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“I am so happy I didn’t plan anything, because everything worked out,” said 25-year-old Moin Khan with a laugh.
That laugh must hurt. After all, his ribs are broken from an accident in Arad, Romania, which has forced him to pull the brakes, temporarily, on his ‘epic solo motorcycle journey.’
With a Pakistani and an American passport in his backpack, Moin is travelling from San Francisco, California to Lahore, Pakistan on his Honda F4i.
After posting dozens of videos and thousands of pictures on his facebook page “ADifferentAgenda” from the 15 countries he has already conquered in more than a 100 days, a man crashed into him on October 20th deconstructing his bike and hospitalising him.
But Moin doesn’t seem the slightest bit disappointed.
For him the crash has simply given him an opportunity to cement “ADifferentAgenda” just a little bit deeper in Romania. His first post after the horrific crash was titled “My bike’s totaled, a couple (of) bones are broken and new Romanian friends are made.”
The man who crashed into him visited him everyday in the hospital. And local bike enthusiast Daniel Jula, after hearing about Moin’s crash, showed up at the hospital and offered to help put his bike back together. He searched for parts all over Romania, and even managed to procure some.
As Moin recuperates at a newly discovered distant relatives place in Bucharest, Romania finding a radiator proved to be a huge challenge. But then another complete stranger named Adi, showed up at his doorstep with a brand new radiator, which he called “a gift from the (bike) stunter community in Romanian” in the video below.
The video elicited dozens of thanks and prayers for Adi from Moin’s fans in Pakistan on his facebook page.
Moin has been overwhelmed by the kindness extended to him from complete strangers, ever since he bid farewell to his friends at the Golden Gate Bridge on July 10th.
“Before the trip, I would have never have thought of inviting some stranger into my house,” admits the biker who grew up in Lahore.
“But it happened to me, not once, but a few times on the trip; in Canada, in Germany and even in Switzerland, which was so random and so beautiful. “
Here’s a video where Moin introduces us to his new friend and host in Martini, Switzerland. After a long journey on the road, Moin arrived exhausted in the enchanting town, only to realise that all hostels and affordable motels were booked. He was parked on the street, when after a five-minute conversation Moin got an invitation from a local to stay at his home.
In 2005, Moin moved rather reluctantly from Lahore to California to start college. “My parents forced me to go to the US for college,” he admits. He soon made friends and started loving life in the Bay area.
“After waking up, I’d go to Dawn.com or Geo’s website,” said Moin in an interview on skype.
Everyday Moin would be rudely greeted with a headline bearing bad news. “Starting from Lal Masjid to the drones. You barely hear anything positive out of Pakistan.”
“I am not political in any way. I just wanted to tell the world that we Pakistanis are just regular people,” said Moin.
And one day while he was sitting with some friends it hit him. “I’m going to drive my bike from San Francisco to Pakistan,” he announced.
So started Moin’s mission. He worked two jobs, 7-days a week, and survived on ‘rice and ketchup’ to save up for the trip and to buy a bike and gear worthy of the journey.
“I didn’t make the Facebook page or the website, till the 3rd or 4th day into the trip, I wasn’t expecting anything at all.”
Moin now has more than 5,000 fans on his facebook page.
Moin’s Honda F4i’s tires have already touched concrete in the US, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
One of the key things keeping fans hooked to his journey on facebook, besides his skill to always find an Internet connection to upload pictures and videos, is his storytelling ability, which is playful and informative.
On the 15th day of his trip he uploaded some pictures from Yellowstone Park. One caption read, “I had to stop to take a picture with the Lulu Pass board, haha.”
“These (are) some pictures of the mud volcano in Yellowstone, it smelled of rotten eggs. I wonder why people drive thousands of miles just to smell rotten eggs. Well, I too sadly rode 3000 miles to see this. Yes I reached my 3000 mile mark today!” exclaimed another one.
I asked him which place surprised him the most.
“The Selvio Pass in Italy … I have never seen anything like it,” replied Moin who started pinning up motorcycle posters in his room when he was just 7-years old.
“My love for Pakistan has always been there, nothing can match that, but motorcycles have been a big part of me and riding through the Swiss and Italian Alps was a dream since childhood.”
Moin’s first time on a motorcycle is just as epic as his journey. At the age of 11, a carpenter was working inside his house, when he decided to steal his motorcycle and cruise around Lahore.
“I didn’t know how to ride it,” admits Moin.
“I was somewhere in Cantt, it was summertime, (I had) no helmet, no gloves, nothing at all. I was wearing shorts and buzzing through cars. The way the wind hits your face. It’s just an amazing feeling,” he recalls with amazing detail.
“Since then it has only been about motorcycles and motorcycles,” he said with a grin.
“My parents didn’t know anything about this trip.” Moin told his mom about his plan two days before he left San Francisco. When she found out how hard he had been working overtime to make it a reality, she backed him up.
When he crashed in Romania, he skyped his parents from the hospital, to show that he was okay. His mom suggested that he fly home, but his father was even more determined for him to continue.
“My dad’s first reaction was ‘so when are you getting a new bike, then’?”
“My parents have been amazingly supportive. Pakistani parents aren’t ‘supposed’ to be this supportive. (My parents) have proven this stereotype wrong,” he said proudly.
Before Moin started his epic journey, he was worried about how some people in remote places in America would react to him being ‘from Pakistan.’
“I never had to face racism. San Francisco is very chill like that. But I had heard stories. I thought all they know about Pakistanis and Muslims is through Fox News. So, I was a little scared,” he admitted.
“But whoever I talked to, the first thing I’d say is ‘I am from Pakistan and I’m going from San Francisco to Lahore’.”
And that line, along with Moin’s charm seemed to do the trick at many places, even in British Columbia where he met a man named Phil Dawson at a gas station.
Phil invited Moin to his place. “His wife made us dinner. We had a bonfire. We watched movies together. I spent the night there,” narrates Moin.
“I think not only am I educating people I am being educated myself, anyone who can learn through me (and my experiences) that is the idea of this whole journey.”
And from the dozens of comments he gets on his videos and stories on facebook, it is clear he is changing perceptions in Pakistan.
“This is just amazing … there are no boundaries or countries or religions … just simple human beings. This is just the perfect example you want people to see, how we all can help each other to live happily, survive perils and support one another to grow,” commented one fan.
“The friends you are making are the bridge to (the) future. Congratulations and safe travels,” commented another.
After his crash, Moin posted a list of bike parts he needed on his Facebook page. The response from his fans was tremendous. Bikers around the world pitched in to help him find parts. And in Pakistan many offered to raise money.
“Moin Bhai I can put posters of Moin Khan – ADifferentAgenda all over my university (University of Karachi) and ask people to make donation online.” offered Fowad Khan Niazi.
Another 15-year-old fan from Dera Ismail Khan edited
I asked him if the journey has changed his perceptions.
“I don’t know why, but I had a bad image about Germans. Maybe because all I had heard about Germany was Hitler. This is how the media plays with you. I just thought Germans are really negative people,” he replied, “but Germans are the friendliest people I’ve met on this trip.”
“Some random people took me in.” He stayed with them in Germany for 5 days. “They took care of me like I was their little child, it was just amazing.”
They introduced Moin to their friends and even entertained him. “They took me to the BMW motorcycle museum and the motorcycle factory.”
The road ahead
For Moin the best part of his trip lays ahead — Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, and then finally Pakistan.
“Before the journey started, the two places I was most excited and looking forward to were Iran and Balochistan in Pakistan.”
“Everyone talks trash about Iran and Balochistan, I think people just hear stories and get scared, I want to go check it out for myself.”
Iran is the only place Moin actually made an effort to get a visa for. He took a detour and flew to DC from New York in the first leg of his trip to go to the Iran embassy.
“I know it’s going to be very hard to get into Iran.” But Moin is excited about trying. I asked him if he was worried about travelling through the Iran-Balochistan border.
“Nothing is decided before hand in my life, and so nothing is decided before hand on ADifferentAgenda either. I’ll cross Iran and go to the Balochistan border, if they let me, I’ll ride through Balochistan but if not, then I’ll figure something out there.”
Moin says he never really saw much of Pakistan, besides Lahore. “Just an occasional trip to Islamabad and Murree from Lahore. And once on the train to Karachi.” So he is ‘stoked,’ about riding his bike through the country.
He showed me his helmet on skype. The asphalt marks ran deep. “If I didn’t have this on I would for sure be dead.”
“Whenever you crash it’s hard to get back on the bike, because that whole feeling comes back. But I’m really excited and cannot wait to hit the road again.”
After his crash, which from the pictures seems pretty horrific, his doctor told him to rest for two months.
“I have been breaking bones my whole life. And I know doctors tend to be extra-cautious,” said Moin.
“So I think I should be back on the road by the 20th of November.” He hopes to reach home by December 20th.
I asked him about the kind of a reception he was expecting on his arrival in Lahore.
“It will be awesome if some biker fans from Lahore can join me from Thokar (Niaz Baig) to my house in Cantt. There we can talk for some time,” said a rather excited Moin.
“Then everyone can go home and I can go inside with my mom’s parathas waiting for me, that’s really what I am looking for.”