Family Road Trip Across India – 59 Days

Who are we?

We are just another small Indian family of three – two of us in our 30s and a little one who is just under 10 yrs. Check us out at Meet The Suhas Family.

Partner in Crime:

Hyundai Verna Fluidic 2015 1.6 Petrol. Yep! A family sedan that India loves.

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Genesis of this trip:

Aug 2016 was an eventful month for us in many ways. This month saw us make the decision to unschool Aarav and also the time when we dreamt about a road trip around
India for the first time. Jumping across to Oct 2016, Aarav decided to participate in the Karnataka State Chess Championship tournament. The tournament was spread
across 3 days and the matches ran across the day. Since the tournament was held in a school that was quite far from where we stayed, the only thing we could do was
to wait out in the school grounds until Aarav was done with his games. We saw this as an opportunity and here’s what we carried:

1. A flask full of coffee
2. An India map
3. An outdoor sitting mat

We chose a nice spot and got down to business. We hatched the plan to drive across India in our car for 52 days (which turned into 60 days). We discussed the route, places to spend time v/s places to just pit stop, events to attend, budget, et al. These 3 days saw our dream translate to a plan and boy, were we excited! It was Nov 1st and with the skeleton of the plan in place, we decided to start our journey on Dec 1st which gave us 30 days to detail the plan and get us road ready.

We divided responsibilities amongst us and got cracking. We soon realized that fixing accommodations upfront is limiting to the whole ‘free travel’ approach. We could be making changes to our route or days hence, we kept the route and accommodation fluid. To help us with packing, we pasted A4 sheets on our bedroom cupboard doors with headings so that we could keep listing down things we would need on the road as and when they come to our mind. In a couple of days, these sheets were filled up!

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Since we wanted to be prepared for all eventualities on the road, there were a few things we had to go shop for and we kept picking up things in installments across these 30 days.
We lost count of days with all the excitement and before we knew, the last few days was staring right at us. Suhas was working until the last day so we had to plan our exit from Bangalore well. We packed all our bags, kitchen stuff, equipment and loaded them into the car on day -1. The car now had our bedroom (camping gear), kitchen, dinning (fold-able camping table with chairs) et la packed in. This was to ensure we are all set to leave as soon as Suhas returns from his office on day 0.

As planned, Suhas came back home on day 0 evening and we took off to Mysore, from where we were to start our road trip on Dec 1st.

Our route map:

Where did we stay?

We had a mixed bag when it came to accommodation across this travel. We stayed with friends, Couch Surfed and stayed at budget hotels / home stays / guest houses. Here’s more details:

Couch Surfing: Couch surfing as a concept was conceptualized in 1999 and then translated to reality in 2004, in the US. The intent is to bring cultures together by providing accommodation for travelers by locals in their homes at no cost. The host will ensure shelter and food for the travelers just as their own. This is certainly not to be seen as a cheap replacement for hotels. To ensure there is exchange of cultures and learning, the couch surfing hosts prefer guests who are willing to spend at least 2 nights. This is a growing community in India as the traveler breed is on the up. For more details, you could visit Couch Surfing India.

Staying with friends:

In today’s digital world, one is connected with friends all over the globe and not necessarily we have met all our friends. Thanks to platforms like facebook, we have the liberty of making friends and staying in touch, all remotely.

Sunita had 2 such friends who offered to host us on this trip. Sunita had never met either of them but we tweaked our route plan to accommodate their invitations. The whole premise of our travel was to learn so we didn’t have to think twice before jumping at these offers.

While our stays with both of them was only a night, there was soo much to learn from them and they had soo much love to give. They were both families who had paused an evening in their life for us – someone they hadn’t ever met! Shruthi an enterprising entrepreneur and Kavita a true traveler at heart.

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With the Avvaris

We also had friends whom we hadn’t met for years and this trip was giving us the opportunity to meet so we again tweaked our route to ensure we had a stop in their respective cities. We stayed with the Avvaris in Hyderabad. Raghav and Mona were our neighbors until 6 years ago – Aarav was only 3 years old then! We spent some wonderful time with the duo re-living the old times and learning from each other’s experiences with life.

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A morning session of play in the Ghoshals’ garden

We stayed with the Ghoshals in Gurgaon and what was meant to be only a couple of days stay turned into a week’s stay. We felt at home with this lovely family most of whom Sunita had never met. We learnt soo much from this family, gathered soo much love, care and it pained to leave them behind. Yes, such things happen the moment one steps out and is open to experiences.

Budget Hotels:

We had consciously decided not to pre-book any of our stays through this trip so where we didn’t have friends or couch surfing hosts, we would always get to our destination for the day  and then look for a budget place of stay. We went with a budget of INR 2000 to 3000 and we always found a decent place in this range. Tripadvisor was of great help. We would look for a 4+ traveler rating and mention the budget and, bingo, we would get a list of places to choose from. This was for most part of the trip. We had to do some spot searches in villages like Jhibhi in Himachal Pradesh which again, wasn’t difficult. We always found a place to stay when / where we stopped.

How did we manage to take 2 months off?

Sunita is a home maker at the moment, Aarav is un-schooled (yes, that means no school!) and Suhas works for an MNC. So it was really Suhas who had to take time off his parallel life. We have always believed, “you only have to ask and if the will behind the ask is strong, the universe will provide.” Suhas asked for a 2 months leave from his work and his manager granted the leaves without batting an eyelid. Most call this luck, but, the question is – how many have really ‘asked’?!

How did Aarav take this?

Aarav, in 59 days, has been through 14 states with diverse cultures, food and people. We have seen Aarav grow in character in these 59 days and this growth, we haven’t seen in months before this travel. Aarav has learnt his Hindi while traveling through the north and west of India. He has made friends with people of various age groups and for life.

Not to forget, he conquered a summit (Chandrashila, 12,083 ft) too. Read a more detailed illustration of our trek to the Himalayas! Take a look at a short video we made of him while on the go:

People and stories we encountered:

Along our journey we encountered many people with numerous stories. Here’s a mention of a few of them along with the circumstances under which we met them:

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Ernest and Jakob on their bikes

Kota, Rajasthan: Somewhere along the road connected Udaipur with Kota in Rajasthan, we spotted two cyclists pedaling away in hot noon. Suhas being a cyclist had to stop and take a picture of the two and say ‘hi’ too. We stopped our car by the road and clicked a few. They seemed glad to see people on this road and probably had a reason now to take a break for a breather. Upon chatting up we figured Ernest (from Spain) and Jakob (from Germany) have been riding their cycles for 8 months! They started their travel in Germany and took 8 months to get to India. They were riding across India to get into Nepal and their destination is Vietnam! They were riding to raise funds for Don Bosco mission. Inspiring duo.

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In conversation with Ramdass

Rishikesh, Uttarakhand: Like most days, we were out early in the morning experiencing the morning life – this time in Rishikesh. We decided to settle down at a chai (tea) shop near the popular Lakshman Jhula. Near us, seated, was an elderly gentleman with flowing locks. He signaled to Sunita and warned her about the place she was sitting. He cautioned that this place was vulnerable and things could land on her head owing to the strong winds. With that, we got talking to him and he opened up his life experiences to us. Ramdass is an American but, has been visiting India for the last 25 years, particularly Rishikesh and Haridwar, and spends atleast 2 months here every year. He has been instrumental in establishing an ashram for needy children in Haridwar and is a seasoned yogi.

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With David in Raga (Korean restaurant)

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: We were very intrigued with the volume of Korean tourists in Varansi and the fact that Varanasi had a Korean restaurant that was very popular with the non-Indian tourists. We were also at a point where we had an overdose of poori-aloo so we decided to explore this Korean joint. We went on a hunt through the narrow lanes of Kashi including a walk through the Manikarnika (cremation) ghat. We found the restaurant and indeed, felt the warmth. We sifted through the menu and ordered what came close to our palate. I guess, our sifting was obvious to David Benjamin, who was seated right across offered some help with the menu. We got talking – David has been traveling across India and dreams of being in Nepal, among the Himalayas soon.

Now wisdom time – what did we really get out of this?!

The intent behind this was quite simple – get out and know your country better! While we got a lot more than we imagined, there were a few things that will stay with us:

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Watching the routine at Manikarnika Ghat (cremation) in Varanasi

We are naturally curious being: We figured this a few days into our travel. Whilst in our busy lives in the busy cities, we tend to put ourselves into moulds that is ‘appropriate’ to the environments that we have grown into. Break the mould and the curiosity is liberating.

 

 

 

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In conversation with truckers and farmers

  “World out there is not safe” – a fallacy fed by excessive media: We started this trip with this fallacy ingrained to some extent but as we went through this journey, we saw this fallacy to be proved wrong time and again. We have been through a few challenges – 2 tire bursts at the same time, a collision with an oncoming car, being lost late evening, etc – but, we have been helped by very warm people, all strangers. The rural world, we have observed, is a far more warmer and safer place!

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Bowl of tea at the golden temple in Amritsar

Gratitude, soo less yet soo happy: We have been through some of the remote villages in Himachal, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. We have spent time with people who have very little but yet are leading their lives with content and are happy for most part of their day. They are also ready to offer all that they have when they see people in need. Every moment we spent with them, we were filled with more gratitude.

 

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Aarav with his new found friend, Jai

The world is our home: We would initially be anxious about the place we were to visit. There was a strong connection with our home town hence, every where we went, we considered ourselves as outsiders. We were seeing and feeling the place with an outsider’s lens. Half way through this journey, we shed that lens. Every place we went, we felt that is our home and we belong to that place. The stays then became more comfortable and we gathered more learning. We were more receptive to each of those places we visited.

 

This travel has gotten us to question the status quo. There is a world out there waiting to be explored – what are you waiting for?!

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Our journey has just begun and the coming months will be more exciting, so if you would like to continue to read about our experiences and adventures – hit the FOLLOW US button seen below.

To get a more visual dose of this exciting journey through our camera lens, check out the photo album.

4 Replies to “Family Road Trip Across India – 59 Days”

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