Indians are coming!

Motorcycle travel can mean many things to many people, which can muddy the waters of discussion with fancy words like “Adventure”. So we are not going to do that talk now. However, we will stick to the concept of overland travel on a motorcycle, and I seem to have come to an interesting conclusion if you may. About Travel and Travellers. Based on people I met on my travels, local and foreign, based on interactions, and the time we spent together and spoke those few words or sentences. Sometimes, we did not comprehend each other, and a lot of times, its been an interesting conversation with follow-up. So, keep this in mind for later. If you are reading this. This article probably needs a follow-up as well, from someone else who’s reality is very different from mine.

So,  Air Canada has this cool program. To make it easier for Canadians to fly to Europe (and other continents) with their motorcycles. They call it “Fly Your Bike”. Costs typically about CDN ( US) for return transport. James cargo offers to ship any motorcycle from the UK to anywhere in the planet and the service is offered with a smile! I am a Sea-lander, inhabiting a coastal plain of the state of Tamil Nadu, along the eastern coast of the Indian Peninsula. I was curious to know if there is an equivalent from Air India or an Indian “James Cargo”. Lets be honest. It doesn’t exist. But, the curious person in me connected the dots. I wondered why most folk who we (me and my wife ) met in our recent travels, mostly foreigners kept asking us why don’t Indian’s travel the world like westerns do?

A few times, I sat back and engaged, and when the conversation got going, I realised that we had a lot less common than what people tend to portray. So what’s portrayed? cliched stuff. Because the reality is far from cliche. Like the “Budgetary Case for Slow Travel” .. You travel slow, it’s not that deep on the pocket. Like “Camp and not stay in expensive hotels when in Europe if you are a budget traveler”. But As an Indian with a blue passport with fancy gold lion embossing, you see I cannot get a Schengen visa approved If I camp or tell them the truth about my Motorcycle. The Schengen agreement says that everything has to be “pre-booked” always with a return ticket and a “fuck off” note, Because, we are not equal by any means, because we do not share the same privileges, because we have different motherlands with imaginary borders but real passports. Passports are as real as it gets folks. Don’t think its true? you’d be surprised that we have made this some sort of competition and have ranks like kids do. So, who wants to play mother hen amongst grown-ups? All the freaking Countries!! Sexy and Shocking, but I am sure there are plenty of reasons to justify the passport ranks and why it is so and why it will remain to be so.

Somehow things have percolated all wrong, like bad coffee. Because now I realise that the german guy on a BMW R1200 GS and the Swiss guys on the KTM 690 with a fancy bezel rally kit don’t know how privileged they were “right off the shelf” if you can call it that. Based on data from Passport ranking index, they are free to travel to up to 160 of 195 countries without a visa or get a visa when they “appear”. I won’t call it visa on 

visa or get a visa when they “appear”. I won’t call it visa on arrival for a reason because it’s truly, “visa when you APPEAR” if you get the difference. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that travel to “cheaper” third world countries sustains “Travel” more than to spend the same amount of money in Norway or Iceland, which would probably last you a week or 2 depending on how long you wanted to travel in the first place.

Now is when it becomes some sort of a sick joke! Because, all these people come to cheaper countries, meet the people, realise that People are generally friendly, helping, hospitable and more. Then they also tell you other things that you already know as a traveler – “the world is a safer place than we think” – “Don’t believe popular media, Iran is a fantastic place”, etc, etc. and later ask them questions like they asked me and my wife – “why don’t you people travel ?, I have never seen a motorcycle traveler from India in Germany, but plenty of germans here in Goa”. So we have a full circle now, but do you get the sick joke? I am not even starting to crib about the “Carnet De Passage” and other paperwork yet. Guess what folks. People are awesome. Every goddamn one anywhere on this planet. You just have to get off your ass, and wallah, you meet them. Frankly, travel doesn’t have to be so hard. A possible solution? I can’t think of any. A Plausible solution, let us start to engage in conversation and discussion because sooner than later I want to meet my buddies in Pakistan. Because I also want to ride overland to places where I am “NOT ALLOWED” today. Let us talk about “OUR” realities, because when we meet, they collide. One motorcycle traveller to another, next time you visit a “Third world” country on your motorcycle, Don’t just stop with the question “Why don’t young people in your country travel” or tell us “India is not ready for it yet”, because your reality is very different than ours.
I am happy to see that MTM is opening the floodgates. Because there are more of us getting out. May it be crossing borders or climbing mountains, with one wheel behind the other, slow as we may be, because some of us ride Royal Enfield’s.

Story contribution – Bala AKA Custome Made. Check his blog