Ask Kate and Kyle Parrish what makes them so compatible, and they can sum it up in one word: wanderlust. Each got the travel bug early in life, and both got a taste of living overseas while studying abroad in college — he in Ireland, she in Paris. When they met, travel quickly became one of their favorite pastimes as a couple, and they dreamed of a day when they could explore the world as their full-time job.
"Travel is a shared value for us," Kate said. "I remember us talking about an around-the-world trip early in our relationship and deciding it was something we wanted to do together." About a year after they got married, they made it happen: The newlyweds left their home in San Francisco for a one-year journey that took them across 6 continents, 25 countries, and 75 cities.
Taking care of the chickens on the farms of Klavze 28
while WOOF'ing in Slovenia.
“Whatever we wanted to do next with work — it wasn't going anywhere. And at that point in our lives, it was our best chance to take a trip like this.”
Top 5 underrated budget-friendly spots
- 01 Slovenia
With more than half the country covered by pine forests, Slovenia is an outdoor lover's paradise. Take in charming architecture, warm locals, hilly wine country, and Mediterranean coastline. It shares borders with Italy and Croatia, but costs 1/8th the price. Foodies should visit Hisa Franko for an unforgettable yet affordable experience.
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- 02 Belgrade
With a rich and complicated history, the city is crazy affordable and home to delicious food, warm people, and tons of neighborhoods to explore. Enjoy an extremely hip food and nightlife scene — some call it the Brooklyn of Eastern Europe.
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- 03 Lake District
Imagine Lake Tahoe but with more rivers, lakes, and volcanoes — and 95% fewer people. In close proximity to Northern Patagonia, there are endless things to do and see in the rugged wilderness. You'll get to enjoy Chile's legendary raw beauty without the crowds of Torres del Paine in the south.
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- 04 Philippines
For some island R&R time, look no further than the Philippines, home to great food, kind people, mystical beauty, and a leisurely pace of life. To go truly offline, consider Tao Philippines, a 5-day sailing trip in the islands of Palawan, where you'll explore one of the world's most beautiful tropical paradises.
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- 05 Krakow
Home to beautiful architecture, captivating museums, and a bustling urban culture, this city can be experienced on the smallest of budgets. There's also the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, which is a truly sobering and thought-provoking experience.
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No time like the present
While Kate and Kyle had set up a travel fund early on in their relationship, they were both busy with their careers and not sure exactly when they'd be fulfilling their dream. But when Kate was laid off after her advertising agency lost a major client, they took it as a sign. Kyle did some thinking and realized he, too, was ready for a change after five years at Dropbox.
"We had been going at such a fast pace for so long, and we both just really craved some time to recharge," Kyle reflected. "Whatever we wanted to do next with work — it wasn't going anywhere. And at that point in our lives, it was our best chance to take a trip like this."
They also gleaned inspiration from friends who recently returned home from a 10-month trip of their own. "Seeing their spreadsheets and rough budgets really helped me visualize it. I wanted to build my own spreadsheet," said Kyle. And so he did. After researching online and using their friends as a proxy, Kyle estimated that they would need a total budget of $45,000 to spend one year abroad. Fortunately, they had the capital to make it happen. They had been steadily saving $500 to $1,000 each month in their travel fund, which formed the bulk of their budget. They sold their car, which gave them an extra boost of cash, and found subletters for their apartment, meaning they would have a steady stream of passive income while abroad.
(L) A friendly llama in the high mountains of Cordillera Blanca in Peru. (R) Enjoying time on the lake at Stamsund Hostel
in the Lofoten Islands, Norway
“There were nights when it was -12 degrees Celsius and we woke up with icicles on our pillows. But the beauty [in the Himalayas] was breathtaking.”
Leaving home with a one-way ticket
Over the next year, the Parrishes spent a few months in Europe, stopped by Nepal in January, thawed out in Bali for a few weeks, took in the natural beauty of Australia and New Zealand, and finished their year country-hopping across South America. The longer travel time horizon also allowed Kate and Kyle to cross off some bucket-list locations. As two mountain lovers, a major highlight of the trip was trekking the Himalayas in the winter. The two spent a week in Nepal hiking with a sherpa, stopping by village towns and waking up early for sunrise summits. "There were nights when it was -12 degrees Celsius and we woke up with icicles on our pillows," said Kate. "But the beauty there was breathtaking,"
While they didn't opt for such a rugged lifestyle for the entire trip, they did try to find the most budget-friendly ways to experience their dream destinations. "People are so focused on the cost, but depending on your budget and type of accomodations you're comfortable with, there are a ton of options," said Kyle. A cost-cutting hack the couple recommends is booking air travel through Indie. For $2,200 each, they were able to secure a multi-leg ticket with six stops moving east, covering all the major destinations of their trip.
(L) Trekking Annapurna in Nepal with their sherpa Kamala. (R) Visiting Machu Picchu with family.
They also found other unconventional ways to stay on budget and garner unique experiences. In Slovenia, Kate and Kyle received room and board for completing chores at an organic farm and bed & breakfast. Every day they would collect eggs from the chicken coop, chop wood for the fire, rummage through the junkyard for lodge decor, and help prepare meals for the guests. They got connected with this opportunity through WWOOFing, a work exchange organization. Initially, they were hesitant, since the idea of working on a farm for strangers sounded a little "sketchy." "But it's all verified," Kyle confirmed. "And when you meet people and form real connections, it really affirms why you're traveling."
Another way they were able to defray costs and unlock new experiences: blogging. To share updates with family and friends on all of their unique experiences, they maintained their blog, Life on Pine, which unexpectedly became a valuable meal ticket. Over the course of their trip they captured the attention of 13 hotels and travel outfits who waived costs in exchange for coverage on the blog.
Hanging out with Reina and Titan, the two dogs of Barraco Lodge
in Chilean Patagonia, during a work-exchange stint.
A new lease on life
After their world tour came to a close, the Parrishes returned to San Francisco with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Many of their friends are still in awe that they pulled off such a remarkable trip, but for Kate and Kyle it wasn't that impossible. "Kyle and I often say to each other that people think it sounds way harder than it actually is. As long as you're thoughtful, you can do it on a budget," Kate reflected.
Living frugally on the road has also inspired them to be smarter with their finances back at home. Because they traveled the entire time with only about 20 items total, they were motivated to sell a number of things upon their return that they rarely used or deemed superfluous, reducing their material possessions by about half. "We also became more mindful about what we spent money on," said Kyle, "As a result, we were able to start a recurring deposit into our investment account."
The time away didn't hinder their ability to return to their careers. Both landed jobs two months after their return, and Kate successfully transitioned from advertising to tech. To help with her career shift she relied on her world travels, integrating all she learned and experienced into her personal narrative. "I definitely put my blog on my resume," said Kate. "Interviewers were really excited to talk about my experiences. My advice is to have something to show for your time away — it helps potential employers understand how you spent your time."
Needless to say, they have plenty to show for — namely how to turn wanderlust into a way forward.
“People think it sounds way harder than it actually is. As long as you're thoughtful, you can do it on a budget.”
EXPLORE YOUR TIME OFF
Longing to hit the road?
Learn from those who've taken their own journey, and find out how they made it happen.