Lord Buddha helped this Indian Tourist when he experienced a world so beautiful also during the worst crisis most living generations are going through. There was nothing routine on this holiday Arun went on.
Arun is an Indian tourist, who has seen seven countries on his vacation a lot different from what tourists in normal times would experience.
The good came out of people, and turned his bicycle holiday in an adventure and experience he will never forget.
When Kochi, India -based government employee Arun Thadagath set out to travel across the world on a bicycle on September 19, 2019, no one would have anticipated that a dreadful virus would bring the entire world to a standstill in a few months’ time.
Within three months of his departure from Kochi, the coronavirus was first reported and began spreading. However, since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, Arun has cycled across seven countries and returned to Kerala a few months ago, saying he now understands that love and humanity transcend everything else.
All these months, I travelled across Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos. For nearly seven months I lived in Laos during the lockdown. There weren’t a lot of travel restrictions like in India, so I could move around,” he says.
Talking about his experience during the lockdown, Arun says, “In places where I travelled, things were taken seriously only when the lockdown was declared, unlike in Kerala, where there were aggressive discussions even prior to it.”
Throughout the journey, Arun, who propagated messages about green living, found shelter in Buddha temples. “When it gets dark, I used to walk into the nearest Buddha temple and ask if I could sleep there through sign language. Nobody ever said no to me,” he says.
Recollecting an instance in Myanmar during the trip, he says he connected with a Dutch woman named Monica, who had visited Kochi earlier. “She is currently settled in Myanmar-Thailand border and when she got to know that I was in the country, she invited me to stay with her. She sent me her GPS location and when I checked the route on Google Maps, it was a straight path to her place. I started cycling for two-three days through the hills and mountains. I felt the journey was never ending with no trace of people. I was tired and started seeking help from the vehicles that occasionally passed me. They all said they didn’t have permission to host foreigners,” he says, adding that he was in Shaan, the southern end of Myanmar.
Arun also had trouble finding something to eat or drink. “I had decided not to use bottled water at all. One afternoon, two bikes with four cops stopped me and said they had to arrest me as I was traveling through a restricted area filled with land mines. In 2018, 470 people, especially foreigners died due to bomb blasts there,” he says.
Though he wasn’t aware of the rules, he was ready to accept the punishment even if it meant being jailed. “Ignorance of law isn’t an excuse. I decided to go with the flow. I told them about my trip showing an article that was published in Times of India when I began the journey. Surprisingly, people at the police station were warm. They asked me to travel via air and avoid cycling. I, however, told them it was my decision not to take flights till I complete the trip. They arranged a taxi for me to travel to Rangoon and I returned through the valleys. It was a beautiful memory,” he says.
In a Buddha temple at Lampang, Thailand, Arun was hosted by a monk. “He insisted that I stay there for a month. Knowing that I am a vegan, the next morning, he got me fruits and food. I also accompanied him in the morning for bhiksha. After a week, I felt it was important for me to leave or else, I may find my comfort zone. I told him about it and that night he got me two sacks of packed foods, silver and gold ornaments, rugs and so on,” he says.
Arun’s cycle was overloaded with the items. “I didn’t know how to carry all that on my cycle and I didn’t want to carry any costly things with me either. So while traveling through Myanmar, I gifted it to the needy,” he says.
His main takeaway from the journey is that “the world is full of goodness and you feel light when you don’t own anything”, he says. “The moment I gave away things that weren’t essential for me, I felt free again,” he says.