Many have bucket lists which more often than not consist of travel plans. Traveling is a great way to experience many different things, and also learn about the world we live in. However, not many of us actually leave our jobs and families to travel the world as we dream of. Many would keep postponing the trip and limit their travel experience to browsing pictures of other countries online. This is mostly because we let obligations and duties tie us down.
However, there are people who actually quit their jobs, pack their bags and set out to see the world. Sachin Bhandary is one such person. He quit his job as a Public Relations (PR) Professional and set out on The 12 Project.
Known as The 12 Project, Bhandary’s travel plans for the year will cover 12 countries in 12 months and he has set himself 12 challenges in each of these countries. For now, he has completed three challenges and is making arrangements for the eight challenges that will have him traveling in South and North America.
Sachin has always been interested in traveling and has, in fact, traveled to South America and Europe previously. However, The 12 Project is not only about traveling and is also about his interests and challenges he set for himself. “Trips that have a purpose,” is how Sachin described the project.
However, The 12 Project isn’t only be about traveling and Sachin also documents his journey in theoddtraveler .in, and is quite active on social media where he keeps all those interested updated about the Project.
“Preparation takes time,” Sachin said, adding that he spent eight to 10 months making plans and arrangements for his project.
He added that travel is something people postpone due to their professional goals. Speaking about herd mentality, Sachin said that while his friends are following Executive Masters of Business Administration, he wanted to learn out of the classroom. Thus the project was planned around 12 things that would help him grow.
Some segments of the project are linked to the challenges themselves while others are linked to the country, Sachin said. Thus for some, he decided on the challenge and then looked for the best place for the challenge while for others, he decided on a country and then found a challenge in that country.
Speaking about how the countries he would travel to where decided on, Sachin said he wanted to cover all continents. However, due to the cost and the practicality of the project, the challenges were set in Asia and the Americas.
In preparation for the 11th challenge, which is cycling from New Orleans to New York, Sachin cycled from Bombay to Goa. He called the experience excruciating and thus, 11th challenge is bound to be quite tough.
The first challenge was set in his country and was known as 25 Days and 25 Trains. Sachin Bhandary wrote in his site, theoddtraveller.in, about the 48 hour train journeys he took from Mumbai to Mangalore, Karnataka when he was a kid. “I would relish those days like one would enjoy hot and sweet Indian tea which can only be sipped slowly. From the salted cucumbers in Andhra to egg biriyani and dosas in Kerala – the train wasn’t just a smorgasbord of taste, but also of sights,” Bhandary wrote.
Taking any 25 trains in India wasn’t the challenge. Sachin planned to take trains to the last railway stations of all four directions and by the end of the 25 days he had reached three of the further stations, ill health preventing him from reaching the last station in the west.
India is a big and diverse country, Sachin said, and thus traveling in trains gave him the opportunity to have a better understanding of the country.
Since Sachin documents his travels, one can read about his experiences at theoddtraveller.in. One of the blog posts is titled ‘What Did 25 Days and 25 Trains In India Teach Me’ and in it one can find the many things Sachin learned during his travels in India. He wrote that, ‘a place without people is like a body without soul. It is kindness and love of people that makes any beautiful place worth visiting,’ to emphasize how he learnt during his travels that people make a place. Diversity is a word, we don’t really comprehend, most of us lead other people’s lives and infrastructure builds dreams are a few more lessons he learnt during the 25 Days, 25 Trains challenge.
While Sri Lanka was supposed to be the second challenge, Sachin changed plans because he fell ill and had to take a break from traveling. Thus, Thailand was brought up the list and the challenge was ‘Rock Climbing and the Corporate Ladder.’
Sachin said that he doubted he would be able to complete the challenge, and that it wasn’t only about rock climbing but also about breaking mental barriers.
Sachin’s interest in rock climbing comes from the opening scene of Mission Impossible 2, he has written in his site. Thailand was chosen for rock climbing for two reasons, he also wrote. Firstly, Ton Sai, Thailand seemed, to Sachin, one of the best and reasonable places to learn rock climbing and Thailand on the whole is an amazing country.
Since, travelling isn’t the only purpose of the project, Sachin writes about what he learnt from the experience. In ’12 Career Lesson from Rock Climbing,’ Sachin wrote, “ As we used our bodies to ascend climbing routes and then chatted about our experiences, one thing was clear. I was not wrong about rock climbing’s lessons to build a career.” Your life, your goals, success is determined by the goals you set, trust is really important and over-thinking drains you are some of the career lessons Sachin learnt from the second challenge of The 12 Project.
Sachin, however, didn’t enroll in a rock climbing class, as many do. He overcame his inhibition with the help of rock climbers he met in Thailand. However, due to the nature of the challenge, Sachin didn’t have the opportunity to spend time with locals as the rock climbers who trained him were also foreigners.
“The challenge is to find stories of hope and positivity from the country,” Sachin wrote in theoddtraveller.in. Sachin had three objectives he specifically wanted to achieve in Sri Lanka. These are to write at least ten positive stories of Sri Lankan people, society or organizations which build hope for a more inclusive country, better understand the cultural ties between India and Sri Lanka and visit all the eight world heritage sites in the island.
During his PR career, Sachin handled an English news channel and during his work, watched a documentary on the alleged war crimes and armed conflict in Sri Lanka. “Everyone was focusing on the war,” Sachin said, adding that he wondered why no one was writing anything positive about Sri Lanka.
The challenge came to be known as #LankaPositive and Sachin encourages people to share with him their #LankaPositive stories. The first Lanka Positive story which was published in theoddtraveller.in is about Kataragama, which Sachin visited in May.
“Kataragama is more than the sum of all its stories. It is beyond logic and narrow faith. It is a beautiful place on earth, on the banks of the river of gems. It is where people of all faith come together, to celebrate just that – faith. Here by design or by accident religion isn’t divisive but a tool for inclusion,” Sachin has written in his blog.
Sachin also visited the North and said of his experience that he was impressed by the infrastructure of the North. For an area that is often described as ‘war-torn’ Jaffna is gradually going from being a land full of collapsed buildings to a city of new and large buildings, paved roads and other developments. The Sri Lankan challenge, Sachin said, is not about sightseeing, but about culture. He also said he found Sri Lanka overwhelming but in a positive way. “I was weary before I came here,” Sachin said, explaining that he found Sri Lanka to be more free and vibrant.
Sachin will be visiting Brazil next, and there he will live in a village for a month and learn the Batucada beats. Drums play a huge role in street music both in India and Brazil and the Brazil challenge will look at this aspect too.
Sachin will then head to Chile for the ‘surfing over fear, or the sea’ challenge. As someone who is really afraid of the sea, Sachin wants to examine how one can face what one fears and will learn to surf in Chile.
He will then walk the ancient path from Arica, Chile to Machu Picchu, Peru, and the challenge will consist of 600km of trekking.
Sachin will then visit Columbia for ‘the affair. The drug affair’ challenge where he will see if Columbia deserves to be only known for its drug trade. In fact, like the Sri Lankan challenge, the Colombian challenge will also focus on stereotypes and if the narrative the country gets is the only one it deserves.
Diving to discover is the eighth challenge and Sachin will learn diving in Costa Rica.
He will then move on to Mexico where Sachin will focus on the culinary culture of the country in the ‘flavors from a village’ challenge. Once again, Sachin will live in a village and learn about Mexico’s food and culture. He too hopes to change the perception people have about Mexican food.
A personal desire of his will be achieved in the ‘vamos, let’s salsa’ challenge and Sachin hopes to learns to salsa in Puerto Rico.
From Puerto Rico, Sachin will travel to New Orleans for the 11th challenge of cycling from New Orleans to New York. The final challenge of The 12 Project will be in New York and is called, ‘stand up to New York.’ Like rock climbing and surfing, the New York challenge will also be about a personal interest and Sachin hopes to perform as a standup comedian in a city known for the platform it offers to standup comedy.
Sachin also spoke about how challenging the challenges are. “Cycling is physically tiring, but traveling by train is mentally challenging,” he said. Challenges of this nature are not for everyone and not everyone can quit their jobs and travel for long. However, he does recommend shorter projects.
Speaking about challenges he has faced during the Project so far, Sachin said he has learnt to live with uncertainty and that one of the biggest challenges of the Project is the feeling of loneliness. Sachin said that while many speak about how loneliness can be overcome, it is sometimes a challenge to have no friends to speak with or spend time with.
Sachin connects with people through his blog, Twitter and Facebook. However, accommodation in some areas is sorted by Airbandb which has partnered with the Project. In general, Sachin has been fortunate to find good accommodation during the challenges.
The Odd Traveler
The 12 Project isn’t the only purpose for the site theoddtraveller.in, Sachin said. In fact, through the site, Facebook community and Twitter account, Sachin hopes to build a community of odd travelers who would share their stories and through the community find the opportunity to travel and set travel challenges for themselves. Thus his mission is broad and goes beyond The 12 Project.
Sachin spoke about the support of his family and said that they have always understood his interest in traveling and in fact, he has backpacked in Europe with his mother. While some people do question the project and if Sachin should have left his job, he says this is more out of concern and that his friends are supportive. In fact, people have been helpful to him, and Sachin spoke about the time he lost his belongings in Assam, India and was helped by people of the area, and how while in Kashmir he was lucky to be hosted by the armed forces.
He writes in his blog, “If you ask you shall receive. That is exactly what happened to this project. Many kind souls came forward to help which made The 12 Project a reality. A mere Thank You seems an embarrassingly small return for their significant contribution. But heartfelt gratitude is all I have to offer. Thank you guys.”
‘SL will be known for its positive side’
‘I came to Sri Lanka with a quest to find positive stories. To my pleasant surprise, there were more than expected number positive stories. However, the most positive aspect of this country is its people – their warmth and friendliness. Be it the Saleems, who were my family in Colombo or Prabha from Kilinochchi who organized so many things for me without me even asking. Or the friends I made through twitter – Sidath Sameera and Gihan Fernando. They got together to spread the word, to host me and to ensure that I got to see the positive side. Which in hindsight is not difficult, because Sri Lankans are probably the most forthcoming and helpful people in the world. As I prepare to leave Sri Lanka, I request people of this country to focus on the positives while continuing to remain self critical. I dream that soon, around the world Sri Lanka will be known for its positive side.’