Nick and I have spent 3 out of our 6 years together traveling abroad. That sounds crazy right? We think so too. And we get a TON of questions about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we can afford it. So here are the answers to a few of our frequently asked questions. Have more? Feel free to shoot us an email, send a DM on Instagram, send an imessage text, release a messenger dove, call via morse code, hand-deliver a scroll… we’re here for you!
Where are you two from?
Nick is originally from a little town in East Tennessee called Sevierville. It’s actually pretty famous as it is the birthplace of Dolly Parton and home of Dollywood. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. We lived together in Honolulu, Hawaii for a short while before our first epic adventure abroad back in 2013 where we visited 16 countries in 15 months.
What were your “real” jobs?
Isn’t being a travel blogger a real job? Well if you want to know what our most recent PAID jobs were, Nick worked for a company called Medallia and he was a beast at selling expensive “Customer Experience Management” software. I have been working in human resources for several years, most recently for a renewable energy company called 3Degrees. Both companies are really amazing and if you want to look into being hired by either, let us know – we’ll hook you up.
How did you two meet?
I’d like to think we have a pretty romantic love story so I wrote an entire page about it. You can read all about it here.
How many countries have you visited so far?
To date, Nick has visited 58 countries on 6 continents and I’ve visited 40 countries on 6 continents (I just had to beat him at something). And of those, 35 we were lucky enough to visit together. Well, 1 of those is hotly debated. We took 2 bus ride through Kosovo – changing buses in the capital city, Pristina – so Nick argues that since we saw most of the (pretty tiny) country through the bus window, it counts. I say that unless you’ve spent a good 12 hours in a country and walked around a bit, it doesn’t count. Pick a side and let us know who you think is right.
What is your favorite country?
This is such a difficult question and one that we get all the time! It’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. But we don’t have kids so we don’t fully understand the metaphor so, here goes. We both agree that our all-time favorite country is… (drum roll)… MYANMAR! Also known as Burma. The landscape is stunning, the people are lovely and welcoming, it’s not yet overrun with tourists, it’s super safe (in the areas that tourists are allowed to visit at least), and it’s inexpensive! The only slight downside is that we never really fell in love with the food. Go to Myanmar, seriously, it’s amazing.
And we actually really really love the United States! We took a 6-month road trip from Oregon to the Florida Keys and back again on our 1994 Ford Bronco and had the best time! The US has loads of stunning public lands for camping and hiking and they don’t get all weird about freedom camping like other countries we’ve been too (I’m looking at you New Zealand…).
Also, Turkey is rad, you should go. Okay, I’ll stop now.
We find that weather has a big effect on our feelings on a place (if it’s raining and we spend all of our time indoors, we aren’t big fans) and that the friendliness of the people makes a world of a difference (getting robbed twice in South America sort of tainted my opinion on the entire continent). But honestly, we have loved something about everywhere we’ve been.
What is your least favorite country?
Also a difficult question because we would probably be terrible people if we couldn’t find SOMETHING to love about each place that we visit. That being said, neither of us are dying to go back to Argentina. The Patagonia region is beautiful but Buenos Aires is pretty dangerous, expensive, and we have never found the people to be particularly friendly. I also didn’t love Morocco but I think that’s just because all of the boys wanted to touch my butt.
What countries are you dying to visit?
ALL OF THEM!!! Truly, there are so many countries in the world and each one has something amazing to offer (even Argentina…). But the highest ranking on our list are; Iceland, Namibia, Kenya, Iran, Bhutan, and Antarctica.
What countries are you planning to refrain from visiting?
There aren’t very many countries that we wouldn’t visit. For safety reasons I’m a bit concerned about South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea, and Afghanistan. I just asked Nick if there are any countries he doesn’t want to visit and his response was “I don’t think so…” (but he’s not afraid of anything).
You’ve done so much already, what is left on your bucket list?
We’ve knocked a bunch of things off of our bucket list! Some of them were specific things we wanted to do outside of the US, but we also wanted to go skydiving, bungee jumping, and check out Burning Man (check, check, check!). But there are still a ton of things left that we would like to do before we kick the bucket!
I’d like to go grape stomping at a vineyard, milk a cow, learn to play guitar, become fluent in another language (preferably Thai), have a tarantula crawl on me, eat a snake heart, go on an African safari, and adopt a baby from another country.
Nick wants to raft the Grand Canyon (wait, I want to do that too!), take a train ride across the Trans-Siberian railroad (that too!), go on an African safari (I already said that!), take a riverboat cruise up the Amazon river (that sounds fun!), go to Carnival in Rio (yep, I wanna do that too!), run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain (oooo I think I’ll just watch!), go to Holi – the festival of colors – in India (yes! Me too!), go to La Tomatina – a giant tomato fight – in Buno, Spain (I’m in!), visit the Pyramids (done!), take a cruise to Antarctica (yep, agreed!), and live in Bangkok (me too!). And the list goes on and on and on!
Don’t you get sick of each other?
Do we ever! The other day Nick broke my phone charger and I wanted to rip his face off. But I was really jet lagged and exhausted and when I thought about it for 5 minutes I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal (and I break his stuff all of the time – oops!). But in the big scheme of things, we get along pretty freaking well. Especially considering that we spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. Just. The. Two. Of. Us. Do we want to meet other people? Of course we do! But let’s face it, couples are pretty intimidating to start up a chat with.
Mark Twain said – “I have found that there is no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them” – and it’s so true! What traveling together has taught us is how to communicate more effectively, how to fight in a more pleasant manner, how to let things go, and how to keep the romance alive. And how to come up with interesting conversation topics and to know when to just shut up. And at the end of the day there’s no one in the world I’d rather have by my side along this epic adventure than Nick Wheatley (okay, and maybe Marky Mark Wahlberg).
Do you get bored?
No. I mean, I guess sometimes when it’s raining we get a little stir-crazy because we want to be out exploring. But we never watch television and we rarely even have time to read a book. Embarrassingly enough, we’ve never seen Game of Thrones. And we have no idea what’s going on in pop culture news. Blogging keeps us pretty busy and we’re always on the move or planning our next adventure.
When will you be done traveling?
Well… I guess that’s kind of hard to say. When we run out of money? When we get bored with this lifestyle and want to settle down? If we ever decide to start a family? What we’d REALLY like to do is figure out a way to live in another country for a while and make some dough, either through teaching English or being paid travel bloggers (if you know how to make this dream a reality, please do share!). The biggest issue is that we don’t really know what we want to do when we’re done traveling or where we want to live. We enjoy just living in the moment and seeing where life takes us.
What do you want to do for work when you’re done traveling?
This is another one that’s up in the air. I think the one thing that’s for sure is we don’t really want to do what we did for work before we left. Unless we get a really enticing offer, then we’ll see. Can someone please just pay us to travel?!? I’d also like to get paid to drink wine and scroll through Facebook so if you know anyone who’s hiring…
How can you afford to travel for so long?
This is a great question! And one we get all the time. In fact, we wrote an entire blog post about it just so we don’t have to answer it anymore. But in short, we don’t have a house payment, a car payment, debt, children, or any other major expenses. We both made pretty decent money and saved our little buns off. If you are currently shopping for a brand new BMW or waiting for the newest Coach bag to be released, this travel lifestyle may not be for you.
What is your daily budget?
We wouldn’t describe ourselves as “budget travelers” by any stretch of the imagination. We are both in our mid-30’s so staying in hostel dorm rooms and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner isn’t really on the agenda. But we do try to make smart decisions. For instance, we often opt for public transportation rather than taxis. And we try not to spend more than $40/night for our accommodation. And we do hit the grocery store to avoid dining out for 3 meals a day. So we try to stick to a budget of around $50/day/person or $100/day in total. That is super easy to do in SE Asia, not so easy in Europe.
That being said, we do have a few splurges that we refuse to give up. I must have a cup of coffee every day or I turn into a mean old scary gremlin. And we both enjoy having a glass of wine or a beer at the end of a long day (or in the middle of just any old day). And yes, I’ll blow my budget on an ice cold glass of sauvignon blanc with zero hesitation.
You live out of a suitcase? What the heck is in there?
This is another question that we get with a bit of frequency so we wrote an entire blog post about it. Granted, we aren’t just on a 2-week vacation so this list might not be right for everyone. And traveling with hot weather clothes AND cold weather clothes isn’t entirely realistic so we have to throw things out and acquire new articles as necessary. But I don’t have any packing secrets and I’ve never been 100% satisfied with my packing choices. But with every trip I get a little bit closer so stay tuned…
Speaking of suitcase, what kind of bag do you tote around?
I talk about this in my packing blog as well, but in case you haven’t read that yet we both carry regular old duffel bags. We know, we know, most “backpackers” carry those big backpacking packs around and tie their hiking boots to the outside of it and then wear a second backpack on their front and look really weird and out of place in cities. We prefer to just look like we’re on vacation. Because we are. When we are actually out in the wilderness on a trek we carry those pick huge trekking packs (they are generally easy to rent) and only because we have to. Just find a bag that is lightweight, has a comfortable strap, is durable, and will fit all of your goodies. Picking a bag isn’t as big of a deal as everyone makes it out to be, I promise. But smaller is better – otherwise you’ll throw stuff in there that you don’t need just because you have extra space.
Do you have cell phones?
Yes, we both have cellphones but no, neither of us have cellphone plans. Our cell phones are only useful when we have access to wifi. And for taking photos and listening to downloaded podcasts of course. If you are planning on taking a long-term trip and want to get rid of your cellphone plan just know that there are SO MANY THINGS that require a phone number! Want to sign up for Venmo? You need a cell number. Want to use WhatsApp for calling purposes? You better get your account before you get rid of your cell number. Want to use two-step verification for anything? They have to send you a text message (SMS). We run into this issue constantly and it’s incredibly frustrating. Just make sure all of your ducks are in a row prior to shutting off that phone plan.
How do you decide where to go next?
I wish that we could say we have some sort of “master plan” or some grandiose travel schedule but the reality is that we really just fly by the seat of our pants. Sure we try to check the weather and the best season to visit (for instance, you probably don’t want to visit Iceland in December or New Zealand in July – it’s the middle of winter in both countries!). We also try to visit during shoulder season so we can find cheap accommodations without too much trouble and so we won’t need dinner reservations. But that’s about it as far as our travel planning goes.
We were in Turkey and we needed to get to Munich eventually and I said, “maybe we should check out Bulgaria! That sounds nice!” to which Nick replied, “huh, what do you know about Bulgaria?”. Little did he know that I knew literally nothing at all about Bulgaria! I just figured that since I hadn’t heard of loads of tourists trying to go there, it must not be hot on the backpacker to-do list. So we went and it was rad and I was right (as usual).
Anyway, my point is that if we like a place, we generally stay a bit longer. If we don’t, we leave. And sometimes we like a place so much that we are in danger of staying past our visa and getting in trouble (as was the case with Myanmar).
What kind of hotels or hostels do you stay in?
We use a few different sites for finding accommodations. In the USA our preferred site is Hotels.com because they have a great rewards program. While in Europe we gravitate toward Booking.com because it the most widely used site and offers both hotels and private residences all in one place. When in Asia you’ll find the best selection and prices on Agoda.
If we are going to stay somewhere for a few days it’s hard to beat the value of Airbnb but we have a few qualms with it… First of all, there are generally “service fees” and “cleaning fees” that aren’t disclosed until you’re ready to book. Second, it’s not good for last minute bookings because hosts can take up to 24 hours to respond to your request (actually, they don’t really have to respond at all). And third, you have to figure out a specific time/place to meet the hosts and when you a.) don’t have a cell phone plan b.) rely on wifi to send/receive email and c.) are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveler, this can be extraordinarily difficult.
What credit/debit cards do you travel with?
Right before we left the states we signed up for a Charles Schwab debit card which is amazing because they don’t charge any international fees and they refund all of your ATM charges. We also love our American Express credit card because they offer car insurance on rental cars (we’ve had to use this once and it was super easy). We’ve heard rave reviews about the Chase Sapphire card but we don’t have a shipping address, but plan to add it to our repertoire as soon as we land somewhere for any length of time.
How do you access your money?
We had one horrifying experience in Bali where we got confused on the conversion rate and accidentally paid our taxi driver $70 instead of $7 (don’t worry, we tracked him down and got it back!). Ever since then we try to do our homework prior to arriving in a country so we are clear.
As soon as we arrive via plane, train, or bus, we hit the ATM (there is ALWAYS an ATM in the bus station, train station, and the airport). And since you never know when your bank will put a hold on your debit card we always carry a small emergency fund of cold, hard cash tucked away somewhere in our luggage. USD or Euros are the best as they can be exchanged pretty much anywhere in the world. We generally avoid the currency exchange counters as you always get a better conversion rate at the ATM.
How do you get around without speaking the language?
I took 4 years of French lessons in middle school and high school and what do I remember? How to say “bonjour” and a silly little song about ducks. Nick took Spanish and has gotten a decent amount of practice over the years which helped us a lot when traveling in South America. Thankfully, we are lucky enough to have been born in the United States and speak English which is pretty much universally known. Even if you encounter someone who doesn’t speak English, there is likely a kind stranger nearby who can help to translate.
However, that doesn’t mean that we just go around expecting everyone to communicate with us in our preferred dialect. We do attempt to learn key phrases in each country we visit. Phrases like “thank you”, “please”, “hello”, and “goodbye” are super easy to learn and locals generally get a kick out of seeing you struggle through pronouncing them.
Do you carry travel insurance?
No. I’m not even really sure what that is. But lots of Insta-famous people seem to think it’s important (OR they’re sponsored by some travel insurance company… who knows?)
What if you need to go to the doctor?
Luckily we’ve only needed to take two trips to the doctor during our travels; Nick had a surfing accident in Chile and required stitches, and I had a surfing accident in Indonesia and required stitches (maybe we should take it as a sign that we’re not meant to surf?). Both were pretty funny and reasonably painless situations.
Nick was rushed to the hospital while gushing blood all over his neon yellow wetsuit and then dripped water all over the hospital floor while they shaved his head and stitched him up. When he tried to pay they waved him off and seemed annoyed (three cheers for socialized healthcare!). So his stitches were free and whether or not he was supposed to pay in some other way we’ll never know – they never took down his name or any of his information.
When I got stitches I learned from the girl sitting next to me who was in a moped accident that I was supposed to negotiate the price of my hospital bill. I learned too late and ended up paying a whopping $60.
Both hospital experiences were clean and pleasant and quite similar to what you would find in the US (although with a slight language barrier). And there are countries like Thailand that are renowned for having excellent and incredibly cheap services so people travel from all over the globe to get work done there. We both went to the dentist last time we were in Thailand and would give our experience a thumbs up.
So, in short, if we needed to go to a doctor in another country we would be perfectly comfortable doing so. And we would probably attempt to negotiate the price. And we would plan on paying cash.
Did you get vaccinated before leaving the US?
We did, but only because we had to. We had read that a yellow fever vaccination was required to exit certain countries in South America so we got our vaccination in the US prior to leaving and carried our paperwork around with us everywhere. No one ever asked for it. But yellow fever sounds horrifying so it was worth the slightly painful shot. We’ve never heard of any other vaccine requirements for any of the other countries we’ve visited to date.
That’s it for our frequently asked questions! We sure appreciate you reading – please reach out if we didn’t answer that burning question that you’ve been dying to ask!