Guess what stands between you and your travel bucket list? Life. Actually, life as we insist on knowing it. One in which travel dreams are nipped and tucked daily to accommodate that promotion, the new car EMI, the child insurance premium, brokerage for the house on rent, or simply 'savings' for unforeseen terrors of the future.
How many times have you wistfully stared at slideshows of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, ribbons of glistening blue streams cutting across lush countrysides, close-ups of unfamiliar looking food only to be jolted back to reality by the memory of your pay cheque?
We all want to travel, and when we don't, we comfort ourselves by saying we simply 'cannot' afford to court the trouble. 'Wow, that flight is worth my three months' rent." "Imagine, you can buy a car with the travel expenses." "Is it a good idea to spend all the savings, on a holiday?" These are familiar voices in our heads, the moment the word 'travel' surfaces in a discussion.
However, the story of Vijayan, a tea-shop owner in Kochi will make you reconsider you travel apathy. Apathy is the right word to describe your inability to travel, if Vijayan is a yardstick to judge us by.
Covered extensively by the media as the sexagenarian who has travelled 16 countries, by running just a tea shop, Vijayan actually stands for hard work and scrupulous planning. And a burning desire to see new places. In several interviews he had told reporters that he used to take bank loans for travel and then work very hard for the next few years to pay back the loan. This cycle continued for 45 years.
A new short film called Invisible Wings sheds light on what many people refer to as Vijayan's 'madness'.
As the video opens with breathtaking shots of dawn in Kochi, it shows Vijayan walking to his tea shop and starting on his day's job - making tea. Meanwhile, his voiceover places a finger on what keeps us from travelling. And that's dissatisfaction with how our life has shaped up. One that makes us constantly strive to pile up our material assets and pushes travel many rungs down in our list of priorities. "God has blessed me with more than what I deserved, dreamt of and wished for," he says, exuding a striking sense of satisfaction. He immediately follows it up with a very rational approach to living. "All of this will go. I strongly believe in it. It will go..."
While most of us strive to end uncertainties in our lives, Vijayan explains that they are inevitable. What we can do, however, is make the most of life despite what shocks it has in store for us.
He recollects the story of how he used to steal foodgrain from the household as a young boy and sell them to fund his wanderlust. He remembers how his wife had not travelled beyond her hometown in Ernakulam before she got married to him. And later they travelled to Madras, Kanyakumari, Bangalore, Delhi, Haridwar, Egypt, Jordan, London, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, Singapore.
Vijayan with his wife
He then emphasises the need for a travel companion or someone who understands deep love for travel. For him, it is his wife Mohana. "She is my strength. She provides me with all the energy I need," he laughs.
He then comes to a very important point -- he indicates that self pity can hinder travel too. "All the people with whom I have travelled so far are millionaires. All of them. When they exchange 100 or 500 dollar notes, I exchange 5 or 10 dollar notes." However, unlike many of us for who foreign trip is as much about status as it is about travelling itself, Vijayan was not perturbed by such disparities. We tend to associate travel with luxury and often scrap plans if they don't live up to our borrowed ideas of 'perfect'. Vijayan makes his own perfect.
Four minutes into the video, Vijayan touches upon a very important question. One that has plagued every one of us. "I don't have money, then you might ask me, wouldn't it be wise to stay back in the shop?"
"I want to see this world. That is my desire, my only desire..." he emphasises, proving that nothing can get the better of an honest love for travel. "Even if I don't go, nothing will happen."
Have you ever thought people will think you're crazy to spend 'so much' on travelling? Yes, you have. For Vijayan, it's a reality. "Everybody makes fun of me. You're crazy, they say. Yes, I am crazy. Everyone has their own craziness..."
Moral of the story? Listen to your heart, not naysayers.
He then cites the Bhagwad Gita and says, "The only thing possible is to just go and reach the other side. That's how I travel."
"Now matter how much you try, you cannot stop the waves of the sea. They will come one after another...," he says, emphasising the inevitability of life's chores.
He then says, if he doesn't open the shop one day, he stands to lose Rs 2000-Rs 3000 a day. He will have less time to pay back debts. We have had similar conversations with ourselves in our heads, many times over. The result was, the big travel plan stuff into the backburner. Always.
However, with Vijayan, it was the opposite. "If I worry about all this, I will never be able to take a day off from work till the day I die. If money is our only concern, we will not be able to do anything."
He also has an answer to a question that we keep posing to ourselves and never come up with a satisfying answer. He says that people tell him if he had invested the Rs 10-15 lakh he has spent travelling on land or property, he would have benefitted more. Vijayan doesn't agree: "All these places I have gone to or I have seen or the knowledge I gained are my own possessions."
He concludes saying something we balk at telling ourselves all the time: "It is possible."
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