Have skateboard, will travel: Ex-teacher plans trip across four continents and 50 countries

Clockwise from left: Mr Adrian Oh visited Macau, as well as Thailand, during the first leg of his skateboarding journey that took him from Singapore to Hong Kong. He is now in the Netherlands.
Mr Adrian Oh visited Macau (above), as well as Thailand, during the first leg of his skateboarding journey that took him from Singapore to Hong Kong. He is now in the Netherlands.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADRIAN OH
Clockwise from left: Mr Adrian Oh visited Macau, as well as Thailand, during the first leg of his skateboarding journey that took him from Singapore to Hong Kong. He is now in the Netherlands.
Mr Adrian Oh visited Macau, as well as Thailand (above), during the first leg of his skateboarding journey that took him from Singapore to Hong Kong. He is now in the Netherlands.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADRIAN OH
Clockwise from left: Mr Adrian Oh visited Macau, as well as Thailand, during the first leg of his skateboarding journey that took him from Singapore to Hong Kong. He is now in the Netherlands.
Mr Adrian Oh visited Macau, as well as Thailand, during the first leg of his skateboarding journey that took him from Singapore to Hong Kong. He is now in the Netherlands (above).PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADRIAN OH

Ex-teacher plans trip across four continents and 50 countries

It usually takes four hours to get from Singapore to Hong Kong. Former teacher Adrian Oh, however, took four months.

That is because he swopped an airplane for a skateboard, travelling at a leisurely pace through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China on his way.

It is little more than a warm-up for the special needs educator, who plans to skateboard 30,000km across four continents and at least 50 countries.

His trip will take him two years, through countries such as the Netherlands - where he is, currently - Belgium, France, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey and Iran.

His unusual mode of transport involves a longboard, a larger, more stable and faster version of the average skateboard. He also propels himself along with the help of a land paddle. On his back is a 15kg pack containing a five-litre water bottle, cooking stove and camping gear.

Since Feb 11, he has travelled 6,500km on the trusty bit of wood, covering some 70km to 150km each day over 10 hours.

Mr Oh estimates that he can make 95 per cent of the journey on his sponsored longboard, which he has had to replace just once, when he broke it in Thailand. To traverse the oceans between continents, he will take three flights.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

I used to backpack around the world.

But, somehow, I felt something was missing. By skateboarding,

I realised I could get off the beaten track and discover areas not mentioned in guidebooks.

FORMER TEACHER ADRIAN OH

He said: "I used to backpack around the world. But, somehow, I felt something was missing. By skateboarding, I realised I could get off the beaten track and discover areas not mentioned in guidebooks."

Mr Oh was introduced to skateboarding in 2012 by an ex-girlfriend. After watching videos of long-distance skateboarding, he decided to marry his passion for travelling with his new love.

According to the Guinness World Records, the longest journey made by skateboard was 12,159km in 2008 by New Zealander Robert Thomson. Mr Oh's journey, however, is not recognised by the Guinness World Records because he uses a land paddle to aid his movement.

He began with shorter journeys - Desaru in 2013, and Egypt and Iceland later. But the month-long trips only left him thirsting for more.

The final trigger that pushed him to embark on a world tour was the death of his grandmother last year, while his father was travelling in Japan and was unable to return home in time. Mr Oh decided he had to do this while his parents were still young and healthy and can take care of themselves.

His father, 68-year-old retiree William Oh, said they are supportive of his ambitious journey, despite concerns for his safety.

"My wife was reluctant to let him go but I said it's good for him. I was also a backpacker, so I know the feeling of needing adventure. He will learn things that he cannot ever get from textbooks and become a better person."

With their blessings, Mr Oh quit his job at Metta School and set aside $30,000 from his savings for his trip. His daily budget is $30 for food and accommodation.

"I stay with friends and use hospitality websites like Couchsurfing and WarmShowers," he said. "Other times, I just camp."

Strangers have opened their homes to him, including monks in Buddhist monasteries.

"These incidents helped me to experience humanity. The friendly locals in so many countries have really touched me," Mr Oh said.

As with all backpacking journeys, it has not always been smooth.

Mr Oh has had close shaves with reckless truck drivers and was chased and bitten by a pack of dogs in rural Thailand.

"I was in a remote area with no doctors, so I just applied first aid and went on," he recalled.

Indeed, that response reflects his motto as he skateboards around the world. "When it's tough, just carry on," he said. "After a while, the roads will smoothen out and things will get better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2017, with the headline 'Have skateboard, will travel'. Print Edition | Subscribe