Muscat: Pablo Borrelli's belief that "life will always show the path" is helping him experience and discover the world.
In the last 15 months, Pablo, 27-year-old citizen of Argentina, has covered 22,000 kilometres on bicycle, pedalling across Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
His expedition on bicycle brought him to Oman recently.
Why did he choose to do what he is doing?
"I was born in Rio Gallegos, Argentina, in a scarcely populated region called Patagonia. When I was 17, I moved to Buenos Aires to study at a university. After getting a degree in economics, I started working for a Latin-American airline. As a revenue manager, my job was to elaborate strategies to maximise the company's profit. It was an intellectually challenging and well paid job. But something inside was telling me every day, 'You are losing vital time of your life on something that gives you nothing but money.' I felt empty. So one day I decided to 'take the bull by the horns," Pablo explains in an e-mail interview.
Pablo bought himself a bicycle, a tent, a cooking stove and "without a plan" decided to experience freedom and choose his destiny every morning.
"The purpose of starting this voyage was to view the world from a new perspective and live my life from a different point of view. I wanted to change myself and become a better person. It had to do with moving outside the established 'must do' norms that our society has set," he asserts.
The experience, so far, has been overwhelming for Pablo.
"What I am doing is not a holiday, not a pleasure trip, but it is life itself. I wake up every morning without knowing who I am going to meet, where I am going to sleep or what landscape awaits me. All the certainties of everyday life are gone. I have to brave heavy rains, strong winds, sand storms, extreme hot temperatures. At times, I suffer extreme loneliness.
Yet, it has all been worth it. I have seen places and cultures I never thought I would experience. I have met extraordinary people. I am now aware that we belong to a very small percentage of privileged people, the ones who have options and choices. After seeing suffering, I have learned that there are no limits to human will. My spirit is much stronger than the guy in suit and tie who was sitting in an office some months ago," he says.
The journey for him has been wrapped in memorable incidents.
"I was cycling around the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia when a huge tropical storm hit the place. There was a wall of water coming from the sky. As I was pitching my tent, a guy came up to me and invited me to his grandmother's home. The family was warm and welcoming despite not being able to converse with me. They treated me, a stranger, like a family member. Next day they wanted me to stay, but I had to keep going," he recalls.
In Oman, Pablo has cycled through Shinas, Sohar, Barka and Muscat.
"My first night in Oman was a beautiful experience. It was already dark. I was just a few kilometres from Sohar, without a place to sleep. I started asking people where I could pitch my tent without disturbing anyone. All of them were really helpful. One of them told me there's a nice place where young people meet, have 'chai', watch some TV, right in front of the beach, where you can stay.
'Perfect' I said. We went to this little palm tree bungalow, with the Oman sea right in front of us. There I met Ali and his friends. They gave me a really nice welcome, some 'chai', and had many questions to ask me. After that they did a 'shuwa' style chicken barbecue. For me, it was all magic. I was there, so far away from home, but still with friendly people, listening to the music of the waves. It was bliss," he says.
For his expedition, Pablo treads on a regular mountain bike he bought in Argentina.
"For a trip like this you need a strong head and no special equipment. I carry things that I need to be self-sufficient: tent, sleeping bag, cooking stove, tools to repair the bicycle, very little clothes and some books. I have a friend who once told me 'We carry all our fears' and it is true. You can fill up your bags and spend tons of money buying expensive things 'just in case', but at the end, it is all about fears. I never had problems with food supply. I just adjust my diet to the local foods and that's it. In Africa, I was eating rice every day, in Iran kebabs. If the food is too expensive (like in Europe), or I am camping in the wild, then I cook myself," he says.
Recalling the toughest challenge so far, he says, "the most difficult was to start and leave a 'successful career' and jump to the emptiness of not having a clue of what is coming next. It wasn't easy at all. There were days when all my fears were coming to the surface, trying to pull me back. But today I am contented."
His journey has taken him to many places and countries — French Polynesia, Easter Island, Spain, Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, the UAE and Oman.His next stop is India.
After that, you ask him, "Where?""I will spend six months cycling around the country, and next, who knows?" he wonders. And you wonder with him — What a life!