On December 20. 1967. I bade farewell to everyone and everything and left my home with only sixteen rupees in my pocket. Five years later. I returned to the same place from where I started having a round world trip with a cycle. But this was of no importance to me to be proud. What I mean is that when people go on for traveling. They simply chalk out a plan to simplify their onward movements spare no expense to avoid the unexpected calamities or troubles, which they may encounter during their journey and then return on a scheduled time. They bring nothing special except some experience of their exhaustion. colourful stories of adventures real or imaginary and some souvenirs. But in the true sense I do not mean such a well-planned thing a journey is at all. I think that the soul of a traveler has a plan of its own journey, which has neither a starting point nor an end. In my view to a real traveler there lies a long endless road spread all over the world, the experience of which prepares and enriches his mind for the rest of his life.
When I set out. I had no intention to advertise myself or to break a record to become famous. Once I met a man who had walked all over India barefoot. He said to me-“One can get real education only by making oneself intimate and familiar with the country, its surroundings, its people and their natural mode of living. Education cannot be acquired just from schools.” I had had my training in schools & colleges. So I decided to set out all alone, quite unprepared, with no plan except to travel around the world in slow motion and to acquire knowledge that the world had to teach me.
And through my travel, I observed that people failed to realise how I could manage to travel so much without having virtually any money. But in fact, it is not a problem at all. If money comes, it it is always welcome. If not, that too is welcome.
In Saudi Arabia, I found myself without food and money though I was sure that sometime and from somewhere both would come. I weighed less than one hundred pounds and so it was less expensive for someone to feed me rather than to feed a large dog. Without having food for six days and six nights, I found a man near a fruit tree – of course, those were dates. I pointed my finger to my mouth and then to the tree. He understood me and gave enough fruits sufficient to satisfy my hunger and to fill up my rucksack. My conviction on humanity became confirmed once more. Humanity is nothing but the hearty feelings and sympathy for others. I believed that the sense of humanity was dormant in every soul. Without this, my journey would not have been possible at all.
To become travelers, we do not need much preparations and materials because such things are not eternal. These are like friends, money and anything else that come and go as capriciously as the clouds. If we have to wait until we are completely equipped and financed to resume such a long journey, we may not be able to go out at all. All over the world, I have left behind those who were waiting for the opportune moment to set out. Perhaps some of them are still waiting for the completion of their preparations and others have already forgotten their cherished missions.
As a part of the preparations, of course a valid passport is essential and visa has to be endorsed in it through official procedure. Every country has its own law to protect its own interest. So a traveler who is to travel through a country must respect and abide by its law and orders.
What we need more than anything is a firm belief in Divine power and self-confidence. These two things seem to me very much alike. One may argue that self-confidence is nothing but a willpower, which gathers its energy from the materialistic world only. If so, then who can stop us from doing anything? In fact, this is not true. Our souls are integral parts of the Devine Soul which guides us and never betrays. It leads us from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from the agony of hunger, sickness and loneliness to peace, happiness and tranquility.
We must remember that we travel for experience only and for nothing else. The world is a place from where we gather experience to make our understanding clear and to know the purpose of our life. If we do not express our personal opinions and judgment on the happenings around us, we will be less bothered by others and our travels will be undisturbed. As soon as we begin to put a value on the goodness and badness (jf things. we gradually get involved in troubles. A traveler must not be attached to anything-for him all are just passing through. Can you imagine, we often spend half of our lives fleeing from the reality? Go beyond attachment give up favouritism and you will find what a marvelous world it is! This attitude is comparable to the vision of a passenger watching through the window of a train-the gorgeous greenery, the wavering rivers, ugly holes and factories, the dangerous gorge, boring barren lands and the beautiful landscape-which all disappear in a moment. When we become attached to any particular object, then we lose everything except that. When our spirit is reawakened from all these various experiences, only then we can say like the barefooted man that we are genuinely educated. Real qualification means a real understanding of the Being.
It is better to travel with an open mind. When a traveler is free from preconceived ideas and habits of all kinds he can enjoy a new country in its own form.
Also it is better not to enter into people’s dispute or pass out judgements about their problems because most of the time people are very simple and they quarrel for silly things, without thinking. For example, in Turkey, someone said to me, “In India you don’t take meat. Why the people of India don’t eat meat? They are stupid we need protein for strength. You have lots of cows, but still you starve. You people are not intelligent at all.”I calmly said. “Dear friend you are right and I am glad to meet an intelligent man like you. But frankly speaking, in India people are free to eat whatever they like. There is no hard and fast rule about it. But we do not have many people who are like you.” Thus I stopped him from making further remarks. If he were reasonable and like-minded, then probably I could have explained to him in details the Vegetarian Theory. But at that moment, involvement in any kind of debate meant unnecessary trouble for me. When you come to a new town, it is better to greet people with a smiling face then to show them your personality. Just smile and be simple and you will get good results in return. Try to pick up some local words and apply them to show that you love their language. but always be careful about their right applications. For example, in France. I noticed that when I asked the people in English, invariably the answer was “Non Monsieur”, although they knew English. But when I made an effort to speak in French by asking, “Parlez vous amglais”, immediately the reply was. “Yes. I do.”
Oh! the road has so much to teach us! If we deeply think, we shall realise that all nations are like roads. Each of which has its own history, philosophy and religion that serve as footgear and rucksack for the travelers. How enchanting it is that every nation has its own national self! The nation like India, for example, is philosophical by its soul and those like U.S.A., Europe are materialistic in nature. But each nation is as important as the others. I think. an nations need international relationship. Perhaps my inner man was eager to establish such a kinship with the world and so I set out for a journey.
Wherever a traveler goes, he will have to remember that there is the Lord of nature and He has a great influence on us. During my journey, once I had been taking rest under the starlit sky far away from human habitation. Suddenly a strange feeling crept into me. The touch of that lovely marvelous night. The wonderful feelings of that queer atmosphere entirely crushed my inner creature, which was so long mingled with prejudice and pre-conception-as if my soul began to swell and swell until I touched the canopy of the stars and I became a part of their light. This was how the Nature changed me.
Let me recollect the occasion when for the first time I entered into a forest alone. I took off my rucksack and laid down among the trees and I felt a tremendous softness swelling up inside me. It troubled me. I thought that when a traveler feels soft, it is merely due to the weakness and for that softness he loses his activity gradually. I asked myself how could I travel around the world with such a soft heart? But slowly and unconsciously I began to fall in love with the nature. I began to love the leaves. the small birds and the light and shadow which danced there. Gradually my disturbed mind gained equilibrium. I must have fallen asleep. When I got up, it was twilight and the chirping sound of the returning birds hailed my heart from far -away like the voices of the children absorbed in play. There were light and darkness, sound and stillness combing each other in and out, meeting and passing through undisturbed, perfectly harmonious. It seemed to me that all the things around me were assembled to praise the Lord. But there was only one creature who failed to participate in this fete, and it was I – the most complex and funny creature of this world.
A few days later, I was feeding a squirrel the wild nuts that I gathered from the forest. When the squirrel came to me, I realised that there was no basic difference between him and I. But at the same time, I wondered how this little creature was so innocent, happy and graceful while I was a human being suffering from so many complexities. I began to think, “Which of us has gained the greater happiness? This little animal or I?” And I melted again. At that time I felt that this strange softness within me was not at all the weakness of the heart, but the very feeling of oneness, which had united me with the nature. Oneness expands the self. My pride for the self-entity gradually became shattered and the noble feeling of oneness engulfed me completely. I found my road again, “Oh, God”, I prayed, “Let me remember this moment forever, so that I can remain soft and full of love for the rest of my life.”
The beauty of the nature is infinite and unbounded and where there is infinite beauty there is perpetual happiness. Surely Love and Nature are next-of-kin; and God, their father-is ours also.
Travelers are always great tellers of tales. All along my journey I listened to many and told many. But everywhere I did not forget to mention that a real traveler should be very careful about three things, namely, the temptation for money, women and honour. No doubt these are quite alluring, but dangerous too. These are perhaps the root causes of bondage to the free soul. So my friendly advice to all fellow travelers is: “Be content with what little you get, love and appreciate that you come across, do not hesitate to leave them behind, but at any cost remain true to the Road.”
Traveling is never a smooth sailing; every traveler has to bear with a lot of discomforts and sufferings in course of his journey. But these never deter his ambition-on the other hand these strengthen his body and mind, bring happiness and ultimate success. In fact, the feeling of suffering is due to the ignorance. And the purpose of our journey is to go beyond these sufferings and to seek out the truth. A real traveler has no destination, there is no end of the Road; pick-up the fruits of the knowledge from both sides of the Road. Ultimately, experience generates love and fulfils our desires and that is the real end of the Road. There we meet and find the real existence of every being. That should be the goal of a traveler, otherwise, as I said, traveling has no value at all.