About nine years ago, Jay Kannaiyan took a strange decision to ride from Chicago to Canada on his two-wheeler refusing a flight ticket to get his working visa stamped. Since then, he has spent more time on rocky roads than in his cosy bed. Completing an epic solo ride in June 2013, he covered 1,03,200 km crossing 33 countries in five continents before finally ending his journey in Delhi.
Hailing from Porur near Chennai Jay is now planning yet another trip in May, this time with a few riders exploring Peru, Kenya and South Africa. A mechanical engineer by profession, Kannaiyan was bitten by the travel bug while he was working as a product designer in Chicago.
Though had a highly paid job, Kannaiyan found something missing in the midst of plenty in his American life and decided to set off searching for something different in life. He quit his corporate job and sold off all his belongings except what his Suzuki DR650 can carry and left Chicago in March 2010.
By evening he had already crossed hundreds of miles and was in full gear. He started feeling the beauty that only a lonely traveler can experience and decided not to return to US. When he finally ended his journey in New Delhi in June 2013, he had covered most countries in South America, Africa and Europe. He traversed through Amazon forests, Chilean and Saharan deserts, crossed Atlantic on a boat and ate and danced with tribals in many African countries. At the age of 32 he had a life time experience which a normal human being of his could not have achieved.
In his teens, Jay was brought up in Zambia where his father was posted as an agricultural scientist. During his trip in Africa, he returned to Chipata in Zambia which he had left 20 years ago. ““I found the house I had lived in with my parents. It is now a heritage hotel and I had to pay to sleep in my old bedroom,” he said,” Jay told me in a freewheeling chat on the sidelines of India Bike Week in Goa.
The life changing solo trip was abundant with many such experiences which I would have never experienced if I had stuck my job in Chicago, he said. While travelling though remote villages in Sudan he halted at a fishing village where he was hosted by a fisherman. To his surprise, he knew that his host was once a student of B Pharm at SRM University in Chennai. He was given a grand feast on the day before he left for his next destination.
Having seen life in the developed world, Jay preferred to travel through impoverished developing nations covering thousands of villages where people live close to nature and leading a much happier life than the people in cities. Many times he was given shelter by completely strange people in remote corners of the world. By sharing a morsel with a family in a Bolivian village or having dinner with a Mexican family, Jay met several such village communities during his travel. He succinctly put the experience saying, “people with the least seem the happiest and most willing to share.”
The simple life style of the village communities in Africa opened a completely different world against the energy consuming city life in western world. While travelling in Kenya he halted there for almost a year and studied these communities deeper as part of his Masters in Sustainable Development in University in London.
During the course of journey he realised that human spirit is stronger in villages and people are happier despite the poverty and lack of facilities. While travelling on dangerous tracks and unknown places, this feeling served as a guiding spirit throughout the journey, he said.
Though he had no major accidents, he did encounter danger. “In Bolivia, a thick fog obstructed my vision and I failed to see a truck heading towards me. I had to brake hard and fell. The tyres of the truck were almost on my head,” he said.
He shipped his bike from Cape Town to Chennai and started his overland journey from Chennai to Kanyakumari. “It was a great relief as I fulfilled my promise to my mother that I will return home safely,” he said. Jay is now organizing guided tours off the beaten tracks for bike enthusiasts.Tags: Jay Kannaiayan, Solo ride, South Africa, Zambia