A year off in our thirties to travel the world

Hi there! We're Vero and Justin, Canadians in their thirties who took a year off to travel the world. Read the full story.

A Dream is Born

This idea all began in 2018 (just before we hit the big 30). Some call it the travel bug, but for us, it was more about craving a routine change. It's not that we were unhappy, on the contrary, we both enjoyed our “9-5”, our circle of family & friends, and adored our minimalist small condo in downtown Ottawa.

The idea to do this really started after two of our friends came back from spending a year abroad for graduate studies. After meeting them for a drink at our favourite bar in Ottawa, the Youth Mobility program came up. We had never heard of this before. Basically it’s a one year work visa exchange program that Canada has with many countries, allowing you to live in another country for up to a year, avoiding the 90-day limit on most tourist visas.

We went home and talked about how interesting it would be to take a year off to travel. We looked at the alphabetical list of countries participating in the program and never made it past the C’s once we saw Croatia. THIS was the place we were going to spend a year while using it as hub to visit nearby places in Europe. Over the following months, we replaced Netflix with YouTube travel videos, and virtually stopped shopping and eating out in order to save as much money as we could. Things were starting to feel more real by each passing day.

Mission (Mostly) Failed

The moment was finally here. Our friend threw us a going away party and we said farewell to our family and friends, we filled out the forms at work, and on February 1, 2020, we took a flight to Zagreb, Croatia, with our little dog Ember.

We spent almost two months visiting this amazing city, applying for jobs, failing miserably at learning Croatian and taking short road trips to Istria, Slovenia and Hungary. Then, the unthinkable happened. Late at night on a quiet March evening in our Zagreb apartment we made the decision to end our year abroad and fly back home. At this point many world leaders, including our Prime Minister, were urging all citizens to return home before there were no more flights out left. We never thought the news we were vaguely listening to from Wuhan China as we packed our bags in February would lead to such a long lasting and devastating pandemic.

Blissful Canadian Solitude

We would be lying if we said the year back home was terrible. Our employers were extremely accommodating in welcoming us back at work. It was great to see family and friends again. Vero’s parents graciously offered us their cottage for our 14-day quarantine on arrival which turned into us spending most of our ENTIRE year back in Canada there. Set right on a lake, it was the perfect place to spend a pandemic year working remotely and enjoying cottage life. We certainly weren’t missing much of the city life with the never-ending lockdowns.

In the winter Justin played hockey every day at the local outdoor rink, we did renovations at the cottage and watched sports and Netflix in the cozy cottage. In the summer we would swim in the lake with Ember, installed a gazebo to hang out in, and generally just spent as much time as possible outside in the sun. We were eating well, had a daily workout routine, and we were saving more money to fund our every increasing desire to get back to our travels all while working remotely.

Game On Again

With the pandemic far from resolved, most of our family, friends and coworkers told us it was too early to travel, but it was game on for us. We didn’t want to put the rest of our lives on hold forever.

We made some tweaks to our original plans. We weren’t going to live in one country for the year, we wouldn’t work during our year off to get an extended visa somewhere, we were going to travel, for real.

In order to avoid quarantines in each country we planned on visiting, we did need something first, vaccines. In May 2021, we flew to Arizona for a one-month vaccination vacation to get our vaccines. We moved around the state every few days, staying in hotels to work, and in the evenings and weekends went for hikes around Tucson, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon.

As of June 2021, we have been travelling again! We are so excited to continue our travels around the world. We flew from Phoenix to Split to start where we left off last year, Croatia. However, this time we rented a car for three months to road trip in Europe. We learned from our mistakes and didn't pre-book anything, especially with border closures still a real possibility at any moment’s notice.

So far, we have done two separate road trip loops in Europe. The first one was from June to September and we visited Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania, all with our little Ember. We then flew home for two weeks to visit and drop her off with Vero’s parents who are currently pet sitting her for 8 months!

From Ottawa we flew to Istanbul and spent two weeks in this vibrant city and the last-minute changes in the Formula 1 calendar allowed us to go to attend the Turkish Grand Prix. Once we got back to Europe, we originally planned on immediately going to the Middle East and then South East Asia, but no countries were welcoming tourists yet in Asia.

We decided to delay that portion of our travels and we once again rented a car for another road trip. This time we would be visiting the Balkans. The road trip included Croatia (again) and Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Serbia. While we were sad not to have our pup with us in the car, it was an incredible trip and we are glad we changed our plans. We really love the flexibility that travelling by car gives you, and when you're two, its economical as well. It still amazes us that we could visit three different countries & cultures in a combined 4-hour drive in Europe, whereas in Canada we would only get to our neighbouring city of Toronto.

As of the time of this writing, December 16, 2021, we are currently on our last day of our two-week road trip through Jordan smoking shisha in Amman while waiting to head to the airport for our flights. Late tonight we fly out to Oman, the last country we will be visiting in the Middle East. The only thing we know from there is that we fly to Sri Lanka and afterwards we will hopefully be spending the remainder of our year off exploring South East Asia.

We are so excited to be sharing our travels. Stay connected to follow our adventure!


Watch our videos about our travels around the world.






See real-time updates about where we are and what we are up to.