77 trains, 77 days and the journey of a lifetime

Lessons from the travels of Malaysian accountant-turned-banker Azman Mokhtar.

People on a crowded train in Ghaziabad, India. PHOTO: REUTERS
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(FINANCIAL TIMES) - A couple of weeks ago, I had breakfast in New York with a Malaysian accountant-turned-banker named Azman Mokhtar, who I first met years ago when he ran the Khazanah sovereign wealth fund. He arrived carrying a fat photo book entitled Kembara Keretapi: Around The World In Trains Of Thoughts. It was the memento of an epic journey he took in 2019, boarding exactly 77 trains over 77 consecutive days as he circumnavigated the globe.

The idea, he explained, was to celebrate something known as kembara in Malay (probably best translated as "wanderlust"). Planes are not well suited for kembara, since being 30,000ft above the ground detaches you from, well, the Earth. Train travel, by contrast, enables you to better experience the places you're travelling through.

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