A Married Couple Embark on a ‘Flash-Packing’ trip around the World!

Back in 2014, thanks to a little inspiration from STA Travel, Paul and Vanessa Smith embarked on a ‘flash-packing’ trip around the world. Obviously, we wanted to hear all the juicy stories from their time circumnavigating the globe. So we fired a few questions at Vanessa. She spilled the beans.


How did STA Travel help you on your round the world journey?

I booked my trip 10 years ago with STA Travel (in the Earls Court branch). STA Travel were very influential in planning our trip. We visited the Covent Garden branch (in London) twice and they were absolutely brilliant at giving us ideas and advice for the various countries we wanted to visit!

Travel and holidays have always been our ‘hobby’ and we’ve been lucky enough to have shared some amazing trips away including Mauritius, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Kenya, South Africa and many parts of Europe. These holidays gave us the appetite to embark on a longer trip together. Paul had an opportunity to take redundancy and so we jumped at the chance!

‘What better way to share such an incredible journey than with the one you love!’- Vanessa Smith

The bubbling Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming USA

Where was your favourite place and why?

Very hard to say one particular place because they were all amazing and so different, but our highlights were:

1. Myanmar

Because it was so new on the tourist map. The people and scenery were beautiful. A very unspoilt and natural country.

2. The Hawaiian Islands

We visited four and they were all so varied but stunning in their own right. The Aloha vibe and ‘hang loose’ culture is everywhere and you can’t help but smile wherever you go. The island of Kauai is probably the most beautiful island we have ever visited.

3. US National Parks

We did 12 different national parks and the scale of the scenery and the diverse animals blew our minds.

Where did you eat the best food?

Enjoying delicious Aloo Palak on a train ride Rajasthan, India
Indian food was amazing (and we ate vegetarian 90{67e156e4ee2ef9246962f65a4f1efdaee88fb3c7951f538c2a80b1896ec79ca1} of the time), Pad Thai in Thailand, Nasi Goreng in Indonesia, Malaysian chicken rice – so simple and yet so tasty, and finally Hawaiian kalua pork was mouth watering.

‘So hard to pick only one – I think food was one of the highlights of our trip!’

So interesting to try new things and see how food changed as we visited new countries. If we had to pick one, it was probably the Indian curries and breads. Only the freshest of spices were used and the flavours and varieties seemed endless to our taste buds. The most memorable curry was a left over meal doggy bagged for one of our train journeys… the looks of our fellow Indian passengers as we proceeded to eat the local green goo delicacy with our hands was priceless!

Where was the most unusual place you visited?

Quiet beyond Quietness Monument Valley, Utah USA
Monument Valley in Arizona. We were the only ones standing at the edge of the road, surrounded by cowboy scenery and it was the quietest place on earth. There was no ambient sounds what so ever. No traffic, no birds, no flies and not even even air flow.

‘Just a complete mute nothingness how you imagine what it must be like in space! It was so still it boarded spiritual.’

The most unusual accommodation we stayed in was the Worlds largest dog in Idaho, USA. Dog Bark Park Inn, is a B&B in the shape of a giant beagle which was our ‘home’ for the night! The ironic thing was that of all places, the bathroom happened to be located in his backside!

What essentials can you not travel without?

 Worlds largest dog in Idaho

Mini hairdryer

As in 5 inches mini! No not for drying my hair, but as a treatment and cure for mozzie bites! When you get bitten if you put heat on the bite for a few minutes the tingling sensation is the poison coming up to the surface speeding up the recovery process and taking away the itch.

‘The mini hairdryer worked 100{67e156e4ee2ef9246962f65a4f1efdaee88fb3c7951f538c2a80b1896ec79ca1} every time and saved us from sleepness nights itching our skin away. A top tip!’

Travel cubes

These beauties come in all shapes, sizes and colours and allow you to organise your bag like a chest of drawers! It made locating items in our bag, as well as packing and unpacking so much quicker meaning less time faffing and more time exploring!

What is your ultimate travel tip?

Beaming local Indonesian smiles

Always go out of your way to talk to locals.

‘Respect local cultures and traditions, by dressing or acting appropriately you avoid unwanted attention.’

Don’t over pack.

What do you love most about travel?

Making a campfire in the Outback Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia
All aspects of daily routines go out the window and are over taken by a sense of carefree freedom wondering what sights, sounds and smells are going to hit our senses that day?! Every day brings something new and at times tests your inner patience to levels you didn’t know existed!

‘It’s nothing like your average holiday where you are counting the days till you go home, you live everyday in the moment.’

Travel also puts a lot of things in life into perspective, you see and experience things that on one hand makes you feel lucky to have the things you have but on the other hand makes you think… is less really more? We have come to the conclusion that yes, it is.

What was it like travelling as a couple?

Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing North Island, New Zealand
We are extremely lucky as a married couple that we are very much on the same wavelength on most things, so travelling together came very natural to us. Right from the off we each knew where our strengths lay.

‘The longest we were apart was for 4 hours when Paul went on Manta Ray trip which I decided to pass on. Honestly I was like a lost puppy waiting for him!’

Amazingly we were by each others side every day of our 14 months. We wouldn’t have embarked on such a long and testing trip if we knew we wouldn’t enjoy each others company but we can honestly say it was the best thing we have done and if possible has made our marriage stronger with the things we have shared and can now reminisce on.

What would you say to another couple who were thinking of doing the same thing?

Sunrise from the top of Mount Batur Volcano Bali, Indonesia
Do it! It will be the best thing you will ever do! And you won’t regret it. We have met so many couples who have said ‘one day we would like to do the same’ but deep down you know they probably won’t.

‘It is healthy to get out of your comfort zone, open your mind, and stop saying ‘no’ to things and go travel!’

They are bogged down in the doldrums of everyday life with mortgages, kids and careers to worry about. They make up excuses and create their own barriers as to why they haven’t done it yet. It’s all nonsense of course. Rent your house out and go on a ‘career break’, that’s what we did!

If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

Franz Josef Glacier
It was wonderful in every way and sometimes the negatives were the most memorable and funniest things that happened to us.

‘We have no regrets about our trip.’

If we did it again, we would probably spend longer in Asia than in Western countries. The diverse cultures in Asia make everything such a feast for the eyes compared to Western culture.

Do you still have the travel bug? Where are you off to next?

The spectacular Na Pali Coast Kauai, Hawaii USA
Yes absolutely! Within a month of getting back we went to Iceland to see the Northern lights. 3 months later, we went to Marrakech in Morocco to explore the magical alleys of the Medina which reminded us of India. Last Summer our two-week holiday was a road trip through Portugal, a country we fell in love with – the lifestyle, the food and the people.

‘So much so, that we are moving there to open a guest house and host travellers ourselves!’

We will definitely embark on another world trip again. Next time will include Central and South America. Antarctica is also on our list (the only continent we haven’t visited). STA Travel we are available and open to offers should you need us to continue our world adventures! 🙂

What an incredible journey! Feeling inspired? Check out our page here. Want to read more about Vanessa and Paul’s incredible story? Grab their book here.