An Interview with Fellow Travellers Martina and Jordy of Ward to World
Let’s Start With a Short Introduction. Who are Martina and Jordy?
Hey everyone! It all started about 7 years ago in Medical School – where we met. We became colleagues through our student association, where later on we became the best of friends bonded by our love for travel and lame jokes. Fast forward to 7 years later and we have been in a relationship together for 4 years, working full time as medical doctors (yep, that’s why Ward to World) and back in Malta after one of the best experiences of our lives.
Travelling has always been an integral part of our lives, even before we actually met! Martina had been travelling abroad with her family and friends since she was still in her mother’s belly and she later spent 5 years working with aircrafts as a Ground Hostess.
Meanwhile, Jordy was off on several adventures with his triplet brothers, sister and parents in various locations all over Europe – their trips included camping, road trips and so many more fun activities. Pretty sure you all have figured out who’s the most adventurous now between us two!
What About Your Full-Time Travelling Experience?!
Back in July 2019, we quit our jobs (well .. quit is a harsh word – Martina’s contract actually ended and Jordy took a sort of sabbatical year from his work contract) and packed our backpacks for our adventure.
We had been dreaming of doing something of this sort since we practically knew each other but we never actually thought we would be able to do it. The motivation to do it was simple – go out there, explore the world, taste new cuisines, meet local people, make new friends, learn new languages and experience new cultures. We were ready to get out of our little bubble and step onto the edge of our comfort zone and go beyond it. We never felt happier than the day we actually said – YES! (.. to the adventure).
We had been planning our trip for around 2 years, trying to figure out how to make travelling full-time work with our hectic lifestyles and careers i.e. junior doctors. Being junior doctors means that you still have a minimum of 6 years of training left, after graduating, in order to be fully specialised and qualified in a particular field, which nowadays is required for any type of doctor.
We had to think hard about how travelling full-time was going to affect our training and ultimately our careers but after loads of discussion with our family, friends and colleagues we came to the decision that we needed to do it as it was now or never for us. The opportunity was right in front of us and it was the perfect time for us to do something of this sort, so we went ahead and started planning full-on!
Planning such a long trip doesn’t come easy – you are planning the unknown. Obviously, you cannot plan ahead the next year of your life detail by detail but the basics needed to be done. We read up loads of different travel blogs and travel books to fully prepare ourselves. We made a provisional route of the countries that we wanted to visit and when (taking in consideration the season), read about the different travel visas we needed, any medications or vaccines we needed for all the countries, how to get to all these countries and finally we made a budget.
This plan changed MANY MANY times! It started off with about 30 countries on the list and we ended up doing a little more than half of that. The route we took also kept changing throughout the trip constantly – goes to show how much you have to be able to adapt and overcome the obstacles. The only thing that remained the same from our plan we made two years ago was the budget – the budget is the most important thing we had agreed on and we constantly made sure that we did not skip the budget or else ……
… The Trip
We started off in mid-July and the plan was to travel to 3 different continents in a span of 10 months, exploring as many countries as possible. From Malta, we flew to Istanbul to go to South Africa – from where we started our journey. We spent around 2 months in Africa exploring South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, a little bit of Zambia, Tanzania and Mauritius.
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From the scenic Chilean mountains ⛰️ in Patagonia, we headed further up North to the island 🏝️ of Chiloé!⠀ ⠀ Chiloé is the second largest island in South America, and lies just off the coast of the Chilean mainland 🇨🇱. It is a very rural island, with a predominant fishing culture 🎣. It was the perfect place to rent a car and go on a road trip 🚘! It was our first time driving on the opposite side of the road as we do back home, but we quickly got used to it 😁.⠀ ⠀ We based ourself in a lovely Airbnb inside a ‘palafino’ – a traditional house 🏡 on stilts which lies on the ocean, and used to be the homes of the local fishermen. From there, we headed out to explore UNESCO protected old wooden churches ⛪, absorb scenic views and enjoy nature at its finest 🏞️.⠀ ⠀ We really enjoyed having a car to explore independently at our own pace 😌. But unfortunately, rental prices are not so cheap 💰 especially since we booked our vehicle less than a week before, so after a few days we continued our journey North 🛫.⠀ ⠀ #wardtoworld #traveler #travelblogger #chillychile #chiloé #chile #islandlife #roadtrip #nature #unesco #heritage #culture #southamerica #backpacking #wanderlust #explore #travelcouple #gapyear #travel #worldnomads #adventure #travelphotography #instadaily⠀ ⠀ Photo taken at Chiloé National Park, Chiloé, Chile 🇨🇱.
From Africa, we flew to South East Asia where we spent most of our adventure – around 4.5 months exploring Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, North of India, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar and Laos. After Laos, we literally crossed the world to visit South America after a long layover in New York. We had planned on visiting 4 countries in South America but we only managed to do Chile, Bolivia and half of Peru in a month and a half – the rest of Peru and Brazil will have to wait for another time because COVID-19 happened.
So in total, we travelled to 20 countries including long-ish layovers in New York and Istanbul in the span of 8 months.
We decided to start with Africa purely because of the season – we always try to travel to certain countries/continents in the best season. Now … whenever you look up the best season on Google it will give you several different answers because the best season really depends on what you are looking for – do you want the best touristic season (best weather/best time to do anything)? Or do you want the least touristic season (cheapest prices/not a lot of tourists around and maybe the weather won’t be as good)?
Choosing the best time to visit a country is very subjective and that’s why we found our own way of deciding when the best time to visit a country is – we call it the pre-tourist season. So the country is not packed with tourists, the weather is nearly excellent and the prices are cheap! So that is the reason why we ended up starting with Africa.
… The Style of Travelling
We call ourselves mid-range budget travellers – we are not low budget travellers and we don’t go looking for expensive restaurants or accommodations. We always look for affordable but comfortable options. As we said earlier, we have a budget for everything, for example, for accommodation, our budget was 15 euros per person per night (NO MORE!) and we always looked for a private room with a private bathroom which we always managed to find with that price and most of the times even cheaper!
For food we were always on the lookout for the cheapest but safest options – so you used to see us following the locals whenever they were about to eat.
A food place filled with locals = good and cheap food!
Regarding activities – we never held back. That was our rule. If we wanted to do something or see something we were going to do it regardless of the price – that was the aim of our adventure after all; to explore as much as possible! We obviously looked for the cheapest and safest options for activities but we always went ahead and did whatever we wanted to do and we do not regret it one bit! Since we travelled in 3 different continents, the prices varied by A LOT! Africa and South America were considerably much more expensive than South East Asia so our expenses would probably be much more expensive than backpackers travelling around South East Asia.
Our style of travelling was probably much different than the rest of the full-time travellers. We had a limited amount of time to travel so we wanted to make the most out of it. Some say that we travelled too fast but that was our plan from the very beginning – see and explore as much as possible. Along the way, we also stopped to work as medical and wildlife volunteers in Tanzania and Thailand respectively which were two of the most memorable experiences that we had. We are super glad that we decided on our style of travelling beforehand, came up with a budget and then spent the rest of the months travelling just like we wanted to.
How Did the Current Pandemic Affect Your Travels?
Our original plan was to travel full time for about 10 months, then come back to Malta for a few weeks and then spend a couple more weeks or months abroad. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our travels had to be cut short and we had to miss out on the North of Peru and Brazil. We weren’t planning on coming back home so early but one morning in mid-March whilst in Arequipa in Peru, we woke up and decided to buy a flight back to Malta seeing how the situation was worsening all around the world. That same day we were on our way back home and we are grateful we did that because we left South America exactly 10 minutes before the continent closed all of its borders!! We were so lucky because we would have been stuck there until today. We have now been in Malta for the past 4 months.
Vacation and Long-term Travelling – Would You Consider Them as the Same Thing?
Definitely not! We actually needed a vacation from long-term travelling!! Long-term travelling is not easy – you see/do something new every day and you need time to take it all in. Other than that we were practically packing our backpacks every 2 or 3 days and travelling to a new part of the country. It was hard and tiring but the most rewarding experience of our lives. We were actually grateful that once we got back to Malta we had to spend 2 weeks in quarantine because it gave us time to process, relax and wrap our heads around what had just happened in our lives.
What Would be the Most Valuable Lesson Learnt During Travelling?
This is difficult to answer because we learnt several lessons along the way, but probably the most important thing we learnt is that despite meeting people from different countries, different continents, different ages, different races, different religions and different social status, we are all human and the same.
Just like they say in Asia ‘’same same but different!’’ (whoever’s been to Asia will get this!). Therefore, no one deserves to be discriminated against!
Hitchhiking, Interacting and Spending the Night with Locals, etc. Would you Consider Such Things Dangerous? What’s Your Advice?
Before starting our trip, we would have been slightly uncomfortable and a bit uneasy with the thought of these things. However, we got to interact with a lot of locals around the world, and saw the kindness and hospitality that a lot of people around the world show. We also hopped on dala-dalas in Tanzania (look it up!), chatted with Iocal families on the sleeper class train in India (you can look this up too!) and celebrated carnival with a Bolivian family. We also spoke with a lot of travellers who have hitchhiked to get from place to place. Our fears were immediately gone, and we can wholeheartedly say that interacting with local people made our trip so much special!
The only reason we did not hitchhike during this trip was that we had a limited time, so we preferred to travel by public transport for very cheap prices because hitchhiking means that you may stop in the next village and not in the village that you actually want to go to – so obviously travel time will be longer.
Which of the Countries You Visited Would You Mostly Want to Return Back to? Why?
We loved every country we’ve been to – for different reasons, and some more than others! We are very much inclined to go back first to South America – we have some unfinished business there! However, we would never say no to a trip back to Chile, Bolivia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines and South Africa – the countries are so vast that one trip alone is simply never enough!
5 Things You ALWAYS Search About Before Visiting a Country.
1. The Best Time to Visit
The very first thing that we look for when we consider visiting a country is the ‘best’ time to visit. However, this is very, very subjective! Some blogs consider the peak season the best time to visit because the weather would be ideal and/or some popular and important events take place in the country. Others prefer visiting in the low/off season as rates would be cheaper and places would be less crowded.
We have been to countries both during peak season, and during low/off season – so the answer is not very straightforward! The best thing to do is see why you want to visit the country, and if you would enjoy it more during its peak or during the low season.
2. Visa Requirements
Before we left Malta, we checked the visa requirements for each and every country we wanted to visit. Thankfully, most of the countries did not require a visa, especially in Africa or South America. The most comfortable option was the e-visa (required in most Asian countries), which we could easily fill online a few days before entering the country.
We needed to visit an embassy/consulate/higher representation three times to obtain a visa – we got the Visas of Namibia and Thailand from Malta before we left (they were valid for six months), and the visa of Bolivia from the embassy in Peru. We did not like to rely on Visas on arrival as much as possible – we only opted for them if we had a last-minute change of plans or if we had no other options.
TIP: Do not forget to check about visa requirements of countries you are transiting through – trust us! We were denied boarding a flight transiting through New York because we did not fill in their entry visa!
3. Vaccines, Malaria Medication and Other Requirements
This applies mostly to many countries outside Europe and North America. The Floriana Health Centre has a very good Travel Clinic, where you can make an appointment, mention the countries you are thinking of visiting, and they will prepare a list of vaccines which are recommended to take (which you haven’t taken yet) and which countries, or regions within countries, require malaria protection with tablets. We took around 8 vaccines over a couple of weeks before starting our trip, and took around 2 months total of malaria tablets when travelling in Africa and Asia. Unfortunately, they are not free, but they are always a good idea – better safe than sorry!
4. The Average Cost of Accommodation, Food etc.
The country’s cost of living is a huge factor – it determines everything from the costs of flights, accommodation, food, activities, and so much more! While it is not necessary to avoid ‘expensive’ countries, getting to know a bit about their approximate price range of the above helps plan a solid budget for the trip. Martina loves to look at the best options for flights and accommodation, while Jordy always finds the best cheap spots for local food, the best options for transport and the cheapest ways to explore destinations!
5. History, Culture & General Information About the Country
Before we leave to a country, we like to get to know it a bit more – what makes it so appealing? What is its history up to this moment in time? Which are the important days in its calendar? What cultural traditions stand out? Are there any natural parks/reserves? UNESCO Heritage sites? This helps us know what to expect, and also appreciate more the surroundings we will be in.
“You must be rich, or else have outsider support to be able to travel for a long period of time!” How Would You Respond to Such a Statement?
Nowadays, it is so easy to travel for a long time with a limited amount of money! Travel is no longer limited to those who are well-off! Most countries have a much cheaper cost of living than what we are used to in our country.
Sometimes we slept in hotels with a really nice room and private bathroom for just 5 euros in the centre of the city/village or even got our bellies full with just 2 euros! Whoever manages to travel for a very long time is because they travel wisely. We never spent money on unnecessary souvenirs, expensive clothes, or luxurious activities. We had a budget, found the cheapest options and just did what we wanted to do.
Budgeting does not only apply when abroad, but also before! If you put aside some of your income every month towards your travel fund, you will very soon have enough money to go on your long-awaited trip! Furthermore, there are a lot of opportunities to make money while on the road.
The world is truly your oyster now!
Can You Share Any Ways Which:
Helped you reduce the costs along the way:
We always opted for public means of transportation because they were generally much cheaper than any other options. We also used to read up different blogs online which give very useful tips. But the best way to reduce costs has to be speaking to the locals because they will always give you the most relevant and important tips.
Helped you financially sustain your full-time travels:
This doesn’t really apply for us because we spent our 8 months travelling after having saved up as much money as possible from our jobs. In spite of this, we do have many international friends who were travelling full time as well and managed to find easy jobs along the way that helped sustain them. One of our Argentinian friends actually travelled with her guitar and used to play gigs in bars all over Asia to get some income.
Have you got any plans post COVID-19?
The pandemic cut our adventure short so we never managed to get closure on our trip. Sometimes we feel as if we have not yet got back home despite having been here for months already and are back in our full-time jobs and living our previous lives.
Knowing that we still haven’t got closure and that we still somehow feel that there is much more that we need to see or do means that we will get back out there with our backpacks – FOR SURE! Exactly when, where and for how long we don’t know but the idea is definitely there. For now, we plan to get settled back into work and start specialising in our preferred fields during which time we will most definitely do some short trips here and there and continue dreaming about our next big adventure.
What’s the Advice You Would Give to Someone Who is Thinking About Going on a Long-Term Travel Adventure?
Just go for it! Do not let anything or anyone stop you from following your dreams – we know it may sound cheesy but we are proof that no matter what obstacles you may have in your lives or no matter how many people push you against the idea, it is never an option not to do what you want. We only live once and you can’t live knowing that you didn’t do what you always wanted to. One more advice … always remember to budget!