Margherita Ragg and Nicholas Burns are an Italian-Australian couple, creators of nature and adventure travel blog The Crowded Planet. They spend their time chasing adventures around the world and relaxing at home in Milan with their cat Tappo. You’ll find more updates on their profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What do you think you would be doing if you were not on the road now?
Margherita: Hi everyone! If we weren’t travelling, we’d be living the same life as the past five years. I would have just started the school year, and Nick would be working from home. Instead, we’re getting ready to fly to Bangkok to spend some months in Asia and Australia!
Sometimes I think I’ll miss my old life, but that feeling disappears very quickly when I think of our newfound freedom. We haven’t been on the road full time for long, so the feeling is still new to us, but we love it. I still wake up thinking I have to get my school books ready, then I realise I’m no longer teaching and I start thinking of all the amazing things I can do to fill my day now!
Nick: I would probably still be butchering. I did a butcher traineeship when I finished high school and worked in a shop for five years. I enjoyed the atmosphere, but then I did a working holiday in the UK and travelled across Europe, and realised that the butcher life was not enough for me. When I met Margherita I thought ‘finally there’s someone that has the same outlook on life as me’.
How do you share your work while travelling? Who does what?
I (Margherita) do all the writing, emailing and general PR. Nick takes care of photography and technical issues related to the site. We also have some freelance contracts that we share, and we also share management of our social media channels.
How do you take decisions together for next destinations?
Margherita: It’s quite easy for us because we like doing the same things! Mountains, hiking, nature, anything active and adventurous is what we usually look for when travelling. Sometimes we choose a destination based on flight prices, other times we just follow a whim – but in our eleven years together, we’ve never had a disagreement when choosing a destination.
Nick: I just do what I’m told! Actually, as Margherita said we tend to agree on most travel-related things. The only issue is that she just wants to save money all the time so sometimes we end up on terrible buses and hotels!
Are there any personality changes that you can observe on yourself and on your partner since you have hit the road?
Margherita: This is hard to answer, because we haven’t been on the road full time for long, but we have been travelling on an off for over six years now.
I believe I changed a lot following our 2009/2010 round the world trip, when we spent 15 months on the road. I became a lot more relaxed, less obsessed with having everything under control and more open-minded. I do believe travel makes you wiser, less self-centered, and more frugal. My mum makes fun of me and says I’m mean, but it’s not that, I understand the value of things a lot more now and I don’t buy stuff I don’t need. I wonder if we’re going to change further, now that we’re on the road permanently.
Nick: We have become more accepting of others and learnt to adapt to many situations. For instance, since being on the road long-term we learnt to deal with travel-related inconveniencies, such as issues with public transport – once veering from my travel plans would’ve driven me insane, but now it’s just part of the fun.
Living and travelling together 24/7 may bring stressful moments related to disagreements, changes of mood or misunderstandings. How do you cope with these situations?
Margherita: Our relationship improved a lot when we moved out of London and started our 2009/2010 round the world trip. We were both obsessed with work in London and living in a very small apartment meant we had absolutely no escape and kept venting all our frustrations on each other. Ever since, we hardly ever argue – and when we do, it’s usually because of something silly.
Now, that is not to say our relationship is perfect – we do have disagreements. We also do think it’s important to spend some time apart, so we sometimes spend a few days or weeks travelling independently, then meet again.
Nick: Going for a walk or a beer alone definitely helps. But the arguments and disagreements are much less now, because we’re concentrating on our surroundings and on living the moment!
Which is the most beautiful moment you are glad you have experienced together?
Margherita: There are so many, it’s hard to choose. The first one that comes to mind was our three-day descent of the Tsiribihina river in Madagascar by pirogue. During the day, we relaxed in the pirogue, watching river life go by accompanied by the soft whoosh of the water as it hit the piroguier’s paddle. At night, we camped under the stars and saw the most beautiful milky way ever. It was total bliss, we love being immersed in nature.
Nick: A moment I loved sharing with Margherita was a silent meditation retreat in Thailand, because Margherita had to keep quiet for a few days! Just kidding. The Inca Trail and our arrival to Machu Picchu was very special, because it’s a moment that we wanted to share for a very long time.
Can you tell us about one crazy or risky thing you’ve done while traveling that you would and one that you wouldn’t want to repeat again?
Margherita: One thing I would do again any day is urban exploration. It doesn’t sound dangerous, but it’s actually very easy to hurt yourself while exploring abandoned buildings. For instance, we explored an abandoned hospital in Berlin where we had to climb metal ladders fixed to the wall to get to the rooftop. If we had slipped, we would have fallen 30 meters to the ground. It was absolutely crazy but somehow, we weren’t worried. It was much scarier to go bungee jumping, even though it’s a safer activity when all precautions are taken.
Something we would never do again is going to the rainforest without a guide. We got lost for the whole day while visiting Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia – we had absolutely no idea where we were and it was terrifying, especially when it got dark. Then, miraculously we found a shelter where we spent the night, and then we met some people who pointed out the way to the river where we hitched a ride back to park headquarters. It was by far the most scared we’ve been in our life, and taught us a good lesson: always get a local guide when going in wild places!
Nick: Rock climbing is something that looks ‘crazy’ at first glance but is in fact a rather safe activity – provided all safety precautions are taken! I really love rock climbing and Margherita does too, I just wish we had more time to dedicate to the activity, because we’re getting out of shape!
Something I definitely wouldn’t do again is white water rafting. I’m not a fan of water and being tossed and turned like a human washing machine is not my kind of fun. Margherita loves it but next time I won’t be joining her!