We are Jane and Duncan and we are so glad that you have stopped by.
This is a rather long story. So grab a coffee, a beer or a wine and settle down for our story.
Our wish is to inspire you and to make your travel dreams a reality.
We want to share with you an article that we wrote about “How We Ditched The Corporate World To Live A Nomadic Way Of Life”. We have also called it “The Power of Change”.
If we did not have the ‘guts’ to do what we did, when we did, we would not be now travelling the world, living the dream, and having some amazing experiences.
A nomadic life may not be for everyone, but if there is ‘some little piece of you’ that wants to go and travel forth let us share with you our experiences. Let us motivate you and let us share with you our experiences – the good and the bad.
The two mottos we live by are “age is no barrier when it comes to travel” and “chase time not money”.
Since the age of 18, Jane has been passionately involved in travel working for small airlines in Australia, as well as retail and corporate travel in Sydney, Australia and then for American Express in the UK. Travel has been a part of Jane’s life forever. On her return to Sydney Jane worked in corporate travel management consultancy.
It was a natural progression for Jane to move from selling travel to writing about travel. Her expertise over the years has made it very easy for us to travel the world continually. She loves travel planning and our journeys are a lot smoother as a result of this. There is so much out there on the internet about travel and travel planning, it can be confusing and frustrating.
If you need assistance we have a travel planning service that may assist you in planning your own travels. Email us at [email protected] for more information.
Duncan has travelled all over the world with his family since he was born. His Dad worked for the Military so travel was a big part of his life. Duncan continued travelling the world in his corporate life working for large software corporations.
Duncan’s skills in marketing and sales assist in To Travel Too working with brands and promoting products.
Our Family and how our “Power of Change” came about
As a family with our 2 sons, we have lived overseas in the UK, Singapore and back home in Melbourne and Sydney Australia.
Tired of the corporate treadmill we made the decision to have in 2013 a ‘senior gap year’ after our eldest son, at the then age of 22, flew the nest and travelled the world on “his gap year”. We were following (well actually stalking him) his crazy wonderful adventures through Facebook and Instagram.
When we caught up with him in Santorini in the Greek Islands and listened in awe to his many adventures, we were a little jealous (of course not of him) of what he was experiencing we thought it was our turn to have some fun too.
We had previously downsized the year before (2012) from the family home, with a big mortgage to our two-bedroom rental beachside apartment on the northern beaches in Sydney. Our younger son had flown the nest and it was just the two of us at home.
That is until our eldest returned home after his ‘gap year’. During that year he had made the decision to move from the fitness industry to the Super Yacht industry. He opened up the local paper one morning and there was an ad for a “Super Yacht apprentice” and it just happened to be a few suburbs away. He applied and got the job. Excitedly he came home so pleased with the result and stated that his apprentice wage was going to be low and the owner was so pleased that he was going to live at home.
This was heartbreaking for us as we had made the decision to travel for 12 months and we had to tell him we were going. The lease on the apartment was up in February and we were heading out and we were not renewing it. We asked him a simple question “do you want us to stay if so, is it for emotional reasons or is it for financial reasons”. His response was ‘I love you both dearly but I am worried about money’. We overcame that by paying for his rent whilst we were away, that eased his mind as well as giving us peace of mind.
So in 2013 we ditched our corporate lives and set off for 12 months of worldwide travel.
Are you exhausted yet?
We started our travel blog, To Travel Too, at the beginning of our travels back then in 2013. The Australian top family bloggers, Y Travel Blog was our inspiration. We were sitting enjoying a cup of coffee at our local café reading the Sunday papers when we came across their article on how they travelled the world with their two young children. They had turned their passion into a business. That got us thinking that we could create our own travel lifestyle business and website.
We needed a name. It was not easy; it took us about a day to eventually agree on To Travel Too. When we mentioned our name to friends the first response was it was not correct grammar. When we explained that To Travel Too meant ‘ that we would like you to travel too with us’ i.e. family, friends and our community they got it!
We found a website designer but to cut a long story short it took us till 2015 to launch our website after a lot of pain and angst, but not with our initial designer.
Let’s Build a Website, a local designer back home in Sydney, got us on track within hours. We believed that delay put us ‘behind the eight ball’ in getting our story out there earlier and building our community.
2013 – 12 Months of Flash Packing Adventures
Our first year of Round The World travels took us to 4 continents, 16 flight sectors and effectively moving every 3 to 4 days. Our travel style that year was more like ‘flashpacking’ than backpacking, roller suitcase and 105L capacity averaging 26 kilos per bag. (read why now we travel the world with only a carry-on, we learnt our lesson big time!)
We choose to stay in hostels for two reasons, cost and engagement with other fellow travellers. Jane’s stipulation (and rightly so ! Duncan now agrees !) was that if we were going to stay in hostels it would have to be private double rooms with an ensuite – it was not negotiable.
In South America, we took the plunge and opted for our first hostel experience. We were really sceptical. There was a fear that they were all ‘party houses’ and of course being a lot older than most travellers that we would not fit in. Would you stay in a hostel?
In our corporate lives and travelling with our boys we either stayed in resorts or 4 or 5-star hotels. We knew that if we were to travel long-term hostels would need to be part of our accommodation strategy, especially in South America. We would mix up our style of accommodation using also apartments, hotels and B&Bs.
Our very first hostel was Ventana Sur in Santiago Chile. We arrived to music blasting out, but not what you think. It was classical music playing and cupcakes were baking in the oven. Outside under a grapevine laden roof, a large table full of travellers were chatting, reading and drinking tea or coffee. They were a mix of ages, young, middle-aged and baby boomers like us. There were also families. We instantly felt at ease.
Some of our highlights that first year:
- Sunset horseback ride in Mendoza to the Andes Mountains
- Visiting a favela in Rio de Janeiro
- Iguazu Falls
- Trekking Machu Picchu
- Visiting Tikal National Park in Guatemala
- Visiting Mexico City and the Teotihuacan Pyramids
- Swimming with sharks in Belize
- Spain, France, Italy and Croatia
- One month in Turkey and a hot air balloon in Cappadocia
- Petra in Jordan
- One month in Myanmar and a hot air balloon ride in Bagan
- Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand
Housesitting Internationally as a way to travel 2015
In 2015 we set off for our first international house sit in Canoa in Ecuador. From there it was San Miguel de Allende, Tepoztlan, Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico before heading to Nicaragua for house sits in Granada and Ometepe Island. That led us to another two house sits in Panama – one in Boquete and one in Playa Rompio. In those 9 months, we had seen more of the world and stayed in places we would not probably have visited if we were back working in the corporate world.
You have to keep in the back of your mind that you may need to return home during your travels for all sorts of reasons.
Sensing our younger son needed some support we headed home on New Years Day 2016. It was the right decision.
Mid 2016 departure and 18 Months of Travel Ahead of Us
Did we plan 18 months of travel in one go? No, but we did have a lot of flexibility in our plans.
Time felt right for us to start attending Travel Blogging Conferences. We were at the stage in our business that we knew the basics but we wanted to learn more from the experts. TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) was holding a conference in Stockholm in Sweden, the timing was perfect, so we set off and enjoyed 3 days of learnings as well as working with Visit Sweden and regional tourism boards on “famils”. Famils are where Tourism Boards put together programs for travel bloggers to visit destinations staying in hotels, eating in local restaurants and visiting sites and attractions along the way in exchange for social media and articles. Jane was used to famils having attended many in her years in travel.
We hit the road again after our time in Sweden and headed to Nice, France to spend a week with our eldest son who by this time had finished part of his training and was working on the Super Yachts. The city of Nice was in mourning, the terror attack had happened the week before. We spent time in the small park, which became the memorial for those who did not make it that evening. It was heart-wrenching to see small shrines set up for those children with their favourite stuffed toys as a remembrance of those young ones taken too soon. Through our tears, we felt their loss and their pain. What was the world coming to? We would continue our travels we would not be put off.
We bussed it to Toulouse, France heading to our next house sit. When we arrived the city was in lockdown. Initially, we thought it was a terrorist attack, but it was an unaccompanied piece of luggage at the train station, which the army had just blown.
After that, we travelled to Encausse just outside L’isle Jourdain to experience our first French house sit in the countryside. We arrived just as the fields were exploding with bright yellow sunflowers. We thoroughly enjoyed our early morning walks through the fields with the homeowners’ 2 dogs.
The beauty of housesitting around the world gave us the opportunity to travel between assignments. We headed to Montenegro and then to Dubrovnik working with Insider Holidays, Dubrovnik Tourism Board, Sun Gardens Radisson Blu Dubrovnik Resort, Adriatic Explore to Mostar in Bosnia and the Panorama Restaurant in Dubrovnik.
To position ourselves for our next house sit in Panama we sailed from Bilbao in Spain to Panama City on a repositioning cruise. This is a great way to travel if you have the time. A repositioning cruise is where cruise companies reposition the ships for the upcoming season. When we compared the cost of a flight from Europe to Panama it turned out to be comparable to 15 nights on board with all meals, drinks and entertainment included.
After 3 months of housesitting in Boquete we headed to one of our favourite countries Mexico for a house sit in Ajijic. Our next journey took us across Mexico spending time in San Cristobal de las Casas before heading to the Yucatan to work with the Yucatan Tourism Board.
Being so close to Cuba it would have been a shame not to take advantage of travelling there. For a month we travelled from one end of Cuba to the other. Cuba was not easy; we knew that it would not be smooth going. We had heard stories about the difficulties with Wi-Fi, the currency and the shortages that the Cubans were experiencing on a day-to-day basis.
We stayed with the Cubans in their local homes. We heard their stories of struggle during the Revolution. We understood their difficulties in just buying fresh food on a daily basis. Breakfasts would change depending on what would be available at the market that morning, sometimes they would have to travel to 3 or 4 local markets just to get enough for us to eat. We learnt about their food rations e.g. 6 eggs per family per month. It was important that our money went directly to the Cubans and not to the government.
In restaurants, we chatted with employees who were earning more waiting on tables than working as Doctors or Teachers. They wanted a better life for themselves and their families. But what hit home the most was that they were happy, they never complained but they smiled and laughed and enjoyed whatever little they had, even when they queued for hours outside the government provision store.
We learnt a lot about life in that one month.
We flew to Barbados for a 3-month house sit. Here was an island that had a distinct division between the rich and the poor, not really anything in between. An island that we thought would be rich in local produce, to little or no produce, not realising that it was imported from a smaller island close by and hence the expensive cost of living. Come Christmas time fresh produce was scarce as local boat operators would take their holidays during this time.
Goods that were imported were very expensive. It was a different experience and one of our most expensive housesits. Living like a local is always an eye-opener whichever country you visit.
From Barbados, we flew to the UK to catch up with family and friends before heading off to Madeira. Madeira is a special place out in the middle of the Atlantic. We stayed with friends of ours who moved there from the UK a few years before for a better standard of living and better weather. They had definitely achieved that!
Before heading into Spain for a couple of housesits we stopped in at Porto in Portugal. Here we worked with the Intercontinental Hotel and Taste Porto Food Tours. We would definitely return to Porto, now understanding that 4 nights was not long enough.
3 house sits in Spain took us to areas that we would never have visited – Bedar, near Mojacar on the coast, a small village outside Cordoba and another small village outside Malaga. Can you imagine waking up at 6 am in the morning and walking 2 dogs through ancient olive tree groves as the sun is slowly rising over the distance mountain? We were chilled. We enjoyed local Spanish wine, ate at local restaurants tucked high up in the mountains and just enjoyed living like a local.
We were looking forward to our next TBEX Conference in Killarney in Ireland. The joys of budget airlines had us worried about whether our flight from Spain would go ahead or not. Ryanair that summer was cancelling flights left right and centre. We rebooked with Aer Lingus just in case and probably had a better experience in the end.
Prior to the conference and post-conference, we worked with Ireland’s premier accommodation company– Ireland’s Blue Book whose properties included luxury castles and manor houses. Our road trip during those 3 weeks took us all over Southern Ireland – a land of beauty, history and legends. Not to mention the Guinness!
Always take out travel insurance – our saying if you can’t afford to buy travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.
Duncan pulled his back at Dublin Airport lifting a suitcase out of the taxi. By the time we arrived in Dubai, he was in agony. What was supposed to be a 3-night stopover turned into an agonising 7 nights not only for the pain that Duncan was in but the delayed travel plans, insurance claims on rebooking flights and hotels and doctors bill. We had to change our travel dates and plans to Kerala and Goa in India. Our visa was for 30 days which meant that we also lost a few days in India.
This time we used World Nomads Insurance as we were travelling for 18 months and could renew our travel policy after the 12 months period. By keeping World Nomads informed of every move we made and every expense the claiming was an easy task. Our tip here is to keep all insurance companies informed and ask them what they need every step of the way and keep every receipt.
We loved every minute of our stay in Kerala enjoying a stay on a houseboat on the backwaters, visiting the tea plantations in Munnar and a few nights in Cochin.
Our next travels took us to the beaches of Goa before heading to a house sit just outside Panjim.
Our housesitting adventures then took us to Thailand and the island of Koh Samui. An idyllic island to the south of Bangkok, a chilled back lifestyle, swaying palm trees, silvery sands and great local food.
After housesitting in Koh Samui we headed to Bangkok prior to returning home for Christmas. Dental treatment is less expensive than Australia in Bangkok and we also believe more efficient.
Health is another reason why you should take our travel insurance. You just never know what will happen next.
Duncan was due to have some fillings. Before treatment, the Dental team at Bangkok Smile just off Sukhumvit check your blood pressure. Duncan’s was sky-high; danger level and they recommended we go straight to the nearest emergency centre at the hospital. We instead booked the first flight back to Sydney.
On arrival, his blood pressure was still dangerously high so we were sent to Royal North Shore emergency for tests. Long story short, Duncan has high blood pressure but the medication that he is on now keeps it under control.
In 2019 we used Safetywings Insurance.
We found Safetywings easy to use and it was perfect for us that year as we had to extend our travels and we could do that with Safetywings.
Does our Nomadic Life Come To An End?
No! But it changes! We made the decision that we would travel for six months of the year, missing the Australian winter. By doing this Duncan’s regular check-ups can still happen and the fulfilment of his prescriptions can still occur.
Those 55 house sits during those 3 years gave us some great experiences and adventures. We would never have visited many of the places if we had followed the traditional travel bucket list of iconic locations, instead it provided unique living like a local experience. Housesitting provided the ability to spend less on our travel experiences and in many respects, over the years we saved many thousands of $$.
We made the decision to stop housesitting for many reasons, however, a major one is that housesitting is an obligation and should be treated as a professional arrangement between the parties all be it the exchange should not include money. In our instance, we felt if there was a medical episode whilst housesitting it could be difficult to handle, we had the responsibilities of caring for pets and for the security of the house.
We were earning money from our website. Over the last few years, we had made more changes to our website. We moved our hosting provider to Siteground for faster speed and more coverage around the world. We were so impressed with their service we became an affiliate of theirs.
We undertook travel blogging courses with Sharon at Digital Nomad Wannabe. After completing her course we said to each other we wish we had had Sharon around when we were first starting out. If you have a desire to blog like us we highly recommend Sharon and her courses, so much so that we have also made an affiliate arrangement with her.
Apart from writing articles for our website, we write for:
- Y Travel Blog – our initial inspiration
- The Planet D – the top adventure travel blog
- Goats on the Road
- Starts at 60 retirement blog website
- Sixty and Me – retirement blog website
- Holiday UK Magazine
- Huffington Post
- The Dubrovnik Times
- Destination NSW
- ROL Cruises
- International Living.
- In February 2018 we presented at International Living Australia’s first conference, which was held in Brisbane Australia on our digital nomad lifestyle.
2018 – Do as we say not as we do!
We can now look back on 2018 and laugh. During that year we did the craziest thing, which we never vowed we would ever do again.
Do not travel at the speed we did back in 2013.
Instead of travelling every 4 nights we travelled every 1 or 2 nights. What possessed us!
After Duncan’s medical episode we put together our top bucket list items. Originally we planned on 6 travel destinations each but it turned out to be more than double even triple that figure. We need to start ticking some of these items off.
Also, we had signed up for 3 travel conferences, TBEX in Ostrava in the Czech Republic and Finger Lakes in New York State as well as Travelcon in Austin Texas.
So where did we go every night or two?
- Bangkok where we worked with the Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel
- Czech Republic for a whole month working with Visit Czech Republic in North Bohemia, South Bohemia, Ostrava, Prague and the Spa Triangle
- a spa retreat at Svata Katerina Resort in the Czech Republic that included several ayurvedic treatments
- a day out at Chateau Petrovice near Ostrava
- a cheeky weekend in Cannes catching up with our eldest son
- beer tasting in Bruges and Gent
- getting our French fix in Paris
- working with Le Boat down the French Canals
- road tripping through the Champagne Region
- New York
- San Antonio
- Road tripping through Texas, Louisiana
- Uruguay in Montevideo
- Ticking off our #1 bucket item list – Antarctica with Ponant Cruises
- Travelling for 3 weeks from the bottom of the world through Patagonia to Santiago arriving back in Sydney just in time for Xmas.
One crazy 6 months of travel.
We blew the travel budget – just not slightly but double and a bit more! We needed to pull our heads in.
2019 – A Year of Living Slowly
Asia is where we can get our budget under control and also slow down our travel and catch up with our work. There is always something to do when you are a blogger. It is not all sitting around swimming pools drinking cocktails. We were working on our YouTube channel and catching up on our articles from the last few years. Articles always need to be updated with the latest information to keep our readers well informed.
Our travels took us to:
- Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai
- Indonesia – Bali
- Travelling from North to South Vietnam for 3 months visiting Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Mai Chau, Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Can Tho, Chau Doc
- Cambodia – Phnom Penh, Kep, Kampot, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
- Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
2020 – Grounded
Our 6 months plans were suddenly put on hold because of the Coronavirus.
We had planned to:
- Spend a week in Bangkok
- Spend 3 weeks in Egypt travelling the Nile, exploring Cairo and Alexandria
- 3 weeks in Jordan
- 2 weeks in Israel
- United Kingdom
- Following the Orient Express routes by train from Europe to Turkey
Instead, we are in Australia creating our new website Staycation Australia and travelling our own backyard.
Even Seasoned Travellers Make Mistakes
Our #1 travel mistake was taking too much luggage. Way too much! We had bought new luggage – 75 litres and saw a great special for bags at 100 litres so we returned the 75-litre bags. Huge mistake! What we did then was to fill those 100-litre bags with way too many clothes and shoes etc. Although we had kept within the allowed 20kg it was just too much. 2 years later we downsized our luggage to carry-ons. In 2018 we found packing cubes that fit perfectly into our carry-ons and have made our packing so much quicker and easier.
Our carry-ons now weight approximately 11kg and our daypacks for our technology around 5 – 6kg.
We have partnered with Amazon and created our own To Travel Too Travel Shop with products that we recommend or have been recommended by other travellers and travel bloggers. It is updated regularly so go ahead and check it out.
Where do we stay these days?
These days we stay in different types of accommodation depending on where we are; luxury, boutique hotels, apartments, AirBnb, hostels and even a Bedouin Tent or two. In Bangkok, we even stayed in sea containers. Everyone has his or her own travel style but we like to mix it up.
Our first year of travel we had a daily travel budget of USD115 which was based on our spend in Sydney minus utilities, rent etc. We chatted with other travellers and they were travelling the world for a lot less. So we challenged ourselves to reduce it.
In 2015/6 we travelled on the equivalent of the Australian Aged Pension (USD65 a day for the 2 of us). Some accommodations include breakfast in their pricing which keeps our budget on track and we always search for those that are centrally located to cut down on transport costs. A hostel in Florence ran their own free walking tours, based on tips, and we have found other hostels to provide shuttle bus transfers to nearby towns at an affordable price.
2017 we kept within our budget of USD65 a day.
2018 – we won’t even go there.
Our travels in Asia during 2019 will see us spend on average anywhere between USD35 and USD 45 a day for the two of us.
We keep track of our daily spend with a travel app called Trailwallet that was developed by travel bloggers.
Fear stops most people from travelling. Over the past few years Jane has become a nervous flyer. During her life she has flown in 2 seater aircraft, hostessed on private jets and 10 seater aircraft, flown in helicopters, hot air balloons and even the Concorde.
We are not sure how or when it started but she did experience an aborted landing back in 2008 in Shanghai China but the fear did not rear its ugly head until 2015. During flights, she tries to read or watch movies to keep her mind off the fear and tries to manage herself by using breathing techniques.
How Do You Start To Travel Long Term
Our advice is to plan small. You don’t have to travel long term like us. We sold up everything to live a life on the road and this does not suit everybody. Start planning a small adventure first. If you have a fear of flying, (like Jane these days) why not start with a cruise or a road trip first or a short flight in your home country.
Plan your itineraries well, so that you have time to enjoy a destination, slow down your travel – your travel $$$ will go further. The more you move from place to place the higher your costs will be.
If you are planning to stay in hostels or for that matter any type of accommodation always read travellers reviews on the booking sites, we currently use Hotels Combined, as well as TripAdvisor.
Don’t forget to take out travel insurance.
Since 2013 we have made three claims on our travel insurance policy. In 2017 Duncan’s health issues in Dublin and in Thailand and our travel scam below back in 2015.
In Ecuador, in 2015 our passports and credit cards were stolen in Quito at the Bus Station as we boarded our bus to Otavalo. We had eyes on us as soon as we arrived. It is the busiest day of the week and the weekend market is the largest in South America. We were separated boarding the bus.
Duncan took to the other side of the bus away from my sight to put the bags in the hold and I was ushered on board and taken to seats at the middle of the bus. Our tickets were allocated more to the front. The friendly bus employee (who turned out not to be a bus employee) insisted that all luggage on board had to be put under the seat. Well, I guess you know what happened.
Duncan returned wanting to know where the bag was, I tried to retrieve it, at the same time the friendly non-bus employee was trying to zip it back up.
We normally travel with our passports and credit cards on us but on our last trip home we found a leather designer travel wallet that we had never used and thought it would be fun to start using it. That mistake took us just under 3 months to get new passports from Australia and new credit cards. Luckily we had planned to spend 3 months in Ecuador. We would not want to wish this on anyone. The process of renewal is painful, slow and stressful.
In 2017 we used World Nomads Insurance and had to claim twice for Duncan’s health issues.
To Travel Too Tip
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