Let’s start with the basics: who are you?
We’re Lost With Purpose, a blogging, backpacking couple on a perpetual quest for offbeat places and people.
I, Alex, am a 25-year-old girl from the United States, and Sebastiaan, my boyfriend, is a 28-year-old guy from the Netherlands.
The short version of our story: in 2012, we met in Thailand while on university exchange, and traveled around Southeast Asia together. We did a stint of long distance for about a year, and then I moved from the United States to the Netherlands in 2013. In February of 2016, after several years of working and saving, we sold all of our stuff, left our jobs, and took our show on the road!
You’re traveling right now? Whereabouts?
We began our journey in Georgia (the country, not the state), and overlanded through Armenia, Iran, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.
Partaking in local customs (read: hashish) with locals in Afghanistan.
We broke our overland streak inside Afghanistan for safety reasons—being kidnapped by the Taliban didn’t seem very appealing—and flew to India afterwards. Our Indian visas are valid until September of this year, so we’ll be kicking around here for a while.
The question everyone always wants to know: are you rich?
No, though we’re open to marriage proposals from wealthy individuals.
We don’t have trust funds (alas), and our parents don’t fund our travels. Before we left the Netherlands, we were both making around €2,000 a month, which is pretty average for people our age, and not much considering the cost of living in the Netherlands. Every month, we each put €500 to €750 into a savings account, and when we left we had about €12,000 in savings each.
Would you say you have a travel style?
Basically, if there are cool buildings, nice people, or epic nature, we’re down… as long as things can be cheap. Previously, we set ourselves a budget of $25 a day per person, but we’ve reduced that to $15 a day in India.
Camping outside a village in southern Kazakhstan.
Usually it’s no problem, and we stay under budget most days. Occasionally, however, we have to say no to sights we don’t think are worth the entrance fees, or pitch our crappy Iranian picnic tent instead of staying in a hotel. Occasional Couchsurfing also keeps costs down, though I’m a bit introverted, so it’s not something I could stand on a regular basis.
Most interviews focus on the bright side of travel, so let’s go in the other direction. What was the most miserable moment of your trip so far?
The top contender is a bit gross—it involves too much Georgian liquor (chacha) and a lot of vomit. How about the second worst moment?
It happened during the summer. We were in a town in southern Pakistan called Sehwan Sharif. The temperature was approximately a billion degrees (48°C, if you must know), and we were staying in a shoddy guesthouse that may double as a brick oven when guests aren’t there. There was “AC” in the room, but A) the power in Sehwan went out hourly and B) the AC was broken, and blew out hot air 85% of the time.
We’ve never had a worse night of sleep. The bed was forgotten in favor of the slightly cooler—but ant covered—tile floor, and we lied awake all night in a daze pouring water on ourselves to alleviate our misery. Heat is serious business.
Was there ever a moment when you thought you were going to die?
Yes. Traveling by bus in northern Pakistan, from Skardu to Gilgit.
Drivers in Pakistan are insane, but this was some next level shit. Most of the road between the two cities is unpaved, and it’s a seemingly single-lane track winding along cliff sides beside a river. Of course, any road can—and will be—used as a two-lane road in Pakistan. To make things more interesting, this road is frequented by a lot of large shipping trucks.
(Don’t ask me how they fit. They just do.)
The bus driver was on a suicide mission, hurtling around the hairpin turns at full speed. He never slowed down to see if others were coming, preferring to honk in anger at anyone that dared get in his way… after the fact.
We had dozens of extremely close calls, the bus was constantly on two wheels, and we scraped the edge of the road plenty of times. The locals on the bus were all shouting at him to chill, and there were several people puking out the windows at regular intervals.
I’ve never been so relieved to get off a bus in my entire life.
Have you ever regretted leaving to travel?
Not at all. We’re almost at the year mark, and still aren’t tired. The world is far too big to stop!
That doesn’t mean we’d say no to a couple of days of a comfortable bed and Netflix, though. No harm in recharging batteries before they’re empty.
Recharging on the beaches of Goa, India.
Let’s talk money again. If you had a million dollars and could go anywhere, where would you go?
To all the places requiring expensive permits or guides to visit. Think Bhutan, or Tibet, or Turkmenistan.
Or we’d go to space. First travel bloggers in space, holla!
On that thought, how would having endless money change the way you travel?
We’d probably still travel the same way we do now—go wherever sounds good, keeping things flexible, living out of a backpack, that sort of thing.
Hitchhiking from Karakul lake in Xinjiang, China
BUT, we would also get a helicopter. Everything looks better from a helicopter, and flying one sounds pretty badass. Being able to skydive from your primary form of transport doesn’t sound too shabby, either.
Aside from realizing your desire to own a helicopter, have you had any grand realizations during your travels?
Yeah—we’ve realized people in the West can be really distant. In the Netherlands, where we used to live, if someone saw two lost foreigners walking around a small town, they’d probably just stare at them until they left.
But in our travels, complete strangers have taken us in and given us beds, food, clothes, you name it, just because they saw we were foreign and lost. People have shown us around without asking, helped us make friends and find connections, been patient with us as we butchered attempts at their language.
Boozing with newfound friends in Georgia… the instigators of our most miserable day so far.
It’s absolutely incredible how hospitable people can be without wanting anything in return, and it’s (hopefully) inspired us to be more open and helpful to others in the future.
Lunching on homemade spreads, bread, and—of course—vodka with a man we ran into in Armenia.
Let’s finish things up: any words of wisdom to people thinking of following in your footsteps?
Think hard before you do the whole “quit your job to travel fulltime” thing. I know the internet is filled with people touting fulltime travel as The Greatest Thing Evar, but it’s not… not for everyone. It’s often tiring, frustrating, or mind numbingly boring.
The most fulfilling travel is the travel you want to do. If you prefer short trips every once in a while, so be it. Maybe traveling for a month every other year is your jam. Perhaps you prefer to simply follow other travelers’ journeys online, from the comfort of your home. That’s cool, too! You’re probably learning much more than others that do pay to fly halfway around the world.
Whatever you choose, keep an open mind, a healthy sense of curiosity, and push your limits every now and then. That’s what’s most important.