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For most people, the concept of selling their home and material possessions in pursuit of a life of full time travel is terrifying. Brian and Noelle from Ireland did just that, however they didn’t do it once, and they didn’t do it twice. They’ve now given up everything THREE times to travel the world, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be settling down anytime soon!

To date, their addiction to fully immersing themselves into different local cultures has seen them spend two years teaching English in South Korea, and eighteen months traversing the back country of Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Singapore, also taking in Sumatra and Bangkok.

Brian Barry and Noelle Kelly are this week’s inspiring travelers.

Who are you?

We’re Brian and Noelle from Ireland. Brian’s from Cork and Noelle is from Thurles Co. Tipperary. We left home in August 2009 for an English teaching contract in South Korea and we’ve been living, working and travelling in Asia since.


Brian and Noelle at Kala Pattar 5555m with Everest in the background, Nepal.


What do you love the most about travelling?

Travelling for us is everything. We love every element of it; the freedom, having new experiences, seeing different cultures, meeting new people and seeing new places.

One of the most important things for us is the variety. When you travel you have new, exciting experiences every day. You’re not tied to any one place; if you get bored of a place you can move on if you like it you can stay longer. That ability to change and adapt is very appealing to us.

What inspired you to start travelling?

Neither of us are particularly career minded people and we don’t want a ‘settled life’. As we both share these feelings, it makes sense for us to be out travelling and seeing the world. That’s what we are both truly passionate about.

That mindset has inspired us to travel more and more since we first began and continues to do so.

Would you recommend teaching English abroad to those wanting to break into a life of travel?

Absolutely! Teaching English in a foreign country gives you a great taste for travel. The best thing about it is you’re thrown in at the deep-end by default. You are immediately immersed in the culture, surrounded by the language and interacting with locals on a daily basis.

You have a very ‘normal’ existence while you are in the country and you gain a better understanding of things than you ever would travelling in a place.

Brian and Noelle with their students in Iksan, South Korea.

Brian and Noelle with their students in Iksan, South Korea.


What were the highlights of teaching English abroad?

Wow, there have been so many. It’s been a fantastic experience and one that we certainly wouldn’t change. While living in Korea itself has been great, the highlights of teaching English for us here were the opportunities to travel outside of Korea.

Using Korea as a base we have travelled all over Asia on trips ranging from a four days to a month at a time. Working here also allowed us to save enough money to take an eighteen month trip in 2012, taking in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Sumatra and Bangkok, as well as getting home to see family and friends.

South Korea seems to be an up and coming destination for travellers. What should we not miss?

Whenever we’re asked this question we always give the same answer. If you are to come to Korea and have the opportunity to see only one thing, make it the DMZ. You can do a tour inside the 2km wide, fenced off border between North and South Korea to the peace village of Panmunjom. This is where North and South Korean soldiers face off against each other and where the U.N hold peace talks between the two countries.

It’s a very unique tour and unlike any we’ve done anywhere else. You are accompanied at all times by military. You can see North Korean soldiers watching your every move through binoculars a stones throw away!

Seoul is an amazing city too. Hongdae, the university area is our favourite spot to hang out when we visit. There’s a park there where university students will have rap battles, bands play and other musicians perform. There’s a really cool vibe there and quite different to the rest of Korea.

The DMZ. Photo by Laika ac.

The DMZ. Photo by Laika ac.


After spending two years in South Korea you then hit pretty much all of Asia. Which was your favourite country?

It’s difficult to choose a favourite, every country has its own unique qualities which we fell in love with and we have a soft spot for each one for different reasons. If we had to choose, it would be a toss-up between Nepal and India.

Nepal is just amazing we did two incredible treks there, one for ten days and the other for twenty three. We spent three months there total and loved every last bit of it. The people are super friendly and there’s a really chilled vibe about the place. It never felt over-run with tourists either. It always felt very genuine and real. Nothing was put on for the sake of tourism. It’s very much ‘this is Nepal, take it or leave it’, we really liked that.

India is just out of this world. We spent six months backpacking through the country and would both go back in a heartbeat. There’s just so much diversity there; Himalayas in the north, beautiful beaches in the south. You have huge cities, small villages and everything in between. Getting off the beaten track there, you are often the only foreigner in a town and we loved having those experiences. Your head is on a swivel constantly, there’s always something going on, something unusual happening. You could be strolling down the road and an elephant or a camel might just randomly pass you by; it’s all-out madness!

Brian and Noelle on camel safari in the Thar Desert near the India Pakistan Border, India.

Brian and Noelle on camel safari in the Thar Desert near the India/Pakistan Border, India.


Your website says you embraced “fully visiting” the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Thailand etc. How does one “fully visit”/fully experience a country?

Haha  well spotted! We need to work on our punctuation maybe. “Travelling became a true passion and one we embraced fully; visiting the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Malaysia and Japan during out time in the land of the morning calm.”

We’re very much of the opinion that you can’t fully visit or fully experience a country. You can see as much of it as you want/can and try to get as good an understanding as you can of the culture and the people but you’ll never fully visit anywhere. That’s one of the reasons you keep travelling; there’s always somewhere new to see.

Tell us about your most epic adventure to date.

Our twenty-three day trek in the Khumbu region in Nepal is by far our most epic adventure up until now. We flew into Lukla airport from Kathmandu and started the trek to Everest Base Camp. It was incredible! The simplicity of it all was something we really took to. Wake up, walk, eat, walk, arrive, sleep and do it all over again. Actually, when you put it like that it sounds boring!

We should mention you share the path with local Sherpas carrying their loads from A-B, mules, shaggy yaks and of course other trekkers. We had never been on an overnight hike before. We enjoyed it so much we kept extending the trip, taking an alternative, much less-travelled route on the way down.

We were often the only people on the trail for hours at a time. There were definitely some nerve-wracking moments. We had to cross a glacier at the Cho-La pass on an icy ledge just wide enough for a shoe, Brian got sick and spent a day vomiting as we descended from the Renjo-La pass and we walked for days in torrential rain with nobody around for miles.

Those experiences were matched with other incredible moments like standing on top of Kala Pattar at 5,550metres taking in unbelievable panoramic views of Everest and the surrounding peaks, meeting friendly locals who live year-round in the mountains and just taking in the views all around you everyday. It was a real adventure and doing it all completely independently made it all the more rewarding.

Noelle standing on top of Kala Pattar, Nepal (5,550m) with Everest right behind.

Noelle standing on top of Kala Pattar, Nepal (5,550m) with Everest right behind.


You’ve now packed up your apartment and sold everything you owned twice for an epic travel adventure. It’s a pretty scary concept leaving everything behind. Was it easier the second time around?

To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult the first time. We were both really excited to get going and to get out there travelling. We had both been working full-time at the same jobs we had had through college and we were ready for change.

The second time we packed up our apartment was in Korea and with the trip we had planned ahead of us, we had no doubt it was the right move. We will be packing up our apartment for the third time this August and setting off on another trip and we have no idea where that will bring us; it’s exciting.

With so much travel under your belt, how do you afford it all?

Up until now we’ve worked as English teachers in South Korea. As we said, it’s afforded us a great opportunity to travel around Asia and to save money to leave and travel on those savings.

This time around we think we’ll be saying goodbye to Korea for good though. It’s been an amazing trip but we want to travel beyond Asia and we’re looking into trying to make just enough of an income online so that we could afford to travel indefinitely. That’s the dream anyway!

Is it difficult travelling with your spouse?

No, not at all. We get to share every moment of our journey together and we count ourselves lucky that we both share the same passion for travelling. We’ve been together for over seven years now and we know each other inside out. We have learned to give each other space when we need it, not to dwell on any arguments and to make compromises for each other when we have to.

It’s great travelling as a couple because you get two different perspectives on a place and you always have someone with you who you can depend on if things don’t go your way.

On Komodo Island with the dragons in Indonesia.

On Komodo Island with the dragons in Indonesia.


Biggest cultural shock you have experienced while travelling?

Again, it has to be India. In Ireland we don’t have much diversity in religion. It’s becoming more so now but when we were growing up we had no idea about Hinduism, Islam or any of the other religions India has. India opened our eyes to so many different religions, people and ways of life.

Also, the caste system in India is something we had no experience with, which was/is a strange concept for us. Another thing which we found tough was the level of poverty and the level of wealth and how they exist side-by-side. In Mumbai for example there is the prolific, five star Taj Mahal hotel; there are big expensive cars driving in and out of the gates, security on every corner and a general air of grandeur. However, in the street behind the hotel there was a family living under a tarp, in complete squalor with rats the size of cats running around. It’s very sad to see.

In India.

India opened our eyes to so many different religions, people and ways of life. Taj Mahal.


Three things you can’t travel without?

Camera would definitely be top of the list. Second would be our ‘electricity cup’. It’s basically the heating element from a kettle on a wire with a plug. It allows us to boil water in our room so we can have tea or coffee in the morning or late in the evening. It’s a life-saver, any Irish person knows how important an evening cup of tea is!

Third would probably be our laptop, we use it for storing photos, writing posts for our website, getting on Wi-Fi and watching movies.

Why should people travel to your home country of Ireland?

It’s beautiful! We might be a bit biased but Ireland in the sunshine is hard to beat. If you’re into the outdoors; there’s great hikes, surfing, cycling, beaches and rivers to check out. For the history buffs there are tonnes of great castles, churches, monuments and old buildings to visit. You can visit Whiskey distilleries and the Guinness Storehouse, if that’s more your scene.

But most importantly you can have a great time. The main thing we miss from Ireland is ‘the craic’. There are great pubs to visit and there’s the potential for great craic in all of them! For anyone who doesn’t know, ‘the craic’ is basically having fun but we Irish do it in our own unique way.

You can visit every Irish bar in every corner of the globe but until you’re inside a lively bar in a small little village on a Saturday night IN Ireland with the rain and the wind beating at the door having pints with friends (new or old), you’ll never fully understand ‘the craic’. That’s reason enough on it’s own!

Most practical piece of advice for those planning travel?

Be realistic with your budget. Unfortunately money plays a big part in everyone’s travel plans. Whether you’re going for a week or a year be mindful of your budget.

When you’re in cheap countries, don’t get carried away and spend a fortune just because everything is so cheap, all those cheap things add up in the end.

Brian and Noelle with Buddhist monks from Myanamar outside the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Brian and Noelle with Buddhist monks from Myanamar outside the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.


Why should people travel?

People should travel to learn about the world, meet new people and experience how people live in other places. That said, you should also travel to learn about yourself. You will learn more about yourself through travel and being out of your comfort zone than you ever will if you stay in the safety of what you’re doing now.

Travel is an education in so many ways and it’s so much fun, you’ll feel completely free and probably never want it to end. Have you ever heard anyone say “I wish I never travelled”?! Of course not!

Brian and Noelle are an adventurous, travel-hungry Irish couple who have been on the road since 2009. They share travel tips, photos, videos and their travel stories on their blog, to inspire others to get out there and see all this world has to offer.

Follow their travels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.


  1. Thanks so much for featuring us as your Inspiring Travellers this week. Really delighted to be a part of it! :)

    • Thanks for providing a great interview!

  2. Amazing journey.Continued success with your adventure.

    • Thanks for stopping by Laurence :)

  3. Great to meet you Brian and Noelle. It looks as though you’ve had some fabulous adventures. The DMZ is certainly a place that would interest me.

    I also agree that India can be quite a cultural shock and the caste system was outlawed years ago yet is still running under the surface in society.

    I’m going to have a look at your blog now.

    • DMZ definitely looks interesting – I can’t wait to travel here after speaking to them about their adventures. India too is a place I haven’t yet been.

  4. Great interview! I love the insights on India but how drew their hearts and passion out in this interview! Great job!

    • Thanks Ann! Glad you enjoyed their insights in the post :) Happy travels!

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