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DESTINATION: Pakistan

Moin Khan’s Patriotic & Inspirational road trip from California to Lahore

On the night of 9th June last year, a young Pakistani man packed his bags, ran a final performance check on his Honda CBR 600 F4i motorbike, and went to sleep in his bed in his home in San Francisco, California. The next morning, his life changed, for he got on his bike, bid his friends adieu and set off on a six month journey that has literally defined him over the last year; taking him places he’d never imagined, and eventually earning him the much deserved superstar status among Pakistanis everywhere, young and old alike.

It started as a simple idea about a year and a half before the fateful day Moin Khan embarked on his epic journey with zero expectations and bare necessities with only one agenda in mind: to break the Pakistani stereotype and let the world know we’re really not the horrible bloodthirsty monsters we’re made out to be in mainstream international media. And while at the end of the day, Moin Khan may just be another adrenaline fueled 20-something living out his feral dream, it’s admirable how in doing so, he has reignited the flickering flame of patriotism in the citizens of this poor, misunderstood country, and has done something no politician, scientist or public figure has been able to do in a long time: he’s made us proud.

With a strong international support network and enough fans in all the countries that he passed by to save him the worry of having to sleep under an open sky, Moin’s story is as inspirational as it is Patriotic. Everywhere he went, people opened their hearts and doors for him, offered him warm meals and gave him a warm bed to sleep in—and not all of these people were Pakistani. So was Moin able to achieve what he’d originally set out to? Did he change the way people saw Pakistan and Pakistanis? In a small, feel-good way, I definitely think so…

 

MOIN’S ITINERARY FOR THE EPIC JOURNEY BACK HOME:
USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and finally, Pakistan

 

When did you first move out to the United States? What are your strongest memories of Pakistan from your childhood?

I went to the US in early 2006 to go to San Francisco State University. I was born and raised in Pakistan and planned to move back the day I finished school. Pakistan, to me, is home, and my family and friends are my life, so living without them was a bummer. As far as childhood memories go, well, I used to rent out motorcycles when I was only 13-14 years old and I would roam around Lahore for hours every day. It was exhilarating but exciting at the same time… Would you believe the first time I ever road a motorcycle was when I was 11!? It belonged to my carpenter and I stole it, and then left it about 45 minutes away from home because it had run out of fuel!

What did you miss most about Pakistan while living in San Francisco?

My family and friends are of course at the top of the list. The time I spend with them is the most important thing to me. I also missed home cooked food, especially the parathas my mother makes. I also missed the frantic phone calls I’d get when I went out and didn’t return home until late night.

Tell me a bit about your connection with your Pakistani roots. Are you and your family big on celebrating Independence Day? How important do these holidays fare when you’re living away from home?

Eid was always the saddest and most boring day for me in the US. I had a lot of Pakistani friends but Eid in Pakistan with your family is the best day of the year. There, it was just a regular day when you’d go pray in the morning then have classes all day, and then go to work later. And the fact that I didn’t get any Eidi was just sad. It was pretty much the same with 14th August. It’s different when you’re in Pakistan with the people you love. I guess the Pakistan in me just couldn’t bear it any longer so I just moved back.

What was your parents’ and family’s initial reaction when you told them you planned to ride a bike through three continents to Pakistan? What do they say now that you’ve done it?

My mother was obviously worried but my father was excited from the moment I told him that I’d be coming to Lahore on a motorcycle. There wasn’t much they could do about it anyway because I didn’t give them enough time to think about it: I told them about my plans on the 8th of July, just two days before I was due to hit the road.
My father keeps asking me where I want to go next; what’s the next country on the agenda, but on the other hand, my mother says I’m pagal (crazy).  I of course have to calm her down by reminding her that she’s still better off having just one pagal kid out of her three children!

Were there any similarities you noticed between Pakistan & Pakistanis and the countries you rode across?

Well, I think the friendliest people in the world are in Pakistan, specially the northern areas. But yes, I met a lot of friendly people throughout the world, and they reminded me of home in different ways. It seemed as if they loved me and actually went out of their way to help in any way that they could. It was all very humbling.

What kind of reactions did people usually give you when you told them what you were up to? Any unfavourable experiences?

Like I said, everyone was very friendly and super nice, and I’m lucky I didn’t have one bad experience during the whole trip. Really, I kid you not, everyone on the road was helpful, random strangers took me to their house for a dinner in Canada… some even offered me to stay the night in Germany, and I did.

In which country did you get the best reception?

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a reception anywhere. I left the house in San Francisco to tell the world that we Pakistanis are regular peace loving people; we don’t make bombs, and we certainly aren’t terrorists—nothing more nothing less… and it was because I didn’t expect anything from anyone at all, everything that people offered was more than just great. But then of course the whole of Lahore poured out the day I entered the city, and it was crazy and awesome and very overwhelming. Then the same happened in Karachi and I just can’t get over people’s love for me.

What places and cities from your itinerary are you dying to go back to soon?

I would love to visit San Francisco; the Swiss and Italian Alps, Berlin, South of France, Slovenia, and Romania where I crashed pretty bad and was left in the hospital for a month and a half. And of course Turkey, which is just too beautiful for words. I just want to be on a motorcycle. I’m riding a Vespa these days touring the North of Pakistan and I’d definitely want to come back here after I leave.

Any special stories from your time on the road? Any proud Pakistani moments that you would like to share with us?

When I crashed in Romania head-on into a speeding car, the impact was over 200 kmph. I was in the hospital for a month and a half, and people from around the world came out to help. BayAreaRidersForum.com sent me huge boxes full of bike parts; exhaust system from Bulgaria and front brake system from Poland; a radiator was presented to me by the Romanian motorcycle stunt team… and nobody expected anything in return. Everyone was simply helping a Pakistani who needed help. Sure, we’re terrorists in the media, but here I was, getting love and help and support from the whole world. I received about 400 emails in the first week from around the globe just asking me how I was and wishing me well. It was then, in that hospital in Romania, that I felt proud of being a Pakistani after a long time.

What kind of difficulties did you face during the six months?

All sorts of issues, really. I was having difficulty getting my Irani visa; my motorcycle engine was giving me problems, and I also had money issues.  When I left home, I only had enough money to cover my expenses for two months and I ended up spending six months on the road. The weather got a little unbearable in Turkey’s Erzurum area which was just too cold. Riding a sport bike when the temperature is -23 degrees is unheard of!  And then the three accidents I had in Germany, Romania and Turkey also set me back a few days. But looking back, without these problems it would be useless going around the world… every problem led someone to come and help me and that someone will now be remembered for the rest of my life! These little things are what made the whole journey so special.

Were the whole six months as fun and glamorous as they looked in the pictures you uploaded online?

I guess I’ll have to say yes to that! These six months were by far the most glamorous of my life. Of course there are hard days in between as well. There were many days when I wished I wasn’t there, but in the end I came out on top, and so the not-so-good days are just small hiccups that you learn to look through. Motorcycles are fun, but they are dangerous at the same time. You need a lot of concentration if you’re planning on riding 16 hours a day non-stop. You need to be 100% attentive, alive, and ready to brake. Six months is a lot of seat time; a lot of riding time. I actually rode 40,000 kms, so determination and belief in yourself is basically the key. For me, I think it was the Pakistan in me that kept me going!

What do you think makes others donate money to fulfill someone else’s crazy dream?

Well, if someone’s working for an overall image of their country, race or religion, I think people don’t hesitate to come out to help. It wasn’t me riding alone thought those countries; I took 12000 people with me. I made it a point to post pictures and videos for them every day.  I would write stories of each day even though I didn’t have to do it…  I could easily have come back to Lahore and uploaded some random pictures at my ease. But I didn’t do that. I used to look for net cafes so I could tell the people following me what I was up to that day, and where I was headed the next.
I was exceptionally lucky to have gotten donations from Pakistanis as well as people from all four corners of the world.

This past year has been like a very long holiday for you… do you plan on going back to the US? Is there a day job waiting for you back in San Francisco?

I worked as a children’s swimming instructor during the six years I lived in San Francisco. I also worked at a start-up company called Secret Builders for the last year I was there, but I quit everything, I sold everything I owned: my other bikes, my car, my TV, my furniture, even my used clothes and shoes.  I sold everything to make ADifferentAgenda a reality. This is my new beginning and I plan to stay here now.

Would you ever consider doing it again? If yes, what route would you choose this time?

I can talk on this topic for a month non-stop! Well, briefly put, I would love to start my ride from Alaska, ride down to San Francisco, and keep going south through Brazil and Peru, all the way down to the tip of Argentina… then ship the bike to Cape Town, South Africa, and ride north to Morocco through Africa. After that, I’d ride into the Middle East, then through Pakistan and India, all the way to Vietnam. I would then ship the bike to Australia, do a whole loop of the continent before shipping up to japan, from where I’d ride all the way into Russia, then move down to Mongolia, Kasakstan, Krygistan, Uzbekistan, then into China and finally back to Lahore… That’s a dream ride, and I know I’ll do it someday… it’s just a matter of finding a rich wife!

What are you up to these days? What’s next on your agenda?

I went through 22 countries last year and literally saw the world, but it was sad that I hadn’t seen Pakistan properly yet… so on the 1st of July this year, I left Lahore on a 1962 Vespa scooter, and went all the way through Chitral to the famous Shandur Polo Festival. I’ve actually made history since this is the first Vespa to make it alive to Shandur and Khunjrab Pass, and it feels amazing.  I like doing stuff that hasn’t been done before; it brings out the beast from within me. The scared feeling you have when your attempting something that hasn’t been done before is amazing and I love it!

Would you like to pass on a message to Pakistan’s youth and your fans this Independence Day?

Here are a few things I learned on my journey last year that could help the younger generation of our country:

  1. Learn to bake the cake with the ingredients you have. This is very important; you don’t have to wait for others to do something you’ve wanted to do forever. The dreams you have should not be left alone. Keep working on them, don’t sit and wait for the moon to land on earth so you can go ahead and make the move… if you put in your 100% in anything, and if you try hard enough, Allah is with you and there’s no stopping you.
  2. Stay focused and determined. Staying focused is an absolute must. Know where you are right now and where you want to go, then stay on the target, work towards it and make it happen because only you can. Determination is what helps you stay of the beaten path. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, go do something new that hasn’t been done before. Believe in yourself.
  3. Don’t be afraid of failure. If you’re scared of failing, then you’ll never bring the best out of you… Everyone I met, everyone I spoke to, told me a Vespa cannot make it to Shandur and Khujrab Pass… but here I am because I wasn’t afraid of failing, I stayed focused and made it happen… and you can to!