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Toilet-scrubbing, globe-trotting couple reveal dirtier side of budget travel

Stevo Dirnbergern and Chanel Cartell recently made headlines for revealing the less glamorous side of travel, but don't take pity on them.
/ Source: TODAY

Stevo Dirnbergern, 29, and Chanel Cartell, 30, seem to be living the dream: traveling the world and sharing photos of their incredible destinations along the way. After quitting their advertising jobs in South Africa, the couple decided to hit the road and have since clocked over 15,000 miles and have visited parts of Africa and Europe since starting in March 2015.

And while this globe-trotting lifestyle isn’t new, the pair recently made headlines for revealing the grittier and less glamorous side of travel. "We thought it’d be fair to shed some light on the uglier side too, just in case people were considering to do the same and thought it would be something out of a dream,” Cartell told “Don’t get me wrong — it is an absolute dream, but as with anything in life, there is bad that comes with the good."

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What are the downsides? "So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shoveled, 60 meters of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished," they wrote in a blog post. "You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers."

Since publishing this honest account, the couple has been characterized as “poor” and modern-day penniless travelers — accounts tinged with a hint of schadenfreude — but Dirnbergern and Cartell are simply living on a budget, deciding where to scrimp and splurge. After all, how many poor people get to dine at one of the world’s top restaurants, Noma in Copenhagen? The couple did just that to celebrate Cartell’s birthday.

They said the point of their post was that although it’s been tough, they get to live their dream and do incredible things in exchange for a little hard and dirty work. "We've learned that you really need to go after your dreams, no matter what it takes," Dirnbergern told TODAY. "If it means spending one month doing dirty work like scrubbing toilets, and another month shoveling rocks, but in the end you can explore the world and do what you love — why not?"

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The harsher experiences have been made up by once-in-a-lifetime moments like living with and looking after 70 Huskies in the Arctic Circle, taking an evening road trip to the northern-most point of Europe with the midnight sun outside and reaching the top of the Untersberg in the Austrian Alps.

Aside from scrubbing toilets to earn some money on the go, the duo has budgeted their travels until February 2016. "When we originally created our budget, we did it per month, so that we wouldn't go and blow it all in the beginning," Cartell said. "We have an emergency pot for flights back home and medical emergencies, and live day to day on the monthly budgets created."

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So, is there an end date in sight for this adventurous pair? "We’re both very driven people so we will definitely work hard for a long time," Dirnbergern said. "On what, how and where is definitely the question, though. We currently have no plans, and like it that way. We’re just staying present and enjoying the ride, wherever it will take us."