A young couple from Kerala’s Thrissur, Lakshmi Krishna, 23, and Harikrishnan J, 31, are behind TinPin Stories, a travel vlog that has been accumulating followers on social media by the day. The couple’s travel stories are unique in the sense that they are leading what they call a ‘car life’ – they travel in a refurbished car – sleeping, eating, travelling and living in it.
While their YouTube channel has been around for a year now, documenting travel stories from India and outside, they started a new travel series two months ago. Vlogs from this series have created quite a buzz. Till now, the couple has covered four states – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. They will cover Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu before returning to Kerala.
Within a few days of the journey, their vlog has been amassing oodles of subscribers with a tremendous increase from 9,000 to 68,000 by the day.
Harikrishnan used to work as an inside sales officer in Bengaluru and Lakshmi had completed her internship as a graphic designer. The couple decided to quit their jobs to chase after their dream to travel and explore the wonders of the country.
“When we first started talking after our marriage was fixed last year, we realised that both of us share a passion for telling stories and we both love travelling. Once we got married, we started travelling more and decided to share the interesting moments in our journey through our YouTube channel,” says Lakshmi.
“We even thought of travelling to Thailand on a motorbike. However, we had to call off our plan due to the pandemic. When the country was returning to normalcy after the lockdown, we began planning new trips as we were tired of the humdrum routine at home,” Harikrishnan adds.
The idea of travelling by car began with the concept of making the trip budget-friendly, and on October 28, 2019, they set out to chase their dreams in a car. Now Lakshmi and Harikrishnan are Kerala’s first ‘Car Life’ couple.
The refurbishments to the car, done by the couple themselves in a low-cost manner, can easily be adjusted or removed when not in use. The changes are only for privacy purposes and no illegal modifications have been done.
“We have set up a bed in the car by folding the back seat. A small extension of a plywood piece attached to a steel rod is inserted into the back seat’s headrest slot, the height of which can be adjusted. We have also set up an exhaust fan using a laptop cooling pad on a polycarbonate sheet. The USB cable attached to it can be plugged into a power bank that works for 8-10 hours on a single charge,” explains Harikrishnan.
For privacy, a cut-out flex piece pasted with black vinyl paper is used to cover the windows of the back seat and the trunk. A curtain has also been set up to separate the front and back seating areas.
They carry a single-burner stove and use a 5 kg cooking cylinder that can be refilled, to cook at stopovers. To avoid using plastic water bottles, they carry three water cans of 10 litres each. Two are used for drinking purpose, usually refilled from RO filter stations, and the other for cleaning. The minimalistic setup has been done at the cost of only Rs 4,000.
“We prefer to explore rural areas and showcase the countryside, which are rarely known to people. Each place has its own beauty, dignity and culture. Our favourites are Kutch district in Gujarat, Gokarna in Karnataka as well as Badami, a historical place with lots of stories that is famous for its incredible rock-cut structural temples,” says Lakshmi.
Savouring authentic cuisine is an enticing part of their travel experience. They list Kutchi dabeli from the Rann of Kutch, the popular Maharashtrian dish Misal pav, and Aurangabad’s famous Naan khaliya as some of their favourites.
Talking about the practical difficulties of travelling by car, they said at times finding a safe place to park the car at night took a little longer than expected, which led to delay in sleeping.
“We try not to make it obvious. I make the bed and Lakshmi sleeps for a few kilometres before we can find a petrol bunk or a safe place to park the car so that people notice us less,” says Harikrishnan.
The couple also had some issues while editing and uploading videos in a timebound manner. Though their daily routine is a mess, they say they enjoy it. After seeking permission to use washrooms, they freshen themselves up mostly at petrol bunks.
Watch a video they posted on the first anniversary of their vlog on YouTube:
The challenges that the pandemic threw their way were significantly less when the country was gradually returning to a semblance of normality in most places. However, after entering Rajasthan, they unexpectedly had to take a room as most of the districts in the state were under a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am.
The couple had begun their expedition with their modest savings and now their source of income are their YouTube channel and TinPin Stores, an Instagram store for ladies clothing and accessories run by Lakshmi.
“We would recommend such trips to any couple. The experience we get from the journeys is beyond words, it has made us better human beings. We get a chance to interact with so many people and learn from them. Travel make us humbler and we feel blessed to have been given these wonderful experiences. Our country is very vibrant and each place has incredible stories to share,” the couple conclude.
Sumithra MR is a freelance journalist from Kerala. Writing features is her cup of tea.