"If you really wish to chase your dreams, nothing can stop you from it," a line like this may sound tacky in isolation, but when Vijayan, a 65-year-old wayside tea-seller owning a tiny tea shop in Kochi says it, a decade's worth of stories echoing hard work, sweat and conquered dreams tumble out.
Vijayan has been a tea-seller for over forty years, however, that hasn't stopped him and his wife from touring almost every scenic destination in India along with a whopping 16 other countries- Britain, France, Austria, Egypt, UAE, the list goes on.
His tea-stall is his only source of income, something that has never been an obstacle in fulfilling his dream of travelling all over the world. "I got the obsession in traveling from my dad; he took me to different places since I was 6 year old. We went to Madurai, Palani and many other places. Those travel memories with my dad helped me unleash my dreams", says Vijayan.
Life was not easy on Vijayan while he was growing up. Trips with his father to almost all temples in Kerala triggered his passion for travelling; however his father's death brought all possibilities of travelling to a standstill as he took up all family responsibilities. It was only in 1988 that he resumed travelling when he accompanied a man as his cook on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas.
What is the point of fulfilling your dreams if you have nobody to share it with, says Vijayan as he refers to his wife Mohana, who joined him forty years ago. Back then her life revolved around Kochi, but post marriage, the couple have explored exotic cities, all on their own. Excitement lights up her face as Mohana explains her most enjoyable journeys.
"I was really excited when we first travelled abroad. Belonging to a very poor family, I never dreamt of a life like this. Later along with him I too became obsessed with the journeys. Switzerland is my favorite among the places we visited", she says. Switzerland may have been her favourite but according to her, seeing the statue of Jesus in Israel left her rooted to her spot for a long time.
For Vijayan, on the other hand, every experience was different, right from trudging through the deserts of UAE to heading down the magnificent Nile river in Egypt, Nile being one of the spots he wishes to visit again.
It hasn't been easy for the couple to sustain such a lifestyle. With their sole source of income coming from their tea-shop, the only way out for them to pursue their love for travelling was via help through bank loans.
Despite all financial insecurities, the couple would take a loan, travel to a foreign destination, come back and spend the next three years repaying the debt they owed, and the cycle would go on.
Has toiling and working so hard helped him? "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 very simple funda for 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."
There is no question of spending lavishly for this couple.
They may have travelled to 16 countries, but one country on their to-go-list still eludes them is the United States of America, a place they have been wishing to go for a long time now since their last trip to Europe in 2012.
Considering their age, the couple in recent times have faced difficulties in getting loans to finance a loan to their next dream destination. But all is not lost, says Vijayan."Once I was completely stuck without money, then one of my old acquaintances who resides in South Africa offered me stay and food there. Then I somehow managed the ticket fare and visited the country. So am sure that somehow I will be able to visit the US", he said.
Despite the financial burden the couple will have to sustain, Vijayan is steadfastly stubborn about one thing, about not leaving his wife behind. "I can't travel without her, I will happy only when she is around", says Vijayan smiling.
Some dreams are worth going all out for, and Vijayan's story sounds like one of those few.