Dawn News

A Pakistani, a motorcycle and Facebook

Moin Khan outside the Colosseum in Rome.

“I am so happy I didn’t plan anything, because everything worked out,” said 25-year-old Moin Khan with a laugh.

That laugh must hurt. After all, his ribs are broken from an accident in Arad, Romania, which has forced him to pull the brakes, temporarily, on his ‘epic solo motorcycle journey.’

With a Pakistani and an American passport in his backpack, Moin is travelling from San Francisco, California to Lahore, Pakistan on his Honda F4i.

After posting dozens of videos and thousands of pictures on his facebook page “ADifferentAgenda” from the 15 countries he has already conquered in more than a 100 days, a man crashed into him on October 20th deconstructing his bike and hospitalising him.

But Moin doesn’t seem the slightest bit disappointed.

For him the crash has simply given him an opportunity to cement “ADifferentAgenda” just a little bit deeper in Romania. His first post after the horrific crash was titled “My bike's totaled, a couple (of) bones are broken and new Romanian friends are made.

The man who crashed into him visited him everyday in the hospital. And local bike enthusiast Daniel Jula, after hearing about Moin’s crash, showed up at the hospital and offered to help put his bike back together. He searched for parts all over Romania, and even managed to procure some.

As Moin recuperates at a newly discovered distant relatives place in Bucharest, Romania finding a radiator proved to be a huge challenge. But then another complete stranger named Adi, showed up at his doorstep with a brand new radiator, which he called “a gift from the (bike) stunter community in Romanian” in the video below.

The video elicited dozens of thanks and prayers for Adi from Moin’s fans in Pakistan on his facebook page.

Moin has been overwhelmed by the kindness extended to him from complete strangers, ever since he bid farewell to his friends at the Golden Gate Bridge on July 10th.

“Before the trip, I would have never have thought of inviting some stranger into my house,” admits the biker who grew up in Lahore.

“But it happened to me, not once, but a few times on the trip; in Canada, in Germany and even in Switzerland, which was so random and so beautiful. “

Here’s a video where Moin introduces us to his new friend and host in Martini, Switzerland. After a long journey on the road, Moin arrived exhausted in the enchanting town, only to realise that all hostels and affordable motels were booked. He was parked on the street, when after a five-minute conversation Moin got an invitation from a local to stay at his home.

The ignition

In 2005, Moin moved rather reluctantly from Lahore to California to start college. “My parents forced me to go to the US for college,” he admits. He soon made friends and started loving life in the Bay area.

“After waking up, I’d go to Dawn.com or Geo’s website,” said Moin in an interview on skype.

Everyday Moin would be rudely greeted with a headline bearing bad news. “Starting from Lal Masjid to the drones. You barely hear anything positive out of Pakistan.”

“I am not political in any way. I just wanted to tell the world that we Pakistanis are just regular people,” said Moin.

And one day while he was sitting with some friends it hit him. “I’m going to drive my bike from San Francisco to Pakistan,” he announced.

So started Moin’s mission. He worked two jobs, 7-days a week, and survived on ‘rice and ketchup’ to save up for the trip and to buy a bike and gear worthy of the journey.

“I didn’t make the Facebook page or the website, till the 3rd or 4th day into the trip, I wasn’t expecting anything at all.”

Moin now has more than 5,000 fans on his facebook page.

The journey

Moin’s Honda F4i’s tires have already touched concrete in the US, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.

One of the key things keeping fans hooked to his journey on facebook, besides his skill to always find an Internet connection to upload pictures and videos, is his storytelling ability, which is playful and informative.

On the 15th day of his trip he uploaded some pictures from Yellowstone Park. One caption read, “I had to stop to take a picture with the Lulu Pass board, haha.”

“These (are) some pictures of the mud volcano in Yellowstone, it smelled of rotten eggs. I wonder why people drive thousands of miles just to smell rotten eggs. Well, I too sadly rode 3000 miles to see this. Yes I reached my 3000 mile mark today!” exclaimed another one.

I asked him which place surprised him the most.

“The Selvio Pass in Italy … I have never seen anything like it,” replied Moin who started pinning up motorcycle posters in his room when he was just 7-years old.

“My love for Pakistan has always been there, nothing can match that, but motorcycles have been a big part of me and riding through the Swiss and Italian Alps was a dream since childhood.”

Moin’s first time on a motorcycle is just as epic as his journey. At the age of 11, a carpenter was working inside his house, when he decided to steal his motorcycle and cruise around Lahore.

“I didn’t know how to ride it,” admits Moin.

“I was somewhere in Cantt, it was summertime, (I had) no helmet, no gloves, nothing at all. I was wearing shorts and buzzing through cars. The way the wind hits your face. It’s just an amazing feeling,” he recalls with amazing detail.

“Since then it has only been about motorcycles and motorcycles,” he said with a grin.

The family

“My parents didn’t know anything about this trip.” Moin told his mom about his plan two days before he left San Francisco. When she found out how hard he had been working overtime to make it a reality, she backed him up.

When he crashed in Romania, he skyped his parents from the hospital, to show that he was okay. His mom suggested that he fly home, but his father was even more determined for him to continue.

“My dad’s first reaction was ‘so when are you getting a new bike, then’?”

“My parents have been amazingly supportive. Pakistani parents aren’t ‘supposed’ to be this supportive. (My parents) have proven this stereotype wrong,” he said proudly.

The agenda

Before Moin started his epic journey, he was worried about how some people in remote places in America would react to him being ‘from Pakistan.’

“I never had to face racism. San Francisco is very chill like that. But I had heard stories. I thought all they know about Pakistanis and Muslims is through Fox News. So, I was a little scared,” he admitted.

“But whoever I talked to, the first thing I’d say is ‘I am from Pakistan and I’m going from San Francisco to Lahore’.”

And that line, along with Moin’s charm seemed to do the trick at many places, even in British Columbia where he met a man named Phil Dawson at a gas station.

Phil invited Moin to his place. “His wife made us dinner. We had a bonfire. We watched movies together. I spent the night there,” narrates Moin.

“I think not only am I educating people I am being educated myself, anyone who can learn through me (and my experiences) that is the idea of this whole journey.”

And from the dozens of comments he gets on his videos and stories on facebook, it is clear he is changing perceptions in Pakistan.

“This is just amazing … there are no boundaries or countries or religions ... just simple human beings. This is just the perfect example you want people to see, how we all can help each other to live happily, survive perils and support one another to grow,” commented one fan.

“The friends you are making are the bridge to (the) future. Congratulations and safe travels,” commented another.

After his crash, Moin posted a list of bike parts he needed on his Facebook page. The response from his fans was tremendous. Bikers around the world pitched in to help him find parts. And in Pakistan many offered to raise money.

“Moin Bhai I can put posters of Moin Khan - ADifferentAgenda all over my university (University of Karachi) and ask people to make donation online.” offered Fowad Khan Niazi.

Another 15-year-old fan from Dera Ismail Khan edited a video using Moin’s pictures from the trip to help raise funds.

I asked him if the journey has changed his perceptions.

“I don’t know why, but I had a bad image about Germans. Maybe because all I had heard about Germany was Hitler. This is how the media plays with you. I just thought Germans are really negative people,” he replied, “but Germans are the friendliest people I’ve met on this trip.”

“Some random people took me in.” He stayed with them in Germany for 5 days. “They took care of me like I was their little child, it was just amazing.”

They introduced Moin to their friends and even entertained him. “They took me to the BMW motorcycle museum and the motorcycle factory.”

Moin also got some stellar coverage in Germany press. DW-WORLD.DE even published an article on him in Urdu.

The road ahead

For Moin the best part of his trip lays ahead — Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, and then finally Pakistan.

“Before the journey started, the two places I was most excited and looking forward to were Iran and Balochistan in Pakistan.”

“Everyone talks trash about Iran and Balochistan, I think people just hear stories and get scared, I want to go check it out for myself.”

Iran is the only place Moin actually made an effort to get a visa for. He took a detour and flew to DC from New York in the first leg of his trip to go to the Iran embassy.

“I know it’s going to be very hard to get into Iran.” But Moin is excited about trying. I asked him if he was worried about travelling through the Iran-Balochistan border.

“Nothing is decided before hand in my life, and so nothing is decided before hand on ADifferentAgenda either. I’ll cross Iran and go to the Balochistan border, if they let me, I’ll ride through Balochistan but if not, then I’ll figure something out there.”

Moin says he never really saw much of Pakistan, besides Lahore. “Just an occasional trip to Islamabad and Murree from Lahore. And once on the train to Karachi.” So he is ‘stoked,’ about riding his bike through the country.

He showed me his helmet on skype. The asphalt marks ran deep. “If I didn’t have this on I would for sure be dead.”

“Whenever you crash it’s hard to get back on the bike, because that whole feeling comes back. But I’m really excited and cannot wait to hit the road again.”

After his crash, which from the pictures seems pretty horrific, his doctor told him to rest for two months.

“I have been breaking bones my whole life. And I know doctors tend to be extra-cautious,” said Moin.

“So I think I should be back on the road by the 20th of November.” He hopes to reach home by December 20th.

I asked him about the kind of a reception he was expecting on his arrival in Lahore.

“It will be awesome if some biker fans from Lahore can join me from Thokar (Niaz Baig) to my house in Cantt. There we can talk for some time,” said a rather excited Moin.

“Then everyone can go home and I can go inside with my mom’s parathas waiting for me, that’s really what I am looking for.”

Sahar Habib Ghazi interviewed Moin Khan and wrote this piece for Hosh media, an organisation that aims to put youth voices on to the mainstream media in Pakistan. She hopes you will start following Moin Khan’s epic journey on ADifferentAgenda.

Comments (26) Closed

Nov 15, 2011 02:40pm
Great going! Excited about your arrival in Pakistan! I hope everything goes to plan, although I am a bit concerned for you about the Balochistan part.
Nov 15, 2011 02:50pm
Hahahaha....excellent stuff Moin! Good going!! Hope you get to enjoy your mother's parathas after a rather long journey!! :) Thats determination and courage my boy! :) God bless you!
Nov 15, 2011 04:19pm
good on you mate, keep going and stay up right good luck
Nov 15, 2011 04:41pm
I am very excited about your wonderful experience of lovely people throughout these beautiful lands you are traveling. Balochi and Brohi who live in Balochistan are also one of the greatest. I have lived with them in Quetta and experienced their hospitality and kindness. They love Pakistan just as we do in Lahore. You will conquer their hearts just as well. I am very proud of your achievements and wish you early recovery and God speed in uniting with your family and friends !
Nov 15, 2011 05:01pm
Hi, Nice stuff. I wish you continue the trip till Amritsar to Delhi. Brings more meaning and value to the whole effort. Please think.
Rizwan Ali
Nov 15, 2011 05:57pm
Really excited to hear, listen and read. Must say, its a Different Agenda. Really appreciated for your efforts to highlight Pak name in the world. Wish you all the best and I hope I can be part of your journey some time. I think you will be most welcome on Iran Baluchistan border as people of Baluchistan are really nice and helpful.
Nov 15, 2011 06:04pm
Good suggestion,good intention and good invitation.Moin khan should take it.
Nov 15, 2011 08:25pm
Great effort! Wonderful story. My question, is how did he cross the Atlantic
Nov 15, 2011 09:33pm
Imtiaz Ahmed
Nov 15, 2011 10:01pm
Very commendable agenda! I hope the Pakistani authorities do not impose custom duty and taxes on his bike. Just a thought.....
Nageen Z. Fatima Lat
Nov 15, 2011 11:25pm
Awesmazing man!!... keep going.. I'll try my best to join you at thokr when u come to lahore... best of luck from me :)
Nov 15, 2011 11:34pm
Best of luck khan..your love for PK is inspirational..Come home safely. May Allah protect you,Amen
Nov 16, 2011 01:42am
this man has beaten me by going first with this trip. i am going to do LONDON to SINGAPORE via Lahore and Delhi inshAllah, but that may happen after at least 3 more years. only one issue with his trip is that he is doing it all alone, even Chris McCandles realised in the end that 'happiness is when it is shared'. he should have taken someone along with his trip: friend or brother, you know........ When Che Guevera did South America on his bike, he went with Alberto Granado.........have a look at his Motorcycle Diaries....classic
Nov 16, 2011 02:33am
"These (are) some pictures of the mud volcano in Yellowstone, it smelled of rotten eggs. I wonder why people drive thousands of miles just to smell rotten eggs. Well, I too sadly rode 3000 miles to see this. Yes I reached my 3000 mile mark today!” I am really glad that Moin Khan has embarked upon this epic journey but why trash Yellowstone?! Yellowstone is one of the great geological wonders of our planet. It's sad that Mr. Khan failed to appreciate it. That said I totally support Mr. Khan's quest and wish him good luck. Disclosure: I am a Pakistani living in San Francisco who has visited Yellowstone and loved it.
Nov 16, 2011 03:59am
dude, not everything is about india, this is a Pakistani thing...
Nov 16, 2011 06:39am
bravo Moin! good going man.
Nov 16, 2011 09:13am
Bro.. Fantastic.. And guess what.. You can stay at anywhere in the world with locals.. have you heard about couchsurfing.. join it.. We pray for you...
Nov 16, 2011 10:04am
Great journey man, we are also from San Francisco and are on a month journey all over turkey and Egypt. Reading up your story while enjoying my time in Istanbul. U never know might bump (no pun intended) into you in turkey. Will be watching for a Honda bike, with some scratches while traveling all over turkey.
Nov 16, 2011 11:19am
Amazing stuff brother.. Get well soon.. and best of luck..
Nov 16, 2011 02:15pm
@ Ahmed Moin's agenda and message transcends borders, religions and ethnicities. Yes it is to promote and clear misconceptions about Pakistan but it is also to highlight the humane nature of people across the globe. If we take any lesson its to get out of this parochial mindset that encourages Pak-India animosity and to believe in the goodness that exists in the hearts of people generally...beyond borders, race and creed!
Amjad Khan
Nov 16, 2011 06:31pm
I am a biker myself but I dont think I can do it at this age. I salute your courage and pray that God keeps you in his "Amaan". I do appreciate the support that you are getting from your parents. They should be proud of you.
Nov 19, 2011 07:34am
Here's hoping to a speedy and full recovery and best of luck on the rest of your amazing journey! A (Indian from L.A... 1 love)
Gina Rubik/Guru Jina
Nov 19, 2011 06:13pm
I have traveled from Hungary to India by land already 3 times by hitchiking, train and bus through Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan without a single penny in my pocket, and nobody wrote about my story in the media!
Nov 21, 2011 04:44pm
But did you Facebook it?
Nov 24, 2011 09:34am
Don't be a whiner.....
Nov 29, 2011 02:21am
Hey Moin, I just heard your story on BBC world's Outlook program...good stuff! I think a new "Motorcyle diaries" of the XXI century could be based on your adventure. If you are already having mishaps in Romania I'm worried what could happen once you make it to the much more dangerous areas east of the Black Sea! Good luck with the rest of your great trip. Peace bro! Roberto (Italian in London)