I have met some inspiring people in my life. Take John, for example, who walked to India from Germany. Or Sam who raised his kids in the slums of India. Or Rod who was attacked by hundreds of hornets and lived to tell the tale. The story of Paul the Pirate, however, is one that stands out.

I met Paul, who was literally a pirate, while he was hiding from numerous governments for committing international crimes.

To get to Pauls island location it took me 3 days of planes, boats and buses. He had chosen one of the most remote locations in the world. Even if authorities learned of his location, he would have a 2 day head start.

Paul the Pirate lived in a large, well-constructed bamboo house which I later learnt he had built himself. His lounge décor included a pool table, old couches, an oversized bar with cigarette haze to match. Paul was clearly a full blown alcoholic and had no issues hiding it.

I would estimate him to be in his 50’s or 60’s though it was hard to tell because of his long matted beard. He must have been in hiding for a long time as he had a few kids to a local woman.

When I walked into his smoke filled lounge/bar he instinctively offered a beer. After I sank into his couch he flipped open a photo album. He showed me pictures of his younger and more handsome self and told me stories of his ship. He delighted in my questions and soaked up my attention.

Paul used to sail along coastlines and pick up travellers. He met them in pubs and bars (no surprise there) then offered them a sailing experience for little cost. They would jump aboard his giant yacht and serve as deckhands for a few months at a time. This way Paul got free labour, fuel, and most probably beer. His life was a cruise (pun intended) with no cares or worries he had successfully sailed the seven sea’s.

He was wanted for tax evasion and operating an illegal business amongst other things.

He told me other pirates would try to capture his ship while out in the open sea. Using colourful language he grew very animated and said he would use rocket launchers, grenades and other weapons to defend his ship. I didn’t doubt him. His passengers were expected to help. It was every man for himself.

He would hang rusty corrugated iron over the side of his ship. Other pirates would the think that his boat was an old, beaten up piece-of-junk. No one wanted to steal a rusty bucket! By using such tactics Paul had saved his life and the lives of his crew many times.

Despite all his talk I got the feeling Paul the pirate, as he was known by locals, was a very lonely man. There was no mention of family or friends. There was no guest bedroom, no talk of visiting home and no family pictures on display.

Pauls pirating days are well past. Now he’s an old man with distant memories. I love that I got to meet him and listen to his stories. I think he just wanted someone to listen to him as he re-lived his glory days. I’m glad I could be that person.

Our world is full of people like Paul. People who come from different cultures, who have contrasting life experiences and live a world apart from us. Some of these people live down the road from you. Some, like Paul, live in the far corners of the world. The only way you’re going to meet such people and hear their story is to get out there and meet them.

Someone out there is waiting to tell you their story.

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