How amazing would it to be to be able to travel across the world with some incredible people and have everything taken care of for you from tours to accommodations to transportation? The definition of worry-free travel.
Well thanks to Brandon & Stephanie Zarbo, this dream is now a reality. The husband and wife team own their own active travel business called We Must Dash, and they are doing some incredible things. Brandon & Stephanie take care of absolutely everything that you could think of, and make sure that you will have the time of your life. All that you need to do is show up and have a blast.
I recently sat down with the duo, and we chatted about travel, music, and everything in between.
This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Brandon & Stephanie of We Must Dash.
Travel photos c/o We Must Dash
Tell me a little bit about how you started your business.
B: We were taking our honeymoon and we wanted to spend a good amount of time in Southeast Asia, and I had been doing research about companies such as Contiki and Intrepid Travel, and I was completely dumbfounded at how many people were traveling to Thailand, and we had really fallen in love with the area. Ever since the first time I had been there, I was trying to get people to come with me, and then me and her (Stephanie) went, and we had done about five months in Southeast Asia, and that morphed into us saying, “We’re having our honeymoon, why don’t we just bring a bunch of people to Thailand with us?” I think at the peak we had about 24 people. It went really well, and everyone was raving about it. so we said, let’s just organize it and put the website up, and that’s that!
Describe your style of personality to me.
B: I am a challenger. I think that everyone wants to do things, they just need the motivation to do it, so I’m constantly the one to challenge you to do it. Do it, you are gonna enjoy it. Sometimes people need that little bit of a push. I would say, like, my style is more of a friendly challenge. It’s just the little bit of motivation that you need. I’m super outgoing, really an extrovert. I want everyone to get along with each other and have fun, and this was another reason why this was kind of like, just fell into our laps, I think. She is very analytical, and that’s not in a negative way, and I’m just jumping off the cliff like let’s do it and we’ll learn as we go. So mine is leap first then ask questions later.
S: I think we both are really strong in the mentality of creating fun. Always trying to find a reason to have fun in any situation you’re in. I feel like it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can jump a little more than I used to because I’ve had a lot of loss in my family and learning that, and realizing that at no point is anything going to get worse. There’s been things in my life that have been the worst situations, and I’ve been able to always come back out of them with growth and a new perspective. I’m a little bit less scared than I used to be. The fact that we’re freelancers, never in my life could I imagine this. I would have wanted some kind of safety net to fall back on. At the end of the day, learning through all of this and the craziness to come out on the other end and say, “We’ll figure it out.” We’re resourceful and passionate about this and I’d much rather throw my passion into something than wait ten years and go, “What the hell did we do?”
B: I think that’s why we work well together. Not just in this business but our relationship has been really strong because I’ve always been the one to be like, well *laughs* I guess peer pressure is a bad word, but in a positive way. That’s why I say I’m more of a motivator and she’s the one to always take people aside and talk to them, and that’s why I said analytical. She always more of the friend that you can confide in. This has kind of been a push with our brand, because we’ve seen other travel companies that are like “Washboard abs! Boobs and butts and look at the beautiful travel!” and we really just want to radiate those friends that you can always confide in no matter what. We want you to feel ultimately comfortable. If you ever want to travel, just ask us questions. We just want people to get out there and experience the world. A smile is the best currency that you can have.
What is on your playlist? What do you both love to listen to?
S: We just started a We Must Dash Spotify actually! We are tailoring it specifically to certain moments in travel. I’m a big closet EDM fan…that’s pretty much all I listen to.
B: Yeah, we listen to a lot of Trop House and stuff like that.
S: That’s the island thing, because immediately for us it’s like we’re back in a villa. Also, right now, Lord Huron, we could listen to them all day, they’re just great, and easy to listen to. Not too distracting and great background music.
B: I just listen to such a wide variety of music. I’m such a fan of corny 80’s music, though. It’s what I listen to all the time, and she hates it! I also like to make playlists for every situation I’m in. So, like, when I’m having some drinks around the fire, I’ll have a mood for that. When I’m trying to get amped up to go out, I have a mood for that. And then I have one that’s silly when I’m trying to make her laugh.
S: So yeah, I could listen to EDM at any moment on any day at any circumstance. And that’s totally a post-cheerleading thing. I would make the mixes for cheerleading and yeah it’s bad sometimes. Sometimes I’m like, “This makes no sense why I’m listening to this and how it fits this moment.” but it just works.
What is your most memorable or favorite concert you’ve ever been to?
S: Mine was Edgefest 2006, and we were both in high school, Taking Back Sunday was playing and Anberlin, and it was like my mecca of high school bands, I was so excited. And he goes, “We’re gonna go backstage!” and I’m like, “Get the hell out of here, who is this dude?” And we ended up watching the show backstage! He literally just walked backstage and was like, “Oh I’m here with the crew.” And they were like, “Okay!”
B: I had played in bands for a while and all throughout high school, so you just know. It’s just confidence.
S: So I was thinking, like, what is the worst that could happen? They are going to send me out into the crowd? That’s not even that big of a deal! What did you like, jingle your keys and pretend there was a pass on it?
B: Yeah, I just grabbed my keys and was like, “Oh here” *waves keys quickly* And I did it so fast so they couldn’t actually see anything.
S: Yes, we’ve been to some great shows but this was definitely the most memorable.
What were you guys like in high school?
B: I was a complete spaz. Just Dr. Detention all the time.
S: I was a pretty good student! So I was a weird one, because I was an art student, and president of band, and I was also the cheerleading captain. I could never specialize in something, because I always had my hands in a million different things. And nothing’s changed, because I’m just used to trying a little bit of everything and never excelling at one thing, just always being moderately okay at a lot of things.
If there was a movie about your life, what actor would play the role of you?
S: I’m trying to think of the person who I most identify with…Ellie Kemper from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt…I feel like she’d do a good job for me.
B: Vince Vaughn. I don’t talk as fast as he does, though. He’s just somebody who I identify with because he started out by writing his own movie and then he made his own way into the movie world. And he’s a Libertarian too, which I identify with…the only Libertarian in Hollywood pretty much.
What is your spirit animal?
B: Bald Mothafuckin’ Eagle. *laughs*
S: You would say that. I’m starting to think that my dog is. In a past life I would have said something like a fennec fox, and I don’t really have a reason for that other than I just like them…they’re adorable.
B: I would say a lion, but that sounds to conceited, so we’ll go with a mountain lion and/or a cougar. Because I don’t want to call myself a lion, because that’s like, “I’m a fuckin’ lion” and it’s so big headed. It would definitely be a big cat of some sort, because there’s a certain amount of viciousness to them but only when it’s warranted, but then there’s gracefulness to them.
S: So I think I would probably say a butterfly. I’m fascinated by the caterpillar to butterfly transformation, the whole thing…like I have a butterfly garden and keep the caterpillars and let them go. And I love the idea that science doesn’t even know why they shift and how that whole process happens, but they are becoming something else. And the migration for monarchs blows my mind too, that they just instinctively know.
B: Just born to travel!
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
S: Our five month trip was out of this world.
B: Yeah, we did so much in five months.
S: That was life changing. I know that for a lot of people that type of experience is not just something that they can do. But, I shouldn’t even say that. They think that it’s not possible. But there are a lot of scenarios that a lot of people could make it work. That trip just changed our lives. We lived out of backpacks for five months and the people we met, the experiences we had, we stayed with families and to see how they live on a day to day, it’s just so polar opposite of what we do and the things that we worry about. And after I was overwhelmed just walking into a grocery store. People don’t have these options. It really opened my eyes that we have way more control in our lives than we think we do and it really comes down to prioritizing what’s most important.
B: I think mine was this past trip with everyone, because we were taking such a leap and trying to expose people to something so different. The Honeymoon trip. We had a lot of people who meant a lot to us. I had one of my best friends in my entire life who’s had a lot of shit happen to him and he took a chance to go on this trip, and just seeing how he changed from the first day to the end of the trip. That happened to a few people. And it was something coupled with us taking such a chance on kickstarting this business, and using something like our honeymoon, it was very personal, it’s like your time as a couple to go out and do what you want to do, and for us to take a chance and invite all these people. It could have gone so horribly wrong, or so we thought. And I think it opened our eyes that this could really work. We were ready. This does change people and it really does make people reevaluate themselves.
Where is your happy place? Where do you go where you need to get away from the craziness?
S: In a hammock. It doesn’t even matter where the hammock is. A house is not a home without a hammock.
B: I would say the property. We have property down in the Southern Tier and I could be mowing the lawn and just hang out and watch the dog run around. Just hanging out and cooking shit over the fire and watching the sunset. Super duper happy place.
What is your favorite restaurant in the city?
B: Currently, I’d say Kaydara.
S: We really love it there. It’s pho and it’s Vietnamese fusion, so it’s a mix of a bunch of different stuff, so we always go there. It’s definitely pretty close to what we had in Vietnam.
B: I would say that’s my favorite place right now. Either that or a fuckin’ taco place like Don Tequila’s or Cantina. But Kaydara is the number one for now.
My last question that I always ask, because it’s very important. What do you want to be when you grow up?
B: I just want to be somebody who motivates people to be who they want to be. That’s it. As long as I can do that, I just want to be somebody who makes it easier for people to achieve what they want to achieve.
S: When I actually had to think about it when somebody asked me that after college and stuff, when I was asked what would be my dream job, it was something so lofty like, “Open a summer camp.” I think the about the happiest that I’ve ever been, and not to say summer camp was the end all be all, but as a general statement, all of the different things and activities and the people you are meeting, I think summer camp is a totally underrated thing that now, kids find a million reasons not to do that. That was such a defining part of growing up and learning to appreciate those things and trying stuff that you would never be able to do at home. So I think we’re on the path for me getting to be what I wanted to be when I grow up…a camp counselor! But just in a very exaggerated form.
Thank you SO MUCH Brandon & Stephanie for taking time out of your crazy schedules to meet with me. It was a blast talking with you and I’ll definitely have to take a trip with you soon!
Are you thinking of doing a bit of adventure traveling but don’t know where to start? Check out We Must Dash and you could find yourself on a trip that will change your life.