“This story is about choosing exactly the life you want to live, and running towards it,” Amy Seder writes on Away Lands — the travel/videography blog she shares with her boyfriend, Brandon Burkley. It’s an introduction to a site full of stunning images taken throughout Southeast Asia, Spain, Morocco, and the U.S. But that’s only the beginning of it: starting this fall, Amy and Brandon are set to embark on the adventure of their lives. And they aren’t coming back any time soon.
“We came up with the idea almost a year ago,” Amy told me over the phone. They’d both advanced in their careers — Brandon in finance, Amy in the business end of photography production — but they realized it wasn’t enough. “We got to this place we were just getting through each week for the weekend, and trying to get through to the next vacation. We were like, ‘God, is this all our life is going to be?’”
“I made the decision years ago to just drop what I was doing and going and travel the world,” Brandon said, “but I didn’t have the balls to do it until I was miserable.”
The day of reckoning came after Brandon returned home from a work trip last July. “We sat by the water here in New York, and we were just like, ‘Alright, fuck this…We’re doing what we want to do.’ And here we are, seven, eight months later. We’ve accomplished a lot and come a long way.”
“The decision was so instant, so simple, and so unwavering,” Amy writes on AwayLands. “We would leave our comfortable lives here in Brooklyn, and see the world. Not in these two week spurts between months of day-in, day-out monotony, but for as long as we could.”
Their plan is certainly ambitious. Starting in the fall, the pair will drive from New York, where they’re currently living, to the California beach town they both grew up in. “Part of our both of our dreams was to drive across the country. We thought it would be a very liberating experience to leave New York and drive across the country with nothing but time on our hands.” In California, they’ll spend the holidays reconnecting with family and friends.
After the new year, their big adventure begins. From California, they’ll go on to Southeast Asia, a part of the world they both fell in love with last winter. This time, they’ll live there for at least a year.
“Our plan from July was to save enough money between July and the fall of 2016 to be able to live on our own for a year in Asia if we had made no money at all,” Brandon told me.
“To be able to travel for at least a year if everything else failed and we didn’t get any work and we were just kind of traveling around,” Amy added. “And everything else from there would be a bonus.”
Of course, as all things do, their plan has evolved.
“We kind of started our video production company much faster than we thought,” Amy explained, when I asked how she and Brandon were planning on making money during their trip. They figured they would start out enjoying their travels, bartering their video services for hotel stays as needed. “See what happens,” Amy said.
To do this, though, they figured they should make a sample video to show to potential clients. “We expected to have it there to show hotels and businesses in Asia while we were there,” Brandon said. “‘This is what we can do — we can do something like this for you.’”
“‘Think of this as the first of many,’” Amy added.
So, during their winter trip to Southeast Asia, they took their video equipment — including a drone — along with them and filmed their adventures, editing everything down into a four-minute summary video when they returned. They later launched the video at a filmmaker’s meetup at a camera store in New York. “It was juxtaposed next to some really, really well done, professional work,” Brandon said. “All these people that were there were professional film editors or music video makers…I was like, ‘Amy. I’m so embarrassed to show our video.’”
But Brandon had nothing to worry about — the film was incredibly well-received. “Everyone was clapping,” Brandon said. “We had five people come up to us afterward and talk to us about work and how they were rooting for us. It was a great experience. It really was a confidence-booster.”
The video also took off YouTube, which the pair said they weren’t expecting. Now, they feel like their options going forward are far more open. They’ve already received a few jobs because of the preliminary video, and AwayLands has started to take off. Still, they want to stick to their original plan of being able to travel for at least a year and explore the world on their own time.
As for the solid details of where they’ll spend that time, Amy and Brandon are still firming them up. They both love Thailand and the tropics in general, and so they’re thinking of starting off in a beach shack on Koh Lanta for a few weeks. From there, Amy said she wants to see all of Southeast Asia — Cambodia, Malaysia, more of Indonesia. “And then the dream is really to get to all of the South Pacific Islands. The things that you see that are so beautiful and incredible.”
“As far off the grid as we can possibly make it,” Brandon added.
Another possibility they’re toying with is spending the summer in Italy, where Brandon has family he’s never met. He hopes they’ll accept his and Amy’s help on their farm in exchange for lodging, but he’s pretty sure it won’t take much convincing.
“They seem like very, very nice people,” he explained. “I took Italian in college, and I had to write a letter — not to be sent to anyone, but just a letter. I ended up writing the letter to my family out there, and they wrote me back and sent me 300 Euros and were like, ‘This is so nice of you! Please come visit us! We love you!’ So yeah, I’ve always wanted to visit them.”
Their plans for the long run are also as yet undecided. “Right now the plan is to travel and make movies as long as we can and want to,” Amy told me. She and Brandon both figured that they’d end up back in California, but now they’re reconsidering the idea of settling for the default. Amy’s current dream is to settle in Australia, but she hasn’t been to the country yet.
“So, we’ll see…”
And their travel philosophy? After spending time in Southeast Asia, Brandon and Amy both have solid advice for people new to traveling. First of all, pack light. “We had so much shit,” Brandon said, relating the story of how he and Amy had to lug all their camera gear with them on three flights, an hour-long car ride, a ferry ride, another car ride, and a dinghy to get to their resort in Thailand. “We were not prepared,” Amy added. Now they’re working on ways to lighten their load for their extended trip. (And Amy is lamenting all the shoes she’ll have to give up in the process.)
Beyond packing light, they said, part of travel is also mental. Something might go wrong, and you just have to accept that. Plans change, philosophies shift, and things that seemed certain might not be. At the same time, Amy added, some research helps.
“We really searched where to go and where to stay. Things like what the big local scams are and how to avoid them…It’s a hard mix of what you’re getting into and knowing you’re going to a great place, but also seeing what happens.”
The duo also loves mixing budget travel with just the right amount of luxury. Airbnb has been great to them — when they visited Hawaii last year, they stayed in a treehouse bungalow five minutes’ walk from the beach for $50 a night. “This couple owned the property and they had fruits and vegetables and tropical gardens. They were just like, ‘Help yourself to anything, pick fruit off the trees, use our kitchen.’” Brandon said. “It was way a way more authentic experience than we would have gotten staying at hotel.”
At the same time, Brandon said, “It is nice to mix in a resort here and there. You can’t go wrong.”
“Do a high-low mix,” Amy added. Which meant, on their Southeast Asia trip, spending most of their time in basic Airbnbs, but putting themselves in a nice villa with a private pool for New Year’s Eve.
And their philosophy extends to food and activities: Brandon and Amy never go on tours, but instead opt to go where the locals go and interact with them. “Travel more than tour,” Amy said.
Which is exactly what they’re looking forward to when talk turns to their upcoming plan to get away for good. Instead of going to one country for a week, they’ll be able to spend as much time as they want in one place, truly soaking in the experience of living in a foreign country rather than just visiting it.
“It’s coming up so quickly,” Amy said. “We’re going on a trip to Spain and Morocco in a couple days, and after that it’s going to be a mad dash to the end…Leaving and not knowing when we’ll back is a little daunting.” But she’s excited. And so is Brandon.
As promised, the weekend after I spoke with Amy and Brandon, the pair jetted off for yet another adventure, this time in Europe and Africa. And of course they made another gorgeous highlight reel of their trip. But this one is slightly different from their Southeast Asia video. As they write on their website, “During our research for this trip, we came across, over and over again, that drones were strictly forbidden in Morocco, and often confiscated at customs on entry. After a lot of discussion, we decided to be safe and practical and not bring it — and take the ban as a creative challenge.”
Even without the drone footage, they produced a video sure to inspire fellow vagabonds around the globe. That knack for inciting wanderlust is a unique gift — one that just might allow them to travel the world indefinitely.
Check out more of Brandon and Amy’s photos below.