True travellers know that age is no stopping factor for going on adventures. For elderly couple Yogeshwar and Sushma Bhalla — or fondly Yogi and Sushi — this is more than just a saying; it’s a way of life. Post retirement, the adventure-loving duo has been exploring India on a motorcycle, paragliding amid mountains, and making many memories along the way. Travel+Leisure India & South Asia catches up with them for a heartwarming chat on their travels, stories, and more.
Excerpts from the interview with Yogeshwar and Sushma Bhalla
T+L India: Usually, people like to relax in the comfort of their homes after retiring. What inspired you to continue travelling?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: Since childhood, I got inspired by my parents. They were travel enthusiasts, too. My father was an educationist. Whenever he used to find time, he took the entire family to nearby places. This was passed down to our children as well. Since my childhood days, I prefer covering short distances via bicycle. I was fascinated by watching my elders riding motorcycles. I started to ride when I was 17 years old and was extremely fond of Royal Enfield. When I got my first salary at the age of 21, I got my first motorcycle. Since then, there was no looking back! I started doing short trips on weekends.
When I got married in 1976, I went to Srinagar with my jaaneman gulegulzar (‘beloved sweetheart’) [his wife, Sushma]. We started travelling together ever since. I have never travelled alone after that. We have visited 24 countries—mostly by road. For longer trips, we’ve gone by air. When we reach the destination, we either hire a car or a motorcycle to cover unexplored places by road.
We were travelling while we were in service, too. Then, we would travel for short durations — for three-four days or even a week. But after retirement, we got ample free time without as many liabilities or responsibilities. Moreover, our children got married and we were left alone. In fact, our children motivated us to go out! They said, “Don’t stay at home! Go out more, otherwise, you’ll miss us.” So, we got the energy and inspiration to travel from our children. Sushma and I retired in 2011 and started travelling.
We have seen so many places, and we have so many lovely memories attached to them! I feel glad that we have enjoyed every moment of our life.
Sushma Bhalla: We enjoyed these trips a lot! Every place was different and unique in its own way and each trip was memorable to its core.
T+L India: You have undertaken many adventures, including paragliding. Tell us more about that experience.
Yogeshwar Bhalla: When we had gone to Nepal and Bhutan by road. I found out that there’s a paragliding facility in Pokhara. Upon approaching them, they said no initially and said that people above the age of 60 are not permitted. But I assured them that I am fine and agreed to give them an undertaking that I would be flying at my own risk. And that’s how I got my first paragliding experience—and I was thrilled! I really enjoyed the wonderful moments when I was up in the air.
Sushma Bhalla: Initially, even I was a little scared. But then I got inspired by seeing him and just went for it.
T+L India: Being an elderly couple that travels, what are some of the challenges you face when on the go? How do you manage it?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: Health issues and age issues are just our mindset. We never feel any of it. Instead, we always get appreciated by others. We feel age is just a number. If you’re focussed and have a strong determination to reach any destination, then it can be achieved.
Sushma Bhalla: Having said that, problems do come up every now and then. When we visited Rann of Kutch, it become extremely dark and the GPS was taking us amid the jungles. We were being very cautious and aware of our surroundings. So, in case of adversities, we must know how to handle it and tackle it. We search everything online before we go somewhere.
T+L India: You’re sure to have been on many adventures together. Can you share one?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: We couldn’t find the resort that we booked in Kutch. We didn’t have any connectivity, we lost our way and entered the interior parts of the jungle. We noticed that our watches were delayed by half an hour. That’s when we realised we were somewhere near the Pakistan border. An old man on the way told us we had come we had crossed 22 kilometres ahead of our resort. Two young gentlemen, who magically appeared that night on a motorcycle, told us that it was already late and the resort would not be open any more. Instead, they suggested we go to another place within 12 kilometres. And that’s how we spent a comfortable stay at an unknown cottage!
T+L India: How do you ensure safety and comfort when travelling long distances on a bike?
Sushma Bhalla: While travelling long distances, we keep our health in mind and eat food accordingly, so that we don’t fall sick by catching a cold or upsetting our stomach—especially at our age. On the bike, we have saddlebags on both sides—one, for his clothes; and other, for mine. We carry medicines, food and water in a bag perched on the front. We take all necessary precautions by wearing arm guards and leg guards.
Yogeshwar Bhalla: Prior to our trip, we do our homework and check the destination’s weather so we can pack our clothes accordingly. We also outline the stay options with required facilities beforehand. We also keep a check on the petrol and safety gadgets.
Secondly, people our age face health issues like blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid. So before you go for your trip, you should make sure that you are carrying all the necessary medicines before you leave. You must have nutrient-rich food — like local food sourced from local ingredients, instead of searching for your regional comfort food.
T+L India: Which has been the most elderly-friendly destination you’ve visited?
Sushma Bhalla: Switzerland, Paris and Venice. I did a Gondola ride in Venice and it was so thrilling. We travelled to all these destinations by road.
Yogeshwar Bhalla: Gujarat is a very comfortable place for elderly people. Kashmir was also no less than Switzerland. We spent 17 days in Kerala—that was very beautiful and peaceful. Mount Abu and Ranikhet are also convenient travel destinations for elderly people.
T+L India: Your travel must-haves?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: If you are travelling abroad, you must have a valid passport and visa. You should have health insurance— which is very important. Keep clothing and essentials according to the weather of the place you are travelling. If you are travelling by road, you should carry a good amount of food with you.
If you are driving or riding, then you should have a local or international driving license. Your vehicle—whether your own or on rent—should also be insured.
T+L India: Your top three destinations?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: Internationally, Interlaken, Paris, and Pisa. In India, hill stations like Manali, Shimla and Kashmir.
T+L India: What’s next on your travel bucket list?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: We have a lot! We have just seen 24 countries; there are 195 countries in the world! We want to go to Japan and relive the songs from Pramod Chakravorty’s Hindi-language movie, Love in Tokyo. We want to go to Bali, the Maldives, Sri Lanka…there are so many!
Right now, we have two biking events in the pipeline. We usually make impromptu plans. In fact, we planned for Leh- Ladakh at 10 pm and left by 3 in the morning! Similarly, we haven’t planned anything as of now, but we will plan something soon.
T+L India: Any tips for fellow senior citizens who wish to travel?
Yogeshwar Bhalla: Get out of your houses more and travel to places that energise and refresh you. Life is too short to live inside four walls. If you stay inside your home, you will become depressed and sick. Explore new places, meet different people, try out different tastes and flavours, and connect with nature.
Your life has just begun after your retirement. You have done your part in building your family, giving your kids their education and helping them build their career. Now it’s your time to enjoy. You should do something for yourself. You won’t get this life again; live each and every moment like it’s your last.
Sushma Bhalla: Travel will make you happy. As you go outside and explore new things, your mind is free from other thoughts.
All photographs courtesy Yogeshwar and Sushma Bhalla/Facebook