Nomadic Boys: Have food, will travel
By Jude Toyat
Life is nothing unless we create memories to share, and it is important to create memories, good or bad, so that when we think about them, they make us smile and bring about a sense of happiness, joy, laughter and love.
This holds true for travel bloggers, Stefan Arestis and Sebastien Chaneac, or better known as the ‘Nomadic Boys’.
Stefan, 32, is a former lawyer, of Greek Cypriot origin, born and raised in London, while his significant other, Sebastien, 33, is an IT geek, originally from France but moved to London to work in the finance industry where they met.
Both quit their jobs in London last year to eat their way through Asia with plans to make travelling their long-term lifestyle.
What makes the self-dubbed Nomadic Boys unique is the fact that they are a gay couple, and it has always been exciting for them to become spokespersons for the LGBTQ community, in their own way.
Traveling and cooking were two things they had in common from the outset. Sebastien was on the verge of leaving London and Stefan had hit a lull in his legal career and was looking for something new.
In 2012, they agreed to make the life-change and start eating their way through Asia.
“So, we started planning and saving up and set 2014 as the year we would be financially ready to leave London and realise our dreams together,” said Sebastien adding that his initial reason to travel to England before he met Stefan was to learn English.
The couple bought the domain name for their blog in November 2013, and they set the blog up just before they left London in June 2014.
“It was a mutual decision and has become our baby. When we started travelling, we thought it would be good to have a place to recall our memories. We put up photos, videos and stories just to remember and laugh about it in future. That was pretty much the whole point of starting the blog.”
Stefan added that it has also become so fashionable today to have a travel blog and talk about your travels.
“The blog has been an excellent way to keep a record of our travels. It is great because it forces us to be more involved with our travels, such as what we are eating, when and why a particular building was built, and making a strong effort to meet locals.”
After more than a year, the blog has gathered its own traffic and followers, particularly among the LGBT community.
Besides nurturing their love for food by picking up recipes from each country they visit, they make it a point to meet the local gay communities to learn about their perspectives and the local gay scenes.
“We have also recently started to be contacted by hotels, tour companies and other tourist-related businesses offering sponsorship and advertising.
“Our dream is to be able to continue travelling using income from our blog, and other jobs we do along the way to compliment this, once our savings run out. It is extremely hard work keeping on top of it along with travel plans but we are not complaining and it has been extremely rewarding,” said Sebastien.
Stefan is responsible for managing the content and photography, while Sebastien is responsible for IT, SEO and producing all their videos.
“Alongside this, I manage our social media platforms and Sebastien deal with all our travel planning,” said Stefan.
The Nomadic Boys started their journey in June 2014, entering Asia via the Trans-Siberian railway through Russia, subsequently spending a month in Mongolia followed by China.
“We then travelled through South East Asia from Nepal, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. We arrived in Bangkok in December 2014 to celebrate Christmas and take a break from travelling for a few months and work on the blog,” Sebastien said.
Later they picked up the pace, travelling through the rest of Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and finally the Philippines. “After the Philippines, we explored Peninsula Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Cameron Highlands, Langkawi and Penang.”
The Nomadic Boys made it down to Kuching last month, where they took in the sights and sounds of the 18th Rainforest World Music Festival and even the Kuching Food Festival before exploring the rest of Borneo until early September.
Apart from that, other places they visited include Mulu National Park, Cat Museum, Bau Lake, Bako National Park, and Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
“Malaysia is so diverse, and you have so many different cultures here, which will take us a long time to discover each and every one of it.”
The remainder of the year will see them in Indonesia and then heading back home in November to visit their families for Christmas and work more on the blog.
“We plan to visit South America extensively next year, but this will largely depend on how the blog grows and if it makes enough money to justify this,” Sebastien said of their future travelling plans.
For Stefan, some of the best moments of their travel so far was checking out Nepal, the beaches in the Philippines and being in the Gobi Desert where they stopped for a night stay in a Mongolian town.
“The people over there use camels to move around and carry stuff. There was a horse fiddle player that was there at that time, sitting down in the middle and all these camels gathered around him when he started to play. It was amazing,” Stefan said.
“The camels started to lie down one by one, as he was basically putting them to sleep. It was just after the sunset. The sound of the horse fiddle made the camels cry. If you’re really a good horse fiddle player, you will create the symbiotic or special relationship between you and the camels and to be able to see that live in front of us was breath-taking.”
Despite the opportunity to travel around the world, the Nomadic Boys also faced a lot of challenges.
“We have had a few near-miss experiences, for example in Mongolia. We were travelling in a four-wheel drive, and one of the tyres just broke in the middle of the desert after hitting a rock. We got stuck in the dessert for three hours before we managed to continue our journey.
In China, they almost became the unwitting victims of a scam when they were approached by a woman in an official-looking outfit on their way to the Great Wall of China.
“That woman followed us on the bus which took us to a small village and then offered to bring us to the Great Wall of China for USD100 dollars. There were four of us tourists at the time and none agreed to follow her and walked our way back until we met a friendly local who took us there for very little money,” Stefan explained.
Meanwhile, in India, they had the frightening time of their lives when they went to an underground club to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
“It was a fun night as everyone was having a good time until about 2am where the police arrived. The club owner told everyone to stay upstairs and turned off the lights. The club promoter went downstairs, spoke to the policemen, gave them money and they went away. After that, everyone had leave through the back door and we were very scared. We were afraid that we are going to be arrested and God knows what could happen as we were in a foreign country.
“At the end of the day, we learned that the policemen just wanted to get a bribe from the club owner. They used the anti-gay law in India as an excuse to make money. That was really a memorable experience,” Sebastien said.
After travelling around the world, the Nomadic Boys have a thing or two to say about the gay community, especially the ‘ladyboy’ community in Asia as they found that transgenders are heavily discriminated against in Europe compared to the Philippines where they are regarded as the norm.
Hoping that their blog can be an inspiration to those who wish to pursue their dream to travel as well as the LGBT community, their advice to aspiring travellers is to just do it!
“You will always find a reason not to go, and there will always be an excuse. You just have to lay the groundwork and plan it then eventually do it.”
Grindr which is a social app that caters for gay, bi and curious men has also been of great help to them on their travels.
“Traveling in certain places like Russia and Asia, where there are no gay bars, or less of them, making a Grindr profile was really beneficial as it helped a lot in staying connected to the gay community. It is an extension of the gay community.”
Through Grindr, they met lots of locals and made many friends who showed them where their own favourite hangouts and where to eat.
“It was just some of the best experiences throughout our journey, which makes it even more meaningful. It actually helped a lot in our blog,” said Stefan.
Meanwhile for Sebastien, the number one reason for avoiding travel – money – should not be an issue preventing people from pursuing their dreams.
“There are so many ways to travel and make money along the way. The important thing to remember here is to always have your own budget and work your way, maybe do some temporary work to keep you surviving.”
The Nomadic Boys also stressed on the importance of making a blog to keep the memories alive.
“One thing we want to say to people here is to start a blog. It is the best thing ever to keep memories for the future. When you look at it, maybe 10 or 15 years from now, looking at what you wrote years ago, your travels, the people you met, and the food you experienced, it is all worthwhile.”
Check out their itinerary to see where they’re heading to next and follow them as they eat their way around the world and also to learn more about the different gay scenes they encounter, log on to their blog at http://nomadicboys.com.