In 2020, we live in rather uncertain times. COVID they say would change things forever. Personally I have found time to reflect – and here is one story I must tell.
They say – ‘The best picture in the World, is no Good in the Camera’
We all have dreams in our heads, some big and some small – but effectively they are no good if they remain in head and are not brought to life.
On the 2nd anniversary of our 2018 – road trip to London, I want to look back on how this dream of mine became a reality. And it is nothing short of amazement as to how power of a dream, can ultimately shape our lives. It’s my humble story from a nondescript Haryana village, with limited horizons, to a trans-continental ride of a lifetime to London.
I spent early years of my life in a mid sized village in Karnal, Haryana – and it was bang on Grand Trunk Road. By the way, Grand Trunk road is 2500 years old historical route connecting Kabul to Chittagong Port ( now in Bangladesh).
The Hippy Times
In my childhood in mid – 1970s – we often played on and around the Grand Trunk Road – and sometimes see these fancy coloured vans with foreigners driving in them, passing the road. Irrespective of their nationality, we always thought all whites are British or Angrez. I was enamoured by their vibrant way of life – clothes, guitars, house on move and a gypsy life – everyday you are in a new place. As a child of 6-7 years, I used to think they come from one end of the world and travel to another.
I used to wonder if ever in my life I would travel like them – to faraway lands, far beyond – Karnal. Because those days in my village, 80% of folks had been only till Karnal town, 20% of them may be till Delhi – and there was only one guy who had been to Bombay – to become an actor. Of course he came back in a month when his money finished.
I was forever anxious about my foreign travel dream.
One of those early years, one day I gathered courage and found myself in front of a palmist ( pretty common those days)- and asked him if I would go to FOREIGN? He deliberated long on the lines of my tiny hand – and in a round-about manner he told me –
‘There is no foreign travel line in your hand’.
I grew up with that wall around me – all along thinking that I would never ever go abroad – and the Frog would only live and die in the well.
Many years passed – I joined Indian Army. Till the age of 35 – I had been to all over India – but never – traveled to foreign. I thought of palmist – and cursed him – a millionth time.
When I was 35, I was deputed to represent Indian Army at the United Nations – and here was my chance to go to foreign. I went to exotic Congo, in God forsaken central Africa –
How many here have heard of it?
Well that was definitely not my idea of Foreign – This was not London or Paris – but at least one thing was certain – it proved the Astrologer wrong – so what if it was Congo – the Frog in me – had taken the first jump out of the well. The unrealised dream in me would continue to poke. Is Congo my only foreign travel?
An Early Retirement
In 2012, I finished my mandatory 20 years and voluntarily stepped out of the Army. One of the finest life one could ask from God – is to serve the armed forces. Out of Army, I was now in an open sky world – with endless possibilities.
In one of those moments of truth it occurred to me – I was 43 years of age and –
There is just one life, half of it is gone and I am not getting any younger – My idea of world travel was still in my heart. I was determined that – the second half of my life – I would hand-craft for myself.
Me and my wife gathered courage, dropped whatever we were doing, and re-wrote our dream – #DREAM25.
So here is the dream – we thought in mid forties- we have at least 25 years of Active Life left in us – and if we drive and explore one beautiful country a year- we would have seen – 25 countries in 25 years.
This was the dream that would make our lives – worthy of living.
Was there struggle?
There was immense struggle creating – physical, mental and financial stress.
Thats a subject of another talk on another blog. If you wish to read – here is the link – Exiting Forces : Things No One Tell You
So, as we took first steps, a whole new world opened. The open roads started to take us to exciting foreign countries.
But, the blockbuster moment came in 2018, a transcontinental road trip – we drove all the way from India to London – 21,000 kms, metre by metre.
Silk Route Story
Let me tell you my favourite stories from the Road to London –
It was 28th day of our expedition and a landmark day – we were to exit China and enter Central Asia at Kyrgyzstan. Quite meticulously started early morning from Kashgar (Kashi) – we were the first ones on China border immigration check post – but things don’t always go as planned.
There was a computer systems failure at immigration office. What would normally take two hours – took us 8 hours to get across the Chinese immigration. We were to exit China in the morning, but exited in the evening. All our plans went awry. It was dark by the time we reached the Kyrgyzstan border. Even after immigration done, we had to cross 4 more strict Chinese military check posts – and that was very painful.
In general our impression of Northern Chinese authorities was not good. Very insensitive and non-friendly to say the least.
The immigration offices had closed.
As expedition leader, this was the worst nightmare – I was really nervous – Imagine – a remote check post in an unknown country, immigration offices closed, fuel in bikes finishing, it was dark and cold – with temperatures dipping sub-zero levels, no place to stay. What do we do? Where do we go? What would happen?
We parked our bikes and I went inside the offices – there was just one light on, in a corner room – fortunately we found an immigration officer. In English and sign language we told our story of a bad day on the road. Looking at us – he opened the office, fired up the computers, sent us all some tea, completed our paper work, and passports were finally stamped around mid-night.
He did not stop there – the good officer – then called up a family at Irkeshtam Pass to arrange our stay for the night- and pointed us to that village. After 2 hours of ride across Irkeshtam pass in sub zero temperatures, by about 2 am, we reached this village house.
What we find – the family in the house – was awake and waiting with – hot food, hot water, mattresses laid out on the floor, and of course some brandy. We were all almost dead by now – and all hit the bed by 3 am.
As one last thing in the day – I came out to check if the cars were locked. I heard some talking in the kitchen and what do I see. The whole family of six is tucked in a small kitchen – while sparing all three of their bedrooms for us. And the Lady of the house was already cooking for SUHUR, the early breakfast they had to take during ongoing Ramadan month.
In Kazakhstan – One one of the days, a couple of fuel pumps had no fuel – and soon our Isuzu logistic pickup ran out of fuel. Not too long after, one kind Uzbek trucker stopped, gave us fuel and some local food, and took no money for it.
Wind storm – In China, we got stuck on a 80 KMPH wind storm. The bikes were swaying and falling. We almost thought we would die of the windstorm. On contacting the helpline – the whole highway traffic was blocked and we were rescued back from same side.
Help to Challenges –
I think of London trip every single day of my life. When I look back – I often wonder –
– Why would someone – in the middle of night open offices for us, give us tea and arrange our accommodation?
– Why would a village family loose its good nights sleep, cook hot food and vacate their whole house for us?
– Why would a trucker offer free fuel and food to random motorcyclists?
– What’s the reason that we got such timely evacuation from a life threatening wind-storm?
We faced many insurmountable challenges on this road trip – and God knows how one by one they all kept getting solved. It was nothing less than a cosmic help – that came our way through wonderful human beings.
We successfully reached London on scheduled time and date. And that is the grandest thing I have ever done in my life.
The biggest wisdom, from this road trip of two months across half the globe – is that if you have courage to Step Out – and tenacity to Not Give Up – I don’t know from where a path opens up, support comes in.
There is Humanity & Goodness everywhere – people come out to help all the time.
Look how my life has turned .. from Palmist almost killing my dream – The Dream 25
Since the day, we coined #Dream25, we have done 34 countries in 7 years.
The picture in my camera is finally out. And that Astrologer – well he was wrong.
Its now time for #DREAM50 and a road trip across 7 continents. Why Not?
The world we see today – has become what it is – NOT because ideas were held back – but because someone had courage to bring them out and a tenacity to Not Give Up on them.
Call it Jump out of the well or Break the glass ceiling or burst the comfort zone bubble – Do whatever – Realise your dream – because
‘The best picture in the World, is no Good in the Camera’
I often write on world exploration. If you liked it – please do not forget to subscribe to the blog. Also do share the story with friends, especially children who would be inspired to realise their own dreams.
Until then – Stay Safe.