The impending summer has me thinking about travel, amazing weather and beaches, among other things. A lot of people will be trekking around the globe or exploring their own backyards. I met one such person on HelloTalk, a language learning app where Americans, Indians, and many others come together to bridge the language barrier. His name is Rajesh K. Geeri (call him Geeri!) and he is a backpacker originally from Varanasi.
Meritt: So, I understand that you were tired of the rat race, am I right?
Geeri: I am a person who needs to clear my own path not a path that has been cleared by other people. It’s better to follow your own path not another one. People will do things just because other people are doing them. Be true to yourself as an individual. This life is only once and it totally depends on you. There is a saying in India that’s says: “What the other will say kills dreams in people.”
Meritt: Tell me about the kindness of strangers on your travels.
Geeri: When you go out traveling it’s not like being on holiday. If I go to a hotel or if I rent a car, I am only interacting with employees. I try to blend in like a local and observe how they behave, live, love, marry , etc. – like a living anthropologist. I want to experience some of their experiences and become one with their culture. Once I traveled without money in south India and I found good places to stay and good food to eat. The people I met were lovely and respectful. They were like friends and not like a strangers. I’ve never had a problem. They give value and respect -in the words of a Sri Lankan beer slogan: what more can a gentleman need?
Meritt: I understand you’re writing a book. Tell me about that.
Geeri: As I explore, I write journal entries regularly and eventually after some years, I will write a book based on my travels.
Meritt: What are the challenges you’ve faced in your travels?
Geeri: People wonder how I travel alone and come so far, but I am never alone, because I am with God, nature and myself. There is strength in the adventure. Sometimes plans change or the language can be a barrier. Sometimes there are problems with transportation. Sometimes I get on a bus just to see where it goes. One time I was walking for 40 km and I came to a home. I paid for the price of a mat and was also given food. I took the mat and slept by the ocean.
Meritt: Have you ever been in a dangerous situation?
Geeri: Once I was going by bike and I saw that a bunch of guys were going to try robbing my bike. I drove away from the scene before they could apprehend it. I’ve sat on the top of unstable buses and I’ve had my bike take a dive after coming to an area of unfinished road. Luckily, I’ve run into good people who have helped me out.
Meritt: What has been your favorite adventure so far?
Geeri: It’s impossible to choose one place. It’s like choosing different colors -every place has special qualities. From the Sri Lankan ocean line to beautiful Himalaya to the mysteries of Nagaland. I stayed in Nagaland for one month. People tend to fear the Nagas because they look dangerous in appearance, but they gave me love and affection and took care of me. Once you go and exchange culture and feelings, you learn how we as human being are more similar than different. It is all about heart.
Meritt: Where is your dream adventure destination?
Geeri: Life is not a destination l, but a journey. I want to go all over the world-the maximum before I die to get the experience. The more you look, the more you see-we must stay curious.
Meritt: Is there a place that you don’t ever want to return to if you can help it?
Geeri: I feel like I’ve spent half of my life in my villiage and now I want to cover more. I just want to keep moving to new places. Though, I am starting to realize that places are more beautiful if you have someone to explore with.
Meritt: Can you share any advice to would be travelers?
Geeri: Travel with a free soul and don’t worry about what people will be like or how the food will taste – maybe you don’t like it, but it’s sufficient to survive. Travel without a plan -get lost, have patience, connect to nature and organic experiences and nature will become your WiFi.
Meritt: What was your most challenging adventure?
Geeri: Nagaland. It was not easy because it’s not touristy. It has a very thick forest with dangerous terrain. The language was a challenge as well because, I believe I was the first person to go into the villiage for quite a while. In some ways, it was like going to another planet.
Meritt: What has been your most inspirational moment during your travels?
Definitely Himalaya. When I first began traveling, I went to Himalaya for 6 months. I took my motorbike and camped and got food by asking for it in a nearby village. I had time to think about myself. I cleaned my soul, my mind -it was a self reformation -Himalaya has its own mechanism. It’s a place to recharge; a place where I am able to come to self realization and introspection and ask myself when and why I am here.
Meritt: Can you recall something that really moved you emotionally during you adventures?
Geeri: I went to Telangana and they are so impoverished, but doing the best they can. They do not have an easy life with good food and safe quarters. They are sleeping on the road and seeing malnourished children is painful. The inequality of it is heart wrenching. It is our duty to make things equal.
Meritt: What is the most important thing you have learned during your experiences?
Geeri: Do what you like and like what you do. Don’t wait for anything, because life is happening right now. Never run behind the thing that does not exist. Life is beautiful and we are all here to make it more beautiful.
Meritt: Where do you hope to see yourself 10 years from now?
Geeri: I hope I could say that I have seen more than half of this world after 10 years.
Meritt: What’s next for you?
Geeri: I cannot tell you what’s coming next because i need to recharge in the Himalayas. Only then then I can think about my next move. I can’t plan.
Meritt: Can you leave us with any advice concerning life, love, courage,and the pursuit of travel?
Geeri: Life is beautiful and in life, everything has its place. It’s like a math equation or a percentage, you have to learn how to balance it. Don’t stop your life just because of the money. In life, you only get what you really want and nothing more than that.
For more information about Geeri, please visit https://rajeshbackpacker.wordpress.com/