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Europe’s Forrest Gump makes his way to Malta

Self-described nomad Olivier Pieczonka has been walking for seven years and is now exploring Malta over the next three weeks. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Self-described nomad Olivier Pieczonka has been walking for seven years and is now exploring Malta over the next three weeks. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Frustrated with the mundane, sedentary life he was leading, self-proclaimed nomad Olivier Pieczonka started hiking seven years ago, visiting 26 European countries and over 6,000 towns and cities, and has no plans to stop.

Dubbed ‘Europe’s own Forrest Gump’ – the popular film character that spent years walking around the United States – Mr Pieczonka, 47, from France, is currently in Malta for the first time and eager to roam every corner of the island he believes is “oozing with history”.

“Malta is very small, compared to some of the other countries I have visited, but it’s such a historic place. I’m spending three weeks here to be able to properly go around the island,” he told this newspaper, lugging his backpack.

Pointing to the bag, which he said was filled to the brim with camping gear and basic essentials, the hiker insisted that while he may have very few material possessions – having no fixed address or many personal effects – he had all the time in the world, and that for him was more than enough.

I have nothing, no money, no personal belongings, but I have never been happier

“I see young people rushing around, heads bent over their mo-bile phones and computers, constantly worried about the things they want. I have nothing, no money, no personal belongings, but I have never been happier.”

On the struggles he has faced in the past seven years, Mr Pieczonka said that while it was sometimes difficult to find food, it was even harder when he spent extended periods in the cities. While roaming forests, he said, he would often eat off the land, becoming an expert in botany after years of experimentation.

Eager to interact with the locals in places he visits, Mr Pieczonka has on occasion taken odd jobs in exchange for a hot meal. Yet he insists he is more content eating off the land. “These days, everywhere I look I see people who are preoccupied with buying things. I don’t want that. Life is too short to live that way,” he said.

While he has visited most European countries, some several times, Mr Pieczonka said he has no intention of changing his lifestyle. Listing the countries he has yet to visit, the man said hiking had become like a drug and he could not imagine stopping.

“After Malta, I plan on heading to Cyprus and then possibly the UK. Hiking all over Europe has become like a drug, and I cannot stop. If I’m in one place for more than a few days, I become restless. I have to keep on moving,” Mr Pieczonka said.

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