An avid traveller - 60 countries in 4 years and counting - and revert to Islam, Michael is no stranger to seeking new experiences and learning from it along the way. After leaving his home to live his dream of travelling the world, he has since caught up with family and friends through postcards, which has gained so much popularity that he now gets requests from thousands of people all over the world!
We couldn't think of anyone better than Michael of Starring You
to feature for this instalment of #HHWT Explorers
Tell us a little bit about yourself ?
My name is Michael Ruppert, 29 years old and born in The Netherlands. My mother is from Belgium, that’s why besides the Dutch I also have the Belgian nationality. My hobbies are sailing and long distance sports like triathlons. After high school I joined the Dutch army for almost 4 years and thereafter I went to university. I was already 24 years old when I finally decided to follow my dreams and start traveling the world.
What inspired you to pack your bags and travel the world?
When I started to travel I thought it would be nice to share my experiences with my family and friends by sending them a postcard once in a while. When my family and friends received the first postcards, some of their friends (total strangers for me) also asked me for a postcard. That’s the moment I decided to create my “Starring You’’ Facebook page. The idea is very simple. Everybody who is interested can send me his or her address, after that I’ll will surprise them with a postcard from one of the countries that I’ll visit. For free.
Very quickly I got many followers and received thousands of addresses from people from all around the world. The people who receive my postcards are usually very enthusiastic and some of them like my initiative so much that they make donations to make sure I can keep sending out the postcards and stay on the road.
Nowadays we receive digital messages via e-mail, Facebook, twitter and other social media. I think we have forgotten how great it is to receive something tangible from the mail man. A handwritten postcard with a personal message from a far away country is much more special than an e-mail that you’ll read once and then delete. Tangible/offline messages and attention are highly appreciated in this online era.
Not everybody has the time, the money or the opportunity to travel. By sending out the postcards and sharing my experiences I hope to take everyone with me on my journey around the world. People who have received my personal postcards really become part of my journey.
What has been the most rewarding experience for you since you've been on your travels?
During my travels I never stay in hotels or hostels, but always with local families. They invite me via social media to stay with them for a while. It has been an absolutely amazing experience to see so many different countries from the perspective of a local family. I’m very grateful that I’ve had the unique opportunity to live with local families in 60 countries.
What was it that fascinated you about Islam while you were travelling?
Most of my host families in Indonesia and Malaysia were Muslim families. Those families never asked me to convert, but they just showed me their way of living.
That’s how they triggered and inspired me to learn more about Islam and why I decided to take classes about Islam at local mosques in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. While taking the classes, I still didn’t have the intention to convert. My teachers respected that and only insisted to show me more about Islam. After a few weeks of discussing things, reading Quran and practicing how to pray, I knew that converting to Islam would be the right thing to do in my life.
I still look the same and didn’t suddenly change my thoughts or friends. However, I do experience that when I pray 5 times per day I’m much more focused on the important things in life than before. I feel more relaxed, focused and determined.
Did you face any tough problems with your family when you told them about being a Muslim?
Not at all! Just like most people in The Netherlands, my family and friends are very tolerant and open minded towards any religion, race or sexual orientation. They’ll always support and help me wherever they can.
If you had an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours. What would your itinerary look like?
With my private jet I would pick up Xi Jinping, Pranab Mukherjee, Dilma Rousseff, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, Mamnoon Hussain and Joko Widodo. Together with all those presidents of big countries I would fly to Jakarta and visit a karaoke bar. I truly believe in the power of karaoke! It brings people together and I’m sure many world problems would be solved during our night at the karaoke bar.
What are 3 of your favourite destinations, and why?
For me it’s not very important where I travel in the world and I don’t have any specific locations on my wish list. I’ve seen many many nice beaches, cities, jungles and mountains all around the world, but usually it’s the people who make a trip an unforgettable experience. And what’s so amazing about this world is that you can find wonderful people everywhere!
What are some of the challenges you have faced while travelling and what did you learn from it?
In fact I don’t have any bad memories or feelings about any of the places I’ve visited. Now and then I’ve lost my phone, laptop or credit card and I’ve got robbed a couple of times, but as a full time traveler I’ve learned to adapt to new situations really quickly. The only must-have during my travels is my passport.
There’s one thing that can affect my mood in a negative way: My health. Being sick in a foreign far away country is absolutely horrible.
Do you have any tips for people who'd like to travel the world?
My dream had always been to travel around the world. Until I was 24 I had always thought and read a lot about it. But I never started! My advice for everybody with the same dream is: Just do it! If you keep doubting if it’s the right moment (concerning budget, safety or career), you’re never gonna do it.
Go for the adventure, take a little risk and buy a ticket! After being on the road for 4 years I can assure you: It’s worth it!
Fill in the blanks: My hope for the world is that…
People would do a little bit more effort to get to know others before judging them relentlessly. I see a lot of anger and hate between Muslims and non-Muslims, but usually it’s only caused by ignorance and fear from both sides. Let’s all just have a drink together and get to know each other! It would solve many problems.
You can follow my travels on Facebook
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