travel is very easy but become a traveller in little difficult. If someone tells me how much time you can travel? then I can probably go for a weekend or a month. But it is not always possible to keep travel and who did that everyone should know about. This person is the Peter Van Geit.
Peter Van Geit travelling in India for twenty years. Peter mostly treks in the mountains. They go to places where only few people go. They go to the very interior and remote areas of the mountains. They have crossed 40 passes in 75 days. Peter loves the mountains and that is why they want to stay here. We have spoken to Peter, trying to find out about his experiences, difficulties and journey.
1. Firstly, I want to know about yourself. How your life had changed after you started traveling?
My name is Peter Van Geit, born and raised in Belgium. Finished my masters in Computer Science, worked for a few years and was then deputed to Chennai, India to recruit a team of software engineers and work as a project manager. I fell in love with the natural beauty of the Indian subcontinent and soon started traveling the lesser known roads on my Enfield bullet. Over the years biking changed to cycling, then hiking and now ultra running to explore beautiful untouched places in the mountains.
2. What was that moment when you thought travelling is what you want to pursue for life? was there a specific moment or you always planned it and were just waiting for the perfect timing?
I have been traveling for years but in a corporate job I always felt locked down by limited leaves (2 weeks) to travel to new places so finally decided to quit my job 2 years ago and travel full time and adopt a minimalist lifestyle to significantly reduce living expenses. We spent most of our lives in a class room, a corporate cubicle, commuting in traffic and stuck in daily routine. Life is too short and beautiful to be enslaved in an artificial consumer society in concrete cities disconnected from nature.
3. How many countries have you travelled so far and how many are left in your travel bucket. which country did you travelled last?
Travel is not about countries. Political boundaries are human made and do not demarkate places of interest. I usually head out to the mountains which are still virgin and untouched by human hand and where we still find true humanity. Innocent people who show generous (non commercial) hospitality to travelers. A country or boundary is just a VISA and a flight, otherwise natural and human beauty can be found in all remote conrners of the world. India itself is a large continent with so many beautiful destinations. I've traveled to various countries in South East Asia.
4. Once I saw pictures of you during chennai flood and cleaning road. I want to know about that situation and experience? Also, tell us about the chennai trekking club.
During the Chennai floods in Dec 2015 myself and hundreds of volunteers from the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC, a non profit volunteer based organization active in outdoors, environmental and social causes) assisted in rescue, relief and rehabilitation of many affected (especially poor) by this natural calamity. We helped cleaning up the slums, distributing relief materials and rebuilding homes and restoring lost livelihood of those most impacted. I founded CTC to connect with like minded adventurous souls and go out together on wilderness hikes, biking trips, cycle tours and ultra runs to mountains and jungles. Over the years the group has grown to 40 thousand outdoor and nature enthusiasts across the country organizing hundreds of outdoors and sports events throughout the year.
5. How do you decide your travel destination. What are the preparations you do before travelling?
I mostly look at a topographic map of any part of the world and identify places with large mountain ranges where I can spent a couple of months covering a few thousands of kilometers. I study the terrain, the villages (to refuel food), mountain passes and trails through various maps and put together a trans route. Based on the season and terrain I put together a minimalist gear set to protect me from weather elements during day and night. I prefer to go light and fast in order to cover more places in a given timeframe. Navigation is done with my phone, offline maps and GPS. I generally avoid roads.
6. So, how many times have you travelled to India and what brought you here?
I settled down in India sine 1998 and have been here since then. I fell in love with the natural beauty of the Indian subcontinent and soon started traveling the lesser known roads on my Enfield bullet. Over the years biking changed to cycling, then hiking and now ultra running to explore beautiful untouched places in the mountains.
7. what has been your favourite place and experience during your indian travel ?
My all time favorite desination and second home are the Indian Himalayas stretching from Uttarakhand to Himachal Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir. I have been returning nearly every summer to the high mountains for many years. I love the hospitality of the remote villages, mountain tribes and shepherds grazing the high alpine meadows in the remotest corners of the Himalayas.
8. How different is India to other countries for travellers? Do you plan on visiting again?
I think India and Southeast Asia are very similar if you head out to the mountains. The terrain, the people, the hospitality. As I said before countries and boundaries are human inventions, we are all children of the same beautiful planet.
9. I follow you on social media. These photos are of those destinations where people's usually don’t go. How you do that?
I have been exploring the unexplored for more than a decade now. Initially used to roam the dense jungles of South India and now more focused onto the majestic Indian Himalayas. This has given been elaborate experience on map reading, navigation and surviving in the wild. Over the years I have become a unique intersection of an explorer, ultra runner and alpinist. Exploring the unknown, the remote is much more thrilling, intense and satisfying then traveling the touristic and commercial trails which have lost of lot of their natural and human beauty.
10. According to you, how important is money while travelling, like do you find travelling expensive or one can do with small budgets? and How do you manage travel and earning?
For a minimalist traveling is probably the cheapest way of living. I hardly spent 60 Rs. per meal in small villages, many days NIL when friendly people offer me food along the way. I always camp in the outdoors or - especially as a solo traveler - am hosted freely by someone. Travel by public bus or share taxi is cheap. So, I finally end up spending hardly 200 Rs. per day, which is much much cheaper then living in the cities. I can travel a month on a budget of just 5,000 Rs. which is easily covered by my savings and renting out my home.
11. Since you have travelled so much, what kind if travelling do you prefer, solo or group travelling?
I enjoy travelling both solo and with (like minded) friends. Solo has many benifits - you have total freedom in your travel, pace and schedule. People along the way are much more likely to host a solo traveler vs. a group. Going alone to remote places is a much more intense experience indulging in your surroundings. Few people can leave for longer periods to join my longer journeys. In between it's sometimes nice to get accompanied by a few good friends with similar fitness level and attitude.
12. In travelling, which memory / experiences keep you going through with the journey? I am sure there are difficult times as well.
Every day during travel is a unique, new experience. No day is the same or a repeat. Especially while exploring new locations you encounter new, unexpected experiences and meet different, wonderful people. With every journey you become richer and more experienced and better prepared to face any challenges ahead. You become more confident and more at ease in unknown and remote places far away from human settlements. One becomes more peaceful inside and feels closer connected with nature.
13. While travelling you meet local peoples. How do you communicate with local people. Is Language is a big barrier?
Language is never a barrier during travel. I ran over thousands of kilometers in the Indian Himalayas and Vietnam without speaking the local language. A friendly face, a smile immediately connects you with the local people. After they realize you have traveled long distance and overcome many challenges to reach they are most eager to host you in their home. They feel proud and resonsible for you as a guest in their region with food, shelter and guidance.
14. What will you suggest to travel beginners?
I have been documenting many beautiful destinations on my web site ultrajourneys.org. I could recommend beginners to travel to some of the easier and less challenging destinations described on my blog either solo or with a small group of friends. There is so much more satisfaction to plan and go on a trip by yourself rather then joining a commercial travel or hiking company.
15. Lastly, I want to know. Do you plan on writing any book on your travel experiences?
Many have asked me to write a book. Personally I feel I have just started living life (traveling) recently only and am at the beginning of something much larger. There is so much untouched beauty out there to be explored. I have been writing many articles, giving several presentations, shooting educational videos and documenting my journeys extensively on my blog which should be a good start for new travelers and explorers. A book will definitely come when I feel ready for it.