Girl meets boy. They fall in love, get married and live happily after.
Sounds like an archetypal story straight out of a Bollywood flick right? Well, it is the real-life story of Bengaluru-based couple, Sunil Patil and Chandana Rao.
They met for the first time on their respective solo trips to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Hampi, Karnataka and eventually found their happily ever after.
One of the reasons why these two love-birds gravitated toward each other was their shared passion for budget-friendly travels.
And now that they have found each other, their travelling sojourns have become richer and more memorable due to their combined experiences in travelling light, both in terms of money and luggage!
Dispelling the notion that money and time are mandatory to take a trip, Sunil (30), a professional in Digital Marketing tells The Better India:
“We fail to understand people when they complain about time and money restricting them from travelling. There are a sufficient number of public holidays and holidays that each professional has. As for money, it entirely depends on willingness to step out from your comfort zone. Of course, it does take a serious amount of planning while having the courage to be spontaneous for pocket-friendly trips.”
Following their unique trip formula, the husband-wife duo has travelled to two countries, 12 states and innumerable cities together.
Decoding Budget-Friendly Trips
On multiple occasions, it was difficult for me to believe the backpacking couple when they said they spent merely Rs 7,200 on their 15-day trip to Rajasthan. Or that they completed their 12-day trip to Gujarat on a budget of just Rs 5,000!
They all seemed tall claims until they patiently answered all my questions.
The couple lists out three things that significantly bring down the trip costs: mode of transport, the luxury of stay and quality of food.
Here’s a sample of their travel itinerary in Gujarat:
- Rs 550 train ticket per head
- Rs 15-50 spent on per meal
- Travelling by bus/train at night inter-city, thus saving on hotels
- Hitchhiking wherever possible
- Staying in tents (after examining the safety)
- Staying at friend’s house, in temples or government facilities
- Avoid shopping, hotels and hiring private vehicles
“Sometimes, we have to wait for hours for public transport, bathe in toilets at bus stations, or follow an extremely tight schedule, yet every difficulty or discomfort is worth it when compared to the beautiful views and amazing strangers we meet on our journey,” shares Sunil.
The couple takes the topic of meeting new people further and tells me that most of the people they meet on their travels either leave an ever-lasting impact or end up becoming family.
They recount a heartwarming gesture by one Sunderben, a 75-year-old lady in Gujarat, whose 15 minute interaction with the couple aboard a tuk tuk (a local rickshaw) in the dazzling Rann of Kutch became a lifetime memory.
Recalling the incident, Chandana, an entrepreneur, says, “I was desperately looking for a backless choli (top) embedded with colourful beads and mirrors and couldn’t find it anywhere. We asked her since she was a local and she happened to have newly stitched choli in her bag. She gave it to me to try it on and looking at my sheer joy, she put it in my bag and got down at her place. Within a few minutes, we developed a family-like relationship with her.”
Another such memorable moment from Gujarat was when they were hitchhiking, and a truck driver insisted that the couple visit his house for a quick meal, “For me, he is the richest man who went out of his way to take care of mere strangers without expecting anything in return,” says Sunil.
Many of these friends were even invited to Sunil and Chandana’s wedding for they had a part to play in their love story.
Weaving Love, One Trip At A Time
On 6 March 2016, Chandana was praying to get a seat on a bus from Hospet to Hampi. Around 5.30 am when the bus finally arrived at the station, she quickly jumped onboard only to find one empty sleeper seat.
She bought the ticket on the condition to share the seat with a gentleman.
This was her first trip to the heritage city and the gentleman’s tenth. As soon she discovered this, she asked for the spots to visit.
Thus, began the conversation between Chandana and Sunil. The connect was instant, forged in their common goal to travel the world. This was also the time when Sunil quit his job to become a full-time traveller, a concept that had not gone down well with his parents.
“I was travelling to Hampi to clear my head and get away from all the negative reactions from my family and friends. When I told Chandana about it, she appreciated and supported my decision. That was the moment I fell for her,” says Sunil, his joy palpable in his voice.
They exchanged numbers and soon started travelling together on trips without confessing their love for each other.
From the breathtaking hills of Meghalaya, heritage forts of Maharashtra, historic monuments of Delhi to magnificent temples of South India, their respect and love for each other only magnified.
Four years later, Sunil proposed to Chandana in the freezing weather of Manali under a beautiful waterfall at dawn. The scene was perfect and the guy was hopelessly in love. How could a girl, equally crazy about him, refuse?
The couple finalised their vows on 17 April 2019.
As a way to mark their union, they got married in a 9th-century heritage temple, Bhoga Nandeshwara, near Nandi Hills in Karnataka.
“We first met at a heritage site and travelling is the cornerstone of our relationship. There couldn’t have been a better venue away from Bengaluru than this temple. We had a budget-friendly wedding and all our guests got to see a new place. We would not have it any other way,” the couple signs off.
Follow their amazing trips on Instagram here
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)