Interview: Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

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I met Barbara online. When I emailed her an interview request, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. She wrote, “Perpetual or even long-term travel changes us irrevocably and many of us cannot return to [the same] lives…after our experiences around the world.” A match! Trying to connect the world through the stories she can share, Barbara left the rat race of the corporate world and threw caution straight into the wind. After jobs that paid the bills for a comfortable existence left her unfulfilled and an illness left her on the sidelines of life for a few years, she had had enough. No more listening to other people’s opinions and no more wasted time. At the age of 62, she has been filling her soul by traveling the world for more than eight years and has no plans to settle down. Here she shares her passion for traveling and what she believes are the gifts of travel.

In the Galapagos (Ecuador) with giant tortoises

In the Galapagos (Ecuador) with giant tortoises

1.When did you get started traveling? I started traveling avidly the moment I was old enough to take off on my own, probably around the age of 18. Over the years, my desire to travel only grew; I found myself traveling for longer periods and to more far-flung places.

2.What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? Quite simply, it was an economic decision. Travel writers are not well paid, and with the amount of time I was traveling, it no longer made sense to maintain a permanent location when I was rarely there.

3.What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? The nay-sayers kept me trapped in a traditional corporate lifestyle for most of my working life. Rather than being true to myself, I worried that others would not approve of me, so I plodded on, living a life that I detested. Now, nearly eight years after walking away from my previous life, I wonder what took me so long. These days, I know that what other people think of me is none of my business. As for the benefits of this lifestyle, connecting with locals and learning about the culture of peoples from around the world is a joy for me, and I feel that my writing and photography contributes to the concept that we are all one human family.

Sailing the Tall Ship Lady Avenel in London

Sailing the Tall Ship Lady Avenel in London

4.How did you save money to be able to afford living ‘on the road’/traveling often? How long did it take you to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based life? I was very fortunate that I had saved some money during my corporate years that allowed me to launch the blog and pay my way until the blog started earning money, abut 2.5 years after I took my first round-the-world trip in March of 2007. I finally made the move to a location independent lifestyle when I gave up my apartment in November of 2009. I have a safety net, of sorts. I return to the U.S. for the Christmas holidays each year and stay with family for a few weeks. I also have very good friends in the Atlanta area who have a “mother-in-law suite” beneath their home, which I am welcome to use whenever I want to take a break from traveling. Having said that, I’m quite certain I’d be fine without the safety net as well.

5.How do you choose your destinations and for how long you’ll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? Are there any specific resources you recommend? Each year, when I visit my family during the holidays, I decide what part of the world I want to visit the following year. I have a list of destinations that I’m eager to visit, so I buy a one-way ticket to a major city on my selected continent, then make my way around by boat, bus, train, van, shuttle, or car to the countries in that region I wish to visit. I try not to fly, unless I am traveling great distances or I decide to go on to a different continent, as I see so much more and meet so many more people when using ground transportation. My preference is to stay in each country a few weeks so that I have enough time to learn about the culture, but, there are times when I’m invited to visit a destination and only stay a few days. In these instances, I look at it as an opportunity to get a taste for a destination to see if I might want to return. My accommodations range from resorts and hotels to hostels and guest houses, though I must admit I’m a particular fan of hostels. You just can’t beat the camaraderie found in hostels, as seasoned travelers share their stories and tips for places not to be missed. I might add that hostels are not what they were years ago. Though guests can book a bed in a dorm, hostels these days often offer private rooms with ensuite bathroom. Without hostels and guest houses, I could not afford to do what I do. As for resources, I’m pretty much a “seat-of-the-pants” traveler. I do very little research before traveling to a destination because I want to have no expectations (it benefits my writing to “be surprised”), but I do recommend that unseasoned travelers avail themselves of the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Travel Forum, where frequent travelers share their expertise about destinations. At the very least, it’s wise to know about the common scams used by touts in the country you intend to visit.

6.How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? Frankly, I’ve never added it up. But my guess would be that I can travel perpetually for between $18-20,000 U.S. per year.

7.How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? I turned 62 this year and took my Social Security retirement pension, so I no longer have a need to make any money from my blog. During the preceding years, I earned income mostly from advertising, affiliate sales, and the occasional sponsorship.

Feeding Alpacas in Peru's Sacred Valley

Feeding Alpacas in Peru’s Sacred Valley

8.How do you handle visas, vaccinations, legal documents/passports, taxes and healthcare while living without a home base or an ever-changing one? It’s not as hard as you might imagine. I have a mail forwarding service in the States that opens, scans and emails me any snail mail I receive (which is generally less than three pieces per month). I have U.S. based health insurance, which I pay out of my own pocket, and many of the places I visit regularly (Thailand, Malaysia) have excellent health care at very affordable prices. As an American citizen, I am fortunate that I am able to enter many countries without a visa, however in the instances where I am required to get a visa prior to entry, I do so at a Consulate of that country somewhere in the world. I can also renew my passport at U.S. Consulates around the world. And vaccinations are rarely necessary but when they are I can get them at a health service in most any country. As for the rest (paying bills, taxes, etc.), everything is electronic. At the end of the year, I email tax figures to my account (who has power of attorney for me) and he submits the completed forms electronically on my behalf.

9.If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be? Ah! I’ve been searching for an answer to this for many years. I’m fairly sure that my winter place will be Thailand at some point. I’ve not yet settled on a summer location, though at the moment I’m leaning toward either Greece or Bulgaria, both of which I like very much. My plan is to spend three or so months in each place and travel in the spring and fall shoulder seasons, which I much prefer to high season travel where I must fight crowds of tourists. As for when I will begin this routine, I don’t know. There are still too many places to see.

10.What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/travel-heavy lifestyle? Develop a skill that allows you to earn income, wherever you are in the world. Find a way to make money from what you love, but don’t expect a blog to provide you with enough money to travel like I do. Most of us who have been successful have used our blogs as platforms from which to launch related income earning efforts, including but not limited to social media consultants, public speakers, tour operators, e-book publishers, web designer, IT security, etc. You just have to get creative.

11.In your experience, what have been the two most significant gifts of travel? Travel forces me to focus on the present moment, rather than obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. It has also taught me that I need to always be true to myself, regardless of what others think of me.

Cooking Class in Southeast Asia

Cooking Class in Southeast Asia

 For more information on Barbara or her travels, check out her website.

Diregarding ‘The Mustn’ts’

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Diregarding ‘The Mustn’ts’

“Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child, listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES, then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child, ANYTHING can be.”

–Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Start most Shel Silverstein poems and somehow I can finish them. It’s strange, I agree, but for some reason, those poems have stuck with me for over thirty years. I remember listening as my parents read them and then getting to read them to my siblings when I got a bit older. Today, I buy them as brand new baby gifts to start libraries for a new generation. So many of the words are ingrained in my subconscious, but I don’t think I realized how tangible they were to adult life until, well, until I was in adult life! The Giving Tree is still one of my all time favourite books and I would say that my childhood can be summed up amidst Shel Silverstein and Doctor Seuss with a sprinkling of Judy Blume in those most difficult ‘tween’ years. But for some this weekend, today, ‘The Mustn’ts’ popped into my head. Read the rest of this entry

Interview: Travel with Kevin and Ruth

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Travel has no boundaries. Whether you are single, married, young or old-travel welcomes you. You can choose your own style and your own journey-but in the end the answer is the same-Just Go!  What we love about travel is meeting so very many people who push the envelope, defy the stereotypes and do what they feel is right. In the end, the answer has always been the same whether in travel or in life-if you want it badly enough, you’ll do whatever you can to make it happen. We’ve learned, through our travels that although it may take an unconventional approach or buck the norm, if you want to see the world there’s a way to do it that works for you. Here, one husband and wife share their story of how travel works for them!

Kevin and Ruth are a traveling couple based in Canada. Married for thirty years, these adventurers spend all the time they can exploring this great big world. Having been a part of the blogging world for seven years, many follow their travels as they take on the world. Whether in a motor home throughout North America or hiking southern Africa-they can be found smiling and exploring the world-together. Read the rest of this entry

It’s October!

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It’s October!

October is here and I find myself already yearning for summer’s sunshine and adventures far beyond my post code. The temperature is dropping a bit and mornings are cooler than middays. Leaves are turning from their summer green to autumn reds and oranges and the pumpkin explosion assaults every sense whether walking through a festival or supermarket. Parks seem filled with apple ciders, pumpkin carving demos and if it’s not Halloween displays in stores they’re already getting set for the December holidays-seriously? Where did summer go?

I’m a flip flop fan who thrives on sunshine and sea breezes and gains strength with every passing wave. Seagulls seemed to have made a permanent home outside my building on the beach just waiting for the few beach-goers to bring them something yummy to eat. Surfers still hit the waves in search of that sweet spot while autumn sunsets continue to astound with their colourful designs. Yet, I still am ready for adventure. My mom always told me that I often thought the ‘grass was always greener’ somewhere else. When I was younger, I definitely thought she was correct and often wanted to fly the coop to see life’s happenings in other places. Today, though, I am more than happy and contented with life on the ocean and feel blessed and regularly lucky to have the opportunities, friends and adventures that I’ve had. Days are filled with smiles (mostly) and nights are spent feeling lucky, enjoying life and of course, plotting the next adventure! Read the rest of this entry

National Geographic Travel Honours Travelers of the Year 2014

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National Geographic Travel Honours Travelers of the Year 2014

‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’- Marc Anthony

For years we’ve all heard this comment but for me, it was floated again when I resigned from teaching to follow a different path and carve out a new journey. I love to travel. I’ve loved it for years and there’s a freedom while traveling that I’ve yet to find elsewhere. That feeling of lightness, curiosity and that anything is possible is palpable and tangible whenever there’s an adventure. In between those travels (when there’s a bit of time to recoup financially), I find myself searching for those feelings at home. I’ve found many who know exactly what I mean and feel the same way. They may describe it as bliss, a tranquility or even the feeling of knowing you’re a small part of a bigger world-but there’s a kinship, and travelers understand. Read the rest of this entry

‘The Best Job in the World’ – An Interview with Greg Snell

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Awhile ago, Australia launched a fabulous tourism campaign asking travelers and adventures to apply for The Best Job in the World! Not only did many people apply for the job, but millions around the world kept up with the campaign and many of us saw plugs on social media to vote for someone’s friend who was sending in his/her video for the post.Their pitch: “Ever dreamt of waking up on an island, surrounded by pristine beaches and an abundance of wildlife? Or spending your days swimming with dolphins and sea lions? If this sounds like your ideal role, then we want to hear from you!” The winner of South Australia’s Best Job in the World competition for the title of Wildlife Caretaker went to Greg Snell. As his time as Wildlife Caretaker comes to an end, Greg shares his story and the imagination and education he believes travel provides.

Wildlife Caretaker-South Australia

Winner of ‘The Best Job in the World’ Competition: Wildlife Caretaker-South Australia

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15 things on the mind of a girl who loves to travel

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Over water bungalows - Moorea, French Polynesia

Over water bungalows – Moorea, French Polynesia

If you met me in my youth, you would have said there’s a girl who loves the beach, her friends, chocolate, summer camp and is looking towards a university adventure. If you met me any time after university you’d say there’s a girl who loves the beach, her friends, summer camp, chocolate and especially world travel. Loving the accents of my Camp America counselors in my youth and then bitten by the bug in my early twenties, I’ve never since been the same. Luckily, with the issues of survival (food, water, shelter and let’s add health to that) thankfully and most appreciatively met at this time, there are often other things on my mind and travel is ALWAYS at the forefront. My friends constantly remind me that I’m lucky that my husband has that same adventure spirit or they’re sure he’d go insane. Read the rest of this entry

Interview: Shane Dallas: The Travel Camel

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The Travel Camel in front of Mt Baba Tangi in Afghanistan.

The Travel Camel in front of Mt Baba Tangi in Afghanistan.

Shane Dallas is a world traveler and public speaker. You can hear his voice on The Travel Show on the radio in Dubai or catch one of his many presentations somewhere on land or at sea. Spending much of his time between the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Shane has captivated audiences around the world with his vast knowledge of travel. Connecting over social media has given us a chance to chat about travel, living that unconventional lifestyle and finding happiness on the road. He told me that ‘uncertainty is liberating’ and it is obvious that he has found joy in his choices and his travels. Here he shares some of his wisdom from the road. Read the rest of this entry

Remembering a Rosh Hashanah on the Road

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It was a new synagogue, a Rabbi from Brooklyn and people who spoke in various languages that I can remember. It’s friendly faces, foreign tongues, and seats in a separate section high above those below that flash through my memory on this holiday. The challah tasted just as delicious, the greetings were the same and the kindness palpable when we all entered into the New Year together…in Berlin.

At the Berlin Wall-2009

Five years ago, Mathew and I spent Rosh Hashanah in Berlin. It was my first high holiday experience ever spent away from home and the expectations were uncertain. We knew we’d find a way to celebrate, but the outcome was unknown. What transpired is a holiday that won’t soon be forgotten and the feelings of a community with outstretched arms welcoming in weary travelers and locals alike. What we thought would be a ‘Rosh Hashanah in a bag’ travel style celebration became one centered around holiday, a challah hand delivered by a Chabad Rabbi and services in a beautiful temple surrounded by people doing exactly the same thing. Read the rest of this entry

Travel…an eye-opening mindset

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Zebras in Tanzania

Zebras in Tanzania

Travel has been an eye opener for me. Growing up in Long Island, New York I saw minimal diversity in my community. I was lucky enough to get to go on holidays with family throughout my childhood. We took beach holidays to Montauk, trips to Washington DC, annual visits to Disneyworld and a few jaunts to Caribbean islands or other parts of the United States. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in university and decided to go on a three-week trip to Israel that I started to realize so many other benefits of travel. I certainly wasn’t traveling for the point of an actual education but without question, that’s what I got. I was bitten. Read the rest of this entry