Chirag’s bucket list road trip led him to leave home on the 6th of October, 2014 and go for a cycle tour from Central India through the southeast Asian countries of Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. His journey ended on 7th May 2015.
His inspiration behind such a feat came from an ‘online one sided love’ as he calls it which evolved into singing “Hey There Delilah” together every day, until one day, when she proposed to cycle from her home country in Europe to India as a gesture to come and see him foxr real.
He laughed real hard on this. Chirag even mocked the idea, and ridiculed it so much, that things became quiet between them.
“Before that, I had never even thought of the idea of a cycle tour over a double digit kilometre figure.”
His second inspiration was an extract from a creation, “Leaves of Grass” by the American poet Walt Whitman
“Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much?
Have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?”
This challenged him to define the word – distance, and a quest to understand how much would a thousand kilometers really be.
Chirag didn’t really have a bicycle as a child. It was only later during the second year of his college in Bengaluru that he bought one for himself. The bucket lister was working part-time at a football academy and needed to get to his college within half an hour and that is when he realized how a bicycle would help his commute through the traffic in the city.
“I was my biggest challenge – Yes, along with the funds, routes, government approvals, punctured tires, places to sleep, and everything.”
Chirag accepts that it was difficult for him to undertake such an adventurous cycle tour as he recalls the silent treatment meted out to him by his parents for two days when he spoke of the road trip for the very first time.
“But after I accomplished my bucket list – my parents could no longer tell me at home, “Tumhe kya pta? Humne toh duniya dekhi hai.”
Chirag carried his own tent and often slept at temples. The crowded streets of India made it very difficult for him to pull out a tent and just bunk in. He even recalls of his time during the trip in Burma where it is illegal to stay in the tent. He waited for it to get dark so he could hide. At times he had to go deep into the forests and sleep in old and abandoned vehicles.
One cannot expect ready-assistance on foreign soil. The experience was just the same for the cyclist. He carried his own stove, food, clothes, travel and riding gear, water bottles.
Chirag was fascinated with Bhutan’s education system that rewards one for happiness and the school infrastructure in Vietnam. Vietnam has an education system focused on letting the children know more about their roots first before imparting knowledge on them about the countries beyond the borders.
Chirag was travelling through Myanmar for a few days. It could have taken him far less time if he had gone for the shorter route. But the bucket lister made a conscious choice not to. He has learned that there are no shortcuts in life if one wants to succeed in something. One shall have to put in the hard yards. In countries where English is not the primary language, sign language is the key. He was amazed at how the people could communicate without speaking, just through their body language. He came back home with an understanding, the importance of respecting everyone.
“Sore wa nantoka umaku ikimasu” which translates to – It will work out somehow. Endou Mamoru/Matsuzake Tenma (Inazuma Eleven anime series)
He believes in this. He feels that a lot of what has happened in his life has been supported by it. Chirag accepts that he has been lazy, and pushed things to the last minute, and then left them to get done by themselves somehow. And they happened too.
For aspiring solo travellers out there, Chirag has a message for you.
“I have felt that travelling solo is now a real fad now. It is fashion. I hear people telling others to “definitely be out there, travel, make friends”. Well, Don’t. Do because you want to, or you feel it is for you. Not necessarily I gained because I travelled. Learning happens when I am ready to learn. I was ready to back then. Plus, I hope that people who want to travel, don’t stereotype the daily 9-5 job as boring, and then go for it. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy here. We all have our own realities.”
The Experience and the Impact
The experience through his cycle tour over these different countries with the different cultures has somewhat been off a total life-changer for Chirag. It did take seven months out of his life but gave seven years of wisdom in return. Traveling through a country teaches one a lot, according to Chirag. He wants to take another cycle tour the length and breadth of the country and learn more about it. The bucket lister has a list of kindergartens/schools from around the world, where he would want to work for at least once. He has found his happy place with kids.
WoovlyFunFact: Did you know that your bicycle can stay upright if it is going at a speed of 12 km/h or more?