetarian for 10 years]. I don’t remember how I survived back then [laugh].
Later I started to rent and then sold my house, together my music also brought me an income. Every month, several people sent me some money, some of them I don’t even know. They said they were inspired by my walking and wanted to help. And also my traveling is quite cheap, mostly when I walked, I stayed in tents, and also local people helped me a lot. I’ve spent an estimated 4,000 euros in three years.
I have the names of all people who helped me. I hope when I can write a book or make CDs, I can send them as gifts to thank them.
What has walking brought to you?
First of all, my health is getting much better and I also feel “richer.” As I meet so many people from so many different groups, many different places, from slums or remote forests to the biggest city in the world, I have experienced a lot.
Also, during my trip through Vietnam I had the opportunity to talk with Vietnamese students in Dong Hoi and Hoi An. They were full of energy and not afraid to ask things. I tried to inspire these young people to always do their best, speak their best, and think their best. I want them to understand that if they have a dream, they must do things to keep it alive, and there will be many ways to bring it to life.
Where are you heading after Vietnam?
I’m heading to Singapore, because I can’t walk through the ocean [laugh] so I was intended to take a cargo ship. In some places where people can’t walk, I will take ships, sometimes cargo ships. But I have recently been informed that the ship I'm going to take to Singapore has been delayed so I bought a flight ticket instead. There has been only one time I've had to fly before.