On the road to discover the country
Seeing the world is on top of everyone’s bucket list and the tribe of wanderlust is on the rise.
Seeing the world is on top of everyone’s bucket list and the tribe of wanderlust is on the rise. Without a penny a 17-year-old hitch-hikes the country on trucks, a banker develops an auto-rickshaw to cover the length and breadth of the country, a man paralysed below his waist travelling with his golden retriever and a solo woman conquering Himalayas on her bike, young they are on the road to discover the country.
Bitten by the bug they admit travelling is a learning curve that expands one’s confidence and outlook and transforms one into a better human being. Their inspiring tales often force others to get out and travel. In Kerala, there are exclusive travel collectives and clubs for Z generation, women bike riders, pet owners, aged, wheel chair borne and others.
According to a global survey conducted by Booking.com, travel and seeing the world outranked higher education, home ownership and retirement funds among Gen Z respondents when it comes to their spending priorities. It says young travellers in India, Thailand and Russia are the most likely to prioritize spending on travel rather than material possessions these days.
When 17-year-old Vishal Henry, a class 11 student from Thrissur, set out to see the country he had four sets of dress and ₹400 in his hand. His ‘K to K’ (Kanyakumari to Kashmir) trip began on April 2 this year after his parents dropped him at the southern tip. His hitch-hiking journey began after a truck driver gave him a lift to Chennai. There was no looking back - in 93 days he covered all 29 states.
“Travel is in my blood and my parents encouraged me well. I wanted to make my travel different so I thought of a free ride to see my country. The only problem I had was that I lost my mobile phone in Orissa and my mother had to deposit some money to buy a new one,” he said adding he was planning to cover the country in 80 days. But itinerary exceeded a bit due to natural calamities at some places. He said a well- wisher later offered him a flight ticket from Goa to Kochi. He slept in bus-stands, railway stations, temples and gurudwaras and at times good Samaritans extended their courtesy.
“Once two days I was without food. But these things do happen when you take such trips. I managed it well,” he explained. Not over, he is planning the same hitch-hike mode for global-trotting and waiting for others to loosen their wallet.
Naufar Jaleel (29), a Thiruvananthapuram-based bank employee in Sydney, was on auto mode to cover the country. He modified his TVS King 4S autorickshaw to cover 19,000 kms in 232 days. Why an auto? “Auto-rickshaw is typical Indian middle-class vehicle. I have an affinity towards the vehicle since childhood. So I brought one and re-modelled it for my odyssey,” he said adding his three-year’s savings with Commonwealth Bank in Australia were enough to foot his bills.
“I have travelled in New Zealand, Australia and some other Southeast Asian countries. But India is really different - different culture, food, landscape and mannerism that make India really beautiful. I enjoyed Kashmir and north-east the most,” he explained. “I like India’s chaos. Yeh dil maange more.”
A state-level badminton player Sudhin M Chandran (24), a native of Alappuzha, has a different story to tell. He covered the country on his Apirla SR 150 scooter and went up to 18,300 feet high Khardung La pass, considered the highest motorable road in the world. “I planned to cover it in 32 days but it went up to 42 days due to landslide in some areas. I spent ₹80,000 including petrol expenses. I also carried a placard to spread the message of women safety,” he said. He raised money for his trip by coaching upcoming badminton players. He also founded a travel group KL-32 which has 30 travel enthusiast members.
In 2002 life went upside down for Sidharth Babu, then 22, after he met with a bike accident. Paralysed below waist he was not ready to go down so easily. He re-modelled his car and travels with his golden retriever. An ace shooter, he is also the national winner in 50 m shooting in differently-abled category. “I was bed-ridden for more than a year. But the travel bug kept me tinkering and I snatched the life from the brink,” he said. Preparing for para-Olympic he said he started travelling when he was 16. “Travel makes one a better person and helps erase deep wounds. I found it a best medicine for many ailments,” he said.
Shiny Rajkumari (36), woman solo biker rider, is first woman Iron Butt Association member from Kerala. Iron Butt is a US-based organization dedicated to endurance motorcycle riding with over 60,000 members worldwide and members tout themselves as world’s toughest riders. She got Iron Butt after covering 1680 kms on a tough terrain in 24 hours. She is also the first woman owner of Interceptor bike in the state.
“During my first trip to Himalayas I met with an accident on first day itself in Tamil Nadu and I did not inform my husband and others fearing they will force me back. I took one-day break and continued my journey. Once you set out there won’t be no looking back,” she said adding she started riding motorbikes when she was 18. Her uncle was a police messenger and he had a rickety bike and it fuelled love for bikes in her. Also a woman cricket player and martial arts enthusiast, she founded a women bullet club in 2016 which has 150 members now. “For me travel is life. I want to travel rest of my life in my bullet,” the mother of 15-year-old boy said.