Okay, so we’re going to level with you. We’ve featured several articles about people who have dropped everything — their spirit-crushing jobs, their boring lives, their frustrations — and headed out on adventures around the world. It’s the ultimate jealousy bait, right? Well, hold that thought.
The reality of traveling the world on the cheap is a lot less glamorous than people make it sound. You’re going to be sleeping on floors of questionable cleanliness most of the time, and you’ll also have to find ways to earn some cash on the road. And that usually means menial labor.
Meet Stevo Dirnberger and Chanel Cartell. They come from South Africa, and quit their stable, well-paying jobs in advertising to travel around the world.
Today, the couple travels the world, taking wanderlust-inspiring shots for their Instagram account, including the number of miles they are from home. They set up the account, like many travelers do, to chronicle their trip. And it seems idyllic.
However beautiful the photos are, though, they’re not indicative of the whole story. Cartell and Dirnberger realized that their Instagram and blog posts were only showing one side of things — the nice side — and they wanted to level with their fans and readers, and show them what really has to happen to fund world travel like this.
Because when they’re not adventuring through some of the most beautiful places on Earth, the couple is doing some seriously backbreaking volunteer work.
“It’s not all ice creams in the sun and pretty landscapes,” the couple explains on their blog. “So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, two tons of rocks shoveled, 60 meters of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.”
Their budget is very, very tight. That means that they have to get creative in order to keep moving. In Norway, the one toiletry they could afford was dental floss, and in other places, they’re learning to get by on the bare minimums of food, clothing, and other necessities.
“We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly five hours of sleep per night, and lug our extremely heavy bags through cobbled streets at 1am, trying to find our accommodation.”
So with all the hardship, is it worth it? Well, as the couple says, it’s not for the faint of heart. Not by a long shot. But even with the difficulties and discomforts, Cartell and Dirnberger stand by their decision and are glad they ditched the nine-to-five grind in search of adventure. Living like this not only gives them incredible experiences and new friends across the globe, but it also forces them to be more creative than they’ve ever been when it comes to logistics.
“Even though we probably have more grays than when we started, dirt under our nails despite long showers, and cheap snack food as a main form of nutrition, this crazy lifestyle allows us to enjoy the freedom of exploring rich Swedish forests, never-ending Nordic fjords, Italian cobbled alleyways, and cosmopolitan cities,” Cartell says.
So maybe world travel isn’t the romantic, sun-soaked adventure that Instagram photos make it out to be — but maybe that’s okay. In reality, travelers are volunteering their time and energy to building, fixing, cooking, and helping, and in doing so they’re making friends and making a difference. The small things become all the more beautiful, and the human connections become stronger. Maybe, even with the labor and the lack of showers, this really is the right way to see the world.
You can see Cartell and Dirnberger’s photos of their travels, though not many scrubbed toilets, on their Instagram and blog. If traveling like this still seems attractive to you, check out Workaway, which sets up travelers with odd jobs to fund their trips.