Meet Zara & Ashray of Backpack Me

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The Yoga Nomads had the pleasure of interviewing Zara & Ashray from Backpack Me. Like us, they quit their corporate jobs, sold their stuff and took off to travel the world! They started their journey over 2 years ago. They are a great couple who have an awesome story. Learn more below!

Yee Peng Festival in Thailand
Yee Peng Festival in Thailand

 What advice do you have for couples traveling together while simultaneously running a business?

Try not to think about your business when you’re doing fun things. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s important to disconnect. Travel is a full-time job and so is running a business, so you have to work it out and make time for both things. And don’t forget to take breaks for lovemaking too! 😉

Who or what has been your most influential inspiration to live your lives on the road?

We didn’t have anyone in particular who inspired us to travel like we do. We’ve always read and admired the work of other travel writers though, and thought that we could do something similar. Travel, inspire others to travel as well and still make money on the go to continue traveling more.

We also sort of inspired each other and while life in Dubai was appealing less and less to us, we took the chance and set off to become nomads. Haven’t looked back ever since!

What are your tips to help stay active & healthy while on the road?

It’s not always possible to cook for yourself, but it’s important to do so often. This is also the reason why we like renting short term apartments so that we know what we’re eating.

Apart from that, you must do some physical activity. When you travel it tends to be easy to exercise while having fun: cycling, running around new beautiful places, swimming, hiking.. there’s always something you can do. We’ve published an article with some recommended exercises you can do without a gym or accessories, no matter where you are.

“You Are Your Own Gym” is also a pretty good iPhone app with tips for those who like to keep themselves fit. And, of course, yoga is also a very good option!

At a jungle gym in Costa Rica
At a jungle gym in Costa Rica
Zara swimming in Thailand
Zara swimming in Thailand

 Have you seen many yoga studios or classes being offered in the destinations you’ve traveled to? If you’ve taken the classes, what was your experience?

Almost everywhere we’ve been we’ve noticed a variety of yoga studios. Where we are right now, Chiang Mai (Thailand) there are tons of them and we’re actually going for our first class today!

In Santiago de Chile, for example, there was a surprisingly high number of yoga studios too. As Ashray says, there’re almost more people into yoga abroad than in India itself!

What has been the biggest adjustment for each of you converting to life on the road?

As we’re both musicians, not having a band while traveling has been one of the things we’ve probably come to miss the most. We can live out of a backpack just fine, but not jamming with our friends and playing live like we used to is something we do miss.

Not having a “permanent” social life is also one of the downsides of full-time travel. You might meet people here and there, but starting from scratch every time you’re in a new place can be quite draining. Sometimes you just want to chill with those that know you and who get you. But atleast we’ve got each other!

Ultimately, we can’t have the advantages of traveling if we stay in once place, and vice-versa. But we look at this as a phase in our lives: we know we won’t be nomads forever, so we enjoy whatever we have when we have it!

Making friends in Ethiopia
Making friends in Ethiopia

 What advice would you give to new nomads?

Take it easy and don’t try to “see everything” and “do it all” in a short period of time. The reason why you left a conventional life behind to travel is to open up for new experiences, learn with other cultures and, above all, enjoy yourself at your own pace. If you rush your journey, fit in a lot of activities in your daily to-do list (especially if you’re also working on the go) then things are bound to pile up sooner or later. If you are your own boss, then take your time and use the flexibility of your days to your own advantage.

Also, keep in mind that there is no correct way of doing things and everyone is different. No matter how many blogs and articles you read advising on how to quit your job or how to make money on the road or even how to travel to a given destination, follow your own gut. Trust yourself and do your own thing.

On the money side of things, it’s important to think that traveling is amazing, but it costs money (even if you spend little). So try and keep things sustainable. Do not spend more than you can afford and do not let your last cent dry before you start making more money. If you are somehow comfortable, things are definitely more enjoyable!

 Zara – you mentioned that India has impacted you the most – can you expand on that? Any recommendations for us upon leaving as we travel to India for the first time?

India is indeed the country that has and keeps on impacting me the most. There is never a dull moment in India. This is the most entertaining and heartwarming country I have ever been to, while also being one of the most frustrating. The contrasts in India are brutal and it can be very overwhelming in the beginning. It’s difficult to deal with the amount of poor people you’ll get to interact with, for example, but then they also make you look at life in such relative terms. As I once said, India is the best “school of life” a traveler could ever hope for. No other country has offered me as many contrasting emotions as Incredible India. And the fact that I am married to an Indian man, obviously has impacted my relationship with India greatly. Now we keep on going back and I get to see a side people passing by won’t get to experience.

A&Z getting married in India
A&Z getting married in India

As for tips for your first time in India: 

  • Take it easy! Depending where you go, of course, cities can get very hectic (crowded, dusty, smoggy…). Do not feel bad if you can’t go and see/do as many things as you were hoping for everyday. In the beginning, allow yourselves to “get lost” and I promise you’ll see something amazing even if it was not in the plans;
  • Try not to get overwhelmed with kids who beg – this was a hard one for me at first (and many other people who visit India for the first time, I bet) but you must get used to it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to fully enjoy your time;
  • There’s a very big chance people will stare at you (specially being blonde!) but do not feel offended if this happens. These are looks of curiosity, they are generally not ill-intentioned;
  • Don’t let touts and people offering services in touristic places pressure you. Take your time to shop around and decide for yourself what you want to buy or not;
  • When it comes to auto rickshaws, be firm and bargain! Try to find out the approximate prices of a given journey in advance so that you know what the ideal price would be – auto drivers are tough guys, but don’t let them fool you!
  • Don’t be shy when it comes to food, as this is one of the richest aspects of traveling around India. Even street food is often OK to consume (as long as there’s no water involved!). If the place looks a bit shady but you still want to go for it (or there’s nothing else around), keep it vegetarian.
  • Do book yourselves into fairly decent places: once again, at least in the cities, things get so busy that you do want to be somewhere clean and tranquil at night. Recharging is extremely important to keep your spirits high!
  • And when everything else fails, head to Palolem in South Goa and immerse yourself into the skillful art of doing nothing and being good at it – this in one of my favorite spots in the whole world!

Any advice on standing out as a “travel blog” or someone writing about traveling the world?

Keep it real! There are so many people who sound alike in the travel blogosphere. Sometimes we even get the feeling people are trying to resemble those who have proven to have some success in the travel blog scene. It’s important to know how to promote yourself (via social media, comments on other blogs, etc). But if you do not write quality articles in whatever your style might be, then whoever comes to your blog once will not come back. Share inspirational stories, tips or even funny moments – anything that people would care to read about. Not just personal travelogues that most people who do not know you won’t find interesting. Once again, do your own thing – do not try to be someone you’re not just because you think that works best.

Also try not to get discouraged easily. It can be months before someone even leaves a comment in your blog. But once they do, be friendly: reply! Interact with your followers on your social media profiles too and have fun while at it. If you want to truly inspire anyone with your travel stories, they have to feel real and relatable. There’re already plenty of resources out there sharing generic and boring travel content. So do something you are proud of!

At Angkor Wat, Cambodia
At Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 What changes from traveling do you anticipate will impact you the most once you find a home and are settled?

After traveling your world view is much bigger so it becomes hard to relate to people at times – specially in small towns. We already feel that way and we haven’t settled anywhere yet – but going back home (to Portugal and India) for family visits already gives us a preview of what “going back” to a more regular life-style would be like. As much as sometimes we crave a permanent home, it also feels scary. Wherever we stay at in the future, we can only hope to meet like-minded people – not necessarily travelers, but individuals that look beyond their own city and country. People who read, watch movies, like to interact and, above all, who care about the world in general not just their very own little scene.

Roaming around San Francisco
Roaming around San Francisco

Zara, what’s one thing not many people know about you?

That I used to sing in rock bands since I was a teenager. I used to dream I’d travel the world touring with my band… “one day”. Well, that didn’t happen, but I adapted the dream and still went for it somehow!

Ashray, what’s one thing not many people know about you?

That I have actually been a digital nomad since I was 17.

 If you had to pick, what would your theme song be to accompany your travels?

Roadtrippin’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. RHCP is Ashray’s favorite band and we have even used their music in one of our travel videos because of the great energy!

Favorite travel quote?

We’ve never thought about it before, but “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before” by the Dalai Lama would be a good one. Very simple, yet so wise.

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About Anne

Anne is a passionate yogi who loves to be active outdoors. When she's not traveling to destinations near the equator to practice yoga and eat tropical fruit, you can find her in the kitchen cooking up nourishing meals with her partner, Brandon. A music junkie at heart, she is currently spinning: Tor, Hiatus, Friend. and Giyo.

4 thoughts on “Meet Zara & Ashray of Backpack Me”

  1. Thanks, Franca for taking the time to read and comment! The world needs more Ashray’s and Zara’s to encourage people to travel more! 🙂


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