FARGO — Many young couples dream of traveling the world together, experiencing things that many will only see in magazines or online. Especially for young folk, getting out of their homeland can be exciting and freeing.

Spring breaks are spent lounging on a beach in places like Miami, Punta Cana or Cancun or skiing down a mountain at a resort in Denver or Aspen. Yes, for the typical 20-something, exploring the world can be a fun — but temporary — experience.

But Payton Mark, 22, and Dylan Berg, 23, are not your typical 20-somethings. With nothing but their camera gear, a suitcase, an eye for bargain hunting and each other, this Fargo couple has set out to see the world one country at a time.

Semi-high school sweethearts

In classic romantic comedy fashion, Mark and Berg knew of each other since they were young, but never found each other until after high school.

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"It's actually a funny story," Mark says. "We've gone to the same school since elementary. We knew each other, but we didn't start talking until we graduated high school."

Mutual friends brought these two Davies High School graduates together, but it wasn't until Mark left for a semester abroad during her studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead that they realized they needed to date.

"She had already signed up for (studying abroad in Australia) when we started talking, so she had to go," Berg says. "It was kind of bad timing, kind of good timing."

"It was five months that I was going to be gone," Mark says. "So we were like, 'Well, we like each other, but we don't know if we should start dating,' because I was going to be gone for five months. We started dating a week after I got to Australia."

A two-week spring break adventure on the east coast of Australia halfway through Mark's semester abroad marked their first trip overseas together.

"So he traveled to Australia for two and a half weeks, the east coast," Mark says. "Then he left and I was there for another two months. Once I got done with school there, he flew back and I met him in Fiji."

Traveling the world

The couple has visited a total of 11 countries.

"We have each been to two separate (countries)," Mark says. "I went to Mexico and Jamaica before I was with him."

"And I've been to Costa Rica and the Bahamas," Berg adds. "My grandpa lives in Costa Rica. That's actually what got me into traveling. I went there probably three times when I was a little kid. It sparked my love for traveling."

They took a monthlong tour of Southeast Asia in the summer of 2018, visiting places some only dream about and stare longingly at as they scroll through their Instagram feeds.

The famous Marina Bay Sand hotel in Singapore, Ko Phi Phi Islands and Bangkok, Thailand, Guam, Bali and Tokyo were on the lineup for that trip.

Payton Mark sits on a private long boat in the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. Dylan Berg / Special to The Forum
Payton Mark sits on a private long boat in the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. Dylan Berg / Special to The ForumDylan Berg / Special to The Forum

In addition to their tour of Asia, they've made their way around the U.S. — including San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, New York City, Duluth, Minn., and Las Vegas — as well as St. Lucia in January 2019.

"Bali is just Instagram heaven," says Mark.

"She's super into photography," Berg says about his photojournalism-major girlfriend. "When we are traveling, we go places just so she can get a picture."

While getting that Instagram picture isn't the only reason they go to places, it does make for some interesting stories.

"In Bali, we rode on a moped scooter for, well, it was three hours one way," Mark says. "Six hours total just so I could get a picture (at the Handara Golf Resort Gate). It's one of my favorite pictures ever."

Payton Mark near the Handara Golf Resort Gate in Bali, Indonesia. She and boyfriend, Dylan Berg, drove six hours round-trip on a moped to reach this gate. Dylan Berg / Special to The Forum
Payton Mark near the Handara Golf Resort Gate in Bali, Indonesia. She and boyfriend, Dylan Berg, drove six hours round-trip on a moped to reach this gate. Dylan Berg / Special to The ForumDylan Berg / Special to The Forum

Berg, the driver, says the narrow roads made the six-hour trip a bit nerve-wracking.

"The roads there are so narrow and people drive crazy," he says. "There were big city tour buses that were passing us (on the trip)."

Their trips have taken them out of an airplane, into shark-infested waters and up beautiful, volcanic jungle mountains.

"We went scuba diving with bull sharks in Fiji," Mark says. "And then we went skydiving in Australia."

"(St. Lucia) has hikes up the Piton mountains," Berg adds. "It's so beautiful — the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

All about the money

Traveling is not cheap — especially when you're soon to be a new college graduate, like Mark, or working to promote your business, like Berg. Finding ways to feed wanderlust is not always easy.

The couple has many tricks, though, to make it work, including an obvious main one: saving money.

"When we are home, we don't really do anything," Berg says. "We don't really go out to bars, we never go out to eat — we cook our own food."

They also have chosen to stay at home with their parents instead of spending money on rent.

The couple also work together as wedding videographers, a gig the full-time MSUM student Mark promotes at her part-time job at LeeAnne's Bridal.

Berg, however, has a different way of making money.

"I started making beats when I was 14," he says. "I started an online business and I was making enough money to support myself in high school. Like, I never had to ask my parents for money. And it's started to take off this past year. I do a lot of social media and networking, trying to send beats to big (music) artists. I have a song right now that's in the Top 200 on Apple Music that I produced. It has 11 million plays on YouTube."

Saving money generated from his music, as well as their work as wedding videographers, helps — but the perks they get while traveling also sweeten the deal.

"When we were in Asia, I messaged a bunch of hotels and said, 'Hey, we will make a video for you if you let us stay a couple of nights for free,'" Mark says. "We got to stay for three free nights at a pretty nice resort in Thailand to make them a video."

Their entrepreneurship and networking scored them four days on a boat in St. Lucia, too.

Mark also collaborates with clothing and luggage companies, promoting their products on her Instagram account in exchange for free goods.

"In a perfect world, I would love for my Instagram to blow up and then do that," Mark says.

"People are getting paid off of Instagram alone," Berg adds. "That's their full-time job. Brands will have them post their stuff and they get paid for it."

Growing as a couple

Being together constantly while traveling can break even the strongest of couples. Learning quirks about travel partners can make or break the trip, but spending every moment with someone also offers the opportunity to learn and grow in a relationship.

"We don't ever really fight, but if we do argue a little bit, it's always when we are traveling," Mark says. "But we have learned that we are compatible in stressed-out situations."

Payton Mark and Dylan Berg snorkeling in St. Lucia. Payton Mark / Special to The Forum
Payton Mark and Dylan Berg snorkeling in St. Lucia. Payton Mark / Special to The ForumPayton Mark / Special to The Forum

Berg agrees.

"We can still figure it out," he says. "We had to go through the busiest subway station in the world when we were in Tokyo. We had our big bags and there was a sea of people and nobody spoke English. We can get through stressful situations, but it just makes our relationship stronger."

Learning how someone handles stressful situations while traveling can help with everyday life, too.

"You see how well you can work together," Mark says. "I would say you really get to know someone when they're under a lot of stress and how they deal with that. Each trip, we learn more about each other."

Mark and Berg hope to see 100 countries and make it to all seven continents in their lifetimes. They're currently celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans and visiting Mark's parents in Biloxi, Miss., while on spring break.

"We just want to see the world," Mark says.

Travel Tips

Mark and Berg have collected quite a few tips and tricks on their travels.

  1. Airfare: "We always use Google Flights," Berg says. "You can see in advance which days would be cheaper. It shows the best and cheapest flights. Between one and two days, there can be almost a $300 difference, so we can see when the best time to leave is."
  2. Accommodations: "Our main thing is Airbnb," Mark says. "We rarely stay in hotels. With Airbnb, you can get a whole apartment for the price of a hotel. You can also find ones with washing machines to clean up a bit on long trips. That helps."
  3. Dining: "Instead of eating out, which can be really expensive, we go grocery shopping when we get there and cook our own meals," Berg says. "It saves a lot of money."
  4. Travel together: "Find a travel buddy because then you can split the cost of staying in a place," Mark says. "We pay for our own flights. We will kind of go back and forth between 'you pay for this dinner, I will get the next one,' but we split housing and everything else half-and-half."
  5. Baggage: "Take a carry-on," Mark says. "When we went to Asia, we shared one checked bag. They have these things that you put a bunch of clothes in and seal them so they get flat. We fit both of our clothes in one checked bag for Asia."
  6. Choose destinations wisely: "Go on a cheaper time," Mark says. "Yeah it can suck not going somewhere for spring break, but if you don't go for spring break, go in May. Everything will be so much cheaper, the flights, the housing... Also, going to cheaper places can help. Yeah, the plane ticket to Asia was expensive, but I paid $2,500 for a month for everything — all my souvenirs, housing, food."
  7. Budget: "Before we book something, we will go through and make a budget," Mark says. "We set out how much the flight will be, excursions we want to do, things like that, before we fully book it."

Follow their travels

You can follow Mark on Instagram at @paytonmarietravel and @paytonmariemedia. Find Berg on Instagram at @dylan_berg_. To follow their travels on their blog, visit itchingforadventure.com. Find them on YouTube at "Payton and Dylan."