What was the first country you visited? Who with and why did you choose it?
Oh gosh, I don't really know the first country I visited because I was so young. I think it was probably one on a Mediterranean cruise we did for my Granddad's birthday but I don't remember much of it.
The first country I actually chose to visit however was Italy, as part of a study abroad program at university. I had always had my eye on Florence. I like to say it was the history and culture that drew me in, but I have to admit it was probably more the wine and good looking men, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped. It was one of the best few months of my life and one that I’ll always remember.
Sure, I may have gained (at least) fifteen pounds and came back almost unrecognizable, but no one can say I didn’t give it my all and then some! I left home not knowing a single person and returned with an amazing group of friends that I’m still close with today.
When did you start a travel lifestyle? What inspired that change?
I think the beginning of my travel lifestyle started in university when I completed a Semester at Sea in my final year. That's where the seed was planted but it wasn't until almost a year and a half after returning home that I booked a one-way ticket to Taiwan, which began my four-year love affair with Asia.
I worked in Taiwan, saved up and went traveling. I returned home, got bored within minutes of landing and was off again within weeks - this time to Beijing.
After living and working in Beijing for three years, I felt the itch coming on. I wanted a real adventure and a challenge doing something I had never done before, so that's where our idea for the motorbike trip around Europe started. I had met someone who, like me, loved to travel and get off the quintessential backpacker trail. We gave away all of our stuff and prepared for the ultimate adventure.
Do you have a base you travel from? Or is it continuous travel? And why do you choose that style?
That’s hard to say really because I’ve been through waves of traveling over the past five years. I’d have to say that I suffer from a bad case of the “grass is always greener” syndrome. If I’m based somewhere, I want the freedom to go wherever I please, but if I have that freedom, the thought of a home base is really appealing.
Once leaving Taiwan, it was about five months of continuous travel through Southeast Asia, India and southern Africa. Then, I used Beijing as my base for a number of years and all trips started and ended there. Last fall, we were based.. well, on the bike and we enjoyed the freedom of being so mobile.
Currently, we are in London until I'm kicked out in June (due to visa regulations), and at that time, we will decide whether or not to have a base. Only time will tell – it feels like we change our minds every few days.
Having had both, it’s difficult to say which I prefer or why I choose one over another. It depends more on how I feel at the time. While it’s nice to have a home base, I do love the flexibility that continuous travel offers. As I begin that slippery slope towards my thirties, I seem to be leaning more towards having a base but deciding where that base will be becomes increasingly more difficult.
How do you fund your travel lifestyle? Is it something you do when traveling or are you a saver?
I’m a saver. I’m also probably the cheapest person you’ve ever met and Joel comes in a close second. We make a dangerous team. I scrimp on the little, insignificant things, which then allows me to splurge when it counts. Also after living in China, I can bargain like you’ve never seen and yes, I’m that painfully embarrassing person that argues over a couple of pennies.
More recently, we saved up our money in Beijing and used that to fund our motorbike trip and are still living on what's left. We do seem to always have a bunch of side projects on the go, which keep us both fulfilled and off the streets :)
If you could tell yourself one tip before you started your travel lifestyle, what would it be?
One tip? Eek one seems too definite, so I’ll have to go with three.
Number 1: Take your time. I am always telling people this. It’s easy to race around getting the t-shirts and blabbing to everyone you know about how you’ve ticked off every country in Asia. However, it is not all it’s cracked up to be. The real experiences come when you slow down and enjoy the real ebbs and flows of travel. It's amazing what you are able to see and do when you don't limit yourself.
Number 2: Step away from the backpacker trail. Try something different and challenge yourself. Some of my best moments have been when I least expected them: I took a chance on a random person, got lost wandering through a back street somewhere or stepped out of my comfort zone.
Number 3: Laugh through the tough times because when you’re in it – it seems like eternity, but in reality, it’s over before you know it. I remember getting so worked up when I got turned down at the Mozambique border that I think I scared the entire Tanzanian village. It was a complete meltdown, heightened by a sleepless night after a 12-hour bus journey the day before, a never-ending truck ride to the border and an unrelenting immigration officer. Now, I still laugh about it and think of it as one of my favorite travel memories, but at the time, it was not one of my finer moments. I bet those poor bystanders are still recovering.
What does "Living The Dream" mean to you?
I think "living the dream" means something different to everybody. To me, when you're happy, healthy and challenging yourself, I'd say that's living the dream. I regularly “check in” to make sure I'm all of those things. If I find myself not progressing or stimulated, I know something needs to change. Thankfully, the past few years have been the most stimulating and exciting years of my life so without a doubt, I feel I can say I’m living my dream.