A little more than a year ago, our friends Britnee and Mark Johnston set out on an epic journey across the world. They recently returned and were kind enough to answer a bunch of questions I sent them. The questions touch on the places they visited, the finances of travel, jobs, and other things. What follows is Part 1, with Parts 2 and 3 coming over the next few days.
Tripping Over the World: Very briefly, tell us about yourself, your trip, and your website.
Mark and Britnee: We are Mark and Britnee Johnston and in May 2014 we quit our jobs in Utah to travel around the world for a year. This trip took us to some amazing places and after visiting 26 countries we returned home to Salt Lake City last month. During our time away we documented our journey on our website OneWorldOneYear.com.
2. You guys were gone for a long time. Did you get to a point where being on the road felt like less like a vacation and more like just your natural, ordinary lifestyle? If so, how long did that take and how did getting comfortable as travelers change your experience (if at all)?
MARK: We got used to some aspects of travel like living out of a backpack, washing our clothes in the sink, passport control, eating strange foods and so on. It took about six months before we were traveling confidently from country to country, but also by then we were tired of moving so much. One flight after another, experiencing the same tourist traps, unfamiliar foods and living out of hostels had led us to become somewhat jaded by that point and sadly, at times, it felt like hard work.
BRITNEE: I think the only true “vacation” we had was when we were in Thailand where we forced ourselves to stay in one hotel for an entire month and play at the beach every day. This was halfway through our trip and we were exhausted from the jam-packed sightseeing and walking for miles every day, which became our regular way of life at this point. With no agenda or plan, we finally relaxed once we were in Thailand. Beaches were never a priority in the past since we’d usually plan active activities on our past vacations, but this is one thing that changed both of us. Now, we love to go to beaches and do absolutely nothing!
TOTW: Mark, you’re a professional photographer and the images you captured are amazing. But your trip wasn’t an assignment, per se, in the same way you might be sent to shoot a place strictly as a journalist. So how did you balance photography with the desire to simply enjoy traveling? How much of your time typically did you spend photographing places and what were some of the challenges you faced as a photographer?
MARK: In some ways being an avid photographer impaired my ability to simply enjoy traveling, always feeling the need to document the amazing things I was seeing. Being that I had just left work at a newspaper, it was difficult to accept that I was now taking photographs simply as a tourist and not a photojournalist. At one point I had imagined that I would be able to work on some stories while abroad, but my lack of foreign contacts and language skills, plus constantly moving from place to place, made this difficult. I still approached people for photographs, always asking permission first, but being turned down repeatedly, even within the first month of travel, became really disheartening. Carrying a large camera soon turned out to be more of a chore. I’m happy I kept at it though, forcing myself to keep shooting, as at least for memory’s sake our trip was really well documented.
TOTW: Relatedly, did you feel like having a background in journalism influenced the way you traveled at all? Did it open any doors?
MARK: I think my background in journalism made me far more inquisitive — or maybe that’s just the natural inclination that led me to journalism. It did create opportunities as I was probably more forward than some and ended up walking through doors others might have ignored. However, this also led to me to being more disappointed when certain doors remained closed.
TOTW: I know you both saved up money pretty rigorously for this trip. But how did the overall costs compare to what you expected? Did you end up spending more than you anticipated on some things? Or find surprising ways to save money?
BRITNEE: I kept track of our finances while we saved $40,000 for the trip and did my best to manage it while on the road. After the first two months though I found myself in a constant worry about money and was wasting time looking at numbers every day. I realized this is my dream trip and that I needed to relax and just enjoy the ride.
My favorite surprise deal was the £1 bus ticket to ride Megabus from Paris to Barcelona. I think that saved us a couple hundred of dollars. In terms of spending more than expected, I would say going to Torres del Paine in Chile and Machu Picchu in Peru were far more expensive than I thought. South America in general was expensive, which hurt our budget the most since it was our final two months and getting low on money.
In the end we spent around $47,000 total for our trip. I think the trip still could’ve been done with $40,000 if we had cut out a few of the expensive countries. We decided to stick with most of our original itinerary and used money from our tax returns and other savings to make up for extra costs. All in all, everything we went and saw was so worth it and I wouldn’t have changed a thing with how we spent our money.
This Part 1 of our conversation with Mark and Britnee Johnston of One World, One Year. Check back for Parts 2 and 3, and definitely visit the Johnston’s website One World One Year for more stories, photos, and ideas from their trip.
— Jim Dalrymple II