Visiting the state this week, Fan Yuxiang has been on the road since 2013, driving from one country to the next. The wanderer has been on the move in the hopes of finding true love while also checking off his bucket list of seeing the world.
Driving passion — when love knows no boundaries
If you’ve seen a van with the words ‘A Man Wandering Earth’ driving around Kuching recently, it’s driven by a Mainland Chinese man and his Malaysian wife. The former — Fan Yuxiang — has been on the road since 2013, travelling from continent to continent and country to country. The 53-year-old man, who has been on the road for nearly a decade, told New Sarawak Tribune that he just decided to go one day.
Fan previously worked as a photographer and videographer for a media company in China. The Inner Mongolian native admitted to quitting the job because he felt there was no career progression, and it did not pay well. It was around this time that he discovered reality shows and blogs about Americans and Europeans leaving their homes to travel the world.
“My dreams of experiencing different cultures had inspired me to drop everything and drive around the world. So, I quit my job and sold my house. It was daunting at first, but I stayed the course. After months of planning — purchasing a vehicle for travel, photography and videography equipment, and other necessities — I am now down to 600 CNY (RM377).”
Fan, who was born in Guangzhou province, also spoke about his family back home.
“I am the oldest of three children. My second brother died of lung cancer in his forties. Seeing that happen, as well as learning that my family has a history of hereditary illnesses, motivated me to take this trip.”
His drive, from then to now
Fan began his journey on August 11, 2013, from his home in Shanghai, by wandering around China in search of a companion.
“In China, it is difficult to settle down with a girl simply because the male population outnumbers the female population. I got into a relationship with a woman 20 years my junior, but we didn’t go any further because she preferred a stable home to travelling.”
When he couldn’t find the love of his life in his own homeland, he began driving to a neighbouring country. Laos was his first stop. He has spent a total of 3 million CNY in over 81 countries to date. When asked how he managed to fund his trip around the world, Fan revealed that he had received a lot of help from people all over the world.
“I’ve met many generous people on my journey. They’d offer me food in exchange for advertising for them. Some of them also assisted me with visa applications and other matters. To earn money, I would share my travel diary, tourist attractions around the world, and other content on social media. But I make the majority of my money by accepting advertisements placed on my van.”
Fan also used his skills and expertise in photography and videography to help him survive in the various countries he visited.
“I sometimes take on freelance work, such as photographing or videoing an event. There were times when I helped them in exchange for assistance with my visa and passport.”
During his spare time, Fan updates his social media accounts — Douyin, Weibo, and WeChat — to document his trip and earn a side income.
“Days can be lonely, but I kept myself occupied by taking photos, compiling them, and documenting them.”
When asked about his favourite places, Fan mentioned Europe, America, Australia, Ireland, and Portugal. He commends the low and affordable cost of living there.
“When you compare the prices of items purchased there to those sold in China, the prices are quite low, especially when you earn their currency. Even in Malaysia, the cost of living is lower than in China.”
In terms of safety, Fan said that Europe and America are the safest.
“Meanwhile, the most dangerous countries are in Africa.”
His time in Africa
Sharing his experiences in Africa in 2016, Fan said that the dangers were not only from the people but also from the environment.
“Both the water and the air are unclean. What’s worse is that you are susceptible to contracting any of the various illnesses they have there.”
He recalled contracting the dengue virus in Côte d’Ivoire. It was also the time when he believed his earthly journey had come to an end.
“I was terrified and anxious. I thought I was going to die right then and there. My temperature had risen to 40 degrees Celsius. I had no medications and was completely alone.”
According to Fan, the dengue mortality rate in Africa was higher than that of COVID-19. Despite the fact that it was not his first fever, he remembered that night vividly.
“I drank 15 500ml water bottles that I purchased from the local mini marts. I wanted to keep going no matter what. I have no choice. I was in a foreign country.”
Fortunately, he recovered within four days.
But that was not the only ordeal he had gone through in Africa. During his one-year stay, Fan said he was mugged three times.
“It usually involves a gang of four to five men attempting to steal my belongings. The first time it happened, I escaped by running into a Chinese construction site manned by military policemen. But I wasn’t so fortunate the following two times. The last time I was mugged, I lost 400 USD!”
Fan’s situation did not allow him to leave Africa as quickly as he would have liked. He had to stay for a year because he had been stuck in a country within the continent for months due to documentation issues. He also needed 10,000 USD to pay for a container to transport his vehicle from Africa to the United States.
Despite his bad experiences on the continent, Fan claimed that not all of Africa is dangerous.
“Namibia, South Africa, Morocco, Togo, and Kenya are all stunning in my opinion. I enjoyed those countries because of their people, scenery, and, most importantly, peace. Roads and infrastructure are comparable to those found in Europe.”
He also had fond memories of the Chinese community that had stayed in Africa to work on construction projects.
“I wouldn’t have made it across the continent without them. Every 100 kilometres, there is a Chinese construction site. They’d notify the next one of my arrival. They also helped me a lot by sponsoring me and providing a safe place for me to stay.”
Love found during the pandemic
Fan shared his personal stories after driving through many countries around the world. Despite having had several relationships, none of them lasted.
“I met this Arabian girl in Africa. In America, I also went on blind dates with a few girls.”
Fan explained that when it comes to meeting foreign girls, the language barrier isn’t an issue because they use an online translator to communicate.
” They preferred to settle down rather than continue the journey with me.”
When asked which of the girls had left an impression on him, he cheekily replied, “girls from Colombia.”
“This is because the girls there are attractive. Every single one of them that I’ve met is beautiful.”
Nonetheless, physical attraction to a lady did not bring him true love. So, he continued his journey.
Just before the pandemic, he had entered Johor Bahru, Malaysia, via Singapore. He had hoped to travel into Laos via Thailand in search of a wife before returning to China. However, his ambition was dashed when the Thai government imposed a lockdown due to COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, Fan was forced to remain in Malaysia.
During this time, Fan met his current wife — Gloria Chin — on Facebook. Chin, who was born in Johor Bahru but was working in Kuala Lumpur at the time, was intrigued by Fan’s travel story.
“One day, he wrote that he is looking for a wife. I decided to chat with him because I was single at the time. He struck me as an interesting person. Since he was in Johor and I was in Kuala Lumpur, Fan decided to pay me a visit,” said Chin when met alongside Fan recently.
What was once referred to as ‘A Man Wandering Earth’ is now referred to as a couple wandering the earth. Chin revealed that they had recently legally married. Chin has always wanted to experience a different culture in a foreign country since she was a child. She had volunteered to teach children in Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia before meeting Fan. The 33-year-old also had experience working in the Philippines.
Fan and Chin arrived in Sarawak last week after travelling throughout West Malaysia. The couple is seen in various locations promoting Fan’s journey through a travel memoir. The book includes texts in Chinese characters describing the ups and downs of Fan’s ten-year journey, as well as photographs taken during that time. Those interested in purchasing this book can contact the couple via WhatsApp at +6011-31412347. Fan’s book is set to be published in English next month.
With Kuching serving as their transit point into Indonesia, the couple will now embark on a different journey around the world.
“This will be a two-person journey. This time, the goal is to travel to 116 countries in an electric vehicle (EV).”
When asked when they plan to settle down, they both replied, “We will retire on the road!”