How I Met My Soulmate
We've met in a pub
in our hometown in Slovakia. I was enjoying an evening with my girlfriends when
Michal walked in, sat down at our table, and talked to our mutual friend. He was
supposed to meet his friends, but he never left our table.
After our friend introduced us, we spent the whole evening together. And
then the next day, and then the next. Michal always has been a very sweet and
kind guy, and it didn't take long for me to fall in love.
I knew he was my soul mate for life just a few months into our
relationship. In that time, Michal went to Scotland for summer, and I
spontaneously joined him a few weeks later. It was our first travel experience
as a couple. We spent the whole summer working in Edinburgh and exploring new
places together. We both knew this was the first but not the last time we were
My Travel Frequency And Activities
I Enjoy Doing
We travel whenever we can. Neither of us is a homebody, and as soon as
we have some time, we head to the mountains and visit national parks.
Now we travel less often with our 1.5-year-old son but packed quite a
lot of trips during the short time he's with us.
We've been to Europe for a few
months, went on a road trip to Vancouver Island, and camping several times in
our national parks. Our time in the mountains usually includes hiking, stand-up
paddleboarding, and biking.
Picking The Next Travel
Inspiration is everywhere around us – adventure movies, documentaries,
and Instagram often spark an interest in an experience or destination first. Whenever
I see a photo or a video and feel my endorphins rise, it's an obvious
indication that I'd love to visit that place.
Then it's just a matter of finding accommodation or flights, and we're
off. I don't have a list of countries I want to visit 'one day'.
Instead, I find
a suitable date to go and start planning the trip immediately. We only live
once, so I try to make things happen and not live a life of regrets.
Our trips are always centered around outdoor activities. We make it quick
and simple: book flights, accommodation, get additional insurance if it's
necessary, pack our gear and go.
Whatever we'd like to do, we research where
exactly is the activity and base accommodation booking off of that. I like to
read blog posts about activities I'd like to do as I find they give you much
more insight than a caption under an Instagram photo.
The Packing Manual I Follow
Traveling long-term taught us how to pack light. It turns out when you're
resourceful; you don't need much. For example, I rather find a laundromat or
wash my jacket in the sink than pack three jackets.
The weight of the carry-on luggage is limited, and even if we pack a big
backpack for a longer trip, we only really pack essentials. My go-to's are a
quick-drying towel, a LifeStraw water bottle with a filter to drink from
anywhere, a rain jacket, a fleece hoodie, trail running shoes, and of course,
My WHV Experience In Canada
The first year was amazing and challenging at the same time. We moved
across the world to Banff, the oldest national park in Canada, with one
suitcase each and our mountain bikes. There's a lot to explore in the Canadian
Rockies, and we were stoked to be living in the epicenter.
We got lucky and secured a job before coming to Canada through our
friend. We were both working in a gift shop at the gondola and got staff
accommodation. But we quickly learned that living in Banff comes at an expense,
everything is very expensive, and salaries are low.
So on our days off, we visited job agencies in Calgary and attended
interviews. When I got an office job in Calgary, we said goodbye to Banff after
three months of living there.
The persistence of browsing available jobs in Calgary and sending out
resumes every day after working in a gift shop paid off.
My Two Year Trip Around The World
We started in Mexico and headed south to Guatemala, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and
Argentina. We didn't have a plan when we went on a trip around the world. I had
a vision board with pictures of places I'd like to see and just tried to see as
many as possible.
That's the beauty of long-term travel; you don't need a plan. It was
amazingly liberating to take it day by day, stay in a place we liked a lot and
move elsewhere when we felt otherwise. We didn't have to worry about having a
certain amount of vacation days or hurrying up to go sightseeing. We stayed in each country for 2-4 weeks, so
we had enough time to get to know its people and culture and visit the most
After South America, we flew to New Zealand, where we secured work visas
to top up our travel fund. After 7 months of working, we traveled around the
country for about 2 months before moving on to Indonesia, India, and Europe.
We've visited Slovakia for a few months to see friends and family and
road-tripped around Slovenia, Italy, and Austria.
After being on the road for 2 years, we came back to Calgary.
Exciting Travel Stories
Traveling for 2 years has brought so many amazing experiences that they
could fill a book. One of the most memorable was hitchhiking on the remote road
Austral in Chile. We've never hitchhiked before, but apparently,
that's how locals do Carretera Austral.
It took us 2 weeks to hitchhike 1,240 km until we reached the
We bought camping gear just before the adventure started. We were
camping in small villages along the way, each morning was different, and we
never knew where we would end up.
How far do we want to go today? Is anybody
going to give us a ride? Each day was a surprise. Sometimes we stayed in a village
for a few days and went hiking to a nearby national park.
With our limited Spanish, we could get to know the locals and drivers
who gave us a ride. Since we were carrying camping gear and a supply of food,
it didn't matter where we would end up at the end of the day.
I remember how
clear my mind was every day, no rush or stuff to worry about. I was falling
asleep under the stars, excited about what the next day will bring. It was an
GAFFL’s Role In Finding A Travel
It's incredible that a platform like GAFFL exists! We've met a lot of
solo travelers who were looking for a travel buddy during our trip. I hope the
word about GAFFL spreads to every corner of the world so solo travelers can
find a friend to travel with! Often I hear from solo travelers that they're on
a trip alone because none of their existing friends had any vacation days left
or had other commitments. GAFFL can fill this gap to match travel buddies from
different parts of the world.
Inspiration To Start My Own
Blog And Its Mission
I started Travel with the Smile to share our travels in Canada. Many
family members and friends asked for our experience and pictures from the
Canadian Rockies, and I thought a travel blog would be a good idea. I would
share with our close ones and the world to help others plan their trip to the
Travel with the Smile helps travelers find outdoor experiences while
providing comprehensive guides and travel tips to plan fun adventures. By showing that an ordinary person can live
an extraordinary life, I'm trying all kinds of adventure sports to expand my
limits. I hope to inspire others to live an adventurous life and provide tips
and tools for your adventure.
Favorite Memories Of Meeting New People And Exploring With
Countless kind locals helped us along the way when we were lost or
I'm grateful for every driver who gave us a ride while we tried
our luck hitchhiking, for every local passing by when we couldn't find a bus
station to provide us directions or took time from their day to take us
directly, so we don't get lost, for every guide who took our safety as the
first and foremost priority when trekking in high altitudes, for every porter
who carried our staff through mountain passes, so we don't get physically even
more drained, for an extremely kind lady who translated for us at the
Venezuelan airport where we got stuck, for every smile and wave from kids and
adults alike who made our trip so memorable.
Even when we've visited places where most travelers are afraid to go,
like El Salvador or Venezuela, we've learned that the news and their scary
stories don't reflect the kind hearts of its locals.
Number Of Countries I've Visited So Far
I don't know the number of countries I've visited, I've never counted them. I'm more focused on experiences, seeing different cultures, and pushing my comfort zone in the outdoors. That's what matters to me, personally.
Just because I've been to Venezuela doesn't mean I would cross it off my
bucket list. Actually, I would want to visit again.
We've spent 3 weeks in
Venezuela and visited many great places. But the more I saw, the more I wanted
to spend more time in each area.
As an example, visiting Angel Falls, the
tallest waterfall in the world, takes three days. But there are many waterfalls
and nature trails to see in the area that staying a week would be much better.
Right now, my number one choice would be Chile.
This magnificent country has a desert, ocean, mountains, and glaciers! You can
visit the driest place on Earth, swim with sea lions in the ocean, hike in famous Patagonia and even visit the southernmost city in the world.
The Great Escape From Venezuela
Stuck at the airport in Venezuela was the worst part of our trip. The
country has been in a crisis for a long time, and visiting is not easy. I bet
you would find Venezuela under advisories not travel to.
Many travelers we've
met in Central America who were continuing to South America were skipping
Venezuela because of the unrest and uncertainty. We had local contacts and came
prepared but still had to be extremely cautious where we went.
Just as we were at the airport to leave for Colombia, we were denied
check-in because we did not purchase onward tickets from Colombia, which is required
to enter the country. Even though we've secured the tickets at the airport, the
check-in was closed, no one wanted to talk to us, and we couldn't find the
Under normal circumstances, we would book another flight or bus out of
the country, but it wasn't that easy. It was right before Christmas, the next
flight was very expensive, and due to the unrest in the country, the border for
overland travel was closing the next day.
Furthermore, we had a limited amount of cash with us, and because of the
insane inflation, we would have lost a lot of money if withdrawing from an ATM.
When we were sitting on the airport's floor trying to admit our defeat
at the flight's departure time, a local lady came to ask if she could help.
Then all of a sudden, an airline employee went out of the office, and the very
kind Venezuelan lady translated all our troubles. Luckily we were then able to
check-in and rushed to catch our flight. The flight was late, and we came to
the gate in time. The security guards let us through even though we were
carrying some stuff that was supposed to be in the checked baggage.
I remember when we landed in Colombia. We sat at the airport café for a
few hours, playing the day's events in our heads, feeling immensely grateful
for the kind people we've met and, of course, a bit of luck that we've had.
Everything worked out in the end.
Advice To Readers Who Want To
Travel For A Long Time And Pursue A WHV Program
Go for it! That's my advice to anyone. It opens your eyes like nothing
else in life will. People tend to overthink a lot of stuff. Usually, they worry
about leaving their friends and their well-known way of life.
The good thing
is, you can go with your friend or choose a country culturally close to your
homeland. Just know that getting out of our comfort zone is where the magic
happens. And whatever happens, is a precious life experience.
Lessons Learned Through Traveling
I've learned to be grateful for whatever I have in my life. People are
living with way less than we have in the western world and are happier. I know
it sounds cliché, but once you travel and see it with your own eyes, you'll
remember those moments forever.
I've seen people carrying heavy pots on their heads for several kilometers
to get fresh drinking water. I wonder how many people who can drink their tap
water are grateful and realize how lucky they are.
Similar realizations brought us to a very relaxed way of life. We don’t
stress over difficult situations but take a deep breath and try to come up with
some solutions. Traveling long-term is the best thing that we’ve ever done.