It’s all too common these days to hear stories about couples who quit their grueling corporate jobs to travel the world and live the life we’ve always dreamed of. Some get lucky and get paid to travel; others have millions in saving and stock options to afford their adventures; a few manage to even run their businesses while they travel — all of which are one-in-a-million fairy tale stories that don’t apply to everyone.
South African couple Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger is “everyone.” They quit their stable advertising jobs earlier this year to travel the world, and while their Instagram shows them exploring exotic sceneries and doing yoga on beaches in Greece, they now scrub toilets and scoop dog poop for money and can only afford to eat jam and crackers most days.
Cartell and Dirnberger chronicle the reality of quitting their jobs to travel the world on their blog “How Far From Home.” In each photo, Cartell or Dirnberger hold up a sign showing how many kilometers away they are from their home in South Africa.
Their posts clearly explain that what you see in their Instagram is only the good half. Cartell explained:
“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. It’s bloody amazing. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes.”
When they aren’t photographing themselves in front of amazing landscapes, they are busy doing “painstakingly hard and dirty work” just to survive.
“So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.”
“You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers.”
Traveling on an extremely tight budget sometimes means having to go without brushing your teeth because you can’t afford toothpaste. Needless to say, sacrificing the necessities we take for granted can be stressful.
“Whilst visits to town with our new friends in Norway meant buying beer and bags of candy for them, we’ve been forced to purchase floss (because you only get one set of pearlers, right?) and nothing else. The budget is really tight, and we are definitely forced to use creativity (and small pep talks) to solve most of our problems (and the mild crying fits).”
Cartell further described the hardships of their vagabond lifestyle:
“I am not at my fittest, slimmest or physically healthiest. We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly 5hrs 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).”
But despite the less-than-ideal circumstances of their decision, Cartell writes that it’s still worth it:
“It’s like heaven for us. Sure, wood needs to be stacked, and garbage needs to be taken out (it’s our version of a shit sandwich, as Mark Manson put it), but once that’s done, we’re free to explore, wander and be one with our meandering thoughts.
“There’s nothing quite like swopping million-rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life, and the importance of living each day as if it were your last.”
For those of us in the real world, would you trade a busy and boring yet furnished and comfortable work-life to travel the world without the money and luxuries you are used to?