How We Met & Our Inspiration To Start Traveling Together
Just your classic American millennial love story. We met in a bar. As co-workers, not as patrons. I (Geena) had just been bitten by the travel bug and spent the summer in Thailand and Vietnam. I knew immediately that he would be a perfect travel companion and invited him along on my next trip- a month backpacking in Bali, Indonesia. He was crazy enough to say yes and we haven't stopped planning trips together ever since.
How Often We Travel
We've been full-time traveling since 2018- even through the pandemic. But our life on the road is far from luxurious. As budget travelers we gravitate toward hiking, indulging in street food, DIY safaris, and exploring the lesser-traveled corners of the countries we visit.
How We Decide On The Next Destination
Before we began long-term travel we would embark on several trips a year for a month at a time to carefully chosen bucket list destinations. Now we choose places based on cheap flights. Most recently we found flights to Egypt for $350! Once we've booked the flights we scour the internet for the best blogs and plan a detailed itinerary without actually booking anything.
We only book accommodation for the first night in the country and then wing the rest. We're spontaneous travelers but we do prefer to have done a lot of research ahead of time so we have a plan B to fall back on in case things go awry.
How We Pack For Our Trips
I'll always be a team carry-on only. We each have one large pack and one small day pack, both small enough to fly carry-on on even the strictest airlines. My must-have items are a Journal to write in every evening (to keep all my travel experiences fresh in my mind) and my Teva Sandals. I have gone through three pairs and worn them every day for more than 2 years now. Evan's are our LifeStraw water bottles because then we can save the planet while saving loads of money along the way, and earplugs because he's a notoriously light sleeper.
How We Manage Work & Travel
The trip always comes first. When transitioning to a Digital Nomad lifestyle my biggest concern was losing the magic of travel by turning it into my profession. These are my two rules of keeping a good work/travel balance.
Leave the phone in the hotel. I like to stay disconnected. It helps me really live in the moment and take more away from our trips.
Devote one day per week to rest and one for work. Then the other 5 can be fully focused on travel.
Some Of Our Coolest Travel Experiences
Too many to share here. Most are on our blog, but if I had to choose a handful of favorites I would have to say trekking in the Sumatran jungles to spot some of the last wild orangutans is up there. Also the time we took a safari in Sri Lanka's most remote national park and spotted both wild elephants and leopards.
We've also canoed into the Colombian Amazon and slept on a hammock surrounded by jungle during a torrential rainstorm. I would also add climbing the crumbling pagodas of Bagan in Myanmar- one of my all-time favorite countries in the world and summiting the blue-fire belching Mt. Ijen volcano at night to watch the sunrise.
Inspiration For Starting Our Blog
Ever since my first trip abroad I've been obsessed with travel. Stories are just always spilling out of me. The blog began as a natural outlet for our adventures and slowly morphed into a guide to help readers travel better by spending less.
The mission of Beyond The Bucketlist has always been to encourage travelers to seek out immersive experiences and embrace cultural traditions around the world instead of opting for all-inclusive resort vacations and bucket lists of tourist sights. I have an entire blog post outlining our travel philosophy.
Favorite Memories Of Meeting New People & Exploring With Locals
My all-time favorite memory of meeting locals was our first time trying out couch surfing. We had just landed in Sumatra, Indonesia, and had arranged to stay with a local family for an evening or two. Our host welcomed us into his family.
He cooked us dinner, introduced us to his kids, even took us on a tour of the city and to lunch at his favorite local restaurant. We still keep in contact today. We've met a lot of hospitable people around the world because we often stay in guesthouses, something I recommend to all travelers.
Countries We Have Explored Together
Together we've been to 17 countries over the past 4 years. We have quite a few destinations on our bucket list that we are hoping to knock off in 2022. The Galapagos, Antarctica, Uganda, Mongolia, Iran, and Pakistan to name a few.
How We Manage Costs During Our Travels
Travel costs less than you think it does. We spend on average $50/day for the two of us. We sleep in guesthouses and hostels (mostly private rooms), eat out for every meal but definitely aren't afraid of street food, and love walking. It's the best way to really get to know a city and a huge money-saver. My biggest tip is to choose one or two bucket list-worthy attractions in each country to splurge on and then stick to a daily budget for every other day of the trip. I also track all my expenses religiously with the app TripCoin, it makes budgeting your travels super easy.
How We Think GAFFL Helps Travelers
I love the idea of GAFFL. I had solo traveled before meeting Evan but personally, I prefer to travel with a partner. I think that GAFFL is a great way to connect with like-minded travelers.
My go-to travel apps are very practical. Maps.me for offline maps and hiking trails, TripCoin for budgeting our every expense, DuoLingo to brush up on the language before & during the trip, and Google Translate to get yourself out of sticky situations. We try to use as little technology as possible along the way.
How We Started Full-Time Traveling
Surprisingly, it just kind of happened. We had been planning a long-term trip of about 6 months to a year so we saved a huge chunk of money for 8 months beforehand. Then once we started traveling full-time we realized that by keeping our costs low we could probably stay traveling for closer to 2 years if we wanted to. At this point, I had already begun blogging and realized on the road that I could get paid to write for other travel publications. It's kind of just been snow-balling from there. Now we can travel off our writing income and keep our savings.
The biggest compromise, however, is definitely giving up a lot of connections back home. When you're on the road all the time it's harder to maintain close friendships. We both have a handful of best friends that we make an immense effort to be there for but you miss out on a lot. There's pretty much no way around it.
Our Travel Plans Over The Next Five Years
We head to Peru in 2 weeks! From there we will be spending a few months exploring Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica before flying to Egypt and working our way across Jordan, Turkey, and Iran. Those are the only 100% concrete plans we have at the moment but within the next year, we plan to head back to India and then explore Pakistan, Nepal, Mongolia, and China in depth.
We have no plans to stop full-time traveling anytime soon. So I would imagine the next five years are going to be filled with lots of new and epic destinations.
Things We Wish We Had Known When We First Started Traveling
Geena: I wish I had known how many ways there are to make money on the road. You don't need to save a huge chunk of change to travel. You can just as easily stop and pick up work in a new city. But the biggest lesson I learned on the road is how to solve problems. I've gotten really good at being flexible and changing plans on a dime which I entirely attribute to life on the road.
Evan: I wish I knew how much there was to see in the world and how doable travel is for everyone earlier in life. I had always dreamed of trekking in the Amazon Rainforest and seeing elephants in the wild as a kid, but I thought you had to spend thousands to have those experiences. I never knew how accessible they were. My biggest takeaway from long-term travel has also been patience and flexibility. A little patience goes a long way.