Baljeet Gujral, is someone who will hit the highway whenever and wherever he chooses to. He chose to rough it out on the roads with his Enfield, over a corporate career, which was more than fulfilling. He discusses how his passion to see the world helped him find his real calling in life.
As told to Deepti Ahuja Balani.
1. Tell us about a holiday that left a lasting impression on you?
I can trace it back to my first motorcycle trip from Jalandhar to Manali that I took in 2001, with my college friends. We were a bunch of 20 year-olds, all excited to take a road trip on our motorcycles. We hopped on our bikes, and took two days to ride down the 500 plus km stretch: Jalandhar – Ludhiana – Chandigarh – Bilaspur – Manali. The trip was memorable for me since I believe that the seeds of a traveller were planted in me then, thus helped me realize my passion.
2. How you evolved as a motorcycle traveller in the coming years?
I travelled extensively across India and overseas, from 2001 to 2009. If I had put a mile tracker on my meter it would read close to a couple of lakh miles. A promising career as an investment banker never made me forget my dream to travel. I made it a point to go on frequent and small expeditions. They made me feel alive.
3. How and when did the idea of turning your passion into profession dawn upon you?
After college, I went on to work as an investment banker. The turning point was the motorcycle vacation I took with my wife to Ladakh in 2009, travelling through Nubra valley and Pagong Lake. This trip changed my outlook and definition of a vacation completely. The amount of serenity and peace you can experience in Ladakh, no other place can offer. This trip is what gave me an inspiration to start a motorcyle tour company.
4. What made you chase your dream further? And how you did it? Let us know your story.
All these 10 years, I was never at peace with myself. Even when I earned myself a job at an elite Swiss bank, a six digit salary, and a house in Mumbai, I could not keep my inner-self calm. A nagging voice inside me kept reminding me of my passion, and to keep travelling more frequently.
I knew what I was doing, when I gave up my job to pursue my dream. Despite everyone warning me against taking the risk, I went on to live my life travelling on the roads. My love for travelling was bigger than everything else, and that is when I thought of making it my profession as well. I and my wife wanted adventure in our lives and this was the only way we could have it. For me success is not about promotions and increments, it’s about following my dreams. The passion to travel was so strong that the dreams and the opportunities just followed.
Me and my wife, who was a teacher then, quit our jobs in 2012, to start the Enfield Riders Tour Company. On our travels, we felt that there’s a need of such groups who can organize tours with backup and support. Back then those kind of organized tour groups were hardly there. We felt a pressing need to organize such groups for like-minded riders, give them assistance and eliminate obstacles. Pure passion for travelling, and an urge to help other travellers is what gave birth to our tour company.
5. Why do you prefer bike over other mediums of travelling?
I have experimented with all mediums, like I took rail journeys, went on car excursions, dealt with air travel but nothing comes closer to the thrill that I get from a motorcycle expedition. Like any other motorcycle enthusiast, I have a very special chemistry with my bike. The more I ride it, the more it grows on me, and becomes a part of me. A rider and his bike are almost like two bodies with one soul.
6. The most exciting part of any trip that you look forward to?
What excites me most is the thrill to ride together with other riders as a pack. The thump of my motorcycles on the highway, is music to my ears. There can’t be anything better than riding down the dirt road along pastures, seeing gigantic mountains rush past under the clear blue skies. Another thing that excites me is meeting new people and making friends on my way. The bond might not last a lifetime but they certainly make your trip worthwhile.
7. What’s the most difficult and challenging route you have ever taken on your motorcycle?
It’s definitely the ASEAN route from India to Singapore and back on my motorcycle. I took this trip with an enthusiastic bunch of riders. The whole group crossed nine countries, and the route encompassed India – Mayanmar – Laos – Vietnam – Cambodia – Malaysia – Thailand – Singapore. The ASEAN route required meticulous planning, detailed research, and most importantly flawless execution. All the parameters played a critical role, and none could be ignored. Completing 15,000 km in 45 days without any breakdowns or accidents was the most cherished celebration for all of us.
8. What are the challenges that you often come across on your Indian expeditions?
In the north of India, the accommodation quality is poor, while home-stays tend to be good. That has been a major challenge for me, so far. Road conditions are very tough to ride on, especially Spiti, being the most treacherous road in the world, but being an avid rider, even that is bearable. Adverse weather conditions do affect the ride and overall trip.
9. How would a beginner prepare for a motorcycle expedition?
Nowadays, people rely on online communication, and information dispersed on social platforms and forums for. The Enfield Riders’ community informs new riders about the kind of essentials they will need to carry, and precautions they should take, before they leave for a trip. Even experienced riders help the newbies by giving them their expert advice.
10. How popular are these motorcycle expeditions among women?
I have come across many travellers who like to travel with their family, even women biking groups are pretty popular these days. In fact my wife is one avid rider that I know of. She loves to join me on these expeditions. Our tour company has also started a coaching center this year, where 50 plus women participants have been trained so far, and after the grueling sessions, almost 50 percent of them have been able to take weekend trips and expeditions.
11. Is it common to see pets going along with the owners on these expeditions?
These days people have become very sensitive about their pets’ needs, and they would not like to leave them behind, so they prefer to take them along. In fact we have a lovely German Shepherd who tags along with us on our trips. The SUVs and MUVs that accompany our groups on our expeditions, carrying essentials and luggage, can usually be used to accommodate the pets in our group. We also opt to stay at pet-friendly places so that our pets can come along.
12. What keeps your motivation high while travelling through difficult terrains?
Whether I am in hills or any other destination, travel helps me connect with myself better. And that is what motivates me to travel, even to the most difficult of terrains.
13. What is that important lesson that you have learnt from travelling?
Travel has taught me to look at the world in a very positive manner. People are beautiful and travel brings you closer to them, and helps you build bonds that are worth treasuring. Travel might deplete your bank account but will make you far more richer with experiences.
14. One memory that you cherish from all the holidays that you have ever taken?
I can never forget my trip to Spiti. This place is what Ladakh was 15 years ago. It’s as serene as it can get. We hardly found any commercial activities here. We stayed in a place called Nako, where we would lay outside the camp site, and would see a shooting star in every 15 seconds.
15. Any advice or tips for aspiring motorcycle enthusiasts who want to travel far and wide?
Safety should be treated with utmost seriousness. Get the right riding gear, plan your travel with enough breaks and eat good food.