We met Greg and Tiffany Norte while on a liveaboard scuba diving boat in the Great Barrier Reef. Between the 10 dives, overeating the surprisingly good buffet food, reminiscing about the greatest the USA has to offer, and getting my butt kicked at euchre (a rare occasion, just ask the Schneider’s!) so badly I had to jump off the boat naked, we delved deep into the “Coast Guard Couples” interesting lifestyle choice – as the title suggests – sailing around the world and sharing the skinny on how to do it yourself. Heck, they’ve been doing it for two years straight and have 16 years of sailing experience between them! So when it comes from them, you know you’re getting expert advice. Fortunately, you don’t need to fly to Australia to meet them and pick their brain. They’re giving out the deets here for free and have an absolutely infinite amount of quality how-to’s on their website, along with other great antidotes from the rarely seen South Pacific, at www.CoastGuardCouple.com. So slip off your flip flops, crack into a Pacifico, and climb on board while Greg and Tiffany show us how to travel the world for free. Oh, that sounds so nice, I need to write it again. FOR FREE.
Greg & Tiffany Norte
Didn’t those change recently?
Greg – Gemini
Tiffany – um…scorpio?
Married so plenty, thanks
Single / Married:
Same question twice?
Where are you now?
Northern Queensland, Australia
Where are you off to next?
Excellent question. It depends on our next yacht. We’ll let you know when we find out.
What are 3 items you cannot travel without?
Determined, Friendly Attitude
A moderate amount of cash (just in case)
Passport with plenty of time left on it.
Ultimately, when you have these, the rest can be sorted pretty easy. And this one time in Mexico Greg didn’t have his passport so the first two got him through just fine.
What do you do for work?
We sail around the world as crew on luxury sailing yachts.
Why do you do that type of work?
uh…funny, most people don’t ask that as a follow-up 😉
Well, when travelling long term, what are the 3 biggest expenses people face?
1) Transport (airfare / bus / rental car / etc.)
2) Accommodation (Hotel / hostel / campervan / etc.)
When you work on a yacht the first two (and sometimes all three) are free!
Imagine how much longer you could travel and how much more you could do if your airfare and hotel bills were literally zero? That was the main reason; we wanted to travel for a long time and not spend a fortune doing it.
Working on yachts also allows us to see the parts of the world that almost no one else has seen. We have been to islands in the South Pacific that literally less than 100 people visit in a YEAR. These are places that are inaccessible except for by ship.
Thirdly, we get to live on a yacht in the middle of the South Pacific without having to pay for it.
Incidentally, you don’t need any special qualifications or training to start as a volunteer and sail around the world for free. Since discovering this we’ve been trying to get the word out. Yes, it really is as cool as it sounds. It’s also ridiculously easy to do.
How do you fund your travels?
Well, because of how we travel and paying off all our debts before leaving, we don’t need a lot of money. That being said we do have a “returning home fund” that we stashed away from Greg selling his small business to one of his partners. Also, Tiffany is a licensed ship captain so we occasionally take work as a Captain & Crewman doing deliveries or teaching.
This year we decided to live on land in Australia for a new experience so we worked to support on landlubbin’ lifestyle: 3 months at a ski resort, 1 month at a horse racing stable and now a few months at a hotel & pub in the tropics.
What is the longest stretch you have gone traveling?
This trip – just over 2 years so far
Any advice on long-term traveling?
Minimize your debt. Eliminate it if possible. It is not possible to overemphasize how powerful this is. Every dime we make, we keep. If we don’t make money in a given month and live for free on a boat, then we don’t lose money to credit card payments, car payments, etc. In other words, we don’t necessarily have to make money to maintain our current lifestyle.
Bills hold you down, they are not an impossible obstacle (for example, we still pay car insurance on our cars & basic health insurance just in case) but they make it harder.
What are the top 3 countries you’ve visited and why?
We could go on and on: Awesome people, awesome food, awesome countryside, it’s cheaper than many other places, it’s wide open, they have a culture and economic structure that is very open to extended budget tourism, hiking, sailing, climbing, partying, you name it…really, it doesn’t get much better than NZ.
A tiny little island nation in the middle of the South Pacific. They get one flight a week and the capital “town” completely empties out to meet the plane. When you arrive people will notice you, know that you’re a tourist and go out of their way to be nice to you. The ice cream is insanely good and the diving is mind blowing. 125 feet of clear visibility on a porous island you can actually swim into! The island itself is also an impossible blending of about 3 different ecosystems. You can drive around it in a day but you could easily spend months enjoying the different aspects of the land.
Mexican – Mexico
Not tourist Mexico. Get away from the Gringo villages and into some communities. Excellent food, spectacular beer and just stupid cheap prices. You can live like royalty for nothing! Not to mention all that is down there. We saw 20 million butterflies (not an exaggeration, the sign said 20 million monarchs), a rich and vibrant culture and Pacifico tastes WAY better south of the border!
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met on the road and why?
Limiting it to one person would be inaccurate. The cultures we have encountered are interesting when held in contrast to our own. We, like all people, have lived with assumed rules of how one acts and thinks. Living in a culture who’s rules are different, or even opposite to our own is endlessly fascinating a unique opportunity for some serious introspection on why we do what we do.
Example: in America sex, nudity and devout Christianity are somewhat…at odds. In Tahiti this is not the case; they are in fact complementary. It opens your eyes. Metaphysically speaking 😉
Which hostel/hotel/pension/tent/etc. would you consider your best and why?
Living on a yacht. 5 star lifestyle with little to no expense.
Are you/have you traveled with another person for an extended period?
If so, what was their relation?
Each other – spouse.
Also, Tiffany’s brother joined us for about 4 months in Australia.
The most unusual thing you’ve eaten and where. Did you enjoy it? Please describe.
New Zealand and Australian “Mexican” food. Burritos were not meant to be square, people.
What have you left behind?
Interesting interpretive question
In America? Family & Friends – who we dearly miss and do our best to keep in contact with.
In the places we visited? Friends – that we have made them has made us extremely happy.
How many languages do you speak and what are they?
Greg – fluent English and some French
Tiffany – fluent English and some Spanish
What is your favorite word or saying in another language?
Si la jeunesse savait, si la viellesse pouvait.
”If the young only knew, if the old only could.”
Hola! Buenos dias!
Tiffany enjoys the weird looks non-North Americans give her.
What is your favorite or go-to travel guide?
Lonely Planet guides have treated us well. The e-book versions are far lighter than paper.
A favorite joke/quote?
“We all make choices. Eventually our choices make us”
-Bioshock video game
Yeah, we’re gamers.
What has traveling taught you?
Having “a lot” or “a little” stuff is always relative.
Long term travel is challenging at times, but not hard.
The world is much more accessible than you realize.
You really don’t need a lot of money to travel.
The whole concept of working holiday vacations is amazing and everyone under 30 should do it. You get to actually experience a culture instead of just the tourism sector. You get to meet and befriend real people instead of just other travelers.
Any funny cultural faux pas or slip-ups?
People walk on the side of the sidewalk that corresponds to the side of the road they have been raised to drive on. This is not something you ever think about or even really notice until you start wondering why everyone is giving you dirty looks and doing the sidewalk waltz with you in an area with heavy foot traffic.
Can you share your best travel story?
We were asked by some friends to join their 44ft sail boat and help them transit from Mexico to Tahiti. We spent 4 months sailing the South Pacific: sailing 1000 miles from land, learning the ukulele, swimming across the equator, breaking open coconuts with rocks and diving on a school of 250 reef sharks. All for the cost of groceries. It was great!
About the authors
Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures. If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!