Where most of our travel dreams remain pinned to our soft boards or diaries, never becoming a reality, this senior couple is giving us major travel and life goals. The 68 years old Vijayan, and his wife Mohana hail from a humble background who earn their bread by selling tea on a roadside stall in Kochi. Vijayan and Mohana are not just husband and wife, but also travel buddies who do not just brew tea, but also romance. Their economic and social status has not restrained them from fueling their travel ambition, and they have covered hundreds of thousands of miles across the world- 24 countries to be precise.
“If you really wish to chase your dreams, nothing can stop you from it,” says Vijayan.
The quote might seem whimsical, but when Vijayan says it, it has a highlighting undertone of the perspiration, hard-work, and dedication that he has put in to conquer his dreams. Selling tea for over 40 years, Vijayan and his wife Mohana has travelled to most of the iconic places in India, and abroad. Britain, France, Austria, Egypt, UAE, etc. are a few of the many countries whose stories they happily recall toiling hard at their tea-stall.
Vijayan has inherited his travelling obsession from his father, who took him to various places in South India since he was six. “I got the obsession in travelling from my dad; he took me to different places since I was 6-year-old. We went to Madurai, Palani and many other places. Those travel memories with my dad helped me unleash my dreams”, he says. However, life was not fair and kind to him. Though a dream to measure the world by feet started to grow, the untimely death of his father halted them all. Vijayan had to take over his father’s responsibilities and look after the family. The fire to travel had almost anguished within him, until one day in 1988, he got to travel with a man as his cook on a pilgrimage in the Himalayas. Later he married Mohana which resumed his voyages again.
Earlier Vijayan had travelled to a few places in India, but it was Mohana’s companionship that inspired him to dream big and beyond. What’s the point of travelling if you do not have anyone to share the experience with, he says referring to his wife, Mohana to whom he has been married for over 40 years. The couple has explored so many exotic locations, all on their own. Recalling her favourite travel experience, Mohana says, “I was really excited when we first travelled abroad. Belonging to a very poor family, I never dreamt of a life like this. Later along with him, I too became obsessed with the journeys. Switzerland is my favourite among the places we visited”. Though it was the statue of Jesus in Israel that transfixed her. Vijayan does not particularly have a favourite experience as he cherishes them all, although he remarks that he’d love to visit the Nile river in Egypt again.
Travelling to India, let alone abroad is a costly affair. Especially for people like Vijayan whose only source of Income is his tea-shop. In order to fund his travels, the couple relies on Bank loans. Despite all the financial insecurities, they would take a loan, travel to a place of their dreams, and utilize the next 3 years or so to work hard and repay their debt. He also has a simple mantra for savings to support his travel. He saves Rs. 300 daily from his income for the tickets, and would not spend more than $10 on any souvenirs or shopping abroad. They do not spend lavishly on any unnecessary luxury. With ageing, there have been hiccups in acquiring loans, but Vijayan is ever so optimistic about achieving his goals. He recalls one incident where he ran out of money but wanted to travel. Just a few days later, one of his acquaintance who resides in South Africa offered him shelter and food. He somehow managed to save for the tickets and visited South Africa.
No matter how many financials hurdles he has to cross, he is stubborn that he will never travel without his wife, Mohana.
“I can’t travel without her, I will be happy only when she is around”, he says blushingly.
Their travel stories are unique as they also have interesting backstories of how they toiled hard to save for each travel experience. Their dreams age like wine; and so does their companionship. The story of Vijayan and Mohana is the true definition of YOLO- You Only Live Once.