BYU couple makes world its campus

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BYU alumna Samantha Looney ran across the street just to get one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower’s sparkling light display. Her husband, Ryan Looney, came up from behind her and held her hand. She could hardly believe she was finally there.

Samantha had dreamed of visiting Paris ever since her mom gave her an old Paris sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was 30 years old already, but Samantha wore it often and hoped one day she would make it to the city it featured.

Now, France is just one of 13 countries the Looneys have visited together in the past year and a half of their marriage.

The Looneys met during their freshman year at BYU before they left on missions to Uruguay and Portugal. They wrote each other from across the world, and now they are exploring the world together.

Samantha graduated from BYU with a degree in English and is currently working, and Ryan is a full-time economics student at BYU. But the Looneys continue to travel throughout the year and fill Instagram and their growing blog, “Our Travel Passport,” with photos and stories from around the world.

The Looneys said college and young married life may seem like a time to stay home and save money, but they decided not to subscribe to that theory.

“I love that they discovered their passion for travel and live what they love,” said Megan White, Ryan’s older sister. “A lot of people say they would love to travel but never do. I admire how Ryan and Samantha just do what it takes to do what they love.”

Last summer, the Looneys flew in a tiny plane over the Serengeti in Tanzania on the way to a safari. With Ryan in the co-pilot’s seat, they peered out the window to see dark spots covering the ground below them. As they approached the ground, they saw they were landing in the midst of a wildebeest migration. The pilot had to circle a few times before the runway was clear of wildebeests.

The next morning, they were awakened early by their guides telling them of lions in the savannah. After driving through the park, they found the pride of lions gathered together eating their prey. One lion walked right in front of their jeep, while another two male lions fought over a female. Samantha said they felt like they had entered “The Lion King,” and it was in that moment they truly realized they were actually in Africa.

“I feel like there is a moment in each of our trips when we realize we are there,” Ryan said. 

The couple meticulously plans together so they can balance work and school while traveling. Ryan consolidates all of his classes into two days and then considers when all the tests and big assignments will be due. This way, they have a four-day weekend every weekend and can go on as long as eleven-day trips when there are holidays during the semester. Samantha works remotely in marketing, which facilitates their nomadic lifestyle.

“I feel like I have chosen a more flexible work schedule rather than a necessarily secure one just because it is important to us,” Samantha said. “We feel like this is such a short time in our lives that we have to just be us. We don’t have a house; we don’t have a dog; we don’t have children. There’s not all of these other responsibilities that we have, so if there’s a time to take advantage, it’s now.”

Samantha said the key to traveling at any stage is prioritizing. When the Looneys get a paycheck, they immediately set some money aside for savings and travel before paying for anything else.

Ryan said they use their photography and videography skills to offer marketing materials to hotels in exchange for free lodging. They also keep track of airfare deals and usually travel during weekdays, rather than the weekend, when it is more expensive. Samantha said it’s all about the right travel mindset.

“If you plan it in your budget and think about it like you will be at home — like say you spend $50 a week in groceries at home — then it’s not absurd to spend that same amount of money on food while you are traveling because you would be spending it anyway,” Samantha said. 

Ryan said traveling so frequently and working together to budget has brought them closer  in these early years of marriage.

“It helps us bond. Even if we are having a rough day, not being able to communicate, we will sit down at the end of the night and … have a mission to work on together,” Ryan said. “It gives us something to have common ground on.”

Even when the Looneys begin to have children, they said they plan to travel as much as possible. Ryan said they plan to help their children be cultured by experiencing many different places from the beginning of their lives.

“Our priority is to make experiences more important than things for our children,” Samantha said. 

Just as Samantha’s mother passed on her Paris sweatshirt, the Looneys want to pass on a greater perspective to their children so they can become citizens of the world.

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