Two tech workers have headed off into Africa to test the theory that it is possible to work from anywhere as they work their way round the continent. They will also be blogging for the Cyprus Mail. ALIX NORMAN meets them
‘Sell car. Give stuff away. Move out. Get vaccinated. Create wander list….’ For most of us, it’s our dream To Do List. And it’s exactly what Andreas Michael and Chrystalla Pieri have been up to for the last six months. The Mail’s newest bloggers, this enterprising young couple are about to set off on the journey of a lifetime, a journey we’re going to share with them as they travel from place to place and give us the insider info on the magical spots we’ve all always wanted to see!
Billing their blog as Tales of Awe, the two tech-lovers (both work in marketing for tech start-ups) have been planning their adventure for some time, working out where to go, how to get there, and where to stay. In fact, the only thing they haven’t given much thought to is what they’re going to see and do – because that, they reveal, is pretty much up to us…
“Tales Of Awe is going to be real, inspiring, and engaging, with the idea that we’re building on the work of other travellers, people who have already been to a country and seen the best it has to offer,” Andrew explains. “Staying in each location for up to a month, we’re going to really immerse ourselves in the culture, engage with the locals, and experience the place to its fullest.” By connecting with a community of travel bloggers and former explorers, the couple are hoping to discover those places and encounters hidden from the whistle-stop tourist. “We want people to share the places they’ve been and things they’ve seen, and then we can give it our stamp of approval” – or disapproval, one imagines! “For instance, one friend mentioned a visit to the Philippines in which he took a two-hour boat trip, trekked through the forest, and then spent time up close to orang-utans. That’s not the kind of thing an ordinary tourist might experience, but we’re looking forward to covering.”
While the duo’s immediate itinerary is set, the majority of their travels will be informed by the online community they hope to build and engage. “The best tips and advice we’re going to get are from people who have already been to the place,” Chrystalla continues. “But we’re also open to suggestions: if there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or something you’ve always wanted to try, let us know – we may just be able to give it a shot and let you know what it’s like!”
Setting off in mid-November, the couple’s first blog piece is set to arrive online at the Mail on December 17, giving them time to experience and round up the delights of their first two destinations: Zanzibar and the Seychelles. “Both are places I’ve always wanted to visit,” says Andrew, who grew up in South Africa and is an experienced traveller. “When I was younger we didn’t have much money, so I saw a lot of my friends heading off to exotic destinations and returning with photographs of these amazing places. Now I have the chance to get there myself!”
For British-born Chrystalla, travel has never loomed large: before she met her other half she’d only been to four countries: England, Greece, Cyprus, and Lebanon. “But in the last year,” she laughs, “Andrew and I have visited six countries around the world, and that’s really opened my eyes! I’m really looking forward to our African travels,” she adds. “Because of the time zones, we’re mainly sticking to Africa and Europe, so the Far East and the Americas are out for the moment. Both of us are lucky enough to be able to work remotely, but we do need to be on roughly the same hours as our colleagues, so we are slightly limited.”
Oh yes, this may sound like a footloose and fancy free jaunt, but it’s actually a working trip for both bloggers. While Andrew’s company has encouraged his plans, Chrystalla has convinced her bosses of the advantages of working remotely and is looking forward to a challenging schedule. “Obviously we’ll be both working and exploring, because we have to support ourselves” – the couple have raised the money for the trip themselves, and their plans to continue in full-time employment will help fund their adventures – “and I think that’s going to be easy for Andrew because he’s very focused, very hard-working. For me, it might be more of an adjustment, but I’m pretty diligent so it shouldn’t be too hard!”
Armed with all sorts of tech – “4G modems, boosters, and so forth” – the two will be able to post from pretty much anywhere. “Although our blog for the Mail will see us do an in-depth round-up of our adventures about once a month, we’ll also be sharing visual content on an almost daily basis through our Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter accounts,” Andrew explains. “The main thing is to have people join us on our journey; travelling can be a bit isolating so having a daily community will keep us connected.”
Having already built the beginnings of an engaged audience, the couple are keen to add to their following. “We started giving things away and selling stuff off months ago, and have basically been living in an empty house for a year!” Chrystalla reveals. “And the last eight weeks have been a sort of trial period for us: we began to explore Cyprus and post from various island locations in an effort to both test our skills and build our audience.”
Existing with the bare minimum – “a bed and a table is all that remains!” – has been good practise for staying hotels and air bnbs for the next year of their lives. But a life without luxury is the least of the couple’s worries. “We’ve had all our vaccinations, researched visa requirements, and we’re pretty much set for anything,” says Andrew. “We’ve already learnt to be careful about budgeting, making sure our money goes on memories rather than stuff, and we’re prepared for risky places, sickness, dodgy people… In fact, probably our biggest concern is our characters,” he muses. “It’s not going to be easy to live with the same person 24/7/365. I’m a bit OCD while Chrystalla is more spontaneous. But I’m sure we’ll make it work!
“Basically, once you’ve made the decision, it’s easy,” he concludes. “It may be a crazy idea to just pack up your lives and set off into the wide blue yonder, but if we don’t do this now, while we’re young, it may never happen. Tales of Awe is going to take us – and you – out into the world. We can’t wait!”
The travel blog ‘Tales of Awe’ will feature on the Cyprus Mail website from December 17 (www.cyprus-mail.com/category/life-style/travel). You can also follow the couple’s adventures on their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, all of which appear under the name ‘Tales of Awe’