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Different hues and shades of travelling as a couple

  • We choose to stay away from the centre to get an authentic feel of the city, to feel what the residents do
  • Given that life in the cities is on an acceleration mode, both Mathen and Abraham extol the virtues of slow travel

Endless conversations make travel fun for George Abraham (left) and Susan Mathen.
Endless conversations make travel fun for George Abraham (left) and Susan Mathen.

Going on a vacation before getting together as a couple is an ideal whetting stone to see if you can make it," says Susan Mathen, 35, co-founder, Hue & Why, a three year-old colour strategy and design agency. Her husband, George Abraham, 35, co-founder of Hue & Why, and creative director, Wieden Kennedy strongly agrees. When they sailed through their first weekend getaway to Srirangapatna, they knew that the relationship had legs.

The farm stay they were booked to stay for the night was deserted and they had nothing much to do, so hour-long conversations on everything under the sun was the buoy that kept the trip afloat. It was time well spent understanding each other’s personality, and confirmed that they could keep each other company even in the most boring times. The same tenor continued when they went kayaking without life jackets in a sprawling lake the next day, only to realize much later that it was extremely deep and there was not a single human around. Admittedly, some nervous joking and confidence in each other got them out safe. While, the adversities weren’t exactly catastrophic, handling each situation with humour cemented the thought that “this could be for a long time".

Now married for seven years, Abraham and Mathen are more careful about their trips, but it’s the conversations that still make each journey fun. They manage to reserve at least three weeks for two long trips in the year, and a few shorter ones on the weekend.

“We have a fair idea on what we want to focus on for a destination. Cafe hopping and keeping one extra day for just walking around, observing and photographing is a staple on our trips. Since our work is all about colour and design, we end up doing most of our travel from that perspective. Looking at the colour palette of each city and identifying overarching colour themes in each place are equally engaging to both of us. We definitely look out for design themed museums in every destination," says Abraham.

The Bologna part of a three-week trip to Italy in October 2018 was an ideal example of delving into the colour palette of a destination. “We purposely stretched the time at Bologna to five days, despite friends advising us that the city needed only a couple of days. Bologna is all about warm colours like red, orange, yellow and browns. Not only do the buildings emulate this palette, but the food too. We walked all around to see these earth and terracotta colours being repeated across archways, university areas, restaurants, crowded plazas, high street and old cobbled alleyways. The town is defined as La Dotta, La Grassa and La Rossa—the erudite one, because of the presence of the old Bologna University; the fat one, referring to the amazing Bolognese food scene that would make one fat; the red one, the typical terracotta colour of the city roofs and buildings," remembers Mathen.

Given that life in the cities is on an acceleration mode, both Mathen and Abraham extol the virtues of slow travel. Zipping through cities and checking off sights is never on the cards. Canggu in Bali resonates the spirit of slow travel perfectly. “We visited Canggu for five days in January 2017, and serendipitously found a boutique hotel called The Slow." The entire experience was curated, including music, art, food and the décor. In fact, the music was the most interesting element. Reverberation Radio is the music collaboration of Los Angeles band Allah-Las and friends, and plays inside the rooms and outside. Each corner had curated art pieces, carefully selected posters and books.The furniture was made from locally sourced materials, and even the skin care products were hand made. The stay here helped us create the ‘Slow Palette’ for Hue & Why, our colour strategy and design agency," says Abraham.

It’s Mathen who keeps an eye on tickets, visa dates, list of museums and Abraham has the knack of digging out charming places to stay, neighbourhoods to visit and cafes and restaurants to sample. “His most successful foraging through the internet has resulted in staying at boutique hotel in Barcelona with a charming fireplace, wooden flooring and awesome breakfast buffet. Then there was an excellent pick in Lisbon called The Hygge with home-made cakes and hot coffee always available. In Hoi An, Vietnam, our stay added lemongrass foot spa every evening—what a relief after walking all day. Sri Lanka’s High Tea at Lunuganga Estate was incredible," adds Mathen.

The speed breaker on a smooth trip appears mainly in the form of body clocks. “Susan is a night owl compared to my love for early mornings. While she likes to sleep in on a holiday, I’m wide-awake and ready to explore early," laughs Abraham. “Sometimes our trips feel like a boot camp. George wants to fill up the days with hiking, walking, climbing, swimming and cycling, whereas I want to indulge in a day of spa," says Mathen.

But it’s the love of art galleries, museums, café and endless conversations where the tastes converge again.

Travel for Two is a series in which couples walk us through their favourite trips, measuring their travels in most memorable moments and not miles.

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