The wanderers ~ Rohan & Sharayu

Rohan and Sharayu travelled 40,000 kilometers, 200 towns and three countries, including Nepal and Myanmar besides India during this one year. (Earlier story: He quit his IT job to travel)

The journey together

Actually, even before starting the journey, the struggle had begun for Rohan and Sharayu. The struggle to convince their parents. Rohan’s sister, Sharvari, had a pivotal role in convincing his parents. She is an independent woman working as an architect in Gurgaon and has been living on her own since her college days. She knew the importance of individuality and chasing one’s dream and hence she helped Rohan to convince his parents for this trip. Once that was done, all four of them – Rohan, his sister Sharvari and his parents Mr. and Mrs. Sadadekar took up the tough task of convincing Mr. and Mrs. Ghodekar, Sharayu’s parents. After a lengthy session of coaxing, they finally agreed.

Rohan and Sharayu started their journey Hampi, then headed to south India, then visited Ladakh via Gujrat and Rajasthan. From there they went to Orissa, Bengal, then to North-Eastern states, Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and completed their journey in Goa on 4th Nov 2018. They also spent some time in Nepal and Myanmar during this travel. They mostly travelled by train and bus, but used their own car while travelling in the North-East where public transport wasn’t reliable. Despite their otherwise flexible plan, they had ensured that they visited Jaisalmer in the last week of Januray 2018 to attend its amazing Maru Mahotstav (Desert festival). They also managed to complete challenging Chadar trek over frozen Zanskar river in early 2018.

Rohan and Sharayu had absolutely no qualms about staying on railway platforms when they couldn’t manage any accommodation. They just used their sleeping bags and made themselves comfortable among many passengers who sleep on the platforms. In fact, Rohan insists that they are amongst the safest places to stay since the constant hustle and bustle ensures that you’re not isolated, and often you get free patrolling as well. They spent several nights enjoying hospitality of  Indian railways during their entire journey.

Railway platform - as comfortable as it gets...
Railway platform – as comfortable as it gets.

Rohan’s friend Vijay had suggested him to visit his village Eedu in Karnataka, so they went to his village at the start of their journey and were completely bowled over by the simplicity and warmth of that place and his family. His family insisted that they stay there for one more day, so they stayed. On that day, Rohan and Sharayu cooked for the family and even visited the small school in that village where they spoke about clean India mission and teachers translated that for the kids.

During their travel Rohan and Sharayu always tried to help the families that they stayed with in some way or the other. This usually meant helping them with their daily chores, some cooking or buying groceries for them. They wanted to ensure that they are not simply staying there as distant guests, but became part of those families. This way of living also gave them real slice of life of those 200 odd places that they visited (villages, small towns and few cities), something that a mere tourist can never get.

Another interesting experience is from Nagaland. Their host requested Sharayu to cook something that is specific to their native culture in Maharashtra. Luckily, the host had wheat flour available (staple food there is rice otherwise) so she decided to make chapatis, but then they didn’t have rolling-pin in their house. Finally, she managed to roll those chapatis a stone pestle that she found there.

Few other heartwarming experiences are about their bonding with fellow travellers from other nations. They made lots of friends with people from all over the world, with their passion for travel binding them together. Some of those friends are shown in the collage below –

One earth, all friends...
One earth, and we’re all friends!

Of course, not all experiences were nice. There were few bad experiences as well. One such experience was in Kamakhyaguri, Assam. Rohan and Sharayu didn’t find a place to stay by late evening, so they found a temple and decided to stay there. They spoke to the priest and told him about their travel and he happily allowed them to stay at the temple. However, Rohan heard some noise outside their tent by 11.30 in the night. When he came out, he saw a group of 7-8 people standing there and asking them to vacate the temple immediately. Rohan tried to convince them that it would be difficult for a couple to find another place at that time, he even appealed to them that they were guests in their state and they should actually help them instead. Obviously, that aggressive group was not in a mood to listen, and the poor priest was helpless in their presence. Rohan told Sharayu that they need to move out immediately. without any hesitation or question, she immediately said, “let’s go”. They packed their tent, drove off their car (they used their car in the north-east) to find shelter in the place they found safest – the railway platform.

By the way, most of the lodges and hotels did not allow them to stay since they were not a married couple and had different surnames on their ID documents. Some hotels expressed their helplessness since they & their clients were harassed by the cops in similar cases.

Despite few such bad incidents, Rohan and Sharayu both wholeheartedly agree that most people are nice and trustworthy. They felt safe even in the smaller towns of UP and Bihar, staying on the railway platforms whenever required. In fact, this journey has reaffirmed their faith in humanity – they are far more trusting, and open-minded now.

There are tons of stories from this one year adventure and I really hope Rohan writes a book about this journey himself. I will focus more on his own transition now – in personal life as well as in career.

The journey within

When Rohan decided to quit his job and travel India for one year, he had no plans of what he would do after returning home. He kept sharing his photos & stories with his friends and family back home while they were travelling. His Instagram account started getting more and more likes with his photo stories. When he returned home, he shared his photos with his photography mentor Devdatta Kashalikar who offered to share expenses for his photography exhibition. He also got quite some media coverage on his return.

Rohan in his India 365 exhibition
Rohan in his India 365 exhibition

Rohan realized after his travel that he cannot go back to a full-time, conventional job ever again. He didn’t like his IT job earlier and now it didn’t make sense to him to have one job for the kitchen and one for the soul. He has decided to take up photography as his primary profession now. In fact, as I can see, whether it is his short film making or photography – the strong undercurrent that runs through his work is visual expression, though he is also interested in writing as a form of expression.

Another realization that Rohan and Sharayu both share is about their confidence in their own abilities, more than anything else their ability to sail through any adversity that may come their way. Their one-year travel and dealing with several obstacles have made them much stronger, adaptable and open minded. Besides, as Rohan confirms – earlier he gave up on lot of things that he started, but completing this one-year journey has instilled a new confidence in him that he can finish a large project successfully. He says if I could deal with so many hurdles in unknown territories during my one-year journey, there is not much that I won’t be able to tackle now.

As for Sharayu, who didn’t have much of an adventure outside her ambit of limited exposure, this journey has been an eye-opener in many ways.  She says she is far more outgoing and confident now,  and takes things as they are. By the way, she was a vegetarian before the journey, now she eats non-veg comfortably as well.

Rohan is an ENFP, he took that assessment on my request and that was insightful.  ENFPs are fiercely independent – more than stability and security, they yearn for creativity and freedom. Rohan fits this description to a T. His perceiving nature has been instrumental in keeping options open and in this adventurous journey with several uncertainties. That also explains how he took plunge to travel for a year, without a concrete plan on his return. ENFPs often take lot of time exploring various ideas to figure out what they really love doing, but once they find i they are quite exceptional in their work. There are many ENFP traits that Rohan exemplifies, but I’ll skip it here as that discussion would make this article much longer.

It is fascinating to see how the dots are connecting – whether it is Rohan’s realization about his despise for the tyranny of 9-to-5 routine, or his insatiable quest to travel the world, or visual expression surfacing as his preferred choice of work. I strongly feel if only we allow ourselves enough time for self-exploration and reflection, we would invariably gravitate towards what we really love doing; realizing our true nature, and being who we are.

The Road Ahead

Rohan takes up professional photography assignments now. His insights about how he wants to approach this work are quite impressive. When I asked him why he doesn’t want to open a photography studio, he told me that he doesn’t want to end up spending his time clicking passport and ID card photos in a studio. Moreover, his desire to travel more has only been fueled by the one-year journey, so he doesn’t want to be tied down to one place. Similarly, he is clear that wildlife photography is not his cup of tea. His preferred mode of work would be to take up assignments, preferably significant ones to shoot pre-wedding, wedding, portfolio or similar stories. He also insists that he wants to offer photography more as a product and not as a service –  by saying that he asserts depth of his knowledge, expertise and he knows what they are worth. I’d like to believe that his corporate stint has given him that professional insight. His ability to genuinely connect with people easily is a blessing that would help him in many ways.

Rohan calls himself ‘Rohan, the storyteller’. If you browse through Rohan’s Instagram feed or facebook page,  you’ll realize how effortlessly and effectively he captures people, their lives and their stories through his photographs. I won’t be surprised if he comes up with a wonderful feature film in future. For now however, he believes the best work for him would be photography that he can do independently instead of film-making which is more of a team-work and far more unpredictable. That’s the kind of clarity and conviction he has built now after all his self-exploration and associated self-knowledge.

Among other things, Rohan is planning his travel to Hampi for Holi in Mach 2019, Assam for Bihu in April 2019 and probably Himalayas around June 2019. He has also made lot of European friends during the travel last year and he is eyeing longer Europe trip sometime in the near future.

As for Sharayu, unlike Rohan, she enjoyed her work as a programmer earlier – so she is planning to take up a job in her field now, though she wants to accompany him through some of his travels as well.

Rohan & Sharayu - together, forever!
Rohan & Sharayu – together, forever!

The middle-class, mid-lifer in me hesitantly asked Rohan about the money that he’d make through his photography assignments as compared to his well-paying corporate job, he resoundingly assured me that joy of his work matters much more than the money that he’d be making. He says for their lifestyle in a city like Pune at this stage, they can manage even if they earn ₹ 40,000 a month and they are confident that they could earn much more than that now. He also emphasized how important it was for him to get wholehearted support from Sharayu in this decision. Rohan immensely values her implicit, complete trust in him; whether it means packing up their tent without questioning at midnight or standing by his decision to enjoy bliss of their chosen work instead of fat corporate pay-checks. After knowing the journey they had undertaken, it doesn’t sound like a naive decision either.

Oh yes, Rohan and Sharayu tied the knot last month, on 26th Feb 2019. I am wishing them another great journey together, albeit a much longer one – one that lasts for a lifetime! 🙂

Rohan and Sharayu have shared this video for My Zen Path readers, and it would be great if you could leave your comment here for them.


The featured image:

The featured image shows Rohan Sadadekar & Sharayu Ghodekar together. All the photographs in this article have been provided by Rohan himself except one from his India 365 exhibition that I have captured.