For the love off the road
To this British couple, life is all about “carpe diem.” David and Una from Watford in Hertfordshire, UK are wanderers at heart. The couple, who have 3 grown up children and a little grandson, aspires to travel as much as they can till they are able to do so. Una is a doctor by profession and David works with a technology company as a business executive. Four years back they set out to explore the land, about which they had always heard inspiring tales from Una’s doctor colleagues. Rick Stein’s travel show and cookery programme further added to their excitement and led them to quickly finalize the plan and set off to an enchanting land, which till date remains to be one of their most recommended travel destinations- Kerala.
“We loved the colours and smells of Kerala right from the start,” says Una. She recollects, “The kindness and hospitality of the people, starting right from our arrival and the lost luggage, will be fondly remembered. It is a fantastic place to escape from the cold greyness of the UK in winter or early spring. We had heard Kerala is referred to as "India Light", a place where you could experience India with more comfort than other regions.”
Like always, the couple arranged the travel themselves, by planning the trip and booking the hotels directly. Their main resources for reference before setting out on any journeys include Lonely Planet Guides, Trip Advisor and other travel blogs. “My colleagues Vinod and Talib also gave their advice and we even managed to meet up with Vinod in Kerala as our trips overlapped by a few days,” Una says.
Traveling around was easy for them as the hotels organized drivers, whenever they needed them. David chips in, “We loved the food, especially the seafood curries and the delicious breakfast items such as appam and idli. We ate well in every location of the state and even enjoyed doing a short cookery course.
The couple confides they were impressed by the good infrastructure and the excellent English spoken by the people in the state, even the small children they met during their cycling trips alongside the backwaters spoke fluently. They were also overwhelmed seeing more women at workplaces often than in the north and the state’s emphasis on literacy and education. David observes, “One can sense there is great pride in preserving traditions of dance, art, history and wildlife, so also in preparing a new generation to aspire to be future-ready.”
In a bid to capture the fine memories of their travel stories, 6 years back the couple started a travel blog, www.mcternans.com which is today one of the widely read travel blogs. Says David, “We enjoy travelling to a variety of places in the world and we write our travel blog in order to cherish our adventures and for sharing them with our family and friends. We do not write it to make money or advertise. It is purely a sort of photo diary or journal but we are happy if other travelers find it helpful.” The couple got onto blogging soon after they developed a taste to read travel blogs extensively and gathered inspiration to publish their own travel stories and share the photographs with a wider audience.
One of the finest attractions of the blog is the exquisite photography which does most of the talking. While David is the man behind photography and most of the writing, Una does the final touches with editing. David has done few photography courses and enjoys the technical and artistic detail. He has won competitions for his photographs and used to belong to a local Camera Club until work commitments made this impossible.
There are many photographs taken per trip which are never used. Over 1000 for 2 weeks of travel is not unusual. Then there is the process of picking out the most striking and editing them. Plus they are screened as per the narrative of the journey. “We spend several hours, over 2-3 weeks per blog on getting the right photos and editing them. David is usually very good at writing the bones of the blog each night while we are travelling. I then use this to edit as needs be once we arrive home,” explains Una.
Being an avid traveling couple, who has seen the length and breadth of different countries of the world, they have some suggestions to enhance the tourism potentials of the God’s Own Country. “Malayalis should attempt to make more of their natural assets for tourism. This is something my colleague Talib feels strongly about, as he spends his holidays in his homeland in the north of Kerala particularly. It would be great if guides could be trained as they are in countries like South Africa, so that when you go bird watching or wildlife spotting, the guides could speak with more expert knowledge and they can market the available trips more effectively,” adds Una.
It would be great if guides could be trained as they are in countries like South Africa, so that when you go bird watching or wildlife spotting, the guides could speak with more expert knowledge and they can market the available trips more effectively
David has few more insights to share, “Kerala has many hidden charms, but foreign visitors may struggle to know about them if they are staying in hotels or home stays. They will not have access to all those attractions which are locally available. Even the houseboat industry needs to do some reengineering to provide clear information to the tourists. Some operators need to up their game in terms of providing quality accommodation and food. We did not take a houseboat trip as we were unimpressed by the “hard sell" and what others seemed to offer for the same money.”
David and Una’s travel stories continue to inspire many travel enthusiasts across the globe and they plan to visit Sardinia, Jordan, Ecuador and Peru. They dream to sleep under the stars in a “skybed" in Africa and to see the
Northern lights in Scandinavia.
But even then, Kerala continues to be a haunting memory. “We would love to go back and explore Wayanad next time and more of the north of the state. We love Kerala’s beautiful combinations of wildlife, beach and towns that offer great food. It is also fantastic to stay off the well-trodden tourist trail but... we also like to do so while enjoying our home comforts and luxuries,” adds the couple.
We did not take a houseboat trip as we were unimpressed by the “hard sell” and what others seemed to offer for the same money
As a doctor, Una feel strongly about the importance of quality time away from work and the role of travel to broaden the mind, educate young and old about the world and its people. The couple, who considers travel as an antidote for the body and soul, loves to call Kerala, “the perfect travel destination for all”.