Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before said His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Freelance writer Thara Nandikkara, and Gowtham Rajan, deputy manager with an automobile company, have certainly taken this advice to heart! They have managed to visit 20 Indian states and 17 countries together and their joint journey started only five years ago, when they started dating! The duo, who has similar tastes when it comes to travelling - preferring non-AC trains over flights and a deep desire to go back to Turkey - started off as Facebook friends. Once they met and fell in love, they also found a shared penchant for traversing the globe together.
When asked their favourite place, they chorus ‘Istanbul!’, which is at the top of their wish list. “If there is any place that we would want to go back to again and again, it would be Istanbul. We made a connection with the city. We explored it in detail on foot to get familiar with the roads and streets. It was just a four-day stay but that is our best-loved and ideal place,” Thara explains. Gowtham adds, “We adore the beautiful architecture, art and food of the place. And the best thing is the domed mosques with minarets like the Suleymaniye mosque, Blue mosque, Hagia Sofia, etc. The cultural scene consists of whirling dervishes, street paintings, Sufi singers and a lot more. With lots of delicious food items, starting from the sweet snack of baklava and through the stuffed potato dish called kumpir to the omnipresent durum wraps, Istanbul is a city which calls you back the moment you leave it.”
They admit that travelling as a twosome is very different from exploring a place solo, with the latter meaning taking on more responsibility but the former being more about understanding each other’s rhythms. Although their website and social media handle is Clueless Compass, unlike many travellers that believe in being footloose at a destination, this couple prefers to plan ahead. They also enjoy sharing their travel tales and pictures with their followers, which gives them an added sense of satisfaction.
A quaint locale they remember fondly is the village of Bled in Slovenia, with its Alpine scenery and beautiful lake on which there is an island with a church built in the centre. “Boating on Lake Bled is very relaxing. There’s also Vintgar Gorge, which is a water-carved rocky gorge through which river Radovna flows. And if you’re willing to hike a bit, the viewpoints from on top of the hills offer great vistas of the lake, gorge and the village,” they reminisce.
When we ask them how they manage to travel the world without compromising on their regular work, they suggest, “Save up the leave due to you, figure out if there are any international conferences that you can attend through work and then add a few days personal travel, plan your work properly taking into account the days you will be away. Don’t be afraid to delegate.” To travel on a budget, they offer the following cost-saving tips, “Book your tickets and accommodation well in advance, opt for public transport instead of expensive taxis or flights, buy food at supermarkets or cook it yourself in your room (provided you are in a place that allows it!).”