SPENDING two weeks in India soaking up the culture, tasting delicious authentic dishes and taking in the country's beautiful landscape sounds like an amazing holiday, unless of course you spent those two weeks within a three-wheel motorized rickshaw that makes a Smart Car look like a luxury SUV.
That is exactly how North Vancouver resident Tristan Sawtell will be spending his vacation this summer.
Sawtell, 28, is an investment advisor with TD Waterhouse, and he will be competing in Mumbai Xpress - a two-week, 1,900-kilometre race across India - to raise money for charity. Sawtell hopes to raise $10,000 for Round Table India, a charity dedicated to helping children and teens in India receive better education and find better employment opportunities.
"This is what I'm doing with my summer vacation and I doubt that it will be in any way relaxing," said Sawtell. "I think it is going to be incredibly intense and arduous, but that is all a part of the spirit of the race and it should be an incredible experience and hopefully very rewarding."
The race will begin in Mumbai and participants will travel 1,000 km south before the course veers east for an additional 900 km. The race will end in the city of Chennai, on India's eastern seaboard.
Throughout the course of the race Sawtell will have to endure 40-degree heat (with no air conditioning), the chaos that is India's traffic and the general fatigue of lengthy travel. Oh, and there is that other issue: the rickshaw that may cease to operate at any moment.
"Apparently the quality of the rickshaws are so low that it may not make it to the end, only the wheels
will," he said. "You don't qualify as completing the race unless all three wheels make it across the finish line."
Sawtell admittedly doesn't have a large mechanical background, but lucky for him he won't be alone in India. Matthew Phillips, his friend and colleague at TD Waterhouse, will be accompanying Sawtell on the journey and it's Sawtell's hope that Phillips will be able to prevent the possibility of having to push their rickshaw across the finish line.
"(Phillips) has experience building and rebuilding engines, and a lot of mechanical knowledge," said Sawtell.
Together, Sawtell and Phillips are on pace to reach their goal of raising $10,000. The duo has yet to host any events, but they have found success in campaigning for their cause elsewhere.
"So far we have just been approaching friends and clients because if people want to help we are more than willing to take any kind of help that people can offer," said Sawtell. "We are trying to get in touch with people that we know the best and try to garner that support because it is a very interesting trip and the more awareness we can raise about it amongst our own circles of influences, then hopefully we can get more people doing the race down the road."
Sawtell also said that TD has been incredibly supportive and has jumped on board with their fundraising efforts.
"I have piles of shirts, pens and writing pads in my office because (TD) has given us their full support. Anything that we want, and that we can physically carry, they're happy to provide for us."
For the children and youth that Round Table India supports, the practical necessities required for education are a rare commodity. During the trip Sawtell and Phillips will be stopping in the various areas where Round Table India is working and will hand out their donated pens, writing pads and T-shirts.
The stops will probably make winning the race impossible, but that's not something Sawtell is worried about.
"It is a competition, and it would be nice if we won," said Sawtell. "But realistically it's about the charity so I would much rather come in an hour later than everyone and spend that extra hour meeting kids and dropping off things like T-shirts to the people we meet along the way."
Sawtell and Phillips will depart for Mumbai July 27 and despite the adversity that the trip will pose, they both are very excited.
"(We) really just want to step into it and just see what it has to offer and kind of just take in as much as possible. If there are bumps along the road we want to enjoy them and grow from the experience," Sawtell said.
Anyone that wishes to donate to their cause can contact Tristan Sawtell at 604-482-2512, or via email at Tristan.Sawtell@td.com.