This Couple Is On A Mission To Provide Immersive Travel Experiences That Benefit Locals & The Planet
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.

GAFFL
28th Jan | 6 min read

Table of Contents

    Mark is an entrepreneur and marketer. By day he runs a portfolio of adventure travel websites that fall under the Mountain IQ umbrella, as well as the content marketing company, Contentellect, and a popular keyword grouping tool, KeyClusters. He's married to the lovely Mila, and they have two sons.

    After spending 3 years traveling the globe, Mark and Mila Whitman founded Mountain IQ. Their mission from day one has been to provide immersive travel adventures that benefit locally-run companies and communities, and that leaves a positive impact on people and the planet.


    Tired of traveling alone? Connect with users from over 190 countries to plan trips and travel together!
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    How We Met & Started Traveling Together

    Mila and I met via the online dating app, OK Cupid (this is pre-Tinder days!). At the time we were both working corporate jobs in London, but our shared love of travel and desire to be our own bosses soon set us on the path to becoming digital nomads (again, this is before digital nomadism was a thing).

    I’m originally from South Africa, where outdoor living is central to life, and Mila grew up in rural Lithuania, where the fantastic lakes near her hometown forged her love of nature and the outdoors.


    How Often We Go On Adventures 

    Before we had kids, we spent most of our time on the road. We started our travels in Southeast Asia.

    For the first few years, we focused on cheap countries as we were actively bootstrapping our businesses and had very little savings. We lived in Vietnam for just under a year, as well as in Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

    From SE Asia, we headed to Eastern Europe, again focusing on more budget-friendly countries like Romania and Bulgaria. And then we spent some time in Central and South America too.

    In each country, we would try spending the maximum amount of time allowed on our visa – typically 3 months – but if we liked a destination, we would do visa runs by crossing the border back and forth. For example, we did this in Thailand.


    How We Decide Our Next Destination

    Nowadays, we don’t travel nearly as much as we used to, and when we do we focus on children-friendly destinations that require as little planning as possible.

    However, before we had kids our primary considerations for a travel destination were affordability, connectivity, and community.

    This is because we were not just traveling, but also trying to get our businesses off the ground. With a limited budget we needed places where our British pounds could go far, the internet was reliable, and the community of digital nomads was thriving.

    Once we choose a destination, we would book an AirBnB for a week on arrival. This would give us time to get our bearings on a destination and find a longer-term to let.


    How We Pack For Our Trips

    For adventure travel, the few must-have items that I always carry are a lightweight 50-60L backpack. I’m a big fan of Osprey Packs.

    I also always have a roll-up puffer jacket that stores really well and is great for most weather conditions – I like the Patagonia down sweater.

    Next, I always take rail running shoes, which double as hiking boots if I’m in the backcountry but work fine for exploring the city too.

    Finally, I always have a power bank (I like Anker portable power banks) in my bag, good sunscreen, and insect repellant if I’m visiting a tropical country (I’ve had dengue one too many times!).


    Our Most Remarkable Adventures

    My top adventures so far are climbing Kilimanjaro, hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, and trekking to Everest Base Camp. The latter was particularly amazing as we got to sleep one night in base camp, climb Island peak and catch a helicopter back to Kathmandu.

    An adventure that is still on my bucket list is visiting Antarctica.


    Why We Started Mountain IQ

    Mountain IQ started as a niche blog to help people climb Kilimanjaro – the site is still the most popular Kilimanjaro guide online. The actual Mountain IQ website is an extension of our Kilimanjaro guide but covers hundreds of popular mountain trails. Our mission is to help people prepare for safe and sustainable adventures in the mountains. We help travelers get connected with local trekking partners who we have vetted.


    One Of Our Most Exciting Adventures

    One of my most exciting adventures was hiking Mount Toubkal in Morocco.

    Toubkal is the highest mountain in North Africa and a reasonable challenge for a fit person. What made this adventure special though is the path we took.

    Instead of the standard Toubkal trail that runs from the mountain town of Imlil to Toubkal, we took a seriously off-the-beaten path through the Atlas Mountains.

    We saw literally no other travelers for 4 days straight and spent every evening in Berber villages where the locals were so welcoming and friendly.

    It was truly special getting to experience Berber life in the mountains. My wife and I still have a Berber carpet we bought directly from a local woman who had spent months weaving it. We were told that our purchase would help her and her family for many months.


    Safety Measures We Take

    I also check the Foreign Commonwealth Office travel website to see what dangerous things one needs to look out for in a particular country.

    I also get annual backpacker travel insurance and ensure I have the appropriate vaccinations.

    The biggest safety measure for me is making sure that I am fit and healthy for the adventure I’m about to embark on. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I get injured much more easily than in the past, and even basic hikes take their toll on my knees. Nowadays I take hiking poles with me as they help reduce the impact on my knees and joints.


    Some Of Our Biggest Challenges

    The biggest challenge I have undertaken is hiking the circular route via Gokyo Lakes to Everest Base Camp and attempting to climb Island Peak.

    The hike itself isn’t very tough, although it is long (around 15 days) and involves crossing a huge pass called Cho la, which takes you over a glacier that has crevasses.

    But the Island Peak climb is a serious adventure. The peak is 6,160 meters high and involves crossing crevasses on ladders and fixed rope climbing up to a knife-edge summit.

    Unfortunately, I got altitude sickness at a high camp on Island peak and couldn’t summit, but the entire experience was incredibly fun and challenging.


    GAFFL For Solo Travelers

    GAFFL is an incredible resource for solo travelers. I wish I knew about it before I started traveling, fortunately, I’ve always had my wife with me.

    The main travel apps that I use are AirBnB, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Google Maps.


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