NOMADasaurus: What Makes Kyrgyz Republic so Unique Is the People and Culture
Meet Alesha and Jarryd, who are living a dream of many couples in the world — traveling around it for years and running a blog about their adventures, which allows them to afford that. They are award-winning travel writers and photographers and their blog, NOMADAasaurus.com is one of the top adventure travel blogs in the world. NOMADasarus Facebook page cover says 'Make Life an Adventure' — Alesha and Jarryd have definitely succeeded in that. The Kyrgyz Republic was lucky enough to host them again and we just couldn't miss a chance to ask Alesha and Jarryd some questions.
Do you remember the very exact moment when each of you realized you had this big passion for traveling? Alesha, you started with your homeland when you were 20, what made you do that, where did that curiosity come from? Jarryd, you mentioned the family vacation to US in one of your interviews, was it during that?
The exact moment we both fell in love with travel differs, and the original impulse did grow out of those first adventures around Australia and the US. But that first time Alesha said, "this is what I want to do" happened when she was working as a counsellor in a summer camp in California and she suddenly realised all her new friends were from all around the world. Having grown up in a small farm town in Western Australia this was a huge revelation. For me the moment came when I was in a hostel in Toronto and discovered just how easy it was to meet new people when everyone was a traveller. That was over 10 years ago for both of us, and we've never looked back since.
How did you meet? Jarryd was working as a bar security at a hostel in Canada and Alesha was staying as a guest. What happened next? What were your first impressions about each other?
We met at a hostel bar in Vancouver, and our first impressions of each other were that we both seemed to have a happy-go-lucky attitude and a passion for travel. We spent the next week together hanging out, and I followed Alesha to Seattle for a few days before she flew home to Australia. We kept in touch and after 3 months back home Alesha flew back to Canada, and our relationship started from that moment.
Correct us if we're wrong, you're traveling together for almost 9 years. You're literally living a dream of many couples in the world. And thank you very much for your frank and sincere piece called Behind The Scenes – It’s Time To Fix Ourselves. What you largest piece of advice to traveling couples or those considering to start would be?
It was September 2008 when we met, and we've been together and on the road ever since. Our biggest piece of advice for travelling couples is to listen to each other's wants and needs, and realise it's normal for two people to want different things now and then. Travel brings out a whole level of new complications and stress, and if you've never travelled together before we suggest doing small trips first to see how your partner reacts in certain situations.
Your blog. We would like to thank your friends, who convinced you so start it back in 2013. Do you remember how exactly it happened? Why 'NOMADasaurus'?
Even though we had friends telling us to start a blog for years, it wasn't until about halfway through 2013 that we finally started to consider it. We were planning our 'Thailand to South Africa without flying' mission, and were trying to think of ways to document it. Originally we thought about making a video and interviewing people as we went, but that changed to a blog due to our love of writing and photography. The name came about while we were driving around Western Australia, and we just came up with the play on words being a nomadic dinosaur. There's no real reason why, other than we thought it was a cool name.
How much time since the start did it take for you to understand you need to expand and attract new people for developing your blog? If you could tell us, in terms of expenses how costly is it to run a travel blog with a team of writers?
The first year of our blog didn't earn us a single dollar, even though we were putting in a lot of hours writing, taking photos, doing research and managing the technical side of things. During that first year I did win a travel writing scholarship with World Nomads and that helped me become a freelance writer, but that was a different side of things. Halfway through 2015 we hired our first virtual assistant, and in the middle of 2016 we hired our first writers. Our overheads every month are probably around 1,000, give or take a few hundred dollars.
Half decent income you mention in the behind the scenes piece. In your interview to Yahoo Finance, you said you're earning USD 6,000 a month. Do you remember the very first serious deal? What was the largest sponsorship?
Since our Yahoo! Finance article our income has grown, and we're now earning between USD 5,000—8,000 on average. Our first serious deal was working with a European tourism board and that was USD 2,000. Since then our largest partnership deal has been USD 9,000 for a brand ambassadorship.
Now Kyrgyz Republic. First of all, thank you for visiting us and we are happy to see you in the Kyrgyz Republic again. How did it appear on your radar first place? What was your first impression of the country? Do you think it's unique in any context and what makes it such if yes?
The Kyrgyz Republic first came on our radar as we were drawing up our plans to cross Asia by land. Our first impression was incredible. We crossed from China after spending four months there, and the first local person we met was a border guard at the Irkeshtam Pass. He was all smiles, shook our hands warmly and welcomed us to Kyrgyzstan. After that every person we met was humble, kind, welcoming and friendly. We think Kyrgyzstan is a fascinating and beautiful country, and it's one of our favourite places in the world. The mountainous landscape is gorgeous, but it's the people and culture that makes it so unique and why we keep coming back.
You've already been here three times before — by this time you probably should have your favorite place, what is it? Any changes you noted since your first and previous visits?
The Jyrgalan Valley is our favourite place in the country. Only an hour east from Karakol, this breathtaking region and its beautiful Jyrgalan Village has stolen our heart. We first visited in September 2016 before the World Nomad Games, and returned this year. The village itself hasn't grown, but there are now more guesthouses and plenty more activities such as horse trekking, new hiking trails and mountain biking. The people are as lovely as ever and to see how the locals are benefiting from the boom in tourism is inspiring.
You often say you don't usually settle anywhere for long — is there a certain policy by now, say, no more than 20 days in one country? Any rules you've made based on years of traveling?
We haven't made any rules on how long we settle for, but in 2018 we're expecting to slow down our travels a lot and might even find a base for 3-6 months. Not sure where yet, but Bishkek is a place we keep talking about.
Any ultimate global goal? Like visiting all countries in the world by a certain date, etc.? What should we expect next?
We don't have any plans on visiting every country in the world, and would rather spend more time in a country than rush through it simply to tick off a list. Next year we'll make a base for a few months and then will see what happens. That being said we may just be back in Kyrgyzstan for winter. Watch this space!
Kyrgyz Republic puts quite a hope on tourism. And as you know, though it started to get some attention, it still stays largely undiscovered. What your advice on improving the situation would be? Any other advice on things to be improved in the country in terms of tourism?
Our advice would be to keep developing high quality guesthouses and yurt stays, while growing cultural and adventure activities. There's some exciting things happening around Karakol and the South Shore such as cooking classes, boat tours and walking tours, and having these grow in other parts of the country will be beneficial for tourism. What makes Kyrgyzstan so unique is the people and culture, and while people will always come for the mountains, the next boom in tourism will be culture-based.