Published: 16th October 2019
After running a budget coffee shop in Kerala for 25 years, this couple has travelled to 24 countries
This couple uses the profits from their humble coffee shop in Kerala to travel the world. We check out how this 'senior-citizen' couple charted out their #TravelGoals
As a child, Mohana had always dreamt of walking the length of the earth and to see whatever miracle the world outside her hometown contained. One of five siblings in a household that was constantly reeling under severe financial constraints, it seemed like she’d never even leave Kochi. She remembers her grandmothers words: “When you’re married, you’ll travel the world with your husband and you’ll think of me when you do!”
Today, at the age of 68, she thinks of her grandmother as she packs her bags for her 24th international trip with her husband. This time, they are all set to visit Australia and New Zealand with the help of a sponsor. Although they were strangers before their marriage, Mohana and her husband KR Vijayan (69), immediately connected through their desire to travel. Almost 25 years ago, the couple got the responsibility of running Mohana’s brother’s shop which was overrun with debt purely by accident.
With some TLC and hard work, in 3-4 years, Sree Balaji Coffee House became a local favourite. They sorted out all the money that was owed and cleared a small debt of their own. With the profits of the shop, they even got their daughter married.
WANDER BAR: The couple on their visit to Brazil
A lot of people visit Sree Balaji Coffee House these days and it’s not just for the fame that has caught up with them but also for the goodwill they spread — and their killer prices. They say, “We get a lot of bachelors. Our food is very cheap, you get tea and a pazhampori for just 5 or 10 rupees. We know that these children need to eat so we try and keep our costs cheap as much as possible because we want these students to be able to eat some good food on a budget. So a lot of people support and love us deeply.”
As the coffee shop continued to prosper, Mohana and Vijayan realised that they had made enough to realise the dreams that they had shared since the day they met. In 2007, they travelled to Israel on their first journey outside of the country. Vijayan says, “I have always loved to travel. My father used to take me with him when I was just 12 years old. And when I grew up, I used to travel alone to places around here like Munnar, Thekkady or Kanniyakumari.
And that's when they really took off on their version of #TravelGoals.
From the top of the Empire State Building to a frenzied trip on the Eurostar, they are ticking off the whole world from their list and they have a lot more plans up their sleeves. “The places I loved the most so far are Switzerland and Paris,” says Mohana. The couple manage to pay the money through local groups that supply money for interest or through sponsored trips from well-wishers.
SEARCH TOGETHER: They always insist on travelling together
Does travel really expand the mind? Vijayan dismisses it saying, “I don't travel to learn anything new or to claim that I have experienced something great. I do it because I need to see this with my own eyes. I’m not interested in another person's account of how beautiful other parts of the world are. I want to see it for myself and make that decision on my own. And what’s sweeter than being able to see it myself is when I get to see it with the woman I love.”
Mohana joins in with a chuckle, “I’d rather watch it on TV than hear some random person telling me about a country they visited!” The couple swear that the only thing they seek to gain from a new country is a sense of satisfaction. Mohana says, “A lot of these countries are so much cleaner and everything is glaringly new. We’ve seen new languages, people, the way they dress and everything else is different. We saw the largest churches in Europe, they were unlike anything I have seen in my life.”
As they travel in search of new lands to fix their feet on, people have begun to embark on journeys to discover the couple who sells coffee to realise their dreams!