Married Alums Backpack Across the Globe

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When Matt Leszczynski ’10 and Michele Kennedy ’10 met at Freshmen Experience, the pair formed a connection that would last throughout their tenure at Holy Family University. As Nursing majors in their junior year, Matt and Michele ended up having the same schedule—from classes to clinicals—and even worked in the same hospital. As fate would have it, they ended up dating and eventually married in 2015. Avid travelers, the duo paid off their debts, left their jobs, and decided to see the world. Michele sat down with Holy Family University to discuss their unique adventures and outlook on life.

HFU: What interests you both in traveling and when was the moment you both decided to quit your jobs and travel full time?

MK: “I think we both have different reasons for why we love to travel. My husband Matt loves culture-shock. It is something that one should experience at least once. He enjoys arriving at a different country that is so unlike our own, looking around and saying, ‘Where am I?’ He is also a true adrenaline junkie. He is an avid rock climber and skier, so to experience these activities in another country is something he loves. Whether it is bungee jumping in New Zealand to caving in Vietnam, he always seeks out thrilling activities for us to do on the road. I love to travel to discover what each country has to offer as we explore them. Whether it is their food, a beautiful sight, or just the people themselves, I love to engage every sense in the experience. I also love the feeling of accomplishment, especially while traveling a more difficult location. For example, we spent almost a month in Laos in the beginning of the year. I was quite nervous for our time there and it can be a challenging place to backpack. However, I absolutely loved it and felt so happy that we traveled there.”

“It was not a quick decision to quit our jobs and travel full-time. We debated about pursuing different paths of travel for years, whether just taking longer trips while working or looking up travel nursing. We always knew that we shared such a passion for traveling, yet we always found ourselves limited by our work schedules and vacation time. Matt made his decision long before me, but I am always the cautious one in our marriage. We had been working as nurses for the past six years, paid off our student loans, and started saving to buy a house. When we realized that we just were not quite ready to purchase a home, we made the final decision in the summer of 2016.”

“The saying goes ‘life is short,’ and although many are familiar with the adage, few people act accordingly. My mother passed away from breast cancer at the age of 54 in 2010 and my father succumbed to prostate cancer at the age of 63 in 2016. Two of the most important people in my life had their lives cut short at such an early age. It was infuriating, cruel, and devastating on a multitude of levels to me. However, these tragic events made me realize that life doesn’t wait for you. You really do have to seize opportunities as they arise, as cliché as that may sound. Consequently, when I hear the phrase, ‘life is short,’ it is something that I take very seriously.”

HFU: What have been some of your favorite locations and what destinations are on the horizon?

MK: “A lot of people ask us what our favorite countries have been during our travels. I would have to say that I would never be able to pick just one location because I have loved certain countries for various reasons. Honestly, Turkey was one of my favorite places that we visited. Turkish people are some of the friendliest and most genuine people we have ever encountered in our travels. I loved Greece for their gorgeous beaches, food, and just simply the relaxing feeling of being in the country. Matt’s favorite places depend on the specific interest he is looking for. For history, the ancient sites of Egypt, Jordan, and Italy are best. For food, he loves Turkey and Japan. For the people, the Netherlands and Turkey. It all depends on what you want. One of his favorite places was Japan because of the towering medieval castles, beautiful gardens, the surprising variety of food (it is not just sushi and hibachi), and the unique discipline and politeness that can only be found in Japanese society.”

“Some experiences that are on the radar for us are searching for Komodo dragons in the Indonesian wild, a one-week whitewater rafting trip in Nepal, as well as two hikes around the Himalayas that will take several weeks, cage-diving with Great White Sharks in Australia, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, and camping in the Outback. We then come home for the holidays to visit friends and family. Next year we are planning to hike the Andes mountains and Macchu Picchu, explore the glaciers of Argentina, take a camel safari across the Sahara in Morocco, explore Israel, and many other experiences. Our plans are never set in stone, which makes things even more exciting for us to not know where we will be in the world next year.”

HFU: What type of activities do you do when you arrive at a new location? Do you ever do any odd jobs to make some extra money to fund the next trip?

MK: “When we arrive at a new location we usually have an idea of the sights and activities that the area has to offer. Matt is very thorough when he looks up where we will be going and tries to place us in locations that offer famous sights, thrilling activities, or just a quiet area to relax and unwind. We love to explore the surrounding area that we visit and really get a sense of the country itself, whether that is meeting the people who live there or partaking in local foods. We do not have any jobs at the moment to fund the trip. We spent many years saving and knew we wanted to really enjoy this experience and not worry about finding work in another country.”

HFU: What was the reaction from your family and friends when you told them you would be traveling the world?

MK: “We knew it was not going to be easy to announce to our family and friends that we were planning to travel the world for two years. We understood their initial reaction of sadness because we are so close to our families and spend so much time with them. We understood their feelings of concern and worry because they wanted to make sure we were financially sound for the trip and there are risks while traveling. In the end, through so many emotions, we were left with their loving support for our decision to travel. Having this support from our family and friends really was important to us, and continues to be while we are on the road. It is not just traveling that fuels our fire, but we thrive on their positivity for us on this journey.”

HFU: Are there times you ever miss being home or are you and Matthew happy to be out exploring the world?

MK: “Matthew and I are beyond thrilled to have this opportunity to explore the world. We know this is a once in a lifetime chance and we feel so lucky to be able to pursue this dream of ours. We have seen so many amazing things and have had so many incredible experiences. It has also helped our relationship in so many ways. With that being said, it does not mean we do not get home sick. There are certain moments that tend to tug at our emotions. We knew we would miss parties, birthdays, family dinners, holidays, and gatherings with friends, and we both would be lying if we said we were okay with not being present for them. However, we know that life is about balancing time. Unfortunately, we knew we could not realize our dream and simultaneously spend the same amount of time with family and friends.  We enjoy and appreciate this opportunity, and in the same light, we will enjoy and appreciate making a home for ourselves and spending time back at home when we have completed our adventure.”

Amsterdam


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Cambodia - Angkor Wat


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Laos - Xe Bang Fai


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Thailand - Bangkok


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Thailand - Chiang Mai


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Thailand - Khao Sok National Park


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Thailand - Ko Lanta


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Thailand - Ko Lipe


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Thailand - The White Temple


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Vietnam - Cat Ba Island


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Vietnam - Hang Va Cave


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