"There's no need for a negative stigma behind people who are chasing their dream, regardless of their size."
If you love to travel and have an Instagram account, chances are you've spent your fair share of time scrolling through gorgeous tropical scenes featuring equally gorgeous full-time vacationers.
And while we can appreciate an artistically shot bikini photo as much as the next person — especially when the photographers share their tips and tricks with the rest of us — the truth is, sometimes it starts to feel like you need an inbox bursting with hungry sponsors and thousand-dollar photo requests to make your travel dreams a reality.
Enter Dean and Julie Couchey, a world traveling husband and wife team from upstate New York and Pennsylvania, respectively, who quit their jobs after tying the knot and have traveled to 20 countries together before their first wedding anniversary.
The fun-loving duo is dedicated to “eating and drinking our way around the world (while doing some other fun things too),” according to the tagline on their travel blog, Two Fat Americans. And while they do get a kick out of watching people react to their site's cheeky name, the Coucheys told Travel + Leisure there's more to it than appearances.
“We wanted to think of a name that would be both funny and representative of who we are,” they told T+L via email from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. “Yes, we're on the larger side, but also there is a stigma in the world that Americans are just fat people who, if they do travel, only go to the tourist spots and eat at the tourist places. By having a funny, catchy name, we have hopes that it will intrigue people enough to check us out and see that we couldn't be further from that stigma. (Aside from the fat part!)”
The Coucheys defy this American stereotype by visiting spots less traveled, and taking their quest to find the best local food very seriously: Dean, 34, is a trained chef, and Julie, 28, is a foodie and photographer who lives to taste (and document) every bite.
The travelers have chowed down on everything from pain au chocolat in Paris and choripan con chimichurri in Argentina to gado-gado (a potato and vegetable salad with peanut sauce) in Indonesia.
But the best meal they've had so far was at 1884 by Francis Mallmann in Mendoza, Argentina.
“We had an amazing grilled potato cheddar flatbread and salt poached pear with burrata for starters. For our mains we had chivito, baby goat braised in a clay oven, and a clay oven-cooked gnocchi with tomato pesto sauce,” they said. “The most memorable meal in the most memorable setting.”
After Indonesia, the couple will head to Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. After that, they will make their way through Southeast Asia up to Japan, and fly from there to India “and beyond.” They also have three months in Europe in their plans.
But how do they manage to do all this without earning an income?
The Coucheys saved money by cutting back expenses before leaving home — “no Starbucks, no eating out” — and saving up vacation days at their respective jobs. "We were the typical Americans that had saved many many weeks of vacation and luckily we were able to get it paid out," they said.
In the future, they hope to advertise on their website, and they are open to working in restaurants along the way.
But for now, they make each dollar go a little further by using rewards programs and choosing flights wisely: “Pack lightly and be okay with a cramped more affordable flight because the destination will always he much more enjoyable than the trip to get there, regardless of what your seat is like on the plane.”
They also use cash back rewards and loyalty programs.
“We figured since we will be staying in a lot of hotels, we will use Hotels.com because they give you one free night after 10 nights,” they said, adding that when you're spending 180 or more nights on the road like they are, the savings add up.
They have also made over $500 back so far shopping for necessary items (and hotels) through Ebates. Hotels.com is a participant, and they earn 3 to 6 percent cash back on those transactions, while taking advantage of special promotions. They also use a Citi Double Cash card for airline and hotel bookings, which gets them 2 percent cash back, and a Capital One Quicksilver card that gets them 1.5 percent back (with no foreign transaction fees).
They use frequent flier benefits from Star Alliance and Air Asia, but won't tie themselves to an airline. Instead, they use deal comparison sites like Kayak and Google Flights, but make sure to check for hidden fees.
“We also promote Ebates and Hotels.com on our blog, because if we can get people to sign up and through our link we get a bonus,” they said. “We're hoping more people sign up so that can start to add up for us.”
They originally planned to travel for six or eight months, or “until the money ran out,” but if possible, the Coucheys hope to prolong their dream. They see themselves toasting to their anniversary in July in Paris.
And as they go, their main goal is to spread the message that you too can make it happen, even without a fancy portfolio or famous Instagram account. (They currently have 449 followers.)
“We want to represent the real traveler that is going to accessible places and not a world famous chef's house or staying in 5-star resorts far away from the real destinations,” they said. “Most of all we just want to show and tell people that you don't have to be young, beautiful, thin, fit, free spirited or whatever you think the stigma is to travel and see the world.”
“That goes for whatever your dream is in life. If you love it and are passionate about it, do it for you and enjoy every minute.”