The Longer, Quieter Way Around

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons' Sapphireblue

Imagine traveling the world on a motorbike, Ewan McGregor-style.

For ten years, you make your way through more than 69 countries and over 300,000 kilometers, meet hundreds of interesting people and take photos throughout your journey. You visit every state in the U.S., catch a ferry from Venezuela to the Dominican Republican, get thrown in jail for three months in Cuba and have innumerable adventures.

Now imagine that you are doing this without the ability to hear or speak.

That is the story of one amazing man, 69-year old Belarusian Vladimir A. Yarets. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

He recently returned to Europe from the U.S. and is now passing through Rennes, France, where my sister and her friends recently got to meet him. My sister, who is studying abroad in Rennes this semester, describes him as a “very, very animated and friendly” man. She said communicating with him was a lot like playing charades, with plenty of pointing and “grand gestures.” Like this:

As a friend pointed out, the trip is strangely similar to Ewan McGregor’s three-month motorbike tour in 2004, documented in the Bravo channel’s The Long Way Around series.

Just for the record, though, Yarets had the idea first (he started his tour in 2000). Sorry, Ewie.

But as amazing as his journey is, it seems that not every place he visits is entirely welcoming. London writer Peter Marshall laments the city police’s response to Yaret’s arrival in Parliament Square in April.

Despite the evidence of Big Ben behind him, Yarets wasn’t in London, but had landed on Planet Security, a make-believe world where a remarkable man travelling the world on a BMW despite his disability is seen not as someone to be welcomed and applauded (and I’m pleased to have shaken his hand) but simply as a security risk.

Still, according to an article from The Week, Yarets says through an interpreter that although many people are indifferent to his journey, there are always those who are friendly and happy to help.

One of these helpful people Yarets met in Singapore started blogging about it.

Interesting tidbit: the blogger says Yarets never asked for money, but when the blogger noticed that Yarets’ glasses were broken, he and his friends chipped in to buy him new frames. When they noticed his fog lights weren’t working, they found him a sponsor to pay for new lights. He even took this photo that explains why Yarets is making this long, dangerous, undoubtedly tiring journey.

Now doesn’t that just make you all warm and fuzzy?

On a sidenote:
Just one more reason to Study Abroad (yes, with capital letters) — the chance to meet insanely interesting characters like this Yarets fellow. But don’t take my word for it …