What is Wanderrlust?

It was 2013, and we were your typical, 30-something American couple.  In respectable, 9-to-5 desk jobs, we were climbing the professional ladder, saving for a house, and talking about starting a family.

Instead, we quit our jobs, put everything into storage, and left our home of almost 10 years in Washington, DC, in search of adventure, personal fulfillment, and good eats.  Wanderrlust is the story of our journey.

Read more about how it all came to be.

How long were you on the road?

One year – 365 days to be exact.

What countries did you visit?

Asia: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India

Middle East: Oman

Europe: Turkey, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Previous travels have taken us to Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bahamas, and St. Maarten.  Courtney has also been to Martinique, Barbados, Spain, U.K., Czech Republic, Poland, and Japan.

Where are you now?

We are back home in the States and living in Portland, OR.  We’ll still be traveling frequently, but for now, we’ll be sticking a bit closer to home and exploring everything the West Coast has to offer.  We can’t wait!

What is the best country/city you’ve ever visited?

As any traveler will tell you, this is an impossible question!  Here’s our best shot:

  • Paris is one of our favorite cities in the whole world – it just never gets old.  When we visit, we don’t do much besides stroll endlessly, drink wine, eat, and shop … mostly for food stuffs to bring home!  We also love Istanbul, Budapest, and Amsterdam.
  • We’ve both been to Mexico more than any other country, though not together (yet).  Mexico is amazingly huge and diverse, and you could spend a lifetime eating and exploring your way through its various regions.
  • Laos is one of the least densely populated countries in Asia and the least visited – even neighboring Cambodia sees almost DOUBLE the international visitors Laos receives (thanks in large part to the world’s largest temple complex, Angkor Wat).  Though most people miss Laos, here’s why you shouldn’t: absolutely stunning and varied landscape, rich history, fantastic food, cheap prices, and warm people make it a top destination for 2014.  Laos was by far our favorite country in SE Asia.
  • Slovenia might just be our favorite country ever.  It is pure magic, a fairytale come to life.  Every inch of it is stunningly beautiful, from the crystal clear sparkling waters of Lake Bled to the towering peaks of the Julian Alps to the hilly vineyards of Jeruzalem to the small slice of rocky coastline on the Adriatic.  The simple, rustic food is perfection, and the people are warm, humorous, and just plain delightful.  There are castles.  There are small mountain villages.  There are grazing sheep. There are flower boxes in every window.  We fell in love, hard.

Who does the photography for the site, and what kind of camera do you use?

H.J. is the resident photographer at Wanderrlust, though once in awhile Courtney gets behind the lense.  H.J. does all editing(he likes Lightroom).

As for gear, we mostly used a Canon EOS 7D Mark II for this trip, though we also have a Canon EOS 5D Mark II as well as a bunch of lenses at home.  Unfortunately, all that stuff is REALLY heavy, and we traveled light, so the 7D is our jam.  We also used our Samsung Galaxy S3 phones (the S5 is the latest model and looks bomb).

How did you finance your travels?

Mostly savings plus income from our website, writing, and photography freelance jobs.

What was the worst thing about life on the road?  The most surprising?  The best thing?

Worst thing:

  • Both – Being away from our dog, Pappy Van Winkle (who was spoiled rotten while we were gone by Courtney’s parents).
  • H.J.’s honorable mention – Almost incessant rain and cold for over a month of riding in northern Vietnam.
  • Courtney’s honorable mention – Not being able to cook.

Most surprising:

How hard it is.

Many people who aren’t long-term travelers will read this as very bratty sounding.  Apparently, if you travel for a living, you have absolutely nothing in life to complain about. Newsflash: if you agree with this sentiment and also happen to live anywhere in America or Europe, you are also a distinguished member of the “nothing to complain about” club.  Welcome.

Of course, we are all human, this life is not perfect, and living out of a backpack poses a different set of challenges than, say, a two-week vacation.  In fact, every single long-term traveler we’ve met admitted to being caught off-guard at how emotionally and physically exhausting life on the road can be.

Best thing:

Freedom.  The freedom to be who you really are, to reinvent yourself, to start over (every day, if necessary), to grow, to change, to do exactly what you want, and be exactly where you want.  That’s a gimme, right?

What is your best piece of travel advice?

  • Courtney – Make your own rules.  You will meet many a person who will tell you: “You can’t go to Paris without seeing the Lourve!” (answer: we have), or “Who eats pizza in Vietnam?” (answer: we do! And in Cambodia and Thailand too).  Honestly, screw those people.  We all travel for different reasons, and what we want out of our own travel experiences can vary from trip to trip and destination to destination.  So, I say spend your hard-earned money doing what makes you happy, whether that means eating bug intestines on a plastic stool at a food stall in the sweltering heat of SE Asia or parking it in a lounger on a Carnival cruise for a week – live your own dream.
  • H.J. – Know yourself, and travel accordingly.  We thought we were bona fide adventurers … and then we met a Frenchman named Baptiste in rural Vietnam.  Before long, we were swapping travel stories, excitedly telling Baptiste about a cheap but decent hotel we found, when he informed us that $10/night is well above his budget (for the record, that’s cheap, even in this part of the world).

You see, Baptiste is a true pioneer – he shows up in town and knocks on the doors of homes, restaurants, shops, you name it, in search of a so-cheap-it-might-as-well-be-free place to sleep.  No matter that there is no toilet.  No matter that there is no running water, or even a bed.  If it’s $1 or less, he’s in.

If you thought you were having a “local” experience by bunking at a homestay, think again.  It’s ok, though – you’re in good company (us).  Our lives have been so much easier and our travel experience much better once we started being honest with ourselves about our own limitations and expectations.

Lesson?  If having a nice glass of wine matters to you, don’t take a trip to northern Vietnam for four weeks … OR, pack accordingly.


Have a question and don’t see it listed here?  Shoot us an email, and we’ll do our best to get back to you promptly.  Happy trails!