Think beyond borders
Proud to be Indian
I am proud to be Indian. Sometimes. But if you are thinking of riding to several countries on a motorcycle, you wish you were born in Greenland or Iceland because they command better respect than we do at visa interviews. After immunizing yourself from the naysayers, being Indian is going to be your next big hurdle. Most developed countries still think Indians are beggars. Visit any American embassy in India. I have seen many highly educated professionals standing in visa queues praying to their gods and nearly falling to their knees pleading their cases with the visa officer, as if their life depended on it. Some even fainted when rejected. They laughed when they saw that you wanted to ride around the world. They laughed at my application and I laughed with them and explained why I cannot complete my world tour without their permission. My legs were shivering and pulse was racing, as one rejection could mean the end of my tour. But I was not on my knees. Maybe that’s why I got all my visas. Visa agents said I wouldn’t get a single visa as I had a blank passport. Of course I got all of them by myself. You should become selectively deaf for words like NO, NEVER, etc. as you are going to hear them a lot, almost everywhere.
Your undaunted determination must visibly be etched on your face so that when people see you, they know you mean business.
One more catch is you need to take all the visas before you leave. We are not so fortunate to get visas on arrival at the borders. And that means lots of planning. Those with experience will have no problems getting the other documents like Carnet, international driver’s permit, health and motorcycle insurance, etc.
People think there are only two bikes for tough rides and tough guys. Do we have a choice? Bullet 500cc is the most powerful bike we have; the rest are far behind. For a world tour you don’t need those monstrous BMW GS1200s. I would prefer a BMW F800GS or Suzuki Vstrom 650 and if I want to offer rides to beautiful girls, I would go for the irresistible Goldwing
But that’s wishful thinking. I love Enfield. I owned two Bullets and I went around India on one. Enfield didn’t care to upgrade its manufacturing quality for decades. The result was an excellent bike which was not as reliable as the new Japanese bikes. Simply put, I believed Karizma would give me less trouble than a Bullet. If you take a brand new Bullet and Karizma and ride until you break down, you will know what I mean.
So you need a reliable bike unless you intend to open a mechanic shop when you return. You should be able to fix things but that’s it. You can do a world tour on a bicycle so choose the bike that suits your riding style and comfort, know how to fix general problems and carry critical spare parts. That’s it.
You don’t have to be a Salman Khan to ride the world. It may help you attract nice girls but there is the menace of men getting attracted too. Your spine is going to take the maximum stress so better be slim and flexible.
You must be very fit in any case, both mentally and physically. If you are travelling alone, it is stressful. If you are travelling with a partner it is doubly stressful. You may ask: “I love riding all day man, so why is it so difficult?”
Riding is a small part of the world tour. You have to take care of the planning, logistics, funds, communications, paper work, permits, insurances, transfers, shipments, repairs and arrangements. Once you leave the country, there is little your friends or family can do. So it is solely YOU who have to do everything. Everything means really a lot.
The day begins with finding breakfast. In North American motels, however large they are, you won’t find anything to eat and no one to tell where you can find something to eat. When you do find something to eat, it will be digested by the time you rush packing everything on the bike (my bike was a mini Walmart), check the bike for fitness, get dressed, look into the maps, and note down major points and places of interest.
If you take a motorway, your antenna is always up and scanning for dangers because you look like a tiny rat running to escape between six lanes of huge cats (cars) and roaring lions (mega trucks) zipping at high speeds tossing you all around. Don’t expect to stick to the road shoulder like a good boy riding slow all the time. You need to keep changing lanes constantly, reading the road signs and exit points. The mere push you experience from a speeding truck is unnerving. Imagine riding such a heavily loaded, unbalanced street bike changing lanes at 120kmph between those monsters. Even the thought of a puncture at this stage is chilling. This acute alertness is very stressful. Imagine 10-12 hours of this every day.
Now you think that’s enough and want to get into the comfort of some cheap hostel. Unless you planned and know the exact location of a hostel, it’s difficult to find it. If you miss one exit, you may have to ride 50km to return to the same exit. And if you are looking for a place without reservation, then give or take 50km before your find one with vacancy. Usually, these places are in small streets and on the 5th or 6th floor. It’s tough to decide if you want to leave the bike with all the stuff on the pavement while you go and enquire. And what you will find is not going to be cheap anyway. Even if you plan every stop, you will miss them almost half the time due to various reasons.
You unpack and carry all your baggage to your room on the 5th floor (nobody will ever lift even a small pouch for you). You need to cover and lock the bike properly so that it is not taken away while you sleep. Sometimes you don’t get parking place and you may have to leave the bike on the road side which will give you jitters all night. By now all the muscles in your body will be stiff. After a refreshing shower you feel damn hungry because you had only light meals during the day (eat heartily during the day and you might sleep while riding). So you might have to walk miles to find food — not what you like, but just any kind of food. Sometimes if you are lucky you will find it nearby or you may not find any at all. If you enter a cozy restaurant, your next day’s allowance will be spent on a meal. You go to sleep like a log and soon it’s another day. Trust me, you will not even remember to check your mails or update your blog.
BUT IT IS FUN. To ride in a new country, go to a new place, new people, new food. everything is fun and you will be happy. I immensely enjoyed my ride and in all probability I will do it again!
Though you are always surrounded by people, you will feel lonely. Everybody you see will try to talk to you but you don’t know what they are saying and you can’t talk back. You will become an expert at sign language. You will not be talking to anyone about half of your journey. Loneliness as a problem cannot be explained, it can only be experienced. You will experience real loneliness when you are camping in a desert with no one around for a hundred miles. You cannot avoid it; you have to cope with it. Nevertheless it will have an effect on your mind all the time.
Some day the inevitable travel sickness will put you down and you won’t feel like doing anything at all. In a journey like this where you are seeing something new every day, you lose interest even in the best of the places or things and you don’t want to go out of your room. That’s okay; you just need to sit indoors for a few days and it will be alright.
Take care that you don’t indulge too much in alcohol or weed or dope or whatever. This is a potential danger as every day you are in a beautiful touristy area where entertainment is all around. Watch yourself because no one is going to tell you to stop.
Finally when you come back you will need a long time to settle back into your life. Probably you will be depressed for a while and upset with the way your country and its citizens are. Just be cool and soon you will be normal.