The couple who chucked high-paying jobs to travel the world
Vidit Taneja and Savi Munjal have been to 85 countries, and counting!Updated: Apr 21, 2018 23:37 IST
Her fingertip flits across imaginary points on the wooden tabletop as Savi Munjal maps the route of her road trip to offbeat parts of Europe “We start in Bucharest, Romania and drive to Romania’s medieval villages such as Sighișoara, Biertan, and Bușteni. From there, we fly to Belgrade (Serbia) to learn about its communist past, acquaint ourselves with its culture and crazy nightlife, she says, pausing at the invisible semi-circle before darting forward again. “Then we fly to Montenegro to live the slow life in a little apartment facing the beach for a month or so. That’s the part I’m most excited about. Living in a country for an extended period of time gives us the chance to understand its quirks, culture and make friends in a new part of the globe,” she elaborates.
Her husband and co-traveller, Vidit Taneja, says, “In the first week of January we went to Bali, March was meant for Kerala and for almost a month now we are on a road trip in Romania and Montenegro.”
The couple, currently in Europe, has been driving around Romania for 10 days, spent a few days in the Serbian capital of Belgrade followed by Montenegro.
For Savi, 33, and Vid, 35, who currently are on a round-the-world tour, this is all in a day’s work. Since 2013, they have been sharing their journeys and stunning photographs along with information such as when to go, what to pack and how to manage the budget on their travel website bruisedpassports.com.
In June 2015 they quit their jobs in the UK (Vid was a business analyst; Savi an academic) to live out of suitcases and become full-time travel bloggers.
In the last 10 years, this cool couple has been to over 85 countries across the world. “We’ve been to almost all countries,” says Savi, her head tilted backwards, eyes scanning the restaurant ceiling clockwise as she goes over the world map in her mind. “We’ve been to North Africa, Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia. But we haven’t explored West or Central Africa,” she says turning to Vid, who nods.
Though they have been married for 10 years, Savi and Vid have been together for over a decade. They met in school in Delhi (“we were good friends”) and started dating in college when Savi was in Delhi and Vid moved to Singapore. But only after they got married did they start seriously indulging their wanderlust. “We made a pact that every month, we will travel to someplace new,” says Vid.
The couple has saved up enough to sustain this dream. Their website gets over a million visitors annually. “Vid takes up freelance photography assignments, while I occasionally freelance as a travel writer,” says Savi.
It takes less than five minutes and a pen and a piece of paper for them to make a list of their 11 favourite travel experiences. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Star gazing across the salt desert (Salar de Uyuni , Bolivia)
It takes a while to get used to the surreal landscape of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt desert, in Bolivia. Naturally formed tiles of salt crust seem to run on endlessly. During winter rains, it gets covered with a light sheet of water that reflects the cloudy skies, turning the flatland into a giant mirror. “There are no shops or people or roads. We just drove across barren land in our SUV with food and oxygen cylinders because of the high altitudes [nearly 12,000 feet above sea level],’’ says Savi, of their three-day guided excursion. They checked into Tayka Hotel de Sal – a hotel fashioned out of salt blocks and wood. “It was -20 degrees outside, but it was such a gorgeous night sky. We saw millions of stars and the Milky Way. We could not get enough of the incredibly clear sky. There was no light pollution,” Savi says.
2. Falling in lavender love (Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand)
It was the 18th day of their three-and-a-half-week long road trip through New Zealand and Savi and Vid were headed to the Mt Cook National Park in the south of the island via Lake Tekapo. The road wound along the rugged terrain with the turquoise blue of the lake set against the sapphire sky, and the snowy peaks of southern Alps in the distance framing the picture perfect beauty of the region. Then out of nowhere, massive fields of purple lupines rolled into their view, bringing their silver Hertz to a halt.
“We hadn’t read about it anywhere,” says Vid “The Mt Cook area is famous for its lakes and panoramas but we loved the random fields of flowers along the way,” says Savi.
3. Zebra crossing (Zululand, South Africa )
The first zebra sighting was unexpected. As their 4X4 made its way through the grasslands of Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park in Zululand, a lone zebra ran out of the tall golden grass and jumped in front of their car. “Before this, we had only seen zebras on TV or in pictures,” says Vid, of the time they took a 4,400 km road trip through South Africa.
“Over the next two days, we saw dozens of zebras in the wild but each time was more special,” says Savi. “They were just so pretty. Their coats were so bright and shiny, they looked like they had been freshly painted.”
They also spotted a number of other animals on this guided tour: elephants, lions, leopards, blue wildebeest, giraffes, warthogs, cheetahs and a hostile black rhino. “We also saw some rhinos and one of them was quite aggressive,” recalls Vid. “When it saw us, it walked towards our vehicle and stopped 10 metres away. Then it started peeing all over to mark its territory.”
4. Walking by the great ocean (Victoria, Australia)
An 80-km, four-day hike through parts of the Great Ocean Walking Trail, along the Great Ocean Road on the south-west coast of Australia, is not as daunting as it sounds. Especially if the hikers are ferried back to their lodgings every day and treated to gourmet food and foot spas. “It was more of a glamping (glamorous + camping) thing. We would come back to this tiny lodge in the middle of the forest and were in a small group accompanied by a professional bushwalker,” says Vid. The walking trail took them through two national parks, through rugged forests, past rivers, high cliffs and beaches. “We saw kangaroos, koalas, even snakes and leeches, some stunning cliff-top and coastal panoramas along the way.” The trail ended at The Twelve Apostles, which are naturally formed limestone stacks on the shore of the Port Campbell National Park.
5. Doing in Taiwan as the Taiwanese do (Hengchun Township, Taiwan )
It is hard to experience a culture if you do not know the language. However, this was hardly an issue when Savi and Vid went to Taiwan to shoot a TV series with Discovery Channel. “Most of the crew grew up in Taiwan. So they showed us small villages, beach towns, and historical cities that wouldn’t ordinarily feature on tourists’ radars,” says Savi. “A lot of them would have been inaccessible otherwise because English isn’t widely spoken in Taiwan.”
In one such little-known place, the Hengchun Township, they met a 94-year-old grandmother who is working to save the moonlute, an old Taiwanese instrument that is slowly fading into obscurity. “She runs a school where kids can learn how to play the moonlute,” says Savi. “We visited this school and took a shot at learning it. The grandma sang traditional songs for us about everyday situations – guys teasing girls, the mother-of-the-bride advising her daughter – and the crew translated them for us.”
6. Relishing the ritual of Hanami (Tokyo, Japan )
As the bullet train makes its way deeper and deeper into the Japanese countryside, you see entire villages strewn with powder-pink petals. And be warned that hordes of tourists in Tokyo make it impossible to truly relish the ritual of hanami (read savouring the transient beauty of the flowers by meeting up with friends and family under the shadow of cherry blossom trees). But here, by the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko, the blooms, framed by the iconic Mt Fuji, are simply resplendent.
“Before this, we had only seen Japan’s cherry blossom season on TV or in pictures,” says Vid, of the time they took a three-week trip in Japan “ I always thought it was overhyped, but it was on that day that I realised it wasn’t, it was worth every ounce of the effort,” adds Savi.
7. Savouring the solitude of Iceland in winter (countryside, Iceland)
While driving in Iceland in December, Savi and Vid decided to explore the countryside and discovered a quaint picnic spot on a rare sunny day. “We disobeyed the GPS and stopped our car in a clearing surrounded by waterfalls and snow-covered mountains” says Savi. “Amidst the snow-clad panorama we happily munched on a languorous lunch, and huddled in our car, watching a movie and waiting for the Northern Lights to show up.”
Before they knew it, the sky was coloured green with dancing lights, flitting from one end of the sky to the other.
8. Dashing through the snow...(Lapland, Finland )
Lapland, the land of Santa Claus, is a vast expanse of luminous white, scrawled with snow-covered pine trees, frozen lakes, reindeer farms and ski resorts. During a reindeer sleigh ride through its frosty forests, Savi and Vid met Pentti, a reindeer herder. “I had never seen such kind eyes in a face”, says Savi. “He took us to his farm and tepee. His wife passed away some years ago, so now he lives alone on his farm with 20 reindeer. He speaks to his reindeer like they are his kids.”
Vid adds, “His nearest neighbour is five miles away. So he has no human contact and these are his only friends.” While they made pancakes over a fire inside Pentti’s tepee, he told them tales of the Northern Lights, and of his own travels.
9. Nesting in Bali (Ubud, Bali)
The original plan of the couple was to spend a few days in the islands, a week by the beach and photograph its legendary sunrises and sunsets.
Bali, after all, is home to lush paddy fields, warm people and apart from being a convenient pit stop on the way to Australia. That’s how Savi and Vid landed there the first time. But they never made it to the beach on their first trip – Ubud, nestled in the highlands of Bali, had them smitten. Having spent over six months in Ubud over the past two years, they call it their second home now.
“It’s my version of Utopia, but find it hard to explain why I enjoy life in Ubud so much,” says Savi with the biggest smile on her face. Vid chimes in: “It’s the fluidity – our life in Ubud is a mish-mash of working online, relaxing massages, sumptuous organic meals, wellness programmes and bike-rides along dusty alleys. It truly gives our minds a chance to unravel”.
10. Flying over the Nazca Lines (Nazca, Peru)
It was a good thing he skipped breakfast that morning, Vid thought as the tiny plane took another plunge sideways so that its four passengers could get a better view of the figures etched on the ground below.
“The oxygen supply wasn’t very good,” recalls Vid. “When we flew over the Nazca lines, the pilot made such drastic turns that my stomach started churning.”
The shallow white lines cutting through the reddish landscape of the Nazca desert turned out to be beautifully crafted figures of colossal proportions. The lines formed hundreds of geometric designs and creatures like a monkey, a hummingbird, a spider.
These geoglyphs were built by the ancient Nazca people between 500 BC and 500 AD. “None of the natural disasters have managed to erase the lines,” says Savi. “There is a lot of mystery surrounding the Nazca lines.”
11.Picnicking in the Baltic Woodlands (Tallin, Estonia)
While driving to Estonia’s capital Tallin, during their road trip through the three Baltic states, Savi and Vid decided to explore the countryside and discovered a quaint picnic spot. “We randomly stopped our car in a clearing surrounded by tall pine trees,” says Savi. “We went picking wild berries, flowers and mushrooms.” The lack of crowds or tourists complimented the beauty of Estonia’s forests for the couple.
From HT Brunch, April 22, 2018
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First Published: Apr 21, 2018 23:17 IST