Ashleigh and John aren’t your average couple, their relationship has almost been defined by travel so it seems fitting they are currently in the middle of the adventure of a lifetime. So far they have been to 42 different countries in 10 months as they quite literally backpack around the world! Their story is incredibly inspiring, made even more interesting by the fact they’re just two regular people who are extremely humble and relatable.
Today they share their amazing story, including how they planned, prepared and saved for a trip around the world that had no end date in sight. They also share their tips for travelling as a couple for such a long period of time, their favourite travel memories and more. Their story is a must-read for anyone with a sense of adventure, looking to be inspired to make a change or take a risk.
Tell me about yourself
My name is Ashleigh and my fiancés name is John. We met during university in our third year, at a poker game. Our relationship started with us being apart for the first year. We lived 1000 km apart for the summer, then I was on my exchange for 4 months in Ecuador and John did his first round-the-world trip for two months.
We attended an international business seminar together in Germany for three weeks and that was our first experience traveling together. It clearly went well, since we are now on our big trip. John started traveling at a young age, he was born in Russia, grew up in Germany and moved to Canada at age fifteen. His family went on annual trips while living in Europe, so he grew up with the travel bug. As for me, I never really thought about traveling, until I went on my exchange in 2011. I had travelled Canada a lot, but nothing has sparked my interest to go see the world, until John and I met.
Tell me about your current Adventure
We left Canada on April 2, 2014 so we have been on the road for 10 months now. Our current country is Thailand and we have visited 42 countries so far on three continents. We have slept in 146 different beds, took 107 buses, 42 trains, 33 car rides, 29 flights, 12 boats and hitchhiked 10 times. Our route has revealed itself as we go, taking us through many parts of Europe, North & South Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and we are now in SE Asia. Travel has become a lifestyle, navigating new ground is a frequent occurrence and tasting different foods regularly, has become part of our daily routine.
What made you decide to take on this huge adventure and live a life like you have?
John and I don’t remember the day that we decided to go travel the world. It was a very communal decision after talking about the idea so much. Everything just started falling into place. We randomly found an incredible seat sale for a flight to Iceland, so we made it official five months before we left. We knew a lot could happen in five months to stop us from going, but we took the risk. A week after we booked it, I found out that the company I worked for was closing down. At that point we knew it was meant to be. I had never really backpacked other than joining group tours and I really wanted to experience it. John had already been to many places at this point, so he was ready to take on the world, this time with no return ticket booked.
How did you Plan and Prepare for such a big trip?
Even before John and I bought our Iceland flights, we were doing a lot of research. Starting with searching random flights and getting interested in different routes. We didn’t want to plan too much ahead, so we only had a general idea of our plans for the first few months, which was perfect since our plans change a lot.
Preparing for this trip was the fun part. We packed and repacked many times and made sure we had everything. Once the thought of traveling long-term became more realistic, we started saving. Our goal was to stick to our magic number: $100 a day for both while traveling. We saved up for that amount, knowing there would be many cheaper days. We organized our roles pretty quickly too. I don’t get much from reading guide books, but John loves reading them and he absorbs the information much better. So my job is to look up hostels, train or bus routes and read up on reviews. John would go through the guide-book and then let me know the things he thought we would both like to do. It’s impossible to see and do everything in a particular place, so we compromised and would prioritize. Eventually the attitude towards trying to see and do as much as possible changes and we are happy with the things we get to experience. “We’ll see what we see” became a common phrase.
What is you favourite travel memory so far?
We have many favourite travel memories, making it hard to come up with just one. One of my favorites was summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and spoiling ourselves to a week in the Maldives, where John proposed! It was a very big personal accomplishment for us both. John enjoyed the cruises we have done both on the Nile and in Halong Bay. The best memories are the ones we can share together and with others, they range from watching the World Cup games with friends, tagging along with fellow travellers away from planned spots and making new friends. There have been enough thrills as well: paragliding, hot air ballooning, cliff jumping, scuba diving, camel riding and kayaking, just to mention a few!
What has been the hardest thing you have come up against and how did you overcome it?
Patience is the name of the game, an open mind is a must! Ashleigh is naturally patient when it comes to waiting in line, but she has not been to a train station in Ukraine before. Understanding, respecting and adapting to new cultures was taught to us during our international management lectures, but actually doing it, is easier said than done.
Getting to know the cultural differences in a new place is exciting, and one learns best by making a few mistakes along the way. Challenges come up, whether it is dealing with annoying Tuk-Tuk drivers or keeping face during an argument with a local Laotian. People watching has become one of our favourite activities and we observe and learn how others behave, it’s a free psychology course! Language barriers, as John would argue, are close to non-existent and can always be overcome with expressive body language, confidence and laughter.
What have you learned from this adventure?
We have learned many things travelling for the past ten months, such as patience, and how to interact with other cultures. We also learned how to avoid the many border crossing scams in Southeast Asia! People in every country are so different, and the first impression from a place comes from the locals. So we learned to always be polite, friendly and adapt to how they are. We learned many tactics on how to ignore touts, make locals respect us, barter in a fun and peaceful environment. The lessons learned from traveling can’t be studied, they must be lived. There are so many differences, yet we are all the same, all have goals and needs, all want to build relationships, eat and drink. The people in this world are good, caring and friendly. When traveling through many places, we can confidently say that people are happy and outweigh the ones that have bad intentions by a lot.
What does travel mean to you?
Both of us travel to explore cultures, see the different ways, critically think about them and even implement some. During university we took many classes discussing cultural differences and the only true way to know and adapt to them is through traveling. We both love arriving to a new country and seeing what we have to put up against. That really is the fun part, not knowing what is around the next corner. People are unpredictable, but reading them becomes second nature.
What is your Number 1 tip for anyone thinking of traveling as a couple like you have done?
Patience. Lots and lots of patience with each other. Being together 24/7 can put a huge strain on a couple, but it didn’t phase us much. We argue at times, but I think it’s mainly because we have no one else to let any bits of frustration out on. We have definitely learned to forgive each other fast, since at times there’s no one else around whom we could vent to. We always remember that we are in everything together. What happens, happens and you will get through it together.
It can be hard finding alone time, but we find our quiet time in beautiful places, while hiking, looking out the window of a moving train, reading a book on the bus or laying on the beach. Even though we are together more than most couples are during their normal lives, one can find alone time side by side. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, which we know well by now. Finding them takes time, compromise and acceptance, but it will result in teamwork, a strong relationship and smooth traveling.
How has this experience changed you both?
Our traveling has changed us in many ways. We don’t get frustrated or angry when things don’t go our way. An example is: When we arrived in Sri Lanka and while at customs, John found out that he mistakenly put his wrong birth year in his E-Visa. His only solution was to pay another $35 US for the visa. I was surprised at how calm we both were during that situation, so we learned how to accept the worst and move on. Coping with constantly changing events has become easy, more fun and always resulted in a better overall experience.
What would you say to someone thinking about doing something like what you have done, but may be a little hesitant or scared?
If there is any part of you that wants to go see the world, just go. All you have got to do is decided to go travel and the hardest part is over.
The things you will learn from traveling the world are a lot more than what you would learn back home at a job or school. It’s important to travel with your heart and it will lead down some amazing paths. At first I was hesitant about traveling the world, because of all the bad things going on as portrayed by mass media. I knew I had to overcome that and sure enough I was the one who dragged us to Odessa, Ukraine and Egypt, places which have been the focus of most news channels in the recent years. I felt so safe in both countries, John always reminds me that people are like us, they live their lives and they have good hearts.
There are more good people than bad people in this world, we argue about the exact percentage as our travels progress. The number goes up constantly! If your scared about the money, don’t be. One does not need to be rich to travel the world, one just needs to travel smart.
A tip for anyone, whether traveling or living a regular life: Have a budget spreadsheet and record every little thing that you spend to show where the money is going and to set financial goals. Looking at it right now, we know we would have spent way more back home living a normal life, than our grand total traveling for 10 months. The greatest lie ever told is that travel is expensive. One can travel the world on a budget, having goals and standards are different for everyone, so the spending varies.
Be inspired. Be adventurous. Be yourself.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about our travels, visit www.ourwanderlust.weebly.com we update pictures, blogs and articles constantly. Some articles might be helpful to first time travellers, what to bring, how to get started, and specific regional info can also be found on our site.