This couple is living our travel dreams, and last month, they wandered into Pakistan.
Alex and Sebastiaan describe themselves as "20-something blogging backpackers" who quit their desk jobs to travel the world some.
From Netherlands where they lived, they've travelled eastwards, making stops in Armenia and Georgia before entering Asia and camping out in Iran, Pakistan and now China.
When they first decided to cross over into Pakistan from Iran, Alex and Sebastiaan weren't sure what to think.
"Everything we found on the internet made Pakistan seem like the most dangerous destination ever, but we tend not to believe everything we read," says Alex in a conversation with Images. "Our biggest concern was Ramadan, actually – we thought we were either going to be arrested for drinking water during the day, or die from heat stroke on the streets of Karachi!"
Luckily, this wasn't the case. Not only did Alex and Sebastiaan find themselves well-supplied with food and drink, but many people they met treated them like their personal guest.
"[The most surprising part of our trip was] the hospitality of the people we met. After traveling in Iran, we thought it would be impossible to find more hospitable people … but we were wrong! Pakistani people completely blew us out of the water," Alex shares.
Still, their journey didn't come without challenges:
"Our biggest challenge once in Pakistan was figuring out where we could and couldn't go. We were told more than once that we could only stay at expensive hotels because of “security reasons”, or we couldn't enter sights because we didn’t have permission. But nobody could tell us where to get permission!
"The best tip we can give for first-time travelers is to expect the unexpected, and just go with the flow. Pakistan has a way of surprising you at every twist and turn."
Speaking of twists and turns, Alex and Sebastiaan didn't have a pre-planned route through Pakistan.
"We had no idea where to go or what to see upon entering Pakistan–the only information we could find beforehand were travel warnings! In Karachi we bought a paper map–yes, those still exist–and used a combination of map and recommendations from people we met."
They visited Karachi, Thatta, Sehwan Sharif, Lahore, Islamabad, Naran, Kaghan, Hunza, Gilgit - and a few places in between. As they met more and more people, their understanding of Pakistan and Islam also deepened:
"Many of the places we visited deserved much more love than they were getting. Georgia and Armenia don’t see many western tourists, and Iran and Pakistan both have (unfair) reputations as being filled to the brim with terrorists.
"We hope to entice more tourists to these places by sharing our stories and our experiences, by showing what it’s really like to travel in these places. You shouldn’t believe everything the media tells you!"
So, do they recommend the journey to other people?
"When you’re on your deathbed, wherever and whenever that may be, it’s not going to be the thousands of hours you spent at work that makes you smile. It will be all of the other experiences in life–those with family, with friends, while traveling or pursuing your dream–that will make you feel like you’ve truly lived your life. So why would you resign yourself to spending at least 66% of your waking hours in an office?