KOCHI: Many have fantasised travelling around the world during the boring class hours in school. Only a few have accomplished the dream.
17-year-old Vishaal Henry from Kunnamkulam in Thrissur is one of them. He is back in Kerala after going around the entire country in 93 days.
What makes the trip more exhilarating is that he visited all 29 states on a zero budget.
“I always wanted to see all states in India and even suggested it once to my parents. But they took it lightly. So when I was done with my Class XI annual exams, I thought why not use the vacation time to explore the country. A plan was made spontaneously. For a difference, I thought why not travel with a zero budget. While my mother backed this adventure of mine, dad had a feeling that I’ll be back home after visiting a few states,” says Vishaal.
This is not his first solo trip: That was to Chennai when he was in Class VIII. Vishaal started from Kochi on April 2 to Kanyakumari.
All he had were five sets of clothes, a sweater, a blanket and Rs 400 given by his mum.
“I started from Kochi on a bus and by the time I reached Kanyakumari, my purse was empty. From there, I continued the journey on a lorry. The destination was Chennai. I then went to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal and eventually covered the whole country,” he says.
He travelled on tractors, tanker lorries and cycles.
While the trip was exciting, Vishaal had to overcome many hardships.
“I was particular that I won’t ask anyone for food. Many people I hitchhiked with bought me food. I even had food at temples at times. And I used to bathe and wash in lakes and petrol pumps. There were times when I starved for at least three days. I stayed at bus stops, verandahs of shops, churches and railway stations,” says the student of CMS School at Thrissur.
During the journey, an incident scared him that almost persuaded him to return home.
“My phone was stolen while in Odisha. I had no way to contact my parents. The police gave me a cold response as I had no money on me.
"I was finally able to contact my parents through All India Malayalee Association. My mother sent me the money to buy another phone,” he says.
Another incident in Assam, however, affirmed his belief in humanity.
“One night, I hitchhiked with a person named Musthafa. When he heard I'm from Kerala, he took me home. I was apprehensive initially. Though he was fasting, he served me some good food. The man works in Malappuram and loves people of Kerala,” says Vishaal.
Among all states, he loved Meghalaya.
“The people are so welcoming and it’s full of greenery. It was like I had reached back in Kerala as I met many Malayalees there. I stayed there for four to five days.” What do people think about Malayalees?
“People of other states hold Malayalees in high regard,” says Vishaal.
Having completed a risky journey, he reached Kochi from Goa on a flight after Lion’s Club there bought him a ticket.
“I could complete the journey only because my parents were so supportive. The first thing my mother asked me when I got back was to shave the beard,” he laughs.