We have heard the popular adage, 'to travel is to live'. For most of us who dwell in our querencia, the travel part may happen once every couple of years. To make matters worse, when travel at this time looks like a jaunt to the nearby grocery store or vicariously "travel" by surfing on YouTube or Instagram.
To wet our travel appetites a tad bit more, here is a conversation that we had with the hodophile couple, Sangeetha Ranganath and Prasanna Vee, who 'live to travel'.
Sangeetha & Prasanna have traveled to a whopping 170 countries together while Prasanna, by himself, has gallivanted to every recognized country in the world. Both of them have managed this lofty feat while holding corporate jobs as knowledge workers.
From their first-ever international trip together to their ongoing expeditions, the couple opened up about the realities of traveling - keeping your day job, managing prohibitive travel costs, dealing with dietary restrictions, and a few travel hacks for us to takeaway.
Contrary to the popular stereotype of quitting your job to travel, both Sangeetha and Prasanna are employed full-time. Sangeetha helps legacy companies transform digitally while Prasanna works for technology in a travel company (although travel is not listed in either of their job descriptions). While they both doggedly admit that they are lucky that their careers allow for them to work remotely from their travel destinations, they have had to manage realities such as time differences, work deadlines, and meetings.
Our society has glamorized and made travel opulent, as well as framed it as something to be done after retirement. In other cases, it portrays travel as ‘exotic’, which often has the subtle undertone of saying ‘best wishes for your safe return’.
But most of the travel is just a way for us to experience other cultures and ways of life. Prasanna says, "we wanted to be very careful about portraying travel as glamorous because the majority of people are like us: they get an education, they go to college, and actually hold a job and still travel. It's not all about glamor. Traveling and holding a job can coexist." In other words, we don’t need to wait until we are 60 to make that dream trip to Egypt!
When asked why they continue to work and not simply pursue their passion, they were matter of fact about their choices - they enjoy being in the workforce, and we need to make money to spend money.
"For the last ten years, we've been moving every two years to a different country which has kept work interesting for us."
Home & the Spark for Travel:
At a time when almost everyone is grounded at home and trapped with one another, it was most apt to ask both Sangeetha & Prasanna about the place that they had lived for the longest time. The place? Seattle, Washington. This incredibly rainy, mountainous, evergreen city was home to the couple for eleven years, which, considering their travel frequency seems like an eternity! The pluviophiles fondly recollected that they had been in Seattle due to work and because Seattle kept them ‘zen and feeling grounded (and inside)’.
The impetus to migrate from Seattle was prompted by a job offer in China; once they had savored flavors of living outside the United States, it was nearly impossible to return to living a mundane life in Seattle. This made them reside in 5 countries in the last 10 years and they did not hesitate to switch jobs to switch countries! Though travel has made them global, the couple still calls India their home. Having been born and brought up in South India, they find the most solace and comfort while being there.
Prasanna and Sangeetha also mentioned that the reason they keep traveling, although multifaceted, is because they want to experience firsthand what different countries have to offer. So often with media and digitized objects shaping our worldview, they both articulated that in order to eliminate prior biases and prejudices, it is of utmost importance to seek out to rid your preconceived biases and create your own perception of a country after experiencing it.
Sangeetha and Prasanna met during their undergraduate education in India and got married thereafter. It was during their first international trip that they realized that travel would be an essential ingredient to their harmonious living. Sangeetha recounted, "traveling has definitely helped strengthen our relationship." Both of them allocate certain parts of their travel planning (i.e. visas, stay, flights, etc.) to one another and complement each other with their tasks. For many individuals, the idea of 'change' in even the most trivial form can be rather intimidating. For this couple, the only constant thing is change – change of location, people, culture, and life itself.
When asked about their frequent change, Sangeetha affirmed, "whereas some people resist change, I think that we really thrive on it. It keeps us going." They also appended that their personalities are unconventional in the way that they both get bored quite easily with mundane activities.
"The excitement of finding something new each time we travel to a country keeps us going and traveling more, even if it means traveling to a single country several times; each time we go, we learn something different from the last time."
COVID-19 & Travel:
At this time where we often find people working from home and 'homing' from work, the lines for work-life balance can get especially blurry. Layer that with curfews and world-travel essentially halted, those who have dedicated much of their lives to travel must find some way to cope and keep spirits up. When asked how they manage to do just this, Sangeetha smiled and quipped, "we do our best to just not talk about it. If we can just not talk about it, then we won't think about it!" Sangeetha and Prasanna are currently staying at a hotel in Singapore due to restrictions to travel outside the island. They are minimalists at their finest - they travel everywhere with just two suitcases each and make their way from there.
Near the close of our conversation, we asked Prasanna if there was one 'aha' he'd like to leave the readers with. He reflected for a moment and said, "Make your world bigger." The meaning? Seek out more experiences, even if it means going on a long hike nearby. You have the power to broaden your worldview and shape your perception of the world.