Through all the expeditions and roads journeys I have been constantly asked what it is that I gain from them. To me such interludes help rejuvenate the soul and help spend quality time with oneself, help understand the sameness of humankind despite obvious differences, help appreciate culture, food, dress habits and local customs, help open one’s mind to diverse thoughts and beliefs, help admire the cosmic balance and beauty that Nature holds, help conquer fear of the unknown, help spread smiles across lands and peoples and much, much more. They fulfill the internal drive to travel and experience adventure, fulfill a certain ‘calling’, fulfill a sense of ‘been there, done that’, fulfill a yearning of achievement and such other. However, to me the greatest gain is the inspiration one’s travels provide for others to attempt similar or other adventures. I consider that the young must travel for it is education to them and the elderly must travel for it adds to their experience. The overland trips I undertook to London and Singapore from Kochi in 2014-15, to be immodest without gumption, did provide a few ‘sparks’ that saw many such tours being planned and executed.
Anand Baid and his young family undertook a path breaking journey from Bangalore to Annesy, France. The uniqueness of his overland trip was that he and his wife took their two young children on the 111 day trip. I am certain that the young family gained immensely and bonded differently when faced with challenges like the Nepal earthquake in April 2015. I understand that though they were stranded for over 96 hours they were almost the last ones to use the Kodari-Lhasa route in a long time; the damage to infrastructure in Nepal and China saw the closure of the route for many months. A group of four Suratis were forced to rethink their route to London due to the same natural calamity. I could share my experience of travel through Myanmar that assisted Hetal and Rajiv Shah of Network Tours & Travels, Surat who had organised the road expedition, to re-route them via Myanmar and China. My travelogues have been edited by Thomas Chacko, a Chartered Accountant by profession, and an adventurer himself. He undertook a trip all around India in a Tata Nano after editing the first travelogue, “Ek Swift Bharat Yatra”. He is currently on a journey around the world in his Hyundai i20. Continuing in the immodest vein I have been through this paragraph, I would claim that editing “A Glorious Endeavour” – the travelogue on the journey to London – inspired him to undertake the global car jaunt! The soft spoken Atul Warrier from Trichur was another I could share my experiences with before he took off on a world trip on his bike. There are many others who have taken tips and queried me seriously to plan overland trips. Such experiences have been the true gains from the expeditions I have made so far. To prove that it is ‘do’able and that leave a template for others to follow are matters of great pride. The shock on friends’ faces when told that one can reach Singapore by road and that only one short ferry ride is involved in the road trip to London are indelible gains too!
One question I am invariably asked when people meet me during my journeys, across countries and cultures, is “how old are you”? I would like to think that it is only the mop of grey hair that prompts them to get curious about my age! When told that I am about to close out the third decade of my existence on Planet Earth I have seen many heave sighs of relief that still have the time to do what they want to do. To the many who think that there is an age limit to indulge in what they want to I would only say that, while age is just a number and youth an experience, overarching passion and the unwavering focus on what one wants to do are the keys; no matter what the age is.