Previous slide
Next slide

Kate O’Malley and Mark Williams – Vagrants of the World Travel

A sense of adventure brought Kate and Mark together. They met while working for the Australian Antarctic Division. Mark was the station leader at Mawson Station for more than a year, and Kate was part of the voyage management team delivering crew and supplies south. In 2014, they sold everything and took off on a one way trip with a bag each and no set itinerary.

House-sitting was their primary mode of travel in the first few years of full time travel, enabling them to travel on a budget while being able to fully explore destinations they would never have dreamed of going to. From islands in Puerto Rico, to a yacht in the Greek islands (with a disabled cat), to a mid-winter house-sit in the mountains of Bulgaria, house- sitting opened up a different view of travel.
From these experiences, Kate and Mark realized they had a wealth of experiences to share.

They created Vagrants of the World Travel (a tongue-in-cheek reference to their nomadic lifestyle) to share practical and helpful travel tips on popular destinations and to inspire people to explore beyond the typical tourist hot spots. After five years of full time travel, visiting more than 70 countries, Kate and Mark settled in Portugal but are still traveling and helping others plan incredible journeys.

Best travel experience

We kicked off a 3-month road trip of Africa with a self-drive safari in Kruger National Park. We were utterly unprepared for how overwhelmed we would be. On day one, we felt like we were in a Jurassic Park style film (before things turned bad). It was like someone yelled, “Action” and giraffes sauntered across the road, herds of zebra and rhino grazed in the fields beside the road. We could not believe people as inexperienced as us were allowed to drive through this incredible wilderness with so many wild animals roaming free.

Worst travel experience

Ironically, it was Kruger. On day two, we found ourselves in the middle of an elephant stampede on a narrow dirt road. Suddenly, out of the bush, around 20 angry elephants were bearing down on us in a cloud of dust. We had no idea what to do and had nowhere to go – the only thing to do was stop the car and hope. Surrounded by high-speed elephants, some of the herd came very close, trumpeting and nudging the car. In our rear vision, we saw safari trucks reversing at a million miles an hour. We have never been so frightened. We sat rigid in our seats, scared even to breathe. The herd eventually moved on, and the safari guides returned to see if we were okay. They were sure the elephants would flip or trample our car. It’s never nice to hear someone say, “We’re surprised you made it.”

Must-return-to places

So many places are special for us, for one reason or another. We spent three weeks in Israel a few years ago and often talk about returning. From an astonishing diversity in culture and fascinating history – reflected in the incredible cuisine, to gorgeous beaches and natural attractions, Israel offers visitors so much. During our three weeks there, we saw a lot of the country, but still, we felt like we had only scratched the surface.

Italy is another country we always return to. The beauty of Italy is that it’s an every-season destination. Visit Italy in summer for fabulous beaches and lakeside vacations. Winter for budget skiing, exploring the cities and Christmas festivities. The weather is perfect for travel and a great time for festivals in spring and fall. Of course, food plays a big role in any visit to Italy, and fall is one of the best seasons for food festivals in Italy – from truffles to chestnuts and the wine harvest. Italy is a dream destination for foodies.

Travel equipment or advice

Surprisingly, after traveling full time for so many years, I am a relatively new convert to packing cubes – especially the expandable ones. I never liked them when all our worldly possessions had to fit in one bag, but now we travel a little differently. Apart from keeping your underwear in one place, packing cubes are great for keeping dressier items from creasing. I can fold a stack of ironed shirts, skirts, pants or whatever into a packing cube and compress them with the expansion zip, and they stay wrinkle-free no matter how much your bag gets tossed around. You’d be surprised how many outfits can fit in one cube.

A power board from your country can be invaluable, especially one with USB ports. Always carry a change of clothes (or a few), basic toiletries, and medications in your carry-on if you check your luggage. If the 2022 luggage debacle taught us nothing else, it was to prepare for the worse.

Keep a secure digital copy of your passport and other important documents for emergencies and online check in’s (which are becoming more common post COVID). Finally, never second guess buying travel insurance.

Advice to your younger self

I don’t think it matters where, how or how often you travel, take time to appreciate every experience, no matter how small. Today, there is too much emphasis, especially on younger people, to have perfectly curated travel experiences. Every journey should be more than a tick on a list.

In reality, we don’t all have endless time and budgets to have the perfect Insta-worthy travel life, and that’s just fine. Half the joy of travel is planning the trip, saving for those little bits extra, the excitement of the unknown and looking forward to the time away from work or study. These may be small parts of the entire travel experience, but they should remind us to savor the moments and be more in the moment while we travel. Travel is a joy and privilege that should be savored.

Never scrimp on travel insurance, and research potential pitfalls of your destination regarding scams or potentially dangerous situations.

Scroll to Top