From grads to nomads: BYU couple takes on Southeast Asia


While most BYU students spend their last semester filling out graduate school applications and interviewing for full-time jobs, Christie and Daniel Jacinto study maps, write packing lists and create a detailed budget. The Jacintos won’t step into the “real world” some students describe as being the next destination after graduation. Instead, they will step into a hot, humid world filled with jungles, mountains, clear blue seas and endless islands.

Christie and Daniel Jacinto at El Nido, Palawan,  Philippines
Christie and Daniel Jacinto at El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. (Christie Jacinto)

This world is Southeast Asia, where the Jacintos will spend three and a half months on a backpacking trip.

Christie Jacinto, 23, from La Jolla, California, and Daniel Jacinto, 26, from Encinitas, California, were travelers from the beginning. Christie Jacinto spent a summer living in Spain as a teenager and visited Greece and Rome after graduating from high school.

As a married couple, Christie and Daniel Jacinto honeymooned in the Turks and Caicos and spent six months living in Boston to work on the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. They completed that experience with a three-week trip visiting sites on the East Coast.

Even with all these vacations, their Southeast Asia trip was an adventure they didn’t anticipate until seven months prior to graduating in April 2014.

“When we got married we had always discussed doing a big trip after we graduated, but we decided on Southeast Asia about seven months before graduation after talking to a couple at church who had already planned a trip,” Daniel Jacinto said.

Daniel Jacinto received his degree in business finance, and Christie Jacinto received hers in broadcast journalism. Less than a week after their graduation ceremony, the couple moved into their new San Diego home and boarded a plane to Manila to begin their journey.

Traveling, for the Jacintos, has been both fun and educational. They have done world-famous dives in Malaysia and Indonesia, trekked the jungles in Malaysia’s Taman Nagara National Park, visited famous temples in Bangkok and taken cooking classes in Chiang Mai. They have seen the luxurious skyscrapers of Singapore as well as the slums of Manila, where people lie starving in the streets.

Getting to all the exotic locations the Jacintos wanted to see —which include the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam — required hours of in-depth research.

“To plan … we spent hundreds of hours reading websites and blogs about what we were about to take on,” Christie Jacinto said. “This was over the course of five to six months because we were in school and working full time.”

The Jacintos on the island of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
The Jacintos on the island of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. (Christie Jacinto)

Another crucial step in the Jacintos’ planning process involved telling their parents about their journey. Christie Jacinto’s mother, Alicia Richmond, from Camarillo, California, says she wasn’t surprised when she received the news.

“I thought that was very typical of them because they loved to travel,” Richmond said. “When I found out they wanted to be gone for that long it was a little shocking, and some of those countries were different destinations than I would choose, but they are very adventurous.”

Julianna Earl, a former roommate and close friend of Christie Jacinto from Glendale, Arizona, also found herself unsurprised by the Jacinto’s summer plans.

“I thought their trip was a great way to celebrate graduating from BYU, especially before they transition into the next phase of life,” Earl said. “Christie and Daniel are one of the most adventurous and outgoing couples I know.”

Some students shun the idea of extended travel because of the high costs involved and the risks of living without stable jobs, but the Jacintos didn’t let these fears prevent them from moving forward with their plans. They saved up money by foregoing expensive outings with friends. Instead of buying each other costly gifts for Christmas and birthdays, they put the money towards buying gear for their adventure.

“Traveling is a huge priority for us. We know that we will have our whole lives to work and in the U.S., and we only have about two weeks of vacation a year so we knew this was the only time,” Christie Jacinto said. “Before work and kids, we [knew] we could take a trip this long so we trusted our gut and decided to take advantage of this rare time in our lives.”

As exciting as the trip has been, the Jacintos say they have also faced challenges.  At one point during their vacation, Christie Jacinto found herself in a foreign hospital because of a jellyfish sting. A bus ride that was supposed to take 24 hours stretched into 40 hours after the bus broke down in rural Indonesia.

Even with these setbacks, the Jacintos agree that taking this trip has been the best experience of their lives. When they return to the U.S., they will settle into their new home and eventually have children. They will find work and see their families again. But they both agree that travel will always be a large a part of their lives together.

To other students or recent graduates considering an extended vacation, Daniel Jacinto has one piece of parting advice:

“Buy your plane tickets now, because if you don’t, there will always be 100 reasons to not go,” he said.

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