Andrew Sim and Emily Gough, the intrepid duo behind the award-winning travel blog Along Dusty Roads, take us through their favourite gems around the world.
The couple that travels together, stays together – that’s certainly the case for Andrew Sim and Emily Gough. Fuelled by their shared passion for travelling and photography, the British couple started the highly acclaimed blog Along Dusty Roads from their kitchen table back in 2014, turning their globetrotting adventures – from the edge of Europe to Central America, Asia to the Caribbean – into a thoughtful resource that, eight years later, now draws over a million viewers each year. And just like a surprise encounter on the road you can’t quite forget, the blog, among the first of its kind, stands out from the crowd for its sweeping imagery and authentic storytelling that captures a space, and emotions, in time.
On a rare break between months-long jaunts (Sim and Gough touched down from Calabria, southern Italy, in Shrewsbury, northwest of London, where they had just purchased their first home) we catch up with the nomadic duo to talk all things travel – and doing it with the one they love.
The story of Along Dusty Roads began in 2014. Can you tell us about those days, and what gave you the motivation to quit your jobs and pursue travelling full-time?
We were living in London, where we met a couple of years earlier. Emily was an accident and emergency doctor, I [Andrew] worked in insurance, but both of us had a passion for travel and photography. After too much dancing and gin one night, we decided to go on a big trip, and worked out that we could make our savings last for two years of slow travel in Latin America. Frankly, it seems like a ludicrous idea, but that’s what young(ish) love and too much gin will do sometimes.
The plan wasn’t to become digital nomads or travel full-time, but to have adventures together and see what came of it. Thankfully, this creative project we started because of that trip ended up giving us almost everything we could have hoped for.
How did you meet and how did your passion for travelling – together and individually – take root?
[We met] internet dating in London, before the existence of apps like Tinder or Bumble! Both of us have always felt happiest when somewhere else, and there’s an odd comfort in being a stranger in a new place. It’s also when we feel most creative, and we’re so fortunate to share those feelings.
We were both lucky to have family holidays growing up. Andrew did a gap year in Vietnam working as an English teacher, I [Emily] was always off on backpacking adventures during and after studies, and life since then had led us to live in a few different countries before we met each other.
Perusing your blog is such a treat, with its poetic photography, writing and videography making readers feel like they’re right there with you. How did you develop your style and how do you split the work?
That is so nice of you to say! And having one’s photography described as ‘poetic’ is absolutely wonderful. Again, we’re fortunate to share a very similar eye and taste when it comes to art and photography, which definitely helps make working together a lot easier. We’re also fortunate that each of our flaws or shortcomings tends to be a strength of the other, so we are a pretty good little team.
We’re both self-taught photographers, and travelling has given us many opportunities to improve over the years. You genuinely could look at any photo on our blog and not know which of us has taken it though, which is pretty cool. Same goes for the writing, although we split certain aspects up to make life easier.
Your platform’s motto is to help people “travel more and travel better”. Why is that important, and do you have any tips for people to get the most out of their travel experiences?
It’s important for an individual traveller, the travellers around you, the destination and the people who live there. ‘Travel more’ doesn’t mean going on an expensive long-haul flight every month but being constantly curious to explore somewhere else, and to challenge the way you do it, be that a Sunday hike near home, a spontaneous city break, or a long budget backpacking trip. Beyond the obvious benefits, it really is a fantastic way to learn more about yourself and others, and light a thousand tiny fires in your mind.
‘Travel better’ is about being considerate and aware of your impact, both positive and negative, and also thinking about little changes to your travel style that can better serve a destination and local community. For example, intentionally reducing flights, minimising plastic waste, directing your tourism spend to small local-led businesses, travelling slower, going to the less famous places, and avoiding animal tourism experiences. Each traveller making a tiny positive change can lead to a massive, positive outcome.
Do you have a favourite country or travel memory?
It’s a toss-up between Italy and Colombia. We’re fortunate enough to now spend a good chunk of time in Italy each year, and that country’s culture and history is unmatched. Colombia gets under every traveller’s skin, and I don’t think there’s a limit on how often we would like to return there to learn and dance and understand.
How many months of the year are you on the road? Do you ever encounter burnout, homesickness or feeling uninspired, and how do you deal with it?
Great question! Travel fatigue is real, and we make a point of telling our readers about it. It’s something that will rear its head if you’re on the road full-time or long-term. There’s no point trying to ‘travel’ through it or avoid it.
When we feel it coming on, we’ve learnt that the only solution is to stop, get a base in place, and change our routine for a week or so until the desire and curiosity comes back. We did the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle for a couple of years and, despite the pros, we felt it just wasn’t suited to us. It took away some of the joys of travel, while also making it harder to do our work effectively; we craved a ‘real life’ community of our own.
The desire to make sure we weren’t so far away from family all the time led to us choosing a permanent base in the UK. The plan is to do six months of travel (not all in one lump) and six months at home working on the blog, and this is the first year we’ve really been able to properly put it into action due to the pandemic.
On that note, you recently bought your first house – congratulations! Tell us about it and what it means for your travels?
Finding this place was a very happy surprise and it feels like fate led us to it. It’s a 400-year-old barn conversion – one of those black-and-white, very English buildings – so it’s like a countryside cottage in the town! We just fell in love with it and all its quirks and character the moment we walked through the door.
Finding the property so soon after the end of the pandemic means that although leaving home will be a little harder now, we’ve still got a lot of travel time to make up for, so in the short term we won’t be travelling less. After years in rented accommodation, the potential to adopt a rescue pup or two in the future is likely to have more of an effect.
For those looking to dive into the digital nomad and travel content creator space, what would you say to them?
It’s a crowded market these days and changing all the time when a new app or trend picks up. However, there’s always a place for authentic storytelling and travel advice, so don’t lose sight of that.
How do you see tourism after Covid, and what are travellers looking for these days?
We can’t tell you how happy we are to be back to travelling, and that emotion seems to be widespread in 2022. It’s a relief, as the last few years made it feel like a distant future for people who like to go elsewhere (or those who depend on them).
The return to travel will see the return of pre-pandemic issues though – over-tourism, overcrowding, a negative impact on climate and sustainability – and we sincerely hope that each individual traveller, as well as the industry as a whole, thinks about the role they can play in minimising the negatives and accentuating the positives. That’s why the ‘travel better’ part of our approach is so vital.
What or where is next for you?
We are off to Puglia, a region in the south of Italy that we absolutely adore. Then it’s a little project in Brittany, France. After that, we will be settled at home writing up our guides from those trips, as well as those on the to-do list from Jordan, Central America, and elsewhere in Italy. There will be a big long-haul adventure at the beginning of next year but we haven’t decided where yet.