Hitched Hikers

A globe-trotting couple share their favorite destinations and memories from their yearlong honeymoon

McKenzie and Brad Burgtorf both grew up and attended college in small towns: McKenzie graduated from Ohio University in 2008, and Brad nished his studies at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, in 2003. Both had a strong desire to travel and see the world, so when they met in a bar in Denver, they were a perfect match.

Their honeymoon seemed like a perfect excuse for a getaway. But instead of relaxing on a tropical beach and drinking margaritas at an all-inclusive resort, they quit their jobs, packed their bags and set their sights on some of the highest mountains, most remote towns and the least-traveled paths.

Why did you two decide to go on this trip instead of a typical honeymoon?

McKenzie: We both kind of talked about extended travel throughout the time we were dating. It’s something that we both kind of wanted to do and never had done. … And then we got engaged … and we were kind of talking about what we wanted our life to look like, what we wanted to do together, and it really came up that we both still wanted to travel. And so we kind of were just kind of like, ‘Hey, why not?’ Like, let’s take a year, we can take the first year after we get married,

and do it.

How did you two plan and organize the trip?

M: We kind of just knew by the seat of our pants. … It was really cool because it kind of gave us flexibility, and we kind of changed our whole itinerary based on different conversations we had with different people and backpackers and locals, so we got to see a lot of things that I don’t think we would’ve otherwise if we only

did internet research and had a whole itinerary.

Brad: I remember breaking open a bottle of wine on the living room floor and rolling out a newly purchased world map and dreaming of seeing everything and doing everything, and we quickly got overwhelmed with the options. … We just didn’t have the time to put much effort into planning other than … rough outlines of countries and continents that we wanted to see.

What has been the hardest part of the trip?

M: This one time in Thailand, we were staying in this jungle hut, and it was 104 degrees and it was humid and there [were] mosquitos and it was, you know, just super uncomfortable. And in that moment you’re kind of disheartened a little bit. And then you realize that 30 minutes later we were swimming in the ocean looking at these beautiful mountains and the jungle. It’s all worth it in the end, and the bad stuff doesn’t last forever, and it’s part of what you have to give to be able to experience it.

B: This was easy for me. Not being able to get to a McDonald’s within have minutes or a Jimmy John’s was like hands down the hardest thing for me to get

used [to] for nine months during international travel. And one of the things, like as soon as we stepped foot back in the States, we went straight to Jimmy John’s. ere’s some American food that just can’t be replicated.

What are you going to do when the trip is over?

M: We’ve been on the road and living out of our backpacks and out of a truck for so long, and it’s been awesome and such an amazing experience, but it’s going to be good to settle back into real life and have a routine again … sleeping in our own bed and doing laundry. All those things that you take for granted when you’re traveling for so long.

What was your favorite destination?

B: Places like Laos or Bolivia or Bosnia, … we had no expectations going in. e people that we met, the stories that we learned, the cultures, just speaking with the people was just really amazing, and I think we’ll take a lot more from those experiences down the road than we necessarily would from visiting well known places in Europe or even Thailand for instance.

How has the trip impacted your relationship?

M: I think we’ve only spent 72 hours apart this whole year, so I think we’re really fortunate in that we travel really well together. And I mean, I’m sure there’s times when we’re on a 24-hour bus ride and we’re cranky and we’re probably not our best selves, and we kind of learned to roll with it together. And I think we’ve seen each other at our lowest lows and our highest highs, and I kind of really just think it makes us stronger as a couple.

B: It’s been such a great experience to start our lives together and [have] so much quality time together. So much of the trip has been good. Given the types of travel, the budget travel, there’s been some discomfort, so we’ve seen each other at our lows and know that when one person is at their low, the other person is going to kind of pick them up. And I couldn’t have done this with anyone else.

M: Yeah, I think it’s safe to say we married the right people.

 So what’s been your favorite story to tell, what’s been your craziest,

or most adventurous and disastrous story from the trip?

M: It’s so hard to pinpoint one down because we have so many. Like, I think that’s one of the best things about the trip. I mean we got in an accident in the middle of the Laos jungle and we hiked up Machu Picchu in a rainstorm and we woke up to tarantulas in Bolivia. We thought we poisoned ourselves one time in Bosnia because we ate these beans that we didn’t see the label on. … they’re endless.

B: Overall, everything went really smoothly. … We’ve had a couple of delays and some issues. No long-term illness, no broken bones, no call home seeking money, no jail time. We’ve really been fortunate in that respect.

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