You know that feeling when you’re on vacation -- pina colada in one hand, beach read in the other -- and you think to yourself "I wish I could stay here forever"? Well, Lina and David Stock, the husband-and-wife team behind Divergent Travelers, took the road less traveled and turned that familiar fantasy into their reality. But this nomadic lifestyle wasn't always part of the plan.
Prior to hitting the road full-time, Lina and David lived a comfortable life in Wisconsin. They owned a house, had well-paying jobs (Lina worked in the IT department at a bank and David cut this teeth as the sales director for an outdoor manufacturer), and pursed their hobbies in their spare time. Like many others, they took an annual vacation somewhere warm to escape the biting Wisconsin winter — and eventually even built up to two to three trips a year.
It wasn’t until their honeymoon that the idea of traveling 24/7 took shape. The couple, who said “I do” in 2010, departed for a three-week post-wedding trip around Thailand and Cambodia. Unlike most other newlyweds, however, they never fully returned home — they left their heart on the road. “Leaving to travel wasn’t about not liking our lives — it was about chasing an adventure and nurturing that lust for exploration,” says Lina.
But the adventure didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took three years to mull over and 18 months of prepping for the big journey. The couple first cut extravagant things from their lifestyle (eating out, cancelling subscriptions) to save up; then, they started liquidating their assets. “We went through the house in phases and sold everything we didn’t use or need. Every month we would do it again until we were down to just the stuff we needed or used daily,” says Lina. And finally, when February 2014 rolled around, they set out with everything they needed on their backs and two one-way tickets in their hands. As they’ll tell you — it was the best decision they ever made. “We didn’t know at the time that we wouldn’t be back to our old lives.”
Their first stop on this new chapter of the lives: New Zealand. “It was the furthest we could get from Wisconsin. We wanted to start on the opposite side of the world,” she says. The country also fueled the couple’s appetite for adventure travel. “Our first adventure after we landed in New Zealand was a trip to Piha Beach for a day of surfing. Neither of us had ever surfed before,” says Lina. “While hesitant at first, we quickly found that it didn’t matter how many times we fell off that board. For the first time in years, we were taking some risks. That day we fell in love with adventure travel and haven’t looked back. We love [it] so much that we’ve taken on the mission of documenting the Top 100 Travel Adventures in the World.”
Surfing aside, their day-to-day life looks drastically different than back home in the Midwest. “We never have the same day in a row,” says Lina. “When in cities, we hit the pavement and walk everywhere. When outside the city, you’ll find us climbing to the highest area for a lookout or wandering off into the woods. If there’s an adventure on offer, we head there like bullets. Occasionally you’ll catch us in a museum, but we are very selective and only visit ones that interest us personally or are world-famous. And since we like to be on the go all the time, we always visit the local grocery stores or markets to pack lunches.”
So how does one sustain such an enviable wandering lifestyle? “The assumption is that we are independently wealthy or have rich parents. Sorry guys, I wish it was that easy,” the duo states on their website. In addition to saving up, the couple continues to make money while on the road. They planned to build their , which launched a year before they left, as a business. Today, it’s an online resource where they share their own adventures as well as provide information for others who are looking to embark on their own journey. They also hold in the destinations they travel to. “You don’t need to be rich to travel,” says Lina. “While it can make things easier, there’s a joy in being able to navigate the globe on a budget independently.”
And they’ve been getting along just fine. In two years, they’ve visited more cities they can keep track of — Lina estimated approximately 48 countries since February 2014, but notes that they’ve been to several of those more than once. With so many places on the map, we wondered how they settle on a destination. “It’s either a place we are dying to visit or a place we are working on a campaign for,” she says. When asked to play favorites — a question many frequent travelers undoubtedly dodge — Lina had a tough time picking one. “This question is impossible to answer,” she says. “I think every intrepid traveler dreads this question. If I had to narrow it down to five, I would say New Zealand, Indonesia, Namibia, Jordan, and Ireland. Of course, I think about all the places I’ve loved and left out.”
Egypt was one destination that surprised her, though. “I had heard horror stories about how western women are harassed and mistreated when they visit Egypt,” she says. “We spent a month traveling the whole country last November and while I waited for the harassment that I read so much about, it never came. The people showed me so much courtesy and respect.”
But even having traveled for two years — and plenty more before that — the couple still has several places to check off their ever-growing bucket list. “A few that come straight to mind are Antarctica, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Brazil, and French Polynesia,” says Lina. Why? “Our reason is the same for all of them — we are insanely curious about lesser-visited parts of the world and want to find the true adventures in these destinations.”
This begs the question — what’s the secret to successfully owning a business, traveling each day, and spending every waking moment with your partner? Lina puts it simply. “We both have very aligned life goals. Of course we have arguments and disagreements, but at the end of the day, we just love being around each other.” That being said, things — namely, their travel habits — have certainly changed and shifted over the years. “We are more laid-back now than when we first left. We have no problem making last-minute decisions and often times just hop on a plane to a new place with days notice. It was hard to let go of wanting to plan all the time, but it is so much more fulfilling when you do.” And that school of thought has certainly lived up to their expectations. “We took the risk to live our dreams and it has been nothing short of amazing,” says Lina. “The world is such an amazing place and taking the time to really see things has enlightened us in more ways that we imagined we could.”
With two years of non-stop jet-setting under their belt now, Lina and David have picked up quite a few pieces of wisdom along the way, but there’s one bit of advice that stands out. “Don’t be afraid to travel on your own,” says Lina. “Wander down the back streets, talk to the locals, eat the local food, and try to feel what life is like in the places you visit. These are the things you will remember for years to come — not the intricate itinerary details.”