For many people, lack of money is the biggest hurdle for setting out on a trip. However, Jibin Madhu, a youth from Pala in Kottayam district of Kerala, recently proved that you don’t need money in hand to start an all-India journey. Jibin – who is active on social media as ‘Kumbu travel’ – spent one year and four months on a bike travelling across India and found money for the trip selling items prepared in a makeshift food stall set up on his two-wheeler.
When 23-year-old Jibin started his trip from Pala on his Yamaha FZ bike on March 1, 2021, he had a mere Rs 5,000 with him. He initially travelled towards Karnataka and planned to earn money to fund his journey by working in hotels and petrol pumps along the way.
“But I could find some work only after approaching at least 14 or 15 people. After obtaining some temporary job, I would spend a few days there and earn some money before resuming the trip,” he says.
“While working in hotels, I used to get up by 5 am and would be busy till even 11 pm or midnight,” he adds.
“Often, I received up to Rs 130 per day as wages. At some places, I met travel lovers who arranged work for me,” says Jibin.
How he opened the food stall
By the time Jibin crossed to Maharashtra all the money Jibin had at the start of the trip had exhausted and he decided to work.
“Honestly, when I set out from Pala, I had no idea that the trip would be so long!” says the youngster. In fact, Jibin’s parents and other relatives were also unaware of his activities. “They thought that I was changing jobs frequently for some reason!” he explains.
When he reached Uttar Pradesh after passing through Madhya Pradesh, Jibin installed a top box behind his bike and carriers to place water and fuel. “There, I was left with just Rs 100 and the idea of setting up a food stall on the bike struck me. I had noticed such food stalls on bikes during the ride,” he says.
Jibin’s stall had a limited menu, which included bread omelet, tea, noodles and omelet, but it did a roaring business. “Having worked in some hotels, I had the confidence to run the food stall,” he says.
Jibin used to buy ingredients from the valleys and travel to the hills to set up the stall. “The stove and utensils I had been carrying helped me in the new business,” he informs. Later, Jibin bought more utensils after he earned some profits. He also purchased paper plates and glasses too for customers.
Many travellers cover 300-400 km at a stretch every day during a trip. However, Jibin preferred to stay for several weeks at each stop pitching his tent and sleeping on his folding cot. During this period, he operated his food stall before resuming the journey. “That is how I experienced India,” says the Pala native.
YouTube channel, Instagram
At this stage of his adventure, Jibin launched a YouTube channel named ‘Kumbu travel’ and it was only after noticing the videos that many of his friends and acquaintances in Pala realized that the boy from Kumbukkal was travelling across the country. “By that time, it had been months since I left home. But, when they learnt about the trip, the residents of my Puliyannoor village offered full support to the adventure,” says Jibin.
He also became active on Instagram. The word ‘Kumbu’ is derived from his house name, Kumbukkal.
Sending money home
Initially, Jibin’s parents – Kumbukkal Madhu and Usha of Puliyannoor - were concerned when they came to know that their son was on a bike ride around India. However, on realizing that they couldn’t change his mind, Jibin’s parents gave up efforts to dissuade him. Meanwhile, Jibin felt confident because his elder brother Jithin was at home with his parents. Jibin also has a sister, Jisha.
Incidentally, whenever Jibin made profits from his food stall and some well-wishers he met on the way gave him money, the youth sent it home.
The jobs Jibin did include that of a hotel employee in Pune and Karnataka, a worker at Chandigarh market and an employee at petrol pumps in several places, apart from running the food stall.
The snowfall at Rohtang
Jibin’s first experience of snowfall was at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. “Later, there was snow at several places in Uttarakhand. The main challenge on the stretch leading to Rohtang Pass was the sub-zero temperature. I was carrying an ordinary tent worth Rs 1,000 and had no sleeping bag. While sleeping in the tent, the cold pierced your bones even if you were wearing several layers of clothes. I even had to burn some of my clothes to keep myself warm,” says Jibin.
With low oxygen levels at high altitudes, Jibin as well as his bike developed problems. “As the bike was not climbing the hills, I kept its air filter open while riding,” he says.
At Meghalaya, Jibin’s tent was torn. “The cold seeped in whichever way I pitched the tent, forcing me to spend the nights in caves and houses of local people along the route,” recalls the youth.
Finally, while in Assam, a man he met on the way purchased a new tent for Jibin.
Among the people from various states he met during the journey, the most empathetic and helpful were Tamilians. Moreover, the number of subscribers of Kumbu travel crossed 16.5K after it was shared by ‘Kayal 92’, a travel vlogger from Tamil Nadu. As a mark of gratitude, Jibin soon started vlogging in Tamil too.
Having travelled across north India, Jibin picked up Hindi and sometimes vlogged in that language also. His videos from Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab too received good response. Many people helped him in Punjab during the farmers’ agitation.
“Wherever you go, there will be some people who love to travel and they will never discourage you. The positive vibe offered by such people gives you the energy to continue the journey,” says Jibin.
At Jung, on the route to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Jibin’s bike developed serious troubles. “The piston was damaged and the bike came to a complete standstill. Till then, I could manage all the repairs of the bike, but this time as the trouble was with the engine, I had no option but to take it to a workshop,” he says. Again, several travellers from Tamil Nadu as well as Karnataka came to his help along with the local people of Jung and the bike was carried in a pickup van to Assam, which was 300 km away.
After repairs, Jibin resumed his trip to Tawang. However, the bike again broke down while he was riding to the Holy Waterfall in Tawang. This time, Jibin himself repaired the bike with help of the Army personnel stationed there and the local residents.
According to Jibin, many people feel that money is the most important requirement for a journey. “But it is not true,” he says.
“All that you need for a trip is deep desire,” he adds.
“Any job will fetch you at least Rs 10,000 a month, which is more than enough to travel across India,” says Jibin based on his own experiences. Jibin has also posted his mobile number on social media for those who want more advice on this matter.
On his all-India trip, the Pala youth had travelled along the Konkan coast from Kerala and covered Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Punjab to reach Kashmir. From there, he headed to Uttarakhand, Nepal and back to India through the Bihar border. The next stretch was from Bihar to the northeastern states, Odisha, Andhra and Tamil Nadu, from where he returned to his native place, Pala.
The entire journey, completed on July 17, 2022 at his Puliyannoor village in Pala, lasted one year, three months and 17 days.
Interestingly, Jibin had picked up skating from some children at a place where he stayed for a few days in Assam. After learning to skate, he had plans to travel across Myanmar to Thailand. However, the wish did not come true as the Myanmar border was closed due to internal issues in that country.
Now, in Pala, Jibin dreams of a bike ride to Thailand for which he is trying to buy a new vehicle. The youngster has no reluctance to take up any job in his native place also and regularly engages in tile work. “Each day, I am approaching my goal of realizing the dream journey,” says Jibin.