Without quite knowing when and how it began, Sankara Subramanian’s passion for travel grew from innocent wishful thinking into his reality encompassing not only his hobbies and free time but also his career – his life overall, really. If there were a group of individuals who are truly living their passion to all extent, we can guarantee Subramanian would receive a membership invite.
Little did Subramanian know that upon learning how to ride a motorcycle at the carefree age of his early teens, he would never truly get off the road…
Livingit got in touch with Sankara Subramanian to interview him on his passion for motorcycles, but the stories that he had to share touched upon so much more. So enjoy another personality join our #IamLivingit series, and find out how impactful the world of travelling can really be.
Who is Sankara Subramanian?
Sankara Subramanian is the man behind the blog Be On The Road , someone who’s figured it all out for himself. He pursues his passion for a living, but not without a few wrong turns down the road of a routine lifestyle before it all took off.
Your average middle-class Indian, Sankara Subramanian grew up in a small town pursuing the best education that his orthodox Brahmin family could provide him. The second generation to be educated in his family, he studied hard and did well. Following his studies in India, he headed the USA, as a lot of Indians aspire to do. He got a good job with a comfortable salary and began to work his way up the corporate ladder.
But over the years he began to lose touch with his roots, self-admittedly turning into an arrogant and pompous man – something he realized he didn’t want to be.
In 2008, he needed a break, “somewhere, there was a bit of emptiness.”
As the monsoon of 2008 began to drizzle down on us, Subramanian left his job in the US, packed his bags and returned to India. August of the same year, he bought his first Royal Enfield, a Bullet. “By then I knew I wanted to go somewhere and do something,” but the concrete plan of what was still undecided.
Recalling his first long distance motorcycle trip back in 2005 and his love for the wind in his face, with his brand new Bullet by his side Subramanian decided to explore.
Nine months and 46,000 kilometers of India
Describing himself as the “motorcycle guy” right from his college days, Subramanian recalls getting into motorcycling as a college student as, with the little pocket money students have, motorcycling was efficient and easy on the wallet. Never having ridden a Bullet before, but well versed in how to ride, he got comfortable with his bike riding its first 500km within and around the city.
Then, he simply got onto the highway and left, not knowing where his bike would take him. Travelling was such a relief; he enjoyed it so much that he just kept going. For 9 months straight he was gone. Subramanian proceeded to travel across the 29 states of India without an itinerary but rather a simple motto: if he liked the place, he would stay. If he didn’t, he would carry on.
It gets better:
A self-taught photographer, Subramanian incorporated the third passion into his travel and ride; he visited National Wildlife Parks across the country to develop and practice his skills at wildlife photography.
“I was out to discover the country, but I discovered myself,” Sankara Subramanian tells Livingit.
Out on the highways of India, Subramanian came to the realization that travelling was his “true calling,” and that uncomplicated thought completely transformed his career. He began making money out of travel, even holding a TEDx talk on how he managed to do it. Travel changed his perspective and his personality.
With no guide and no mentor he set out to make his own mistakes, “if you don’t fail you don’t learn.”
With adventures in the kitty for the past few years, Subramanian believes travel is more than discovering the place and the people, but also learning: learning languages, cultures and religions. Travel for him is all about testing his personal limits. “The world is a much nicer place than we make it out to be in the media.”
As Mother would never choose a favorite Child, a Traveller will not decide on a favorite Place.
Travel has become an integral part of him, to the point where when we at Livingit asked about his “favorite location,” the question went unanswered. There is an array of memories associated to every place he has been. The people he meets, the language he learns, the food he tastes – it all forms a memory. Each memory is a favorite for a very different reason.
With a little deeper digging, Subramanian dished out a few places he would continue to visit for the wonderful memories he has associated to them: Karnataka in the monsoon, Ladakh in the winter, Punjab, West Bengal and Rajasthan for their cuisine, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh for the wildlife and last but not least his home state, Tamil Nadu.
The Buddy to his Solo Adventures – a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350cc
An old school motorhead, Subramanian now rides an original Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350cc dubbed as Buddy, with no customizations as he mentions that wouldn’t hold well on long distance touring.
Having taken part in group long distance rides, Subramanian soon realized he didn’t enjoy taking orders from others or sticking to the group. An independent traveler, he and buddy normally set out on their own. In an uber-connected world through guides, apps and the internet Subramanian describes real adventure as setting out without a plan, “there is no been there, done that attitude,” as every time you go somewhere the experience will vary.
Never-ending Knowledge on the Road
The classroom and the real world are miles apart. As Subramanian rightly highlights, there is something very different about studying a place versus exploring it, or studying a language versus living it. An inquisitive student, Sankara Subramanian recalls being thrown out of class due to asking too many questions, and to this day he still seeks the answers to his questions by approaching the real world rather than the books.
Want to know the best part:
Speaking up to 9 Indian languages fluently as well as just enough of a few European languages to get by, such as French, Subramanian believes he has learnt more about the world in his 9 years of consistent travel than having learnt in his school, undergraduate and post-graduate education.
Bernoulli’s principle in physics and the phenomenon of buoyancy are both things we all come across in school, but Subramanian states that although he had a grasp on the concepts he never truly understood them until he implemented them when he started learning how to scuba dive.
In line with his passion for photography, Subramanian realized that he managed to get much better shots under natural lighting in both the northern and southern hemisphere, but not when situated close to the equator, and this was due to the angle at which the sun shone down onto the landscape.
Another interesting fact he picked up through his travels is that paneer, tandoori and kebabs do not originate from India, but were brought by the Mughals.
“Why is the native language in Turkey similar to Mongolia, and not to Arabic or the Roman alphabet? Why are there so many Arabic words in Hindi? Why are Brazil, India, and China not the three most powerful countries in today’s world? Why is the world the way it is, and not the way it should have been?”
How did we become the world we are today? Questions like this can only be answered by understanding the world we are today, and that understanding is gained through travel.
Connecting the dots wherever he goes, Subramanian enjoys soaking up the knowledge he encounters on the road.
Share the Passion: Advice from an Old School Rider
As both a rider and traveller from the heart, Subramanian underlines that travellers should remember to keep it simple. There is no need to complicate anything if you’re mentally ready to take on a bit of adventure, “go with the flow.” (However before packing your bags and setting out, a good thing to get out of the way as an Indian national is your Visa!)
In terms of riding, “know your bike well. Ensure that you’ve taken all the safety measures.” Accidents may be beyond our control, but our personal safety measures are in our hands. “Accidents will happen. But with the right gear, you’ll live to tell the tale.”
Often, the only thing between ourselves and our passion is the fear. Yet only once we set out, will we begin learning.
“You will learn as you go along.”
Sankara Subramanian continues to embark on his travel, constantly learning and sharing his knowledge every step of the way – and we wish him to continue doing so for a very long time.
As part of our #IamLivingit series, we are looking out for those who are living their passion, those who can connect to others also living their passion. If you have a dream to develop your passion, and that dream is big enough, you will find a way. Read, research, connect to people (through Livingit!) and become part of our community. The ones that are doing, rather than dreaming; those are the ones who can say #IamLivingit.
All photographs are copyright of Sankara Subramanian C.