After packing it all in for a life of sunbathing and selfies, Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger expected things to be easy. This is their story...
In March this year, Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger packed their bags and said goodbye to the circus (/their South African home). They launched a blog to document their travels, and set about taking the most shareable Instagram snaps possible. Photo underwater? Check. Photo in the Arctic Circle? Check. Photo with some fuzzy little husky puppies? Check, check, check.
The followers racked up – at last count, there were 77,000 of them.
But now Chanel has written a post about how life is much, much harder on the road than she expected. It’s still amazing, she enthuses, but instead of sunbathing by day and eating out at night, the couple have found themselves forced to clean toilets, make beds and shovel cow dung to make ends meet.
‘After being gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip. Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having the time of our lives,’ wrote Chanel on their blog, How Far From Home. ‘But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. Noooooo. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.’
‘You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers. It’s painstakingly hard and dirty work.’
‘Although the last few months have been the most rewarding, they’ve also been some of the dirtiest and smelliest, and we’ve had to adapt with the least amount of necessities and food (and not because we’re on some crazy crash diet)… The budget is really tight, and we are definitely forced to use creativity (and small pep talks) to solve most of our problems (and the mild crying fits).’
‘So don’t let the bank of gorgeous photography fool you. Nuh uh. I am not at my fittest, slimmest or physically healthiest. We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly 5hrs of sleep per night, and lug our extremely heavy bags through cobbled streets at 1am, trying to find our accommodation (because bus fares are not part of the budget, obviously).’
‘But even though we probably have more greys than when we started, dirt under our nails despite long showers, and cheap snack food as a main form of nutrition, this crazy lifestyle allows us to enjoy the freedom of exploring rich Swedish forests, never-ending Nordic fjords, Italian cobbled alleyways, and cosmopolitan cities… There’s nothing quite like swapping million rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life and the importance of living each day as if it were your last.’
Read the blog post in full, here.