They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For Jens Hussmann however, it began with a twist of the throttle. In April 2013, Jens and his trusty motorcycle embarked on a journey from his hometown of Parchim in Germany to head east and see a new part of the world. His trip has taken him over 50,000 km through 18 countries, through the scenic beauty of Vienna to the cultural splendour of Istanbul, across the mountains of Tajikistan and the vastness of China.
A full year since he first set off, Jens is traversing India now on the last leg of his journey. A former project manager who dealt with corporate finance in Germany, the 38-year-old quit his job to make the trip, which is not his first. “When I was 22, I made a similar journey across South America, starting from Buenos Aires and going all the way up the West Coast to San Francisco.”
While most consider his a journey of daunting proportions, Jens is quick to downplay his achievements and refrains from describing his travels in a profound light. “I am just a normal person among many who have dreams of doing something like this, but most hesitate to go ahead with their plan. The journey has not changed me much at a basic level and it is hard to describe any particular moment or place that stands out. They are all in there, like a mosaic.”
That said, one thing he has taken away from his journey is a deeper understanding of the world. “By travelling over land, you understand the world in a different way, it actually feels like a smaller place. Two years ago, if you had asked me to point out Tajikistan or Laos on a map I would have been vague, now I can pinpoint them, and even give you some details. Places I’ve heard of on the news now have images attached to them.”
He explains that seeing new cultures, hearing local legends and witnessing the hardships of others have been a lesson in humility. “ You may feel that there are things in your life and country that are the most important, but you then meet people who may have never heard of these things, and learn so much about their lives. It is a reminder of how little you know and makes you appreciate what you have.”
The second of four children, Jens is rather close to his parents and keeps in touch with them, and even visited them over Christmas. “I had reached India by November, around Diwali, and flew back for Christmas and New Year to be with my family. I get to do this because I am not married yet, but my parents do worry. It wasn’t easy when I started off, saying goodbye to them and going into the unknown but it has worked out well. I have a very good guardian angel, which is why I have made it here.”
The magnitude of his journey sinks in as he goes on with his tales, little anecdotes that colour the path his motorcycle has traced on the world map. He speaks of the meticulous planning, difficulties in getting visas in South-East Asia, how the people of Iran surprised him with their warmth and friendliness, the difficulties of travelling in a group through China to keep expenses down and the companionship of finding a fellow rider with similar interests. “There are days when you feel down, for example in China when we had to ride through heavy rain. One of our fellow riders was injured and I lost a lot of equipment. But then in Tajikistan I was travelling with a French rider and we were sitting on a mountain looking over at Afghanistan and thinking that it looked so peaceful despite all the country has been through.”
Jens makes it a point to document his journey with written posts and images, which he puts up on his website. “When I travelled across South America, I wrote a diary for myself. Now the website is for friends, family and some co-workers, allowing them to share the experience with me.” And the experience will finally come to an end at one of the less populated beaches in Goa, from where Jens will head to Mumbai and ship his motorcycle back to Germany. As for what’s next, he shrugs nonchalantly, admitting he’s at a crossroads. “I don’t really want to return to a corporate environment and would like to do my own thing. I also want to have a family now and maybe after a few years I’ll travel to some new place. I’m actually open to ideas!”
For those who may be wondering, Jens’ bike is a BMW R1200 GS Adventure. For Jens’ own account, the route he took and photographs of his journey, visit: >www.headingeast.de .
Making It Happen Jens says that the primary requirement for a journey such as his is the will to put plans into action. “A lot of people dream of it and plan it, but the decision to do it is what counts. Building up physical strength helps, but more important is the mental strength, because there will be bad days, but you have to believe the sun will shine again, and it does. Preparation is also important, and packing light is vital. I have had to send many things back as I have gone on, but you figure these things out on the way. Don’t over think it.”
The India Chapter Jens came to India through Nepal, after shipping his bike there from Thailand as he could not get the clearance to travel through Burma on his motorcycle. He has spent almost a third of his journey within India, travelling as far north as the Kashmir valley and touching all major metropolitan cities before heading to Kerala. Even after more than 30,000 km on the motorcycle, he admits navigating Indian traffic was difficult. “I really liked Rajasthan and the Kashmir valley but was unable to go to Ladakh due to weather conditions, which was a shame as I won’t get a chance like this again. Among the big cities Kolkata is my favourite, and South India has been nice. The ride from Kochi to Alappuzha along the coast, seeing all the churches, travelling along the backwaters, were great experiences. Kerala is blessed by Nature.”