On the road, on an impulse

Daniel Sillekens has pushed the limits of adventure — he has been around the world twice in the past five years on a motorcycle. Kareena Gianani bumps into him while he was waiting for his bike to be shipped to Mumbai, and finds out why the man never wants to go back to his home in Germany

Daniel Sillekens, 36, does not rattle off too many numbers, but the figures associated with his travels are baffling. Over the past five years, Sillekens has travelled across 104 countries, 83,300 km of which were covered on his bike.
Now, he is in Mumbai until his bike is shipped to the city from Kenya. Sillekens says he is going around the world because it allows him to time-travel — to “discover a far diverse world beyond the confines of Western Europe”.

Excerpts from the chat:

Daniel Sillekens has covered 2,12,200 km on his bike over five years. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

On how it all started
Ironically, I hated bikes till the age of 25. I grew up in a German village of just 900 people and camped and fished with my parents. Suddenly, just after I turned 25 in 2003, I rented my friend’s motorcycle on a whim and never looked back — I travelled through Scandinavia, Iceland, Finland, the Pyrenees, and Spain on a bike, which I later bought. I knew I had found something I wanted to do — frequently — for life.

In September 2010, I overheard someone at a family wedding, speaking about a guy who had travelled across the world and spent €80,000 on hotels! That night, I Googled how one could go around the world on a motorbike and drew up a path. The next day, I called my father and my employer (I was a customs agent), and told them about my decision. That’s how simple it was.

On shocks, surprise and everything in between
When I started out, I headed toward Syria, the Sinai desert, the rest of Africa and then toward South America and so many things startled me. On my first night at Syria, I was flabbergasted to have to park my bike out on the road because the place I stayed at didn’t have a garage. The same thing happened in Greece. Compare it to what happened when I was in Canada recently — I left it behind at the port under the care of stranger for a week and took a ferry to Alaska.

Within six months, I tore up all the plans and budget lists I had made back home. I have cleaned up computers by installing softwares and got a stay free. I’m open to any surprise now. The first time a guy on a highway in Paraguay offered me free stay for two weeks, I was suspicious, now I would readily go along. The biggest culture shock was being in Peru — that country is poorer than some north African countries and that really puts you in despair. There are dogs in the waiting rooms of every hospital — picture that.

The best time I had was in Central Asia, in Iran. My bike oil compartment broke when I was in Malaysia. Iran was my next destination. At a railway station, a guy saw me dejected, leaning on my bike. He happened to be a member of one of the two biking clubs in the whole country, and he fixed my bike oil compartment for free! I would have had to sell the motorcycle if it hadn’t been for him.

On the idea of home
I will never go back and settle in Germany — I am glad to have gotten away from the myopia that is Western Europe. I am very taken with Argentina and that’s where I will end up when I stop my tour, which is maybe a decade from now. I’ll find a girl whom I want to marry, and travel with her afresh.

On Mumbai
I’ve been to Chennai, Udaipur, Jaipur, Bundi, Agra and Goa, and now Mumbai. But what I am actually here for is the Himalayas. I will then head to Myanmar.

What amuses me most about Mumbai is how, when you ask someone in a local train for your destination, the answer,
unfailingly is, “Next”.

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