A loud thought about joining his friend in Borneo changed the course of the life of Lukasz Przybylek for two years and counting. While working as a forester for Polish State Forests based in Warsaw, Przybylek, 38, met a number of Malaysians, and was introduced to the Malaysian culture via numerous invitations to events hosted by the Malaysian embassy.
But in 2015, one of Przybylek’s best Malaysian buddies, Aizwan, completed his medical studies and received an offer for medical training in Kota Kinabalu. Przybylek recalled, “I said to him, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be living in Borneo? It would be a dream come true for me.’ And Aizwan replied, ‘Do you want to join me?’ The next thing I knew, I tendered my resignation and was all packed the following week, ready for a new adventure in Borneo.”
It was a bold move for Przybylek to leave everything behind and embark on a new life in a country that he had only visited twice previously. His maiden trip was three years before the relocation, when Przybylek was invited by Aizwan to join him in a true Aidilfitri celebration at his parents’ home in Sungai Petani, Kedah. “I tagged along with Aizwan when he went home for the holidays. I was there for two weeks and spent one of the most memorable times in a real Malaysian town. Finally, I was able to personally witness how Eid is actually celebrated. To be welcomed by total strangers and take part in the joyous occasion as a member of the family left a deep impression on me,” he said.
Not long after that, Przybylek took a holiday in Sabah just because he wanted to see a real life orangutan. Not only did he see them, he even had the chance to walk hand in hand with one! “It was a rare opportunity that came up. Naturally, I grabbed it! It was at this point that I fell in love with the Land Below the Wind,” he stated as a matter of fact.
“I have always been attracted to Southeast Asia because of its diverse cultures, friendly people and unique cuisines. To me, this region is a package deal. It was just a matter of time for me to finally relocate here. Thanks to Kota Kinabalu’s strategic location and affordable flights out of the country via budget airlines, I am able to create even more lovely memories to treasure,” he added, staying true to his online nickname ‘Lotoholik’ which means ‘flight addict’ in Polish.
Despite only living off his savings and income from freelancing for the past two years, Przybylek is having a whale of a time exploring this ‘exquisite’ Southeast Asian region, and in the process, documenting every adventurous journey in his blog. At the same time, Przybylek is building up his social media profiles with one fascinating travel photo after another. To date, he has visited all Malaysian states except for Pahang and Terengganu. Having set foot in so many parts of the country, Sabah still remains first in his heart because of its preserved nature. “But when it comes to food, nowhere else can beat Penang,” he conceded.
When not travelling, this Polish is a regular at his neighbourhood mamak stall, as he indulges in his local breakfast of ‘roti canai’ or ‘nasi lemak’ to be washed down with ‘teh tarik satu’. “I can get by with my smattering Bahasa Malaysia but most of the time, people speak to me in English, rendering less of a chance for me to learn the local language, although I am picking up new words daily through listening to the radio,” he said, throwing out a list of new words that came to mind, such as sedap, jom makan, rendang and ketupat. All food related words!
Although there are so many things about Malaysia that Przybylek loves, from Sabah’s greenery to Penang food and Melaka’s Peranakan heritage-cum-culture, it is Malaysians’ general friendliness and multicultural society that have made him stay put. Nonetheless, there are a few negatives that irk Przybylek, which includes dirty public toilets and poor driver attitude.
Much as Przybylek is enjoying his life now, there will be a time when he will return to Poland. He said, “I love Malaysia but I miss home. Travelling is my passion and there is just too much unexplored and uneaten but I am sure the day will come when I have had enough of such a lifestyle and return for a few short years, but that will be at least another year or two.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Spellbound by Sabah] was published on 5th August 2017 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.