Elvin and Zay Tirado can’t help loving Puerto Rico, the island where they grew up, met, and fell in love. Although they spend about three-quarters of the year exploring faraway cities and countries, they make it a point to go back home after every major escapade.

Over the past eight years, the couple’s travels have led them all over the world, and they’ve learned quite a bit along the way. They’ve turned the art of living out of a backpack into a science, a skill that even inspired their blog’s name — El Viajero sin Maletas, or “The Traveler without Suitcases.” Since then, they’ve picked up more than 23,000 Instagram followers, all eager to follow Elvin and Zay on their whirlwind adventures.

Above all else, they’ve noted that their on-the-go lifestyle has turned them into best friends, as well as romantic partners.

Their current lifestyle is a large-scale fulfillment of the smaller outings they embarked on in the early stages of their relationship. Back then, they set forth on day trips and weekend excursions in hopes of getting to know Puerto Rico — and each other — on a deeper level. Little by little, they grew closer and discovered the island’s secrets, from the mountains of Rincon to the cave petroglyphs of Arecibo.

About a decade has passed since then, but one thing hasn’t changed: Elvin and Zay live a good life.

Of course, they have hit some bumps on the road. Last year, when Hurricane Irma made its way toward Puerto Rico, Elvin and Zay were on the other side of the world, where they waited with bated breath to see how their island would fare. They were relieved when Irma didn’t cause much damage — but horrified when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico just a few days later.

With no way to contact their family and friends, Elvin and Zay could do nothing but sit and wait for updates to reach them in Thailand. Finally, after two long weeks, they boarded the first available Puerto Rico-bound flight. Upon arriving, something surprised them even more than the total devastation did.

“Everyone was cooking for each other, sharing, helping each other in any way they could. They were smiling in the middle of chaos,” Elvin explains. “We saw a lot of suffering, but we also saw a lot of courage, resilience, love, perseverance, brotherhood, and kindness.”

It’s the same positivity and kindness that pull them home, time and time again, and help them recharge after their journeys. It’s the same sense of community that they look for around the globe, hoping to find locals and travelers who are as friendly and humble as their fellow puertorriqueños.

With recovery efforts well under way, Elvin and Zay say that Puerto Rico will come back even better and stronger than it was before. They call it a new paradise, where restaurants, inns, beaches, and galleries are waiting for new faces, new visitors, and new friends.

They have just one word of advice — do yourself and the puertorriqueños a favor, and don’t make the island wait too long.

 

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Whitney Brown
Whitney Brown is a recent journalism graduate and travel writer based in Utah. She has lived in France and Ireland, and she's always planning her next big adventure. In addition to her passion for travel, Whitney loves archaeology, photography and floral design.