A Journey Of Discovery
If he can, why can’t I? …And the research begins.
That’s when I started my research on overland travel. It led me to Horizons Unlimited, an encyclopedia on overland journey. The videos that I purchased from there were really worth the investment as they captured the key areas of how to plan a trip, how to budget, the do’s and don’ts while crossing a border etc. This was a good beginning for me and during the coming months, I spent time on planning different route options. The route planning took much longer than I had envisaged as I had to consider the formalities and in some cases, the cost of travelling through a country was prohibitive.
This was the month of August 2013. I kept a timeline of 2 years from then to start my journey as I had to plan thoroughly, understand the nuances, arrange the funds, decide on the bike and the modifications, get a handle on logistics and other formalities. 2 years is a pretty long time if you ask an experienced overland traveler. In my case, apart from the research, there was the challenge of raising funds for this crazy dream. Although I tried to get some sponsorship, nothing really worked. I was determined that despite lack of sponsorship, I would still go ahead and Live This Dream. An alternative source of funds was selling my possessions, being the 2-bedroom flat in Bangalore and a small parcel of land in Coimbatore. My family and friends erupted like a volcano when they heard this! But I was clear in my mind and had no doubt. For sure there was a challenge. I had a raging fight within myself; the rational and practical part of me wanted me to reconsider but the emotional part was all for this journey and that was the part that won in the end.
A Magical Experience
The ride took me through South East Asia, Australia, Middle East Asia and Europe. The northern loop of Thailand, Chiang Mai – Pai – MainHong Son – Doi Inthinon – Chiangmai, was truly a rider’s dream. The ride through the mountains, through the mist and valleys made for an experience worth re-visiting. The landscapes in Northern Laos, Luang Prabang, the Konglor village and the cave are beyond mere words. They are untouched by the mainstream tourist and thus still have some genuine, authentic emotional connect. The culture, the people and their hospitality are something to be revered. The street food in Penang still has its flavour stuck in me. The street art and the iron art fascinated me and I fell in love with the island.
Indonesia is truly a world in itself; the diversity has no end as you hop from one island to another. From the active volcanoes, to the natural habitat of the Orangutan in Sumatra, to some amazing coastlines and islands with one of the best underwater habitats are sights and experiences beyond imagination.
Australia is very close to my heart as I got to do my first sky-jump in Cairns and to top it, I snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef! The ride through the Great Ocean Road and the crazy weather of Melbourne made me spend a good 2 months in Australia. It’s one of the best countries to live in. The Australian countryside was a pleasure and a visual treat. It’s remarkable that Australia has been so successful in capturing and presenting every moment as larger than life.
I entered Europe after passing through Turkey. The only hassle in Turkey was that I was inspected at certain points as part of the routine checkup as the county was going through political upheaval. Despite that though, everything functioned normally. Yes, there was a steep fall in tourist inflow but it was to my advantage in negotiating better deals. The ride from Erzurum to Capadoccia all the way to Istanbul took me through all kinds of weather conditions.
It was the first time I set foot in Europe and everything functioned so smoothly! I did cover the big cities and the major tourist attractions. But the highlights were the amazing landscapes that exist in and around the smaller cities. I was wonderstruck at some sights and couldn’t believe such visual frames existed. I felt as though I was riding through fairytale settings! For some time, I camped on a farm in a small village, Le Luc, on the Eastern side of France. I joined the family to work on their farm and that was truly a memorable experience for me. The bike breaking down at Banyuls gave me the opportunity to explore this magnificent city located on the Western coast of France. San Sebastian situated near the northern border of Spain on the west coast is cool and happening by night and a city filled with people that love to indulge.
What 365 days of travel has done to me…
The time you get to yourself doing what your mind tells you to do – be it having an ice cream on a cold windy morning, or sitting in a coffee shop and gazing at people go by – is deeply satisfying. The ride through the long winding roads, mountains, valleys and villages was an experience of enjoying time with myself. Boundaries started vanishing as I met new people everyday. As the days went by, my initial skepticism gave way to open-mindedness and acceptance as I became one among them. We all got along, spending time together, exploring cities, partying together, at times travelling together. During the initial days, I would plan my travel several days in advance. But the reality was that not everything went as expected. The craziest experiences were when strangers completely took over the situation and I was exposed to things that were never in my plans. That was my personal experience of what it feels to “Live in the moment” and “Take things as they come”! Every experience is a good experience. I have landed in certain towns and got stuck thanks to weather, issues with the motorcycle or just a bad hangover. Although these incidents were unplanned, they got me to meet new people, experience a new dish, or see a new place I had no prior clue of.
As much as we think language is a barrier, sign language normally works. At times there could be difficulty in communicating things verbally, but non-verbal communication through signs and symbols usually does the trick. One just needs to be careful not to offend anybody; it’s essential to do prior research on signs people from different cultures find offensive.
We take things for granted in our daily life; it could be a coffee in the morning handed over by our parents / life partners/ friends, but once we step out of our comfort zone, we start valuing every little thing around us and the importance it has in our day to day life. As we grow up, we create a circle of friends and family who are more or less in sync with our thoughts and the way we live. We get so comfortable that we stop treading beyond these self-defined boundaries and exploring life around us. We stop trusting people who are strangers to us. Travel helps you break these preconceived notions and gets you out of your predefined circles. For instance, I had met with an accident in a village in Thailand. The local villagers took over the situation and within an hour I got my bike repaired and I was back on the road riding. I have been stranded in small towns, where there were no hostels/guest houses/hotels and the locals have opened their houses and hearts to me. All these incidents reinforce the belief that good human beings do exist around us and we can still trust people. The world is not as bad as it is portrayed!
All these experiences have turned me into a much more confident and understanding individual.
Although this journey started as a 5-region, 40-country plan, at this moment it looks like it will end in Europe with about 24 countries. But it is inconsequential whether I am able to complete this trip or not. This journey has given me the confidence to do what I believe to be the most worthy thing in life, and that is to TRAVEL. I do not regret putting my savings into this journey; the experience and the learning have been priceless!
Live in the moment and Take things as they comeAtul Warrier