As we approach a new year, many of us are thinking about our travel plans for 2019. This is the time planning gets underway for many trips, both big and small. If you are one of the people getting a jump start on adventures for 2019, in the midst of planning and need some inspiration, look no further.
I recently had the chance to chat with AJ and Natasha, the “idiots” (but not really at all!) behind 2 Idiots Travel Blog. They had endless travel tips and fun stories to share with me from their 8 month journey around the world last year, which they took with their 2 year old son. Yep, you read that right – 8 months around the world with a toddler – and now you know why they call themselves “2 idiots.” With so much travel experience though, they are anything but idiots. They are 2 savvy, funny, intelligent globetrotters! And this is what we talked about…
Sarah: Wow, eight months on the road seeing the world. (See the full itinerary here.) That’s incredible! My first question, and one I assume most people think of immediately, how did you afford to do this?
AJ & Natasha: There were really two parts to affording this trip – one part is that we were in better shape to start based on AJ’s job! He really helped a company grow and it paid off. We were able to go with what we had saved and knew with our skills we could rebuild more easily when we came home. We realized we are both educated, talented people who would be able to get jobs if needed, so we knew when we got back we would be okay. We knew when we got home AJ wanted to do a blog, and Natasha wanted a full time job.
Sarah: And they are okay again! AJ’s suggestion: if you want to do this, work as you travel (if you have a job that allows this) or save up enough for the trip. Save enough for the time you need and make sure you have 6 months of savings for when you come back. It doesn’t have to be enough for retirement! Also, everywhere else in the world is cheaper than here. That’s a great way to see a lot and spend less. Pick places where your money can go farther! More offbeat places. For more inspiration read the book 4 Hour Work Week.
Sarah: How old was your son, Aarav, when you started out on your journey?
AJ & Natasha: He was 23 months when our journey began. We had traveled with him a lot before, including road trips. His first flight was actually at 4 months old. He flew to India at 6 months. Flying with kids is different at every age. We made sure we were prepared with snacks, toys, an iPad (with downloaded videos – for when you are offline), and took lots of breaks. Remember, the child doesn’t know any better, they just learn to go with the flow. The destinations we went to were all worth it, even with a toddler! It really depends more on the parent and how you react to a situation, the child just feeds off of that. You need to be in the mindset of “let’s do what we can together to get a crying child happy.” It’s a mindset shift! And at the end of the trip, it makes parenting back home seem a little simpler. During it we questioned how it was working, but with time, you forget the questions and just realize it worked!
Sarah: I don’t have kids yet, but I LOVE to travel and want to be sure that one day when I do have kids, I can keep up that activity. What advice do you have for other parents, or future parents, wanting to travel with their kids too? For example, what would you do at night once Aarav was asleep…did you always have 2 room hotels/airbnb’s? How did you make sure your child enjoyed less child friendly attractions?
AJ & Natasha: Ninety percent of the time, we stayed in Airbnb’s. We went to almost 100 destinations on the trip, and stayed in bout 70-80 Airbnb’s. It gives you the feeling of home away from home. You have the comforts you normally would, like 2 rooms, and its more cost effective, especially since you can cook your own meals. When you are on the road for so long, you want to be able to eat at home, especially with a toddler. We only used hotels if we were there a short time or in a fancy place for the sake of it. (For example, the Marriott Bay Sands in Singapore – with an incredible infinity pool.) We took a travel crib with us, but sometimes it was just easier to have him sleep in the bed with us if we needed extra room.
Sarah: I know you love your son, but like all parents, I am sure you needed some alone time for sanity. How did you have “parents night out” on your trip?
AJ & Natasha: In Rome, through our Airbnb, we were able to get a babysitter. Natasha knows most parents would say this is a no-no, but we got very comfortable with the owner, and her 20 year old daughter was wonderful and we trusted her to watch our son. To make him comfortable, we would have dinner with him, put him to sleep, then head out after. The first time was a little nerve-wracking, but by the second time we felt comfortable! You really have to trust your gut. Use your Airbnb host whenever you can. In foreign countries, the hosts are truly hosts (like Sarah’s was in Cuba). They are there to introduce you to their country and make you feel welcome. You have to feel 100% comfortable leaving your child. We know it’s not for everyone, but if it feels okay to you, do it. Go with your instincts. We did it in Peru too, and we used our Airbnb hosts babysitter. And thankfully, our parents joined for portions of the trip. AJ’s for the first 45 days, where we met them in Dubai. And Natasha’s mom visited in Sydney. So, we could have time alone, and spend time with our family.
Sarah: You went to so many places, I am sure it’s hard to say, but what has been your favorite country you have visited and why?
AJ & Natasha: The best place, in terms of extended stay, would have to be Spain. We loved the food, culture, people and history. (We know Sarah thought the same when she visited.) And it was very kid friendly too. In terms of natural beauty, we would say Iceland was our favorite. We have been to many other naturally beautiful places, like Patagonia, but Iceland was just so unique. As for the most interesting, and where we learned the most, we would say China. Everything there is very different, from the way of living to politics – the one child policy creates interesting implications. The food was amazing! Definitely not like our Panda Express Chinese, but real, authentic and flavorful. It truly puts you in a totally different world. It was outside our comfort zone, but that’s what a traveler wants after all. The people were so nice and welcoming too. It’s not really the way we would imagine it, it’s so much better! And our T-Mobile phones even worked there. In China, on WiFi it got blocked, but on data it worked fine. We felt like we were treated better than they treated their own people. They want tourists for sure!
Sarah: Okay, you narrowed down some of your favorite countries, but what about cities. What was your favorite city you have visited and why?
AJ & Natasha: One that surprised Natasha was Cape Town. Every angle of the city is just beautiful. Natasha also thought the same of Vancouver. As a girl who loves the true hustle and bustle of the city, both of these places had it. Beyond being bustling big cities, they were both breathtaking. And AJ feels like Vancouver was the only place we traveled that we felt we could live in. That says a lot about it.
Sarah: On the 2 Idiots Travel Blog website, AJ and Natasha have a page detailing their FAVORITE DESTINATIONS – sharing more on food, stand outs spots, museums, etc.
Sarah: I love cruising as a vacation option, since you don’t have to unpack each night and you don’t have to worry about getting yourself from place to place. I took a cruise through Italy and found it to be the easiest way to see new places. You took a few cruises on your trip and I wonder, what did you like and dislike about it?
AJ & Natasha: For Natasha a cruise always felt like a break. It was so easy with a child. All the food is included, you have a room that you don’t have to move from each night and there is daycare, so you can get a break. Not having to pack and unpack was a huge perk. The only con is that you only have a day there. Places you love, you realize you don’t get to stay in longer. It’s absolutely a great way to get a taste of what you want to see again in the future. But if you like the nightlife and local food, places like Santorini and Mykonos, while great from a cruise, might be better saved for an overnight stay.
Sarah: How in the world did you pack for so long? I am an avid overpacker, and can handle too much stuff for a couple weeks of a trip, but I would be lost at what to do for 8 months. I take too much for a weekend, so the thought of packing for multiple months is daunting.
AJ & Natasha: We carried what felt like a lot of luggage. Natasha used to own a boutique and loves fashion, so wanted to be able to keep her style on the trip. We took 2 large suitcases filled with clothing for all 3 of us, a stroller and a pack ‘n play. We made the decision ahead of time that we wouldn’t shop on the trip for souvenirs – which was hard in Italy. Our clothing was meant to be disposable. We definitely regret not using packing tubes – as we think those would have made life easier, especially on overnights you could put certain stuff in the cube for that stop. And like most boys, AJ and Aarav didn’t care too much about their clothing, but Natasha took her favorite dresses that were at the end of their life. She took a little black dress, which she recommends everyone should on a trip. The pro is that with a limited amount of choices, you don’t spend that much time on it. You spend more time enjoying where you are, not what you wear. We still shopped a little, so we would not feel deprived, but just bought stuff we knew we wouldn’t keep, stuff that was disposable. Weather was probably the biggest packing challenge – coldest was China in October, while Iceland in August was in the 50’s. We called the trip, “chasing summer!” We each took one jacket that we could layer, but always tried to stay in the summer zone. In Iceland it was so windy we did use our gloves and hats. In Beijing too. We didn’t carry crazy amounts, but enough for what was needed. (See our packing list here.)
Sarah: So, I read how you came up with the name for your blog (find out here), but what made you want to blog in the first place? How did you keep up with it while traveling?
AJ & Natasha: We actually didn’t blog until after the trip. During the trip, we didn’t really do the social media side of it either. We didn’t focus on getting perfect pictures because of that, which we are really grateful for. We truly lived in the moment! Combined though, we took 30,000 pictures, and 1,000 videos. AJ is a list freak so he made Natasha rank the things they did. Natasha said it was really emotional, as being so far from home can get to you, and ranking things was tough, but it did make remembering things and blogging later MUCH easier. As we planned we planned everything, we took detailed notes. Thankfully, Natasha has an incredible memory. As we came back people were always asking questions, and a blog felt like a natural fit. We had a unique experience of traveling with a toddler, in 40 countries, on over 66 flights and we knew we could share that and allow other people to take nuggets from it.
Sarah: You have done so much already, but what’s next for you? Do you still have a travel bucket list?
AJ & Natasha: For now, we don’t want to go anywhere for long. We still want to go places for short times. But, the world is so large we don’t feel like we even made a dent in it during our trip. In China for example, we had two things we wanted to see, the Great Wall and the technology. But, once there we realized how much more there is and everything else we would like to see! Traveling on an extended trip gave us so many experiences but we realized how many more we want to have. We hope that every 5-7 years we can take a trip like this. it’s a goal that’s important to us! We love our home and our friends and families, but we love to see the world too, and we feel this will be a good balance for us.
AJ , Natasha and I talked for a long time, swapping travel stories, but I could have talked for hours longer. They have experienced so many wonderful adventures and seen so many amazing places, I could have listened to their travel tales all night. They sparked my already ignited travel bug even more, and got me thinking about future adventures of my own. They said that their hope in sharing their journey gives people comfort in knowing how to take one of their own, and shows that anyone can do it. I think AJ and Natasha, and even little Aarav, have already done that and will continue to do so. While they share new stories and tips as the 2 Idiots, we will all know they are so much more than that!
The new year is almost here, which leaves 365 days for seeing the world in 2019, where will you go first?
Signed with Style,