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27 April 2017 | Last updated 05:51 PM
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Ambika Shaligram, Pune couple, Col (retd) Devesh Upadhyay, wife, Usha, European Trip, road trip, Plus1
Come May and Pune couple, Col (retd) Devesh Upadhyay and his wife, Usha, will set off on a road trip through European Union countries. Here’s more about their plan.
Pune to Dubai, and from there they will ship their car to Bandar Abbas port in Iran. And, from Iran, they will begin their road trip to 40 countries. This is how the Upadhyays have mapped their travel itinerary for a six-month road trip.
“In mid-May, we will set off on a road trip across Europe. We will start from Iran, our next stop will be Turkey, followed by Greece. In case this option doesn’t work out, we will go to Turkmenistan from Iran and then visit other Central Asian countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Krygystan, Kazakhstan and Russia. From Russia, we will set off for Latvia and then travel to Finland,” says Col (retd) Devesh Upadhyay.
Devesh and his wife, Usha, recently bitten by the travel bug, are quite gung-ho about their road trip. Talking about their newfound interest, Devesh says, “About two years ago, a couple from Bengaluru went to Paris. And, then last year, another friend from Mumbai did about 55,000 km abroad. That interested us. Earlier, we drove around the countryside in Canada and France, but those were standalone trips.”
After driving manual cars in France, the couple preferred to take their own vehicle for this journey. Says Usha, “Driving your own car has its own kick. You are comfortable with the car, you don’t have to switch luggage from time to time. Plus, we are used to driving automatic cars in India.”
During their trips, the couple take turns at the wheel. The one in the passenger seat continues to run the duo’s business. “We have a recruitment company called iQuest and have offices in Pune and Dubai. The one in the passenger seat checks mails, responds to queries and ensures that the operations are smooth,” adds Devesh, who retired from the Indian Army 14 years ago.
Ask him if he anticipates any hurdles during the journey because of his military background and Devesh quips, “So far, wherever we have travelled, we haven’t had any problems. I am extremely proud of being associated with the Indian Army, so if asked upfront about my army credentials, I will disclose my rank.”
Travelling through Central Asian countries and the European Union, the Upadhyays expect that they will have to adhere to cultural mores. “We met a Pakistani solo traveller, who was making a trip from Dubai to Iran and back. He told Usha, ‘Madam, when you enter the Bandar Abbas port, please ensure that your head is covered. Your head, hands and feet shouldn’t be bare’. Tips like these are very handy, because when you are in another country, you don’t realise that you have to be seen in a certain way,” explains Devesh.
The couple, who are quite flexible about their travelling plans, book their accommodation when they approach a city. Usha, who usually does the booking, says, “We plan in such a way that by sundown we are at our destination or at least near it. Depending on how long we plan to stay in the city or town, we book our accommodation.”
“If it’s just a night stay, we prefer a budget accommodation. But if we are tired and want to spend a few days in the city, then we prefer something better,” adds Devesh.
Through all their travels abroad so far, the couple have realised that India and IT have become synonymous. So we are no longer a snake-charmer’s nation, we ask Devesh. “In France, the two biggest cities, Paris and Lyon, are flooded with Indians — all IT professionals. IT has really caught on in India and that’s the image we have now,” he replies.
A part of Airbnb service, along with Home Exchange and Home for Exchange programme, the Upadhyays have in the past shared the roof of their hosts or stayed in their homes in their absence. “In France, we stayed in eight such homes. We had a lovely time interacting with the families. We have also put up our home in Hadapsar on the website. A German lady stayed with us recently and she gushed, ‘Indians are so full of life! And you wear such lovely colours!’ By and large, India and Indians have made a good impression abroad,” explains Devesh.
When they bump into fellow countrymen abroad, there is joy all around. Says Usha, “In smaller towns and the countryside, you don’t find too many Indians. We met one couple — an Indian girl and her French boyfriend in a French village. Both the boy and girl teach French in Delhi. It was wonderful conversing with them in our mother tongue and English.”
So far, the Upadhyays haven’t gone beyond recording their travel diaries by posting pictures on Facebook. But this time, they might do it the professional way.
“Our daughter has gifted us GoPro, so we plan to do a video blog. This trip will be different,” promise the duo.
The reason behind undertaking this trip is to understand the homogeneity of the countries in the European Union, revelling in their natural landscape, of mountains and lakes — which others too can experience, once their video blog goes live.
The author can be followed on Twitter @riceandpickle
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