#FBF: Followback Friday is our new interview series where we get real with some of our favorite travel influencers. We want to learn what makes them tick, their best tips and tricks, and share stories of (mis)adventures from the road.
What started as a year-long adventure turned into a lifetime of travel for Erin and Simon. Aptly named, the two are the power couple behind the hit travel blog Never Ending Voyage. Today, they’re on a never ending search for the world's best adventures — and vegetarian food. We caught up with Erin to learn why they started traveling in the first place, how they seek out the local spots along the way, and why they think packing light is the only way to do it.
How long have you been traveling as digital nomads? What made you decide to hit the road and start a life of travel?
We’ve been digital nomads for 6.5 years.
We've always loved to travel and took a year off our jobs to travel around the world in 2008. When we returned to the UK we knew we wanted to travel again as we had had such an amazing time, but planned to put it off for a few years. We didn't anticipate how hard it would be to adjust to life in the UK again. We got back in November so the short days and cold, wet weather didn't help at all. Everything felt very dull and gray to us, and getting back into the routine of 9-5 was particularly difficult. We were used to doing new exciting things every day and now every day was the same.
We realized life was too short to be unhappy so we decided to make a big change. I discovered the world of digital nomads—people who were able to travel permanently and work from wherever they had an internet connection. As Simon was starting a web design career at the time it seemed like the perfect option for us. For nine months we saved up, developed our design and blogging skills, and sold almost all of our stuff. On March 1, 2010 we set off with a one-way flight to Rio de Janeiro and no plans to return.
How do you afford it?
While we built our business in the first year we used savings and then we made money from freelance web design, advertising and affiliate income from our blog, and our travel budgeting iPhone app, Trail Wallet.
Where is the first place you’ve ever visited abroad? Have you revisited it since?
My parents like to travel so I think I went to somewhere like Portugal or Malta when I was a few years old, which I don’t remember. My first solo trip was to Italy when I was 17 to visit my Italian exchange partner. I fell in love with Italy and have been back about 10 times since then.
How do you seek out the best local spots even if you don’t speak the same language while you’re traveling?
I do a lot of research online before we arrive and use apps like Foursquare when we get there. Staff in hotels tend to speak English so you can always ask them for their favorite places.
What’s the best travel advice you have ever received? How do you incorporate that into your travels?
Take half of the clothes you were planning to bring and twice the money. We think packing light is the secret to stress-free travel. We travel with just one carry-on backpack each, which includes everything we need to live and work on the road. It makes our lives so much easier, saves money on checked luggage fees, and we couldn’t imagine travelling with more stuff. I even wrote a book about it to help others travel carry-on only (The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light is available on Amazon).
What are your top five destinations for newbie travelers?
We’re big foodies here and we love that your Instagram is full of so many great pics. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had while traveling? And, do you have a favorite foodie destination?
It’s impossible to pick just one! One that comes to mind is A21 restaurant in Helsinki, Finland where we had a five-course tasting menu with cocktail pairing that was inspired by the theme “Land of the Thousand Lakes” (because of all the lakes in Finland). Before he served us each dish our waiter brought us the cocktail and a postcard of a painting and explained how the drink and food were inspired by it. The food was amazing and the cocktails were very innovative.
Italy is our favourite place to eat. It’s very easy to be vegetarian there, especially the Puglia region in the south where the antipasti plates are full of delicious marinated vegetables and cheeses.
What’s been your favorite travel memory to date?
One of our favorite places in the world is Greenpalms Homestay in the lush green backwaters of Kerala, India. Our host was a kind, gentle man called Thomas who each day would take us out to explore the village and meet the local people. One particularly magical moment came after a late night visit to a toddy shop to drink the local coconut sap brew. When we were returning to the homestay by canoe, Thomas and his friend sang us a capella Indian folk songs under the stars. It was the perfect moment in a beautiful place and brought tears to our eyes.
Do you have any bucket list adventures you haven’t crossed off your list yet?
A safari and gorilla trekking in Africa, which we’ll hopefully be doing next year.
What are some upcoming trips you’re super excited about?
We have a one-month Interrail pass for September and will be traveling by train from London to France, Switzerland, northern Italy and Spain.