A serial mountain climber Satyabrata Dam is a motivational speaker, leadership coach, and writer. He calls himself a boundless cloud, floating anywhere, anytime he wants. He has travelled close to 150 countries in the world and summited around 400 peaks. He is an inspiration to travel enthusiasts who keep day-dreaming about breaking out someday.
You turn 50 years old this year, and you have been travelling for 40 of those. Take us back to how it all started for you.
What has brought me this far is curiosity. When I was about four years old, my dad presented me with a globe and told me: “Son, this is the world.” As a four year old I didn’t understand the concept of earth. I asked what it means. He said that’s where we live, our planet. He said these are continents and there are almost 200 countries in the world.
I shut my eyes and I turned the globe. I landed my finger somewhere randomly, opened my eyes to see where my finger has landed. And then when my dad would come home in the evening from work, I would ask him about that place on the globe. Every day, I started writing these places in my diary. I wanted to go there, discover what kind of people lived there, what they looked like, what the land is like, what is the language they spoke, what is the flavour, fragrance, colour, taste of what they eat. Sometimes my finger would stop on an ocean, which was fine with me. I decided I will just go to the ocean. My list started growing longer as I grew older.
What do you think stops people from travelling?
People don’t travel because they don’t know. They are scared of the unknown. As long as you have the knowledge, a lot of your problems or fears are gone. I think you have to replace your fear with curiosity. Which has worked for me very well. So if I don’t know what is on the other side of the door, I would open the door and find out. Most people will prefer to stay as they can see everything. As human beings we have a fantastic capacity to discover. This is what human beings will be remembered for thousands of years later. For our sense of exploration and discovery.
With all these travel websites and maps, do you think technology has to a large extent harmed the natural instinct of exploration and discovery?
Of course it has. Too much of information is not good. People should learn from their own experiences and mistakes, because that’s the thrill. Just because data is available, doesn’t mean you access it. If you want to make your journey exciting, don’t access the data at all. But there are different types of traveller. If there is a family travelling with kids they need information. So it depends on how and why you use it.
What is your travel mantra?
I like to do things that nobody has ever done before. I like to go to places that nobody or very few people have been to.
Who is your favourite traveller or explorer and why?
I am very impressed with Ibn Battuta’s travel. For him travel was a complete experience. It was not just seeing one place. He was able to get into a spirit of the place and the soul of people. He travelled absolutely without any itinerary. That is my kind of travel. Just land up somewhere and then let’s see.
What is your advice to budding travel writers?
With online portals, travel magazines, travel blogs, sponsorships available from tourism boards, we have infinite scope. If someone wants to take up travel writing as a full time job, this is the time to do it.
The idea is how you express yourself and touch people’s heart with your story. Readers want to relive your experience. That is the hallmark of any good travel writer. They will read your story or see your pictures if they have something to correlate to. If you can share the spirit of doing something very ordinary like a walk in the neighbourhood, I think people will love it. People are looking for it.
You are vocal about the fact that you have chosen to stay single all your life. Why is that?
That is because extreme and dangerous travel requires that kind of commitment. It keeps me 100% free. I am completely the master of my own will. I float around freely in the world like a cloud, boundless. The only prominent woman in my life, my mother and I both know, that any hike of mine could be the last hike.
I would not change one bit of what my life has been so far.