Ever wanted to go on a solo trip? 23-year-old Vimal Geethanandan managed to undertake a trip across the country, except he claims he didn’t spend a single rupee.
With just a makeshift tent, sleeping bed, three pairs of clothing, a laptop, phone and a power bank, Vimal embarked on his journey from Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh in July 2016. He concluded his nine-month trip in Kolkata in March this year.
Vimal claimed to have hitchhiked on motorcycles, cars, bus, trucks. He travelled by train too, where he was helped by other people.
“I had immense faith in people. I also believe in myself as a survivor. So, I took it as a challenge to not spent a single rupee during this journey. I was also determined to not travel without a ticket. It was morally wrong for me. I did not refuse if someone offered something," he says.
He visited 11 states — Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and West Bengal.
Recounting his journey, Vimal, an engineering drop-out student from JNTU Anantapur, says, “I lived every moment of it. I cried when I felt lonely which made me feel more alive. Travelling is usually associated with being happy. It’s not really, according to me. It’s about sulking too, to help you realize what you should be actually concerned about.”
Talking about what prompted him to take up a solo trip of this kind, he recollects that he used to give talks about chasing your dream to his friends. “I knew these talks wouldn’t suffice, so I decided to lead by example and take this journey.”
On the trip’s first leg, Vimal journeyed from Anantapur to Bangalore, and then covered all of South India. Later, he travelled to Maharashtra and from there visited Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, and finally concluded his trip at Kolkata in March.
“I actually planned to tour the entire country. But my family had to move from Anantapur to Bengaluru, so I had to discontinue my journey and help with the relocation.”
An instance that bolstered his travel plans, he recalls, was a meeting with a truck driver.
“While travelling from Anantapur to Bengaluru during Ramzan, I met a truck driver named Asgar. He is a truck driver as well as a news supplier. He basically shoots footage of road accidents and sends them to news organizations. I never knew of such a profession. He gave me a lift too. When he realized that I hadn’t eaten, he bought food for me even though he was fasting. I was moved by it. This kind gesture removed even the slightest fear I had about the journey,” he recalls.
Talking about the conviction he had when he decided to undertake the journey, he says, “I believe in humanity, and this journey is a testimony of it. I sought help through social media to tell people about my location so that they could help me and provide shelter. Many of them saw my posts and showed great hospitality. I fail to recall many of the interesting things that I encountered, but I can’t forget my journey to Kerala. In Munnar, I visited a tiny village. A family provided me shelter and gave me food. It was a small hut with just a cot. They gave me the cot and slept on the floor. I can never forget them. I had the best fish curry there."
Vimal was raised by a single parent, but contrary to expectations, he never thought about what he would do in the future, or plan for a career. “There is no planned destination for me — I know that I can survive somehow, so I never thought about all these things,” he says, nonchalantly.
When asked how he convinced his mother, he says, “She knew that I was a survivor. She also knew that she couldn’t stop me. She asked me to promise to update her constantly about my whereabouts.”
Vimal already has already moved on to his life’s next phase, which he calls ‘giving back’. I am inviting all the people who helped me in this journey to my place and show them the same hospitality that they provided me with. Without their love and help, I wouldn’t have finished my journey.”
He now plans to set up a social enterprise which will work towards voicing the concerns of sex workers and curtailing human trafficking.
His visit to Sonagachi, a red-light area in Kolkata, pushed him to set up this enterprise, he says, “I saw so much exploitation and abuse, which disturbed me a lot. So, I thought of establishing an organization which would talk about their issues.”