Kamarul Halim M Kamal
BATU PAHAT (Bernama) – From pursuing a law career to travelling around the world on his trusty bicycle – Muhammad Amir Arsad quit his job two years ago to fulfill his dream of backpacking around the world all by himself.
So far, he has visited 33 nations in the Asian and European continents, where he did most of his touring on his Btwin Riverside 900 model bicycle that he had bought second-hand for MYR2,000 in 2016 just before he embarked on his first solo cycling expedition in Indonesia.
He has since covered countries like the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany and several nations that used to be part of the former Soviet Union such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
This 30-year-old Universiti Utara Malaysia law graduate has cycled more than 18,000 kilometres during his travels and the longest distance he has cycled on a single day is 500 kilometres when he was in Turkmenistan.
Muhammad Amir, who is still single and lives in Parit Ya’ani intended to go to Japan and South Korea in March this year but the COVID-19 crisis and movement control order (MCO) put paid to his plan.
The pandemic, however, was a blessing in disguise for Muhammad Amir as he had plenty of free time to edit and upload more videos documenting his travel experiences on his Amir Arsad YouTube channel which now boasts 55,000 subscribers.
Over the last five months or so, he has uploaded 150 videos, each about 15-20 minutes long.
“Sharing my travel experiences via my videos on YouTube gave me an opportunity to re-explore my adventures,” he told Bernama, adding that he had also shared his photos and videos on other social media platforms such as Instagram during his travels.
He is also working on producing videos featuring interesting aspects, as well as places rarely visited by people, of the 33 countries he has travelled to.
Muhammad Amir, who cannot wait for the international borders to reopen so that he can pack his bicycle, board a plane and head for his next destination, is happy the authorities have given the green light to domestic tourism under the recovery movement control order.
“I’m now thinking of cycling to some interesting but lesser-known locations in the east coast and northern parts of the peninsula,” he said, adding that he also plans to cycle throughout the length and breadth of Sabah and Sarawak as he wants to know more about the cultures of the indigenous peoples who live in the two states.
Muhammad Amir, who enjoys cycling as it “tests my physical and mental endurance”, also said that being a backpack traveller, he is able to keep his costs low as he cycles most of the time and at night, he would pitch his own tent and sleep in it.
He would also make it a point to visit the Malaysian embassy in the country he is travelling in to introduce himself and, if possible, seek sponsorships.
“Sometimes, I meet some locals who are kind enough to offer me a place to stay and food to eat,” he said, adding that Kazakhstan citizens were some of the nicest people he had met during his travels.
“They were so hospitable and treated me so well and nearly all of them I met gave me some pocket money when they found out I was backpacking.”
He also recalled an unforgettable incident when a dog that belonged to the owner of a house where he had spent a night in Kazakhstan suddenly lunged forward to bite him just as he was about to leave to resume his journey.
“The dog was not being hostile… apparently, it didn’t want me to leave,” Muhammad Amir said smiling and added that it is common for Kazakhstan families to keep dogs to guard their homes.
The intrepid traveller is also happy to note that his cycling and backpacking activities have been recognised by his village committee, elected representative and even the state government as he won the 2018 Youth Icon award.
Once the international borders reopen, he will head to Japan and South Korea and later the North American and African continents.
Muhammad Amir, meanwhile, has set his sights on opening his own travel agency next year to take Malaysians on tours to overseas destinations that he himself has found interesting.
“I also plan to include cycling tours in my tour packages as I want my clients to discover the joy of cycling and visiting new places,” he added.