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What motivates someone to travel to 50 countries, in four different regions, in 500 days?
It’s not the ride or the distance; it’s the journey that matters.
A common enough saying, but when the soft-spoken Atul Warrier utters these words, you know he means every word.
The Bangalore lad is on a marathon motorcycle journey across the globe, and is currently in Australia.
Nicknamed “Warrier’s Trail”, his trip was flagged off in Kanyakumari, the southern-most tip of India, on 6 June, 2015.
Passing through south east Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore), and Bali, Atul arrived in Australia in October.
The trip so far
Here he has been enjoying a “peaceful ride” and the “most beautiful landscapes” he has ever come across.
He will then travel on to the Middle Eastern countries (Oman, UAE, Iran), through Turkey, Greece and then to Europe.
As he rides in casually to keep our interview date, it is incongruous to see an Indian number plate on his machine, a modified 2002 model Royal Enfield Thunderbird (AVL Engine), on an overcast afternoon in Stanhope Gardens, in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.
The breeze that ruffles through his hair seems to soften the tough image I have conceived of him in my mind.
“No, I am not your typical bikie,” he laughs. “I’m a very simple and normal guy who works in media and lives in Bangalore!”
In fact, his very first experience in solo travelling was a trip to Mangalore in 2010, to take a break from the pressures of work.
He first hit the road on a bike to Kukke Subrahmanya, a temple near Mangalore, and what excited him most at that point was the idea of travelling 600 kilometres with just some spare clothes and no expectations.
Two contradicting incidents that he experienced while on this journey – an impulse decision to swim in a serene pond that left him invigorated, and a close call with an accident that shook him – opened up the endless possibilities of living a life with no inhibitions.
Gradually, his solitary trips became longer and more extensive.
“I once spent two days in Goa in a shack, surviving only on liquids, and finishing two books at a stretch!”
A far cry from life in the concrete jungle, you could say. (The former regional head of UTV Bindas, Atul is currently with music management group Only Much Louder.)
Has he faced any troubles on his solo travels?
“The biggest challenge is the restricted information available while travelling overland on a motorcycle,” Atul says.
Luckily for him, he found the answer in Horizons Unlimited, a site founded by Grant and Susan Johnson in 1997 following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.
The site contains useful information ranging from how to prepare your bike for the travel to getting your insurance cover, but these have to be adapted to individual circumstances.
The groundwork planning is extensive.
“Making sure your passports and visas are flawless is the first step. Your bike needs a document too, called Carnet de passage which is a customs document that identifies a traveller’s motor vehicle. It is an international guarantee for payment of customs duties and taxes to a government should the vehicle or item not be re-exported from that country. In India, 300% of the invoice value of the vehicle should be deposited to procure this. On top of planning the itinerary, another thing you need to be aware of is the shipping expenses of the bike from one country to another.”
Sounds like an expensive pursuit!
“I’ve had to sell all my assets to fund this,” Atul chuckles.
“No regrets, though. This is the investment I make for the learning experience of my life.”
On the road, Atul has seen the best of the human spirit. His bike broke down in Bangkok and he had to seek out a mechanic.
Once everything was sorted, Atul came back to see some random guy had been guarding his rucksack for more than three hours in the scorching heat.
And as Atul got there, the man just walked away, without demanding anything in return!
Another heart-warming story comes from the Vietnam leg of his journey.
“Following an accident, I was in two minds as to whether or not to carry on with the journey,” he says.
Atul did not post any updates to his Facebook page, which has some 4000 followers, for several days which triggered a barrage of messages.
“What happened next was something I never expected. Personal messages poured in enquiring about my safety. All of them conveyed the same thing – they did not want me to stop. People thought I was living their dreams!”
It is not just these dreams that he carries around, Atul intends also to spread awareness about the organisation MAD (Make A Difference).
This charity works with nearly 5000 children, in 77 shelter homes, across 23 cities in India using a volunteering model of 4000 young leaders to deliver the program (visit makeadiff.in/).
And what is Atul’s take-home message from his extraordinary experience?
His response is prompt, “Learning to take risks, and to trust my fellow human beings.”
Two very rare qualities indeed in these troubled times.