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A quick drive around the world

Sometime in 2010, after completing my journey from London to Delhi, I secretly thought to myself,“Won’t it be nice to drive around the world? Naah! I should count my blessings, after all I was fortunate enough to make my dream come true by driving from London to Delhi. Be wise, bury your head in work and do what you have been doing for so many years.”

I brushed off the crazy idea and got back to writing software programs in London for the next few years. But every now and then, I would get lost in thought and couldn’t help thinking about how it would feel to take a car and drive it all over the world. It was a fancy, it was larger than life, it was an absurd idea that I couldn’t even share with anyone because, when I couldn’t get even myself to take it seriously how could I expect anyone else to take it seriously?But mind can play games and the more I tried to brush it off, the more it started dominating my mind. So I thought,

“Well, what’s the harm in at least looking at a world map and making a route just for fun sake? Drawing lines on a world map doesn’t mean I have to do the trip?”

The seed was planted. In my own subconscious mind, I had already started planning the world trip way back in 2010. I wasn’t accepting it but I was already working on it. I made a rough route on google maps, then I erased it, then I made it again. After a few months, I was happy with the route the way it looked on the map. I didn’t tell anyone about the route, I didn’t show the map to anyone, I would simply stare at it and keep making changes to it. It was almost like how a painter would continue staring at his painting for hours trying to make touches to make it look perfect.

Fast forward to 2012, a lot had changed. I had moved back to India, I met Sanjay, we started Adventures Overland and made a total of 7 Limca Book of Records. In July 2012, I first shared the idea of the world trip with Sanjay and he was instantly on board. My dream became our dream. I showed him the route and he simply said,

“If you are happy with it, I am happy with it.”

Just like that, Sanjay was on board. I knew we had crossed another bridge and were one step closer towards the world trip. It was the first time that I had spoken to someone about the world trip and instantly, the team for the Great Indian World Trip was made. Both Sanjay and I started having long conversations about the world trip. The more we discussed it, the more we realised what a massive challenge it was going to be. We spent the next 1 year planning the logistics, trying to find sponsorship, deciding what car to take, how to fund the expedition, the cause, the theme, the countries, rules, regulations, permits, driving conditions, seasons etc. Most of our time went in looking for sponsors which I think is even more difficult than actually driving around the world.

“It’s all in the mind. We cannot lose hope, we have to remain positive, and remember one thing, now that we have decided to do the world trip, we are going to complete it, no matter what.” Sanjay would say many times when we would be fed up, frustrated, down and dejected during the long conversations while planning our epic journey.

We kept encouraging each other with pep talks and kept reminding each other that what we were planning on doing was not easy so how could we expect everything to go smoothly? If it was that easy, then everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t really be an ‘epic journey’. At the same time, we felt very lucky that we were in a place in our lives where we could at least think of doing a round the world trip. To give 1 year into planning and another year into doing a journey on this scale requires a lot of pre-requisites. A lot of ticks in a lot of boxes. Family support, health conditions, politics scenarios in various countries, personal situation, mental frame etc. Fortunately, all the boxes ticked in our cases. Of course, there are a lot of challenges, a lot of struggles and whenever you go about planning a journey on this scale, there are always more reasons not to do a journey like this than there are reasons to go ahead and do it. A lot can go wrong, a lot of unpredictable situations can happen and no matter how many years you spend in planning, you have to take the plunge, switch on the ignition and believe in yourself and your team.

“Preparation only takes you so far, after that you have to take a leap of faith.”

We made a list of everything needed to do the world trip.

“There are 6 things that we need before we can kick off.” I said to Sanjay

“1. Vehicle 2. Passport 3. Visas 4. Carnet 5. Money 6. Insurance. If we have all of these, we can start the world trip” I said

“Tushar, it should actually be 7. Can we please add one more item to our list?” Sanjay said

“What’s that?” I asked

“Blessings. We need a lot of blessings, anyone will need a lot of blessings to complete a journey like this.”Sanjay replied

“Absolutely right. Done. We should write a book titled – How to do a world trip in 7 words!” I chuckled.

As we started discussing the details of the journey, we felt that there should be one more person in the team who could take away the responsibility of taking pictures and making videos.

“I think 3 is a perfect number of travellers in one vehicle. 4 makes the car too crowded, 2 can get boring because sooner or later, we would run out of conversations, but a 3rd person can always add that extra dimension and also keep the conversations flowing!” I said

“Yup, having a 3rd person also means that one of us can go and sleep in the back while the other 2 can drive and navigate” Sanjay added

We both knew very well who we were talking about. Prasad, our dear friend who had been travelling with us for over a year and filming our expeditions in various destinations like Ladakh and Bhutan was the perfect candidate. Not only is he one of the most talented and creative film makers we knew, he is also one of the nicest, honest and sincere persons we have ever met.

“Of course I am coming!” he replied when we shared the idea with him

In fact, he went a step further and was almost in tears when he realised that he was going to travel all over the world with us.

“Are these happy tears or are you really crying because you will be spending 9 months on the road with us?” Sanjay laughed

The team for the Great Indian World Trip was complete. We all had travelled together for a long time, we knew each other well and most importantly, we enjoyed each others’ company. As they say,

“No distance feels longer in good company”

70,000 km, 50 countries, 6 continents? Bring it on!

We had set a date of 22nd September 2013 and each one of us was looking forward to it. We were counting months, soon we were counting weeks, then we were counting days and finally…we started counting hours. A few weeks before the D day, all of us had gone in our own zones. Our conversations had actually reduced as each one of us focused on what we needed to do. We would get together and discuss any issues or obstacles we faced in our own areas. Sanjay was looking at getting visas stamped for the 1st leg of the journey, travel insurance, accounts, getting the vehicle ready for the big trip, medicines and first aid, buying spare parts and tools, making sure that queries on our website were answered on time, filling in tons of paperwork which was very boring but very important. I was working on logistics, route, permits, PR and media and trying to get us some sponsors and meetings with dignitaries in various countries. Prasad got down to branding the journey, making an attractive logo, website, merchandise, filming us while we were doing all the preparations, making short videos on the journey to capture the planning phase and spending hours on his own in a dark room (I think) thinking about how to film the entire journey to make it an interesting series for everyone to watch.

We were working like zombies, knowing exactly what we had to do, getting together with updates on what we had achieved and what we were struggling with, discussing how to overcome problems and obstacles. As we approached the final week before we had to flag off, we all started feeling a sense of urgency, we were already in September, we were not that far from flagging off, all the planning and preparations would soon be put to test and I think I can speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we all felt a bit nervous. The stage was set and now it would soon be time to start performing.

A couple of days before the D day, I remember when all 3 of us were leaving our office, we went in the elevator and were engrossed in some conversation. We kept on talking and after around 10 minutes, we realised that we were still in the elevator and that it had not moved at all.

“Will someone please press the ground floor button?” I smiled

All 3 of us looked at each other and smiled. We had been in that lift for 10 minutes and had forgotten to press the button to get the lift going. None of us realised that the elevator had not moved at all. It was a clear sign of what the journey meant to us. It was our dream, we all were waiting to start, we had spent countless hours working on it, we had lots of ups and downs over the last one year while planning it, we knew that each one of us was completely dedicated towards making sure that The Great Indian World Trip is a success.

Next few days passed as quickly as the blink of an eye. I am now counting hours. It is the night before we flag off for the greatest journey of our lives. A lot of chaos happened during the day. A lot of opinions about a lot of things from a lot of people. Did I miss something out? Do we have everything we need to take with us? Have we packed all the necessary things? Our we really leaving tomorrow morning? Sanjay and Prasad came to my house in the evening to put stickers on the car and get her ready for the big trip. Unfortunately, it started raining and all we could do was sit and wait for the rain to stop. We wasted a few precious hours when we could rather be spending time at home with our families. It was less than 24 hours to flag off, we didn’t have the car ready with stickers, we didn’t have our merchandise delivered, we didn’t have the currency exchanged, we didn’t have our permission for flagging off from India Gate. Sanjay and I both went quiet. We were both getting advice from all directions that we didn’t need. We were at my farm waiting for the rain to stop which made us feel even more nervous. We needed a few hours to put the stickers on the car but it was already dark and we knew that we couldn’t do it today. Sanjay asked me to take a walk with him. We went to a quiet room in the outhouse away from the main building and sat next to each other. We both felt very tired, exhausted and no matter how hard we tried, a lot of things were still not taken care of. Some of it could be our fault and some it could was just not in our control. For a few minutes, we didn’t speak. Finally, Sanjay asked me,

“Tushar, what’s going on in your mind?”

“I am tired of everyone telling us what to do. I want to get out and hit the road now.” I replied

“That’s how I feel. We have the 7 things we talked about, rest all can be taken care of as we go along” he added

“Let’s not worry about the currency exchange, merchandise will surely arrive in a few hours, if we don’t get permission for India gate it doesn’t matter, we will still be flagging off!” I added

“I think we should sit together tomorrow night in our hotel room, just you, me and Prasad, and then discuss our strategy for the following days and weeks for the first leg. We have done everything we could and now we need to just go.” Sanjay added

Prasad entering the room looking for us. He saw the atmosphere a bit tense and stood quietly. Our whole team was in that dark room for the final time before we would go back to our homes and get together only in the morning for the flag off. We felt comfortable in each other’s company and without speaking another word, we knew that all of us were simply feeling the nerves because the clock had started ticking. We say goodbyes and decided to meet at my farm at 6 AM to pack the car and to spend a few hours putting up stickers while Prasad would film the entire process.

“Are you excited? You are leaving tomorrow!” my sister said

I wasn’t excited. Nor was I stressed. I was just quiet. I wasn’t even dreaming about the flag off. I was simply in the moment. I looked at the packed bags in my room, walked out to take a look at our car with the new roof rack and the custom made jerry can case. I took a look at all the stickers that would be put up on the car in the morning, quietly took the car out and got the first fuelling done before we start in the morning. I am unable to picture the world map and all the countries, the magnitude and the massive scale of our journey. My focus is not on any of the days ahead. I could only think about getting the fuelling done, checking that I have all the music arranged and putting an alarm to get up at 6 AM to sticker up the car. But I didn’t feel like sleeping. I purposely made a cup of coffee to keep me awake all night.

At 3 AM, I walked out again to take a look at our car. It was nicely parked on the drive away. It would be decorated and packed up in the morning. It would take us all around the world. It looked ready to drive all over the globe. It would be seeing a lot of terrains, landscapes and seasons over the next 9 months. It would be our home. I opened the door, sat inside, gently touched the steering wheel, looked around for nothing in particular and just closed my eyes.

“Take care of us please.” I said slowly.

The Great Indian World Trip will start in a few hours.

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