Petrina Thong is not your average backpacker.
You'd think, sure, I've read a few stories of Malaysians on budget backpacking trips, it's kind of the 'in' thing now, but Petrina's 13-month adventure isn't just one of those...
It was June 2015. Petrina packed her bags without any prior plans and flew to Sweden. That marked the beginning of her amazing expedition as a hitchhiker.
She has always been a very adventurous traveller, having travelled alone to Europe for a month in 2012 and later spending a year in California by joining an au pair programme in 2013.
As someone who thinks the idea of surviving without money is very attractive, Petrina wanted to experience this thrill for herself.
The freelance scriptwriter told New Zealand website Stuff.co.nz that she had initially planned to spend six months hitchhiking around Europe before flying home to Kuala Lumpur. Instead, she went on to travel through 22 countries across two continents, ultimately stretching her wanderlust journey to a 13-month long solo hitchhiking adventure.
The 29-year-old hitchhiked through 22 countries, all the way from Sweden to KL with only USD200 (RM800) in her pocket
When Petrina flew to Sweden in June 2015, she only took USD200 with her.
In an exclusive interview with the UK's Daily Mail, she recounted how she was determined to keep to her strict budget but after three months of surviving with the little money she had, Petrina was broke.
The next thing you know, the super gung-ho Malaysian took up a personal challenge that not many would ever think of — to continue to her journey with no money! The idea of flying back home immediately just seemed "too easy".
She made what seemed impossible possible with her never-say-die attitude, and she made her way back to her hometown, Kuala Lumpur last month, July 2016.
This was her route from Sweden to Malaysia:
Sweden - Denmark - Germany - Poland - Lithuania - Latvia - Lithuania - Poland - Slovakia - Hungary - Croatia - Slovenia - Italy - Slovenia - Croatia - Bosnia - Montenegro - Albania - Kosovo - Macedonia - Bulgaria - Turkey - Denmark - Netherlands - Belgium - Denmark - Turkey - Iran - Pakistan - India - Thailand - Malaysia
Petrina puts the bada** in 'travel', for real. Here are just 10 of the crazy things she's been through...
1. She was escorted by Pakistani soldiers over the Iran-Pakistan border
"Due to cases of travellers getting kidnapped, I wasn’t allowed to travel by myself. From the Iranian border, I got into a police car, trailed by two more gunmen on a bike."
"We got to the first checkpoint, then I got chucked onto a police truck. Went to another checkpoint. Waited for ages, then got handed over to an Army guy and he hitchhiked with me to get to another checkpoint. From there, I got onto three more Army trucks," she explained.
2. She ate from people's rubbish bins
Petrina actually rummaged through dumpsters to find food to fill her own stomach.
At other times, she would eat people's leftovers at cafes and eateries, or ask for leftover produce at markets.
3. She invited strangers to travel with her but went solo after a guy tried to make moves on her
Initially, Petrina made it a point to hitchhike with a buddy.
"I would invite any traveller I'd meet along the way - 'Hey, do you wanna go here with me?'," she recalled.
According to Stuff.co.nz, there was a guy with a tent who was hitchhiking with Petrina. He tried to make moves on her. From then on, she decided to continue her trip alone.
4. She met some dodgy drivers who asked her for sex
Petrina recalled that there were people in Eastern Europe and Turkey who had other intentions when they gave her a ride.
When faced with such situation, the brave young woman would then threaten to jump out of the car, forcing them to stop.
5. She was trapped in India for a month after a bomb went off in Myanmar
When Stuff.co.nz reached out to her for an interview, Petrina replied by saying that she was trapped in the northeast of India for a month as attempts to enter Myanmar failed.
"Due to a bomb blasting and some political issues, all permits to enter Myanmar by land have been cancelled. So I am currently trapped," she told them on 5 June.
6. She never knew where her next destination would be
"I would stand by the road, thumb out, wherever the car went, I'd go."
"Only upon arrival I'd allow the Universe to reveal where I would be sleeping and eating."
7. She slept anywhere and everywhere
"Anyone who has travelled with me, they realise I can sleep a lot - anywhere pretty much. It's something I'm thankful for. I've slept at petrol stations, next to highways, or a lot of times I would randomly knock on doors and ask if I can sleep in the garden."
Petrina said that 80% of the time, people would offer her to sleep on their couch when they find out she was alone.
8. Many people, particularly those from the Middle East and Asia, questioned why she was travelling alone
9. She participated in the Rainbow Gathering with a bunch of strangers in the mountains of Lithuania
"I found myself falling in love with this bizarre community. With no contact to the outside world, all one has is reconnecting with nature and building relationships with once strangers as you’re huddled around a shared fire trying to keep warm or rejoicing at the sight of sunshine after days of endless rain," she recounted.
Rainbow Gathering is said to involve a temporary community of people who meet to share their similar ideals of peace, harmony, freedom and respect, according to the US news channel CNN.
10. She received the best hospitality from Iranians
Of all the countries she went, Petrina said that she felt the safest in Iran.
"As long as I'm walking alone with my backpack, cars will stop and ask, 'Hey, what are you doing, do you need help?' Even in the city, when I was walking around, taxi drivers would stop and let me get a ride for free."
"They respect and look out for women. For them, if you're female, you shouldn't be by yourself, you should be taken care of," she explained.
Although there were some hiccups throughout her journey, Petrina said that she has no regrets. She even encouraged other single women to travel and hitchhike along.
"I expected it to be an insanely difficult journey, but in retrospect, it doesn't seem all that bad," she was quoted as saying.
"Of course, I had many moments of wondering what the hell I'm doing and questioning why I am putting myself through such ordeals, but I have a comforting new outlook on the world."
"My greatest lesson is that the world or the unknown isn't as scary as you make it out to be. People everywhere are unbelievably kind and willing to help. Now I know that even if I'm lost in a country where I can't speak the language and I have no money, I will still be alright."