Uncovering Local Treasures: Here's How Daniel and Ilona Explore the Road Less Traveled, One Hidden Gem At A Time
What is GAFFL?

GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

Daniel and Ilona
Daniel and Ilona, two travel bloggers from Spain and Germany, met while traveling around the world, and after a year-long trip, they stayed together.
3rd Mar | 9 min read

Table of Contents

    Daniel and Ilona, two travel bloggers from Spain and Germany, met while traveling around the world, and after a year-long trip, they stayed together. Currently, they are living in Germany and working full-time jobs, but that hasn’t stopped their urge to travel. Whenever they can, they head out and explore something new. Daniel and Ilona always look for something unique to explore, and this eagerness prompts them to explore hidden gems that are mostly known by the locals

    Daniel was born and raised in Spain. His love for traveling grew after he got the chance to do a high school exchange in Slovenia. Ever since then, he has tried to get out of his country and his comfort zone. Daniel first explored his home continent, Europe, and then the rest of the world.

    Ilona is from Germany; she has loved traveling since her childhood. Her first trip was with her parents, who took her on trips to the North Sea and the Alps. Then, as she grew older, she had the chance to participate in a student exchange and live in Canada for a year. Two summers later, she was back on her first backpacking trip, crossing the country from east to west and back again.

    Check out their blog, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more about their travels.

    Daniel and Ilona Tunisia

    Daniel and Ilona Tunisia

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.

    SUBSCRIBE

    How We Met

    We met in Turkmenistan while traveling along the Silk Road. It was an organized trip, and we both traveled together for a few weeks until we reached Xian. There, we split up, and Daniel continued to Southern China while I took a train to Beijing.

    I had already booked my plane ticket to South Korea, but after a few days, I realized that I would rather continue traveling with Daniel than on my own. So I spontaneously took an overnight train to Kunming and surprised Daniel there. Since then, we have traveled together and hope to continue doing so!

    Daniel and Ilona in Fussen

    Daniel and Ilona in Fussen

    How We Prepare For Our Trips

    We have a long list of places we want to visit. When we plan a trip, we consider the time of year we’ll be traveling and then try to find a destination that is great to visit during that month. And sometimes, we might have read about a destination recently or heard about it from other travelers, and then it ends up high on our list.

    Once we’ve decided on a location, we spend some time doing online research, so we get a better idea of what we want to see there. Then we research transport and accommodation, but we don’t always reserve everything in advance. It really depends on the destination and on how easy it is to spontaneously adapt your travel plans there.


    Daniel and Ilona Colmar

    Countries We Have Visited

    So far, we have traveled to 28 countries together, but we have both traveled to around 70 countries independently. Some of our remarkable travel experiences came from the trip through Central Asia, on which we met.

    Ilona and Daniel at the Chinese Opera

    Ilona and Daniel at the Chinese Opera

    Some Of Our Remarkable Excursions

    We have had so many great experiences that it’s hard to choose one that stands out.

    Seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland was one of our highlights so far, but we also loved watching sloths in Panama and Costa Rica and hiking to the top of a volcano in the middle of the night. We arrived at the top just for sunrise, and it was a majestic view!

    Some of our most remarkable adventures come from getting to know locals and their cultures.

    In Kyrgyzstan, we stayed with a family in a yurt and got the chance to watch a game of goat polo. Instead of throwing a ball, the players use a dead goat! Seeing the traditions of these horsemen was one of our favorite experiences so far.

    We camped at the bottom of what used to be the Aral Sea, in between rusty ships. When we woke up in the morning, a herd of cows walked past, grazing between the ships. We also loved visiting the famous Silk Road cities, like Samarkand. The blue-tiled architecture is stunning, and the people were welcoming wherever we went.

    Daniel and Ilona Waterfall Laos

    Daniel and Ilona Waterfall Laos

    Our Most Cherished Memory Of Meeting Locals

    One of our last trips took us to Pakistan. We traveled around with a local tour guide who arranged a homestay with his family for us. We stayed in a tiny village in the mountains of northern Pakistan for a few days, enjoying the scenery and having tea with his relatives.

    On our first day of the homestay, a wedding took place in the village, to which we were spontaneously invited. It was very different from the wedding ceremonies at home that we were used to, and such an incredible opportunity to talk to the locals and get to know their culture.

    In general, some of the coolest experiences with locals come from regions with few tourists. In Western China, we went out in the evening to the town square and joined the locals that were dancing there. We messed up most of the steps, but the people were very excited about dancing with us, and it was a lot of fun!

    Daniel and Ilona Desert

    Daniel and Ilona Desert

    Why We Started Blogging

    We started the blog while we were traveling through Vietnam. In the beginning, it was a way of recording our adventures together, but we soon realized we wanted to share our knowledge with readers.

    Our first successful blog posts were transportation and food guides, mostly about regions where little information was available online. Did you know, for example, that from Lima, you can take a bus to visit the archaeological site of Caral, one of the oldest settlements in the Americas? Unfortunately, when we went there, we could barely find information online, so once we had finished that trip, we wanted to share it with others.

    These days, we still like to focus on sharing our experiences and providing information that you cannot easily find online. Our mission is to help our readers organize a well-rounded trip, which includes the major highlights of a destination but also some hidden corners that are more difficult to find.

    Daniel and Ilona Greece

    Daniel and Ilona Greece

    How We Were Able To Go Globe-Trotting Full-Time 

    When we met in Turkmenistan, we were both traveling full-time. We didn’t find starting that lifestyle too challenging. We had both left our jobs and were ready to see the world. That meant, for example, giving up our apartments and getting rid of most of our things. It also meant not seeing our friends and family for a long time and giving up on many luxuries from back home. Sleeping in tents, taking cold showers, and eating cheap food became the new normal. Getting severely ill on the road also has its own challenges, and it happened to us a few times! But it was all worth it.

    We knew we wanted to come back after around a year of travel, and in a way, adjusting to a regular 9-to-5 lifestyle was just as difficult as leaving it. While on the road, we were free to explore and adapt our days to our needs, and suddenly, we had many more responsibilities.

    Daniel looking at the mountains of Pakistan

    How We Manage Our Schedule

    We are lucky to live in Germany, where the minimum number of holidays is 20 days a year. We both have more, and we use all of our days as well as we can. Besides that, we also love weekend trips. We live in Frankfurt, from where we can easily travel around Europe, and we’re trying to make the most of it. We also still find time to travel full-time. We can do it between jobs, and, in the past, we have even taken a sabbatical from our jobs to travel for a few months.

    Daniel and Ilona Fairy Meadows

    Daniel and Ilona Fairy Meadows

    GAFFL For Travelers & Other Apps We Use While Traveling

    We have both traveled solo, and while it’s a great experience, sometimes you just want to have someone to share your adventures with.

    In some countries, it can be easy to meet other travelers along the way, but in others, it’s a challenge, and that’s where GAFFL comes in. You can find a companion before you leave, and you won’t have to worry about spending too much time alone. Plus, sharing expenses with another traveler can save a lot of money! Sometimes, you pay almost twice as much as a solo traveler compared to those traveling as a couple.

    For our trips, we love using Maps.me for offline maps and not getting lost. Usually, we monitor our travel expenses in Trabee Pocket. Finally, one of our favorite travel apps is Polarsteps, which lets you track your trip. It’s so cool to go back to the app and look at our past trips together.

    Challenges We Have Faced

    We have encountered various types of scams, from taxi drivers charging ten times as much as they should to vendors tying bracelets around our wrists and then demanding that we pay for them. Over the years, we’ve become better at recognizing them.

    The language barrier can be one of the biggest challenges when traveling. It’s hard to argue that the taxi fare is inappropriate when you don’t speak the same language as the driver. More challenging than travel scams, though, is going on a trip in the first place! We have talked to many people who have this dream destination that they’ve always wanted to see, but they’ve been waiting for years and haven’t booked their trip yet. Sometimes, that first step—actually planning and booking your trip—can be the most difficult one.

    Ilona In Japan

    Ilona In Japan

    Advice We Can Share

    First, figure out exactly what you want. There are numerous options for full-time travel. Do you want to live a nomadic lifestyle and work while you travel? Or do you want to leave for a limited amount of time, like half a year or a year?

    Second, you need to know that there will never be the perfect moment to start traveling full-time. COVID has made it more complicated, but even before, you would never have this moment where everything is just right and you’re ready to leave. Therefore, you need to set a time point and then plan around it.

    Everest Trek Base Camp

    Everest Trek Base Camp

    Things We've Learned 

    The public perception of a country is often very different from what you experience when traveling there. Think about Pakistan, for example. Many people at home are afraid of traveling there, but during our trip, we met the most friendly and welcoming people, and we had an amazing time. Everyone was curious about us, and we are still in regular contact with our tour guide.

    Also, no matter what the problem, there’s always a solution. Even if your flights get canceled or your luggage doesn’t arrive, you will always find a way out. Plus, this can help you step outside your comfort zone, which can lead to the greatest experiences.

    Ilona in Deosai National Park Pakistan

    Ilona in Deosai National Park Pakistan

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.

    SUBSCRIBE