What is it like living on a sailboat during a global pandemic? This is never a question I never thought I would be able to answer until the year 2020 came, and everything changed. Outside Watch, is the story of Jennifer(my wife) and I, going from being two airline pilots to full-time sailors. We no longer spend most of our time at FL410, but instead at sea level.
We will spend this new, scary, and exciting chapter of our lives exploring the world by sea. I have been making videos for several years and want to document our journey by video as we take on this new challenge. My wife and I also have a website with a blog and cruising guide.
If you enjoy our vlog and blog and are planning to visit any of the locations we have been to or want some wanderlust, you can see where we anchored, provisioned, wined, and dined. This is going to be a work in progress as we visit more locations.
Outside Watch episode #1 shows how our lives changed so rapidly and how now our days are filled with sailing, swimming, drinking, diving, dining, and boat work. We completed a few upgrades on Skylark including solar panels and davits, celebrated our 8thwedding anniversary with a ‘fancy Italian’ onboard theme night and discovered some of the clearest water we have experienced in Thailand!
Jennifer and I are 30 and 28 respectively, so we didn’t think we would have such an opportunity thrown at us so young. We have been so focused on growing an airline career since we began flying lessons at 15 and flying for airlines at 18. Along with flying, traveling is our number one passion, and we traveled all around the world, jet-setting to nearly 100 countries and all seven continents. Together we challenged ourselves to climb mountains, paraglide, scuba dive, and charter sailboats in exotic locations.
The excitement of the fast-paced lifestyle and splitting ourselves between multiple hobbies and countries began to taper off. We craved a new challenge. We decided a sailboat would offer a new style of travel that appealed to us in so many ways. With our own sailboat, we would be able to visit places inaccessible during short charters and force us to slow down our travel pace. We would also learn many new skills along the way and grow through the experiences. After a few years of dreaming, saving, and searching for the ideal boat for us, we purchased Skylark.
When we bought Skylark in October 2019, we were First Officers on the Boeing 787. We were planning to commute to Skylark and travel around the world on our days off, leaving her at marinas while we worked. Then Covid-19 happened. Our plans for sailing part-time while working quickly turned into 100% sailing and 0% working.
We have found all of these travel restrictions to make travel more difficult but not impossible. We have had to change our plans many times to comply with the restrictions, but are looking forward to the excitement of cruising that includes visiting new places, meeting new friends, and living in the moment. Let’s go!
Kelly is an avid solo traveler from New Your City, after embarking on several trips Kelly decided to take the plunge and became a full-time digital nomad. She has been pursuing this nomadic lifestyle for over a year now and hasn’t looked back.
Kelly is the curator of the blog, Girl With The Passport. Kelly started this blog because she and her Mom were supposed to go on a trip to Rome in 2012, however, after her Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer they were never able to go on that trip and she died without ever visiting Rome.
So Kelly started her blog to help to encourage others to follow their passions and live a life that they are in love with before it is too late!
Want to know more about Kelly and her adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with her here on Backpacker Travel and her blog.
BT: You've been to so many amazing places! How do you pick the places you want to go next?
Kelly: Honestly, I am pretty adventurous and want to go almost everywhere. That’s why, a lot of the time, I just choose my next destination based on the place, or city, that I can get the cheapest flight to. Right now, I’m in Thailand and am really only in the region because it is affordable, and because I scored a great flight deal to Singapore from New York City, my hometown.
BT: I bet you have seen some amazing sights so far on your travels, but which places so far have really stood out to you?
Kelly: I love Bangkok the most so far, which is funny because the first time I visited, I HATED it. I felt like I was getting ripped off all the time and scammed constantly. Now though, during my second visit, I have fallen in love with this city.
Not only are the people friendly, but the city is very vivacious and has tons of beautiful places to explore and fun things to do. I also love the food and have been doing a good job of eating my way through the city.
BT: Now you have made the change to being a full-time traveler you must find it challenging sometimes, do you ever feel homesick, or were there times you considered packing it in?
Kelly: Not really. To be honest, I never really felt like I belonged in New York City. Of course, I will go back and visit but as of right now, there isn’t really too much that I miss, besides New York-style pizza. But that being said, I am not really super close with my family and have spent my whole life in New York City and was very ready to explore more of the world when I decided to leave home and become a digital nomad.
BT: How do you figure out your work/travel balance now you have become a full-time digital nomad?
Kelly: At first, I was EXTREMELY worried about this. I mean, obviously, if I travel, I want to actually see things and not just sit in my hotel room and work on my blog.
After a long day spent exploring, the last thing I really want to do is sit down and do work. But, what I have found helpful is doing like an hour of work before I leave for the day, and an hour when I get in and before I start watching TV. This way, I can easily break the work down into smaller chunks and always guarantee that I get something done since I do something before I even leave for the day.
I also like to stay in places longer term so that I have days where I’m not doing too much and can work once I’ve seen most of the things that I wanted to see.
BT: What advice would you give to other solo female travelers who might feel apprehensive about going it alone?
Kelly: I would say just to do it. I mean, you never really know if you’re gonna like something until you do it.
But, I would also suggest doing your research and making sure that you’ll feel safe walking around alone in whatever country or city you’re visiting. I would also try and put yourself out there and meet people either at hostels or on tours so that you don’t feel alone while you’re away.
I personally have had no safety concerns or problems meeting people since I have been away. So, just be open to new experiences and be friendly and the right people will come your way.
BT: Do you ever join up with other solo travelers for part of the trip, and if so, how does this change your experience?
Kelly: Yes, I totally do! A lot of times I’ll find other like-minded women on tours or at attractions or in hostels. And I love it. While I do love my alone time, I always enjoy meeting new people and sharing new experiences with them. It’s amazing to meet so many amazing people from so many different backgrounds who are all doing and seeing a lot of the same things. And that’s why I love solo travel. You’re more likely to open up and engage with others when you’re alone, which is how I’ve met some of the most incredible people.
BT: Have you had any particular life lessons or moments of clarity while on the road?
Kelly: I think the biggest life lesson I’ve learned is that my time is precious and that life is way too short. Being on the road and waking up excited to start my day every single day has reaffirmed for me that if I’m not doing something I love every day and if I’m not excited about my life, then I need to change it.
I think too many people just assume that there is only one way to do things and conform to a life that they’re not really all that happy with. They settle and I think that is a real shame since we all have only a finite amount of time on this planet of ours.
Or, they hold onto this fear of the unknown, a fear that keeps them from doing and trying the things that they really love. So, I always remind myself, and others to let go of the fear and do things scared.
Because the truth is, life is what you make it. So, get out there and follow your dreams because if you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen. At least, that’s happened to me. I got tired of dreading work and deciding to do something different.
Was I terrified? You betcha, but I kept reminding myself that even if I failed, at least I tried. And I remind myself of that today, and every single day.
Katie is based in the UK but is a regular globe wanderer. Her main passions are experiencing new cultures and visiting beautiful countries. When traveling Katie loves to get involved with dance and circus groups and workshops, this helps her in meeting local people from the place she is visiting. These people enrich Katie’s traveling experience by giving invaluable local knowledge and tips!
BT: Tell us a bit about what you were up to before you went away and why you decided to go on your trip?
Katie: Before I went away I was working as a full-time graphic designer. I had been at the company for 4 years when I left but I knew after 3 that I wanted to change it up, so started saving for the last year along with applying for my Canadian holiday working visa.
BT: Why did you choose the countries you visited?
Katie: I had always wanted to go to Canada after seeing all the beautiful landscape photos. I mainly traveled around British Columbia as it was the warmest winter in Canada! I was there from January to May but I’m hoping to return and travel around some of the other provinces.
BT: How did you go about meeting people on the road and do you keep in touch with them now you are back home?
Katie: During my time there I explored alone but also went on some group excursions, one was a 4 days trip to the Canadian Rockies which was amazing and I met lots of lovely people on the trip from all nationalities. I took part in many dance classes and circus classes which I found great to meet local people and learned lots of new things that I hadn’t yet from teachers in England.
I still keep in contact with a few people I met along the way and my teachers, that’s the joy of social media! And I will for sure link up with them when I go back.
BT: Were there any particular life lessons or moments of clarity?
Katie: I feel like I learned quite a lot from my trip and spending a lot of time in nature also gave me a great opportunity to reflect. I realized there are so many nice people out there that are willing to help you, all you must do is ask. Also that I really can do anything if I put myself out there and persevere.
BT: What advice would you give anyone wishing to go on a solo trip?
Katie: My advice for anyone going on a solo trip would be to organize where your gonna stay for the first week or even month (sometimes you get money off when booking for the whole month) but leave the rest open as you never know who you might meet or where you might want to go, I loved not being tied down to a plan.
If you’re struggling to meet new people (I found some places were easy to meet people and others not as much) then maybe take up a class you enjoy or sign up for a group trip. Also to save on money look into skill swaps, in Vancouver I cleaned the dance studio in exchange for dance classes which was perfect for me!
Wagner and Liany Nogueira are a Brazilian couple who moved halfway across the world to live in Bhutan! Both of them are well educated with Wagner holding a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Liany working as a pharmacist.
Since the second half of 2017, they gave up their jobs in Brazil to start a new life in Bhutan. They’ve been living there for over 8 months and plan to remain for the next 5 years.
Wagner became a school teacher and Liany became a tour assistant in the land of the thunder dragon. They have started to travel around Bhutan and begun exploring the many great things Bhutan has to offer. Funnily enough, they are one of the very few foreigners who can really call Bhutan their permanent home.
BT: You left everything to live in Bhutan, which we think is awesome! Why Bhutan? What attracted you there?
Wagner & Liany: With the surge of social media, it is becoming very difficult to find some mystery in the world. Bhutan is one of the places left where places remain untouched and unvisited up to this day. It made our life very difficult, but in retrospect, it was really nice to be unable to find a lot of information about the country in order to make our decision. We came to a country not knowing much about it, apart from that it is very closed off from the outside world, we would live in the Himalayas and I would be a teacher. Everything else, we discovered when we arrived. What attracted me to Bhutan the most was just how difficult it is to come here. It is a very expensive country to visit, they are still very reluctant to hire westerners to work here, as we might interfere with the local culture a little too much. If you have been given the opportunity to come to one of the most remote places on Earth, the difficult thing is not to say yes, but to say no!
BT: Bhutan is a relatively remote destination, off the beaten path, if you will. Why do you think our backpacking community should be giving it a look when planning their next trip?
Wagner & Liany: Bhutan is, indeed, a place off the beaten track. It receives around 150 thousand tourists per year, which helps keep the country’s wilderness unexplored and pristine. Nevertheless, this is changing very fast. It is like a trip to Cuba. If you went to Cuba 10 years ago, you’d see an unexplored country, still very much set in its ways. If you travel to Cuba now, seeing how often it is appearing in social media, it is losing its charm to make way for uncontrolled tourism, as friends have shared with me.
In order to maintain its identity and attempt to keep the country as wild as possible, it is expensive to come here. The country charges a daily fee of US$250 per day (US$200 off-season), from which US$63 goes directly to the maintenance of national parks and reforestation. This fee covers everything: 3-star accommodation, food, driver, and a guide (the guide is non-negotiable).
Our backpacking community should be looking into coming to Bhutan because its “wildness” will not last much longer. In the next 10 years, you will not see the real Bhutan anymore, unfortunately. Come, and come soon! The investment is big, but the rewards are huge!
BT: What did you find the most challenging about moving your life to a new country? Any tips for dealing with challenges, for those backpackers also looking to make a major move?
Wagner & Liany: Bhutan is the fourth country I [Wagner] have lived in. I have lived in Brazil, Ireland, and England in the past.
Moving is never easy. Saying “bye” at the airport, either if you are leaving or someone is leaving, is never easy. Making a big move has many rewards, but it has many drawbacks too. The most important thing is to be aware and mindful that it will not be easy. It will be difficult as hell, particularly in the beginning and, the older you are, the more difficult it is. You will miss friends’ weddings, family funerals, the birth of new family members, graduations, etc, but you will also gain fantastic new friends, acquire a new language, experience different cultures, explore the country and its surroundings, and have many wonderful unexpected experiences.
One example: I teach students who are not financially privileged. They could not buy you a gift for a special occasion, or just to make you feel better. I build a greenhouse outside my wooden shack so that I could have some food that does not grow at 3200m above sea level.
Not too long ago, my uncle passed away in Brazil and, as you can imagine, we were unable to attend his funeral. I did not attend work for a couple of days. Knowing about this, some of my students turned up at my house with bags of soil that they dug themselves so that it would help me with my greenhouse. They walked 1km to my house with bags of soil on their backs, so that it would make me feel better. Guess what? It did! You will become a collection of stories like this when you get out of your comfort zone and throw yourself into the world.
Does it outweigh everything you’ll miss? It depends on who you are! Will you regret it? Perhaps! But from my experiences, it is better to regret having done something than wonder for the rest of your life what could have been. This becomes much easier when you have an understanding and supportive partner.
BT: What have you learned about each other from this move? Any thoughts on the positive and not-so-positive sides of traveling with a partner?
Wagner & Liany: The dynamics of a relationship changes after you get married. We were in a long-distance relationship for some time. After we married, soon after we moved to Bhutan. Interference from family is drastically diminished, so we have to rely on each other for everything. We spend a lot of time together and we have to learn to live in a very small space. There is no place in our house where we do not see each other or hear each other. We are as isolated as the age of information allows us to be. This has been a fantastic experience, as we have to learn and adapt very quickly to our “common way”.
We have traveled by ourselves in the past. I [Wagner] have visited 47 countries. Most of my trips were done on my own, mostly around Europe and South America. Liany has also traveled by herself. The most positive thing is to know that it is not because we are married that our solo traveler's life is dead. This would not work for us. Our holidays do not coincide all the time, so we have the freedom to explore the world on our own, should we need to. This has not happened a lot lately, but we have very similar travel styles. We like to camp, and hike, we mostly stay in shared dorms in hostels and we have no problem with it. It is difficult to find a travel companion with almost exact similar tastes as you, but we are as close as it gets.
Traveling with a partner, in our case, barely changed the dynamics from our solo backpacker days. Another positive is that we can share the responsibilities of planning our trips, but Liany usually does a lot more, I must confess. The not-so-positive is that, as well as our tastes, match, they do not always do.
Compromises have to be made as for destinations, which volcanoes to hike up, our top destinations do not always match. As we are living in Bhutan, that reduces our options and so, we decided to explore Asian countries during our time here. We always plan 2-3 different destinations, budget, weigh the pros and cons of each place and come to an agreement. None of us get exactly what we want, but we are always happy with the final decision. While traveling, sometimes when one wants to rest, the other does not, when one wants to hire a bike, the other wants to walk. Partners are not always in sync, but that is a fact of life, and we have to deal with it as well as we can.
Sara is based in Sydney and the Editor/Founder of Belly Rumbles, one of Australia’s most popular food and travel blogs. She has a background in travel having worked as a manager for one of Sydney’s leading backpacker travel agencies and was the Executive Officer of the Backpacker Operators Association. This saw her working closely with Australian travel industry bodies.
An enthusiastic home cook, who continually studies cookery to keep her finger on the pulse. Her favorite souvenir when traveling is anything culinary that she can bring back home and experiment with! Sara and her recipes have been featured in many print and electronic publications.
Belly Rumbles is the product of her two loves, food and travel.
Want to know more about Sara and his adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with him here on Backpacker Travel and her Facebook page.
BT: You combine food and travel, two things we love! If you had to pick one destination that you think will blow a foodie’s mind, where would you choose and why?
Sara: Oh wow, so many places and so much food to choose from! My ultimate foodie destination is Japan. It is impossible to be disappointed in the food, I have never had a bad meal. The care and respect they have for ingredients are amazing and it’s all about local and seasonal. You may not pick up on it as much in the larger cities like Tokyo, but visit smaller towns and you get an understanding of the passion there is for local and seasonal. Some memorable eats have been soy and mirin wasp larvae, beef nigiri, tiny little-candied crabs, squid jerky, giant sea snails, and oysters the size of my hand. Of course, you can’t visit Japan and not eat copious sticks of yakitori whilst sitting on a beer crate in an alley, enjoy sashimi prepared by a master or eel if you are lucky to visit when it’s in season. A must is a visit to the basement of a large department store’s food hall. Mitsukoshi in Ginza is a great one to visit, it will blow your mind.
BT: What are your favorite travel snacks?
Sara: I love to pick up local snacks of the city/country that I am traveling in. Snacks you can’t get at home, that’s a big part of the fun of travelling. You will always find Japanese hard milk candies in my bag or carry on luggage. Plus you can never go past a bento box when travelling by train in Japan (see! I am addicted to Japanese food).
BT: What is the craziest restaurant experience you have had while traveling?
Sara: I don’t think I have ever had a really crazy restaurant experience. How boring is that! There have been amazing meals and bad meals. Discussions with restaurant staff about the menu using animal sounds and charades, with a side order of interpretive dance. I’ve had a waitstaff bring all sorts of raw/fresh/still alive products to my table to explain what an ingredient was. Once a petite waitress hauled a giant gourd, roughly her size, from the kitchen to show me what I was eating.
But there was this one time in Hong Kong when we ordered lobster sashimi. It was served with the meat of the lobster separated from the shell and sliced to eat between the head and tail on the plate. The chef and staff all came out to watch our reaction when it was served. My husband and I were thrilled, but my son was not so and refused to look at it. The lobster’s eyes and antennae were still moving and twitching away as we ate. It was the freshest sashimi I have ever had.
BT: You started as a backpacker! What advice do you have for people new to backpacking?
Sara: Staying in backpacker hostels is one of the best things about backpacking. And no, I’m not talking about shared dorms and snoring roommates. It is all about that wealth of knowledge you can extract from your fellow travelers. Great places to eat, places to avoid, local scams, best photo spots, and hidden gems.
If you have never backpacked before I suggest you do a trial run with a borrowed pack for a week or two before buying your own and heading off on that around the world trip. It gives you an idea of what not to take, what it is like living out of a pack, what features you like/dislike, and how heavy they can be. Plus it gives you a taste of the lifestyle so you aren’t in for a rude shock when you head off. Some people are more cut out for backpacking than others.
Pascal Mannaerts is a freelance photographer based in Brussels. Blessed with an artistic bent and wanderlust, he discovered photography as a student. Thereafter, sharing and recording his travel adventures quickly became a life priority. His first visit to India in 2000 revealed a deep admiration for the subcontinent and was, as a result, the first of many return engagements.
Traveling to Asia, Africa, Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East for the last 15 years has given Pascal the opportunity to portray humanity in its strongest forms. Curiosity and a passion for images have been fused with a profound attraction to the human element.
Pascal has publication credits in National Geographic, BBC, Geo, The Guardian, Le Guide du Routard, Lonely Planet, Médecins Sans Frontières, and many other newspapers and magazines worldwide. Several exhibitions of his pictures have been held in Europe, Brazil, and India by, among others, Alliance Française and Amnesty International.
Want to know more about Pascal and his adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with him here on Backpacker Travel.
BT: Your photos are incredible. What made you get into photography?
Pascal: I simply got into photography on the road, when I was traveling around the world. I never took any photography classes or anything, it all came naturally as it was just a way for me to share my experiences. It all really started in the year 2000, during my first trip ever to India. At that time, there was no Facebook or anything like that, so I shared my pictures and writings via email to my friends’ list. It was such a pleasure to feel that the pictures and the stories of my adventures made people happy, that I decided to go on, during my next travels and even when I was back home.
BT: Have your travels changed the way you take photos and approach photographers?
Pascal: I can say that my way of taking pictures is totally influenced by my travel experiences. I learn and improve my photographic skills every time I am on the road again, in the same way, that I consistently learn more about the world, people, about myself. Learning is the essence of every journey. Additionally, over time, I have come to focus more and more on specific stories about the places where I travel. This entails social and environmental issues, as well as festivals and cultural events. All these reports made around the world are presented in the “stories” section of my website.
BT: If you could give our readers two tips on taking the best travel photos possible, what would they be?
BT: What type of camera are you currently using?
Pascal: I first started with the Canon 300D in 2004, I then changed for a Canon 50D and since 2012, I have used a Canon 5D Mark III.
Vicki is a lawyer from the UK who took the long route (9+ years) to professional qualification – before realizing 3 months later that it wasn’t what she wanted anymore. She walked away from a corporate salary to focus on inspiring others to make time to see the world through her website.
Originally from a small town outside Manchester in the UK, Vicki settled in Melbourne, Australia after 4 years of traveling around the world. During that time she worked for Walt Disney World in Florida, USA, ran 5 different hotels in the French, Swiss & Austrian Alps, and spent any spare time she had exploring the globe.
Want to know more about Vicki and her adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with him here on Backpacker Travel and her Facebook page.
BT: You left your corporate job to travel the world. What was the hardest part of doing that and, given the choice, would you make the same decision again?
Vicki: The hardest part was walking away from my comfortable (and guaranteed!) corporate salary. Moving away from a stable income was nerve-wracking as freelancing can be tough and the first 6 months the toughest of them all, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I realized that I wasn’t happy as a lawyer and that money wasn’t everything. I don’t earn anywhere near lawyer money these days, but I am very happy.
BT: Along the same lines, your article on why you don’t have to quit your job to travel the world is really inspiring! Can you give our community an idea of how you go about finding jobs on the road?
Vicki: Finding a traditional ‘brick and mortar’ job is often easier than trying to find freelance clients (as there is so much competition for those – everyone seems to want to live a digital nomad life these days!). To improve your chances of finding part-time or full-time work on the road you need to be content to live in a place for several months. Employers are usually good with transient workers – particularly in the hospitality industry, but they do appreciate people who will be around for more than one or two shifts. If you can set down roots for longer, basic administrative or call center roles are also a good option for travelers. One of the best ways to combine working and travel look at seasonal or fixed-term roles such as cruise ships or ski/summer seasons. These roles often include accommodation and meals and require you to work long hours, but it is easier to save your pay in these situations as you have minimal expenses (and are working a lot of the time for several months).
BT: You traveled with a partner for several years. What is the best and what is the hardest part about traveling with a partner?
Vicki: Communication is key. It can be tough for new couples to start out traveling as you’re still getting to know each other, but if you are already in a groove – who does what in terms of booking/planning, what your interests are, how fast/slow you like to travel, it can be the perfect way to solidify your relationship. You see and experience so many wonderful things when traveling, as well as face some interesting challenges, and having someone to share all that with is some kinda special.
BT: Finally, what has been the most fun day you have had while traveling?
Vicki: I’ve been lucky to have hundreds of wonderfully fun days when traveling, but my favorite would either be any of the days on my recent trip to Christmas Island with Google and Parks Australia to capture the crab migration and the street view trekker mapping the island or would be any of my days on safari in Africa bouncing from adventure activities in Victoria Falls, to amazing national parks in Namibia or South Africa the next. The whole ‘Africa’ experience took my breath away and is why it’s my favorite continent.
To say that Amanda has a passion for travel would be an understatement. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, Amanda has been traveling for most of her life, beginning at age nine when she spent six months in Europe with her parents. Since then, she has traveled to many parts of the world and has lived in Japan, Slovakia, and Germany.
Now back home, living with her son in Perth, Amanda travel blogs on NotABallerina.com and hosts The Thoughtful Travel Podcast, and is on a mission to convince everybody in the world that travel is a great thing to do. She believes that if everyone traveled, we would have the opportunity to get to know each other better, which would resolve many of the world’s problems and lead to an overall more peaceful world.
Want to know more about Amanda and her adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with her here on Backpacker Travel and her Facebook page.
BT: Your blog is designed to encourage people to get out and see the world. Why do you think this is so important?
Amanda: I think travel has the power to change everyone – in a very positive way. Getting out of your comfort zone and discovering how people live in other places and cultures – both the similarities and the differences – can teach you a lot about yourself and help you see the world as a much smaller place, full of people who are really very similar. I think travel helps promote understanding between different religions and nationalities and if only everyone would get out there and see the world in a way that gets them interacting with locals, then I think we could solve an awful lot of problems!
BT: What are the most important lessons you have learned about yourself while traveling?
Amanda: Travel is amazing for self-development and I have learned all manner of lessons about myself during my travels – I would be a completely different person if I had never traveled! Most importantly, I think, is learning that I actually can do anything I put my mind to. I’ve survived in countries where I couldn’t speak more than five words of the language. I’ve held down a job in cultures completely different to my own. I’ve tried crazy new foods and liked them, I’ve spoken with people I would have been too shy to talk to before I started traveling. When I’m at home in my day-to-day life, if some kind of issue comes up, I know I’ve dealt with something trickier before and I can really do anything!
BT: You have lived in many different places. Where did you enjoy living the most and why?
Amanda: Tough question but I would have to say Japan. Its culture is so unique that every day – even two years in – was a learning experience, and I loved that about it. The food is also extraordinarily delicious and varied, the people are so friendly and welcoming, and there are so many amazing sights to see. My caveat is, though, that I was glad to live there as a foreigner. Some aspects of being Japanese – working really, really hard, and the fact that women are even less equal there than here – mean I don’t wish I’d been born in Japan – but I’m glad to have lived there and to be able to keep returning for more visits.
BT: Any advice for those looking to travel, but feeling a bit nervous?
Amanda: It’s normal and healthy to be nervous, and I was terrified at first, and I promise you’ll get over it and it will be completely worth it! I moved overseas with a boyfriend at first and I’m not sure I could have done it on my own (though now I would do it in a heartbeat) – so find a friend to go with if it helps. Whatever you do, just take the first steps you can, and keep expanding and trying newer and more distant trips.
Sheila and Evo, or “ShEvo,” took what they expected to be a year-long sabbatical in 2015 so that they could travel the world and they haven’t stopped since! They sold everything that they owned, packed up the necessities and hit the road. As both have digital backgrounds, they have decided to document their lives as they live them, from their current home in Bangkok, Thailand, and wherever they travel. Their goal? To let armchair travelers the world over live vicariously through them at The Opportunistic Travelers!
Want to know more about ShEvo and their adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with them here on Backpacker Travel and their Facebook page.
BT: You started long-term travel following a sabbatical. Is there a particular experience that led you to make the decision that travel is what you want to be doing for life?
ShEvo: We made the jump because, well… we could! We weren’t saddled with the obligations that hold a lot of people back from traveling — free of debt, successfully raised an adult child, and healthy parents well-looked after by our siblings — so we jumped in with both feet. (As we tend to do.) Like many Americans, our international travels were limited to north-south directions, and there was a whole lot of the world to be seen from east to west. Since nothing was really holding us back other than us, we decided to have a collective mid-life crisis together!
BT: You are traveling as a couple. What is the best and the worst thing about globetrotting with a partner?
ShEvo: We’re that sticky-sweet couple that people either love or hate, so it’s all second nature to us. Still, that first year was challenging. Being married for 25+ years to someone you truly love is one thing. But when going to the toilet is the only time you’re not touching or seeing your partner all day, every day… it’s a lot. But it’s also fantastic, and the good far outweighs the bad. Traveling with a true life partner means you can split the responsibilities, and know the other half of your brain will pick up the slack where you fall short. Pro tip: Work out ahead of time what those responsibilities are, and respect those boundaries. Else there might be more than one fight while you determine who’s fault it is that you’re walking 2 KM through a city’s water treatment facilities on your way to the immigration department. Just by way of example, you understand
BT: We love your one-minute memories! What inspired those?
ShEvo: Our biggest channel is our audio podcast, but that only comes out weekly. We experimented with video formats but never really found one that worked for “us”. But Sheila’s a photographer and stumbled on the idea of just taking a “long photograph”, without any exposition from the loudmouth of the group (that would be Evo). Our friends loved it, telling us the videos were a great escape from their day. It was just one more way for others to travel vicariously through us!
BT: You really took the plunge and went all-in with traveling, selling everything you own. What is your best piece of advice for people wanting to do the same, but maybe feeling a bit nervous?
ShEvo: Find out why you’re nervous. It’s perfectly natural to feel that way. For us, we knew that we each had marketable skills that weren’t going out of demand anytime soon. We knew that our worst-case scenario wasn’t bad: We’d just move back (somewhere), get jobs (she’s an educator and he’s a digital strategist), and get back into it “normal” life everyone else knows without too much effort. If you’re unencumbered from obligations and have the “I was looking for a job when I found this one” attitude about your next gig… go for it!
Gemma and Craig of Two Scots Abroad are the exact type of travelers you hope to find on the road! They are fun, adventurous, and knowledgeable. Together, this traveling couple has been to six continents and they are not slowing down. Gemma and Craig love the outdoors, gigs and festivals, and partying (although admit to slowing down a bit with the partying since hitting 30!). Their blog is a great mix of fun and informative, the perfect inspiration for planning your next adventure!
These two have different personalities, yet seem to travel incredibly well together. Gemma is the planner, who makes sure to plan for all possible scenarios that could arise while traveling. Craig loves bikes and festivals and comes across as a totally laid-back traveler.
When we read their blog, we had to interview them. If you are thinking of traveling together as a couple, we definitely recommend checking these guys out!
Want to know more about Gemma and Craig and their adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with them here on Backpacker Travel and their Facebook page.
BT: We love that your blog inspires people to “make travel happen.” Why do you think this is so important? What has travel added to your lives?
Gemma: I first put on a backpack at the age of 19 to inter-rail around Eastern Europe with two friends for three weeks. I loved being surrounded by new cities and meeting new people and I’ll pretend to try new foods but that didn’t come until later.
Making travel happen comes from the belief that anyone can move from their armchair to the airport or train station at least. There’s a misconception that traveling is expensive and for the privileged. During the summer holidays, I don’t go away, I end up spending more lunching and socializing in Scotland. Craig and I are both pretty positive people with just do it attitudes so when we first met we both agreed to save hard and get out of Scotland for a while. We saved £20k, took an 18-month career break, and traveled around the Americas and Europe.
BT: What is the best part of traveling as a couple?
Gemma: Having someone to blame when things don’t go according to plan! Craig is fun to be around (unless hanger strikes), I’m very grateful I get to trip with him.
BT: How do you balance your different tastes and personalities as individuals while on the road together?
Gemma: The business, Two Scots Abroad, helps. I squirrel away in front of the laptop writing articles, while Craig makes music on his phone. It’s healthy to have hobbies and downtime away from each other when you live in each other’s pockets. Dinner time is often tricky, Craig is pretty picky. He hates Thai food and that’s my favorite! We are not very food compatible. We just make sure we research a few options before wandering aimlessly, starving, and ready to attack! Personality-wise we are both upbeat, tend to see the positives in situations and like a giggle. I’m a panicker and he is chill though, big difference in how we plan!
BT: With so many choices out there, how do you pick the places you want to travel to?
Gemma: We have an ever-evolving list of things we want to do! We’ve still not made it to Iceland, other people’s trips there has been the pull for me. I also love their view on gender equality.
For our ‘big trip’ we kicked off in New Orleans but Austin was our first plan. We wanted to go to South By Southwest in March then Craig chose Machu Picchu so Peru was next. Bolivia made sense since it was next door but everyone told us how amazing Colombia is so we flew up to Bogota for 3.5 weeks. It lived up to the hype. Beautiful people as well as locations.
We both wanted to visit Cuba, this is actually the hardest country I’ve backpacked around. We had major travel burnout and the hustle was annoying. It was time to slow the trip down so we settled in Canada for six months. It was refreshing to have a base and all of the B.C nature on our doorstep.
We then headed back to the States and eloped in Austin after our second South By Southwest. The following six months were dictated by money. We headed to Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Romania then Spain and finally Portugal.
We’re flexible, we’ll pretty much go anywhere that isn’t ridiculously expensive. I think most travelers possess that quality too.