I am a free bird who loves to travel and I move often. My fear of marriage has always boiled down to me feeling as though I would have to clip my wings and stay in one place, versus seeing all that the world has to offer. This is why I was touched by Bitchie Reader Amirah Cook and her husband Jarrell who have been on an indefinite honeymoon since marrying her husband in August 2012. The couple quit their jobs in corporate America to live life by their own rules.
They have now traveled to over 12 countries and counting.
My name is Amirah, I’m 27 years-old and really excited about the latest addition to your website, highlighting travel. I’ve followed your blog since college and really liked that you shared your travels this past holiday season. Traveling is so underrated in our culture unless you’re talking about a weekend in Miami or raging in Vegas. People tend to have this false idea that traveling abroad has to be so expensive, but that’s not always the case. I’ve traveled for the last 16 months without a trust fund, or even a credit card.
Living abroad has always been a dream of mine, but it was so ambitious that I felt to merely dream of it forever would not be a failure. Vacationing abroad sounded interesting, but I wanted to actually live abroad and spend time exploring and immersing myself in new cultures. Moving to new places has always been ‘my thing’. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, went to Howard University in D.C. and then moved out to LA after graduation. I like learning all about new places, knowing the slang, eating at the neighborhood spots and doing what the locals do. That’s the same approach I take abroad.
My husband and I decided that instead of spending our money on a lavish one-day wedding, we would prefer to take an extended honeymoon. So that’s what we did. We left the states on October 1, 2013 and have been traveling ever since. So far we’ve visited over 30 cities in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Italy, England, France and Spain. Enjoying extended stays on an island in Panama, a mansion in Cancun, a villa in Italy, several homes in England and two months on the beautiful island of Majorca, Spain. Many people will read that or hear of our story in general and assume we’re trust fund kids, but that is not the case. We have discovered that there are so many different communities and opportunities for travelers to save. Our flights to Panama were only $120 and we caught a flight glitch that got us both tickets to Italy for $300, total.
When we were visiting Panama, our first country, we met a woman from Brooklyn that had just bought a guesthouse and found ourselves running the business. Living on the Caribbean Sea, we managed her guesthouse on a remote island, for two months. In Italy we stayed in a beautiful Italian villa with a gorgeous view of Tuscany, in exchange for learning Italian recipes and cooking for guests of the B&B four nights a week. Oh, and we had to drink a lot of wine to pick a house wine (hard work). We dog sit two shih tzus in London in exchange for free accommodation for a month, which included Oyster cards (metro/bus cards), groceries and a stipend. We’ll be living in a gorgeous house on a Greek island for three months this summer, looking after the property while the owner vacays in another part of Greece. By mixing in these gigs between renting apartments (usually on Airbnb), we’re able to cut our costs down tremendously.
When we left, we really didn’t have a plan or even a budget, we were just winging it. Neither of us had ever been out of the country, I didn’t even own a passport. In our first year we focused on developing our crafts into careers. My husband is an artist; he has painted murals in Panama, Italy and England, and created illustrations for clients around the world. I am a writer and run a blog detailing our journey, as well as writing for others. By creating our ideal careers, we have become location independent, able to work from anywhere in the world (as long as there’s WIFI). Traveling the world is life altering. Experiencing new places and ways of life expands your mentality in the most beautiful way possible. Every new place makes us eager to see more and question if we will ever return home. This year we are headed to Paris, England, Amsterdam, Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and India.
Here are some of the most memorable parts of our Indefinite Honeymoon as well as some travel tips for others that may also want to travel abroad.
We lived on Bastimentos Island in Bocas Del Toro, Panama for three months. The community was so small there were no motorized vehicles. Everyone captured rainwater and you couldn’t drink the faucet water. We washed our clothes in buckets, but we still had Wi-Fi!
We lived directly on The Caribbean Sea and had four beaches on our island. The food was amazing and dirt cheap, boat rides were $1 and we were sold on the location dependent lifestyle.
We lived in the countryside of Italy for three months on the border of Tuscany, which was absolutely beautiful. The wine was endless, the weather was perfect and the pool was the icing on the cake.
We visited Rome for a week and loved everything about it. Rome is like walking through a museum, there is something to see everywhere you turn. I’m still working off all the pizza we ate in Italy.
London was a dream city for me. The world is so in touch with American culture because of our movie industry, but I think America has a bit of a crush on England. We always feature their culture, and I was so curious to learn more than their accent.
I encourage people to see more of England than London. The English countryside is absolutely stunning. This is from the south of England where we spent over three months house sitting.
France was absolutely beautiful. We over indulged on the wine, cheese and olives during our stay. This is a popular monument in the south of France, Pont du Gard. We’re heading to Paris next week and I can’t wait!
Barcelona was fun, busy and beautiful. We spent a week walking all over, eating paella and drinking wine. A week is never enough to see a huge city like Barcelona, but we definitely enjoyed our time there.
Majorca, Spain is the most beautiful place we have ever been. The water is crystal blue, the views are extraordinary and you’re never far from a beach.
3 Tips for Traveling Abroad:
1. How Much Does it Cost?
People often want to know how long we saved and how much we had when we left. I’m completely transparent; we did not save for any amount of time. In fact, we quit our corporate careers a year before we left. We initially funded our trip by selling everything we owned. From our [ridiculous] shoe collections to our cars, we sold everything so that we could live freely. I feel obligated to share that our pot of cash ran out in our third country, then we had to find ways to leverage our skills to generate more money to continue traveling. We are firm believers in creating the life we want, our ‘Plan B’ has always been to execute ‘Plan A’. To be blunt, we’ve stayed in beautiful places in Central America and Europe for free and just booked a studio apartment in Paris for $1,000 per week. It is up to you to determine your budget and make it happen. There are travel opportunities for every budget.
2. How Do You Pay For It?
We do not use any credit cards or sky miles on our trips and we support ourselves 100% through our own entrepreneurial efforts. We leverage our dollar as much as possible. That means, when we are in places where our dollar goes far, we use our cash to pay for things, as it is much less expensive. When we are in places like England (where we lived 5 months and it takes $1.50 to equal 1 Pound) we exchange our time for our expenses, house sitting or bartering. You already read about our bartering experiences in Panama, Italy and England. This allows us to have all of our expenses paid, work for ourselves and save all of our money.
3. Any Advice?
Be open-minded. Read up on other people’s adventures, but don’t internalize them. Everyone’s experience is different. You will drive yourself crazy reading all the info online about a place before you go. Just go and take it slow! Allow yourself to soak in everything you see, learn and taste. Don’t worry so much about Instagramming selfies. Capture moments, journal when you can and try to disconnect from the familiar and embrace your new surroundings.
You can visit Amirah and Jarrell's blog Cool Young History to learn more about the couple and their travels.
Originally posted on January 29, 2015.