Lose To Win is a series of inspiring success stories that arose from life-changing sacrifices.
“When I returned back home to Vietnam, my mind was completely empty. After all, having to press pause on the adventure of a lifetime is truly a shame.
But I must admit it’s interesting to look back at it, given that the only thing that made me stop was a global pandemic —the first in 100 years since the Spanish Flu. Perhaps my trip will be remembered as ‘TRAN DANG DANG KHOA’S TRIP OF A LIFETIME, RETURN DATE: THE START OF GLOBAL PANDEMIC COVID-19’. I think it has a ring to it.”
Those were the first words Tran Dang Dang Khoa shared, upon having returned from a 1111-day adventure around the world on his Honda Wave motorbike where he visited 65 countries.
When asked about how he would describe himself, he says he is a man of extremes: either very gentle, or firmly assertive. There really is no middle ground. Perhaps it is his extreme personality that gave him the courage to leave his life behind and pursue the experience of a lifetime.
Over coffee with Vietcetera, Khoa rewinds on this experience like a cassette tape.
“A trip with no end in sight,” was what you said in announcing your journey. How did your loved ones react?
My friends kept saying that it’s bad luck, that it alludes to death in some way. But I disagree, what’s so unlucky about it?
Having “no end in sight,” to me, simply means I don’t know what will happen, when it may happen, who I might meet, who might come with me, and what it will lead to next.
Coming into the trip, my mindset was that if there’s a place I want to go, I’ll just go there. And if it doesn’t live up to expectations, I’ll apply for a visa to go elsewhere. I’m not bound to a place, a date, or anything else. I like the freedom.
Leaving everything behind, from work to family and friends, and even your safety as some may say, what made you so certain about your choice?
I often think of these three things before doing something: Is this feasible? Is this necessary? Is there a better way of doing this?
So I asked myself those questions.
Can I leave behind my job to go on this trip? Yes! I know I can because I’ve done it before. Now, it’ll just be for a longer period of time.
Is this trip necessary? It absolutely is! I’ve been thinking about it for 30 years, and if I allow it to stay as a dream, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. If I lose a limb doing this, get sick, or even kidnapped, would I look back in a few years and do it all over again? Yes, I would never regret taking a leap of faith.
Could this trip be done any other way? Or could I take someone with me, do it in a different vehicle, and wait for some other time to come? No. I wanted to go at that moment, with my motorbike, alone. It’s my dream and mine alone, I don’t want to share that with anyone else.
Of course, in addition to asking myself these questions, I also listened to those around me. But I limited it to certain people. I only take advice from those I would take criticism from — I only listen to people I admire. I know what those people are good at, and I also know the ways in which they are better than me: and this is what I paid most attention to.
Then, I weighed all my aspirations and the advice I received against the what ifs. And I asked myself ‘how does this affect me?’ Am I ready to give some things up? Is it worth it?
What was the week before you hit the road like?
Honestly, it was an extremely difficult time. I had nightmares about things going wrong, which then manifested into hesitations: ‘Oh my god, I’m about to leave for a few years, to places where no one knows me, where I know no one. What if I get robbed? And if I fell and broke an arm, a leg… what then? What if I get sick or hurt, what do I do then? What can I do?’
Contrary to popular belief, I actually did not have that much time to prepare. The same day I handed in my one-week’s notice at work was when I took my bike to the repair shop. I squeezed in time to purchase necessities and order parts in between the breaks in my day job. Once this was done, I only had five days left to pack everything up and leave.
During that same week, I made time to see families and friends. It was a lot of goodbyes, but I knew I had to try and see all of them. Afterall, it may be the last time I would see them in this life. There were times when it felt like I was going to war.
How did the trip differ from your expectations?
To be honest, I’m actually quite used to leaving. I’ve left the city before for the weekends, and then for 10 days, and then gradually increased my time away. So I found it quite normal.
Looking back, it was only different geographically. Rather than just going from point A to point B each day, I would go to points C, D, and E. Three months into my journey, things started to feel normal.
Before I left, I purposefully did not thoroughly research the countries I wanted to visit. What’s the fun without the element of surprise? I thought that if I had read too much on something, I’d be restricted by the authors’ thoughts. So I only briefly looked up the routes to go from one place to the next. I much prefer spontaneity.
Also, given that there was no end in sight, why must I follow a certain path or take a certain road?
And the moment I got on my bike and started the engine, I let go of all the worries and questions. It was just me, my music, and the incredible scenery. It was great!
Many think that you went on this journey to find yourself, or to prove something. Would you say that this is true?
If I’m being honest, I’m quite sure of myself and who I am, so there wasn’t a self-discovery element to this. After all, I’m no longer in my 20s.
I already know my thought-process, what I believe in, and what I like. I even know the exact brand and colour of my dream motorbike, the type of qualities I look for in a lifelong partner, how many children I’ll adopt, where I want to live when I turn 50, and countless other things.
I’m glad that, finally, my dream has become a reality. The first day I hit the road, I vividly remember thinking to myself that even if I get in an accident two kilometers into the trip and my journey is cut short, I would still be happy. I mean, I can’t control the wheels of fate; all I know is that I felt an incredible amount of joy from leaving everything behind to embark on this journey. I took a lot of time to think it through and prepare myself, and I have absolutely no regrets.
The decision I made to leave has vested me with the courage that I can do more than what my mind limits me to. I can go anywhere I want... well, anywhere that my motorbike can take me.
What do you think of all the buzz surrounding your trip?
I don’t really pay attention to it.
I don’t need others to understand me. I’ve passed 30 years of age, over-the-hill as some may say, and I don’t really care what others have to say. Some have told me to shave my beard, dress myself to look younger, and don't refer to myself as ‘uncle’ because it ages me. I don’t see a need for such trivial things.
I’m old and I like being old. I’m happy with myself. And I don’t need to trade that happiness for the understanding of others. Ever.
If you could bring anything back to Vietnam from your trip, what would you choose?
My life, and my motorbike. It’s as simple as that. I mean, I could say knowledge or a new-found perspective, but I think that sounds far-fetched.
Do you have a message you would like to give to our readers who are struggling with leaving things behind?
The moment you pass the age of 30, you’ll know exactly what you need. Or maybe at 40. Actually, sometimes I think you won’t know what you truly need and what genuinely fulfills you until you’re on your deathbed.
But in general, I don’t think ‘knowing’ before you do something really matters. To me, the more you do, the more you’ll know.
Like what I did here, leaving everything behind. I had so many hesitations and questions, but eventually found clarity and answers. So if you can’t leave it all behind, leave some of it to start; then keep going, and leave some more behind. In this life, you need to be courageous in order to grow.