By Deepthi Nair
For some time now, I’ve been following a couple on Instagram that has travelled to over 30 countries. With sheer envy, I have scrolled through their feed, poring over photographs of their weekend getaways — to Istanbul, Paris, Zanzibar — and watched them chronicle their travels, hoping to pick up tips. I would feel much less envious when their posts were about places I had visited. Life was then more tolerable.
Anne Mugnier (French; six years in the UAE) and Jeff Johns (American; 4 years in the UAE) met in 2014, and have been making the most of Dubai’s location, travelling to countries over weekends, and filming their journeys across 48 hours for their blog called What Doesn’t Suck.
Jeff used to be a television producer. Anne was a social media marketing manager. Their combined skills enabled them to make these travel videos — and market themselves well. “We realised we wanted to travel together, but only had the weekends. We started to scan cheap airfare from Dubai for two-three day trips, and began filming our adventures with our iPhones,” says Anne.
Jeff says, “Travel became an escape from our full-time jobs and brought us closer. Seeing the world together, meeting new people in new cultures, trying different foods and dealing with the hiccups that come from travel can bring people together, or apart, but either way you’ll learn and grow.”
The couple has now quit their jobs to travel for nine months, exploring 25 countries spanning four continents. Their last day of work was June 14 and they fly out on June 19 — first to Seattle, doing a month-long road trip across the US, and then down to South America, then Europe, and on to Asia.
“After spending years working full-time in Dubai and filming videos all over the world on our weekends, we thought it was about time to expand. We recently got married, and since we don’t have kids yet, this seemed like the perfect time to be going out for more than a weekend,” Anne says.
Their adventures will take them to countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Slovenia, Albania, Indonesia, Greenland, Japan and Cambodia. Not exactly the kind of places you want to cram into a weekend.
They’re effectively living what for the rest of us — me, anyway — is a dream. I asked Jeff what convinced them to take that leap of faith, and he said, “Leaving steady jobs can be scary, but what’s scarier is the thought of being at the same job five years from now, with children or debt that may not allow us the freedom we have now.”
I was curious also about how their families reacted, whether there were any objections, the odd raised eyebrows. Anne says, “Once we explained our reasoning and plan for the trip, our parents and siblings could not have been more supportive and helpful”. She adds, “I think our friends might hate us though.”
Although the couple plans to continue storytelling through videos, they also intend to enjoy their upcoming adventure without filming every second of it. Anne says, “Right now, we are only thinking about the next few months. We’ll see what opportunities come to us while travelling.”
I was wondering about the logistics of a trip like this — the expense, the planning. Jeff and Anne say they’ve harboured this dream since they got married. And they’ve been saving for it.
“Anne and I do not eat out a lot or buy fancy things or drive cars or have expensive habits, so our money is saved for travel and it’s allowed us to slowly get to this goal,” shares Jeff.
With many bloggers getting paid to publicise content from the hospitality sector, I wanted to know what part of their holiday would be sponsored.
Jeff says, “We have worked with some hotels, airlines and brands on our travels, but very little, to be honest. We don’t sell ourselves very easily — I’d say about 10 per cent of our trips have had some sort of a sponsor attached to them, but that’s about it.”
In 2016, a user called Matt commented on their blog, under their write-up of Iceland titled ‘48 Hours in Iceland: Complete Road Trip Guide’: “So why would you recommend Golden Tours if you are saying that the brands did not influence you…?” Their reply was, “No brand we work with ever influences our content by guiding anything we say. We meet with brands to make sure they are a good fit before we do anything and recommend our best find to all of our readers who ask, and are looking for information”. Make of that what you will.
Jeff says, “A trip like this comes down to very careful planning, and we have been saving for a long time. Every month, I give my wife all my money. She organises it and keeps track of the finances.”
The couple believes in travelling light. They’ve never checked in a bag on flights. “We each only have a backpack and a small carry-on bag. Be ready to see us in a lot of the same clothes,” says Anne.
I’m very jealous.
Deepthi writes on property in Dubai but loves to be in the thick of all that’s fun in this city