We are two – Brazilian chap, Dan and Aussie gal, Han, an odd couple who met in a small Asian village halfway.
It’s been 4 months since we started this thing back in March 2014. Yes, we are complete newbies. Not new to the world of websites, blogging or internet marketing but new to the world of travel writing.
Essentially, here we aim to bring you a slightly kooky and comical travel blog to inspire + help you travel more.
We’re not professional photographers and we’re definitely not cut out for video (although we try) but it’s ok because this is a space for you to come and get inspired by the travel stories, interviews and articles we share, as well as learn unique strategies, tips and tricks to save and earn in movement.
So what’s our story morning glory?
From opposite sides of the world, our paths crossed in Pai, Thailand (aka a backpackers haven) in December 2013. It was a small, magical village in the mountains of Northern Thailand and our home away from home – a town of the free spirited, a meeting point for raging hippies and we loved it.
We met through a good mutual friend, a Mexican man of mystery, Sebastian, who I was to be meeting in Chiang Rai after 4 months of not seeing each other. He’d been hanging out in Pai with Dan and another Brazilian Dan (yes another) for almost a month before leaving to meet me on a 6 hour bus ride away.
As we sat in the local hostel, Boonbundan, chatting away about what we’d been up to since we saw each other last, Dan and Dan came striding through, in all their Brazilian-ness. It was a total coincidence that they had ended up in the same hostel us, 6 hours away from where they were staying.
They were on a hectic 8 hour moped road trip to the border for the oh so familiar border run (backpackers should know what I’m on about here) and it turned out that the only reason they chose this hostel was because it was called Boonbundan. How mature.
A weekend of fun antics went by and Sebastian and I were left in Chiang Rai on our lonesome again. I was actually waiting to begin a volunteer project in 5 days time and Sebastian was looking for some work (after spending 6 months travelling around Thailand and Cambodia).
It was a Monday and we were feeling bored. We’d already played numerous boardgames and had stacked the Jenga tower too many times to keep count. Sat in Catbar, a quirky little drinking hole on Jetyod Road, we began reminiscing on our moments in Pai.
I’d only been there for 2 days before, so I was curious to see more of this magic that everyone had raved about and Sebastian had already formed a strong attachment to the village and the people in it. After a short decision making process, we’d bought our tickets to get on the next bus out of there.
Arriving in Pai that evening, we were invited to stay with Dan and Dan in their home, just outside the village. They were also living with one other Aussie guy for a few more days so it was squishy to say the least.
1 big room, 3 double beds and 5 people (sometimes 6, depending on if one of the guys had been on a night out). And most of the time, I was the only female.
After spending a few more days all together, Dan and I started venturing off on our own. We’d get a coffee and some lime cheesecake, sit down together on a few cusions and chat about anything and everything.
Then he’d grab the scooter and take me places – such as the giant White Buddha that sat on a steep mountain overlooking the village. He’d also invite me to meet his friends at gatherings and to come and watch him play at music gigs.
We’d formed this warm connection with each other in such a short period of time and it was only getting stronger.
A week went by and it was time for me to leave. The volunteer project that had specifically brought me out to Thailand this time was to begin in 1 day and I didn’t know how long I’d be gone for. 1 month, 2 months, I had no clue.
Sadly, we had to part ways and try our best to keep in contact over the phone. Dan scootered me down to Pai bus station, with a 15 kg backpack behind me and a 5 kg in front. I’ve never had to use my stomach muscles outside of the gym so much in my life.
A few tears welled up in my eyes but I knew this wouldn’t be the end. I’d fallen in love with Pai and the people in it and that was more than enough to bring me back. So we said our Ciao’s and I was off on a 6 hour bus journey that would bring me back to Chiang Rai.
The mind-altering volunteer experience
Introduced to my new home for the next month or 2, I was feeling nervous and uncomfortable but I didn’t expect anything different. I’d volunteered for another organisation in Chiang Rai, teaching English only 4 months prior, so I already had an inkling of what to expect.
This time I was to be educating, helping out with homework, doing school runs, preparing food and generally giving company to about 10 children who were living in a home outside of their Lahu tribe.
Although, when I arrived, I knew this was going to go a little differently.
The NGO was having many problems with the relationships established between the long term volunteers/directors (1 year) and the ‘orphans’ in the house.
For starters, only 2 of the ‘children’ (18 and 15 years) were actually orphans. All the rest had family back in the Lahu village and they would see them most holidays. The reasons that they were brought to this home was for a paid education, access to higher education, to gain citizenship (as those born into hill-tribes are not considered citizens of any country) and therefore, to attain better jobs.
However, most of these children were grown up by now, with only 3 of them under the age of 12. All the rest were teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 18. So as teenagers, most of them did what teenagers do best – sat in their bedrooms on their phones. Hence why it became quite difficult to interact with them at all.
But when the volunteer directors decided this wasn’t good enough – after months of allowing it to happen – shit went down. They began to form spiteful relationships with the children and were constantly on the phone to the NGO director, threatening to leave the house if something didn’t change.
What they weren’t understanding though, was that they needed to make the change. By talking about the children behind their backs (when they understood English) they were evidently pushing the children away from wanting to create relationships with anyone. And by never organising outings or setting lesson schedules, the house basically just turned into a block building where volunteers hung out with volunteers and the children hung out with the other children.
By time I arrived, it had already been like this for far too long and I knew I was causing more harm than good being there. The children were tired of forming these ‘meaningful relationships’ with volunteers only to have them end 1 month later. For them, their home would feel like a zoo, with people coming and going week after week. Which is why they’ve completely backed away from any sort of interaction with the volunteers – completely understandable.
Day after day, I found myself cleaning and cooking, cleaning and cooking. It was helping in some way – everyone got food in their stomachs and somewhere tidy to sit but that was it. Another volunteer and I would try and ask the children to come share some things with us over dinner but it had already been left too long, they’d already formed their own view of us. And I couldn’t blame them.
So, 2 weeks passed and I couldn’t handle it any longer. It was Christmas time and the NGO was still having major issues. I’d been on the phone to Dan twice a week and he was having a blast back in Pai. Christmas parties, music gigs, hanging out with friends, chilling out at hot springs, just generally enjoying being in one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
That was it, I needed to do what was best – and that was going and enjoying my travels. I thought volunteering for the second time around was going to be an even more ‘fulfilling experience’ than the last but in fact, I wasn’t doing any favours for the Lahu family.
It was all well and good saying I wanted to feel a sense of ‘accomplishment’ on my travels but trying to do it this way was all a load of crap. I was better off jumping out of a plane and bragging about it rather than going home and saying I was “helping these children in a developing country.” I wasn’t helping anyone here other than myself to build a pretentious ego and I didn’t want to be that person, so I I left.
The next step
When I vacated back to Pai, 2 more of Dans friends from Chiang Mai had come to stay. So although the Aussie guy had left, we still had 6, sometimes 7 people, with the occasional pop in of a Canadian friend, sleeping in a 1 bedroom home!
It was a beautiful little log home that sat peacefully over a large pond (or small lake as Dan called it). Located approximately 5 minutes scooter commute to the enchanting village centre, we were out in the sticks yet a hop skip and a jump away from all of the villages unique happenings.
When home, we would spend most of our time out on our huge balcony, overlooking the floating chill out shack below. Dan would practice his music (cajon, guitar & saxophone) for nightly gigs at local bars with some other amazingly talented musicians. They had a band – The Pairats and they were beginning to become the talk of the town.
I would usually draw, search online for freelance jobs or eat – it was also on this balcony where we started planning StoryV. Sebastian would normally play chess all day or hang out at a nearby hostel. The other Dan couldn’t normally be seen – only heard playing flute on the roof or digerido at the end of the driveway. And the other 2 that joined us, Angel and Sky? They would either be practicing yoga in the chill out shack, playing digerido around town or twirling fire.
And all together, we would enjoy a 9 pm scooter ride for a late night dip at the hot springs. We were quite the odd bunch.
Throughout our months in Thailand, we formed many super tight relationships with inspiring people from all over the world. And this is one of the reasons we absolutely love to travel so much.
There was this one hostel right in the village centre – Common Grounds that we couldn’t stay away from (even though we didn’t stay there). To us, this place was far more than just a hostel. It was a community where all travellers alike joined forces to create something special. Everyone bounced off and inspired each other to step out of their comfort zones and give things a go and the results were beautiful.
The environment was so stimulating with creativity and productivity on full throttle. People who didn’t know they could draw would bust out masterpieces. Hula-hoops flew around in all directions. Amazing singers would suddenly come out of nowhere. Creative minds would feed off each other. And the amount of talented musicians together in one place was mind-boggling. It was a space no one wanted to leave when they arrived and it was our family away from our families.
Why travelling is important for us
As we would sit and observe everything going on around us at Common Grounds hostel, we were able to gain a much deeper understanding as to why travel is so important for us.
In one way or another everyone was being educated and everyone wanted to learn. While one person was teaching someone a chord on the guitar, another was learning a language and someone else was giving away all of their material possessions they no longer needed.
So for us, we are so interested in how travelling can educate us in ways we never imagined. How it can considerably alter our world view and change our whole way of looking at life. And how much it influences us to find our passions and follow them.
Dans love for music has grown immensely after visiting over 35 countries in his 7 years of independent travel and that’s because of the people he has met along the journey. The people who have come from all different backgrounds, cultures and communities who share the same passion. And as they educate & inspire each other, it helps each one of them to grow. So we also look at travelling as a way of growing. A way of becoming who we want to be.
I’ve always loved to draw but I could never find enough inspiration to put something on paper. I’ve also always been too afraid to put the pencil on the page because I’ve never really had any formal artistic education (apart from a few classes in high school). I can’t control my hand very well, so often fine lines end up being too fat and I was never confident enough to draw and show it off. Until I travelled.
Now I’m inspired by everything I see and remember from my travels. While my drawings don’t exactly replicate that of what I physically see, they grasp the feelings and emotions I have gained in a place. So, if I’ve seen a colourful stripey ship somewhere, I’m not going to remember what it looks like, only that it was colourful. So that’s what I would emphasise. And the best part about it, is that I’ve worked imperfections into the art itself, instead of trying to get everything so perfect, like I always have done and failed.
I’ve honestly come to realise that travelling could be one of the most valuable things we do in life. Now I feel like I have found something I love (as well as writing for this blog) and it’s something I aim to work on to help us grow in this new venture.
Why we started this blog
It was coming close to the time when my flight back to Australia was going to be departing. Dan had been planning his next venture – a road trip in Europe – for some time and he was getting ready to buy his ticket after 10 months in Thailand.
I was faced with a difficult decision – spontaneously cancel my flight and go to Europe or leave Dan and head back to my every day life in Aus. It took many days to decide, with a number of factors coming into play. I was running out of money. How would I support myself in Europe?
Since the age of 20, Dan has been able to fund his travels around the world as a digital nomad, working online with websites and marketing. Being location independent, it means that he can work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Cool huh!
So as I was running low on money and we really wanted to stay and travel together, Dan came up with the idea of starting another blog. He explained, “It’s not going to make us money straight away but if we keep at it, we can bring a little more income in to support the both of us. And at the same time it would be a nice way of making something out of our travels to benefit others.”
I was excited about the idea, although I knew that I would have to look after it and put a lot of hard work into it to get anywhere. But I was ready for that challenge.
So truth be told, when we started planning StoryV, it wasn’t going to be a travel blog as such. But things change and that’s something we’ve learned to roll with. The original inspiration was still pretty much the same – people and travel.
Our idea was to showcase all of the talent we would find along our journey (particularly in relation to music) as well as tell inspiring, motivating and educational stories about the people we would meet. But then we felt a connection with this idea of telling stories – stories about anything that would inspire, motivate, educate or uplift others. We decided to roll with that for a while but I was struggling.
We’d just left Thailand and were sitting in a 6th floor cafe in Hong Kong when I was attempting to write my first ever post. For 3 days straight I was lost at what this blog even was and what I was supposed to be writing about. I was constantly stuck between, do I write generic Buzzfeed style articles or do I go out and find the stories, the people myself? And how do I do that in Hong Kong?
I was so confused, I would cry every time Dan even said anything about it (I know, over exaggeration much?).Until, one afternoon Dan said, “Why don’t you just write all the things you dislike about Hong Kong? People would be curious about that.” We’d been complaining about the freezing cold restaurants and crammed metro system in Hong Kong for a few days by now so that might have given me something to write about. And as soon as I got started, I was in my element.
Since this post, I had a fair idea that I was better off writing stories about travel because that was what I knew and loved. And when Dan agreed that we should simply focus on everything travel, a weight lifted of my shoulders.
Since March (2014), we’ve been trying to work out which direction we’ve been wanting to go in and how to stand out and be unique in the highly saturated travel blogging world.
Creating an initial brand for ourselves wasn’t too difficult. In fact, it all stemmed from a question Dan was constantly asked – how do you travel so much? Instead of answering it for the 100th time, he began writing – How to Travel More – which eventually turned into a whole eBook.
After this, we decided that we essentially wanted to inspire and help you to travel more. Done.
But after asking ourselves some questions, we started to take a deeper look at our mission. We figured that of course most of you want to travel more but at the same time you often face holdbacks (money, time, work commitments, fear) so it was our job to help you overcome this.
But how would we do this? Well, we realised that we love telling stories and we do have some strategies, tips and tricks up our sleeves, so why not share them! And that is how we created our initial mission:
“To inspire and help you to travel more by sharing authentic travel stories and useful strategies to save and earn on the road.”
*save – hassle, time, money
*earn – experience, friends, time, money
We liked this. It was general, yet it set us semi-aside from the crowd, however, since then, we have grown and evolved and will continue to do so for as long as we decide to do this blogging thing. And with these changes comes new directions, new projects and most importantly, new eye-balls consuming our content and receiving the inspiration and help they need to follow their dreams and travel more!
Until next time…
Here’s a little something we’ll leave you with: