Married Couple Backpacking Africa (while making money!): Part I | Interview With HandZaround by 'Backpacking In Africa'

This interview was originally posted by Val Bowden on March 20, 2018 on Backpacking Africa For Beginners.


It’s not everyday you meet a married couple backpacking Africa. But after Zach (Australian) & his wife Hanna (Polish) from HandZaround bought my book, that’s exactly what they decided to do. Their story is amazing, and once you start following them & see their photography you’ll understand how they’re getting paid to do it.


1. What were your biggest fears as a couple backpacking Africa, and how do you feel now that you’re on the ground?

We were worried about safety and transport, just because of all the things we read online and on the government websites. They warned of political unrest and terrorist attacks. Plus friends and family were in general freaking out about us going to Africa.

Someone on a forum said that transport situation in Africa is horrible and accidents happen all the time, especially in Ethiopia. These didn’t really help our worries. Luckily there were also positive things to read – like your book that helped us so much!

As far as fear goes, we weren’t really afraid to come to here, but cautiously anxious about what it would all be like. We were really curious before coming to the African continent. We really just wanted to make up our own opinion – not influenced by world media.

Now that we’re here, we just want to laugh at all these people. Nothing bad has happened to us, people are helpful, there is the whole tourist infrastructure. Basic but it exists. The buses in Ethiopia are better than the ones we took in Nepal, Cambodia or Laos!


2. What is it like to travel as a married couple? What are some tips you’d give other couples?

Being a couple backpacking Africa is pretty cool. We’ve always got each other to work through shitty times and just talk about our “first world problems.”  You know– no internet, uncomfortable beds, the water pressure not strong enough…all these things that matter in life!

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We use each other as sounding boards for good and bad ideas, and the occasional metaphorical ‘punching bag’ to let out our emotions when things don’t work out.

In Ethiopia in particular, being married sparks the same question about babies everywhere we go.

Nothing like a bout of gastro to bring two people closer together 

The tip to other couples would be “Don’t forget that many people don’t get a chance to spend so much time with their favourite person, so make the most of it and create the memories that you’ll be able to cherish forever.” As cheesy as it sounds, we really think that. Oh, and get Netflix so you can do Netflix and chill wherever you are!


3. Do you ever have doubts about leaving your professional jobs- especially Zach as an elementary teacher to travel? Will you ever go back to it, and if so will your time away hurt your career?

Hanna: Sometimes. Not many of my friends travel long-term. Majority of them focuses on building their stationary careers or creating a family, so sometimes I just have these thoughts ‘What the hell am I doing?!’. But then, in my case, film, photography and travel are just made for each other! Thanks to what we’re doing we were able to develop our technical and business skills, as well as our film and photography portfolio. This lands us better and better projects with each month and that really motivates us to learn more. I think our broad portfolio and things we learn about each country that we visit, will only benefit us in terms of our careers in the long run.

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Zach: Having a teaching background is kind of like a safety net. If something was to drastically go wrong and we had to return home, then I know that I can always teach again. I love teaching and am passionate about education, so getting to see it in other countries lets me feel connected to it still. As far as hurting my career, so what? If that’s the cost for being able to travel the world and experience so much, then so be it.

I feel like if I went back to teaching I would be reinvigorated about the profession. Teaching, particularly in London, is taxing! It can be hard to keep up with the workload. Taking a break from it to travel the world just gives me new perspectives if I go back.


4. You’ve only seen Ethiopia so far, but what kind of differences have you noticed here versus your travels in Asian countries?

It’s definitely more off the grid, more adventure-like, not as commercial. It’s more fun in some aspects. Because if you want to travel on a budget, you have to organise things yourself. From the positives, for sure it’s calmer. People don’t hassle you as much as they do in Asia. In comparison, to e.g. India, or even Vietnam, the streets are much calmer. The people even stop to let you cross the road! This does not happen in Asia!

From the negatives, accommodation is more expensive. It is also of a much lower standard than in Asia. We noticed that Ethiopians are not willing to earn if the price isn’t what they expect. They won’t meet your offer in the middle. They’d rather not take anything. For example, trying to get a deal on a room in a guesthouse if you stay longer or bargaining a car ride from one city to another. The tourism industry still has a long way to go in Ethiopia. But it naturally has an amazing diversity of places for people to visit. So we think it will be a top destination eventually!

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5.How do you handle family and friends who don’t understand or are worried about your choice to travel – especially in Africa?

This has been an ongoing issue/thing the whole time we have travelled. Communication is the key really. The more we talk with our parents on Skype and messengers, the easier it is to keep their minds at peace. We both have experienced birthdays and Christmas’ away from home before so it is a bit easier to deal with. We still miss people dearly at those times. But unfortunately it is impossible to be there for everything.

It may sound a bit egoistic. But they’re not living our lives and they won’t be the ones to experience all the wonderful things or to regret things we didn’t do. So we do try to explain and show the bright side of the things. When it doesn’t help, we just do what we have to do – travel!


To learn more about Hanna & Zach’s drone & how they’re getting paid to travel… read part 2!

 Zach & Hanna from HANDZAROUND are discovering local cultures through stories, film, and photography. They’re a dynamic married couple backpacking Africa after leaving their jobs in the education and film sectors. They started off in Asia and quickly transformed their video & photography skills to do high level ads, commercials, & services for those in the hospitality & tourism sectors. To learn more about their journey across Africa, follow them on FacebookInstagram, and Youtube.

Visit Backpacking Africa For Beginners on their website.