Today’s interview is another knock-you-out-of-your-seat. The couple behind the scenes at Uncornered Market, one of the hottest travel stories this year, has graciously spared some time to talk to us. I have always found their pictures and stories so moving, so I am quite pleased to have them here with us this week.
Let’s start out by hearing a little bit more about the two of you.
We’re a curious American couple in our mid-30s on a journey around the world. In December 2006, we left our secure jobs and comfortable lifestyle in Prague, Czech Republic for a creative sabbatical: traveling the world, taking photographs and sharing stories about people from all walks of life.
Although our jobs in Prague prior to this journey were relatively traditional – Audrey worked in tax and legal issues for correspondent offices in former Soviet Union and Dan balanced various consulting gigs, the last one running a financial transparency program for a mobile phone operator – we’ve always been viewed as a little crazy by our friends and family. We got married in Pienza, Italy at the beginning of a 4.5-month journey around Europe. The next year, we sold everything and moved from San Francisco – a place we loved – to Prague without jobs. After building a life for ourselves in Prague, we sold everything again to start this journey around the world. Although we live our lives with a level of uncertainty, the bigger risk for us is looking back one day and wondering “what if” or having regret for not doing something.
Our passion about travel is obvious, but we are also passionate about photography, creativity, public diplomacy, street food, personal development, and technology. As generalists, we find a common thread woven between them all and experience the countries we visit through these different lenses.
Andy’s Note: Travel, photography, diplomacy, food…. wow, you two are amazing. If anybody can change the world, it is people like you.
Why did you decide to go on this world journey?
Why we decided to take on this crazy journey:
- 1) to explore the rest of the world and understand its people;
- 2) to develop new creative and professional skills; and
- 3) to grow personally and understand ourselves better.
When we first embarked on this journey, we thought it would take us 12-18 months to make our way around world. We soon realized a few months into our travels in Asia that exploration and understanding take time. Two and a half years into our journey, we’re only halfway there.
Andy’s Note: I think for those of us whose souls have insatiable wanderlust, our journey will never be complete. (Wow – that was deep wasn’t it? I just meant to say that if you really love travel, your travel-to-do-list will always be full, no matter how much you see or do.)
What does the name of your website, “uncornered market”, mean to you?
Dan came up with the name independently a few years before we even started this journey. When we decided to develop a website for our journey, it was the natural fit.
The name is a play on “cornered market,” which is exactly what we don’t want to do with our experiences from this journey. Instead, we want to share human stories and images from our journey with the goal of introducing readers to new parts of the world and attaching a human face to lesser-known regions of the world (e.g., Central Asia). Also, we want to engage with readers and locals to broaden the discussion.
On your website we can count your footsteps. Why did you decide on this fun, quirky feature and how do you measure?
The footsteps were inspired by the tagline of our website: “Measuring the Earth with our feet…” (a quote from Don Quixote). Also, our preferred mode of transport in cities, towns and villages is walking; we understand places best when we’ve walked the streets.
The footsteps are measured by an average and a program automatically adds those footsteps each day. Some days we walk more, others less.
What’s the most inspirational place you’ve been so far?
The Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan – desolate, beautiful, remote and resilient.
You enter the country (from Kyrgyzstan) at 4,000 plus meters (12,000+ feet) and are surrounded by a desolate beauty. Even abandoned cement buildings or outhouses look picturesque in this high desert landscape. The resilience of the people who live in this harsh environment is incredible – even potatoes cannot grow here and the only animals that can survive are yaks and donkeys.
Traveling through the Wakhan Valley on the border with Afghanistan is like entering the Garden of Eden in comparison. Life is still incredibly difficult and people have very little, but the Pamiri people are remarkably kind and giving. We were repeatedly invited into homes for tea, bread and to show us their Pamiri homes – beautiful wooden homes built with geometric symbolism that reflect the Pamiris’ Muslim Ismaeli beliefs.
In the four days it took to make our way from the border to Khorog, the largest town in the region, we didn’t have access to water to bathe, ate only potatoes, barley, hard bread and tea (what locals eat), and slept on the floor. Sure, we were thankful to return to showers and vegetables, but the humbling experience of staying with families in small villages more than made up for the physical inconveniences.
And no other landscape – perhaps with the exception of the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal – has come close.
Photos perhaps do the region more justice, but you can read the full story on our website.
Andy’s Note: Woah – those pictures are breathtaking. I am truly humbled. *What* an inspiration!
What upcoming destinations are you really looking forward to? Do you plan on traveling forever or settling down soon?
Peru and Bolivia; Andes Mountains to Patagonia; Nicaragua, Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela. We’re always looking for a combination of intriguing and friendly local people and stunning landscapes.
Crazy as it sounds, we expect to be on the road for another two years or more so that we can explore Latin America and Africa/Middle East. Even we had endless resources, we would not travel full-time forever. The endless movement does get tiring; we will be ready to settle down and make some place “home” after this journey. Although we’ve kept our legal residency in the Czech Republic, one of the goals of our trip is to find our next “home.”
Rumour has it that you have a super-secret, super-tasty recipe for apple crisp? Scare to share it with us? We *promise* not to tell *anybody*.
Last but not least, the apple crisp recipe. Before we left Prague, we scanned in all the recipes we had printed out and hand-written over the years. You’ll find the apple crisp recipe – thanks to the Honorable Gaston Caperton – with my hand-written notes on the first page of this link. With apple crisp, always err on the side of more cinnamon and brown sugar. Oh, and a pinch of nutmeg does wonders too. It’s made me famous on several continents.
Andy’s Note: Well you’ve just become a raving hit in Scotland!! It’s not often that we such a compelling story, gorgeous photography, and a fantastic food recipe. Thank you!
About Audrey & Daniel
Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll are freelance writers and photographers on a journey around the world. They share their travel experiences through human stories and photography at their virtual home,Uncornered Market. Recently, they completed an extensive 18-month trip through Asia and are currently hopping chicken buses across Central and South America. They plan to do the same through the Middle East and Africa next year.
Thank you so much for sparing time out of your busy schedule to stop in and speak with us. It’s people like you who have such amazing experiences to share that makes sites like this valuable. Safe travels and we hope to hear from you again – we’re all dying to know where you’re going to call “home” next.