Everyone has dreams of quitting their job, throwing caution to the wind, and escaping the mundane to seek unknown international adventure…but few people actually do it. We’re here with Michael Coen and Tabitha Yeasley who recently did just that. We’re picking their brains to see if this dream is as scary and unattainable as it seems.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your trip.
Tabitha: “We’re a couple from Portland, Oregon. We both quit our jobs in 2016 and decided to road trip through Western and Southeastern Europe. After buying one-way tickets, we ended up traveling for almost 4 months before returning home. To help fund our trip, we produced videos for Matador Products, Hi-Tec Shoes and boutique hotels along the way.”
Michael: “We shot, starred in, edited and overall produced 15 videos as we drove over 10,000 kilometers through Europe. Our highlights included epic adventures in the Swiss Alps, eating our way through Amsterdam and Budapest, a month exploring the natural wonders of Croatia, falling in love with the villages of Cinque Terre, and spending our last month in Spain.
What were you guys doing before you left the country to travel?
Tabitha: “I was working in the corporate events world, and Michael was building his business as a videographer in Portland.”
Michael: “I quit a corporate job in early 2016 to pursue videography full time, also knowing that long-term travel was in our near future. Being able to combine two of my passions was a dream come true.”
How did you get the nerve to make the jump and quit the day job?
Michael: “There will always be a reason to put it off. Too expensive, not the right time, fear of missing out, could be bad for my career… Whatever the reason, if you want to travel it requires a deliberate decision and follow through. For us, it was buying a one way plane ticket. We had no other plans but we knew that buying the ticket was our no going back point.”
Tabitha: “I knew that the corporate job I had, while great experience, wasn’t the job I wanted long term. So when we made the decision to stop just talking about traveling and bought the plane tickets, the decision was made. We bought the tickets in May and left at the end of September. So being committed, having the tickets in hand but also knowing I had time to save and plan, and with a goal in mind, I was motivated to spend the next few months saving, and left my day job with plenty of notice.”
Was life as a world-traveler as incredible as it seems? Did it match your expectations or was the reality much different than the dream?
Tabitha: “I went into this not really knowing what to expect since I’d never traveled abroad for more than 2 weeks at a time. Traveling becomes the new norm after a few weeks. Just like with any lifestyle, you start finding little routines and realizing the importance of giving yourself days off, just like we do at home. You learn very quickly that being constantly on the move isn’t sustainable, so you have to find a balance that works for you. You see beautiful things and meet interesting people, you have high highs and low lows, and you get a lot of freedom when you’re adventuring and creating. We learned a great deal about compromise when it comes to how we spent our days, and we learned to rely on our intuition and each other’s capabilities wholeheartedly. While it was easily the most challenging experience of my life, it was also the most rewarding and fulfilling.”
Michael: “This one instance, we arrived in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We couldn't find a place to stay, it was pouring down rain, and I had just been chased by a huge dog. Stressed out and fighting, we questioned why we were lugging camera equipment through Eastern Europe during the winter. But of course, those are the moments that we laugh about today and that make us stronger as a couple. Compared to that, domestic life ain't got nothin on us! So yeah, in a sense, I would say that life as a world-traveler is as incredible as it seems. You just can’t go into it expecting the entire trip to consist solely of mountaintop vistas, delicious cuisine, and perfectly executed travel plans.”
For a trip like this: How much should someone save beforehand? How much income is needed for sustained travel and how do you generate that income on the road? How do you travel for cheap – transportation, lodging, food, etc.?
Michael: “Ah yes, the budget. It’s the scariest part of our trip. Tabs kept a spreadsheet which broke down our expenses by category (lodging, transportation, etc.). We did everything we could to save money. We sought out supportive brands who wanted some content in exchange for sponsorship (thanks, Matador!), we made videos for hotels along our path, we stayed with friends, we used saved up airline miles, and didn’t buy selfie sticks. The most expensive part of our trip was our car but we needed that to transport the video gear.”
Tabitha: “Budgeting looks different for everyone, and it depends on what you like to do and what you’re comfortable with. The biggest costs were lodging and transportation, and the route you choose to go also affects how much money you will spend. I wouldn’t have done this trip with any less than $10,000 saved up between the two of us. We were also really fortunate to have super supportive sponsors that gave us some more defined purpose and supplemental income to help offset the expenses along the way. We chose to lease a car through a great French program. We liked the flexibility it offered and were super grateful for the space and easy transportation for all our gear. For lodging, we mostly went with AirBnb’s and a few hostels, depending on what was cheapest. For places we stayed longer, it was great to have an Airbnb with a kitchen, because being able to make our meals not only felt good, it saved money as well. We also saved money on lodging by staying with a few friends. We offered free promotional videos to boutique and design hotels in exchange for free stays. We scored over three weeks of free lodging by doing this, and had a lot of fun in the process.”
What were the best and worst parts of your trip?
Tabitha: “We had a lot of moments, both good and bad, that shaped us and our experience. Overall the most challenging aspect was not that we were traveling and hanging out basically 24/7, but we were also producing videos and working together. I had to learn patience and the importance of getting the right light, which I learned early on is not always easy. During our stay in Adelboden, Switzerland, on two separate occasions, we ended up missing the gondolas down from the top of the alps we were exploring all day because Michael insisted on waiting for the golden hour and getting that perfect light. While I fully understand the reason for that now, at the time I hiked down through the fog glaring through the dark at Michael and touching his face with my freezing cold hands.
I’m so happy we have all the video content we do from this trip, because not only did our adventures take us to some unforgettable places, but the behind-the-scenes of getting the footage we needed encompasses some of the best and worst moments for both of us, and represents the times we grew the most and learned to rely on each other more than anything. We took turns being strong for each other and leading each other, and sometimes we both needed to lean in at the same time to hold each other up.”
Michael: “Wow, what Tabs said!”
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
Michael: “This is going to sound crazy but I didn’t pack until the night before. Tabs was pretty pissed because after staying up all night figuring out how to pack my gear and luggage, I was practically useless for the 28 hour travel time to get to our first destination. In short, I would have prepared more.”
Tabitha: “I’d make sure Michael was a little more prepared. :P”
What did you learn along the way? Did you have any life-changing revelations or realizations?
Tabitha: “I learned that travel, and life in general, is about finding that sweet spot between having a plan and letting things happen. Michael and I truly balance each other out in that regard, and we learned a lot about what working together looks like, and what amazing things are possible when we do so. There were a lot of little moments along the way that reminded me of the importance of taking time for the things and the people you love, and that time really is the most valuable thing we have. I also learned that really no matter where you go, people are generally the same at the core, which is kinda cool. Traveling abroad helped broaden my worldview and changed my perspective on a lot of things.”
Michael: “I learned that when in doubt, listen to your girlfriend. Without her, I would probably still be circling roundabouts in southern Spain.”
You guys carried a lot of Matador products with you. Were there any favorites?
Michael: My favorite has to be the Pocket Blanket. We hiked to some pretty amazing places and it’s always nice to throw down a blanket, set down your gear and relax.
Tabitha: I love the Daylite! It’s the perfect little day bag and I loved taking it for hikes or just for a day of sightseeing. Plus it takes up basically no room for your luggage.
What final advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Tabitha: “The best thing you can take with you on a trip like this is a lot of grace for yourself and your travel companion. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll miscommunicate, things won’t go as planned. It’s all part of the experience. Be flexible and open to things you hadn’t considered, and be prepared to learn a ton about yourself and those you travel with.
Some practical advice: Set yourself up for success when you return! Think about what things you’ll want/need easily accessible when you get home that you aren’t taking with you, and keep them in a safe place.”
Michael: “Do your very best to connect with locals. It doesn't matter how you do it but put in an effort to get to know someone who knows the culture you’re visiting. It’s how you really get to know a place. So many people go on a vacation, check into a hotel, go sightseeing, and check out. You might as well just look at pictures if that’s your idea of travel.”
What’s next for you two? Any more trips planned in the near future?
Tabitha: “I’m back at a day job but this time it’s in the Music Business, so it’s much more in line with the career I want for myself. But that doesn’t mean we won’t keep making videos together when we can. And there is no cure for the travel bug we caught. We’re already planning some weekend trips in the Pacific Northwest, and looking forward to the next big adventure abroad, whether it’s sooner or later.”
Michael: “We’re already talking about our next trip. Asia? South America? We’d love to connect with other travelers who read this and want to share their experiences and recommendations.”
Where can we continue to follow your adventures?
Be on the lookout for a recap video!