If you’re reading this, it probably isn’t your first time visiting a travel blog. You’re used to reading about the exhilarating and wonderful lives of the people lucky enough to spend their days flying from beach to rainforest to vibrant city. Those fortunate few, whose only obstacle is finding a reliable wifi connection to update their website with the details of their latest adventure; like Indiana Jones with a WordPress. Maybe with fewer cannibals and Nazis. You follow their Instagram accounts and see the perfectly filtered palm trees. The acrobatic poses in front of glowing sunsets. The Pina Coladas in coconuts with the little umbrellas.
This isn’t a Pina Colada kind of blog.
This is a blog that takes a peek behind the glamorous curtain of that lifestyle we’ve all seen and envied and shows you what it really looks like. It’s a blog that shows you the good, the bad, the ugly, the exhausted, the terrified, the frustrated, the determined, the broke and the amazed. It’s a guide - and a story - of how anyone can pull back that curtain and walk through to the other side, no matter how much money they have in their bank account, how great they look in a bathing suit, or how long they can hold a handstand in front of a glowing sunset.
Today, we’re online entrepreneurs, digital nomads and travel bloggers, but you’re probably not surprised to learn that wasn’t always the case. Before we walked through the curtain ourselves, we were both pursuing our goals of being poor college students, something we were quite good at. We weren’t unhappy, but we both felt there was more to life than fighting for a rungs on a career ladder we didn’t want to be on.
Despite what most bloggers would have you believe, quitting a job you hate and buying a one-way ticket across the world to “find yourself” isn’t the way most of these journeys start. Ours certainly didn’t. It began during a weekend getaway in Warsaw, back in 2013; Patryk’s Chemistry finals were around the corner, so we decided to leave Krakow for a few days and drain our savings on a stay in the Marriott. The beds were like clouds and, for a couple of enthusiastic gourmands like ourselves, the breakfast buffet was a trough from the heavens. The morning we were due to leave, Patryk rolled over in the cloud and asked me if I wanted to live like this forever. As my mind drifted to the smorgasbord of freshly-baked croissants, made-to-order omelettes and sticky French toast awaiting me downstairs, I decided it was probably worth looking into. Of course, French toast trumps soggy cereal and mortgage payments any day of the week, but it’s easier said than done. Given the monumental scale of the decision, one that could possibly leave us unqualified and destitute, we decided to mull it over.
Okay. I decided to mull it over.
The morning of Patryk’s chemistry final, I was surprised to see him home an hour early. When he told me how he’d handed in a blank answer sheet and walked out of the examination to pursue his dream of cloud beds and unlimited bacon, “surprise” quickly turned to “what if we fail?” Ultimately, excitement took over, and we began to formulate a plan. Patryk’s mother, on the hand, couldn’t quite make it to the excitement stage, so that was the end of funding from the Bank of Mum and Dad. As only I was working at the time, we needed to come up with a profitable (and legal) business idea sharpish.
You wouldn’t be reading this if we didn’t succeed, but that success didn’t come without more surprises and frustration. It did come with hard work and solid communication, and we were lucky that Poland’s answer to eBay - Allegro - was so poorly designed that a monkey could have improved on it. Fortunately, a monkey wasn’t smart enough to think of it, so we did it. Now we had the means to step behind the curtain; it was time to book our first flight.
Oh, Thailand. There are a lot of words to describe our first trip in 2014, and “enlightening” is probably the most apt. Just not in the “ten days in a silent Buddhist retreat” sense. Yes, the trip included a lot of the things you see and hear about in the “Pina Colada” blogs, but our first experience was a little more unorthodox. Things didn’t start out too badly; our plane didn’t crash into the Bay of Bengal, and our luggage was launched through the baggage-reclaim hatch relatively unscathed. Bleary-eyed from the 30-hour transit, we couldn’t wait to get to our hotel, which our taxi driver definitely knew how to find. No, we definitely weren’t lost, and he knew it was nearby, but he just needed to borrow our phone for a moment to give them a call. As he casually spent the next week’s food budget in phone credit talking to the hotel’s receptionist, it became clear that he may have overstated his knowledge of the local geography. His solution to our predicament was to dump us on an empty street in the middle of Bangkok with nothing but our weighty backpacks and a growing sense of despair. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a local man appeared. Dressed head-to-toe in white, and without another soul in sight, he approached us to see if we needed help.
When he heard our predicament, he offered to walk us to our hotel, which he guaranteed was nearby. I feel like we could be forgiven for feeling a little sceptical but, at this point, we didn’t have many other options, so we lugged our unforgiving bags back onto our shoulders and silently prayed that he wasn’t going to rob and/or murder us.
When you travel, you come to the realisation that luxury is a matter of perspective. When we booked our first night in Bangkok, from the comfort of our living room back in Poland, we didn’t choose a luxury hotel. However, when you’ve been travelling for over 30 hours, and you’re hungry, and you’ve been lost for hours in a place that couldn’t be more alien, and a kind stranger brings you face to face with the place you’ve spent the last few months dreaming about? That’s when you find yourself staring at a five-star resort. To this day, we still refer to that stranger as our “travel angel.” Besides, who else dresses entirely in white, randomly helping lost souls?
What we’re getting at is, the stories you read about usually start somewhere after this point and, whilst we wouldn’t change our experiences for the world, travelling isn’t all infinity pools and complimentary pillow mints. And it doesn’t have to be; there are times when you couldn’t care less if your accommodation has a spa, as long as it has running water. We feel that by telling you the truth about travelling - by showing you that for every elephant selfie, there’s a street food stall you’ll forever regret eating from - we can take away some of the pretenses that might stop you from pursuing this dream yourself. We want you to see that if a couple of regular people without experience - without a trust fund and with a predilection for free breakfast food - can do it, you can too.
Travelling with a partner comes with its own set of challenges and, if you think that’s stressful, try doing it with a baby, but the fact is they’re all obstacles that can be overcome if you’re serious about following your heart. Yes, your dream city might turn out to be a dangerous hellhole (sorry, New York), and sure, someone may threaten to murder you at a bus stop if you don’t hand over your wallet (you too, D.C?), but these are all part of the experience. You’re also going have positive, life-changing experiences in places you were initially unsure about, and that’s just how it is.