Have questions about travel? Want to know how to make traveling affordable? Just need some inspiration? You have come to the right place! Welcome to Once Upon a Backpack!
Claire and I first met while working at the same international school in Qingdao, China. More than 3 years later, we are still together, seeking to travel the world. Before our Gap Year, we had traveled to many places in China and South East Asia. Before every holiday in China, we always looked to the map to see where we would explore next. It turns out the Summer and winter Holidays were not long enough for us. After saving up some cash, we decided to leave our jobs, embark to Morocco and make our way back to Asia over 14 months. Come follow us on our epic journey that will bring us to 3 continents, many places, and many friendly faces.
Hailing from small town Salt Point, New York, Eric graduated in 2012 as a History Major. Throughout his travels he has always struggled explaining to people where he is from (only people from New York who are outside of New York City will understand).
After graduating, Eric decided he wasn’t ready to settle down in a school district somewhere in The States and decided to teach abroad. He ended up landing in China as a clueless American where he first started as an ESL teacher and then moved into a social studies position at an international school a year later. Over the past 4 1/2 years, Eric has worked in China and traveled during his spare time, becoming a bit of a travel guru along the way. Eric’s travel experience in many areas of the world was the main reason for him to start this blog, in order to share and encourage others to start epic adventures of their own.
Claire comes from the coastal city of Qingdao, China. After graduating in 2010 from the top foreign language school in China, Claire completed her masters in TESOL in Birmingham, England. Despite all her education, she credits the TV show Friends for her ability in English (it’s better than Eric’s… seriously) and tortures Eric with re-runs of the show on a daily basis.
In addition to being talented in language and serving as Eric’s spellchecker, Claire has a passion for reading, writing her own blog for China, and more recently oriental rugs (She just corrected several grammar mistakes on this page for me…).
Born the year of the Dragon, Claire is a bit of a fire breather herself as she is constantly craving spicy foods. She normally laughs at warnings given by wary locals of how hot dishes are and gulps it down as if its the blandest of porridge. As a consequence, she has probably caused several holes to form in Eric’s stomach.
Everyone travels differently, and there is really no wrong way to travel as long as you are open minded and respect people and places wherever you go. With that said, in order to understand how we travel, here is what we believe when it comes to traversing the world.
Claire and I firmly believe in independent travel as we cringe every time we here the words ‘package tour. Traveling independently gives you the most freedom to explore where you want and opens up doors that would have never been available if traveling in a tour group. Hitting the road on your own gives you the opportunity to meet locals, taste food where the locals do, and provides you with the opportunity to…
Get Off the Beaten Path
While we always make sure to hit up the big sights when visiting a country, Claire and I always make sure we get off the beaten path when visiting countries. Getting away from the mass tourism can often be a challenge and takes time, but the rewards are totally worth it. The culture tends to be richer, the people friendlier, and having a place to yourself creates a much more intimate experience that you will carry for the rest of your life.
Traveling Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune
Growing up, I always had the idea that only people with a lot of money could afford to travel the world. Ever since moving abroad, my world and thoughts on traveling have completely changed. Traveling Independently allows you to decide how much to spend and for most places in the world, it doesn’t have to cost that much. Much of the world is rich in epic places and peoples that can be visited for a fraction of the cost of what you might expect. Want to travel to Egypt? You could go with a tour agency for more than $150 a day… or you could do it yourself for less than $15 a day. Even dreamy places like Europe can be done on lower budgets, meaning as a budget traveler… the whole world is at your fingertips.
Stay Long Enough to Get to Know a Country
Many of the blogs you read today boast about how many countries they have traveled to but on closer look, you see that they’ve barely spent anytime in most of these countries. Sure it is cool to say you’ve traveled to 100 countries, but what have you learned and experienced by only staying in each one for 3 days or less? We don’t feel traveling is about counting the number of places you have been, but rather gain a deeper understanding about the world around us. Rather than race to put dots on a map, Claire and I pick countries and make an effort to get to know them.
Where We Have Been
To get to know our travel experience a little better, check out our travel timeline below. You can also check out our travel map.
Claire Studies Abroad in the UK
Claire gets her first taste abroad when she heads to Birmingham in order to get her masters degree in English Education.
Eric Moves to Nanjing, China
After graduating from University and working on the beach for the summer, I decide to take my skills and work in China. It is my first time abroad and is a decision that will change my outlook on life forever.
Eric Travels to Cambodia and Vietnam
Taking my first of many trips outside of China while living there.
Eric Visits Japan
Before heading home after my first gig in China, I stopped by Tokyo and Mount Fuji in order to check out the Cherry Blossoms.
Eric Moves to Linyi, China
After six months back home, and another summer at the beach, I found a professional teaching job in Linyi. I would work in an international school teaching social studies. It was here where I learned most of my Chinese and began to fully understand the culture in China.
Eric Travels to Turkey
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Pinterest Reddit Venturing into the meeting place of East and West. With so much history and amazing people, it would be hard to not like this country.
Eric Travels to the UK
Taking a week out of my trip to go visit my brother in England, who was studying abroad at the time.
Eric Moves to Qingdao, China
I decide to move to the beautiful coastal city of Qingdao. In my opinion, it is the best place to live in China. Beaches, mountains, and lots of beer!
Eric and Claire Become a Thing
Claire and I meet each other and begin to date. Our lives would never be the same again as we each found the best travel partner in the world.
Claire Travels to the United States for the First Time
Claire visits the USA on a work trip with school out in California. Eric, on the other hand, was across the continent visiting family in New York.
Our First Trip Abroad Together!
Claire and I take our first trip outside of China. We immediately fall in love with the Philippines.
Travel to Myanmar
Claire and I explore one of the less visited countries of Southeast Asia and are completely blown away by its beauty and people.
Claire and I take our experience with the Philippines to a whole other level when we learn to dive!
Once Upon a Backpack is Born!
Claire and I decide to create this website in order to share our travel stories and advice with the world.
14 Month Trip Begins
Claire and I decide to take a year off from work in order to travel full time.
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Pinterest Reddit We begin our 14 month trip in Morocco, getting lost in its medinas and climbing the highest peak in North Africa.
Tapas… need I say more?
Fine wine, Paris, and the beaches of Normandy. France is a country we have to go back to.
This country ended up becoming more of a beer tour than anything else… I’m not complaining!
Exploring this micro state was full of surprises. The biggest of all was how affordable it is!
While a short visit, we made the most out of our time in Amsterdam and the surrounding area.
Half vacation, Half discovering Eric’s family heritage.
Stopping in Prague to visit one of our friends while he studies in Europe
We stopped by Vienna on our way to Slovakia. Concerts galore and enough architecture to put anyone in awe. This is a country we will need to go back to and explore further.
Spending time in the mountains and getting to know Eric’s family heritage.
Slowing down time in Budapest’s Baths and Lake Heviz’s calming waters
Serbian hospitality will never leave you after you step foot in this country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo stole our hearts and the rest of the country continued to sweep us off of our feet.
For such a small country, this Balkan state has so much to offer.
Sadly, it wasn’t the right time of year to explore Albania as much of the transportation and sights are shut down during the winter months. Despite this, the people of Tirana warmed us up with their generous hospitality.
Welcome to Jordan… You will here this phrase everywhere you go and locals mean it with all of their heart.
Egypt is any tourist’s dream come true. Sadly, Egypt is currently in a tourism crisis due to negative news reporting by the outside world. We have encountered nothing but the absolute friendliest people in the world. The time to go to Egypt is now!
Crossing from Europe into Asia, working our way from Turkey’s western coast to its far east.
Claire and I head to the land of ancient churches and beautiful mountains.
Visiting the country that doesn’t exist, a self declared state fought bitterly over by Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Wine, Khinkhali, and mountains
Visiting our friends and exploring the wonders of Central Asia in Uzbekistan
Can you spell it? Kyrgyzstan is one of the world’s best kept secrets!
Exploring western China and the ancient Silk Roads
Eric tackles a month long trek where he successfully climbs over 20,000 feet
Eric and Claire visit Eric’s home in NY for Christmas and New Years