In my ongoing series of World Travellers, the latest to feature and Mark and Mila. They are keen hikers and outdoor travellers, who both have a hugely interesting history of growing up in multiple countries before heading on bigger adventures. You can follow their adventures at Mountain IQ.
Who are you?
My husband, Mark, and I are outdoor adventure enthusiasts living in the UK. Spending unforgettable time outdoors together is the foundation of our relationship. We cherish the memories of many wonderful adventures together around the globe, including trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru, to the top of Mount Toubkal in Morocco and many more!
Where are you from?
Moving around has always been a natural state for both of us: Mark was born in Cape Town and relocated to the UK at 20, and I’ve been moving between great cities in Europe since I was 18. I was born in St Petersburg in Russia, had lived in Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Berlin, London, and Amsterdam. So right after we’d met and got married at Cambridge, we began our adventurous lifestyle together.
Where have you been?
In pursuit of our passion for hiking and the love of the outdoors, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel around five continents so far.
Since 2013, we’ve been across the globe, staying mostly in one place for three to six months at a time to immerse ourselves in the local cultures and experiencing as much as we could.
Our travels have taken us to Vietnam, where we lived in a house with a local family of entrepreneurs who taught us how to crack open a green coconut with a machete. We wandered around a breathtaking Angkor Wat in Cambodia and rejuvenated in Singapore and Indonesia and some other parts of South East Asia.
We also lived in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Puerto Rico and visited a few amazing sites in North America.
And being from here, we’ve lived all over Europe because we adore the continent’s culture and food – with Rome and Naples being our honeymoon destinations!
Where are you now?
Currently, we have settled in the UK. We are expecting our first child at the end of December, and so we need to take some time to focus on our little one and building our new family.
We will be back on the trails as soon as we can, just with an additional traveler. The first big trip planned for the end of 2020 to explore New Zealand and Australia.
What are the top 3 places you’ve visited?
Machu Picchu in Peru is definitely at the top of my list. We’ve taken the toughest trek called Vilcabamba Trail, which truly tested my strength and determination but left me with some of the most beautiful memories of ancient jungles and Incan ruins. Accomplishing that journey was a big achievement for me.
We’ve also spent a week diving throughout the Southern Peninsula of Thailand, which, although frightening, was equally incredible.
I know that Mark’s favorite was the trip to Tanzania and summiting Kilimanjaro!
What is the best travel experience you’ve had?
If I could answer this question then there wouldn’t be any need to travel anymore!
However, I loved our trip to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains, and I always recommend it to beginner hikers, as there one gets a great combination of trekking and cultural immersion in one quick trip.
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had?
I guess it would be feeling cheated: a few times we went on trips with local tour operators who would quote one price before a trip and then almost double it at the end.
Such encounters always make me feel disheartened, so it’s worth checking how legitimate your providers are to avoid being asked to be paid double to get off a trip boat than to get on it!
What is the funniest travel experience you’ve had?
Every experience is funny when we try to use a local language to thank a waiter or a chef. Our intentions are always good, and we’ll never give up – but we ended up erroneously saying some funny things to the restaurant staff that aren’t suitable for publication!
What is the scariest travel experience you’ve had?
For Mark, it would be flying from Kathmandu to Lukla airport most definitely. This is known as the world’s most dangerous airport and it is absolutely the most frightening landing and take off I have ever experienced. Lukla is where you begin your adventure of trekking to Everest Base Camp. The airport is perched on the side of a mountain and the tiny runway slopes up towards the mountain. While it’s a very scary landing and take-off from Lukla, the pilots are trustworthy and experienced.
As for me, there were a few, but the one that still gives me shivers is the crossing of one of the Machu Picchu trails. The trek we did was so uncommon our guide confessed he only did it once a year.
The path we were supposed to be taking was being converted into a road and so it was loaded with dynamite ready to be blown off when we asked the construction workers to hold off and let us pass.
Wedged into the side of the mountain with a drop of about one kilometer down, the pass was so narrow we had to cross it facing the mountain and tip-toeing for a few hundred metres. I was crying from fear all the way!
What is the most random job you have had on your travels?
We are digital marketers with a focus on high altitude trekking. However, before we managed to get our blogs off the ground, I remember wondering around our neighbourhood in Ho Chi Minh in search of an international school where I could teach languages to earn enough to continue to live our dream.
I managed to get a job teaching 3 to 5 year-olds who couldn’t even read in their own language yet, let alone respond in class in English – so we ended up watching animated Disney movies for a few months together before they were ready to communicate! It was an amazing experience.
How do you fund your travels?
Thankfully, our work is travel. My husband and I run a few adventure travel websites like Mountain IQ (www.mountainiq.com) – which is my favorite.
After many trekking experiences around the world, we noticed how hard it was to prepare for some of our adventures using inconsistent online information.
This is why we had put together hiking guides for our own journeys and turned them into a site where we could share our knowledge and passion with others.
Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive information on some of the best mountain destinations in the world. We partner with other travel bloggers, travel companies, delve into advertising, sell gear and do affiliate marketing as well to support our life and life’s creative work.
What 3 tips would you give a new traveler before they set off on their adventure?
Consider taking a train instead of flying wherever possible. It’s a great way to contribute to lowering your carbon footprint and you’ll get some of the best views of your destination.
Start small and go on adventures that you can handle before moving up on your bucket list. Always research potential complications like altitude sickness that is much more common than many believe.
While traveling solo can be really fulfilling, I’ve found that sharing my travels and adventures with a partner, friend or family member, makes the journey a more memorable and rewarding experience.
What are your future travel plans?
There is always another adventure on our bucket list. While we will be taking things slowly for the next few months due to the baby’s arrival, we look forward to beginning this new chapter in our lives and cannot wait to share our adventures with our baby.
We’ll definitely be looking into adventures that we can take as a family starting with a road trip around France and Italy in spring and (given that that goes well!) – upgrading to an expedition around New Zealand and Australia from November 2020 till April 2021.
Our main family value will remain – be adventurous together.
Thanks to Mark and Mila for being the latest in my series of World Travellers! If you travel the world and run a travel blog or are a travel writer, please get in touch, you can be featured, either e-mail jonny (at) dontstopliving (dot) net or head to my contacts page and get connected! You can also subscribe to Don’t Stop Living by filling in the form below! Safe travels!