That moment when adventure, vacation and escapism becomes normal life.
For Cameron Seagle and Natasha Alden, it happened more than four years ago. Shortly after graduating from UNC-Wilmington, they did not frame the brand-new diploma and start that typical young-professional job hunt.
Nope. Instead, they went online and booked the cheapest airfare to Europe they could find. For a mere $250, they found one-way tickets across the Atlantic Ocean and were abruptly dropped off in Riga, Latvia. And so it began…
From there, they embarked on months of epic backpacking trips through eastern Europe and southeast Asia. OK, that was fun. Time to go back home, right? Not even close.
Now the couple is taking on Africa.
We’re not talking about a mid-day safari ride with other sunburnt tourists while taking photos of the lions, elephants and giraffes and then spending the night at a comfy five-star luxury hotel. That would be too easy.
Seagle and Alden bought an old Land Cruiser truck in Africa and they are driving across the entire continent by themselves. Sure, they are still taking lots of photos along the way. But that’s so they can generate income from social media and fund this little adventure, which has no end in sight.
“We actually have no immediate plans to return to the US,” they wrote on their blog. “For the time being, we will continue to travel the world until we find a place to call home.”
Local travel agents in Wilmington have talked about an increase in business coming from the most sought after of demographics: Millennials.
Seagle and Alden definitely fall into that category and share that wanderlust attitude more and more 20-somethings have. But even if there was some kind of manual for young world travelers, this couple is rewriting it.
“I think millennials have decided we’re done with the whole idea of waiting to live when we retire,” said Seagle, who grew up in Charlotte, N.C., and met Alden just a few weeks before she graduated in 2013 and they set off on their world travels.
“Of course we would recommend anyone in Wilmington do something similar. It’s not really a standard trip, but I think everyone should get out and explore the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small trip or something massive.”
Their African adventure started in July in Johannesburg, South Africa. When Seagle and Alden were interviewed by PortCityDaily.com this week, they had already spent 229 days in Africa and driven more than 15,000 miles in their truck.
So the obvious question: How are they paying for this?
Seagle said they had a strict budget in place when they started their Africa trip. But when traveling abroad, your ability to compromise and adapt to new circumstances will always be tested. This couple was no exception.
“Yes, our budget was to spend roughly $1,000 a month. In most of the world, just $35 a day is plenty to get by,” said Seagle, who along with Alden, have visited more than 50 countries.
“However, our budget has pretty much gone out the window in Africa.”
Buying a truck set them back a few bucks, and then the daily cost of gas, food, park fees, campsites and all the gear for the truck has dipped into their savings.
While traveling, however, the couple has been able to make money from their blog website, The World Pursuit, and their very active Instagram account. They’ve also been recognized by a number of well-known travel websites including Lonely Planet.
“A lot of money has been spent, but in the end, we’re doing OK,” Alden said.
Even if a trickle of money is coming in based on what they are doing, does that mean Seagle and Alden are professional travelers? One thing is for sure: they definitely have paid their dues.
When talking about the different sleeping accommodations they have experienced since they started their travels, the long list includes everything from a luxury resort hotel to the floor at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
“We have seen it all. Literally,” Seagle said. “I’ve slept in a bus station in Zagreb, Croatia. There has also been crap hostels, apartment rentals, cheap hotels, a tent, and even a private lodge in the middle of the desert where we had our own butler and chef.”
But during the African leg of this trip, the couple has been afforded a little more freedom while driving their own truck and most nights are spent in campsites.
It was after emerging from a tent in Zambia about a month ago when the couple had to embrace their ‘biggest mistake’ of the trip thus far. They had set dates to work with a safari lodge in the South Luangwa National Park that was well-known for its leopard sightings.
They reached Zambia a little earlier than expected so they spent a week exploring the bush with lots of rain, mud, and tsetse flies, which are large biting flies that inhabit much of tropical Africa. They finally made it to the north gate of the massive 5,629-square mile park as they were a little tired and ready to rest in the safari lodge.
“We pulled into our final campsite and asked the managers how long the drive would take us the next day and they just laughed,” Seagle said.
“Nothing ever goes to plan for us! Turns out that you can drive through South Luangwa only three months out of the year, and we were nowhere near that window in the middle of rainy season.”
They quickly learned that in order to make it to South Luangwa, the couple would have to drive 684 miles, which would take at least 21 hours, in the exact direction they had just come from.
But along with the scheduling gaffes, there has also been other driving setbacks.
“Every day in Africa presents new challenges,” Alden said. “As a whole, traveling this continent is actually much easier than some people would suspect. But it still does come with all you would expect.”
Said Seagle: “The most important thing about traveling to difficult destinations is to keep a positive attitude and remain patient.”
Along the way, they have encountered a few bad borders, some terrible road conditions, fuel shortages, cash shortages, police looking for bribes, extreme heat, car problems and plenty of wild animals.
While traveling anywhere in the world, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour. So while the couple has overcome plenty of obstacles in Africa, the rewards have also been plentiful.
One of the more memorable moments from the trip came when they went swimming in Tofo Bay, Mozambique. The bay had a stunning beach that was lined with little beach hotels and palm trees. In essence, it was their office for the day.
“We went snorkeling with a dozen different whale sharks, a handful of giant manta rays, and a full grown 6-meter hammerhead shark,” Seagle said.
“After three hours of swimming, we had prawn curry and fresh coconut waters to refuel. After a little relaxation on the beach for a couple hours, we finished the day watching the sunset as dozens of southern right whales breached out of the water maybe 600 meters offshore.”
And then there was that incredible meal on the Zambezi River they soon won’t forget. The couple was staying at Tongabezi, a luxury safari lodge near Victoria Falls in Zambia, and it came after a rather difficult border crossing so a special experience was in order.
“We enjoyed their Sampan dinner which was served on a floating dock in the middle of the Zambezi River,” Seagle said.
“We arrived by boat and all three courses were delivered by boat. The waitstaff paddled each dish to us and it was exceptional service. After dessert, the full wait staff serenaded us on the river. It was arguably one of the best experiences of our lives and a wonderful evening.”
The couple is currently navigating their way through Zanzibar, which is in east Africa. Communication with friends and family back in the States has been scarce as Internet strength can be meager and international calling rates can be rather steep on their Tanzanian cell phone.
So that may explain the differing explanations on the couple’s future travel plans.
“We expect to see them here in Wilmington in May before they take off to drive across Canada this summer,” said Seagle’s mother, Pam, who moved with her husband from Charlotte to Wilmington in 2013. “After that, they plan to head to India and Nepal.”
Sorry, mom. But with too many places still to visit, locking down these world travelers may be wishful thinking.
“We have a lot planned for 2017,” Seagle said. “Our dream right now is to actually live somewhere. We have every intention of ending the year by moving to Japan on a permanent basis.
“Just have to get there first.”
For more information or to have your recent trip highlighted in our travel section, email travel editor Aaron Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org