House sitting on the road. Wanderlusters interview


Currently, in South Island, New Zealand, these guys in their late twenties/thirties have found the ultimate way to travel for free! Get to know what they are up to in our On the Road Wanderlusters interview:

·Tell us a bit about Wanderlusters and how you guys started to travel. Do you remember your 1st travel experience? Why are you (if that’s so…) passionate about traveling?

We are Charli & Ben, a nomadic couple originally from the UK. A little over two years ago we decided to live a life extraordinary and leave our home in London behind.

Once the decision was made we went through the usual process of selling furniture, sorting through our belongings, and giving up our city apartment. At the time it felt quite overwhelming and there were moments when we questioned our motives and sanity.

However, looking back I know it was the pivotal moment that set us on the path we are now following.

A path I hope never to deviate from.

Ziplining in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Ziplining in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Our first experience of travel together was a road trip through Europe. It was during the Easter holiday of my 2nd year of University, Ben had just bought a new car and he was keen to test it out on the German Autobahns. On a whim, we packed a bag and drove south to Dover where we caught the ferry across to Calais, France.

I remember the intense anticipation I felt as we boarded the ferry. We’d only been dating about nine months and although we had spent a lot of time together this was our first real ‘getaway’ as a couple.

Our itinerary, along with our understanding of French and German, was pretty limited however we chose to keep off the main tourist trail and drove into the countryside in search of adventure. We visited northern France, Belgium, southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria and fell in love with travel in the process.

Spending a month exploring unfamiliar terrain with just one bag of clothing and a selection of phrasebooks, ignited within us a desire to immerse ourselves in the wealth of different cultures and communities that cover our earth.

There’s nothing like discovering somewhere new, somewhere unlike anywhere else you’ve been. Each new location provides an education, an opportunity to try your hand at something new, to meet new people, and to learn about the local culture.

I truly believe that…

‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.’ – Saint Augustine

·Now that we know where do you come from… could you tell us where are you heading to? Which are your plans for the future in terms of traveling?

We utilize house sitting assignments to facilitate a slower pace of travel. In the past two years, we’ve looked after homes in Central America, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand and the experience has allowed us to immerse ourselves in some fascinating cultures and get a true taste of the locations we visit.

From Gove to Darwin in 4x4
From Gove to Darwin in 4×4

In between house sits we take the opportunity to road trip through the country we are in, again a rather slow-paced activity but one that provides the freedom to explore off the beaten track.

We’re currently in New Zealand and, having spent the last few months house sitting in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, we have just bought ourselves a 4×4 and a caravan with which to explore the islands in-depth. Our visa allows us to remain here for twelve months so we’re making the most of the opportunity to explore the spectacular landscape.

From here we’re not entirely sure where we’ll go. We’re keen scuba divers and would love to visit Micronesia and the islands of Oceania but we’ve no firm plans so I’ll have to keep you posted!

·What do you think of traveling with a purpose or meaning in mind? What do you look for when traveling long term?

I think all travel has a purpose whether you realize it or not. For some the chance to volunteer with a charity, learn a new skill or language drives their desire for travel, for others, it’s purely the opportunity to visit a new location and explore.

We like to combine our travel with a ‘life’ education, so far we’ve spent three months training to be PADI Divemasters, learned Spanish at a local school in Costa Rica, and volunteered with an animal charity.

Iguana in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Iguana in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Travelling long-term has given us the chance to attend the school of life. Every day we’re presented with new challenges and find that we discover new things about the world and our characters.

While on a road trip across Australia Ben had to quickly familiarize himself with the basics of auto electrics when the wiring in our motor home failed. I was invited to join a quilting group while we were house sitting in British Colombia and found myself sipping tea and stitching charity quilts twice a week with a group of ladies in their 80’s. We’ve learned the basics of macadamia farming and lived on a lifestyle farm caring for alpacas and chickens.

It’s been quite an education.

·How do you fund your travels? Have you found a job or income source that allows you to be on the road full-time? Tell us what you do for a living. 

We spent three years saving for a property and when the market turned our ‘ideal home’ fund quickly became our ‘RTW travel’ fund. We’ve tried to be as savvy as possible with our savings by using high-interest saving accounts and ISA’s to earn as much interest as we can, but we do take on the odd freelance project as well.

Travel provides the opportunity to try your hand at several professions and we’ve enjoyed getting stuck into some rather unusual roles. We have traveled full-time for the past two years and we’ve no plans to stop. It’s amazing what an incentive can do for your desire to be frugal with your spending.

Milkyway from Western Australia
Milkyway from Western Australia

·Did your job, studies, volunteering experiences or other projects help you to travel the world? Where have you been thanks to those? If so, tell us a bit about those experiences.

Before we left the UK I worked for an arts organization in London and Ben worked for a large multinational. I wouldn’t say that our careers assisted us in traveling the world but I do believe they helped to cement our wish to escape and explore.

Working with artists is much like RTW travel. Each day is different, new ideas and concepts bombard your senses and you have to adapt and facilitate situations at a moment’s notice. I think being creative perhaps inspired within me a desire to escape and paint my picture of the world.

For Ben, it was a completely different element of his employment that was the catalyst for his wish to travel. As a project manager, his role was jam-packed full of responsibilities, and to competently manage his projects he regularly had to drive from one end of the UK to the other. Sat on a motorway during rush hour traffic and sitting in meetings in white cubes surrounded by men in dark suits was not conducive for a positive mental outlook. Ten years of corporate life was enough and when he finally left the company there was only one job he wanted – professional nomad.

·What would you recommend to someone who wants to follow your steps? Which kind of training or studies is necessary? Would an investment be needed in the first place? Please, give 3 pieces of advice (you wish to have known before starting) of what to do and what to avoid to succeed.

Take Your Time – Any dramatic change in lifestyle takes time unless you have a small leprechaun with a pot of gold replenishing your bank balance. Be realistic with your schedule and considered your choices. Make educated decisions about your itinerary and budget, and consider how you will fund yourself long term. It might be that you decide to take a course in teaching English as a foreign language, child care or hospitality to enable you to find employment on the road. While it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, quit your job and book a flight, this is not the way to approach long-term travel.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Make Connections – Once you’ve figured out the locations you’re likely to visit take the time to reach out to people online who are in the locale. Joining expat groups, Twitter chats, Facebook pages, and online networks allow you to find people who are already living and working where you’re planning to visit. Insider knowledge is a powerful tool and a friendly face is a welcome sight when arriving in a foreign place.

Be prudent when conversing with individuals you meet online, never give personal details, transfer any funds or agree to carry luggage, etc,

Find Yourself A Get Out Of Jail Free Card – if the game of Monopoly has taught me one thing it is that having a get-out-of-jail free card can be a lifesaver. We all know our Achilles heel, for some it’s overspending, for others it’s making uninformed decisions. Whatever your ‘Plan A’ might always have a ‘Plan B’. It doesn’t necessarily need to be set in stone but an idea of how you will proceed should your desired activity, transport, accommodation, or income fail can prevent a failed expedition.

·What does a perfect day in your life looks like? Do you follow any particular routine?

Our daily routine is dependent on whether we’re house sitting or on the road. Daily life at our housesit in southern Costa Rica has been my favorite so far.

Each morning we woke to the sound of howler monkeys in the mountains behind the property. After a quick cup of chai, we were off around the surrounding cashew farm with the owner’s dog Jack for his morning walk.

As we meandered along the gravel track Jack would disappear into the surrounding jungle in search of something good to sniff and we’d be left to listen to the sounds of the jungle and watch the giant morpho butterflies, toucans and sloths.

After our walk, it was back to the house for a breakfast of fresh fruit from the owner’s orchards and then a few chores, and the rest of the day was spent reading, playing with Jack, and relaxing in the infinity pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

In Alouette lake, British Columbia
In Alouette Lake, British Columbia

I have to admit that rates pretty highly on my radar of perfect daily routines!

When we’re on the road we try and balance physical travel with experiencing new locations. We started our blog Wanderlusters in January and we’re still getting to grips with the balance between blogging and travel. As with all our experiences, it’s proving to be very educational!

·Where do you come from originally and where you call home now? Can you give us some local tips we cannot find in a guidebook but you highly recommend about your hometown?

I’m pretty sure our home town won’t be in too many guide books! We both spent most of our youth in Norwich, a town in the county of Norfolk, UK. Norfolk itself is very picturesque, full of listed buildings and areas of agricultural heritage it makes for an interesting visit and as an outsider looking in there are so many appealing areas to visit.

I grew up in a small village along the side of the network of waterways known as the Norfolk Broads. My youth was spent splashing about on the river in one boat or another and I look back with fond memories of summer sunsets over the surrounding wetlands.

Ben lived a little closer to the city than me, he enjoyed the benefits of the cultural quarter which has a historic cathedral, castle, art galleries, restaurants, and theatres.

Our insider tips are probably defunct as we’ve not been residents since late 2006. We’ve watched from afar as the city has grown and redeveloped and I’m afraid to say we’ve completely lost touch with the places we knew.

·Do you read, write, draw, listen to music, sing, watch movies or do something else while traveling? How do you interact with technology these days and which gadgets you take with you everywhere? What is your favorite book? And the movie?

Technology plays a huge part in our lives. Ben is a techie geek and loves reading up on the latest tech developments. He’s recently moved our site over to our server and set up a complete hosting environment that will allow us to host Wanderlusters and any future websites we may find the time to conceive!

We’re never really in a position to watch a lot of TV so we watch a few series and films online as we travel. Documentaries feature heavily on our playlist, Nat Geo and the Discovery Channel have some fascinating insights into our earth and its history. ‘House of Cards’ kept us riveted recently and we’ve just started watching ‘Game of Thrones’ which is proving to be a rather addictive viewing.

As you can tell if you’ve seen our blog, photography is a big part of our site. Ben loves to capture each location we visit on ‘film’ and consequently never goes anywhere without a camera. For me it’s a notepad, I tend to write down interesting snippets of info I hear of doodle a sketch.

Anemone fish in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Anemonefish in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

On a daily basis I write, a lot. The blog keeps me busy although I do try to read other travel articles, fiction, and the odd factual book. I’m a dreamer and nonfiction feeds my imagination. Ben is much more scientifically minded and prefers to read factual info rather than stories. They do say opposites attract so perhaps that’s why we’re such a good match!

Do you keep a bucket list? Which are your craziest dreams? Where are your favorite destinations on earth?

I think subconsciously we have a bucket list, when we first left the UK I started writing down things that I wanted to see and do. I stopped about six months into our journey as my list was getting ridiculously long and it just looked unrealistic.

Ben says that we’re living our bucket list so we’ve no need to write a physical list. Every day we’re crossing off things from our life list and for that, we’re incredibly grateful.

Favorite locations are a tough one to narrow down. Everywhere we’ve been has left a mark on our memory and contributed so much to our understanding of the world. From the lush tropical jungles of southern Costa Rica to the colorful geothermal pools in the volcanic heart of New Zealand, each new place brings with it a wealth of memories waiting to be made.

Wai O Tapu, Rotorua, Champagne pool landscape
Wai O Tapu, Rotorua, Champagne pool landscape

I honestly can’t imagine going back to live in our tiny central London apartment. Looking back at the girl who cried a river as her plane took off from Heathrow just over two years ago she has become unrecognizable.

Before we embarked on our journey I often found it difficult to sleep. When I did find myself in the land of nod I would dream of scenarios in which I was happy, fulfilled, and content.

Since embracing a nomadic existence I very rarely dream while I’m asleep. My daily reality has become that which I used to dream of.

Get to know Charli and Ben better through their travel blog, Twitter, and Facebook page!

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