If you’re making you summer holiday plans or have hit the road already, here’s super inspiration from a Bengaluru family that is setting out on a 99-day journey by road from Bengaluru to France, travelling through a total of 12 countries. In short, they are living the dream!
Team L.I.F.E. (Little Indian Family of Explorers) consists of this family of five based in Whitefield — their two-year-old Fiat Linea T- Jet car is lovingly included. Anand Baid, 38, an animator/educator at Native Puppets with Punita Baid, 36, his wife and their kids Yash, 12, and Dhriti, aged eight, spoke to MetroPlus about how this whacky tour came about. The first question they inevitably get asked — can you really reach France by road? Like, going completely on land?
They’ll be driving over 15,000 kilometres — no mean task — and taking a picturesque route through Nepal, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland (The Alps), Spain and finally France!
Anand says it all started as a joke, when they were retuning from a 5,000 kilometre journey they had earlier undertaken through Maharasthtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. “I just told the kids as we were nearing Hampi that this is all part of a plan to go on a world tour in 2020. The thought was exciting. What if we put ourselves and the kids through such a learning experience?” says Anand. “When he proposed the idea, I didn’t take it seriously. But I decided to say yes, though it didn’t sound like something do-able in the beginning,” laughs Punita.
He started reading up travelogues, contacting people who had journeyed similarly over vast stretches of land across countries. “What we are doing is nothing compared to what others do. Many Indians have made such journeys, but we’re probably one of the first families to do so. My mission is to show people that people our age can do it, and do it on a budget.” Anand quit his seven-year-old job as animator at Dreamworks Animation. Over a period of eight months, and an exchange of over 2,500 emails across travel sites and tour agencies, Anand figured things out.
Once she realised the idea was shaping up seriously, her concerns grew — first that they were taking the kids, and second that they were vegetarian! “One night I woke up and just worried aloud that what do we do about getting milk for the kids to drink!” laughs Punita. They then sorted out their food concerns and now that is one of the major part of their luggage; clothes, they decided can be bought along the way. She will be driving through 30 per cent of the route, says Anand.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India came on board as one of the main partners on their journey. Generous family and friends pitched in sponsoring various aspects of the journey. “As we go along the route, we will look up online two weeks before we land in a place to book our stay. We’re taking a camping tent along. We’ll hang around longer in places we want to, and move on to what fascinates us. We’ll do it all on the fly,” says Anand. A live crater in Turkmenistan is what they are all looking forward to seeing. As well as the journey from Greece to Italy where they and their car will be shipped across sea.
Dhriti is the linguist who’s learning from the Internet crucial phrases in the languages of the countries they will be travelling through — she’s learning to ask ‘Excuse me, do you know English? Can you help us please?’ “I want to play and see nature,” she declares her intention on the journey. She definitely won’t be leaving behind her swimming costume, she says and the board games they will need to play along the way. Yash, the football aficionado, is dreamily looking at Spain. “Neymar Jr. is there and if we reach Barcelona in time, I hope that we might get to watch him play a match,” he says extremely excited. Yash is also the gadget-and-map guy for the tour. He’s the official tent pitcher! He will surely take his all-essential football along, because they can also play in the car on their long journeys, he insists. The children who study in Deens Academy have been given special permission to take of from school by their very supportive principal, adds Anand.
What really are their expectations from this journey? “I’m a believer of transcending and not arriving at a destination. We want to see different landscapes, meet local people. We hope they’ll hear our story and invite us to stay with them. Language is a barrier, which makes it more exciting. And all this is happening live in front of the kids — that’s the adventure,” says Anand. Adds Punita: “From the beginning I was clear that this is not a trip to tick things off on a checklist; we didn’t want to have an agenda. We are going to see what we like and enjoy it.” At the end of the journey, Anand hopes they will have a full-fledged film based on this trip, which they hope a TV channel will pick up else, there’s always YouTube!