To be honest, blogging takes a lot of time and effort. And it can be exhausting and frustrating at times, but whenever I get a chance to talk to fellow travelers, I regain all that deflated motivation. This is especially true with Stephanie and Sabine whom I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. Their energy is truly amazing and they’re an inspiration to young people everywhere. Please join me in getting to know these inseparable sisters, then give them a shout on their blog at The Sisters’ Travels.
Up Up and a Bear: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves (where you are now, what you’re doing, how you got there, etc.).
Stephanie and Sabine: Hi everyone! We are Stephanie and Sabine. Although we were born two years apart in Wausau, Wis., we are twins in every aspect but age. It is comical for us that some travelers immediately ask if we are twins while others staunchly declare that we could not possibly be related! Well, just to set the record straight, we ARE sisters. In fact, we are best friends who just so happen to also be family. And we LOVE to travel. In July of 2014, we quit our jobs, canceled our apartment lease and 24 hour fitness membership, said goodbye to family and friends and invested our life savings in our dream: to truly see and experience the world.
Since leaving home, we have visited 42 countries and have lived in Italy, Austria and now Australia. Thanks to our 1-year travel and work visa, we are able to coach tennis and swimming in the Sydney area. In addition to planning mini trips throughout Australia, we have booked flights to New Zealand and Vietnam. Feel free to share in our “budget-friendly” adventures and discover how two girls in their 20’s live out life in a suitcase.
Up Up and a Bear: That’s awesome to have a sister who moonlights as your best friend! I have 2 nieces who are just like that – they’re also fraternal twins. Congrats on making the move to travel full time! You’re an inspiration to those who are wondering if they should do the same. But I’m sure this travel bug must have been with you for a long time. I understand you took a yearlong adventure with your family in a trailer. What was that like? How did this come about? Where did you go? What did you love about it/hate about it? Sorry… so many questions, so little time.
Stephanie and Sabine: Great question! This early adventure certainly played a significant role in lighting the travel fire within us! Raised in a bilingual household with both German and American traditions, the four of us kids (we have two brothers) often visited our German grandparents in Freiburg. So already from a young age, travel was a part of us. Moreover, we were blessed with incredible parents who had seen much of the world and had lived abroad together for several years before settling in the Midwest (U.S.). It was only a matter of time before they decided to move our young family from the freezing temperatures of Wausau, Wis. Instead of choosing a new destination, our parents left only their favorite things in storage, sold everything else and introduced us to our new home: a 39-foot-long travel trailer.
For the next year and a half, our mother homeschooled us while we traveled from state to state. Sometimes we only stayed a few nights to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans; other times, we reserved a campground spot for several months so our dad could work in the area. We visited most of the 50 states and experienced numerous rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center in FL; lived on a Navajo reservation in AZ and had an Easter egg hunt amongst the cacti; we saw the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helens, Disney World, attended school in Germany and visited family friends in Switzerland, France and of course, Germany.
…we were even more fortunate to have parents who knew the value of self-motivation and hard work.
Although we were young—nine, seven (Stephanie), five (Sabine) and three years old – we realized this was a special adventure and enjoyed every minute of our new lives. There was something exciting about waking up in a different state and completing your homework by a swimming pool or golf course. We often had educational trips that involved visiting an alligator farm or picking oranges at an orange orchard. Every day was different! And the best part was having both of our parents at home most days. We felt like the luckiest kids in the world!
Up Up and a Bear: I think we need to stop this interview immediately while I look up a producer to call. This should be made into a movie. And it would be epic! Unfortunately, I have no clout so we’re going to have to abandon the producer idea and continue with our interview. So after that amazing trip, you settled down in Portland. Who came up with the idea to let go of this “normal” life to go on the road once again? How did that come about?
Stephanie and Sabine: Fortunately, we are almost like twins and share many things, including a similar outlook in life. In 2014, we lived together in a quaint downtown Portland, Ore. apartment and spent our days working long hours and visiting our boyfriends. After a while, however, we both realized that our dreams had changed and instead of wanting comfort and security, we longed to live abroad.
Always one to have a plan, we researched many post-gradate schools all over the world and determined that we would simply break away from our “normal” lives once we had found the right program. Finally, we discovered Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Florence, Italy and spent weeks emailing our incredible contact there, Valentina Monacò, until we were completely satisfied this was the new adventure for us.
Our hope is to make people smile, laugh and ultimately realize that “travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer.”
A close family friend, Gaby (director of International Programs at a highly respected university in Kentucky), also spoke highly of FUA and made us feel confident in our decision to pursue a degree in Hospitality and Event Management. After the decision had been made, all that was left was finding an apartment in Italy (thanks to Couchsurfing we were able to find a wonderful housemate who needed more people to move into the spacious apartment she was leasing) and…yes, physically walking away from our lives in Portland. Although it was heartbreaking to leave our family and boyfriends behind, we truly believed that studying abroad in Italy was the answer to the nagging feeling that had begun to haunt us. Later, we realized that this feeling was none other than: the travel bug.
Up Up and a Bear: Hahaha, I love that last line. It sounds like the travel bug is this mysterious and foreboding thing of nightmares – sounds like a great line for a movie. Sorry, I’m still harping on about that… I’m sure the hardest part of letting go was missing all the family outings, weddings, birthdays, etc. How are you able to make up for this? Do you talk regularly with your family over the phone? Skype? Other means?
Stephanie and Sabine: Yes, exactly! Missing family outings, wedding, birthdays, etc., is a challenge for us. However, we do our best to stay up-to-date with all news back home by Skyping our family and closest friends several times a month. In addition, we have a great travel plan for our phone and can text everyone back in the U.S. for free! So, when we are not using Whatsapp (another incredible blessing!), we are communicating with our family via regular text messages. And the best part by far is planning our visits back home!
Up Up and a Bear: That’s awesome! Isn’t technology great? Can’t imagine what it would be like if you were doing this in the 70’s – slow mail for the win? Anyway, it’s clear that your parents prepared you well for the world with your resilience and mental toughness. How would you describe that? What would it take for others like you to make the leap and see the world?
Stephanie and Sabine: We are incredibly lucky to have parents who have not only supported our dreams and shown us first-hand how to live abroad, but have also equipped us with the mental tools and self-confidence needed to make our travels possible. However, we were even more fortunate to have parents who knew the value of self-motivation and hard work. They encouraged us to pursue our dreams and watched as we made our own mistakes. Through our love for competitive tennis (we played between four and six hours every day and then received full-scholarships to play for our Oregon universities), we developed determination, perseverance, resilience, a strong work ethic and goal-setting techniques.
…we both realized that our dreams had changed and instead of wanting comfort and security, we longed to live abroad.
For those who do not like tennis, these skills can be acquired through other sports, school, music, community service and strong family bonds, etc. The important thing to remember is that one can continue to grow and develop these traits. So, never despair if you feel as though you have not fully achieved mental toughness—it is an ongoing process! All you need to make the leap and see the world is a little self-confidence and the realization that you may fall a few times before you can stand. No one has the right to judge you; just be true to yourself and follow your intuition—the rest will fall into place.
Up Up and a Bear: Okay, so where do I sign up to be your manager for when you decide to be motivational speakers? Seriously. So, I imagine that having your half with you on this journey has been a blessing. Do you think you would have done this solo? How have you grown together on the road?
Stephanie and Sabine: Although solo travel is wonderful and beneficial in a different way, we knew that it was only something we would want to do for a short time (several weeks or maybe even a few months). Thus, when we planned an open-ended move to Italy— that meant we could be traveling anywhere from one year to many years—we both knew without a doubt that we wanted our best friend there to share in the incredible journey. And traveling together really has been a blessing for a number of reasons: we have our best friend and part of our family with us wherever we go; in terms of budgeting, everything is made simple because one of us pays in full for the airline tickets or groceries and then we evenly split the costs later; when we plan a new trip, it is even more fun to discuss the options with each other and get excited together; we feel safer traveling as two; finally, because we have similar interests and passions, it is double-the-fun having a partner-in-crime who also prefers spending money on adrenaline activities and the local cuisine rather than clothes shopping.
Dare to dream; discover yourself; delight in life.
Although we have always been best friends and share many of the same interests, this journey has enabled us to bond even more (I know, I know, our family will not believe it is possible for us to become even closer than we already are!). We have learned to detect when the other is uncomfortable in a certain situation and how best to help ease the feeling. We still have brief arguments over the silliest things (i.e., after doing the laundry, we both think that the extra pair of socks is ours), but have learned how to avoid big arguments and how best to make it up to one another if we are at fault. In other words, our strong communication has only improved to make it so that, even though we are around each other 24/7, we are smiling and laughing almost every minute of that time. In fact, we love being around one another so much that we have solidified our plan to later have our own families live near one another.
Up Up and a Bear: Love it! You guys remind me of Tia and Tamera from Sister, Sister. The incredible bond you have with each other is truly special. You travel together and grow together. You had told me earlier about traveling as a gateway to finding yourself. I’m a true believer in that notion so I applaud you wholeheartedly. What have you learned about yourself so far from this journey?
Stephanie and Sabine: Oh, well thank you! This statement resonates strongly with us because we have chosen a less-used path for our 20’s: travel rather than working hard to move up the corporate ladder. In fact, we have coined the phrase, “Dare to dream; discover yourself; delight in life.” And by following our own phrase, we have sought to discover ourselves.
Through this illuminating experience, we have uncovered a few things. For example, we have learned that we are mentally strong and can live almost anywhere – even if the country does not speak English. Moreover, we can endure less-than-mediocre situations where the walls have holes in them (Latvia) and cockroaches freely roam the kitchen cabinets, floors, bathroom, living room and even bedroom (Australia). In addition to being able to adapt, we have discovered that family truly is the most important thing, period. Thus, when we eventually find our soul mates and settle down, we want to live near our family so that our kids can all be friends and see their grandparents on a regular basis. At the end of the day, home is wherever our family is—and that equals happiness. Although our plans are currently unclear (we may settle back in the U.S. or possibly even Europe), we know that we can handle anything and enjoy bliss anywhere as long as our family is nearby.
Up Up and a Bear: Isn’t that amazing that often we go far to find that special something only to realize that the things most dear to us are already right in front of us? But without the journey we wouldn’t know that. I’m really glad you’ve embarked on this journey. So financially speaking, what temporary jobs have you taken on this journey? How do they compare to jobs here (attitude of workers, customers, etc)?
Stephanie and Sabine: So far, we have had three temporary jobs—working nine weeks at English 4 Fun camps in Austria (one of our best experiences yet!!) and teaching tennis and swimming in Sydney, Australia. As you have probably noticed, all three jobs revolve around kids. Yes, we love working with them! It is incredibly rewarding meeting kids from all over the world and getting paid to play sports with them, help them improve their English (German and Austrian kids) and hopefully make a positive impact in their lives—because they certainly have left a wonderful impression on us. Not only do we relish working with kids, we have enjoyed having co-workers from Ireland, England, Austria, Georgia, Malta and Australia. Many of these co-workers have become close friends who we stay in contact with via Whatsapp.
…we realized this was a special adventure and enjoyed every minute of our new lives.
In addition to making many life-long friends, we have noticed that the temporary jobs in both Austria and Australia were more laid-back than our 9-5 jobs in the U.S. Now of course this is partly due to the fact that these jobs abroad are part-time or summer jobs. However, with that point aside, we have noticed that our co-workers seem to balance their work and social lives extremely well. (This is not to say that Americans do not do this, too! We simply have noticed that the focus is much more career-orientated back home and less well-rounded. Again, this is not a bad thing, just an observation.)
In terms of the customers, both Austrians and Australians have been welcoming and accepting of us. In fact, being American has worked in our favor because Austrians still think the U.S. is “cool” (we had numerous kids between the ages of 9-16 years old asking us with wide eyes about NYC, LA, etc.) and, according to one of our current employers here in Australia, some Australians prefer to hire Americans because they believe that the economic struggles at home have caused Americans to develop a strong work ethic.
Up Up and a Bear: You guys are living the dream! You get to travel with each other, work jobs that are rewarding, AND experience life to the fullest. I can’t tell you how much I admire your willingness to jump into the fray and go for it. And you know what, America IS cool, but every city/country around the world is cool in its own way. Each place has something special to offer. Now, tell me about your blog and what you hope to accomplish and/or inspire others to do?
Stephanie and Sabine: Our blog is called The Sisters’ Travels. It serves as both a way to fossilize our travel experiences and provide what we hope are helpful tips. We have written about topics ranging from the best and cheapest airlines to our favorite smoothie place in Rio de Janeiro. Our hope is to make people smile, laugh and ultimately realize that “travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer.” (Quote by anonymous.)
Travel is much more than just seeing Copacabana Beach or Christ the Redeemer for the first time. It is about immersing oneself fully in a new culture (i.e., meeting locals, trying traditional food, learning the history and traditions and practicing a few phrases of the new language). And in order to do this, one must learn to step outside one’s comfort zone. When people become too comfortable, life suddenly turns stagnant and boring. And what was once an unquenchable thirst for life, transforms into a routine sip that no longer excites the mind or body. Thus, our message is threefold: inspire people to travel, help them remove themselves from their comfort zone and reignite the thirst for life (i.e, appreciating the small things like a sunset or a delicious, authentic Thai meal; helping a person realize a new passion or career track, etc.).
…being American has worked in our favor because Austrians still think the U.S. is “cool”
Now, every person’s comfort zone is different. For some, planning a trip within their own country is a great way to break the mundane mold and enable them to refocus their thoughts and goals on what they want to achieve from life. For others, the comfort zone is extensive and thus, the step must be something drastic such as moving to another country. However, regardless of what the step is, we want people to honestly look at themselves in the mirror and recognize their own needs. Do not be scared of your dreams! Life is beautiful but short so people should not waste even a single day doing something that they know in their heart is not what they want.
Once you have had an enlightening conversation with yourself and know what your second step must be, FOLLOW THROUGH with it! Please do not just sit back and think, “I will try this someday, but now is not the right time.” Do not make excuses for yourself. No day will be the “perfect” time! You simply have to create a checklist of what you need to do to set off on your adventure and then follow through until everything on that list is done! And if you would like to have a step-by-step guide on how to “cancel” everything back home, research your new adventure, pack, and ultimately, begin this new phase of your live, stay tuned for more blog posts on thesisterstravels.com.
XOXO ~The Sisters~
Up Up and a Bear: Thank you Stephanie and Sabine! It’s been an amazing opportunity to talk to you. I’ve been blogging now for 3 months and at times it gets hard to even want to continue, but then I talk to people like you and suddenly I’m infused with all this energy. I truly admire what you’re doing and I’m rooting for you all the way. I wish I had done this in my 20’s and wish more young people would take this opportunity to see the world. The expectations of life are hard to break indeed – but you did, and I’m sure you’re going to be much wiser for it.
Want to meet more incredible travelers? Read Beautiful Sydney, traveling with kids, and more with @hapnthings.
Who’s your +1 in this life’s journey? Whoever that might be, I wish you the best of times. Cherish each other and travel on my friends!