As I sit in a coffee shop in one of the busy streets of Paris, sipping on a piping hot cup of coffee on a cold rainy afternoon, I find myself reminiscing on the year gone by. It’s almost a year since I flagged off my journey from Kanyakumari and here I am now in Paris. What has this travel really done to me as an individual.
Born into a middle class family, my parents were working in Dubai to make ends meet. Dubai, the name that resonates with the fact that it is the land of fortunes, especially for Malayalis. But the Dubai of the late 70s and 80s was a different world. For a growing child from a frugal background there weren’t many options other than the corridors of the apartments and the intermittent visits to the park. I had a normal upbringing, with strong social conditioning from parents, teachers, society and I totally followed the norms. The whole idea of questioning this social system never existed and I grew up very much being part of that system.
When I began my career, I was really confused as I had no clue what I was good at and did not know what I wanted to achieve. The drive to be financially independent pushed me to start working and by the age of 21 I had already started making a living for myself. My first salary was a mere INR 1500 per month, but I still managed to save! I never knew the true meaning of passion. Yes I loved cars and bikes, but when I said I wanted to be a mechanic, people guffawed at my thoughts.
At that point I never understood why and so later when the same question was fired at me I would say Chartered Accountant with a wicked smile because in my head I knew I was just bluffing.
Later as I worked my way up, I found myself intrinsically gravitating towards sales and I think it’s the fun of meeting different people and traveling that got me hooked. I couldn’t picture myself sitting in front of a computer or any desk job. As time passed I got interested in brands and moved into the Media industry and worked across different media landscapes. All this was not strategically planned, it was a very organic transition. Here I was exposed to people from different walks of life, many of them running commercially successful organisations related to something they were passionate about. One thing common was that they were never scared of failures. After spending a decade in mainstream media, I too moved to a smaller organisation working in the alternate creative space (independent music, stand up comedy, visual arts). I got introduced to some big names and all this just made me lose my inhibitions. I went from “What if I fail?” to understanding the truth that, “Nothing is going to change if I fail…. its all within me to accept failure or not”
An eye opening solo motorcycle trip through South India in 2012 gave me a satisfaction and confidence that I had not experienced in my 35 years of existence. That bundled with the stark realisation that UNCERTAINTY looms around us every minute of our life, made me embark on a journey. I call it the “journey of my life” as I put my savings till date on this trip. So Warrier’s Trail was born, spanning 5 regions and now close to 365 days on the road.
I hope that was not a boring flash back and I am not even sure if I recounted the events in the right order. But yes, solo travelling has made me feel more comfortable with myself. I think most of us spend time with others, especially with whom we are at ease. We get so conditioned to the people around us that we don’t know how it is to be alone and whether we can enjoy solitude. The only time we get to ourselves is when we sleep. Also, with the influence of social media in our life, we are always connected to people. So how does one acquire and enjoy this so called alone time?
According to me solo travel gives that to you. The time you get to yourself and 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. For me, the ride through the long winding roads, through mountains, valleys, villages was an experience of enjoying the time with myself.
Boundaries started vanishing as I was meeting new people everyday. As the days went by, my initial skepticism gave way to a more open minded and accepting state of being as I became one among them. They could be of any race but that never made a difference. 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 most craziest experiences were when strangers completely took over the situation and I was exposed to things that were never in my thoughts or 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, all these got me to meet new people, experience a new dish, or see a new place I had no clue of.
As a traveller, I was living on a shoestring budget. I learnt a lot from other travellers on how to efficiently spend money. Be it by staying in hostels and parallel working for them, to working in farms for the food and stay they provide. The biggest surprise, was when one of my hostel mates took me to a restaurant where he negotiated paying 50% percent of the food price because there wasn’t anybody and the restaurant was closing down after their working hours. He suggested we would buy out the balance food and that is how we struck a deal. That was truly impressive.
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. Just be careful not to offend anybody by researching earlier on what symbols do people from different cultures find offensive. We are so socially conditioned living in a world full of rules and labels. At times, we actually get layered with so many roles that we actually lose our own identity. Travel helps you find yourself.
Out there is a different world – nobody wants to know who you are, as you might never meet that person again in your life. So there is no agenda in any interaction, and you can communicate without any inhibitions or judgments.
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 the life around us. We stop trusting people who are strangers to us. But sometimes travelling helps you break these preconceived notions and helps you get out of your predefined circles. For instance, I had met with an accident in a village in Thailand and the local villagers took over the situation and within 1 hour I got my bike repaired and I was back on the road riding . I have been stranded in small towns, where there is no hostels/guest houses/hotels and the locals have opened their houses and hearts for me. All these reinforces the belief that good human beings do exists around us and we can still trust people. The world is not as bad as it is being portrayed.
Before I embarked on this journey, there was always a feeling of lack of confidence as I had no clue what was in store. There was no comparison to what I had done earlier and to what I am going to do. I was told many times that I have to always play by the rules, because if I break the rules something bad will happen. And at one point in your life you realise that this is not true. I was stuck in many situations where people didn’t speak my language that warranted me to decide and act.
Another important point is that, 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 we start valuing every small things around us and the importance it has in our day to day life. All these experiences have moulded me into a much more confident and understanding individual.
Although this started off as a 5 region 40 country plan, which at this moment looks like it will end with Europe with about 24 countries, 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 will be the worthiest thing to do in life, and that is to TRAVEL. I do not regret putting my savings for this journey as the experience and the learnings have been priceless. I am sitting here having no clue what’s in store for me once
I am back in India. I need to start from scratch, but that actually doesn’t concern me much. All this thanks to the decision of stepping out of my comfort zone and exploring the life as it evolves in front of me everyday.
Sometimes the journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. In my case the inception for the journey of a lifetime began with a solo trip. The preparation for
Warrier's Trail is a crazy dream of a simple guy that was inspired by a desire to travel, meeting people, see places and live life full of uncertainty.
The dream is to travel 40 countries, in over 500 odd days in 5 regions (S.E.Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe & Africa)
A journey of exploration!