One of the main reasons that stops us from traveling is the feeling that we can’t afford it. I won’t say traveling is cheap. But if you are a thrifty backpacker then you can manage your expenses. Sometimes you can motivate yourself to save up for your travel fund, but sometimes you need stories to inspire you, like the story of the Traveling Chaiwalla.
A tea shop owner from Kochi, Vijayan and his wife Mohana, both in their 60s, have traveled around to 16+ countries. It is kind off hard to believe, considering how difficult we find it to save up to visit just one country. How hard we find it to resist going for a movie or a pub and save up for a travel fund. Well the tea shop owner did what we all have been dreaming of. His story is a result of hard work and dedication. His tea stall is his only source of income, which never made him give up his dream.
He found his love for traveling as a 6 year old who visited many temples in Kerala and Tamil Nadu with his father. These trips triggered his passion for traveling. However, things din’t go well for him while he was growing up. After his father’s death, all family responsibilities came on his shoulders which put his travel dream on a standstill. In 1988, he resumed his dream with a pilgrimage to the Himalayas with a man as his cook.
40 years back, his wife Mohana joined him in his travel endeavors. He says there is no point in fulfilling your dreams if you have no one to share it with. For Mohana, Switzerland is her favorite place. As for Vijayan, he would like to visit the Nile once more. But visiting these places and realizing their dream was not easy provided that they were relying only on the tea shop. They took bank loans to travel. Then they paid the debt back in the next 3 years. Once the debt is cleared they would take the next loan and the cycle continues.
“There will be many hurdles, but we can overcome that through hard work. If you really wish to chase your dreams, nothing can stop you from it,” he says. Vijayan follows a dedicated and consistent way of saving money, “I save rupees 300 a day for our tickets and spend just 10 dollars or less on picking up some tiny souvenirs from the places of visit. We don’t spend anything more.”
His dream has made him a popular figure in the world of travelers. His story has been featured in NDTV and CNN and the couple have featured in numerous TV shows. His popularity helped him fulfill his wish to travel to his dream destination – The United States. This place has been eluding the couple for sometime as they were not able to get a bank loan because of their age and financial insecurities. Soon help started pouring in. Two donation campaigns and a substantial donation by Bollywood actor Anupam Kher made sure the couple had enough money to go to America.
As it is said in the Alchemist, ‘If you truly want something with all your heart, the whole universe conspires to make it happen‘. I see the significance of that quote in Vijayan’s Life. They have broken many barriers to make their dream come true, setting travel goals and couple goals for many. They have proved that age is just a number and that your never too late to chase your dreams.
(A short Documentary ft The Chaiwalla in Malayalam language with English subtitles)