It was back in February 2015 when Kirsten Brincat and Leon Parnis decided to throw caution to the wind, quit their jobs in Malta and book a one-way ticket to Australia.
Now, exactly 1000 days later, the adventurous backpacking couple – aged 26 and 30 – show no signs of slowing down.
“When we boarded that famous airport escalator and waved goodbye to our family and friends, we had just reassured everyone that even though it was a one-way ticket, we would all be sitting down recalling travel stories within a year and a half,” Kirsten told Lovin Malta. “That was a thousand days ago!”
Kirsten and Leon spent their first year travelling 30,000km across Australia while picking up odd jobs, such as cherry picking and distributing phone books, along the way.
Starting out – at South Durras in Australia
They then crossed the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, where their travel plans were dealt a severe blow just one month into their trip after robbers broke into their car and made off with their wallets, passports, documents and electronics.
Yet they chose not to return to Malta, instead opting to spend the next 11 months travelling and working at farms and hostels, housekeeping and au pairing, until they received a new passports and earned enough money to continue travelling. They spent a month in Malaysia, a few days in Singapore, and five months island-hopping in Indonesia, and are set to move on to Myanmar on Thursday.
Exploring the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand
“We have crossed the Australian Desert, jumped the highest tandem skydive in the world, had our car broken into, rode the rollercoasters in Universal (Singapore), visited Lord of the Rings film locations, snorkelled with wild mantas, sharks and turtles, lived in cars, worked on farms in sunshine and rain,” Leon said. “We viewed authentic Indonesian tribes, unintentionally tasted dog meat (it was a casual dinner provided by our host family which we could not refuse), visited New Zealand’s Fiordland, dived in the World’s most bio-diversal sites (Raja Ampat), off-roaded the world’s largest sand island (Fraser Island), been hospitalized, enjoyed a helicopter ride to view New Zealand Glaciers, watched AC/DC and Iron Maiden live, were job scammed, slept at strangers’ homes, visited the oldest rainforest in the world (Taman Negara), chased sunsets…”
At Waikanee Beach, New Zealand
“We take our time when traveling, and believe me – the slower you go, the cheaper it is. That was why we quit our jobs back in Malta – to not have any time restrictions or deadlines, which is probably why we have only visited five countries in almost three years.”
“Some people say we are lucky to have the opportunity to do what we are doing. Most people we know said we were stupid and crazy for leaving a good job and a stable life to take a step into the unknown.”
“We had the money to invest in a wedding and maybe to put a deposit on a house, but that did not sound like home to us. It is not as easy as it sounds – to leave your family and friends and your entire comfort zone behind. At the end of the day, this is not a holiday but a journey – shit happens, bad days DO exist… it is a lifestyle, but very well worthwhile.”
In Danau We’ekuri, Indonesia
Although Kirsten and Leon plan to return to Malta in the future, they don’t yet have a set date.
“Let’s just say we’ll continue travelling until the money lasts,” Leon said. “We initially calculated €1000 each per month for Asia but so far, six months of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have cost us less than €3,500 each, so we hope to travel the rest of Asia for a longer period than planned.”
“We miss our friends and family, the food, and the advantage of Malta being so small – which makes it very easy to meet up with friends, head to swim after work, organise BBQs…you know, the whole summer drill. In all fairness, we’re terrified of the huge changes that have happened in just three years, but home is always home, we think!”
Snorkelling near Karimunjawa Island
What advice do the experienced backpackers have for others dreaming of following in their footsteps?
“We do not agree with most bloggers, who use slogans such as ‘If I can do it, so can you!’, and ‘All it takes is just a flight’,” Kirsten said. “We understand most people are committed to their jobs, have families to take care of, have restrictions or illnesses which may be difficult to travel with, or don’t do solo traveling.”
“We encourage people to take the leap forward, but understand such a lifestyle is not for everyone. Not everyone can ‘pack up and go’, but our advise is always to GO, even for a short period. We do like sharing our negative stories and our stressful events, not to make people give up, but to show the realistic side of traveling. We have grown… both mentally and physically! It is eye opening to view different cultures and experience different religions, and to grow accustomed to different lifestyles.”
On Bukit Teresek Hill, Malaysia
And, as a final piece of advice, Leon and Kirsten also urged fellow travellers not to view travelling as a competition.
“How many days did you spend? How many countries? I’m a TRAVELLER not a tourist! Oh, you haven’t really visited the place if you didn’t go there! How many followers on Instagram do you have? It all boils down to the experience you get and with whom you share it. It is not just the destination and the vacation itself, but the lessons you learn along the way which stick to you for a lifetime. Traveling should be inspirational to others and a different way of learning, and – at the end of the day – you travel the best way which suits YOU, no-one else!”