This seasoned traveller went to places very few people have visited, here's how he did it

PHOTO: Instagram/sugiyosaputra

The world is getting smaller and this is good news. Places you've only read about on old National Geographic magazines or seen on movies are now just a click away.

But there are some corners of the world that still remain under the radar despite growing interest in off - the beaten - path destinations.

This may be due to misrepresentations and bad stereotypes in mainstream media, or as simply as limited infrastructure and inconvenient access.

Sugiharto Yosaputra-Sugi to his friends and loyal Instagram followers - actually prefers to travel to these places.

The avid traveller hailing from Jakarta has always been enamoured by countries most people are probably still wary of visiting. He doesn't think of himself as a man on a mission, though.

He's just someone who's interested in places and people, and you likely will not find these places under most "top 10 popular countries" lists.

In this interview, Sugi tells Wego how he did it, from planning, staying safe, to enjoying the most out of a destination.

Q: How do you plan your trip?

I basically just go where the price is low.

I have a day job, so I plan my trips around my annual leaves and pick cheapest trips during these dates. Wego's Explore section is particularly helpful for this!

I also browse for multi-city routes to avoid wasting my time on transits, that way I don't have to fly home from the same city.

I get to see more from a country, sometimes with the same price as round trip tickets!

Q: How do you choose your destination?

I travel for the local culture. I do enjoy epic landscapes, but I usually pick destinations where I might have a chance to fully immerse myself and hopefully partake in local activities; local markets and diners are the easiest places to do this.

This is why I always try to truly live like a local wherever I'm at - from staying at a homestay and eating at stalls frequented by the people there, to taking public transportation.

Q: How should a traveller plan if he is off to explore an offtrack destination?

Get a local SIM card.

I mean, once you have access to the internet, you're basically set; you can find anything: maps, travel guide, dictionary and access to social media.

If you have a SIM card, you'll have anything you need to know about a place.

The very first thing I do once I land in any airport is to make a beeline for the SIM card vendor. It might be more expensive there, but it greatly helps with my mobility.

If I get my SIM card ahead at the airport, I don't have to deal with the possibility of getting lost.

If you're venturing out to remote destinations, hire a local guide. Not all of them will have a license, but that's completely okay.

By travelling with a guide who actually lives there, you not only contribute to the local economy but also get a chance to experience native life: Staying in their houses and eating at local hole-in-the-walls.

You can also dig for stories from people who actually live them out.

Q: Have you ever been worried for your safety?

Yes, of course, at times.

I am constantly curious but I never leave my common sense at home.

When I'm in a completely foreign environment - both literally and metaphorically - I rely on my gut feeling.

Q: Do you think everyone should try to travel to remote destinations?

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to travelling, but if you're always on the lookout for novel experiences or sights, then yeah, you have to consider stepping out of your comfort zone and visiting under-the-radar destinations at least once!

Nothing excites me more than the idea of collecting stories and new perspectives to bring home.

If you're totally new to this, I recommend visiting more offbeat destinations in a small group of 4 to 5 people; it's small enough to be flexible, but big enough to save cost and provide security.

Q: You've been to countries that are often misunderstood or are completely under the radar. Which place has surprised you the most and how?

View this post on Instagram

. #pelesIRAN #PrayForTehran #PrayForIran . I write no good prayer, I hope good stories will bring positive image to this kept-secret-Middle-East-beauty, Iran. . I hope for the best for all the people in Iran, especially for those in Tehran. 🙏🏻 . . . Here's one of my best of experiencing the Iranian friendliness. . There's a popular belief among Iranians that strangers are gift from God. That's why it is common to be friendly treated by locals when you're in Iran. . During our second day in Esfahan, we're looking for a shoes repairman to fix @shinsyir 's sneakers. . It was early, no shop was open and we accidentally passed by a shoes store named 'Behestian' (it was a very old one, unexpectedly) and asked this man for the repairmen's location. . Instead of giving the location, he brought a bottle of glue from his store and finally fix the sneakers - with no charge at all. . Nope, the story hasn't endes yet. He invited us to come inside the store and hot cups of tea was served within minutes. . I must admit, it was one of the most awkward tea session I've ever had in Iran - He spoke no good English and kept pouring tea whenever our cups were empty. . After several cups of tea, he suddenly went up to the store's 2nd floor and gave us some shoes accesories. We didn't even purchase any single pair of shoes there! . . . . . #deariwashere #vsco #vscocam #esfahan #isfahan #iran #wanderlust #livefolk #liveauthentic #backpacker #lpfanphoto #tbt #regrann #thelensbible #2instagood #natgeotravel #lonelyplanet #lpfanphoto #streetshot #streetphotography #lookslikefilm #vscoiran #vscoirann #vscoiranian #iranian #irani #iranigram #instapeople

A post shared by Sugiharto Yosaputra (@sugiyosaputra) on Jun 9, 2017 at 2:58am PDT

Iran and Pakistan.

Iran is often cited as a destination that defies expectations because of the people's extraordinary hospitality, and that's what I experienced as well.

One of my fondest memories is when a shoe store owner fixed my friend's shoe for free.

Initially, we approached the guy just for direction to the nearest cobbler. But he glued the torn shoe himself, offered us tea, and even gifted us a set of leather care kit to bring home.

Just like Iran, Pakistan is too often mislabeled as a "warring country".

People are under the impression that it's a dangerous, hostile place, but Pakistanis are also exceptionally friendly to foreign tourists.

This one time I was shopping for daily necessities - soap, toothpaste, and the like - and the shop owner said, "Extra discount for you, welcome to Pakistan!"

If this had happened in many other countries - even in Indonesia - foreigners would be tricked into paying more.

I also had countless invites for tea during my time in Iran and Pakistan, which I happily accepted. I had tea with people from bank security to car workshop worker, with no strings attached!

Q: Is there any destination you'd like to revisit?

I've never visited a city twice, except for transit, but if I have to choose, it would be Iran.

Aside from the people's warm welcome, I've kept in contact with my host in Tehran and I would love to visit him again.

Q: What is it about travelling that attracts you most?

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. #MencariMentari . "xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" . Ceramah oleh seorang ustad di Festival Endog-endogan, Banyuwangi dipenuhi oleh kearifan lokal. 90% materi ceramah dituturkan dalam bahasa Jawa - yang tidak saya mengerti, wis mesti. . Ceramahnya nampaknya menarik dan membumi, mulai dari bupati sampai warga lokal yg duduk di emperan trotoar seringkali tertawa di sela-sela sesi ceramah. . . "Dalam acara Maulid..." . Akhirnya si Pak Ustad ngomong pake Bahasa Indonesia! . "...kita diingatkan untuk mengingat kembali teladan-teladan yang diberikan oleh Nabi. xxxxxxxxxxxx..." . Eh, lanjut lagi pake Boso Jowo. . . Singkat kata, para jamaah mulai membuka bungkusan daun pisang yang sudah dibawa sejak awal acara - yang berisi nasi dan lauk sebanyak 4-5 porsi per saji. . Tanpa membeda-bedakan, semua mulai makan dari satu tempat yang sama. Semua boleh makan, tak terkecuali yang sedang motret, gak terbatas untuk ras dan agama tertentu! . . Hal yang mirip disampaikan hari ini oleh Mba @alissa_wahid tentang Ukhuwah Islamiyah (persaudaraan sesama umat muslim), Ukhuwah Wathoniyah (persaudaraan sesama warga negara) dan Ukhuwah Insaniyah (persaudaraan sesama umat manusia). . Ketiganya berujung pada tidak adanya alasan bagi kita untuk tidak bertoleransi satu sama lain. . . Ternyata, Indonesia tidak sepanas yang terlihat di kolom komentar facebook! ❄️ . . . . . #deariwashere #vsco #vscocam #wanderlust #tbt #olympus_occi_id #travelgram #people #portrait #streetshot #streetphotography #flatlay

A post shared by Sugiharto Yosaputra (@sugiyosaputra) on Nov 22, 2018 at 10:17pm PST

I like the idea that I get to taste authentic flavours of a place, both in its food and in its people. I try to find stays in city centres, so I can easily find local diners.

While they may not be as cosy as restaurants catering to tourists, they give me a chance to eat the way locals usually do.

Besides, I get an opportunity to talk to them too; good conversations usually start at the dinner table, right?

Traveling also allows me to see my own life through the lenses of others. By living close to the people - preferably in their own homes, even I get to hear their stories and see things with a new perspective.

Q: What's the most common challenge you encounter during your trip to the more underdeveloped destinations?

The biggest challenge with travelling to these places is time management.

Transportation access tends to be limited, so it may take extra effort to visit a place, compared to other more developed destinations.

Some journeys are only feasible in daytime and the roads may have crazy potholes or may even be completely inaccessible by cars.

Many things can eat into the time I get to spend there, so I need to be flexible and smart about planning as many sights into my itinerary in that limited time.

Q: What's your dream destination?

Since I operate on "I go wherever the price goes low", I currently don't have any one dream destination in mind.

I do plan on going on a lengthy trip-say, for 1 or 2 months-to dip my toes into slow travelling.

I reckon there will be a lot of "what about…": What about my job, what about the money.

But I think right now, I'm firmly in the camp of "what about I just go and figure it out later".

This article was first published in Wego.