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An avid traveler’s tale

In conversation with Khitab Khan, who gave up a successful corporate career to ride a two-wheeler across the world

An avid traveler’s tale
Khitab Khan and wife Natasha Saleem pose with a lion on one of their trips abroad.

Wanderlust is addictive. Anyone who’s an avid traveler will tell you that there’s no joy greater than hitting the road and discovering a little bit more about the vast world we live in. Travel enriches your life through memories and experiences, through moments you cherish forever. There’s a general misconception that travel is for the rich, that in order to see the world you must have loaded coffers but a single conversation with globetrotting explorer, Khitab Khan, is enough to convince you otherwise.

Khan, an engineer by profession, had never left the country before flying out to college in the US as a teenager. His lifelong love affair with travel started with his first sojourn abroad, Khan explains. Once bitten by the travel bug, Khan never stopped adding destinations to the growing list of places he wanted to discover.

While in the US studying and working after graduation, Khan bag-packed and rode a motorbike through Costa Rica and Nicaragua, as well as traveling extensively across the US, on two wheels. “I lived on the kindness of people, sleeping on porches and in hammocks. I rode through Costa Rica and Nicaragua, surfed my way across coasts but I never really planned where I was going or what I’d get up to next. I’d basically arrive at a destination and then see where it took me instead of superimposing my expectations on the trip. I had no money so I subsisted on jam and bread and then I turned vegan so I managed to work my way around the two most expensive expenditures (food and lodging) that one encounters while traveling.

cov2I was working on an oil rig in the US after finishing university and after about a year or so of working there I’d had enough. I wanted to travel and do things my own way instead of spending life accumulating things that were eventually just going to amount to meaningless material. So I saved up and quit and then I traveled for a year and a half before my money ran out and I had to head back to the homeland,” Khan reveals.

Khan returned to Pakistan nearly eight years ago and took up an unlikely profession: farming. “I wanted to work with my hands, wanted to do something that would take me outdoors as opposed to being chained to a desk. I like making things myself, I like walking barefoot through the fields and upon coming back, and I realized I wanted to use a piece of land that belonged to my family and was just sitting there and cultivate it. We grow potatoes and corn and it’s great because my job allows me to take extended breaks to fuel my travel addiction and it also requires me to spend more time out in the open than any other profession I could’ve landed in.”

Once settled into his new role as a tiller of land, Khan wanted to take off again and travel to London on his motorbike. What made the journey even more special was his father wanting in on the adventure. An ex-air force officer, Khan claims that his dad had experienced his fair share of excitement in life but had never really embarked on an expedition of this kind before. They grabbed two GS 650 BMW bikes and rode off, leaving a blazing trail behind.

Khan’s recent adventures include traveling to Kenya (beaches, safari, the works), Sri Lanka, Malaysia (where he summited Mount Kinabalu with his wife, Natasha Saleem who heads the marketing division of immensely popular local retail brand, Sapphire) and Nepal, where he meditated for twenty five days at a monastery. Speaking about his experience at the monastery and what he learnt during his meditation, Khan explains that the experience can really alter your perspective. “Can’t you tell, I’m a Jedi now,” he exclaims with a laugh. In all seriousness though, Khan states that meditating can be a jarring experience; one goes in with a million questions about life and its meaning, hoping to find answers. “You go in hoping to solve the great mysteries of life or stumbling upon answers but in the end you only find yourself. You come out having discovered yourself and your own nature, which can very humbling.

It’s also an incredible experience because there’s equality on a level that is hard to replicate in real life. A minister, a celebrity, a poor man and a priest all sit together on the same ground, eating the same food, washing up behind them. You learn a lot just through acceptance and letting go of your ego,” divulges the Zen inspiring voyager.

Khan is soon to set-off on his new adventure to Mexico, traveling to a small town near the border of Honduras and letting the road lead him to his next destination. While in Mexico, he’s contemplating going to another monastery for meditation. “If I end up going it’ll be a week or 10 days where there can be no communication of any kind. Talking is a distant concept, I won’t even be allowed to make eye contact with others in the commune. Apart from and after that, I’ll go where the road takes me. Like I mentioned, being vegan means that I get by on grains and lentils and I’m exactly planning on living the jet set, resort life so I travel for minimal cost,” Khan says.

Obviously his bucket-list is exhaustive but what some of the adventures that top Khan’s wish-list include wanting to ride from Cape Town to Cairo, sail to the North Pole, live in Alaska in the summer in a hut, and traverse across a desert.

Talking about the important lessons he’s learnt over the course of his adventures, Khan claims that if you’re armed with a smile the entire world will accommodate you. “Approach everyone with a smile, greet anyone you meet with a grin and if you need a favour from them it’ll be harder for them to say no. Even if you don’t need anything from anyone you should still just greet them with a smile, it goes a long way.”

“Material counts for nothing,” he continued. “The sooner we get over our obsession of collecting things the easier life becomes. I’ve trained myself to disassociate from objects or things that we tend to accumulate over our life because everything is fleeting and investing energy in inanimate objects is pointless. I’ve learnt to live on a dollar a day and it’s by far the most freeing feeling in the world. Instead of letting corporate and capitalistic interests dictate how you live your life, take control and do things your own way,” he postulates.

Khan’s first tattoo is also his motto for life and what he advises others to live by; carpe diem.

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