Who Are We?
We are Matt and Yelena, your hosts, travel guides, and amateur chefs. We’re a travel couple that goes with the flow, chases adventure, and lets the tide take us wherever it may. We’re also collecting the world’s best recipes so you can find them all under one roof.
After meeting in sunny Corfu in 2021, we became almost inseparable, meeting in several different countries before taking the plunge and travelling together full-time.
Join us on our epic quest to see the world. We’ll be hitchhiking, housesitting, and handpicking the best (and the worst) of what the world has to offer.
As you already know, my name is Yelena. I was born in Kazakhstan and lived in a small village called Ivanovka for 18 years. I did not know what the sea, the sand or the mountains were. All I had were forests and steppes, a rich imagination and an unruly sense of adventure.
My first experience of a new country was when I moved to Russia to study. It wasn’t easy to get there, but once I did, it was like I unlocked a whole new world of travel. It wasn’t long before I was on my first plane, this time to Austria for an Erasmus semester.
Erasmus changed me, my view on life, my goals and my values. I realised I would not return to my sleepy little village in Kazakhstan. I wanted to stay, I wanted to see more, to get closer to the cultures of other people, to discover something new for myself with every new country.
So I did.
I moved to Germany on my own. My family called me Weltbumler (globetrotter) or Frog- traveller (because of the famous Russian-language cartoon). But what can I say, I am not the only one…
I’m Matt, a writer and traveller from England. I’ve been called a digital nomad, location independent, and even homeless, but the truth is, I have many homes all over the world.
I started solo travelling as soon as I turned 18, but it would only be for a few weeks here and there until I reached uni, unlocked student grants, and upgraded to longer trips. Over time, I went from being a self-confessed awkward weirdo to a slightly less awkward, but much bigger weirdo.
After I graduated in 2019, I booked a one-way flight to South America, only for me to get quarantined in Colombia during Covid. But that’s a story for another day.
To fund my travels, I’m paid to write about a whole bunch of topics. From crystals to crypto, Corfu to compliance, it’s safe to say that some gigs are more fun than others, but the hours are flexible, the work has always been remote, and it allows me to prioritise my travels.
For more about us, jump down↴
Our Bucket List
Mavrovo National Park
Working with a lake view in a remote Macedonian village.
Hitchhiking overland from North Macedonia to Greece.
We’ll be staying in Benitses village for just under one month.
Egypt & Germany
Matt will head to Egypt alone while Yelena heads back to Germany.
Mexico, Guatemala and Belize
We have a one-way ticket to Central America, and a year-long housesit in the jungles of Belize!
How did we start
About us in detail😉
More About Yelena…
So, Ivanovka, this little Kazakh village where I was born and raised. Let me introduce it to you. Ivanovka is a typical village with a typical name. It’s surrounded by a birch tree forest, and the name of the district is Akkayynsky district, which unimaginatively translates to ‘white birch district’. Three shops, a farm, a school, and a club; these are all the sights in the area.
In this remote, evolution-forgotten area, I spent 18 years of my life. Although I loved our village, I always wanted to go away and see other countries. Unfortunately, my family could never afford it. I did not know what the sea, the sand or the mountains were. All I had were forests and steppes, a rich imagination and an unruly sense of adventure.
After leaving school, further education was my goal, but there was only one scholarship for the degree I wanted to study, and I didn’t get it. Not to lose a year, I took a hairdressing course, then a cooking course. I started to learn German, to play the guitar, and at the same time, to prepare for exams to go to a Russian university the following year. This time, my hard work paid off. When the next academic year rolled around, I received the scholarship and set off to a new country for the first time…
After an eventful two years, I volunteered to teach Russian at a summer school. That’s when it all started. I met students from many countries. They became my friends and inspired me to apply for an exchange-semester in Austria, and in February 2018, I found myself flying to Europe.
Erasmus in Europe
My feelings knew no bounds. It was the first time I was on a plane; everything was so new and different and a bit scary. When I arrived in Germany, my first culture shock, or should I say confusion, was: where is the snow?! It was February and there was no snow, moreover, some trees were already green. Or maybe they’d always been green. Does winter even exist here at all?
Little did I know that snow does not fall everywhere every winter in Europe. Germany was relatively warm in comparison to Russia! Where I came from in Siberia, the February snow reaches 2 metres high, the temperature drops to minus 35 or lower, and you have to blink quickly to save your eyelids from freezing shut.
The beauty of the Alps
Once I’d overcome the initial shock, I took a train from Germany to Klagenfurt in Austria. I passed the Alps and could not believe it was happening to me. The mountains were tremendous. I was staring at them with my eyes wide open, afraid to blink because I thought I would miss the beauty. But it was impossible to miss: it was everywhere. For the next four months, I lived with a view of the Alps, just a five minute walk from the most beautiful lake I’d ever laid eyes on. I was surrounded by the greatest, craziest student-friends from all over the world: #erasmus4ever!
Europe captured my heart with its open borders and freedom of movement. You do not have that in Kazakhstan, nor in Russia. You need a visa for everything.
I was so amazed and impressed that I realised I would not return. I wanted to stay, I wanted to see more of the world, to get closer to the cultures of other people, to discover something new for myself with every new country.
So I did.
Erasmus changed me, my view on life, my goals and my values. And now, my thirst for adventure is unquenchable.
After the Erasmus semester, I came back to Russia, but it was not the same. It felt different in a way I couldn’t put my finger on, but in fact, it hadn’t changed at all; it was me that was different.
I did not fit once again. I tried to convince my friends to go abroad to do Erasmus, but all I got was a shrug. And I felt lonely. All my Erasmus friends were back in their countries, and all my old friends did not seem to understand me anymore. Moreover, my professors, instead of being glad for my experience, acted weird and judgmental, as if I’d spent all semester partying and doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I did party, but I also worked my ass off to study in two foreign languages.
So I decided enough was enough. I registered on the website Aupairworld, and found a family. Or, should I say, a family found me. In November 2018, I was flying once more to Germany. They said I was crazy to quit my studies. But they did not understand I would go crazy if I stayed.
I was a babysitter for the most kind and friendly family I could’ve wished for. They helped me a lot and I will never forget them, but still, all I wanted was to go back to university, to get a degree, and to have another taste of the crazy student life.
So I did.
Back to uni
In April 2019 I became a student at Koblenz university, in Germany. Despite having no money in my pocket, I was the happiest student ever. It was not easy for me to do any of it. Every step was accompanied by tons and tons of paperwork, most of which was hard to understand. I remember that before speaking to any officials, I would rehearse what I needed to say. To be honest, I still do.
Despite how stressful the bureaucracy of it was, I do not regret a thing. It made me stronger; it made me who I am today.
More About Matt…
So you want to know how an insociable introvert like me became a full-time traveller? Grab a snack and get comfortable. Let me take you back to a time when Walter White was still a chemistry teacher, when Eminem was still afraid, and when Ned Stark was still alive.
I was living in Brandhall council estate, the same place I’d always lived. In fact, besides a few holidays to visit my grandad, I’d never left. The thought of travelling the world wasn’t a hope or dream for me. It had never even crossed my mind. Holidays abroad were something for well-off families. Everybody knew that.
The teachers at school would often ask what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had no idea. I dreaded the question almost as much as I dreaded growing up. Writing was fun, and I liked to play football, but those career paths, so I was told, were unrealistic. I had to have a plan B apparently. I didn’t have one, and because I’d been taught that it was highly unlikely I’d ever do anything extraordinary, I didn’t have a plan A either. So I avoided the question, hoping that one day it would figure itself out.
Unlike most kids my age, I didn’t particularly look forward to turning 18. I didn’t drink, I didn’t party, I didn’t really do much of anything. For me, turning 18 was just one step closer to being tossed out into the big wide world with a sudden responsibility to earn money, the only training for which was a head-full of WWII facts, a healthy dose of algebra, and a memorised lecture about the importance of tucking your shirt in.
I wasted unthinkable amounts of time playing games every day, so much so that I remember my KD ratios more than the colour of my wallpaper. I had strange eating habits too: I was obsessed with broccoli (but only the stalks), I wanted sweetcorn with everything (and I’m proud to say I still do), and I ate chocolate bars as if they were slices of toast – I could never just have one (okay, this one might still be true too).
My point is that I was your regular irregular kid. I didn’t have any wild ambitions, I barely had any confidence, and I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do with my life. Hours on end were spent wondering: why are we here? There had to be some kind of meaning to it all, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was.
I might not have known what I wanted, but I knew very clearly what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to go to uni just because everybody else was, and I didn’t want to work at a job I hated either. But that left me feeling trapped. What else was there to do? It’s not like school prepares you for achieving your dreams. In fact, I’d argue that it does the opposite – strips you of your childish desires and forces you into the real world, where everything is shit and that’s life and you have to just have to get on with it.
Craving adventure (and an escape), I watched Officer and a Gentleman and spontaneously decided to join the army. I dropped out of college at seventeen, to the shock of all my friends, and began training for the physical exam. The aptitude test was pretty simple and the officer recommended I go to uni so that I could enter as a regular officer instead of a regular soldier. I declined.
When shit started to get real, I had second thoughts. As it turns out, I didn’t want to put my life on the line for a cause that I didn’t believe in. Not to mention, I was craving adventure, not a training course on obedience. I delayed my physical exam for a year and in those twelve months, I sunk into the quicksand of depression.
It wasn’t a complete waste of time; I had a part-time job at a warehouse. I would walk up and down large aisles of pharmaceutical stock, picking bulk orders for chemists around the UK. From baby milk to TENA pads, industrial bleach to more TENA pads, I would walk back and forth picking and packing.
Every day was the same. Every week was the same. Every month was the same. And while I walked up and down these big aisles, I remember thinking: what’s the point?
My future unravelled in front of me. If I stayed there full-time – as I was constantly encouraged to do by my family who were beginning to think I was just a useless drop-out – then this would be my entire life. Every day, every week, every month, every year, just picking and packing TENA pads.
It didn’t help that my line manager was on a power trip and treated the part-timers like kids because we couldn’t compete with the likes of their Polish workhorse, who would race up and down the aisles as if trying to break a world record.
I knew that if I worked there full-time, I’d never leave. There were guys there in their sixties who had been doing the same thing for their entire lives. On the other hand, I couldn’t apply to any other jobs because I didn’t have any skills or qualifications.
As the days passed, and no conclusion was reached, I started to feel as though I had no control over anything. As though life was just a sick game where all you had to do was earn enough money to survive the next day. I felt lost and trapped. If I told people how I felt, they mocked me for not being able to hack it.
I was convinced that there had to be something more.
I still played football at this point. I was in a semi-pro league with distant hopes of making it at a higher level, but I never really believed in myself. Still, it was an outlet for me. I could channel my frustration with life into the game and play like my life depended on it. Everything else disappeared when I was on the pitch.
It wasn’t long after that I tore my meniscus cartilage and was told by the surgeon that I wouldn’t be playing football again. I believed him.
Everything was going tits up. I was still stuck working at a warehouse that sucked the life out of my soul, but I had no close friends, no hobbies, and no prospects. I started to have some dark thoughts. If it wasn’t for my sister’s words of wisdom, I dread to think where I might be.
She said, “If I had savings and lots of free time, I’d go travelling.”
That didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
My first solo trip
A few weeks after my eighteenth birthday, I booked a trip to Athens, Greece. I had never lived alone. I had never been to another city on my own, let alone another country where they speak an entirely different language. Everything – and I mean absolutely everything – was fascinating to me.
The whole flight there – and the 12 hour overnight stay at Zurich Airport – I was thinking to myself how crazy it was, how insane I was being. Me, the guy who gets lost in Birmingham, the guy who had never washed his own clothes in his life, the guy whose awkwardness you could spot from a mile away (see the above picture for proof), I was sleeping on an airport floor on my own? I was doing this crazy thing?
Whenever I thought about this (which was a lot), I got a boost of adrenaline. Who cares about all that stuff back home? In Greece, nobody knew who I was. Nobody had any pre-defined expectations of me. For the first time in my entire life, I felt free.
The travel bug
Upon returning and realising that everything back home was exactly how I left it, I found myself yearning to leave again. Now I would go to work, knowing that I could save every penny for my next adventure. Every time I went away, it was for a little bit longer. I was learning more and more, becoming more independent, more reliable, more open and sociable, more happy and positive.
For the first time ever, I had a goal. I didn’t know how I’d manage it, but I realised I wanted to travel a lot more. The alternative was unthinkable. I decided to go back to college, and then on to uni to study Creative Writing. I didn’t go so that I could apply for jobs with a fancy certificate, I went to learn more about something I enjoyed, to save money, and to give me more time to figure out how the hell I was going to travel the world full-time.
After my first year, I’d saved up a chunk of money and finally quit my warehouse job. It was time for a long trip.
The big one
I decided to travel across Latin America for four and a half months. It was the trip I’d been planning the most. I was 21 and ready for an adventure. Within a week of arriving in Mexico, my phone was stolen. A week later, in Guatemala, my camera screen broke. I spent the next four months travelling across two continents with a budget Alcatel (WhatsApp was the only app and I exclusively used WiFi) and a broken camera. Those four months were filled with some of the craziest experiences of my life.
From hitchhiking to the Moai on Easter Island to hiking through a Bolivian crater to find a secluded trail of dinosaur footprints, I did things I never would have thought possible just a few years earlier. I, the guy who didn’t even drink alcohol with his mates, took Ayahuasca with an Amazonian shaman. I climbed sand dunes, saw the Milky Way, explored Machu Picchu, got soaked by the sheer force of Iguazu Falls, climbed a mountain taller than all those in Europe, spent time with an indigenous family in Peru’s Sacred Valley, watched the sunrise from the top of a Maya pyramid nestled so far in the jungle that its only inhabitants were crocodiles, snakes, and jaguars.
How could I ever return home and just settle down after that? No, no, no. My blood was pumping and I’d been well and truly infected by the travel bug. I wanted more. I needed more.
Travel as a lifestyle
The more I travelled, the more people I met who were travelling full-time. The more nomads I met, the more I believed I could do it too. I’d ask them all how they did it, making notes like a pesky journalist. I was constantly on the lookout for opportunities to travel and work abroad – and just like that, they began to appear. As soon as the belief that I could work and travel was instilled, the path to do so became clear.
I landed an internship in Santiago, Chile, for two months with free flights and accommodation included; I did Erasmus in Bulgaria for one year; I got myself a freelance copywriter job while I was still at uni with an hourly rate four times higher than my old warehouse job; I got another internship in Corfu, Greece, where I spent four months writing a book about Greek mythology.
Opportunities found me. But more importantly, I took them.
My belief that I could work and travel proved to be right. Gaining strength from this, I began to believe I could earn a living from writing – something that was often said to be extremely difficult – and that, too, turned out to be right. It seems to me that the simple act of believing without self-doubt, while sometimes difficult to accomplish, can completely and utterly transform your reality.
I thought about setting up a blog several times over the past four or five years, but every time I started, I just couldn’t find the motivation to continue. Something was always missing. That was until Yelena came along…
And then we met…
If you’ve read until this point, well, first of all, bravo! Secondly, you might be wondering where these two crazy adventurers first met – how did destiny bring them together?
And the answer is in Greece, on the island of Corfu.
We both did an internship for a hotel in Benitses, albeit in different years. Matt was an intern in 2019 but returned in 2021 to visit friends and finalise some stuff for the book that the hotel is publishing. Yelena was coming to the end of her internship, but even with just a few weeks left, there was a crazy connection between us. It was as though we’d already met before. It couldn’t be described with words or explained with science. It just was.
It was a crazy enough connection for her to fly out to Turkey a month later, where Matt was staying for the winter. After a period of long-distance, we met up in England (and Yelena’s flight home got messed up because of covid so she ended up staying for Christmas!), Poland, and then Madeira, Portugal. In summer 2022, we travelled together through Germany, Netherlands, U.K, Spain, and then onto North Macedonia, Albania, and back to Corfu, Greece, for our anniversary.
We are not just a travel couple, we are two walking, talking balls of cheese, ready for a lifetime of adventure.
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