An Interview with Fellow Backpackers Sarah & Shaun
When we first got the idea of full-time travelling, a couple behind Whereto360 appeared on national TV which at the time, they were travelling around Asia for €10 a day! That short clip encouraged us, and the words that popped in our heads were: ‘You can do it’. Since then, we followed their journey through their social media platforms and as time passed by, we crossed paths.
They are compassionate, down to earth and determined in what they do. That’s what make their stories and adventures so inspiring! So, we came up with this interview which will surely be of interest, not only to those who love travelling but also to those who need some sort of inspiration.
Besides, who’s better to get advice from if not those who’ve been through the experience?!
Okay, let’s start with a short introduction. Who are Sarah and Shaun?
Sarah and Shaun are the people behind Whereto360. We have been together for 8 years and even though we both loved travelling before, we developed our love for travel and unique travel styles together. Shaun works as an IT Business Analyst and I work as an Occupational Therapist at Mater Dei hospital.
Did COVID-19 affect any of your travel plans?
A few weeks before the pandemic started, we had an exciting 3-week trip planned which we had to cancel due to family reasons. Due to this, we could not make any further plans and so we had no other trips booked for the time being. However, we usually don’t plan trips too early and always like to jump on any good deals we find. This year we would have probably visited Slovenia and Kosovo. Let’s hope we can at least go for a few short trips in the coming months 😊
What about your full-time travelling experience?
On January 2018, we both quit our jobs and left on a one-way trip with no fixed plan but a limited budget. With our initial estimates, we assumed our money would last us around 8 months after which we could either find some job on the road or return to Malta. Considering that we try to spend as much time as possible in each country to learn about its culture and explore without rushing, we realised that going on a short trip was not going to work for us. There were also too many places that intrigued us to choose just 1 or 2 countries!
We travelled on a super low budget both to make our trip last longer but mainly because we loved the adventures that budget travel brought along. Our average budget was €300 per person per month to cover everything from flights, visas, insurance, food, accommodation and transport. Sometimes the flight and visa costs alone would take half of the monthly budget! We loved every second of our trip and we can’t believe how fast 15 months flew by!
France is the most visited country in the world. The average cost of a 1-week vacation in France for one person is €1,275. How is it possible to go a whole month travelling full-time for €300?
Honestly, it was quite challenging especially in the more expensive places we visited such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Oman. It’s not the first time that we spent hours walking around with our backpacks looking for a cheap place to stay. Sometimes we stayed at strangers’ houses, other times we camped and when all else failed, we even spent one or two nights in train stations. To avoid paying for expensive flights or comfortable buses, we sometimes took very long train rides (the longest was around 40hrs) which were packed with people and we always took the lowest class. Hitchhiking was also part of our regular routine and we loved it! Overall, travelling on such a tight budget is tough but super rewarding and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Vacation and Long-term Travelling – Would you consider it as the same thing?
Definitely not. When you go for a short trip, the priority naturally becomes visiting the main sights and doing those activities which really interest you without wasting too much time. On the other hand, long-term travel is a way of life and things such as getting enough sleep and eating healthy are a must if you don’t want to end up sick. The focus shifts from sightseeing to learning more about cultures, spending time with locals and learning as much as possible about their way of life.
Credits | Whereto360
What would be the most valuable lesson learnt during travelling?
One does not need materialistic things to be happy. In fact, I would say the less you have, the happier you will be since you will appreciate every single thing that you own. In Hong Kong we spent 5 days staying with a local who lives in a warehouse room! His house was literally one small room with a kitchen and a bed. The toilet was shared between the whole floor and to take a shower he had to go to the gym. Guess what? He was one of the happiest and most fun guys we met and he didn’t need anything else.
Hitchhiking, interacting and spending the night with locals, etc. Would you consider such things dangerous? What’s your advice?
All of these were very normal for us as they made our adventure much more exciting while helping us save money. In general, the majority of people you meet will be super kind and welcoming but that does not mean you can trust everyone. Admittedly, although we never had any serious issues, there were times where we felt unsafe, particularly when hitchhiking in remote areas with people who barely spoke any English.
Our advice would be to be sensible about who to trust but don’t be over cautious and let the perception of the media influence you. Everyone told us that Iran is dangerous and we ended up spending a whole month hitchhiking and sleeping at strangers’ houses without any trouble!
Which of the countries you visited would you mostly want to return back to? Why?
There were so many countries we loved so it’s not easy to pick just one! However, 2 of our favourites would be Iran and Nepal. Iran is one of the best countries in terms of culture, friendliness of the people and diversity of the place in general. Nepal has impressive nature and some of the world’s most beautiful hiking trails.
5 things you ALWAYS search about before visiting a country.
We enjoy being spontaneous and find that having no plan will force you to go with the flow and be up to any adventures that arise. However, there are some important things to know before visiting a country:
Entry requirements – Do we require a visa? If yes, how do we get it and how much does it cost?
Safety issues – Are there any parts of the country which are unsafe due to war, crime or anything similar?
Health precautions – Are there any things to be cautious about such as malaria? Do we have all the necessary vaccines?
Weather – Will it be over 40 degrees Celsius meaning that we will end up exhausted from the heat? Will it be freezing and unsuitable to do some activities?
Cost of living – It’s good to get an idea of how much we should be paying for basic things like accommodation, food and transport so that we can avoid being scammed.
“You must be rich, or else have outsider support to be able to travel for a long period of time!” How would you respond to such a statement?
How much do your phone and car cost? What about the money you spend on takeaways, restaurants and alcohol? We prefer to spend that same money on travel. Yes, we are lucky to be born in a country where getting healthcare, education and a decent job is normal, unlike poorer countries who might struggle for these necessities. We are also lucky to be in good health and have nobody that relies on us to be able to do these things. But apart from that, it’s all a matter of choices. Some prefer to spend their money on luxuries, while others like us, work hard to save money and spend it carefully to make it last as long as possible.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about going on a long-term travel adventure?
Go for it! Whether it’s quitting your job, losing your chance at a promotion or having a disagreement with your family, it will never be a good time to quit everything and go. But if it’s really what you wish to do, we can guarantee it will be worth it! Having said that, it’s important to understand what it really means to travel long-term and talk to people who have done it before – deciding if it’s for you or not.