With just one goal – enjoy life and see where it takes them, Bangladeshi-American couple – Sarmin and Rezaul Bahar embarked on a lifelong journey to embrace new cultures in 2008.
Ever since, the duo has travelled to 81 countries while managing full-time jobs and plans to keep exploring through the realms of Earth as long as they are alive.
They have been living together in the USA for the past 15 years. Bahar is a federal employee; he serves the US Military and Coast Guard Academy as a mechanical engineer while Sarmin works as a business consultant for Cigna, a global health service company.
Their wanderlust sparked in 2008 when they first travelled outside the USA to the Bahamas. They then acquired a Schengen visa and began touring through Europe.
In 2013, they became naturalised US citizens and began expanding their reach globally.
Bringing their adventures to pen and paper, The Business Standard took the opportunity to meet and talk to Bahar during his short trip to Bangladesh.
"Whenever I get the time, I keep looking for new places to go to. We prefer travelling to particular destinations based on aesthetics and not because of the number of tourists it attracts. On the verge of doing so, we ended up covering 81 countries in the past decade," said Bahar.
For these two, travelling is not about how many countries they have been or can travel to but the sheer joy of visiting culturally enriched countries in faraway lands.
Despite following a full-time work schedule, this couple manages to visit eight to 10 countries every year.
When asked how, Bahar said, "It is a very simple equation which depends on various factors. We utilise approximately 20 annual leaves along with government holidays. If there is a government holiday on Monday, we take four days' leave from work and that gives us nine days in total to travel including two weekends. We can easily travel to two countries in nine days and if we get five long weekends every year, we can cover 10 countries."
We then asked him the most clichéd question - which is your most favourite country?
Bahar said, "It is a very common question but very difficult to answer. It is not easy to pick a single place to be the best as a few uniquely deserve to be on the top. However, we do have a list of countries that we loved most. Among them are Egypt, Mongolia, Iceland, South Africa, Chile, Jordan and Morocco. These are on the top of our list for different reasons."
According to Bahar, Egypt felt like a real journey back in time. Mongolia's vastness was the most 'incredible nothing' one can experience.
Iceland's loneliness is its beauty, the landscape keeps changing every 10-15 minutes while driving around.
South Africa's wilderness changed their view towards the wild; animals and life in the wild are in many ways more civilised than us humans on this planet.
Chilean Patagonia is a heaven that wipes out travellers' footprints; it prepares landscapes for others to see the heaven as it was never seen before.
The Martian land can only be found in Jordanian desert Wadi Rum. Starry nights in Moroccan Sahara still keep them awake.
Bahar prefers making the itinerary on his own. The couple prefers exploring places touched by fewer tourists, often avoiding crowded popular tourist attractions.
They believe it is not necessary to follow others, rather, they go to new places. When travelling, they want to be free from a set schedule and move at their own pace.
Over time they have learned to accept whatever is being offered and enjoy their journey. "The food could be bad, the hotel might be rusty but that too is an experience to cherish," expressed Bahar.
The duo has come across many people, fellow travellers, and tour guides on their adventures and experienced diverse cultures.
"Culture is one of the most unique things when it comes to travelling. You cannot tag 'standards' to any culture. People, more or less, are the same all over the world. Our race, nationality, language or theology may be different, but we are uniquely the same with our very fundamentals," said Bahar.
The couple believes in equality - each human or culture is unique and welcoming in its own way and they respect all sorts of norms and beliefs.
With the world having so much to offer, we sometimes dream big but are often bound by our wants and needs.
In this duo's case, their desire to see the world led them to leave behind the possibility of having a luxurious materialistic life.
"One cannot have it all. We cannot ask for a dream car, luxury house or fulfil other materialistic desires without a wealthy background. So, in order to indulge in travelling, the biggest challenge for us was to set our priorities in life. We prefer travelling, seeing new places and enjoying life with experience rather than buying stuff to fulfil our materialistic desires," said Bahar.
"It does not matter where you are from or which country you reside in. It is merely the lifestyle you chose to adapt to," he added.
One of the biggest compromises Sarmin and Bahar had to make was to sacrifice their career growth for the sake of travelling.
Bahar used to work for a private firm in the USA and there was a time when he had the opportunity to excel in his career. However, he decided to cut back and started working for the US federal government as the job allowed him more time to enjoy his life.
"Sarmin chose travelling over professional growth as well. She is not trying to elevate herself to the next level, rather is planning for her next journey to another location," said Rezaul.
Though this couple gave up on the luxuries the world has to offer, travelling does not come cheap.
When asked how they manage their finances, Bahar said, "Managing money is more difficult than making money. Since we both work full-time, we combine our earnings and it is enough for us to accommodate such finances. Plus, not focusing on materialistic things helps. Whatever we are making, we are spending a huge portion of it on travelling."
"We live in a tiny world; our lives are limited and so are our resources. Since this is the only planet we can move around, we use our resources to explore the world to our best. We will die, death is inevitable to all lives, so why not live life to the fullest?" concluded Bahar.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarmin and Bahar have halted their travel plans for the time being. However, the duo will soon set off on a 15-day trip to Antarctica in the coming winter season. To know more, visit - https://www.facebook.com/BaharConnecticut