Kach Umandap is one of the most popular travel bloggers out there, her blog being Two Monkeys Travel, with lots of relevant, up to date travel content from all over the world. We host her as she tells us a little about her many escapades.
Kach, tell us something about your early years and how your passion for travel developed.
I can remember telling my grandfather when I was 7 years old that I was going to be a millionaire and travel all around the world! Of course growing up as a child in a province in the Philippines, not poor but certainly not wealthy, I equated being able to travel the world with being rich. I knew it was going to happen one day but I know I have to work hard to fund myself to manifest this dream since I was raised by my single mother and grandparents together with my 2 siblings.
In High School, I was determined to get a scholarship in the best University so I could take up pre-law degree and for me to become a Lawyer as I wanted to become a Diplomat because we all know that having a regular Philippines Passport wouldn’t easily get me visa to travel to different countries.
At 20 years old, I was only able to leave the Philippines for the first time when I got the chance to work in the Middle East after University. I lived in Kuwait for 4 years, it was during my time there that I met other travellers who were exploring the world on a budget. I started hosting some of them on Couchsurfing and my interest in travel only grew from there. I was able to travel to 13 countries while saving money.
Then I moved to Erbil, Iraq (Kurdistan) in 2013 for work when I realized that I have small savings and maybe it’s about time for me to take a 6 month trip to Asia and South America so I quit my job.
I started as a solo traveler until I met Jonathan, now my husband, in May 2013 while backpacking in Luang Prabang, Laos. He was on a backpacking/motorbike trip around South East Asia. We both decided to be together and started backpacking in India and later in South America where we started our travel blog!
Some people thought that now having a British husband it would be easier for me to travel around the world by getting his citizenship but it’s not easy to get and decided not to do it as we don’t live in the UK. Also, thankfully, we’re having sponsors and partners that help us with the cost of our travels.
By the time I reached visiting 100 countries in 7 continents in 2017, I started to aim bigger.
I’m still hoping to be one of the first Filipinos (using ONLY Philippines passport) to travel to every country in the world and hope to do it before I turn 35!
Tell us something about your style of travelling now and what your travel aims are.
My husband and I both loved hitchhiking, volunteering in exchange for meals and accommodation. It was an adventurous and sustainable way to travel!
We continued travelling like this until 2015 when we became more active with our travel blogging and were able to start getting sponsors from hotels, airlines, tours etc. About this we started to experience traveling in “luxury” but just from time to time. In 2016 and 2017 we started moving more firmly into the luxury market, while still maintaining as many adventurous experiences as possible.
In 2017, we bought a 37 ft sailboat that we have sailed from Florida, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico with our two cats that we adopted along the way. We just sold our sailboat last May 2019, then we flew back to Europe and have a very nice apartment in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where we plan to be based in the next 2 years.
I still travel on my own and try to go on solo trips for up to 2 months every year like my solo adventures and land border crossing in Eastern Africa in 2017 and a trip around the Balkans and Eastern Europe in 2018. I’ve just completed on a 2 month solo trip in Central and South Asia visiting most of the -stans, Mongolia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
You usually travel along with your husband. What are the pluses and minuses of travelling together?
The pros and cons of travelling as a couple are basically the same as for any other part of life, but more exaggerated! You spend all of your time together, so you need to be more patient with each other when things get stressful and realise when the environment or lack of sleep is affecting your mood.
The pros are obvious really; always having someone to share your experiences with, to support you in challenging times and to exchange ideas with. My husband is the best travel buddy and we really matched when it comes to traveling, the only hassle is when we have to do online work after our day tours!
You are extremely prolific on the internet. You have been published by major travel websites and you have two sites yourself. Tell us something about how you go about all this in terms of content, how much time it takes you and what your aims are with this exposure. Also, do you feel it takes away a bit from the authenticity of travel or not?
I used to work 18 hours per day writing content and being active on social media to keep everything running and growing, but that just wasn’t sustainable. Now we simply plan for the long term, so we always have at least one month of content ready to publish, social media posts that are scheduled in advance. We now also have another team member who is an absolute God-send!
The aim of the exposure is to drive traffic to our media channels, which in turn helps us to grow our online business and achieve more of the things we want to achieve in life! A big part of our business is people driven, like my coaching services and creating guides and advice about how everyone can achieve their own dreams of travelling the world.
As far as authenticity goes, I believe it all depends on how you go about it. If the tail starts wagging the dog, as in we start choosing our travels and experiences based on what people will want to see, then travel would certainly lose its authenticity.
People put so much time and effort into planning an “authentic” trip that what they end up with a heavily constructed authenticity, which probably disappoints them because it didn’t feel authentic enough. It’s like planning to be spontaneous, just stop overthinking and enjoy what’s around you right now!
Your blog advertises itself as a ‘sailing, luxury and adventure’ travel blog. Do you feel that luxury is an essential part of travel? To what extent can luxury and true adventure really be combined?
This really depends on your definition of “true adventure.” You can certainly have adventurous experiences with elements of luxury, or with luxury as a reward at the end.
For example, if we take on a 30 hour-long passage on our sailboat, in open water with no land in sight, with maybe some rough seas and no other vessels in radio contact, you could probably call that adventurous. When we arrive at our destination at the end of one of these passages, however, we’re the first to look along the shoreline for a luxury marina or hotel with a bar by the pool!
The same could be said of our motorbike trip across Morocco; riding over the Atlas Mountains in drifting snow and then halfway across the country to the Sahara Desert, where we stayed in a luxury tent camp! We find a balance that works well for us.
You have 64K followers on Instagram. How does that feel? Do you know any of these personally? To what extent do you feel yourselves to be community leaders and what does that mean to you?
We actually have less followers on Instagram compared to our other social media accounts. We do know some of them personally, either from our personal lives or because we’ve met on our travels. It can be a little surreal at times that so many people are watching snapshots of your life, but we certainly don’t consider ourselves to be leaders of anything.
We’re just grateful because we got featured in some mainstream media that led to having more readers and social media followers. Together with my husband, we have had previous media features in major publications like DailyMail UK, NYTimes, Forbes.com, Yahoo Travel, TIME.com and Business Insider (links to the article features).
Our channels below:
So, from all these travel experiences, which two have had the biggest impact on you as a person and why?
Our 16-day trip to Antarctica was probably the biggest of all. Because it reminded me that impossible dreams really can come true!
Another adventure of equal importance to us was hitchhiking the length of the Carretera Austral in Patagonia, Chile in 2014. It was poorly planned and we were ill-prepared in some ways, but that made it all the more amazing!
Then eventually returning on 2017 driving the long route of Patagonia de Argentina but this time, we were the ones picking up hitchhikers.
Do you still think you’ll be travelling this much in 10 years? Why or why not?
We’ll still be travelling, but perhaps the way we travel will have changed. We aim to have built our own house and a retreat farm and resort before then, so that would definitely affect how we move around.
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people from any period in human history to dinner, who would you invite and why?
Gautama Buddha and Confucius – been always inspired about their wisdom and teachings!
Genghis Khan and Christopher Columbus – I’m interested in their conquests and what they have contributed to world history and discovery.