This isn’t a race. It’s no around-the-world-in-80-days caper.
That One Adventure Couple is taking their time – an entire year, maybe longer – to travel around the world on a budget of $82 per day.
So far, Alex and Katie Gensitskiy have completed about four and a half months of their journey, seeing sights in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay before coming home for Christmas.
After spending the holidays with family in the Spokane and Vancouver areas, they plan to depart Monday for London, then India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Turkey and Eastern Europe.
They’re planning to visit at least 18 countries in all, maybe more. And they’re sharing it all on social media as well as their blog at thatoneadventurecouple.com.
They’re young and in love and seeing the world on a shoestring budget. And they want to show people that world travel is accessible, even for millennials on tight budgets – like them.
“I feel like a lot of people are so afraid to travel,” Katie Gensitskiy said. And, her husband agreed, “It seems daunting at first.”
But, he said, “It’s really doable. And it’s not as expensive as you expect it to be.”
It took about a year and a half of planning and saving before the newlyweds, armed with three backpacks – one his, one hers, one for their technology – embarked on their yearlong adventure Sept. 2. It started with two one-way tickets to Ecuador and a grand total of $30,000, or $82 per day for 365 days for the both of them.
Now, about to start the second leg of their journey, “We’re just a shade over our budget,” said Alex Gensitskiy, noting they’ve spent about $10,000 in all, including expenses incurred during the holidays at home.
But, they’re hoping to be able to keep costs down during the upcoming segment. “Southeast Asia is a lot cheaper,” Alex Gensitskiy said.
The couple is also seeking collaborations with hotels and travel and other companies for sponsorships or free lodging in return for posts and social media mentions. They’ve accepted about half-dozen hotel stays so far.
“It would be amazing to have a sponsor to pay us for the work we do,” Katie Gensitskiy said.
But, “Our three main focuses are: adventure, exploring places, and learning – learning the culture, attempting to learn the language and meeting people – and serving,” she said.
While traveling and documenting their experiences, Alex Gensitskiy said, they’re both constantly asking themselves, “Am I being a force for good?”
They’ve made a point to seek out volunteer opportunities as well as visit orphanages and homes for low-income elderly folks while they are overseas. “We join them in the work they’re already doing,” Katie Gensitskiy said.
And, even though their adventure is well documented online – their Instagram account has nearly 8,000 followers – she said, “We want to stay true to ourselves and our story rather than take that perfect picture.”
Taking a year off of work to travel has been something the young couple have been talking about since they met. They married in 2015, a couple of years after meeting at a retreat for Christian kids’ camp counselors from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
But it wasn’t until early 2016, as kind of a New Year’s resolution, that they began putting their travel plans on paper and started saving money to make their dream of extended travel a reality. They identified countries that had relatively low average daily costs. And they listed experiences they wanted to have – stargazing in Peru and zip-lining in Ecuador, for example.
Their planning paid off.
They averaged $71 per day, or $11 below budget, in Ecuador, spending a total of $627.53 on lodging and $443.23 for food. During their 26 days there, they visited nine cities, paying $183.05 for 21 bus and 11 taxi rides and $121.50 on shopping, including warm clothes – they didn’t expect South America to be so cold – as well as camping gear, such as sleeping mats and a propane tank. They also spent $144 for a three-day intensive Spanish class.
In Peru, they averaged $65.44 per day for 42 days, or about $16.50 below budget. That includes $408.92 for lodging, $900.18 for food and $429.51 for rides on 34 buses, 22 taxis and one bike taxi in eight cities.
Airfare is included in their calculations, all except their initial flight to Ecuador, which they’d booked in advance. They hope to use airline points to pay for future flights on their trek.
A spreadsheet helps them track their spending, and they share all of their costs – down to the penny – on their blog.
“Authenticity is important,” Alex Gensitskiy said.
“I want to share the good moments and the bad moments, the mistakes we’ve made and the happy times as well,” Katie Gensitskiy agreed.
Mistakes include misreading military time and missing a bus as well as losing a cellphone and a tablet computer.
Still, Katie Gensitskiy said, “We’ve only had good experiences.”
And, through sharing their experiences on social media and their blog, she said, “We’re able to show people there’s good in the world. We’re able to encourage people to see the world.
“Whatever you’re looking for, you will find it,” she said. “You’re going to learn so much. You’re going to see so much.”
And, you’ll see, she said, that “the world isn’t as scary as people make it seem or you see on television or in movies. People are kind and very helpful.”
Katie Gensitskiy, 24, is a teacher. Her husband, 27, is a journeyman electrician.
Both were born in different countries, coming to America with their parents at very young ages. She’s from Bishkek, the capital and largest city in Kyrgyzstan. He’s from Khmelnik, a resort town in Ukraine.
He came to the U.S. first, in 1990, when he was 6 months old. She came in 1996, when she was 3, with her mother. Her father had arrived two years earlier, to find work and to buy a house.
Neither remembers the old country, but both attended Russian language school at church growing up and are looking forward to visiting family friends and relatives in their respective homelands this summer.
“I don’t remember Ukraine,” Alex Gensitskiy said. “But I’m so excited to go. I’m almost giddy with excitement. I still got cousins and aunts there.”
He grew up in Camas, near Vancouver, Washington, and started a five-year apprenticeship program shortly after graduating from Camas High School in 2008.
She grew up in Airway Heights and graduated from Cheney High School in 2011, the same year she served as a Spokane Lilac Festival princess. She was also a Running Start student, graduating from Eastern Washington University in 2014 with a degree in recreation management.
When Alex Gensitskiy proposed, atop Munra Point in the Columbia River Gorge at Thanksgiving 2014, amateur photographer Paul Wolfe captured the moment, and his image of the couple went viral. Wolfe posted it on Reddit and Imgur in an attempt to track them down and share the photo with them.
“I have no idea who these folks are, but would like them to have this photograph,” he wrote.
“We were taking a break from social media,” Katie Gensitskiy said. “We thought we didn’t have a picture of our proposal. It was like a gift.”
It had taken about an hour to reach the summit that day. It was raining and “kind of foggy and surreal,” Alex Gensitskiy said. “In that area, the fog rolls in and out. At times, you get really beautiful views, and other times you are in the clouds.”
This was one of those times when the peak was in the clouds. Alex Gensitskiy had scouted the location about a week earlier. He wanted to surprise her.
“I thought it was random,” she said. “I had no idea.”
Today, the logo on their blog evokes the image of their proposal. It features male and female figures holding hands atop a ridgeline.
Katie Gensitskiy grew up hiking, biking, camping and spending time in the great outdoors. “It was part of what I was used to and what I enjoyed,” she said.
She caught the travel bug early. Before the couple married at Quail Run Ranch in Newport and embarked on a month-long honeymoon in Thailand, she had taken three mission trips – to Ghana, Israel and Ukraine.
Alex Gensitskiy hadn’t traveled overseas, but longed to see the world. That yearning was only cemented after her parents took the couple to Italy, Germany and France last spring. Today, his bucket list is growing. Mongolia is among the countries he wants to visit. The couple just might make it there this year.
Despite their planning, their itinerary is relatively lose. They’ve “built in time to be spontaneous,” Katie Gensitskiy said. “We don’t book things” – at least, not too far in advance, she said.
They’ve also learned to give themselves more time in a town than they think they will need and, sometimes, it’s good to forget the guide book.
“For every city you step into and think you need three days, give it four to five,” Alex Gensitskiy said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be running from attraction to attraction. You’re going to be exhausted. We had to learn to slow down, take a step back and give ourselves more time. We learned you can’t see everything. I think there’s this desire to see everything you possibly can. But if you try to do that, you don’t actually enjoy it. Sometimes, the coolest, most interesting thing you can do is just open the door and go walking.”
Both advise other travelers to pack light. Bring clothing in neutral colors that can be mixed and matched and plan to buy necessities – such as toiletries – upon arrival.
Each read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo before the trip, and it “inspired us to kind of let go,” Alex Gensitskiy said.
The couple downsized before they left, selling their car and donating most of their clothes. They put about 10 boxes of personal belongings in storage at their parents’ homes along with their bikes and a mattress. But, they said, they are making a conscious effort to live for experiences – not things.
Although they are living their dream, both said it can been difficult at times.
“Travel is hard,” Katie Gensitskiy said. “You miss your friends. You miss your family. You’re sleeping in different beds. You’re eating different foods. It takes time to get places.”
And it can put strain on any relationship.
“You have to be patient with each other,” she said. “You have to show kindness. You are together 24-7. It stretches you. It is hard when you’re on a bus and it’s smelly and the road is bumpy and you’re hungry and you’re tired.”
At those times, her husband said, it might be best “to forget the budget and just experience an activity” – or spend a little more money on a meal.”
That One Adventure Couple is contemplating ending their yearlong journey in the fall on the Camino de Santiago, a network of pathways leading to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
And by next holiday season, they expect to be back in the Pacific Northwest, planning their next adventure. They want to refurbish – and move into – a van and travel throughout America, touring national parks.
One of the things they learned from being away from the U.S., Alex Gensitskiy said, is “that we love America.
“We live in a wonderful country. We have so many opportunities. We are so blessed to live here.”