While “beach versus mountains" and “bed and breakfast (B&B) versus hotel" battles precede every holiday, the one thing that Rajesh John DSouza, 39, and Supriya Suriyanarayanan, 37, agree on, is that travel is the best escapist fantasy in the world. When you’re straddled with work e-mails and phone calls 24x7 and weighing under startup struggles, feeling refreshed and re-connected with each other is worth every bickering moment in the world. It helps that both are devoted to doing something new and intrepid on a trip, and experiencing it whole-heartedly. They’ve knocked off scuba diving in Maldives, kayaking down a river in Portugal, silversmithing in Bali, learning salsa in Havana and horse riding in Vinales.
DSouza’s business travels as director and partner management at Nike India Pvt. Ltd takes him overseas frequently for meetings and conferences. But it’s Suriyanarayanan who has wheels for feet back in India. As an entrepreneur and co-founder of a fashion brand Ukti Everyday, rooted in affordable hand-woven textiles, her wandering is focused on finding materials and inspiration. “Sourcing local fabrics directly from weavers in villages is a fortunate by-product of running the business," says Suriyanarayanan. Since the cumulative days away from home from each other are considerable, holidays are the only un-interrupted time they get with each other. “We typically try and do two big trips every year, each for 10-15 days, “says DSouza. “We encourage each other to travel solo as well, so some trips in the year are attributed to ‘me time’—mostly photography-focused for me, and a sports related trip for John," says Suriyanarayanan.
Having known each other since college, weekend getaways and shorter trips with friends on then smaller budgets infused a sense of adventure in both DSouza and Suriyanarayanan separately, and together. It was only when they took their first international trip to Krabi in 2008, that they realized the thrill of exploring the unfamiliar together. The emerald waters and secluded coves of their favourite island, Hong Island helped them fall in love with the place immediately. “We hadn’t fine-tuned our personal travel preferences then. We booked a five star hotel to indulge in on the first trip, but it had been a bank-breaking decision. John suggested we move to a cheaper place for the last few days, but I was hesitant. Naturally, the standards had been set higher and anything below that felt dreadful. The rest of the trip was made up of a constant ‘I told you so’ background score," laughs Suriyanarayanan.
Over the last decade, super plush holidays have been replaced with more experiential journeys. “Luckily, we’re both now more exposed and aware, and like living and eating local. Self-driving all around Portugal and Cuba was one of the most exciting and best decisions we took. In Maldives, we ditched the super luxury hotels and ended up staying with a local family on an island, “ remembers DSouza. “While it seems like a small thing, we’ve witnessed the impact of this kind of travel each time we’ve chosen a B&B or had a beer at a local taverna," adds Suriyanarayanan.
“While it’s hard to point to one single destination as the best, Cuba superseded our expectations," both agree. The couple travelled to the country in October 2015 for two weeks and agrees that it outsized any other destination they have ever been to. Havana’s silent confidence in its weathered beauty is what won both DSouza and Suriyanarayanan over. “The energy is infectious and the Cubans are the kindest people. Our broken Spanish took us a long way to find directions and right places to see and eat at. Portugal had been a good training ground for self-driving so that’s exactly what we did in Cuba too."
“Our signature adventure experience in Cuba could have been swimming in the Bay of Pigs, off Havana, but instead it hilariously featured ICICI. Our card got blocked, as it wasn’t recognized there—apparently no Indian had ever used it. We had to make countless trips to the bank to get it unlocked and practically survived on a dollar’s meal for a few days," remembers Suriyanarayanan. “But handling the situation on hungry stomachs was fun and, I think, it gave us confidence in each other. And of course, we went to Bay of Pigs anyway."
The travel situation for Suriyanarayanan and DSouza has changed a little ever since Arya, their year-old Golden Retriever has arrived. “We’ll have to shrink two-week international holidays because we don’t want to leave her for so long, but we’ve already started doing long road trips with her so we can still manage some adventures in India," says Dsouza. “After all, she’s part of the family, and tradition is tradition," closes Suriyanarayanan.
Travel for Two is a series in which couples walk us through their favourite trips, measuring their travels in most memorable moments and not miles.