Along Dusty Roads was born when Emily and Andrew quit their jobs to travel around Latin America for two years. When they bought a one-way ticket to Mexico in March 2014 they spoke no Spanish, nor did they know much about photography or making a website. All this was learned on the road: "The main purpose was to have a great adventure, and a completely different life," says Andrew.
“A great adventure, and a completely different life.”
"For us, it's about the moments with people in between seeing the big landmarks. That's what becomes special about that place for you," says Emily. "It'll be that old lady in the market who rips you off for five days, but on day six she remembers you and gives you the real price." This is what Along Dusty Roads is for: sharing the little moments that unlock a place and make it feel beautiful.
Along Dusty Roads is full of inspiring stories and photography, and a testament to the amazing things waiting to be discovered. It's also very encouraging: anyone can do what Emily and Andrew did. The website provides refreshingly frank advice into the practicalities of life on the road, including how to have experiences on a budget and other less glamorous aspects of travelling. "We always had a view of helping people make their own adventures and travel memories," says Emily.
Running a website on the road makes it difficult to travel light: Emily and Andrew carry each their laptop, mobile phone and camera, plus a range of lenses, lots of plugs, cables, battery packs and an ever-growing stack of hard drives. "Travelling is really hard on your technology! The range of items that have died a death...!" Andrew laughs. Duct tape is on almost every piece of technology, he adds, including on a hard drive that took a beating after a dog got hold of it.
Emily says they are pretty paranoid about losing data, so they will usually back in more than one location. Cloud storage is handy for things like passport scans, and copies of visas, vaccinations, receipts and emergency contacts, but their photography is backed up on hard drives. This is because cloud storage would be very expensive for saving that much data: raw photo files can easily amount to 30GB after just a single hike.
Emily and Andrew are proponents of slow travel. Often that means arriving in a place and simply staying however long it feels right. "We spent about seven weeks on the coast of Ecuador," says Andrew. "We had fresh fish, rice and beans every day. It's really cheap. We went surfing, lay on the beach. And of course, we would work on the website as well."
The luxury of having a bit more time also meant Emily and Andrew could seek out less touristy spots. In places like Costa Rica, where the most popular sights are often crowded, Matapalo is a good getaway. The beach boasts some of the best breaking waves in the country, but it's also good for surfers who may spend more time falling off. Matapalo is just 30 minutes from civilisation but it feels like a different world: with no electricity, it's a great place to get back to nature, along with unforgettable views of the sunset.
“We went surfing, lay on the beach. And of course, we would work on the website as well.”
Looking for the story has meant Emily and Andrew have ended up having experiences they might not otherwise have had. The decision to stay at Inti Wara Yassi in the Bolivian rainforest was driven by an urge to spread the word, says Emily, as the non-profit animal refuge centre is desperately underfunded and depends on volunteers. Their account helped spread awareness of the cause, along with stressing the fact that visitors need to be respectful of animals in the wild when photographing them.
In order to keep posting regularly on the blog, Emily and Andrew need reliable internet. This is often tricky - and at times it has meant they've had to leave places earlier than they'd have liked. Wifi problems would sometimes mean waiting until everyone in the hostel was asleep, so they could finally upload photos at 2am. Other times it meant finding a spot with wifi, a workspace and a plug, and staying there until the work was done - like when they undertook a large website redevelopment in Santiago.
"You can get travel fatigue living out of a backpack, and you need a home for a few weeks," says Emily, as Andrew nods. But having the luxury of time meant they could easily set up camp for five weeks somewhere like Medellin, Colombia: "Now we can say we've lived in that place. It was for a short time, but we went to the market, we made friends, went out to eat, and did normal things."
“The mobile link isn't great if you don't have 3G data.”
Running your life admin while on the road has never been easier: digital signatures make contracts simple and banking apps make money pretty straightforward, says Andrew - presuming you've put everything in place before you headed out. Overzealous banks often block cards even after being alerted to trips, though. Emily and Andrew have also had moments where high tech security measures like mobile verification codes become obstructive - the mobile link isn't great if you're in a country where you don't have 3G data.