This travel blogger interview features Darren & Shelley of Finding Beyond. A couple who had a bad experience in India but still love many things about the country.
What is your name?
Hi, we’re Darren and Shelley of Finding Beyond
Which country do you come from/call home?
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
We’ve been backpackers on and off for 11 years, but this time next year we’d hope to answer with “live and work abroad”. This is something we’re currently aiming for. We’re finding a lifestyle beyond our previous office 9 to 5.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Until now we’ve funded our trips by working and saving hard back home in London. Once we have enough cash in the bank, we buy a plane ticket, quit our jobs and go wherever the wind takes us. We’ve done this a few times over the past 11 years.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
Our first trip together was to Australia back in 2005 in our early twenties. We did the whole working holiday visa thing and stayed in the country for 12 months. We based ourselves in Sydney and Brisbane to work in various temp jobs, saving cash to fund trips to other parts of Australia. Highlights included staying in the Daintree rainforest, road trip on the Great Ocean Road and hiring a camper van to drive through the Outback. This is when we properly caught the travel bug!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Bolivia took us by surprise. In 2012 we were travelling very quickly, moving from place to place every few days. Because we were so busy, all the time, we would often turn up to a country with no previous research been done. We’d land or cross a border, buy a Lonely Planet book or get online, and take it from there.
We had no idea what Bolivia was like. It was an unknown country to us and we didn’t know anyone else who had been. Bolivia was incredible like nowhere else we have visited. The landscapes are so diverse; the Andes mountains, volcanoes, the world’s largest salt flat, bright red lakes populated with wild flamingos, the Amazon Basin, the world’s highest altitude city…..the list goes on.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Our worst experience was getting stuck at a remote airport in Thailand for 48 hours. Bangkok airport got shut down for several weeks due to political protests in the city. Thousands of tourists got stranded in the country with little information on how to get home.
The tiny Northern Thailand airport (previously an army base) was a fraction of the size of Bangkok’s but was trying to hold many of Bangkok’s departures. It was absolute chaos. The airport resembled a refugee camp inside and out. Food and water was running out and there was no space to sleep. We were one of the lucky ones to get out in 48 hours. Others got stuck there for several days!
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Ooty in India. Ooty in Tamil Nadu is marketed to be this beautiful mountain holiday destination. We expected gorgeous lakes, pretty parklands and an appealing town centre with a backdrop of soaring mountains. Instead, we got polluted lakes, dead dogs in the street and two young men trying to grope Shelley in a park.
After that, we stopped getting any hopes up before arriving at an Indian destination. The rest of India was awesome by the way. Don’t let our Ooty experience put you off 🙂
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Sri Lanka. It’s our new favourite country. Check out why in our post – 10 Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka Now
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Yes, we do. What travel blogger doesn’t?! The top of the list includes an African safari, trekking in Nepal, US national parks, Costa Rica, Japan, Canada and Myanmar. The Philippines for its islands and beaches has always been on the list and we’re ticking that one off next month! We can’t wait.
Can you imagine life without travel?
Absolutely not. It’s been part of us for 11 years and we’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s going to be with us forever. It’s stopped us being able to settle down in the UK. This is why we’re now chasing the digital nomad lifestyle, so we can work and travel at the same time and don’t have to return home permanently if we don’t want to.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
We’d be back in London, in our previous jobs.
Darren – I worked as a Producer/Project Manager at an advertising agency.
Shelley – I was a Hospice Volunteer Coordinator.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Our blog is called Finding Beyond – http://findingbeyond.com/
When did you begin your website Finding Beyond?
In May 2016, so it’s pretty new, but we’re not new to travelling. We’ve been travelling on and off for 11 years so have so much backpacking experience. It was about time we started sharing our travel experiences with others! 🙂
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
For now, we do it for fun, to connect with our family/friends, and to inform other travellers, but it would be great if it covered some of our expenses in the future. We’re learning so much from running Finding Beyond so that’s also a big bonus. We’re becoming experts on social media, SEO and WordPress! 🙂
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
We travel slow, so get to know destinations better than a lot of other travellers quickly passing through. We also blog and update our social media about our experiences trying to make some kind of living online. Travelling forever isn’t the goal, finding a new lifestyle is. We’re still waiting for that life-changing moment and we’re right at the beginning of this process so join us if you’d like to see how we get on.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
We offer services to businesses through writing, photography, SEO and social media skills. Visit our contact page if you’d like to discuss anything. We’re also available to help other travellers, free of charge, should they need any help or information regarding anywhere we’ve been.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
I think our How to Save Money for Travel post. A lot of people were interested to know how we save so much money in between trips. Especially since we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. As you’ll read, it’s no secret formula. It’s just long-term dedication and making sacrifices with that goal always in mind.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
We always enjoy our photo-heavy posts as it gives us a chance to showcase our photography which we enjoy immensely. An example would be our 30 Indian Photos that Capture the People and Places in India post.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Train. We’ve been on some fantastic train journeys. Highlights include the train from Porto in Portugal to the Douro Valley, and Sri Lanka’s Kandy to Ella train, which some describe as the world’s most beautiful train journey. Travelling by train through India was a bit of an adventure as well!
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Don’t make too many fixed plans. We find travelling more enjoyable when we don’t have to be at a certain destination at a certain date. Be as flexible as possible, so if you really love a destination, you can stay for longer. It’s such a shame when you have to leave somewhere you’ve fallen in love with because you have a plane to catch.
There are travel companies that offer flexible flight tickets around the world. With these you can change the flight date as many times as you want, providing there’s availability of course.
What has travel taught you?
That the world offers so many opportunities. Opportunities that we didn’t even know existed until we got on that plane. There’s so much more to life than most people realise.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Air Asia
Favourite country? Sri Lanka
Favourite city? London
Favourite beach? Lopes Mendes Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Favourite food? Darren – Cake
Shelley – My Mum’s homemade chicken pie
Favourite language? Spanish
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://findingbeyond.com/
Twitter handle? FindingBeyond
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/findingbeyond/