Matt and Lucy run the couple travel blog, Two Tickets To, a combination of travel diaries featuring stories from their own travels, as well as hints and tips about places they’ve been. They run this as a passion project, a hobby to keep creative outside of their day jobs.
The couple met at university, studying German and International Relations. Following graduation, they both started working in financial services. But travel has always been something they love to do in their spare time.
Matt is currently working in the travel industry, working for a travel tech firm based out of Glasgow, whilst Lucy is working for a large audit firm. Both with busy day jobs find the time to continue experiencing the travel that they love to do and reflect on this through their blog afterwards.
We had a chat with Matt, who revealed more details about the locations they’ve been to and how they manage to fit in travels around their full-time jobs.
How long have you been travelling together? Where was your first destination?
We took our first trip together back in 2014, about eight years ago when we were both on our year abroad in Germany, working in schools. At the time we weren’t actually together, but we took a long weekend trip to Belgrade with one of Lucy’s friends. We started in Belgrade, took a bus to Sarajevo in Bosnia and continued to Dubrovnik via Mostar. So quite an intense, four or five nights. It really opened my eyes to how much you could really do in a short trip and how much there is to see beyond the city that you live in.
Our first trip as a couple was in 2015, spending three weeks travelling through the Balkans, so actually going back through some of the places we went on that very first trip. But we also explored more of the area.
As Two Tickets To, how many countries have you been to so far?
As an individual, Lucy edges me on 47 countries. I’m currently on 45. So I need to develop some tactics to overtake her at some point!
How do you decide where your next travel destination will be?
We try to go to places we haven’t been to before, which is partly why we’ve ended up going to as many countries as we have so far. We like exploring new places and the culture shock of going somewhere brand new. Not knowing what you’re doing, we explore and find out about the place by ourselves.
A lot does depend on how long the trip’s going to be. If it’s just a long weekend, normally, it’ll be a case of looking at Skyscanner, finding cheap flights and choosing flight schedules that fit in with the holidays we’ve got booked off work. We don’t tend to have a destination in mind when we have a long weekend.
For longer trips, maybe a week or more, that tends to be more driven by the destination. We would decide what we want to get out of the trip, whether it’s hiking or a country that we’ve always wanted to go to. Cost is always a factor, and we don’t tend to go to super expensive places. We’ve never been to Dubai or New York. We quite like trying to challenge ourselves to have two weeks away and spend as little as we can. We tend to go to places where the cost of living is quite cheap, and you can get a lot of bang for your buck out there at the same time.
Recently we’ve been driven by some of the places we’ve already been to. We both got really interested in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries. The history, the stories of people, we really enjoy travelling to that area of the world.
From Estonia in the Baltics, Georgia in the Caucuses, and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Such a massive geographical space filled by these states that have popped up since the Soviet Union dissolved. Going to those areas, finding out what life is like now and what it was like then. That tends to be a bit of a theme.
What is your favourite travel memory?
The things that always come to mind are sunrises and early morning explores of places. We found that in the mornings, we’ve been the only people out in cities that normally have thousands of people passing through it. We set a super early alarm, even in the summer when it’s four in the morning. Then we just go off and see somewhere without anyone else.
Dubrovnik springs to mind. If you visit Dubrovnik in the summer, the Old Town is going to be absolutely rammed with tens of thousands of people.
But one of my favourite memories was from years ago when we walked through the Old Town at sunrise. We were pretty much the only people there. There’s something really cool about having those places to yourself.
Just knowing that in four or five hours, they’re going to be heaving. Sunrise wanders are always my favourite part of any trip.
Have you had any disaster moments? How did you overcome it?
Everything that springs to mind involves me losing things! I’ve gotten better over time, but I have a bit of a reputation. I’ve lost everything from wallets to tablets. But I think the worst was probably losing my camera. I’d just bought my very first Canon camera to take photos that were better than phone shots. I was really excited to take it on its first overseas trip.
We were going to Transnistria, the unrecognised country between Moldova and Ukraine. We’d gone there for two or three nights back in 2019. We met up with a guy called Anton, founder of Free Walking Tour and Transnistria Travel. He took us on this big adventure day through the capital city, Tiraspol and the towns and villages surrounding it.
Our day had been fantastic, and I’d shot a lot of pictures to document it. We were hitchhiking back to our starting place. We spotted someone returning to Tiraspol and signalled them to stop. He let us hop in the car. All of it was a bit of a rush. I put my stuff down in the footwell. When I got out, we waved goodbye to Anton and headed back to our accommodation.
In our accommodation, when I went to get my camera from the bag, I just had this horrible sinking feeling. The camera wasn’t in there. I realised I had left my camera under the seat in the car. Because we were hitchhiking, I had no idea who the stranger was. Having lost all of the images, I felt devastated. For me, that was really what mattered, not so much losing the item.
Thankfully that story had a happy ending. I messaged Anton and asked if he’d caught the number plate of the car or any details about the person. He didn’t have any details, but he went way above and beyond the call of duty. He contacted the local police, who looked through the CCTV for the road going into the city. They found the car and managed to track down the driver. Sure enough, the camera was just lodged underneath the seat.
By that point, we’d already left Transnistria. But I wanted to thank Anton personally, so I flew back a couple of months later to collect the camera. I’m still in touch with him now, on and off. No guide has ever gone beyond what he’s had to do like he did.
Things can go wrong, and things often do go wrong. But as long as you’re healthy at the end of it, everything else you can deal with along the way.
Would you recommend other couples to travel together?
Definitely, I mean for Lucy and myself, travel was probably one of the reasons that we ended up getting together as a couple. We’d done a trip before we became an item. We really enjoyed that and got to know each other much better through that. We got to know each other a lot better through travelling as a couple over the years that we’ve been together. You get into difficulties, and you have crappy days. But, hopefully, most people will be better for it because you just pull yourself together as a couple and take things in your stride.
I think before anyone actually takes the plunge to move in and make those sorts of commitments, spend two or three weeks going off and travelling. You can see how that feels. It’s an excellent way of spending some intense time together and make some really cool memories. If you come back from that trip and you’re still as strong an item, I think that says a lot for your future together.
Do you have any tips for part-time travellers who’d like to fit adventures in around work?
Firstly, think about overseas trips. For us, we always try to be strategic around flight times. So, living in the UK, you might get twenty-five days annual leave. You don’t want to be spending two of those days as airport days. So, if you can find flights that leave at six in the morning that get you to your destination at nine, that means you’re spending a day of annual leave at your destination. Likewise, if you can get an evening flight back, that would always be our preference. Take advantage of bank holidays too.
When it comes to adventure and feeling like you’re getting the most out of your time, spending time exploring your local area can be really fulfilling. Most of us will have a national park nearby in the UK, so you don’t have to go far to have a proper adventure. Take the chance to explore your local area as if you’re a tourist. These don’t require you to take any time off work. Especially if you can go on a Friday evening, coming back on Sunday evening. Then you can actually do a lot that feels like a proper adventure.
What accommodation do you prefer while away? Where do you book it?
We go for guesthouses. The experience you can have there, and the interactions you can have with the owners and the staff, can be such a good way to get to know a place. This is especially when you might only be spending two or three nights there. A lot of our trips, such as the one we just did in Lviv, Ukraine, they’ve been defined, in some respect, by the people we’ve stayed with. The hosting that people have done in the places we’ve stayed has been amazing.
It’s not just because of meeting a cool host, finding out about the city, and maybe being offered a tour by them. That plays a part. But we’re also conscious of the impact on the local economy and want to contribute positively to the people that live in the places we travel to. Guesthouses tend to be locally owned, run by the person that lives there. You know that the money you’re spending there is going right back into the local economy, directly to the people you’re meeting and staying with. We occasionally do Airbnb and go for hotels where that’s convenient.
We find guesthouses through Booking.com. That’s always been my go-to place to book accommodation.
You mentioned travelling to the Ukrainian city of Lviv, tell us a bit about this trip.
We were super excited about this trip because it was the first trip we’d done overseas since the pandemic started. So it had been about eighteen months since we’d jetted off before that. We were considering visiting a new location that we’ve never been to before and that we’d like to learn more about. Because neither of us had been to Romania before, we chose that country as our starting point. For some time, we’ve wanted to visit Transylvania and the Carpathian highlands. Also, Romania had some restrictions, and they weren’t excessive.
We also thought, we’ve been to Ukraine before, but we haven’t been to Lviv. People that have been to that city have told us that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Ukraine. It’s not too far from the northern border of Romania, so we came up with an itinerary which lets us visit Lviv, but also visit the areas of Romania that really stood out to us when we were researching for the trip.
We went into full planning mode. Lucy’s always the one who does the public transport planning. She went away and did a lot of research into trains buses and came up with a route that fitted the dates and the cities we wanted to go to.
We started in Lviv then travelled by train to two extra places in Ukraine en route to the border with Romania. This was a city called Ivano-Frankivsk and a small town called Rakivchyk. We then crossed the land border that took you over a bridge. This was really cool, a bit like you were in a spy movie, crossing the bridge to get into another country. We ended up in Romania with a really beautiful introduction. There were loads of wooden churches and the iconic rural haystacks of the Romanian countryside. We went down to Cluj-Napoca and eventually into the classic Transylvanian cities like Râșnov.
During the course of two weeks, we went to seven or eight cities. It was a classic trip for us – seeing loads of cool places, having a fairly intense time but coming out of the trip with lots of cool memories. We met a lot of great people too. We were really thankful we could finally get on a plane after the pandemic hit. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either Lviv and that area of Western Ukraine or Romania. The mountains and the forests are absolutely stunning.
Where’s next on Two Tickets To bucket list?
We’d love to go back to Central Asia. We spent a couple of weeks in Uzbekistan back in 2019. But there’s so much to explore and discover. We’d love to go to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan.
That area of the world has such a rich history, the Silk Roads – there’s all the romance of that. There’s everything that happened during the Soviet Union and the really strong identities of each of the countries.
We’d also love to do the Tran Siberian. Again sticking with the Soviet theme. That’s definitely on the list, hopefully for the not so distant future.
We want to go to South America possibly in the next few years, we’ve never been. But there’s still so much we want to do further east first.
Any last tips for others as a couple travel bloggers of Two Tickets To?
Languages are important. It does open many doors, being able to hold basic conversations with people. People appreciate you making an effort with your language. Rather than just assuming that everyone speaks English. Even just a few basic words or phrases, wherever you go, will always be appreciated.