Dave and Deb are the dynamic duo behind the popular travel blog ThePlanetD. The Canadian couple, married 13 years, has biked, climbed, paddled and hiked in 43 countries over 5 continents. Along the way they have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, taken part in the World’s Longest Cycling Race through Africa (the 12,000 km-long Tour d’Afrique) and reached the Mount Everest Base Camp. In this interview they share everything from their inspiring story to photography tips to their favorite experiences with locals.
1) Before you were Canada’s Adventure Couple, you were both working in the film business, is that correct?
Yes, Deb was a Make-up Artist and Dave was a Rigging Gaffer. (Head of the Lighting department) It was the perfect job for travel. Because we were freelance, we would work during the warmer months in Canada and take our winters off to travel. We started working in the business in 1994 in Vancouver. We then moved back to Toronto where Deb worked in Network Television and Dave went on to work on feature films.
2) What was it that prompted you to leave your careers and old life behind and embark on a multi-year, multi-continent adventure?
We had been taking extended vacations for several years and each time we came home, we started to feel less and less a part of our lives there. We realized that we were more comfortable traveling than being at home. In 2004 we were traveling through South East Asia and knew that we wanted to make some sort of career out of travel, but didn’t know what avenue to take. That was when we decided to sign up for the Tour d’Afrique, the World’s Longest Cycling Race through Africa. We thought that if we did something epic to stand out from the rest of the backpacking world we would be able to pitch a unique travel show to networks about “A couple that goes on adventures to push themselves to the limit all around the world.” The TV show didn’t work out, but our blog ThePlanetD, which we started to share our cycling adventures with followers of the race and with our friends and family took off.
3) What has been the most surprising or exciting experience so far in terms of your travels? In terms of your blog?
In Terms of the Blog: We can’t believe that this is our job. We had heard many people say that their jobs don’t feel like work because they love it, but we never knew it was really possible…until now. It is a scary thing to be making good money and to give it all up. We didn’t know how we would ever be able to leave a job that we were already well established in that gave us the freedom to travel and live a very comfortable life. We had a very real fear that if we quit, we would end up working for minimum wage somewhere because weren’t qualified to do anything else. But once we had a definite plan, we felt very confident to rebuild our lives and take our careers in another direction.
In Terms of our Travels we cannot believe that we checked of some of our wildest dreams off of our bucket list. We sat down years ago and wrote a list of things that we have always wanted to do like see Mount Everest, visit the Pyramids, Learn to surf and scuba dive and go on a safari. We didn’t have the money to do anything on our list, we just sat in a coffee shop one day and put our goals on paper. 10 Years later we have checked of that entire original list.
4) The Planet D features incredible photographs. Where did Dave learn to take such amazing photos, and does he have any general tips?
Working as a Rigging Gaffer for feature film taught Dave a lot. Film and Photography are very similar and the rules of lighting are the same. He honed his craft in lighting and worked his way up the ranks to be the head of the lighting department on Hollywood Blockbusters. By working with award winning cinematographers and picking the brains of the on set still’s photographers, he learned a lot about equipment and gear as well as insider techniques and tips of photography.
General Photography Tips: The camera doesn’t make the photographer. While good equipment is definitely a bonus, too many people focus on buying the best and then not knowing what to do with it. Learn your camera inside out. Photograph on manual settings and don’t be afraid to play around. Experiment and take a lot of photos. Learn what the camera can do so that in every shooting situation you know how to react. You will instantly be able to set aperture, alter depth of field and set the shutter speed in a moments notice so that you can concentrate on taking the photograph and not have to think about how you are going to achieve your desired look.
5) In July, you are taking part in the 9,000 mile-long Mongol Rally to raise money for charity. Is this a special project, or are you often involved with charity work?
We try to promote responsible travel wherever we go. When we cycled through Africa we rode for Plan Canada (formerly Foster Parent’s Plan) It is an international development organization working to end global poverty and improve the lives of children. We always try to spotlight a project in places that we visit for instance, in Sri Lanka a great organization from Finland working with Disabled children at Lotus Hill Centre for Disabilities and even our TukTuk Driver Ajith helped out his own community by raising funds to buy poor children shoes for school.
We ran a series on our website called Travel the World and Make a Difference where we featured ways that different travellers have given back to the communities that they have visited. We try to do our part and we are not experts in Volunteering and Travel, but we like to let people know about the great work that we have witnessed during our travels. It isn’t even about constantly visiting a project, raising awareness about an issue or problem in a community is also very important to us.
6) Tripping is about travelers connecting with locals, and we must know: What has been the most memorable interaction you’ve had with locals so far?
Wow, we have made many great friends during our travels. Ajith our Tuk Tuk driver in Sri Lanka who we mentioned above is definitely one of those people that we will never forget. We ate at his house, met his family and saw him regularly. We went with him to present shoes to the school children and he even saw us off at the airport when we left. But I would have to say the most memorable interaction was in India during the Hampi festival. We were invited to dance and play with the musicians and performers of this extravaganza that saw thousands of people celebrating Hampi’s 500th anniversary. Everyone embraced us as part of the community and during the entire evening they approached us to shake our hands and chat about our home and India. We felt like mini celebrities. People were very proud of their celebration and wanted to share the best of their community with us.
7) What is your advice for anyone interested in long-term travel and maybe even travel writing?
Start off slow. We recommend starting with a shorter trip for about a month or two. Long term travel isn’t for everyone and if you suddenly sell everything you own, quit your jobs and take off for a year before you even know or not whether you are going to like it, you may end up regretting your decision. If you give it a trial run first, you will feel more confident with your decision. Our first long term trip was 5 weeks in Thailand. We were hooked and knew that we wanted the next trip to be longer so we searched for ways to make it happen.
To become a travel writer, I recommend starting a blog. You will need to have a place to display clippings of your work and your own blog can be the perfect portfolio for your work. It is an excellent way to hone your writing skills and to build your presence in the travel writing community. Write from the heart and write about what you know. Decide on what you want to focus on and work on developing that niche.
A heartfelt thank you to Dave and Deb for sharing their story and tips with us! We are so inspired by your travels and look forward to reading about your upcoming adventures in New Zealand!
Happy travels to all!