When we started Gnomad Homies, it was with the intention of talking to people living Vanlife. Then we met Averi from Pedal Project and decided to branch out to other forms of nomadic living. And that brings us to this week’s post.
This week we talk to Lauren and Jesse Stuart of @wanderingstus. They are newlyweds from St. Louis, MO who are determined to see all of Southeast Asia until they run out of money – or just buy a house out there – the possibilities are endless!
Read about their wicked travels through the laughs, the hikes, the boats and trains and even the children that have touched their hearts so dearly! And when you are finished with all of that, be sure to check out their awesome travel blog, give them a follow on Instagram.
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What’s your living situation right now?
We have no permanent home. We’re currently roaming around SEA (Southeast Asia) and staying in hostels and homestays.
What is the coolest place you’ve stayed so far? Weirdest? Worst?
The best was sleeping top deck, under the stars on a junk boat in Ha Long Bay. The worst was a bamboo hut riddled with holes and mice crawling all around. It was freezing too! We were in a remote village in the Shan State of Myanmar. It so fucking sucked but was equally awesome – an experience to say the least.
Where all have you gone so far?
We’ve gone to Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
What made you want to choose this lifestyle? And what was that transition like?
Lauren: Traveling the world has been something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m infatuated with different cultures and lifestyles. The world is too big and too beautiful to stay in one place. My dream job is to be Indiana Jones (theme song currently playing in my head as I write this) and seeing how the world unfolds in front of you is something that leaves me speechless everyday. I’m not worthy.
The transition was nerve wrecking in the beginning. Honestly, the scariest part was agreeing to my own idea of quitting my job and exploring the world. As soon as I agreed and promised myself, everything else fell into place and everything that needed to happen was just another thing to check off in order to fulfill a dream.
Jesse: At first it was a choice to follow my wife’s dream…and about 8 years of her convincing me it would be a good idea. I didn’t realize at the time, but this would be something I would fall in love with as well. Life has a funny way of doing that to you.
I started this journey thinking about what we would do when we returned and how we would continue on with life. Now I think about how we can make this journey not just the trip of a lifetime, but making our lifetime the trip.
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle?
Lauren: The people. And I don’t just mean locals. I mean everyone. All the people you meet, fellow travelers and locals. It makes you realize how beautiful diverse our world is but also, how beautifully the same we all are. Really humbling.
Jesse: Not knowing what the next day brings. It could be new friends, new places, new experiences, or new FOOD!
What is your least favorite part about this lifestyle?
Lauren: Sleeper buses. Fucking hell on wheels.
Jesse: Sleeper buses making it impossible to cuddle with Lauren.
What were you doing in life before you started traveling?
Lauren: I was a Senior Account Executive at an advertising agency.
Jesse: I was an Account Manager for a produce logistics company AKA a potato and onion slinger. You’re welcome, America.
What unique things have you been able to do that made you think, “Wow, I can’t believe this is happening right now?”
Lauren: There were two moments that stick out for me. First, seeing the Intha Fisherman on Inle Lake at sunrise was just jaw dropping surreal. Second was during our hike on the Annapurna Circuit. It was a random series of events but we ended up in this village we had no intention of going to. It was around lunch time and we were starving. A local Nepali woman invited us into her home for lunch. We all sat on the floor around her hearth and helped her prep and cook.
She barely spoke any English but the experience was so genuine, it’s a feeling I will never forget and not to mention the best DAL BHAT EVER! When we were leaving, this lady who had nothing, gave us all a white scarf. This gesture brought tears to everyone’s eye. It was a symbol of friendship and a safe journey. Both experiences still give me goosebumps and makes my heart smile when I think back.
Jesse: A moment in Nepal while trekking the Annapurna circuit. We were at about 2800 meters altitude when we approached a town that was a giant apple orchard tucked in the middle of the Himalayas. Enjoying a fresh apple while taking in the views of my surroundings will be a memory that will stick with me forever.
Do you do anything for income as you travel or are you living off of savings?
Mainly savings with some minor investment accounts.
What have been your favorite locations thus far, and why? Least favorite?
Lauren: My favorite and least favorite places are actually Myanmar. It’s a country that has been untouched by mass tourism. It’s real and raw there.
However, the city of Mandalay I could have skipped entirely and spent my time elsewhere that had more to offer.
Jesse: I have a few, two in Nepal would be trekking the Annapurna and a three day camping/kayaking trip on the Lower Seti. The third would be Vietnam as a country. Everything there seems to work well, but still has a genuine experience.
What are some things you brought with you that you use nearly everyday? What are some things you brought with you that you ended up never or rarely using?
Lauren: What I use everyday are my flip flops. I love my Superfeet flip flops. I wear those suckers everyday. What I use rarely is my surge protector for my electronics.
Jesse: My Tevas! All terrain footwear! I love them! Also first aid kit, I’ve never used more bandaids and antibiotic ointment in my life. Something that sits in the bottom of my backpack and rarely gets used would be my hammock unfortunately. Only because they are plentiful everywhere we go.
Is there anything you miss from your former lifestyle?
Lauren: I miss the simple things like going to brunch with family and friends. Having a really good bottle of wine and, of course, wasting away the day on my couch.
Jesse: I miss cooking our own meals and being with friends and family.
Of course the travel life is different than the 9-5 lifestyle. Have you picked up any daily activities that are now a part of your everyday routine?
Lauren: Our days strangely have a routine. Breakfast then exploring, stopping for lunch somewhere in between, chill for a bit, eat dinner and then have a few beers and hang out with some great folks.
Jesse: I find myself reading more which I rarely gave myself time to do at home. Also doing budgeting, having little income makes you pay closer attention to what you have.
What advice would you give someone considering this lifestyle?
Lauren: Fucking do it and don’t look back. You will NOT regret it.
Jesse: I agree with Lauren on this. We’d be happy if you’d like to take us to lunch so we can educate (convince) you on the lifestyle.
What is your favorite meal you’ve had so far?
Lauren: Bún bò Huế
Jesse: Chakpate in Nepal
Is there anything in your future travels that you are looking forward to the most?
Lauren: Waking up and have no idea what delightful or nightmarish surprises the day holds.
Jesse: More of it!
Do you have any “must do” items in each new place you travel to?
Lauren: Eat local cuisines to the point of our stomachs exploding.
Jesse: We love food, period.
How long do you plan to keep doing this? Do you plan to settle down at anytime or anywhere specific?
We plan on making traveling part of our lifestyle, so the answer to this question is forever! We believe there is a better balance to be had with our lives, traveling has opened our eyes to this and educated on how we can make it possible.
Is there anything you would like to add before we sign off?
YES! A few weeks ago, when we were in Battambang, Cambodia, we were fortunate enough to meet a man named Sophorn who is the founder of a NGO called Battambang Orphanage Village Assistance, or BOVA for short.
BOVA teaches FREE English courses to rural and impoverished Cambodian children in the hopes learning English will get them good jobs and end their cycle of poverty.
We spent a morning with these beautiful kids and realized we needed to help. So, we’ve created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the children that attend BOVA. There’s more information on BOVA and where to make a donations on our GoFundMe page.
We encourage everyone to check it out, and if you can find it in your heart to donate, you will be helping more than you know. Every penny of your donation goes straight to BOVA. If you want to know more please feel free to message us on Instagram or check out BOVA’s Facebook page.