“We are the change that we seek.”
- Barack Obama
These words aptly explain the actions of a 24-year-old Delhi boy, Himanshu Goel. He broke out of his comfort zone and skipped his Chartered Accounts exams to inspire the world. How, you ask? By managing to cycle from Ranchi all the way to Singapore in a span of 55 days! Tripoto caught up with him recently to learn more about him and his journey.
Hi Himanshu! Please tell us something about yourself.
I was born in a small village in Panipat. For the past 14 years, I have been living in Delhi with my family. I am an outdoor enthusiast with certification in mountaineering and first-aid.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Delhi University. I have a Basic Mountaineering Certification from Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, and Advance Mountaineering Certification from the National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports. I am a semi-qualified Chartered Accountant and have completed my 3-year articleship.
You seem more inclined towards Mountaineering. Then what inspired you to cycle from Ranchi to Singapore?
No matter how happy or satisfied you are with what you do, the society doesn’t recognise you unless you play it out on a large scale. That gave birth to the idea of cycling to another country.
I wanted to do something that I could be proud of. I wanted to inspire everyone who is afraid to go out and try something that they have wanted to do for so long. If I can do this difficult task, anyone can do it.
It sounds like a herculean task! How did you prepare for your journey?
The planning bit was tricky and took almost nine months. I had thought about this in October 2018 and the plan was executed on 20 August, 2019 when I finally started cycling. Planning involved things like route permits, the road to take, and cities to cover. Arranging funds and visas for different countries were crucial issues too.
I met some cycling enthusiasts who mentioned the West to East corridor and liberalisation of Myanmar for tourism. After research, we decided to cycle on this route. There were three of us who had set out but two backed out for some reason. The costing and absence of sponsors allowed me to cover only till Singapore.
I'm accustomed to physical work and training but to prepare myself better I started running about 5-10 km every day for a month. To get an idea of what was to come, I cycled from Manali to Leh to see if I could manage cycling for long hours with the luggage.
I would eat anything, as long as it gave me energy. I consulted some friends who bikepack often. Viaterra Gear sponsored my saddle bags that kept company on my journey. I was very specific about what to pack. My gear included:
- Some medicines
- 3 pairs of cycling shorts
- 3 pairs of cycling shirts
- Padded Jacket
- a notebook
- Puncture Kit
- extra tubes
- sleeping bag
- inflatable mattress
- Camping gears sponsored by Kefi outdoors
Tell us about the route you took! Did you focus on a specific terrain or did you want to go sightseeing?
I crafted the route around safety, and availability of accommodation and food. It might sound funny but I found the route via Google Navigation. Then I made the necessary adjustments by adding pit-stops and accommodations. The final route was:
Ranchi—Jamshedpur—Kharagpur—Kolkata—Bangladesh (Jessore, Dhaka)—Tripura—Assam—Manipur—Myanmar (Mandalay, Bagan, Nappyitdaw, Yangoon)—Thailand (Bangkok, Hua Hin, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, Hat Yai)—Malaysia (Kedah, Penang, Ipoh, Kualalumpur, Melacca, Johor Bahru)— Singapore
This route ensured that I could see the major attractions and explore some places as well. It covered dry roads, forests, cities, highways, seaside roads, bridges, and even mountains.
What are the challenges you had to face? We came to know that you were robbed once!
It was not an easy ride, everyday. Sometimes, I had to face bad weather. Fast-moving traffic, food issues, issues with my bicycle and accommodation were frequent problems. At times, I rode all night to avoid staying in a shady place. On instances, I ended up staying in shady places. I even slept in police stations to feel safe.
Pedaling in heavy traffic made me feel like a turtle amongst rabbits. I remember when I was in Assam, this Bolero driver overtook me rashly on a bad road. He hit my front tyre. I fell and hurt my shoulder, palms and knee. The rear derailleur of my bike broke but still managed to go on for the next 80 km in that condition.
I was in Malaysia when I got mugged. The person took my watch and punctured my tyre. I went to the police, acted brave and filed a report. But after reaching the hostel room, I cried, worrying about the future. My patience and motivation were constantly tested.
The only hope came from the people I was meeting. Whenever I felt like giving up, I would stay there for one more day and hang out with other travellers. Listening to their stories motivated me and kept me going.
You have grown as a person through the journey. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt on your way?
There's a lot that I've learned. I believe you learn more when you go out of your comfort zone and start facing the music. The most important lesson I learned from this journey is that not all people in the world are bad. Everyone is helpful in some way. It's about how you approach them. Also, that limits are what we define for ourselves. There is no limit to growth.
What are the next few months going to be like for you? Are you planning for a break?
I took a Diwali break to rest, but working outdoors is fun. Who wants breaks from something they love and enjoy doing?
Currently, I am working as an outdoor leader with Bilateral Adventures. My current job allows me to lead people in the wilderness and teach them survival skills in a fun environment. It involves trekking, mountaineering expedition, and high altitude cycling expeditions. Apart from the job, I am planning for a cycling expedition to Europe.
For the next few months, I will gain more information about the cycling route from India to Europe. I want to cover the whole world on a bicycle. I will also search for sponsors because there is no source of income for me right now. Leading treks in the mountains helps me survive but I can't save enough to bear the expense of a world tour.
Your story is inspiring for many. If you could give a few valuable tips to our readers who wish to follow your footsteps that would be great!
My dream has always been to inspire people. I don't want people to think that I'm an extraordinary person. In fact, I want to be remembered as an ordinary person who managed to do something extraordinary. All because I had the courage to follow my heart.
The only advice I have is to never be afraid of doing something you love. People will try to stop you. But if you believe in something, at least give it a try. Don't give up without trying. Learn from others' experience. Yet don't follow them blindly. Create your own experiences. Follow your heart and do justice to your dreams. The right time to begin is NOW. Take a step forward and things will start falling into place. Go for it, but with planning and with a vision.
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