It was a casual chat with friends over a cup of ´karak´ chai in Muscat when 27-year-old Hitesh Matlani shared his secret dream with his friends. “I want to run around 100 cities one day.” No one ever thought that one day this ever enthusiastic youth would get to live his dreams and be the pride of Oman, his second home where he spent a considerable part of his life.
Reminiscing his initial days, when he was inundated with fears and self doubt, Hitesh shares a heart-warming tale of how his friend and mentor Ebrahim Ali Akbari once took him to a cliff for a dive.
“I had never done that before and finally when I could overcome my fears I was so surprised.” Since then there was no looking back for Hitesh. “I started in Muscat, because I was heavily influenced by the travellers who visited my house. This gave me the courage too,” he remembers. Hitesh, who has travelled eight countries and more than 100 cities in the last 21 months, is currently somewhere in South America and strongly feels that running is just another form of meditation or way of releasing stress or a way of channelling the energy. He did not chose a bike or cycle to go on this journey as he felt not having a bike, kind of releases him from logistics.
“As of now I love meeting loads and loads of people and not yet in the phase of cycling by my own and being all alone. I prefer to hitch-hike, run, and do couchsurfing and I rarely stay in hostels or hotels as it saves me a lot of money and also a chance to live like a local,” says Hitesh. Talking about the kind of practice he does before the run he says that first he marks the house on his Google maps in case he gets lost. Then he grabs couple of dollars and hit the road. While he does not do a great prior research before starting his journey, Hitesh makes sure that the night before his travel he gathers all the necessary information. “All places are good and unique — they have a different vibe. One should go and experience for oneself,” he says referring to his choice of places.
No journey is ever complete without some memorable moments and Hitesh has plenty to share, especially the scary encounters. Last year in October while Hitesh was hitchhiking from Palenque to Villahermosa in Mexico, he was hit by a trailer from behind. The trailer had skid off the track and he was knocked down.
“I fell in a ditch. The trailer left. Few people came to my rescue. It was a second life for me. I started believing more in the magic of this universe. Yes I was stirred, not shaken though,” says Hitesh. While in June last year he faced a long ordeal in Florida, Jacksonville where he misplaced his passport, this year in January while hiking a volcano Cumbal next to the Ecuadorian border, in Colombia he lost his friends in the high altitude and was without a guide.
“The clouds were just too strong. I ended up in the jungle as I took a wrong route and I fell off a cliff of about 3 metres, and survived. I walked and walked, crossed rivers, bushes, and trees. Yes, I broke down halfway, but I kept fighting and moving forward,” tells Hitesh.
Highlighting on the purpose of his run Hitesh candidly shares his very adorable wish. “The only cause I run is for my family; my future family. When my children or grand children will ask me a story, I will share anecdotes of my personal life,” says Hitesh who has been on this sojourn all with his own savings.
“I started working in 2010 and I quit my job in 2015. In this duration, I had annual trips to India and a bit of Europe. My real saving started up in 2013 with my job in a facilities management company. But I haven’t worked for the past 21 months,” says Hitesh who currently works as a teacher and a volunteer in Colombia, though running continues to be his first love. “I talk to myself during my run, and thank for everything, everyone, and everywhere. It’s a kind of a ritual for me,” he concludes.