Jay is a solo traveller who just spent three years on the road with his motorcycle for company. Read on to know more about his adventures!
A man and his machine travelling the world! How did you decide to do this?
From a young age, I was always seeking a life where I could be free in nature and the greater world in between expectations and responsibilities. Over time, I came across motorcycles, first in college in the US and then while working in Chicago. I started traveling by bike, which started off as weekend trips, then ten days trips, then two weeks to Mexico and three weeks to Alaska. On each trip, I felt more at home while on the road rather than at home going to office and running that cycle. I took that as a sign that this is what I was seeking all those years and decided that I was going to make this motorcycle journey happen.
How did you prepare for the Journey? As in how did you decide where to go, how did you manage finances, work etc?
A major factor in my decision to go on this trip was that it was going to be a one-way journey as I moved back home to India after a decade in the US. That meant selling everything I had in Chicago (house, car, etc.), quitting a well-paying engineering job and becoming a nomad for 3 years. There were many facets to the preparation. Holding an Indian passport, I had to first figure out if I could get all the visas for the countries I wanted to travel through and more importantly, could I get the visas en route. I hashed out a rough budget and realized I would have to spend the bare minimum to stretch my savings as long as possible. I stayed with a lot of locals along the way using networks such as CouchSurfing.org and contacting local motorcycling clubs that hosted me. I ended up spending less than I expected and a year into the journey, I realized that I could extend the trip from the initial two year plan into the three plus year plan that it became. There's an old adage among long-term travellers, "the slower you go, the cheaper it gets."
What were your fears before you started Traveling Solo and how did you overcome them?
I've been on the move almost from birth, with parents in Zambia and me and my sister in boarding school in Kodaikanal, so I was independent from a young age and solo travel just came naturally. Traveling solo by motorcycle, one of the fears is what happens if you drop it or have an accident. If you're traveling with someone, they can help when things go wrong. But actually, it's not such a big problem, because somebody or the other is going to come along and lend you a helping hand and it'll probably lead to a nice story to tell later.
Any mishaps with the bike along the way? How did you deal with it?
I picked my bike, which I've named sanDRina, an old Suzuki DR650, because she's relatively simple to maintain and is built tough. I spent three years before starting the journey understanding everything about the DR650 and sat with a mechanic who taught me how to maintain her on the road. I carried a lot of tools and spare parts as I didn't expect to find them along the way. I'm really good at preventative maintenance where I replace parts as they are nearing the end of their life (like tires and chain) so that they don't catastrophically come to their end while I'm riding. But, I've had a few breakdowns such as when my rear wheel bearings gave up south of Cusco in Peru and then I've burnt my clutch in Bolivia and Ethiopia. During each one of these incidents, I ended up meeting good samaritans who took me in and helped me get back on the road.
What tips do you have for first time Solo Travelers?
Be open and just go with the flow. Not being in a group will make you more open to the world around you and welcome strangers when they reach out to this solo traveller. I find that people view solo travellers as vulnerable and make an effort to make sure you're OK and well taken care of. Be ready to accept random invitations for meals or stays in people's homes and cherish them for that's what makes the journey rich.
What is your favourite Solo Travel Destination? Why?
There are a lot of great cities for solo travellers, such as Rio, Cairo and Cape Town. But I much prefer wildernesses such as Patagonia, the Sahara and Ladakh. But if I have to pick one, it would probably be Southwest Bolivia. The landscape is trippy with the high altitudes and feels so far removed from the rest of the world. I spent a week travelling over the high Andes in terrain that ranged from 12,000 ft to 15,000 ft and I was camping at salt lakes and fighting the fierce sand-borne winds. There wasn't another human around for probably a 100 km in any direction and I felt so much at peace there, connected with the earth below me and the vast sky above. You feel so insignificant when surrounded by grand nature and being in places like that gives you perspective on your place in the Universe.
What's a place on your Solo Travel wish list and why?
I'm dreaming about riding on the Road of Bones in Siberia. It's this gnarly track that traverses across vast tracts of the Taiga forest and the challenging terrain showcases nature at her wildest.
What did you carry with you on the trip? What were the essentials and indulgences (if any) that you carried with you?
I had three panniers (big metal boxes) on the bike and they housed all my worldly possessions, which included a few clothes, lots of tools and spares and then some gadgets such as a laptop, SLR and GoPro helmet camera. I realized in my preparatory trips that you need much less clothes than you think on a long journey because if you're moving ever few days, you can survive on 4 t-shirts. I had one pair of cargo pants, a few base layers for under my riding jacket and pants and a set of thermals for when it got chilly. Besides that, I carried minimal camping equipment including a small cooking stove and pots. As an indulgence, I carried a small flask with some single malt scotch for those really cold nights and whenever a small celebration was called for.
How do you participate in local life as a Solo Traveler?
I was solo when traveling between places but as I used a lot of networks for staying with locals, I ended up being very social whenever I was staying with a host. This was a great balance, for I enjoyed the freedom when out on the road and then enjoyed good company with like-minded people when I got to cities. CouchSurfing.org is a fantastic network for meeting local hosts who are excited to show you a bit of their life and the non-touristy side of a city. Also, staying with people gave me deep insights into their culture, like in Argentina where the daily schedule is very skewed; they eat lunch at 4 pm and dinner at midnight. As a sign of gratitude, I would cook a chicken curry for my hosts using garam masala that my mother would send to me in care packages. This was a grand gesture for my hosts and it made for lots of special connections along my journey.
Your favourite Solo Travel Memory?
It's tough to pick a favourite but my journey on a cargo ship across the Atlantic is definitely one of the highlights of my journey. I boarded this huge car-carrying ship in Buenos Aires for a 4 week crossing to Hamburg. This was a commercial ship, so there wasn't any thing to do besides read, sit on the upper deck and soak in the views of the beautiful Atlantic. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much water and I realized just how much of our planet is covered in water, which is hard to tell for us land-dwelling people. There were only 8 other passengers on the ship, so lots of alone time, which I spent recollecting my travel through South America and reading up for the next leg, Africa. This kind of slow travel gives you appreciation for the great distances between land, which can't be felt when you travel by plane. I highly recommend a journey on a freighter ship to experience solo travel at its most extreme.
Thank you so much for the interview Jay! We love your adventures. If you're still curious about Jay's travels and want to know what he's up to now, visit his blog: http://JamminGlobal.com . He is now working on launching an adventure travel company to take riders on motorcycle expeditions through some of best places he rode through on his trip.
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