Editor's Note: Iza Turaj and her friend Wiola spent most of the last 2 years hitchiking their way from Poland to Malaysia and then on the Austrailia, New Zealand, the US and Canada. In light of the fear, selfish cynicism, racism, separation and ugly politics our world has shown us so much of in the last year, I thought it a fitting way to end this year with a stereotype-defying montage of faces of people who showed kindness from them from around the world and helped them to journey from one end to the other of the world mostly just on the generosity of others.
Planning our one-year round-the-world trip we were thinking about all the countries and places we wanted to visit; it turned out didn't matter much: the best memories came from smiling faces of people who were our drivers, hosts and co-travelers. So instead of writing a description of our travels, we would like to tell you our story through people we have met during 17 months of our journey. We are grateful and honoured to know you. And even if we don’t know your names we will always remember you. Thank you:
A Polish Truck Driver who rescued our time at Glen Hansard’s concert in the little Czech town of Milevsko: We wouldn’t have made it without you.
Glen Hansard for making the first day of our journey one of the best. Thank you for this intimate and moving concert.
Jérémy for taking us from Hungarian-Serbian border and spending time with us in Belgrade and Sofia. For your accordion, all the crazy songs we listened to and for showing Polish people how to be Polish.
Nikola, the best hostel owner in the world. Star Hostel is always a great reason to visit Belgrade again. Don’t close it, please!
Kajt and Tomek for showing us brighter side of Sofia (and especially Tomek for not taking us to the mountain).
A Bulgarian Truck Driver for finding us in the middle of nowhere and helping us reach one of the most interesting places we have seen in the world: the Communist Party Building in Gabrovo.
The Five Turkish Guys from the van who picked us up from Turkish border, when we doubted for the first time if hitch-hiking was a good idea.
Ömer who tried his best to communicate with us, bought us our first çay in Turkey and made our time in the huge traffic of Istanbul fun.
One Turkish Driver who explained us in the funniest way the political situation of Turkey and told us a story about Atatürk.
Atahan for being the biggest surprise in Turkey! We would never expect to meet a young Turkish man in Safranbolu speaking perfect Polish. Good luck in Warsaw!
Our Couchsurfing Friends from Batumi - Murat, Sergii and Farnaz for showing us Georgia from different perspectives.
Farid and his friends for their Azeri hospitality and taking us to the unforgettable Borjomi.
Serhat for taking us to the best Dive Bar in Georgia and introducing us to Cenap, who became our true friend. Thank you so much for your hospitality guys and hope to see you again. We miss your balcony in Tbilisi and our late night talks.
All Georgians for making our stay exceptional. Georgia will always be one of our dream destinations.
The American Man who met us in the city centre of Yerevan and offered us a bed and a shower.
Kasra and Arash for introducing us to Iranian culture and delicious food, singing incredible Persian songs and helping us so many times.
Rafał from Sewan Lake and The Owner of the Campsite for welcoming us with authentic Armenian food and taking care of us.
Josephine, Madison, Michael, Brian and Merek for taking us to an Armenian festival, the abandoned buildings of Vanadzor and for teaching us what Fantasy Football is.
The Lawyer who drove us to Gyumri and told us about the history of the city and what it means to be young man in Armenia.
Vlad, Hovo and Hayk for the most diverse Couchsurfing experiences that could happen in the same city.
Aram from Alaverdi who showed us the real spirit of volunteering.
The Georgian Border Guard for making our day telling us a story about a wedding he attended the night before.
Turkish Truck Drivers for sharing traditional tea with us and helping us get through empty roads of northern Azerbaijan.
Elnur who picked us up in the middle of the night and took care of us for the first few days in Baku. It was great to meet you, your mum, dad, brother and all your friends.
Seyfi for hosting us in Baku, for our late night talks, and introducing us to Adem. Greetings for all your cousins and flatmates.
Adem for being the kindest man during our journey. Thank you for showing us real kindness and hospitality, showing us Baku and such incredible Turkish food.
The Crew of Caspian Sea Ferry - we are glad that we didn’t drown.
The Georgian Driver who didn’t let us wait even a minute for a ride from the ferry terminal.
Zhanna, the most lovely person in the world, for girly talks, serious conversations and interesting meetings with her friends.
Abay for the first interview on the way.
The Kazakh Policeman who warned us that there is no road between Atyrau and Kandyagash.
Our Couchsurfing hosts - Anwar and Alia for introducing us to Kazakh culture.
Ilya and Vlad for helping us with “only they can know what”. Thank you a lot! It’s good to have Russian friends somewhere in the world.
Çağlar for helping us with an annoying driver, visiting Turkistan with us, Polish dinner and interesting conversations about cultural differences.
James for one of the best reunions on the way. It was great to visit you in Kyrgyzstan. Can’t wait to see you again somewhere in the world.
Our crew from Almaty - Curtis, Patrycja, Paula, Thomas, Vadim, Windeati and others who made our stay in Kazakhstan. Thanks especially to Curtis for hosting us and helping with our adventure at the police station.
Vasco and his Uighur Friend for a very eye-opening conversation and showing us what it really means to be tolerant and empathic.
The first Chinese Man we met for helping us get through Chinese border.
All the Chinese Drivers and Policemen who helped us hitch-hike over 3500 kilometers in China.
The People from the small restaurant somewhere in Xinjiang for treating us with delicious soup, helping us with hitch-hiker’s letter transcription and communicating with us without a common language.
Our New Year’s Eve companions - Emma, Joost, Andrew and others, for making our stay in China less depressing.
Other English teachers in China who helped us survive: Liam, Greg and Geoffrey for their sense of humour and distancing, and especially Geoffrey and Penny for our meetings in pubs and Chinese drinking games.
Chinese teachers: Penny, Yumi, Jessica and John, for being enthusiastic and always helpful.
Romeo for hosting us in Hong Kong and making us feel home. Thank you so much for the invitation to Chinese New Year we hope to celebrate it with you another time!
Agnieszka and Bartek for the best Polish meeting in the world! It was great to have some wine with you in the streets of Hong Kong.
Policemen from Sanjiang who found accommodation and a train for us. We ate breakfast at a police station for the first time in our lives.
Piotrek, Tabea and Jaroslav for being our guests in Chongqing. You made our days more interesting, happy and fun. Thank you so much!
Jaroslav for starting our Vietnamese journey with us and being so patient. So sorry that your motorcycle didn’t make it; hope you will continue your travel plans!
All the Vietnamese People who were incredibly kind and helpful. We have no idea about your names, but we really appreciate that we met you on the way. Thanks to all school kids racing us with our terrible bikes, restaurant owners, hotel staff, mechanics, the family who hosted us after our small accident, the taxi driver who found me just to ask if I’m ok and many other people. You are amazing!
Phan for helping us with translation and inviting us to her house. Thanks to your mum for delicious Mì Quảng! Greetings to your friend Van.
Juan from Guatemala for some great fun and our unbelievable meeting in Ho Chi Minh.
The crew from the Bulgarian restaurant in Ho Chi Minh for making this city so cozy and familiar.
Gevorg for the amazing Envoy Hostel in Phnom Penh and late night conversations about life in Cambodia.
Our Tuk Tuk Driver who helped us learn the history of the Khmer Rouge Regime.
Asia for our crazy Polish night in Bangkok. Thank you for introducing us to Pad Thai. And
A Generous Thai Man who let us try amazing Thai food.
The Nice Malaysian Man who helped me when I fainted in Georgetown.
Majed and his friends for showing us Melacca and Saudi Arabian culture.
Akan for a Polish experience in Kuala Lumpur, a great sense of humour and for teaching us something about Nigeria.
John, Bernadette and Nick from Perth for hosting us, being like family to us and our talks. You are always welcome in Poland.
Luca for sharing a ride with us on the way to Exmouth.
Garry for a home away from home in Carnavon and the best barbecue in the world.
The Irish TV Journalist for picking us up in the middle of nowhere and The Irish Truck Driver who convinced him to take us.
Our Couchsurfing Hosts: Dave, Deon, Simon and Bart, for kindness and hospitality.
Adam, our favorite truck driver, for showing us his life and the beauty of Western Australia. We miss you.
Darcy, for being one of the brightest points of Northern Territories. For your sense of humour, energy and great attitude.
Luke for taking us from one of the worst places in Australia and organizing a birthday party for Wiola. And to the adorable old couple who spend their time with us sharing traveling stories.
Richard for being so brave to move to Vietnam for a year. You will be great teacher and coach!
Sajad, Moein, Janoush and Khan for hosting us in Adelaide, making us feel home and being so kind. And special thanks to Moein for our haircuts! Wish you all the best in Australia!
Anton and Sam for one of the funniest conversations we had on the way and a hilarious youtube party.
Pedro, Juana, Agustina, Matias and Matias for showing us Uruguay without leaving New Zealand, and for the amazing food, party and atmosphere! We will be back!
Our brave hitch-hikers in New Zealand who let us pay it forward.
Khaled for hosting us three times in Sydney so we could visit the city, get to know a little bit about Yemen and go to Glen Hansard’s concert in the Opera House. Thank you so much!
Basia and Tomek, the funniest and kindest Polish people we have met on the way. Thank you for our Polish jokes, traveler’s life understanding and box of wine. Will see you again for sure!
Penny, Scott, Winnie, Allie, Maya, Chrissy, Dave, Alannah, Barbara and Toby, because we know that we have a place to come back in Australia. Miss you a lot!
Steve for taking good care of us in Washington D.C.
Paulina and Sean for the best Ugly Sweater Christmas Party we could imagine.
Daniel for being so helpful and generous, taking us to stand up comedy show in Times Square and driving us wherever we wanted in New York City. We owe you!
David, one of my best friends in the world, for our second reunion. Hope we will have more of them in the future. It was great to see Toronto and your life. Take care.
Thank you to everyone else who we have met during our journey - you made our way!
Finally special thanks to our closest friends and family who let us go and live our adventure. We missed you so many times, but because of your support we could travel across the world. During this journey, we really did rediscover kindness and learned that sharing is what makes you happy.
Iza Turaj is a college student from Wrocław, Poland. She loves hitchiking, travelling, indie/folk music, and meeting new people. Check out the blog from her and Wiola's 500 day world tour at mademyway.pl.