Meet Amy Dresser and Nathan Hartle: writers, travelers, and recently-engaged lovers (Congrats, you two!) behind Two Drifters.
As any nomad will tell you, sustainable travel is NOT about saving up money in advance. Sure, you should save a little, but more importantly, reducing your daily expenses will make the biggest impact on your success as a full-time traveler. And as you’ll discover, Amy and Nathan have that ALL figured out. Find out how this pair of digital nomads achieved location independence without even planning on it in our interview below. But first, let’s let them introduce themselves!
Hi! We’re Nathan & Amy, the Two Drifters, a pair of writers and photographers in love with each other and with the world. In serendipitous fashion, we first met in 2011 in a hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since then, we’ve adventured side by side across the globe, collecting beautiful and lasting memories along the way. We blog about travel and relationships, with the goal of helping people travel longer and love better.
The Travel Couple At a Glance
Names: Amy Dresser & Nathan Hartle
Blog: Two Drifters
Quit Date: April 2014
Location Independent For: Almost 1 1/2 years
Home Base: Asheville, NC
Money Makers: Amy – freelance copywriting, Nathan – freelance editing
Posts They’re Most Proud Of — You’ll wanna read these!
- We are Not Each Other’s Soulmates … But That’s Okay
- A Beginner’s Guide to Working Online as a Freelancer
- When It’s Time to Come Home
Current Location: Asheville, NC
Q & A with Two Drifters
Q. When did you decide to quit your job to travel full time? How long after that did you actually quit?
We did not have a sudden, revelatory “let’s quit our jobs” moment but instead slowly made the transition to working online and phasing out of traditional 9-5 jobs. Over the course of 6 months in early 2014, we finished working at our “regular” jobs and made the full shift to working online, just in time to set out on our 7 month journey to Australia! Amy is a freelance copywriter; Nathan is a copyeditor.
Q. What were the biggest influencers on your decision to quit to start traveling?
We have always known that travel is a passion and would be a huge priority for us in our lives. So the decision to travel came first, even though we didn’t know how the work piece would fit into it. After I (Amy) completed my Master’s Degree in Scotland in 2013, we made plans to spend some time working in the US saving money, and then we embarked for Australia on working holiday visas. Our original plan was always the “work a lot, save, travel, repeat” model.
Q. What was/is your game plan for getting by? Did you spend a lot of time planning? How closely have you stuck to your original plan? What (if anything) has changed your plans along the way?
When we first headed to Australia, we intended to find work there if necessary with our working holiday visas, in coffee shops or anywhere we could. But we planned to get by mostly through living on the cheap. We knew our expenses could be few if we put our minds to it. To that end, we chose the route of housesitting whenever possible, as well as participating in WWOOF, HelpX, and Workaway opportunities, where we’d work at a property in exchange for food and lodging.
Our arrival in Australia commenced with 2 months of housesitting at a stunning property in Perth. During that period, we discovered we could make enough money through our online jobs to support ourselves. In fact we never even took advantage of those working holiday visas. Work began to pick up for Nathan (he works for a single online company) and I started to get an increasing number of freelance clients. We started to realize we would never have to go BACK to the 9-5, traditional lifestyle. We discovered we could build our own life with this incredibly freeing way of working. So long as there is Internet available, we can succeed. 🙂
Wow! So your sustainable travel lifestyle kind of just fell into place? And in one of the pricier places to live in the world, too! It’s amazing how much cutting down expenses (like rent) can make this lifestyle so much more realistic. Can you tell us how you got started in housesitting? Where do you begin if you’ve never done it before?
For housesitting, we got lucky with responding to an ad. We had never been official housesitters before, but had experience caring for family and friend’s homes while they were away as well as experience with animals. We highlighted this in our housesitting profile. So far, we’ve only used Aussie House Sitters, and found 2 awesome housesits that way. I think if you’ve never done it, it can be hard to land that first gig, but you simply have to talk yourself up, offer references (even from family or employers), and be very communicative. Highlight all the skills and experience you have that could aid you as a housesitter. And provide as much info as possible. We found Skyping with potential housesits made the homeowners feel more comfortable and allowed them a better way to get to know us.
I’d love to hear more about your Workaway types of experiences, too!
We’ve had some really cool experiences with Workaway and HelpX. Our favorite was assisting at a beautiful bed & breakfast in Australia. In exchange for a gorgeous room and the most delicious meals, we did basic yard work, gardening, mowing, house cleaning, ironing, and more. We also got to be servers at a few weddings which was really awesome to be a part of. Our hosts were so kind. Those experiences really give you a sense of home life in a country and help you meet amazing people.
Q. What made/makes your situation unique? (Why do you think YOU do it, while many others never do?)
I think that there is an element of simplicity to it. We own a car (but it’s not new or large), we own clothes (but rarely shop), we don’t own iPads or dine out every weekend. There’s a lot of pleasures in life, and really, I think we each choose what we spend our money on. We make enough to get by and to indulge in our favorite things (lattes and cookies), but we don’t earn enough to live a lavish lifestyle. But that isn’t important to us. At this time in our life, at least, we don’t aim to buy a house or need many belongings. We’d rather live with less and make less. So, I think the simpler your lifestyle and goals are, the more freedom you can have with your work.
I think our situation is unique because we were both very lucky with landing the jobs we’ve got. But I think we were also persistent and willing to think outside of the box when it came to seeking opportunities. I think that most never do what we’re doing because people are more comfortable with cookie cutter jobs and templates. Not so many people want to create their own career or design their own role. That’s scary and uncertain. There’s risk involved. It’s so much easier to step into a position with clear tasks, a schedule, and benefits. People like that consistency and that security. But for us, something else is more important, and that’s travel and a flexible lifestyle.
Q. What are your goals for your blog/business/traveling life?
Now that we’re able to feel good about the money we’re making through editing and copywriting, our attention has turned back to our blog. We love photographing and writing blog posts simply for the personal enjoyment we get out of it. In an ideal world, eventually that would turn into a money-making opportunity. But we don’t want to fill our site with ads or go on an excess of sponsored trips. We’d rather grow our readership and make our site a valuable resource for travelers and people in relationships. We’d also like to build our portfolio as writers and find other realms to explore, in travel writing or other freelance opportunities. If someone wanted to pay me to photograph and write about wildlife, that would probably be my ideal job! Nathan is a talented fiction writer and is in the midst of working on a fantasy series right now. I know he hopes to get that published; that’s his ultimate career dream.
Q. At what point did you just know you could really do it? Or have you not yet reached that point?
We’re definitely at that point, but there’s always the fear that work could dry up. A well-paying client could disappear. At this juncture, however, we both feel secure enough in our skills and experience that we know, if we came to a dead end, we’d be able to source other avenues of work. And surprisingly, through copywriting, I (Amy) have gained many other skills, including sales, social media marketing, and even a little graphic design. So we’d surely land on our feet. No matter what, it wouldn’t change our plans to travel.
Q. What’s the biggest thing you’ve struggled with since you started your new exciting journey, and what have you been doing to overcome it?
Our biggest struggles have probably been the unexpected expenses. If everything goes along peachy, we’re doing just fine, but over the past few months our car has needed significant repair work. Those were expenses we were not at all anticipating, and it made things a bit tight over the spring and early summer. We’re finally bouncing back though, I am happy to say!
We just reached 100K miles on our Yaris, and we’ve had some normal maintenance stuff to take care of, but luckily nothing huge yet (knock on wood). Happy to hear you made it through (and hopefully you’re finished with car work for a nice long while!)
Q. What’s the most awesome thing about the journey you’re on now?
Feeling like we’re at the brink of starting our life together! Also we’re excited that we’ve taken our blog, Two Drifters, in a new direction. We don’t just want to help people learn how to travel on the cheap or teach them how to choose the best hotels, we want to encourage them to have meaningful travel experiences and to grow in real love. Relationships and travel are our focus, and in our own life, these are our major influences, too! So it’s really wonderful to feel like we have the perfect platform to show others what we’ve learned and what we are still learning.
Also, we just got engaged last week! We are so very thrilled to be embarking on what will be our greatest adventure yet: marriage. <3
Oh! How EXCITING!!! Congratulations, you two!
Q. If you were single, would you have done it alone? Do you think it was easier to quit as a couple?
It’s so hard to say. I know if we were not together, we’d both still be pursuing travel opportunities. Nathan especially has traveled alone in the past, so I think we’d absolutely still be going after similar goals. But I know we also have had tremendous influence on one another, and it has helped us discover the lives we both want to have. And now it’s 1000x more exciting to get to share all this together.
Q. What advice do you have for a couple (or individual) considering taking the leap themselves?
Oh, I’d want to point them towards so many different resources, and I’d also want them to become our friends! We love connecting with other like-minded couples. Lastly, I’d want them to know it’s okay to be afraid, in many different areas of their lives! Both Nathan and I suffer from anxiety (something we plan to address more and more on Two Drifters), and we want to show how normal this is, even for people who adore one another, live unconventional lives, and seek adventure.
Q. Do you ever regret quitting or wish you had your old life back?
Definitely, not! Though when money is tight, I sometimes imagine how it would be if I had a conventional career. Sometimes it would be nice not to have that worry.
Q. Where are you now, and where to next?
Currently we are living in Asheville, North Carolina, and we will be here until next July. At that point, we’ll be heading back to Europe to explore (and visit old friends and haunts, particularly in Scotland), with no fixed plans!
Final Thoughts from Nathan and Amy
“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”
― Pico Iyer
Let’s Keep Chatting!
Have a question for Amy or Nathan about life, travel or anything else?