We met online in 2005 when we both lived in Montreal.
I (Frank) had always traveled. I lived a few years in Zambia as a child and I can thank my parents for infecting me with the bug. Before meeting Lissette I had traveled independently to places like Sumatra, Colombia, and had backpacked through the Dominican Republic. I enjoy the adventure.
Lissette is from New York and although she hadn’t done a lot of traveling, she had the same nomadic spirit. It’s what led her to leave home and take a job in Montreal.
We started traveling together when we met. We both had good jobs but both got bored easily – our trips were the highlights of our years in Montreal. We knew that we would eventually leave Montreal to travel full-time, that was the plan all along. It eventually happened in 2014.
Hiking Up Table Mountain
How We Prepare For Trips
The process was different before/after full-time travel.
Prior to leaving Montreal, we usually planned one major trip overseas (usually an “exotic” winter trip) and one domestic trip (usually somewhere in Quebec). We chose places that we were curious about, places we had always wanted to see. I would do a lot of planning for those trips, making itineraries, booking hotels, pre-planning our days with alternative plans for rainy days etc. It’s what I would do when bored at work.
When we left Montreal and started travelling full-time it all changed. It wasn’t just about ticking off places we wanted to see but also about logistics, money and the availability of Airbnb apartments. Travelling full-time you don’t want to be blowing $150/night for a hotel room (you won’t be travelling full-time long if you do that). So there were different variables at play.
Over our 6 years of full-time travel, we had a pretty good mix of more-expensive Schengen destinations (Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic) as well as less-expensive Non-Schengen bases (Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine).
If we felt good about our financial situation we’d splurge and hit places that we were always curious about (South Africa, Japan) or if we felt a bit poor we’d go to “cheap” destinations (Thailand, Cambodia).
Knowing we wanted to travel long-term, it was a juggling act between seeing places that were on our list and also being mindful of our finances.
Preparing for those trips? Since we were actually busy travelling day-to-day, planning was often last minute and not as great as it could be. Sometimes it was done on the fly. That’s not always bad. But it was definitely different from the process prior to us leaving Montreal.
Remarkable Adventures That We Have Experienced
Our 3 months in South Africa are at the top of my list. I paraglided from Lion’s Head and had several hikes up Table Mountain. Had similar experiences in Croatia and Mexico – my most remarkable adventures always have to do with nature. In Thailand, we did Muay Thai for 2 months and met some nice people, and got in great shape.
Paragliding In Cape Town
Lissette gets more excited about personal experiences. If she can have a conversation with a local she’ll be happy for days. We spent 6 months in Lviv in Ukraine and met so many nice people in the gym where we signed up. We’re still in contact with them today. Places are just places until you’ve gone there and made connections. The war in Ukraine has touched us on a personal level because we had so many great experiences there.
Back to the question. Neither of us has a “bucket list” (very much dislike that term). But there are things we’d like to experience.
Lissette wants to see the Northern Lights and see a “Haka” in person. She’d like a luxury train experience. We’ve had so many rough train experiences over the years I think she’s craving a bit of luxury as she gets older. I’d like to revisit Africa and see Victoria Falls (I have memories of it etched from childhood) and go on a safari in Tanzania. Closer to home, I’d like to do a multi-day cycling and/or hiking trip. As I say, it’s nature that turns me on the most.
Countries We Have Visited So Far
We’ve traveled to about 50 countries. It’s not something I’ve counted, to be honest.
In Colombia, we were at a resort when the vice president of the country flew in on a helicopter. The place ended up being swarmed with soldiers who seemed intent on practicing English with us. Was a funny experience.
In Kyiv, we were invited to an Embassy party by the Canadian ambassador to Ukraine (he had come across our blog). We attended the party at the Canadian Embassy where we drank Labatt Blue (horrible beer) and won a bottle of Canada Club in the party raffle.
So many cool experiences over the years: hiking in the desert in Morocco, taking the ‘El Chepe’ train through the Copper Canyon in Mexico, staying in a “Hello Kitty” room in Tokyo, and having dinner at a game reserve in South Africa.
Hello Kitty Japan
Riding El Chepe In Northern Mexico
Favorite Memories Of Meeting New People
We’ve met a lot of people during our travels and we can, in part, thank Airbnb for that. We’ve met many Airbnb owners who offered to show us around, go out for drinks or even come to their house for dinner. Airbnb gets a lot of bad press but we’ve had mostly good experiences with it (also because we tend to rent places for longer periods of time than most people).
We ended up being good friends with our Airbnb owner in Croatia. Had a lot of dinners, and outings and I would regularly go hiking with him and his friends.
Met many other people. In Sarajevo, I got to talking to two men who invited me to a restaurant where we ate and got drunk on Bosnian wine. At the end of the night, they refused to let me pay for anything.
In Georgetown (Malaysia) a man saved us when we had no local currency at the train station. He took us, paying for a ferry and bus, and guided us to our hotel. He also refused our money.
In Sevilla, our host invited us out for dinner and drinks, in Rovinj our Airbnb host (a chef) would surprise us with stews, grilled fish, and cakes.
In Lviv, I would play tennis with our host there. We’ve met so many people during our years of travel.
Wine Tasting In Croatia
The Motivation Behind Launching Our Blog
It was simple. I just wanted to document our travels. I write about the places we’ve visited, the experiences we’ve had, and the people we’ve met.
I give my thoughts on things and sometimes ramble about some thing or other. If I love a place I’ll say so, if I dislike a place I’ll be candid about it as well. Some people hate my honesty, while others appreciate me for it.
The Travels of Bbqboy and Spanky is about travel, places, traveling full-time, and about living in foreign countries. Our newer blog, Mapping Spain, focuses on Spain and all the issues related to retiring/living in Spain.
FT In Cape Town
Some Of Our Greatest Challenges
I’ve always said that it’s not the traveling that’s hard, it’s the administrative stuff back home: taxes, banking, insurance, healthcare, belongings, etc.
Full-time travelers are not the norm and we tend to fall outside the system. Things are easier today than when we started but those administrative issues can be a real headache. We learned a lot through the years.
Sacrifices? Friends I would say. When you’re not living somewhere you’re easily forgotten. And that’s true for people we meet as well. You make friends when you travel but it’s hard to keep them as a nomad. You can often feel that you’ve lost everyone around you.
Ninja Training in Kyoto
How We Juggle Our Work & Adventure
The first 4 years of full-time travel, Lissette worked remotely for the company she used to work for in Montreal. It reinforced the “slow travel” lifestyle we had. Since 2019 though she no longer works and our money is made through our investments and the blog.
It also meant that we now have more flexibility with our time.
How We Feel About GAFFL
One of the things we’ve noticed more and more is people wanting to “meet up” when traveling. We see it all the time and even get a lot of emails from people asking to meet wherever we are. I think GAFFL is great for that.
We don’t use many apps and/or websites. Google Maps is probably the most important app I use when traveling. It’s saved me many times. The Airbnb app keeps in touch with hosts, WhatsApp, and Skype as well. I do research on places from blogs and websites I trust.
Muay Thai Training In Chiang Mai
How We Manage Costs When we worked in Montreal and took our yearly holidays we were pretty loose with our money. I think most people on holiday are like that – you have a couple weeks or a month off and you’re going to make the most of it.
When we started traveling full-time we had to be much more careful. And that means examining the major costs, principally accommodation and food. Longer-term stays on Airbnb are the most economical accommodation option for full-time travelers. And having an apartment with a kitchen means you can cook for yourself. That alone saves you big bucks.
F&L In Budapest
Traveling full-time just made us much more prudent with our money. I remember a couple of years ago looking up a food tour in Budapest. $90 US, per person, for a half-day food tour. That’s $180 US for 2 people! No way we would ever do that. So I researched the places that the food tour visited and what they ate. We did our own do-it-yourself version of that food tour. In the end, we paid a third of the cost and did the tour on our own schedule.
Travel Scams & Other Challenges That We Have Faced
Taxis. The enemy of every traveler. They see you coming as a visitor. Make sure you have the Uber app on your phone and/or use public transport. It’ll save you a ton of money and stress.
Biggest challenge: getting from the airport/train station/bus station to your Airbnb/hotel. It’s those first hours of getting your feet on the ground somewhere new: you might not have a SIM card, you might have to deal in a foreign currency that you’re not used to, you’ll have taxi drivers trying to scam you, you might have an Airbnb host that you can’t reach. Those first hours are usually the most stressful.
I find that once you get to your accommodation and have your feet on the ground, you tend to get acclimatized quickly. The solution is planning and writing everything down. Always have a backup plan. We learned all that in our first year of full-time traveling.
Other than that, we haven’t been victim to any scam since we started traveling full-time. A couple of years ago (in Sarajevo) somebody tried reaching into Lissette’s bag when she was taking a photo. But they didn’t succeed in getting anything. We’ve never been mugged, robbed, never had to be taken to a doctor for anything. We’ve been lucky but also prudent (we don’t hang out in bars, stay out late at night or go to shady neighborhoods).
Lissette in Prachuap Khiri Khan
Advice That We Can Share
Plan your new life: most of the things you do prior to leaving will be the most important. Get a local number on your phone if you can (we didn’t have that when we started but it’s easy these days), have a home address for official paperwork (family or friends), and have family or friends store your belongings if you can. Figure out what you’ll do about health insurance overseas.
I have mentioned it above: taxes, healthcare, and banking are issues that you will run into if traveling long-term. Plan all that out and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches down the line.
The actual traveling is easy and you’ll find yourself adapting quickly. In the end, traveling full-time might be the most rewarding thing you ever do.
Czech Hockey Hall Of Fame
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