For Jupiter's Traveller, Jay Kannaiyan, travelling through the Americas and Africa en route to India meant far more than simply having a grand adventure. It was about creating a meaningful purpose and a new beginning.
Jay Kannaiyan was born in India and raised in Zambia. He called the USA home for most of his adult life until, in early spring 2010, he left a comfortable western lifestyle behind and set off from Chicago on a one-way journey of discovery towards the country of his birth.
Riding a 10 year-old Suzuki DR650 motorcycle, affectionately called “sanDRina”, Jay explored the Global South – the developing nations that mostly lie in the southern hemisphere – over the course of more than three years and 64,000 miles. By the time he reached New Delhi on June 11th 2013, he’d travelled through 33 countries.
Jay’s overall aim was to raise awareness of sustainability and eudimonia – the search for things that are true, good and beautiful – through his unique brand of “curry diplomacy”. As families and groups of friends shared their homes and hospitality along the route, Jay found that cooking his favourite curry was a powerful way to not only say thank you, but to really connect with local people and their communities at a human level. That’s something ordinary tourists, and often even other travellers, are rarely able to do.
With a view to eventually changing the direction of his career from product design engineering to humanitarian affairs, throughout the journey Jay was studying for a Masters degree in Sustainable Development from the University of London.
Undertaking that kind of commitment would be admirable at any time, but especially when also juggling the many demands and challenges of two-wheeled solo travel.
Adding context to what he aimed to achieve, before he departed from Chicago, Jay said, “I hope to get first-hand knowledge of the various humanitarian needs through the regions I’ll be traveling through, which will help me choose an area to get involved in at the end of the journey… I hope to use this trip as a stepping-stone to the next chapter in my life.”
The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude. If something happens, just cheer up, it’ll turn out to be a good story.
In recognition of the motivations behind the journey, the illuminating photography in his blog, Jammin Thru the Global South, and his intention to write a book about the world he encountered, Jay was announced as a Jupiter’s Traveller by The Ted Simon Foundation on New Year’s Day 2012.
Reflecting on the significance of reaching the end of his life-changing journey, Jay said, “…I can take pride in knowing that I started something and saw it through to its natural conclusion. It gives me confidence to start something new. A new journey has begun for me; a journey of recollection and story-telling. Now, it’s time to tell the story and let others be inspired to start their own journeys.”
The first steps along that new path towards inspiring others were taken at the inaugural Motorcycle Travellers Meet India (MTM India) event near Bangalore, where Jay gave a talk about his journey. In an open letter to MTM India, read aloud to all those in attendance, The Ted Simon Foundation wrote, “Jay has a wonderful story and exhibits an attitude and approach to adventure travel that everyone would do well to learn from.”
He’s since founded his own motorcycle tour business, which offers small groups the opportunity to experience some of the same landscapes and cultures Jay rode through in Peru, Kenya, Sri Lanka and India, as well as Mongolia. His tours use a combination of Royal Enfield, Suzuki and Kawasaki motorcycles.
Jay has also combined his product design background with what he learnt from his degree to create a range of innovative masks and filters to help people cope with the ever-increasing levels of air pollution in Indian cities.
As you’ll discover in this three-part interview recorded at MTM India, Jay articulates his passion for travel and the natural world in a way that’s both eloquent and refreshingly calm. He talks about preparing for the journey, life on the road and the environmental impact of travelling, the beauty of solitude and why the biggest challenge is simply to go in the first place.