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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  • Who said following your dreams was easy?
    Posted at 07:02h, 04 February

    […] gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip,” Cartell wrote in a blog post on Aug. 31. “Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having […]

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  • Is traveling the world a privilege of few? – Free 2 Exist
    Posted at 20:46h, 27 February

    […] but most digital nomads are everything-but. Especially the ones who actually make it (think of the couple who quit fancy advertising jobs to travel the world and went broke). They work hard on the road to edit videos, write articles, code, translate, proofread, coach […]

  • Michael Noker
    Posted at 05:13h, 03 March

    This was refreshing to read. Last year, I did a similar thing to what y’all did, except I made a lot less money to start off (I was only an assistant manager for a small resort at the time), and I just chose to move to a new city and start over again. I ended up finding another full-time job that pays a lot less, but also comes with a lot less stress, so I have the energy and time left over to start blogging and vlogging and socializing a lot more than I did previously.

    I’m about to uproot and do the same thing in Los Angeles, but I was debating moving back home to my old life. Reading this sort of rekindled my adventurous spirit. I’m happier where I am now than I ever was in my old job and my old life. I shouldn’t give that happiness up for stability. Stability can come later.

    • howfarfromhomeblog@gmail.com
      Posted at 07:09h, 03 March

      Hey Michael! So awesome to hear your story. We completely agree – stay energetic and adventurous for as long as you can…then settle for stillness when you’ve had enough. Amazing to hear you’re going to take the adventurous route! Good luck 🙂

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  • Don't Quit Your Job to Travel the World | Map Happy
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    […] not talking about those people. Otherwise you could end up scrubbing toilets. Blogger Chanel Cartell once wrote this about her epic […]

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