Don't we all have a little bit of wanderlust? The idea of pulling up roots and traveling the world for weeks or months or years at a time sounds so glamorous.

Or maybe not, admit Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger, a South African couple who quit their advertising jobs in May to spend a year "to embark on a little creative exploration."

They sailed the Greek isles, took part in a parade in Norway, took husky pups for a walk in the Arctic Circle, visited a castle in Germany, and rode bikes around Austria. But all that traveling isn't cheap. The couple planned on paying for their nomadic adventures by using their savings and supplementing it by doing volunteer work in exchange for food and lodging. Things haven't always been fun.

"After being gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip," Cartell wrote in a blog post on Aug. 31. "Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having the time of our lives. And don’t get me wrong – we are. It’s bloody amazing. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. Noooooo. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished."


Since they began their epic adventure, they have been taking photos of the places they visit, showing the distance they are away from their home in Johannesburg. They've shared the shots on Instagram, and elsewhere on social media.

"To come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers. It’s painstakingly hard and dirty work."


Their most recent posts show they are 25,071 kilometers from home in Athens and have collected an impressive 94,100 followers on Instagram.

"Don’t let the bank of gorgeous photography fool you," Cartell writes. "I am not at my fittest, slimmest or physically healthiest. We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly 5hrs of sleep per night, and lug our extremely heavy bags through cobbled streets at 1am, trying to find our accommodation."


The couple both were "at the top of their game" in advertising, they told Adweek, when they decided to take a travel sabbatical, even though they had never traveled extensively before. They have 63 items on a bucket list of travel goals and hope to accomplish them by the end of the year. Now, they admit they face occasional episodes of boredom, lack of motivation and homesickness.


Despite the challenges, Cartell said they still look on the sunny side.

"Even though we probably have more greys than when we started, dirt under our nails despite long showers, and cheap snack food as a main form of nutrition, this crazy lifestyle allows us to enjoy the freedom of exploring rich Swedish forests, never-ending Nordic fjords, Italian cobbled alleyways, and cosmopolitan cities," she writes.

"There’s nothing quite like swopping million rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life and the importance of living each day as if it were your last."

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.