After being gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip. Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having the time of our lives. And don’t get me wrong – we are. It’s bloody amazing. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. Noooooo. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.

You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers.

It’s painstakingly hard and dirty work.

And although the last few months have been the most rewarding, they’ve also been some of the dirtiest and smelliest, and we’ve had to adapt with the least amount of necessities and food (and not because we’re on some crazy crash diet). Whilst visits to town with our new friends in Norway meant buying beer and bags of candy for them, we’ve been forced to purchase floss (because you only get one set of pearlers, right?) and nothing else. The budget is really tight, and we are definitely forced to use creativity (and small pep talks) to solve most of our problems (and the mild crying fits).

So don’t let the bank of gorgeous photography fool you. Nuh uh. I am not at my fittest, slimmest or physically healthiest. We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly 5hrs of sleep per night, and lug our extremely heavy bags through cobbled streets at 1am, trying to find our accommodation (because bus fares are not part of the budget, obviously).

Although we knew it wouldn’t be easy, we are certainly learning fast that this isn’t for faint hearts, and we need to learn to react and adapt to everything that’s thrown our way. Mentally, it’s also a constant yo-yo between “I have all this time – let me use it productively, let me get fit and do everything I’ve ever wanted to do,” vs. “I have all this time – let me relax and enjoy it.” That, together with occasional bouts of boredom, demotivation and homesickness, makes this one hell of a ride.

But even though we probably have more greys 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. We have time to brainstorm our own ideas, and push our own creative experiments. It’s like heaven for us. Sure, wood needs to be stacked, and garbage needs to be taken out (it’s our version of a shit sandwich, as Mark Manson put it), but once that’s done, we’re free to explore, wander and be one with our meandering thoughts. You work under your own schedule, using (a lot of) spare time to jog around mirrored lakes, craft inspired creations and breathe the Arctic air. There’s nothing quite like swopping million rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life and the importance of living each day as if it were your last.


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  • Karen Coghlan
    Posted at 07:32h, 01 October

    You have a wonderful blog here, why not monetize it to provide a somewhat passive income, you’re already doing the work by blogging about your adventures? Many bloggers are living off their blogging efforts, through small ads that pay them when they are clicked on. Your beautiful photographs must attract an audience that could help your travels.

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 07:43h, 01 October

      Thank you Karen! It’s definitely something we will look into 🙂

    • Azhari
      Posted at 16:08h, 08 January

      I agree with Karen. You should put Google Adsense into your blog.

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  • Katrina Custer
    Posted at 19:15h, 23 December

    Reading your story a few months back really got me thinking about my life and the direction I want it to take. At 33, SOMETHING needs to be done, right? After a lot of soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that the typical, ‘get-married-have-kids-settle-down’ shtick really isn’t my calling. No, my Happily Ever After will come in the form of traveling the world; hopefully, until my dying day. I plan to save for two years before embarking on my journey, giving me time to research and plan, plan, plan.
    I’d be lying if I said part of me wasn’t a little scared. As it stands presently, its just me. Would you have made the same choice to travel had you been by yourself? I also own my own home and a huge part of me wants to put it on the market to help fund my travels. But there’s a tiny part of me that is scared. What will I come back to if it doesn’t work out? I guess I can’t have a defeatists attitude, nor will I know until I try, right? I’m sure you get messages from thousands of people everyday, but if you could find a moment to write back, I think any wise words you might impart could truly be beneficial, and may even quell these pre-pre-pre-trip, how-do-I-even-do-this, scared-because-this-is-everything-I-never-knew-I-always-wanted nerves.
    Thank you. I hope you’re somewhere warm during these cold months!

    • howfarfromhomeblog@gmail.com
      Posted at 11:55h, 15 January

      Hey Katrina!
      Sorry for the late response. Thanks for the really honest comment, we felt exactly the same as you do now. We made this decision in the middle of 2014 and at the time there was no rational reason for quitting our jobs, selling all our “stuff”, saying goodbye to family and friends and heading out into the big world. It was super scary and you know what, it still is. Everyday has new challenges but you work through them. The thing is, we trusted a gut feeling, we knew deep down that what we wanted to do was the right thing and that it would work out. It is safe to say that it is much easier when you have someone taking the leap with you but it’s still very possible to do it. You need to focus on all the amazing and wonderful things you will see, the incredible people you will meet along the way. You will say goodbye to friends but you will make more new ones than you could ever have imagined. You also need to have some idea of what you want to do, a rough plan. Have some structure instead of just aimlessly wandering, write your “Wanderlist” and tick item off it. Work along the way, any work will do, it grows your skills and network of people. The toughest part is to trust that everything will be ok, it will work out. The worst thing that could happen is going back to the a similar life you have now. Just by writing this you have taken the first step, we hope this helps you take the rest of them. Chanel & Stevo PS: our skillshare class might inspire you a bit more > http://skl.sh/1TEWu8u

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