Lonely Planet Writer

Survival tips from two wanderlust bloggers who packed it all in and went exploring the world

Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger reveal their secrets on how they are keeping their dream alive. Last year, the two wanderlust dreamers made headlines when they decided to give up their corporate jobs, sell everything they owned and go on an epic travel adventure around the world… with no return date in mind. South African advertising executives Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger decided to pack it all in after watching a motivational speech by Stefan Sagmeister two years ago.

“We both felt a bit uninspired back home,” says Chanel.

Almost a year  on, they have visited more than 50 destinations and covered a whopping 86,000 kilometres (53,438 miles) – which they keep track of by posting Instagram photos of the distance they have travelled. However, the couple still feel like they have “barely scratched the surface”. “I don’t think there is a completely rational reason for quitting our jobs to travel the world but we had a gut feeling and we thought it would be good for us,” said Chanel.

The couple reveal their secrets on how they are surviving (and enjoying!) their globe-trotting lifestyle.

1. Having a bucket list of dreams and destinations

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When exploring the world is the sole purpose of your life, it’s worth setting your goals and making plans to achieve them. “We set up a what we call a Wanderlist – our bucket list of things to do and places to see,” says Stevo, 29. “It’s good to have some items to tick off as you visit new places. It keeps you motivated.” Stevo and Chanel, 30, already have a long list of their own, but they are also looking at suggestions from their readers to add more dream destinations to it.

2. Building a decent bank balance

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“When we made the decision to quit our jobs we saved furiously for more than a year,” says Chanel. “We both put around 15% of our monthly income in a separate account and never touched it until we left. We also sold most of our belongings which helped a great deal. We have a tight budget and, for most of the year, we have been doing volunteer work – which gives us a place to stay and a few meals a day. This has helped us save money and allows us to see more of the world.”

3. Travelling like a minimalist

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“We travel very light,” says Chanel. “We both fit our belongings into two average-sized backpacks and we carry an extra bag for all our camera gear. We obviously carry more with us when we visit cold places. We mostly have clothes that are greys, blacks and whites as they all go well together and when you live out of a bag, you normally grab what’s on top. When packing, it’s a good idea to roll all your clothes, it saves space and allows you to spot items easier.”

4. Keeping on top of finances

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“Budgeting per month and even per day, helps us keep track of how much we can spend,” says Stevo. “We have had some sponsors but none of them have helped us financially. We sometimes get products to help us with our journey and we are hugely grateful for what we have received thus far.” It’s of course worth bearing in mind air travel costs will drain the bank balance. “Approximately 60% of our budget has gone towards flights but it’s the quickest way to get around,” adds Chanel. “We have been on 27 flights this year with many different airlines.”

5. Being prepared to do all kinds of work

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Unless of course you’ve got millions of £££s stashed away to help realise your life’s expensive dreams, you might have to stop and do some work. “We have done volunteer work at some amazing places which gives us a roof over our heads through Workaway.info,” says Chanel, while adding that behind those picture-perfect travel posts on Instagram is a lot of hard work and manual labour.

Chanel writes in the couple’s travel blog How Far From Home: “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. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, two tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.”

6. Surviving on whatever food is available

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“Chanel loves her pastries and desserts so we always budget for those every now and then,” says Stevo. “When we are not staying with our hosts, it is very difficult to eat healthily. Takeaway foods are often the cheapest and most convenient. We find it hard that we cannot cook our own food and we end up eating a lot of snack foods, although we try eat lots of fruit when we have the opportunity.”

Chanel describes their typical day on-the-go: “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 (because bus fares are not part of the budget, obviously).”

7. Investing in photography kit

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Okay, this isn’t exactly a survival tip, but then again, how else would you document all your travels and take stunning photos without cameras and back-up drives? “We have two hard drives with us where we back-up our photos regularly and we carry a bag for all our camera gear,” says Stevo. “We would ideally like to back them up online but finding consistent reliable internet is a huge problem for us.”

8. Keeping a spare bottle handy for drinking water

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“Most cities have good drinking water so we always carry a bottle with us,” says Chanel. “Paying for water can be costly and should be avoided where there is clean water. “But obviously, we do the research first to make sure the water is safe to drink.”

9. Being prepared for unexpected events

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Even if you have got all the necessary paperwork and your travel arrangements are in order, sometimes things many not go according to plan. “We were caught in the refugee crisis in Germany as we arrived in Munich,” says Chanel. “We were trying to get to Salzburg in Austria but the borders had just been closed and there was a huge military presence. We eventually got through the border but it was quite an experience.”

10. Keeping an eye on belongings

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“Pick pockets are prevalent in most major cities so never keep your wallet in your back pocket and turn it 90 degrees once it’s in your pocket so it cannot be removed with ease,” says Stevo. And of course, always stay close to your bags.

11. Having spare cash all the time

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“Use a travel card or cash passport card to keep your money on but always have cash on you,” says Chanel. “Some countries – like Greece – accept cash rather than credit cards or travel cards.”

12. Making new friends

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This will go quite a long way in your travels. “Speak to people,” Chanel advises. “You will meet some amazing people on your journey and you will make friends all over the world. You never know when you might need their help.”

To find our more about Chanel and Stevo’s travels, check out their blog How Far From Home.