8 Oct – Mohammad Kareef Daniel Abdullah, formerly Dan Tyler, and most known by Malaysians by the nickname Mat Dan, recently admitted that he wouldn't know how his life would be if he didn't decide to one day visit Malaysia - a country he didn't even plan on visiting prior to his success.
In an interview with Emily Webb on BBC Radio UK, Mat Dan confessed that Malaysia was never a country in his list of travel destinations when he first decided to join his friends on their adventure in South East Asia.
"It was Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and then fly to Australia. So, literally, all the countries surrounding Malaysia apart from Malaysia," he said with a chuckle.
As to how he ended up in the country, the Cheltenham man stated that he was in southern Thailand and had a month before his next flight when someone suggested to him to travel to Malaysia, a country he didn't even know that was only three hours away.
"To be honest, I didn't know where Malaysia was, someone asked why don't you go to Malaysia and I was like, where's Malaysia? It's just like three hours down the road, and I said oh, all right. Okay."
Mat Dan stated that his first interest in the country sparked as soon as he arrived, when a family decided to pay for his drinks at a cafe, telling him that he seemed like someone who had just arrived and looked lost.
"It was such a nice gesture that at that time that it sort of took me aback and wanted to sort what to figure out about this country that I've just arrived in," he said.
Mat Dan then went on to work in Pulau Kapas doing various work, not realising that he would then become famous for his ability to speak like a Terengganu local, when some university students who were there for a teen building course recorded him speaking in the said dialect.
"I didn't know for a good part of maybe a year that it had been uploaded on YouTube. All of a sudden I got a call from a friend of mine over the mainland, he gave me a call and said there's a couple of TV producers just got in touch with me and they're coming down tomorrow to see you. I was like "What? Why?" and he said I don't know," he said, and added that it was then he realised that he had gone viral.
The viral video and the interviews gave way to a travel show, "Mat Dan Kaki Jalan" and several other similar programmes.
As to how he ended up converting to Islam, the 31 year-old responded, "I've always believed that there is something, some sort of supreme being that sort of made this all possible, but what I did know at the time about Islam was negative that you've seen in the mass media and in the press. I came here with a complete open mind and with no idea I'd end up converting to Islam. But after a few years of being here and a few experiences that really sort of stuck with me and then being on Kapas, my colleagues and workers who were with me were all Malay or Muslim. I was slowly asking more and more questions to them and then asking more and more questions to myself. But it's just something that has given me a good path in life."
Mat Dan stated that he is still the same person he was before he left the UK, but it has changed him in such a positive way.
"I'm married with two kids, so that's obviously a huge change. I don't know what would have happened to me if I wouldn't have found Malaysia, if I wouldn't have found Islam, if I wouldn't have sort of found this career and life that I've built now. Probably wouldn't have been in a good place. Yes, I'm completely happy with the way everything has turned out. Yes, thank God."