Not so long ago, I was hiking Valley Forge National Park with my dear friend Kelly. After having classes together for several years, I looked up to her work ethic, her humor, her Christ-like care for others, and her adventurous spirit. Kelly also was a writer and photographer for OMC in the very early stages. We're thrilled to get to chat with her today!
Only a few months after our hike, she and her husband moved to Japan. They have now started a travel blog, with beautiful posts stirring wanderlust in my heart.
Oakmoss: We are so excited about your new travel blog! Tell us a little bit about how you came to love travel so much, where you’ve been, and where you’re living now!
Real World Travelers: I fell in love with travel at the ripe old age of ten. My grandparents took me on a two-week trip to Peru, where we explored Lima and hiked Machu Picchu. From then on, all I wanted to do was see as much of the world as possible. I have been to Peru two other times since that first trip, along with Argentina, South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, and now I live in Japan with my husband Caleb. Apart from the countries we’ve visited together (South Korea, Mexico, Peru, and Taiwan), Caleb has been to Jordan, Israel, and Kenya. We’ve also traveled quite a bit throughout the United States, and we are huge National Park junkies.
OM: Why did you decide on the country Japan?
RWT: In 2012, Caleb and I taught English together in South Korea for six weeks. After we got back to the States, we knew we wanted to move overseas and teach English after we graduated and got married. Once we started looking for jobs, we kind of stumbled across the Wakakusa English Program, which is who we work for now. We had originally looked for jobs in South Korea, but felt like Japan was a better fit for our personalities.
OM: Where is your favorite place, inside Japan or not, that you have traveled to?
RWT: Ooh, this is a tough one. In Japan, my favorite place is definitely Nagano - we recently took a trip there and saw Snow Monkeys in their wild habitat! Outside of Japan, Peru will always have a special place in my heart, but some of my fondest memories are of the road trip Caleb and I took out West. We visited 15 National Parks in two weeks, and the trip opened my eyes to how beautiful America really is.
OM: A big part of your blog’s mission is to share how you are regular people, paying off student loans, but still finding a way to travel and live your dreams. What are some secrets that you could share with us on keeping costs down in order to travel more?
RWT: A huge part of how we can afford to travel and pay off our loans is how we choose to live when we’re not traveling. When we lived in America, we shared one car (that we bought used, with cash), rarely went out to eat (like 2 times a month, including fast food and coffee), used Dave Ramsey’s envelope system, and overall just lived very simply. We tracked every penny that we spent, and re-evaluated our budget at the end of each month.
In Japan, we don’t have a car, but still stick to these core things. I think that when you’re saving money and using part of it for travel, it requires an intentional change in thinking. If you want something bad enough, you’ll make it a priority, and I believe that carries over into how you handle your money, and what you choose to spend it on.
During the planning stages for our trips, we try and stick with super cheap AirBnbs, and plan out specifically what we want to eat for each day. Food is often the one thing that you tend to overspend on, especially if you don’t have a strict plan for how much you want to spend, and what you want to spend it on. There are some days that we eat at convenient stores, and others that we choose to get a more expensive meal. We also tend to stay away from taxis (Japanese taxis are EXPENSIVE), and usually choose to wake up earlier so that we can take local trains and buses without taking away too much time away from sight-seeing and exploring.
We fly on cheaper airlines (Peach, Vanilla Air, etc.), and hardly ever check bags unless it’s free. I am a big believer in wearing the same jeans over and over again. hahaTraveling well is all about the small choices you make before, during, and after your trip, and a lot of times requires sacrificing a few creature comforts.
OM: What is the hardest part about living abroad?
RWT: This is another tough one! For me, the hardest part is that just when I think I’m starting to get used to the culture, something happens that reminds me I’m still an outsider. Culture shock is a very real thing, and often comes in waves. We’re currently finishing up our first year here in Japan, but sometimes I still feel like I just stepped off the plane. And of course, being away from family can be really, really tough.
OM: Besides travelling and blogging, what are some of your hobbies?
RWT: I love, love, love photography, and recently started getting into video editing. I also love to read (my current reading goal is 117 for 2017!), and I’m a big fan of Netflix. Caleb loves reading, birding, and studying Japanese. He also really enjoys researching new countries and places.
OM: While you are both experienced travelers, what is one of your dream destinations?
RWT: Caleb is rolling his eyes as I type this, but I would love to go to Sweden and visit the ABBA Museum. We also really want to do a cross-country trek across Canada with Prince Edward Island and Banff being two of our main stops.
OM: With your new blog just now launching, what are some of your favorite posts that our readers should check out?