Jay Kannaiyan travelled the world on a bike to experience freedom in these days of 24/7 connectivity

It was when he felt more at home on a bike than anything else that Jay Kannaiyan realised it was time to take a trip. Now after three years and three months on the road, biking over a 1 lakh kms from the USA through Latin America, Africa and Europe, Jay is back home and looking at shifting gears from a corporate job to a development-based one with an NGO.

“My cousin taught me how to ride going to my village in rural Tamil Nadu on a bike. Then I started riding around campus in school and as more money came in, I started buying bigger and better bikes. Once I started working in Chicago in 2005, I began travelling by bike — starting out with small trips. With each trip, I felt more at home on the road and I took it as a sign.”

And so Jay quit his job as a software professional, sold all his possessions, including his house and his car, cashed in on his savings and investments and started out from Chicago. Jay deliberately planned his route along developing nations, to be in touch with nature and rural life. Along the way, Jay realized that there were some things that are common among people, regardless of their culture.

“I can reaffirm that people who seem to have the least seemed the happiest and most willing to share whatever little they have and I saw this across cultures from India and Ethiopia to Bolivia. In a city, people are more guarded. They don’t trust you though they have nothing to be scared of. There is more fear in the cities but more and more people are moving to the cities.”

While Jay didn’t face any untoward incidents along the way, he did face some challenges. “I didn’t get mugged or robbed or threatened. I think it’s about how you come into a place. If you walk in feeling scared, people can sense that and they will pounce on you. If you walk in like you belong, they don’t bother you,” he explains. “Visas were a headache, planning my entry into different countries was time consuming but it was not a showstopper. I faced some problems with my bike — I had a few breakdowns, a few repairs. I didn’t see them as hurdles, they offered an opportunity to spend a few days in that town.”

Challenges notwithstanding, Jay feels that travelling this way is one of the few ways to experience real freedom in today’s world of 24-hour connectivity. Jay connected with his hosts across the world through “curry diplomacy. I saw that I spent less than the budget because there were so many people who invited me to stay with them. And when I stayed with them, I made them chicken curry using my mother’s spices which I carried with me. This was a grand experience for a lot of people and it was my gesture of gratitude.”

Through his trip, Jay hopes to raise awareness about sustainable development, in which he was pursuing a masters programme during his trip. “After working in the corporate sector, I want to work on development side. In my trip, I didn’t want to just talk about the beautiful sights, I knew I would be travelling through regions such as the Amazon, meeting farmers and the people who are dealing with the issues the world is talking about. I shared these experiences online through my blog and through Facebook.”

If you are wondering, how one can talk about sustainable development while travelling a hundred thousand kms on a fuel-engine, Jay has done his homework.

“I did a carbon footprint analysis and found out that one month in Chicago was equal to ten months of travelling by bike. I am burning fuel on my bike, but that’s all. I m not consuming or buying on a daily basis and that’s a big contributor to emissions.”

Jay now plans to settle in Delhi, to be close to the Himalayas. “I’m planning to write a book. I got a publisher interested, but that’s going to take a few months. The important thing is to just start on your journey, a lot of people plan but never take the leap. I had a feeling that something good will come out of this and it’s playing out that way now. Let’s see what happens.”