By: JACK M.
Their story began seven years ago. Dariece Swift and Nick Wharton had just returned from a mid-winter holiday in sunny Mexico to the cold reality of February in the Canadian prairie province of Alberta. From sunshine and T-shirts to sub-zero and parkas. The couple, both in their early twenties, blended well into the crowd – full-time jobs, a mortgage, a car and still two months of Canadian winter to look forward to. But sometime between their return to their 9-to-5 jobs – Nick as a printing press operator and Dariece a paralegal – and the last snow fall in Calgary, Nick had what can only be described as a moment of reckless abandon. Or maybe it was the most clear-headed moment he had ever had, a moment in which he and Dariece decided it was time to unshackle themselves from a world that seemed to be sadly lacking any of the joie de vivre that they both craved.
Dariece and Nick were feeling what most of us feel on more than just the rare occasion – tied down to the interminable grind of routine, bored and yearning for some of the magic that the unknown has to offer. “If you could travel anywhere for a year, where would it be?” Nick asked Dariece, memories of their trip to Mexico still dancing around in his head. “Southeast Asia,” she blurted out. And in what couldn’t have been more than a ten-second conversation, their lives changed forever. They sold their house, their car and most of their belongings. They worked double-time to prop up their savings, and before the year was out they had headed off to backpack around Southeast Asia, a trip that would eventually lead to a new and surprisingly well-paying career.
Their first pit stop was Bangkok, Thailand, and for the next 13 months they explored, discovered and backpacked through Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka. Scuba diving in Thailand, rambling around the famous Angkor Wat of Cambodia and India’s Taj Mahal, and exploring Vietnam’s Mekong Delta were all on the agenda. They canoed next to dolphins in Laos’ Irrawaddy River, trekked with orangutans in Indonesia and took in a Formula One racing event in Singapore. And what would all this fun have been without a mishap or two – Dariece survived a bout of dengue fever in Vietnam; Nick almost drowned in Sri Lanka and he fell into a waterfall in Laos; and they were stalked by a tiger in India. If you don’t mind turning a light shade of green with envy, you can check out more details of their Southeast Asia trip here.
But they knew from the outset that money would be the limiting factor to their new life, so just before Christmas of 2009 they returned to Canada. By then they had decided that this was a lifestyle that they could easily get used to. Back to Calgary, back to their old jobs and the old routine, but now they were on a mission to save enough money to make their taste for adventure and the world of a vagabond a permanent way of life. And within a year they were off to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Sixteen months of hiking, hitchhiking and motoring around countries like Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Greece and England, to name only a few. Snorkelling with whale sharks in Mozambique, a safari in Kenya, floating on the Dead Sea in Jordan, roaming around England’s Stonehenge…you get the picture.
And then it was on to China. It was around the spring of 2012 when they arrived in the Middle Kingdom, but this time the plan was a little different. Money – or lack thereof – was always a concern, and they knew if they were going to become professional vagabonds, they’d have to supplement their dwindling savings. They upgraded their skills, took some training in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and spent the next year living, travelling and teaching English in China. They were based in Yangzhou, and in that one year they earned over $32,000, with living expenses of only $11,000 – the beginning of financial freedom. You can read the story of their year of teaching here, and if you’re interested in TEFL, Dariece recommends you check out this website.
By the time their one-year teaching contract had ended in the summer of 2013, they came up with more ideas for how to make money. They started their own website and travel blog, goatsontheroad.com (you can read the story behind the strange name “Goats On The Road” on the blog itself), and now they earn up to $5,000 a month from advertising revenue, as reported in a recent article in Britain’s Independent. Nick and Dariece have become a couple of serious entrepreneurs, augmenting their teaching and blogging incomes with freelance writing, video production and perhaps one of the best-kept secrets out there – housesitting. The Goats have lived in luxury in places like Grenada and Costa Rica, for free. They figure that by the end of 2015, they’ll have saved $40,000 in accommodation expenses, and they share some of their secrets here. You can also check out some of the more popular housesitting sites out there, like this one that the Goats recommend.
Nick and Dariece have been to more than forty different countries – and counting – and The Plaid Zebra just got in touch with them for a quick update. They’ve recently arrived in Barbados to do six weeks of housesitting. It’s getting close to a typical winter back in Calgary, and they’re on a six-week vacation, in the sun, for free. It seems to me they’ve found a whole new way to measure success.
Starting this month, Nick and Dariece will be off to Europe on a five-month backpacking adventure. And they’ll be stopping in Istanbul where they’ll be guest speakers at a conference on tourism boards, airlines and travel bloggers, the focus of which will be to see how the travel industry and travel bloggers can benefit each other. In the meantime, if you’re a traveller, a would-be traveller or a weekend road warrior – or even just a dreamer – check out Nick and Dariece’s site; it’s a storehouse of advice, information and cool travel updates.