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 our journey came to be.

Why would you do a crazy thing like give up the safety and security of well-paying and steady jobs for a life of uncertainty?

“People, with very few exceptions, fear the uncertainty of an unknown future more than the seeming security of a known status quo. They will give up every right and every bit of their souls for the promise of security …[y]ou can break free of this tendency, but it takes courage, risk-taking, and a conscious act of defying convention.”  – Jeff Tucker, hero of mine (click here for the source article)

We tried and tried (and then tried some more) to type up a good answer that paraphrased this quote, and we finally decided that it summed up our feelings better than anything I could write.

How long will you be on the road?

Best guess is 16-18 months. We’ll see!

How many countries have you visited?

So far on this trip, we’ve visited Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.  Previous travels have taken us to:

Courtney – Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bahamas, Martinique, St. Maarten, Barbados, Spain, U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Japan (25 countries total)

H.J. – Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, St. Maarten, France (13 countries total)

Where are you going next?

Next up on our list are India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. We’ve got some other ideas, but we’re not telling just yet.

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’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.
  • On this trip, we’ve been absolutely blown away by Laos.  It 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.

What kind of camera do you use?

On this trip, we have a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 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’re traveling light, so the 7D is our jam.  We also use our Samsung Galaxy S3 phones (the S5 is the latest model and looks bomb) as well as a GoPro Hero 2 (the Hero 3 is latest model).

What is your daily budget?

We average a little over $75/day.  This includes accommodations, food, drink, gas/local transportation, and incidentals for two, and we feel as if we are living very richly.  It does not include major purchases like motorcycles, flights between countries, or any planning costs (visas, shots, clothing, gear, etc.).  Stay tuned for a special page dedicated just to budget stuff!

How are you financing your travels?

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

What has been 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 (he is currently being spoiled rotten in Las Vegas 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, and this life is not perfect.  No matter your blessings, there will always be ups and downs, even as a nomad.

Every single long-term traveler we’ve met has dealt with his or her own fair share of this kind of thing, and every last one admitted to being caught off-guard at how emotionally and physically exhausting these things and life on the road in general can be.

Best thing:

  • H.J. – The freedom to be who you really are.  For awhile, I had a sweet mohawk and an epic beard that made children cry.  I don’t have to smile and nod during pointless meetings because it’s “good for my career.”  I don’t have to justify how I spend my time, how I look, whatever, to anyone.  I’m valued (or not) based on my thoughts, ideas, qualities, and accomplishments, not on the fact that I can tie a necktie or hedge appropriately during a meeting so as to not over-promise … or promise anything, actually.
  • Courtney – Knowing you’re not alone in the world.  We have what some might deem radical views on life, nature, religion, the government, child-rearing … basically any and every quality that would exclude us from ‘polite’ society.  Despite our passion, we try to keep our views to ourselves because it’s usually not worth going there.  However, we’ve met some really wonderful, interesting, giving people on our travels with whom we just click.  If you’re a lone, non-conformist reed, you don’t really care that you stand alone, but damn is it nice to meet a kindred spirit once in awhile.

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 around our age 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 damn 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.  So, 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 would have been so much easier and our travel experience much better if we were more 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!