Tanushree Singh met up with Sievituo Chevy from Kohima, Nagaland who travelled to 25 countries across the world on a bamboo bicycle that he made himself
Travel is a privilege that some exercise to induce envy into our already mundane 9 to 5 or rather 9 to 9 lifestyle, and then there are those who travel to inspire. 30-year-old, Sievituo Chevy (Yakuza Solo) from Kohima, Nagaland, is one such man who travelled solo across 25 countries, over seven months on a handmade bamboo bicycle.
While slow and not the most convenient way to travel, Chevy says that the reason he chose such an unusual mode of transportation was because it gave him the freedom of stopping “anywhere and whenever I liked. Moreover, it allowed me to slow down and see a lot more of a place for longer. It (bicycle) also took me to smaller, less travelled parts of the world, which I discovered were richer in hospitality.”
Chevy had been cycling across parts of India and South-East Asia sporadically for the last couple of years. After he returned from one such trip abroad where he had seen a couple of bamboo bicycles, he had the idea to build one of his own.
Owing to the versatility of its use and its copious presence in Nagaland, Bamboo is an innate part of the Naga culture. A key resource for food, the plant is used in food, utensils, furniture, architecture, tools, handicrafts, medicines and various ethno-religious purposes. For Chevy, the intent of travelling on a bamboo bicycle was two-fold. First was to link his roots with what he loved doing and the second was to build connections along the journey, with the hope of putting Nagaland and India on the map of the world as the go to place for bamboo bicycles.
The prep for this journey began with Chevy travelling to Manipur to build his dream machine. Besides having an incredibly supportive family, for Chevy, help came from everywhere. The state government helped in processing of his visa, the Nagaland Bamboo Resource Centre, provided the bamboo and his friends back in Kohima helped make the bike even sturdier when he returned from Manipur.
The starting point of this ambitious tour was Amsterdam, Netherlands, which also marked the beginning of the #peopleareawesome. “On my way to Rotterdam which was my first stop after Amsterdam, I stopped at a restaurant exhausted from having lost my way several times. The food was incredibly expensive but I was too tired and famished, the man who ran the cafe came up to me, saw my bike and insisted that I not pay for the food. He also handed me two apples and a huge energy drink. I couldn’t give him anything in return, but I added him on Facebook in order to update him about my story. “
Surprisingly, there were no maps used on this entire trip. Chevy says that this was because the whole idea of travel was to be lost. All he had was a rough idea, where he wanted to go next and everything else in between was just spontaneous. Chevy says that having no map helped him interact with a whole lot more people in different ways. Many a time, conversations that began with queries for directions, lead to people hosting Chevy in their homes. “My bamboo bike was a great ice breaker. People would be extremely surprised on knowing how I was travelling and would invite me to their homes for food. When I would begin to leave, they would offer to host me in their homes, some would even bring over their friends and family to meet me and take me around their city, “ he says. Chevy also says that he had never experienced this kind of hospitality before.
One of the first questions that locals usually ask when interacting with travellers is their nationality. Chevy says that he never faced such questions in the smaller parts of central Europe, interestingly, that was also the favourite part of his journey. “Hardly anyone there ever asked me where I was from. What they wanted to know instead was why was I there. They were always amazed by my journey,” he says. When he was in Serbia for instance, ons several occasions, his meals were paid off by locals without his knowledge, apparently a common gesture there.
After cycling for over seven months across 25 countries in Europe and North America on a bamboo bicycle and encountering a myriad of random acts of kindness, Chevy returned home a happy man with a plan. He started a venture called GoTravels in Kohima. “When I returned, I was inundated with questions about travelling. I felt that with all the travel experience I had amassed, I could start a travel agency in my hometown that could help my people and also earn a sustainable income.”
Chevy says that many people in Nagaland have never left their home-towns or even the North East and he wants to encourage people to travel and explore more. “People think that travelling is expensive but it is all about how you want to travel. So we provide all kinds of options and information, not just for people from Nagaland but also for people who come here from outside to explpre,” he says. GoTravels is also officially making its own bamboo bicycles now and they have already received orders from Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic. Chevy plans to ship these orders as soon as he gets the patent on the bicycles.
Interestingly, GoTravels has also become a networking point for people who want to pursue their passions, “In Nagaland, bamboo is everywhere yet no one ever thought of making a bamboo bicycle here. If I can do it, I am sure someone else too can come up with a really cool and different idea to use bamboo. So the idea is to connect people who dream to do something, with those who can guide them,” says Chevy.
GoTravels is also the official hub for Project 72hrs, an initiative Chevy founded before leaving on his world tour. “When I was in SIngapore earlier, I was amazed by how clean it was. The people there said that they supported the government by doing community service.” Inspired by that idea, he enforced a similar community driven module as soon as he came back. In this project, people were encouraged to contribute a little of their time to make Nagaland a better and a cleaner place. It is called 72hrs because it encourages people to at least contribute 72 hours of their time in a year to the cleaning of streets.
As a part of the project, Chevy also gives talks in schools, encouraging youth to become more conscientious citizens. The people who were the core volunteers for the project were also the ones who joined GoTravels later.
There are a few reflective lessons that one can learn from Chevy’s story, one is that the world can be a nice place if you give it a chance and the second is that, we are all capable of doing wonderful things. “We tend to care too much about what people think of us. You can’t go too further in life if you’re too hassled about what other might say or think,” he signs off.