From Meeting In A Hostel To Exploring The World Together This Couple Is Doing What Others Dream To Achieve
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GAFFL
5th Jul | 9 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with adventurers from 190+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together. In this post, we'll be highlighting Alya and Campbell who have been exploring the world and sharing their experiences through their blog, Stingy Nomads.

    Alya Louw has a Master's degree in Linguistics and enjoys art, classical music, diving, hiking, and jogging, and is an incurable travel junkie. She used to work as a linguist teaching English, Russian, and Spanish.

    Campbell Louw used to work as a biotechnology researcher with a Ph.D. He's a Padi Scuba Instructor who enjoys free diving, surfing, jogging, trekking, and backpacking across the world.

    This couple was both already traveling for a while when they met and have been traveling together full time since 2014, got married in 2017, and their daughter, Summer, was born recently in Portugal. Follow them on Instagram to keep up with their latest adventures! 

    Campbell and Alya diving crayfish in Cape Town, South Africa

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    A Fortuitous Encounter Was The Catalyst For Everything

    We met in the Philippines in a little town called San Juan, we both came there to surf. We stayed in the same dormitory in a backpacker’s hostel, got along well, and started doing short trips together. Short trips became longer trips and we started a travel blog, Stingy Nomads, it has been 7 years now. The blog became a real business and we never returned to our careers.

    Exploring Luzon island, the Philippines with a scooter

    Duration Of Our Trips

    When we started the blog it was more of a journal-style blog followed by friends and family. At that stage, we picked our travel destinations by trying to dive and hike the best spots around the world on our budget.

    When the blog became a business everything changed and we started choosing destinations that were good to write about and with some income potential.

    We usually go to South Africa to visit family over Christmas for about 3 months and travel the rest of the time. We have an apartment in St Petersburg and sometimes take a break in Russia when flights work out well.

    Our longest single trip was in South America. We started in Mexico and hitchhiked most of the way to the southern tip of Patagonia, it took us a year and a bit.

    Hitchhiking through South America

    How We Decide On Our Next Destination

    Trips usually revolve around activities, so first, we plan what gear we will need. Since South Africa is located very far from most areas we travel to, we usually work out a travel plan involving as few long-distance flights as possible for the year.

    Stingy Nomads wedding day

    How We Pack For Our Trips

    Carrying gear for both diving and hiking, and visiting different climate zones on the same trip is tricky. Packing to trek in Nepal, walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and backpacking the West Coast trail in Canada, back to back, requires careful planning, packing essentials, and sometimes storing, giving away, and buying new equipment.

    Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain following yellow arrows and shells

    For the last year or two, we have done all our hikes in our Salomon Ultra X hiking boots and used our Quechua backpacks. We always have our Canon 80D DSLR camera and GoPro Hero 9 with us.

    As caffeine junkies, we always carry an Aero press to make our own espresso from local coffee.

    Favorite Memories Of Meeting & Exploring With Locals

    We arrived in Valparaiso in Chile on 30 December, it is a popular holiday destination for locals and all the hostels were full, preparing for New Years' Eve festivities.

    We were very lucky to find an amazing Couchsurfing host, we ended up staying with them for a while, going to their family holiday house and meeting their friends and family. Some of their friends invited us to visit them and we ended up making a network of fantastic friends and seeing some beautiful off-the-beaten-track parts of Chile.

    Playing with perspective, taking fun photos on the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia

    Countries We Have Visited So Far

    We don’t really count countries and tend to spend quite a bit of time in a country once there, often returning to the same place. We have traveled to around sixty-something countries each, about forty together.

    The Raja Ampat islands in West Papua Indonesia are high on our list of places that we still want to go and dive. Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, is a mountain that keeps eluding us and is another ‘7 summits climb’ we would love to do.

    Visiting the Taj Mahal in India

    One Of Our Craziest Travel Experiences

    We've had so many little disasters on the road that ended up as cool travel stories.

    When the Covid pandemic started we were trekking in Nepal. We heard people talking about this new pandemic for a week or two in the mountains and when we arrived back in civilization people were scrambling to book flights home and get out of Nepal.

    Being on different passports, the new Covid restrictions made it difficult for us to fly out together to the same country even though we are married. We thought we could just stick it out for a couple of weeks and fly later when restrictions are eased.  We ended up being stuck in a hotel room in Pokhara in Nepal for 6 months waiting for any flight out of Nepal!

    After being trapped in a hotel for such a long time I ended up testing positive for Covid the day before flying out and had to stay in Kathmandu a couple more weeks waiting for a negative test and a new flight!

    The highest point in the Annapurna circuit, Nepal, Thorong La Pass

    Apps That We Use While Traveling

    We started traveling before smartphones and it is unreal that we could get by with not much more than a Lonely Planet. The apps we most often use when traveling are WhatsApp, Booking.com, Google Maps, Maps.me, Sky scanner, Google Translate, XE Currency Converter, Uber, and Gmail.

    Having a travel buddy is great for planning, companionship, and budget purposes, GAFFL is a good way to find like-minded travel buddies.

    Our wedding in South Africa

    Our Inspiration To Start The Blog

    When we met I was writing a journal-style blog for friends and family that a handful of people opened whenever I shared something on Facebook. When we traveled through South America I was spending a lot of time ‘working’ on this project and Alya wanted to help.

    At this stage we were traveling on a super low budget, hitchhiking and camping most of the time. We wanted to share how cheap and easy you can do it on your own.

    While throwing around ideas we came up with the tongue-in-cheek name Stingy Nomads and bought the domain.

    We try to show others that travel does not have to be expensive or out of your reach and aim to be a valuable travel resource that you can trust.

    We became a bit obsessed with walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Spain in recent years. In 2 years we completed the 7 main routes, sometimes hiking more than 1000 km (600 miles) at a time.

    Alya is our Camino specialist and our YouTube Channel and Camino de Santiago content help thousands of people to independently complete this amazing challenge every year. We correspond with several pilgrims daily assisting them with planning.

    Hiking around Cape Point in South Africa

    Challenges & Compromises We Had To Make

    We were not under pressure to make money at the start since we started as a hobby blog and had other sources of income. Our first jobs as digital nomads did not involve blogging, I am qualified as a Scuba instructor and worked as a dive instructor in some amazing places, and Alya taught English online. 

    There is a lot of competition in the travel niche, but the other bloggers are fantastic, and always willing to help and share.

    Setting up the blog was a bit of a challenge since we had zero web design, programming, or SEO (search engine optimization) knowledge, so we had to do a lot of web searches to figure out how to build and manage a site. It took us a while to figure out how to start getting our content ranking on search engines.

    Asking Alya to marry me underwater while diving at Nusa Penida, Indonesia

    Compromises were plenty, not seeing friends and family often is probably the biggest one. Our careers were also a big compromise, it is highly unlikely I will work as a scientist again, it is a fast-moving field and 10 years is a long time to be out.

    Since creating travel content is how we make a living we have to travel. We recently settled in Portugal and have a baby so our way of traveling will definitely change.

    Tips For Aspiring Full-time Travelers

    Financial resources are obviously a requirement and a challenge for many. You have to be adaptable, resourceful, flexible, and just be able to go with it. Living out of a backpack for months and sleeping in a different bed almost every night is not always easy and gets tough for even the most hardcore traveler.

    Trekking on Mount Roraima, Venezuela

    How We Juggle Our Work & Travel

    It is not always easy, we always carry at least one laptop and some camera gear between us. This way we can do some work every night, even when trekking or walking the Camino. Between activities, we usually find a hotel or hostel as a base for a while, to complete some work.

    Working at Namche Bazaar while walking to Everest Base Camp

    If you want to travel full time, pick a career in which you can work remotely.

    There are so many different jobs that you can do remotely and thus work as a digital nomad, not necessarily involving creating content.

    I loved traveling and working as a Scuba instructor, getting paid to dive to some of the most amazing places in the world every day!

    With things like web design or programming, there are many opportunities to work from wherever you want. It looks like Covid has forced many companies to set up systems allowing employees to work from home. This should make remote work in a lot of careers easier in the future.

    Things We Wished We’d Known When We Started Traveling

    Since we started traveling long before we started blogging and making videos it would have been awesome to have better footage and records of those trips.

    As for lessons - Just go for it, take chances, and get out of your comfort zone. The best things we did traveling were the scariest ones that we sort of jumped into and were stressed out before taking the plunge.

    There are some amazing people all over the world that are always keen to help and share, so try to be like that. Things almost never work out as you plan, but hang in there, and try to enjoy it, usually, it ends up working out better than you planned.

    Diving from Perhentian island, Malaysia

    More interesting travel stories you might enjoy!

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