Not everyone is born with a golden spoon. Some cool dudes are also born in a poor family like me. But I was always a dreamy boy who wanted to see different cultures and countries. The problem for me was, I only saw rich people travel to other countries and share airport photos. But as I told you, I love to dream.
Hey, my name is Fahad Bin Husne Ali and I work as a location manager of seats2meet here in Bangladesh. This is my story of how I traveled to 6 countries with social capital and a little amount of money, having one of the weakest passports on earth.
After finishing my 10th grade, I told my father to make a passport for me. BOOM! Everyone became crazy! Not because it needs money but because they had no clue about what I am gonna do with it. My father asked me about this matter and I told him that I would like to visit India. The closest neighbor of Bangladesh. I can’t describe my father’s facial reaction. It was funny. I was just sixteen and here we judge young people as kids. Maybe everywhere and I think we should stop it. My family was like, how can we let a kid like you travel?
After a hell of lot of arguments and crying, my father said, “Okey, let’s go to the passport office next week, I have to collect some money too, it’s not free”. My mom was super angry at my father and let me tell you that they were almost near to get divorced, just kidding.
Next week we applied for a passport and it took 30 days. I was super super excited. One of the worst systems here is, if you are under 18 then one of your guardians needs to make a passport along with you in case you want to have one. As I told you, we should stop judging young people as kids.
After getting the passport in hand, I planned a tour to India. Now I need a visa. If you are an European or American or living in a first-world country, you probably don’t know the struggle of getting a visa being a Bangladeshi. For example, I was visa rejected twice by Thailand, twice by The Netherlands just because I don’t have money in my bank account. Well, I respect policymakers and their rules anyway.
I was hopeful for the Indian visa and finally applied. Got the visa in 7 days and it was like a dream come true moment. I was on my 3rd day of polytechnic class and I started shouting when I saw my father’s message about my visa approval.
Let me take you a little back for some minute. I joined Facebook back in 2014. Before that, I barely even knew about the internet and the world. When I was finally on an internet family, I had an idea to expand my network all over the world. I would like to know people and their life and make friends. In 2015 I became friends with a world traveler who traveled to almost every country on earth. He saw my excitement for his stories, photos, and life. He loved my enthusiasm. Bangladesh was one of the last countries to visit and we met in the capital of Dhaka for 30 minutes. He brought a T-shirt and chocolate for me. That was the first time I ever met any foreigner. After a chat, we said bye to each other and it was awesome. We were online friends for years. I still have some friends whom I never met and want to hug when I meet.
So after he went back home in 2015, he heard that I am planning for an India trip. He said I am coming too. I was super excited about everything. He actually gave me an air ticket for my entire trip which he got from the airline’s miles reward. He was happy, I was more than happy. It’s gonna be my first air trip too. I always wanted to fly.
So 25 December 2015 the day arrived, I flew. We met in India. We had fun and I learned a lot from a world-class traveler.
After coming back home, I became a hero to my family and friends. I was the only person who traveled outside or flew on a plane. I wrote stories on Facebook and people started liking it. Now I have my own traveling blog for writing travel stories. They were asking for more stories and photos. Also, some people were surprised by the fact that I traveled alone at 16 years of age. Some young people start having some inspiration.
I was worried about my traveling life. My traveler friend will not gonna give me tickets forever and I will never ask him to. Even if he gives me, there are other expenses too. So my plan was to figure out how I can avail all that. Now, most probably you are thinking about hitchhiking and living on the road. I did that too but that’s not a good traveling life and you barely can focus on nature and friends. I had no clue how to do it. Travelling is an expensive hobby after all.
I finally figured it out. How about making a network where I can have friends everywhere who would love to host me. Now I know you are thinking about Couchsurfing but it has one big problem. Hosts and guests usually don’t know each other. Just some random lines to describe and there are some scams and crime reports against this platform like hosts take the guest home and loot that man or woman. I wanted to make my version of Couchsurfing where I know my hosts and their life, their personality, and most important I am connected with them. That sounds like a hard job to create but I have done it. I joined traveler groups, contributed with information, shared photos, shared thoughts and made personal value, and made friendships with like-minded people. It took time but today I have friends across the globe who would love to host me in their houses and some are even ready to become my travel guide in their free days.
I have traveled to 6 countries and they are India, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Here in Bangladesh, it’s an achievement for me.
I have been staying in friend’s homes in each and every country I traveled to. I worked as a volunteer in India, Vietnam, Bhutan. I worked as a cleaning staff in a cruise ship in Mumbai, India, and all these opportunities were given by my local friends. I remember I had my Bhutan tour with only 70 euros and the air ticket cost is more than 600 euros. People didn’t believe my story but I made it possible by taking a 3 days bus journey from Bangladesh to India to Bhutan. Once I put my feet in Bhutan, one of my friends came to receive me with his 3 seated car and I stayed in his home for 3 days and when I moved to another city he called his friend to host me who also showed me around the cities and paid for all the entries in the tourist zone. I stayed in Nepal for 28 days and most of the days were with a local family who learned English from me. I saw their tears in their eyes when I said bye after 2 weeks. One of my friends showed Kathmandu their capital city with his scooty and he was so happy about it. I stayed 2 weeks as a local Nepali boy. Even now I know some Nepali words.
In Vietnam, I worked as a tour group operator where I have to enroll people in their tours and they will accept me for free. I failed but still, they accept me to go with them where I can serve their guests.
I have hundreds of individual stories which will make this blog extremely huge and I promise I will keep writing here in the Seats2meet magazine.
If you see the title, it says traveling with social capital. The definition of social capital is “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively”. So I have to contribute to my network too instead of just taking it out of it.
I am a host in Bangladesh for any traveler who wants to visit my village which is naturally fantastic and my home is open for anyone who would love to travel and share their story, photos, experience, and technology if you have any, we would love to share our food with you too. I hosted many including the initiator of the Permanent Future Lab MR. Jurjen de Vries. I love meeting new people, learning life, and sharing technology. If any of you wants to visit Bangladesh then feel free to contact me on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or email me for becoming a guest and I can make your itinerary.
I thought it would be lovely to write this blog on this platform to show how social capital or a sharable mindset can change a poor boy’s life and turn him into a traveler and storyteller and how you can too travel with social capital and learn life and meet people and share thoughts.
Thank you for reading. See you on the next blog.
Fahad Bin Husne Ali,