Moin Khan Interview: From Fiction to Reality
From San Francisco to Lahore on Honda F4i, travelled around the world in six months and with three major accidents is the person sitting next to me. It takes courage, endurance, passion and commitment to accomplish something unprecedented like what Moin Khan has done. And those who listen to their hearts and follow their dreams are great achievers. Meeting Moin Khan has been an amazing experience as the man himself has a lot to offer from the travel guide to personal growth, and development to life’s lessons and experiences to failures leading to success. He planned for 18 months, sold his bikes and house, and left his job to translate his dreams into reality for his country and himself. Graduated from San Francisco State University, his hope and faith in doing his part to promote the positive image of Pakistan has won him hearts of millions of people around the world. As soon as he walked, he did seem like a man of: A Different Agenda with a humble attitude for life, without any doubt. Let’s begin a fictional story that has become a reality!
*For the following interview we have shortened the names of the interviewer and interviewee to their initials; MSK (Mariam Saeed Khan) and MK (Moin Khan) respectively.
MK: The only plan was to go from San Francisco to Lahore. This was the only plan. And of course if you have travelled or anyone of you travelled, they know that you’re going to be crossing multiple of countries. In my case I was crossing22 countries and 3 continents, taking the bike to one place to another, 22 border crossing. There is a lot involved than just riding a motorcycle. So I didn’t plan any of that. Six months is almost 200 nights, you have to plan each night that, “okay from here to there I will go this way and that day I will ride 400 kms and i will sleep here”. So I just didn’t plan anything. And I left the house and I thought “dekhe jae gyi baad mein kya ho ga” (we shall see what will happen later) So there was no plan A.
MSK: Everything was spontaneous?
MK: Yes all of it was spontaneous.
MSK: Did you get scared?
Fear was not there at all. I think because for me motorcycles are more than a passion for me. As long as I was able to ride the bike every day, (pointing towards his head), I used to think that every morning I have to get up and ride my motorcycle. So much enthusiasm was there that there was no time for fear to exist. (Smiles)
MK: So I hated travelling all my life. I was in San Francisco and my whole family was in Lahore .My father hates the two day air plane ride to America, so each year my family would come somewhere in Europe and I would go and meet them halfway. And then three or four years ago, they came to Paris and I flew to Paris from San Francisco and then we met there. So in Paris they all would wake up and get ready to go to Eiffel tower and North dam cathedral and all these fancy places. And I would sleep all day. Yes I would sleep all day. Around 7 or 8’ o’clock in the evening , they would come home and that’s when I am waking up and I would go outside and rent a bicycle and ride the bicycle around the Paris all night for like ten hours. So travelling for me is not shopping , not going to fancy places , travelling for me is getting lost and then finding your way back home and then meeting new people. And when you are lost, you have to meet people, you know. So I wasn’t carrying any GPS, maps, Google maps, paper maps, nothing. So I was lost every day. (We all started laughing after hearing this)
MSK: What really inspired you to achieve this goal? Do you believe in “All good things come to those who wait”? Or it is the other way round?
MK: I think that if you wait for something to happen, it’s never going to happen. Yes, it’s never going to happen. If you make too many plans ,if everything is set a bit too much and then just one thing goes out of the track , then the whole plan comes down. So everyone is different. Some people need to know what they are doing for the next one month, six months before. I am just not the sort .I like waking up, and making a plan that day. And then changing that plan 20 times during the day. But then end up somewhere I didn’t plan at all. I didn’t even know. In this journey I went to places, countries that I never heard the name of that I wasn’t expecting to go there at all, like Slovenia. When the idea first came to mind, I opened the Google maps and I was like,” okay this must be amazing , I go from here and South of France will be amazing and Rome too and then I go to Austria but in the middle there was Slovenia.” The small country on the side that, I didn’t even read once, I was like this is Austria and then I will go to Turkey. But while I was going I saw a board saying,” Slovenia 70 kms this way.” I was like just 70kms so I went there and I saw whole country .I entered East and then I went down to Lawanda the capital then I headed north Maribor’s .I wanted to go Spain and Portugal but I had a first accident in Germany and I had to stay there for six days with this random person I met on street and I just didn’t have enough money, so I had to shorten my trip a little bit.
MK: Ah nobody has ever asked me this question; I think this is a very good question. (Smiles) Every day, whenever I used to put my tent somewhere in the wild or jungle, behind a petrol station, while waking up, I didn’t want to leave. I was like, “This is so amazing.” I didn’t go to Zurich. I didn’t go to any of these big cities. The few big cities that I went, it was because I had to. So I traveled to Munich, I was not planning to go to Munich. I wanted to go to around Munich, all the little towns and villages around Munich. But I had to go to Munich as I crashed 50kms before Munich and then I had to go to big city‘s hospital to get my bike fixed and everything so I had to go to Munich. Then usually I just stay off the highways, automats, no big motor ways, small roads where I met locals of that city. If you want the real culture of Pakistan, you won’t get it in Lahore .You will get it in the villages, outside of Lahore. The real culture of Lahore. ( In Lahore there are cafes like Gloria jean’s. This is not the real culture of Pakistan).So I wanted to experience that real culture first hand.
MSK: Have you been to these villages outside Lahore?
MK: I travelled from Karachi to Lahore and all the way to Quetta. I had to stop at a small gas station in a small town, where I stopped my bike. I went to take water bottle. But when I came back, I couldn’t see my motorcycle. All I could see that a group of 80 to 90 people were surrounding it, having that fascinated look on their faces. I got scared that God knows what will happen now but they were quite happy with that sight of my motorcycle. I have a video of this scene as well on my Facebook page. (Starts laughing)
MSK : Since you are not into writing, how do you plan to tell the world about the historical travels you did? Documentary? 300 gigabits data that you have.
MK: I have a younger sister; her friend is a film major from NCA. She graduated two years ago. So I have been trying to convince her not to charge me any money and just take all the videos that I have and make me a movie (Laughs). So I am still in the process of convincing her. She has a film studio with really expensive machines and computer servers that are very powerful. Here she can make the video quality a little better. She has done some small documentaries and dramas as well. So in my opinion she had enough experience, it’s just that she’s busy nowadays. So I think within a week or so. But my father has been after me to write a book. And I hate reading books and writing so hopefully I think in the next week or so, I am going to sit in my room for the first time and start writing.
IMPORTANT: Moin Khan is finally going to sit down and write his thoughts for the first time. Wow! An inspiration for everyone out there.
MK: Allah ka shuker hai (I am thankful to Al-mighty) I don’t regret my past and I don’t work for the future. I just live for the present. So I had a wonderful life in San Francisco. San Francisco, in my opinion, is the most diverse city I had ever lived. Within five minutes in down town, you can meet anyone from any country. From Vietnams to Malaysians to Afghani to Iraqi to Goras to all over the Europe. It’s amazing and the only thing, sadly I just love one thing in my life and that’s motorcycles. And I don’t like anything else (At this point he read my mind ) Um motorcycles and friends. So California‘s weather remains sunny all year with no rain and no snow. It’s never too hot. You don’t need an air conditioner. So for motorcycle point of view that’s like Heaven. A lot of mountain roads, ocean is right on the side and mountains everywhere. I had three four motorcycles. All my money, I worked a lot and all money kept going into motorcycles. So if I ever wanted to live anywhere else than Lahore, then it has to be San Francisco. But I love Pakistan so much that I wanted to come back. Everybody was asking me,” kay sarey Pakistan say behar ja rahe the and tum wapas arehe hou.” (Everybody is moving out of Pakistan while you have come back to settle here for life).But I think this is the time when Pakistan needs us. During the six years that I lived in San Francisco since 2005 till 2011 not once was there any positive news on aired from Pakistan. Sometimes the issue of Lal Masjid, then Musharaf , Zardari and drone attacks one after the other. I am very happy that at least once in the news it was broadcasted that,” A Pakistani motorcycle guy from San Francisco has left on his bike for Pakistan.”
MSK: How much do you believe in “All endings are beginnings”?
MK: Of course I think if you have enough determination and ending is just something you put on there. I think this is just a start of a different agenda. That was my motorcycle trip and now I get emails every day that people want to do something similar stuff .I tells people that you don’t have to go around the world to do something amazing. You can do something amazing in your house, in your room. Within Pakistan. So my 2012 plans are within Pakistan.( I am going to teach five girls from Lahore on how to ride a bike. As I think girls should be independent. These girls should know how to ride a manual car and other than that I am going to take a trip around Pakistan) I am going to show that you don’t need an American Passport or a lot of money; you can do something with very little money within your country.
MK: Romania is an amazing country. I will go there to visit but I think it’s still a developing country. It’s not like America or Germany. America’s health care system is bad like insurance even though it’s expensive but overall you can get the best treatment there. The best doctors. No doubt about that. Even in the small clinics you can get the best machineries and doctors. But in Romania the whole hospital had just one doctor. So there are like five hundred patients and one doctor goes everywhere. Sadly the system wasn’t that great and when I was in the hospital, during the first four days there was no doctor. And then on the fifth day the doctor came. On the sixth day I was so depressed in the bed that I just ran away. When I came back, they did multiple x-rays of my hand and my shoulder and nothing was broken. And then a week later, I went for an x-ray again and a week later I again went. But my x-ray showed nothing is broken , and I kept having pain killers and eventually in third week I was like I couldn’t take them anymore . As the pain increased. So I went to the hospital and then I said to them that there is something broken. They did fourth x-ray and then they realized that yes something was broken.
MK: Yes, my second project of 2012 is to invite the people, the bikers, the regular people I met all through and the rest of the world that I couldn’t meet. I want to invite them to come to Pakistan and I am going to show them Pakistan in a way that hasn’t been shown before. I am going to ride the motorcycle from the most southern part of Pakistan, not Karachi but there is a city called Bedien and then around 30-40 kms south of Bedian, there is a barren land through the coast. We are going to ride a motorcycle there all the way, the whole of Pakistan to China border, the most northern part of Pakistan.
MSK:Who are you taking along with you?
MK: I am asking people. Everybody says that they will go but after a week they say they don’t want to go.
MK: I am still planning. But I am planning… I might have to do it myself if nobody wants to but I want to document it professionally. So maybe a car is following me with some people, professional camera crew with me who are with me. Right after monsoon.
MSK: Any idea, roughly when?
MK: I don’t make plans. I will leave one day. Once I leave, that is the day when I will appear on Facebook but it’s not like I know everything in my head and I have written everything down. I haven’t written down anything. Will see how it goes. But right now I haven’t finalized the date, the month. I have to talk to few people and see. The only thing I plan is I need open roads. I don’t want this to happen that I go there and there is snow on the road. Then there’s no point in going. It will be stupidity. I am just going to plan in a way that monsoon ,snow or landslide reasons does not hinder my plan of going ahead and to stop for a month. I cannot afford to do.
MSK: If anyone of us is interested in going with you?
MK: I think..Ah (long pause while looking up) I don’t mind anybody riding with me because if I am going from Bedien to Karachi and then Karachi to Lahore or Karachi to Multan. If somebody wants to ride with me from Karachi to Multan, they can join me .But you know I can’t let them depend on me and I can’t depend on them. It’s like “Apna Apna”. But if you want to ride next to me, everybody is welcomed. So it will be amazing. If 50 people join me and explore Pakistan together, the more the people ,the slower everything gets. Since I ride 15 hours straight in a day which person X Y might not be able to. And if he gets tired after 2 hours then I want to do it my way. (Smiles)
MSK: If you are given an option to travel the other part of the world that you missed, would you begin that adventure to make it to the world?
MK: You know it’s my dream to go all the way round. So maybe from Lahore, I will travel to India, then all the way to Vietnam , Malaysia , Australia then Japan then Australia to Alaska to-Antarctica- down to Mexico to Argentina and then Cape Town , all the way through Africa.
MSK: On a bike?
MK: Let’s see, I don’t have any plans right now. (Smile)
MSK: The “Moin Khan” we are meeting today, how different is he from the one before the journey started?
MK: I think I have just been a..I lost a lot of weight (pointing towards his chest and starts laughing)…I think..(With a long pause).. I think I have started accepting people the way they are. A little bit more. I have stopped judging people of how they look or what religion they belong to or what society they are from. And I am more accepting to whoever it is. It is your own idea. I think I am just more accepting.
MSK: If you want to sum up your journey in three words, what would you say?
MK: A Different Agenda.
MK: The inspiration was fairly easy to get because as I said before, the deteriorating image of Pakistan was so depressing, living there for six years that I just wanted to do something for Pakistan. And then I realized that motorcycles are my passion and Pakistan is my other passion. I love Pakistan. So I wanted to bring both my passions together which is motorcycles and Pakistan. Then I just decided to come. Living outside the Pakistan made me love Pakistan even more. Made me realize that this is my country and how amazing it is. I lived in America which is supposedly the best country in the world, best technology –
MSK: But I have seen many homeless people in U.S.
MK: Yes homeless people are everywhere. According to my observations, the homeless people in U.S are homeless themselves as they like to live that way. They can go to the shelter places, where they will get free food with a shelter. And here in Pakistan, the homeless people stay homeless for the rest of their lives. Even people who have job, they are almost homeless with a low monthly income with which you cannot even run a house. So whatever American policies are, we should not judge them on that. It is an amazing country to live. Truly a, “Land of opportunities.” If I had no support from America, Blue passport’s respect is there. There must be reason as to why this passport is respected. If I would not have graduated from San Francisco State University, then maybe I would not have achieved what I have achieved today. So where the credit is due, we should give them. This journey has been an eye opener for me as I learnt a lot.
MSK: Your Facebook page is listed under the name of “A Different Agenda.” Tell us, what is it that you hope to achieve by the end of this run through Pakistan?
MK: I just want to portray a positive image of Pakistan. It’s a very simple message. There is nothing complicated and I just want people to know that, we, Pakistanis are regular Muslims and regular people. There’s nothing bad about us. We are just normal regular people just like you.
MSK: What has been biggest obstacle been for you so far? Other than road blocks that is.
MK: The biggest obstacle, the hardest part of the journey was about leaving the house. Deciding to go. Making it possible. Convince myself to just leave the house. That was the hardest part. But once I left everything was super easy as I was on the bike.
MSK: Mohy bhai’s been accompanying you for a while now and, by the looks of it, you seem to be having a fun time with him. Is that any motivation for you to keep going?
MK: Mohy bhai’s is my brother who rode another motorcycle from Karachi to Lahore. He wasn’t with me before. I was all alone. It was my dream to do an around the world trip with my brother because I think he’s the most fun guy, the best brother anybody could ever have and on the road, I feel protected… He is a real elder brother. So it was amazing riding with him from Karachi to Lahore.
MK: Hmm (a little pause) There have been many experiences on the road like meeting new people every day, staying at new place every day. I never used to do camp out before. I hated camping. But I camped for six months. Then I crashed and had an accident. I broke two ribs; thumb and I still have a dislocated shoulder. Both my wrists really hurt. I am on pain killers all day. I should say that it was a bad accident but I had so much fun. It was so amazing. I met so many friends there. In the hospital I made friends older than me like 55 to 66 years old. This guy Nico and Barboo. I have videos of them on Facebook and on my YouTube channel. They helped me so much. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t drink. It was 3 am in the morning and I would ask Nico,” Mujhe karwat day dou.”Amazing people. I am just so happy to have met them. I have met so many nice people in so many different countries. A lot of people asked me like, “Anything bad that happened?” And surprisingly, I was expecting something bad to happen. But during the whole journey, not a single bad racist comment, not a single bad experience that I would want to change or something else. So the whole trip had been amazing.
MSK: When people think of Moin Khan, they will remember a man who ‘traversed his country on a heavy duty bike to symbolize his desire to bring peace.’ How does that make you feel, knowing people will use you as an example for positive references?
MK: I think I just want people to remember me as someone who tried to change the perception, tried to change the image of Pakistan. Anybody can ride a bike, that’s not a big deal. But I think the main idea was to change the image of Pakistan. Give it a positive image. Kids growing up can associate Pakistan with motorcycles rather than drone attacks and suicide bombings. Of course I couldn’t do this on motorcycles if I didn’t really love motorcycles. So I love motorcycles and through that, I did this. It’s more about Pakistan than anything else for me.
MSK: After you’re done with your current run, will you be aiming for something even bigger or will you pack up your wheels and resume life as it were before you embarked on “A Different Agenda”?
MK: Some people are meant to be, meant to live a 9-5 job in front of computer on a desk. I feel very unlucky and I can’t do that. I wish I was. I would have smooth easy life on a desk every day, 9 to 5 and go home and just go to sleep. But I am just not that sort. I cannot , I don’t see myself , right now , at this time I don’t see myself on a desk in front of a computer. So you know I just want to keep working in Pakistan for Pakistan. And I don’t know, will see eventually what happens.
MSK: On an ending note, is there something you wish to tell your followers and fans? Anything that might not have already been included in your video blogs?
MK: This is a very tough question. I don’t consider myself any smarter than anybody else. I don’t consider myself any special than anybody else. So me giving like a. (after a long pause)..”Naaseyhat” (advice) I don’t know what that English word is. But I don’t think I am good enough to tell, you know, somebody else what to do. But one thing I learnt through my experiences through my six years in California and through my life, do what you love. Don’t copy anybody else. All my friends while I was growing up were guitarists or drummers and I wanted to be a Rock star as well. I used to bring drum kits at my house and bang the hell out of them and then guitars: electric guitars every day with big speakers and you know I never got any better because I never loved doing that…My passion was travelling on motorcycles.
Quoting from Pakistan Today
“Riding on a sports bike is not an easy task and Moin has the realization even before starting the ride. “I know for a fact that I will make it to Pakistan,” he said. “Maybe it won’t be on this bike, maybe it will be on a bicycle or on foot but I will make it to Pakistan.”
So do what you love passionately.”