From consultant to full-time travelers (and married couple), Belgium-born Camille and Jean embarks on a journey together, showcasing the beauty of the world through their Instagram moniker @backpackdiariez. In this special Elsewhere section, we talked with the lovely wanderlust couple about their lifelong journey; including the most recent one in the country of Oman.
Leaving all the vibrant bustle of big city life behind is not an easy decision, but Camille and Jean’s eyes are set for already set for a broader (and brighter) horizon. The couple, now collectively known as @backpackdiariez, is one of social media’s most favorable travel influencer, and has captured the beautiful landscape nature of various countries around the globe as the illustrious backdrop to their awe-inspiring love life.
For common tourists, Oman might not an appealing choice of a holiday destination, but for Camille and Jean, it is an opportunity to embrace their adventurous heart, and at the same time, showcasing the beautiful side of the monarchy Middle-East country. Inspired by their bold passion, Hellobali managed to have an exclusive interview session with @ backpackdiariez and get insider perspective of what it’s like to embark on a wanderlust journey as husband and wife for a living, or rather in their own words: the ‘Infinite honeymoon’.
So what did you do before it all started? What makes you realize that you both wanted something more than 9-to-5 job?
Before it all started, we were both working as strategy consultants in London. We were working long hours but were using any free
time we could find to travel around and explore new destinations. Then we got married in 2017 and instead of going for the classic 2-weeks honeymoon in a luxury resort, we decided to spend the same budget on a 5-month backpacking trip around Asia. That’s also the moment where we started our blog and Instagram page, mainly to keep family and friends updated with our travel adventures. When the blog and the Instagram page started to get some traction after a couple of months, we could feel that the job of “travel influencer” definitely had some potential for us. And by then it was already too late to go back to our more traditional careers. We had tasted that feeling of freedom and didn’t want to change it for anything else in the world.
Oman is an interesting pick for travel destination! What makes it different from all of other places you have visited before?
Oman is indeed a very interesting pick. We had heard so many positive things about this country from other friends and travel influencers that we were desperate to see it with our own eyes. And it didn’t disappoint! Oman offers an amazingly refreshing reminder of a seemingly bygone age, making it in our opinion one of the best places in the Gulf to experience traditional Arabia. From quiet stretches of coast dotted with palm trees, to traditional mudbrick villages nestled in date plantations and desert camps, to luxury resorts perched on top of towering mountains, Oman offers an amazing variety of landscapes, both manmade and natural combined with the boundless hospitality of the Omani population.
Tell us about your staying experience at Alila Jabal Akhdar; what is your most favorite aspect of the resort? Did you get to try their authentic Balinese Spa?
During our stay in Oman, we were lucky enough to spend 2 nights in the breathtakingly beautiful Alila Jabal Akhdar resort. The resort is secluded in a remote corner of the impressive limestone massif of the Jebel Akhdar making it difficult to access but the beauty of the resort is definitely worth the longer travel time. Our favourite part of the resort (apart from the incredible location) is the gorgeous design. The resort has been designed and built with a lot of care for the surrounding environment using locally sourced materials wherever possible and the result is fantastic. The different rooms and villas fuse effortlessly with the rocky surrounds, making it an absolute pleasure to stroll around the resort looking for the best views on the surrounding canyons.
What is the highlight from your ‘backpacking’ journey together so far?
That is a very hard question. If we really have to pick one favourite destination, we would probably pick French Polynesia. Fluorescent turquoise blue lagoon, soft white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and a lush green rain forest are some of the elements which make this a dream destination and the most beautiful place we have ever seen in our lives. But French Polynesia also sounds extremely expensive and that’s where many people actually make a mistake. Of course, if you go for the luxurious, all-in, over water bungalow type of holiday, you will end up paying exorbitant prices, but it doesn’t have to be that way. And it shouldn’t be that way, because then you will miss out on many things that these beautiful islands have to offer. We discovered a way to travel to French Polynesia on a budget by staying in family pensions, which made our experience even more magical. le.
Name us three things that you can’t travel without:
- Our camera: this is the most crucial piece of equipment for us as we need to continuously create content whilst traveling (both photo and video). On a normal travel day, we would probably spend around 5 hours shooting, mostly during sunrise and sunset.
- Our tripod: the majority of the people still think that we travel with a private photographer but the reality is that 95% of our pictures are taken with a tripod and a timer function on the camera. So the tripod is also an essential part of our travels.
- A good book: never gets old and allows us to wind down after a busy day of travel.
The main challenge of our current lifestyle is that we get to spend the majority of our time in places that are totally unfamiliar to us and where people usually speak a completely different language.
Any essential tips that you could share for other couple-travelers out there?
We often get asked what we think is the secret recipe to turn traveling into your full-time job. The unfortunate answer is that there is no secret recipe. It all comes down to being passionate about what you do and try to create the best content you can. After a while, your content will start to get noticed and that will allow you to grow and to start making money out of it. But there are no shortcuts so the biggest piece of advice we could give is to stay patient and one day your hard work will get rewarded!
Have your current lifestyle presents any challenges?
Name us one of the toughest that you have overcome! The main challenge of our current lifestyle is that we get to spend the majority of our time in places that are totally unfamiliar to us and where people usually speak a completely different language. This means that whenever something goes wrong (which happens frequently when you travel), it is much more difficult to solve a problem. As long the problems are small everything is fine but when something more serious happens, you can quickly find yourself in a very difficult situation. This happened to us a couple of weeks ago. We just landed in the Maldives coming from Sri Lanka and what was supposed to be a dream week turned out to be an absolute nightmare. As soon as we landed in Male, Jean started to get high fever and started to feel very sick. It turned out that Jean had caught a severe and very aggressive pneumonia in his right lung and he had to be admitted urgently to the hospital. He ended up staying for 10 days in the hospital battling his pneumonia. This time all ended well as we were able to get the right treatment quickly after noticing the first symptoms but if this would have happened in a more remote location, the situation could have been very different.
We saw some cool daring photos in your Instagram (i.e standing on top of a pillar or the outer side of wall), is that part of the concept? What are you trying to impart to your viewers through @backpackdiariez?
Our main objective with @backpackdiariez is to allow people to discover beautiful places through our lens and to inspire them to travel and explore more of what our beautiful planet has to offer. In doing so, we always try to create the best content as we possibly can and we constantly try to push our limits to make our work better. In our opinion, adding a dramatic aspect to a photo will make a photo better and more artistic so whenever we have the chance to do so we will do it. Having said this, we are always fully in control of the situation and would never put our lives at risk for a photo. We care too much for each other for this.
Where would be your next destination?
This summer we will be spending a lot of time in Europe. Summer is the best time of the year to visit Europe and we plan to do many shorter trips to European locations such as Rome, Capri, the Greek islands and the South of France. We also plan to come and spend 1 month in and around Bali a bit later this year.
What are the first few things you always do when arriving in new place?
When we arrive to a new place, we are always immediately very focused on creating content. So the first thing we would do is ask around and do research to find good locations for photo shoots. Once we decided on which locations to shoot, we would then ideally spend some time exploring the locations to understand what the conditions are. A lot more time goes into planning a photo than what people think as as photographer you are dependent on many variables that you don’t control such as the weather, the light and the presence of other people.
As avid travelers, how many foreign words have you learned so far?
Could you both share one of the most memorable (along with the meaning) Whenever we travel we always try to pick up some of the basic words in a foreign language, but the problem is that we tend to quickly forget them once we left the country.
Jean’s favourite: “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you in Japanese) because he loves the way it sounds and it reminds him of the incredible hospitality and politeness of Japanese people
Camille’s favourite: “mingalaba” (hello in Myanmar) as it reminds her of a Burmese lady who was greeting us every morning with a big smile on her face.
What books would you recommend for aspiring travelers? Any plan to write one about your own experience?
One of our favorite travel books is “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts as it epitomizes that feeling of freedom you have when you are traveling. It was always Camille’s dream to write a book and maybe one day we will have collected enough memories to write a cool story about it. But for the moment we will stick to traveling and taking photos!
What is the most creative thing you did to save money while travelling?
Share some of your practical tips for fellow backpackers! Technology increasingly allows people to start earning money whilst traveling. In our case, we developed filters that you can apply to your pictures to make them look better and we are selling them online giving us a basic income stream to help finance our travels. Other travel bloggers we know give online English classes and manage to make money that way.
Describe your partner in one sentence
Jean: Camille is an eternal optimist with an unbelievable drive to make things happen.
Camille: Jean is a dreamer with a great capacity to feel and understand people.