Gayathri Setty and Vijay Kalangi will travel across Europe and South East Asia and return with a backpackers guide to the world. SUBHA J RAO reports

Gayathri Setty was in love with the idea of travelling and experiencing new cultures. The doctor from the mining town of Bellary decided she would marry someone with a similar taste. That turned out to be IT professional Vijay Kalangi from Kuppam, another mining town. When the two got married in June 2012, it was a chance for the couple to see the world together.

Their first trip together was their honeymoon, when they visited France and Switzerland. “We packed it with trips to lesser-known destinations, the countryside. Our idea was to go on a leisurely trip, not merely tick a place off our list,” she says. They also started a blog (www.awayfromshor.com) to document their travels.

Even after the honeymoon, the Bangalore-based couple continued to take short trips and treks. They went to Ladakh; the vast expanse inspired them to make a life-changing decision.

They decided to backpack for six months across Europe and South East Asia. Gayathri, 28, quit her job and Vijay, 29, took a sabbatical.

Budget travel

The couple began preparing for this journey about nine months ago. They put aside one person’s salary in the travel kitty and saved about Rs. eight lakh. “This should take care of flight and local travel and accommodation,” says Gayathri. To cut costs further and to experience a place better, the couple plans to extensively couch surf (where they shack up in someone’s house, and in return, gift them something or teach them a skill). “We put up our profile some months ago, and have had an awesome response,” she adds. They will also stay in hostels or B&Bs.

Vijay never dreamt he would take off like this. “All credit goes to Gayathri. I am not that passionate about anything. She has helped me discover a new meaning to travel.” He has already seen some of these places, but “seeing them from the perspective of a backpacker will be very different,” he is very sure.

“The unpredictability of it is all very exciting,” says Gayathri. They have assured their families they will stay in touch. These six months also mean a break to checking mail every half hour.

“I am an internet addict. So this is a kind of detox for me. I’m going to be offline as much as possible,” says Vijay.

Both Vijay and Gayathri are foodies. Vijay is a vegetarian, and recounts how in one of his trips he bit into caviar thinking it was something chocolatey!

“I’m going to be very careful this time around,” he smiles. “It’s going to be tough for him. But, travelling is not just about food, right?” says Gayathri.

The couple left on March 24 wearing a 11-kg backpack and carrying a camera each. Their first stop is Tehran. Follow their travels at http://www.awayfromshor.com/

Route map

The couple’s first stop is Iran, from where they proceed to Turkey and Eastern Europe. They will visit Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia, before moving on to Greece and Jordan. Then they will head to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia. They chose countries that are affordable for budget travellers.

What’s in their backpack?

Four pairs of clothes each, a survival kit, minimal toiletries, winter clothing, spare shoes, and some trinkets (Indian souvenirs, spices, ear rings, bangles, keychains…) for families they are going to couchsurf with.

Documenting the journey

The couple plans to document their travel in some form. While reading up on backpacking and long-term travel, they discovered there was almost no material from the Indian perspective.

The 100 Strangers Project

Gayathri was drawn to this world-wide project after she saw her friend Neelima’s blog. It calls for documenting the lives of strangers, after chatting with them and taking a photograph. She’s done nine so far, and hopes to meet more interesting people along the way.

Her first stranger was Ranjitha, a young mother from a village called Hulidevaramane (meaning the house of the tiger god!) She then went on to meet Franca, a nurse from Italy, and Kabal Ram, a horseman from Beas Nala, near Rohtang pass.

“Talking to strangers is a great way to break inhibitions,” says Gayathri.