Lions Clubs International played a huge role in our tour, which was in a sense a sort of coincidence. Much before Ravi and I had thought of the tour, we were part of the junior wing of Lions Clubs – that is, we were members of the local Leo Club. Announcement of our decision to go on a bike tour was received with enthusiasm all round. Some senior members of our Parent Club helped us get adverts for the souvenir and, most important, as District Chairman – Leo Clubs Lion J D Pannalal, an extremely kind and helpful person, endorsed our enterprise in the form of a very nice letter of appeal for support.
The kind reception and hospitality that we received right through our journey across Europe was of a magnitude beyond our wildest dreams. In all, close to 50 families welcomed us as guests at their homes as we bicycled through Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium, England and France, hitchhiked in Switzerland, and travelled across Norway, Finland and Italy by various other means. Most of the time, when we had established contact with a local Lions Club member and been welcomed by the family as guests, our hosts would invariably speak to their fellow members of the towns and cities that lay ahead on our journey. Sometimes, we would be so lucky as to get our stay organized in four or five places on the trot, days in advance.
Good Interaction, Great Time, Gorgeous Company
More than anything, staying with families, besides being a wonderful experience in itself, was fun in many ways. We spoke to the members of the club about our tour and shared a lot of information about India, its culture and way of life. As we were eager to meet students who belonged to our age-group, our hosts arranged for us to meet members of the neighbourhood Leo Clubs and other students. We had interesting discussions on local and international politics, education system then prevailing in the Continent and other topics of common concern. And when it came to taking us round to show the local sights, the hosts always saw to it that at least a couple of young ladies accompanied us so as to get the equation nicely balanced. This of course came to us as a big welcome surprise, and the outings to museums, fairs, movies and other places of interest became a lot more exciting and memorable than they might otherwise have been.
So much fun and excitement and luck happened all along the journey, thanks to the many members of the Lions Clubs and their families who made it all possible. Interesting incidents and moments that we still treasure and cherish are aplenty, and I shall share them with you in the next posts.