24-year-old Moin Khan wants to promote intercultural understanding by travelling across continents on his motorbike. He left San Francisco in July this year and is now in Germany to start the second part of his trip.
Moin Khan feels at home on two continents. He was born and raised in Pakistan and left for California five years ago to study economics. As a student, he paid close attention to media coverage on his country, but most of it was negative. Khan began to worry about Pakistan’s image in the West.
At the same time, he noticed that the US was not portrayed any better in Pakistan. So he decided to promote tolerance and understanding between cultures through his own experiences, up close and personal and by retelling his accounts to other people.
Khan explains his idea is "to tell people around the world that there is a positive side to Muslims and Pakistanis. We are not just what the media says. We are regular peace-loving people."
When he gets home, he wants to tell people about the experiences he was able to make on his trip in the West and refute the negative stereotypes, or as he puts it, "to show the world that not every American is a George W. Bush. They are fun-loving open minded people as well; it goes both ways."
His idea is now taking him on a long trip from the west coast of the United States all the way back home. And what better, more personal way to travel than by motorcycle?
Khan knew that his adventure would be an expensive one; right after finishing his degree in economics the summer of 2010, Khan says he worked 70 hours a week at a software company and as a swim coach.
Gearing up for the trip, Khan searched for sponsors, got his motorcycle tuned up and created a website, ADifferentAgenda.com, where people can read about his experiences, contact him and also make donations. He also has a page on Facebook and a blog where he gives intimate accounts of the places he sees and the people he meets along the way.
Khan set out on July 10 from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. A symbolic starting point, not only because it is a well-known US landmark, but also because he aims at building a metaphorical bridge between the West and the East. He rides from one place to the next, choosing spontaneously where to go and when, depending on the people he meets.
And meeting new people is top on his list. Talking to Deutsche Welle he explains his travels are "about meeting people and letting them choose where I go next. That’s the best thing I’ve done so far. It took me to places nobody could find on a map."
On his 43rd day, after riding through the United States and parts of Canada, he reached the UK, where he decided to take a short break. On September 13, Khan then arrived in Germany to up his trusty vehicle in Bremen and continue on his journey.
Though his journey is meant to end in Pakistan, he is not sure when he will get there. Khan does not know whether he will be there in time for his birthday on November 5. One factor standing in his way is money. But that doesn't seem to get him down: "I might have to stop the tour again and get a job at some restaurant for a week or two to get some money, lets see how it goes."
Whatever the date he reaches his home country, the journey itself has been a destination of its own. He speaks positively of his experiences and the people he has met thus far. Many people support his cause and are eager to give him useful tips, for example on roads he should avoid. Others offer him room and board. "The response has been pretty amazing, way better than I thought before starting the trip. People email me to say that want to do something like this as well, they want to promote peace and love, too." He adds that the emails and show of support from people all over the world has been an encouragement that has helped keep him on course.
Author: Rachel Y. Baig / Sarah Berning
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan