Making the leap…A traveler’s interview with Ellen Barone

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When I resigned from teaching in January I got a lot of mixed reactions. There were those who were happy for me, knowing I was following a passion while many couldn’t believe I could give up the security of a salaried profession that comes with health insurance. I know the leap is right, as I haven’t looked back, but knowing there are others who have done the same and are happy, fulfilled and successful helps too. That’s how I met Ellen Barone. On her webiste she says that”…at the age of 35, with no qualifications other than a traveler’s eye and a knack for telling a tale, [she would] trade teaching and mathematics for writing and photography. In 1998, I took the plunge, and did what many of us dream of doing: I traded a successful academic career for the wild blue yonder and set out to explore the world and myself.” Hearing about her book and story made me want to reach out and connect. Here she tells a bit of her story and what she believes to be the gifts of travel.

American travel journalist Ellen Barone and her husband, Hank, an action/adventure novelist, have been temporarily inhabiting Latin America since 2011. Learning to live a different kind of life, they’ve traded routine and security for the daily challenges and joys of life in another culture. At work on her first book, I Could Live Here, a memoir of home and belonging, Ellen unravels the question they’ve grappled with throughout their nomadic adventures: How can we feel rooted, deeply and firmly, no matter where we live?

1. When did you get started traveling? Childhood road trips in the family station wagon, and later an RV, were my first introduction to life beyond the bubble of my suburban upbringing. As an adult I slowly stepped out into the world, first as a teacher with summers off and later as a freelance travel writer and photographer. But the seeds were planted early.

2. What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? Initially, Hank and I viewed the trip as a search for a new home. So, it made sense to stay a while and get beneath the surface of a place. Extended stays also made sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the costly expenses of moving about. But at some point we realized that the lifestyle suits us. That we weren’t ready to settle down.

3. What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? For us, an itinerant and loose lifestyle has made leading a fulfilling and worldly life attainable. As for nay-sayers: Every response is personal and unique. What is meaningful to us may be unappealing or frightening to others.

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? Our decision to wander wasn’t premeditated. No years of planning and saving. Only a vague vision of a life we couldn’t yet articulate. But once we wrapped our heads around the idea, excitement surged within us and we were gone in less than 30-days.

5. How do you choose your destinations and for how long youll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? Are there any specific resources you recommend? We follow interest. We might read about a place that sounds intriguing or get caught up in another traveler’s excitement. Once a spark of interest is ignited, we poke around online for information or opportunities and then see what comes together.

6. How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? That’s completely variable depending on where we live and how much we travel. There is no single magic number. We’ve met expats who live extravagantly and spend as much as they did back home and others who survive on less than $1,000 a month.

7. How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? I freelance and Hank writes novels. We’re able to save simply by inhabiting places where it’s possible to live comfortably within our means.

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 difficult. For entry requirements and visa regulations, we use Smart Traveler, a free app from the U.S. State Department. We carry a combination of global catastrophic and medicare-gap insurance policies and use the services of a tax specialist.

Peru

9. If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be? If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that nothing in this short life is permanent. So, we settle in and make our “home” no matter where we are or for how long.

10. What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/travel-heavy lifestyle? Just do it. If you have the itch to wander, try it. Travel at a pace that suits you. Create income by using your skills to service a need. If you like it, keep going. When you’re ready to stop, stop.

11. In your experience, what have been the two most significant gifts of travel? Travel shatters the illusion of us and them and teaches you to look beyond the one-dimensional stories of people and place that the media presents. We see commonalities rather than differences.

Mexico

I will always be grateful to the people who opened their lives and hearts to us. Had we not traveled I might never have known the unfettered kindness of strangers; the smiles, the laughter, the acts of selflessness. My greatest gift is to pay it forward, making their free and friendly generosity my own.

To learn more, visit ellenbarone.com and hankbarone.com.

 

What I learned in the Maldives

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Stacey & Mat @ Kurumba, Maldives

“Perfect!” That’s how we both respond each time someone asks about our stay in Kurumba, Maldives. It’s rare to use that word in so many things in life from ‘how was your day?’ to ‘how’s your marriage’ and I can count on one hand how many times we’ve used it in our travels…but this one, this one was perfect! From the minute we were escorted onto the Kurumba boat at the airport to the minute we stepped foot on it again at the dock for our return; it was spectacular! Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Teacher Diane-former student, soccer phenom and world traveler

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hiking in ecuador

Diane hiking in Ecuador

Another former student of mine has embraced the world of travel, location independence and global citizenship. In her youth,  she was my 11th grade student, a soccer phenom and president of SADD while I was the advisor. As the president of SADD, we spent many hours after school organizing activities and volunteering with heaps of other students, adults and organizations. As many who graduate high school and enter university and then the workforce, Diane took opportunities afforded to her to see the world at an early age. Finding just as much joy in the world outside of the town in which she grew up as she did when she resided there, she took off to see cultures far from her own and live outside her comfort zone. Recently, thanks to social media, we reconnected, and discovered a shared love of travel! Here she shares her story of what she believes to be the gifts of travel. Read the rest of this entry

Turning 40…Celebrating in the Maldives!

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Turning 40 on the Indian Ocean

Turning 40 on the Indian Ocean

I can’t believe it…I’m 40. My mom used to say that she couldn’t see what her life would be like past 25. And now, I’m 40. I can remember the excitement of 13, 18 and 21, the tears at 20 when I was no longer a teenager and the freak-outs that came with the realization that I was 30-how old! And now this? Strange though it may seem, I’m not as concerned as I was at 20 or 30. Now, I feel lucky…lucky to have made it to this time in my life and finally, actually able to feel comfortable in my own skin. But let’s face it, to the majority of the population with whom I’ve spent my life working…I’m old! I know, I know, 40 is the new 30, right? Now I look at the 70-year old couple holding hands on the boardwalk and smile hoping that I get to experience that one day. And I sit in amazement at the grandparents I know who are enjoying life at the age of 100. Truly, age is really just a number. I think this is the first birthday that made me start to think about that. Reflective and happy…..this is a special year and I’m so very excited to be spending it enjoying white sand, crystal clear blue of the Indian Ocean and paradise in a beach bungalow in the Maldives! Read the rest of this entry

Thank you, Summer!

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I Love Summer!

I Love Summer!

For this beach girl, summer is my all time favourite season. I spent one entire year following the sun and given the choice it would be summer, always. On this day, the unofficial ending of the summer season, countless flock to the sand to experience one last hurrah. While those of us who live here know that the season continues well past Labor Day; this weekend we say goodbye to the lifeguards, those bright orange lifeguard stands and my favourite two months of the year. Seasons change and life goes on, but for me, summer is a constant and the joy it brings lasts me through three other seasons. If I can’t find it in New York, most of the time you’ll find me searching for the sunshine on other shores. Thank you, Summer. Thank you for the continual smile on my face and the happy wiggles for my toes. Read the rest of this entry

Reflections of a College Student: Abroad in Ghana, Africa

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For sixteen years I spent each weekday from September through June surrounded by two-thousand teenagers. They sat in my classroom, worked with me on extracurricular activities, planned events, volunteered, did community outreach and we learned from each other. As a teacher, there are many students whose lives intersect with yours during their tenure of high school and once they graduate and spread their wings you’re lucky if that contact is still present. With the advent of social media more and more graduates are able to choose to connect with their teachers. For some it’s to say thank you, for some it’s to ask for advice or recommendations and for others its merely to maintain that connection that started in their youth. I was the class advisor for the graduating class of 2012 and it was in their sophomore year when I left to travel the world and live in Australia for awhile. Those who were interested in travel wanted to know more about my journey. Social media and that travel gene has connected me with many former students and I’m always interested to see where life has taken them after high school.  It was that travel connection that brought Maddie Reilly and me back together. A close friend of one of my officers, she spread her university wings farther than many of her peers by taking a university program abroad in Ghana, Africa. When I saw her at this past high school graduation, she was excited to start planning her next adventure to wherever the wind would take her. Here, she reflects on her journey and shares her views of the gifts of travel.

Interview with: Maddie Reilly, Farmingdale, NY

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Farmingdale alum, traveler-Maddie Reilly

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Interview: Wagoners Abroad

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Travelers always seem to find other travelers one way or another. Sometimes you meet your best friend in the hostel lobby searching for wifi. Other times they find that they’re two travel happy folks living in close proximity to one another and would love to take off on new adventures. The Wagoners met abroad but actually lived close by to one another. They ditched their home towns on the west coast and made a move to North Carolina early in their marriage. Now with two kids in tow, they’ve set off on a new adventure abroad. Immersing their children in the cultures of Spain and now Southeast Asia, they’ve all learned to enjoy being outside of their comfort zone and see the world first-hand. Here they share their story and what they think are the ‘gifts of travel’.

Wagoners Abroad  See, Austria

Austria

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How do you celebrate a milestone?

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anniversary in LB

Traveling always feels like a gift to me. Whether it’s a road trip for the day or a month long journey, I feel lucky to be able to experience. Sometimes it’s as simple as a morning brunch out locally when typically we make breakfast at home. Other times it’s watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat after trekking to Cambodia for that remarkable moment. Either way, it’s a celebration of the everyday in a new and defining way.

toes in the sand

I think I’ve mentioned it before; I’m turning forty in a few weeks. It’s fairly mind-blowing to think I’ve been on the planet that long and have friends for more than half my life. When my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday, it wasn’t a difficult answer and he knew it before I even opened my mouth. An adventure and time were all I asked for. I know, sounds strange to some as many are interested in material objects or sparkly things, but for me, travel has always been the vice and the gift all rolled into one. I have many friends who experienced this same milestone either a few years prior to me or earlier this year. It’s interesting to see who wanted to delete their birthday from all forms of social media and who wanted to shout it from the rooftops at a gala event filled with people or anything in between. I wonder, do our wishes change as we age? Are there more people who look for experience than things as the years tick by or does it still depend on the person? How do you celebrate? Read the rest of this entry

Interview: Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living

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Travelers find other travelers. We even seek each other out. When found, there’s no limit to the conversations about adventure, visas, heritage sites and local cuisine. Have you stayed at that hostel? Did you eat at Joe’s Beerhouse where your toes wiggle in the sand as the feast arrives at your table? What did you like best about that certain city? The questions are endless and the stories come with a side of travel adventure and usually a lot of laughter. Jonny Blair is a long term traveler and travel writer at Don’t Stop Living – A Lifestyle of Travel and Backpacking in China. Jonny has visited around 600 cities/towns in 90 countries across all 7 continents in the past decade. He is one of those travelers you might find at a hostel lobby or in that famed restaurant regaling others with stories of journeys while enjoying local fare. Here he shares his travel experiences and his advice to ‘work anywhere and get ready for a crazy time’.

Jonny Blair and an elephant in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka elephant visit

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The gifts of friendship in my 40th year

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The gifts of friendship in my 40th year

Everyday there’s a Facebook post about friendship. Sometimes its about college friends, sometimes high school buddies and there are even ones about ‘un-friending’ people. Seems there’s much to be written in even short bursts about stories of friendships. I’ve been lucky.

Throughout forty years on the planet, there have been people beside me. Some have flitted in and out of life as quickly as a firefly lights up a night’s sky and others have stayed for decades at a time like that comfy sweatshirt you always choose from the back of the cupboard. Each one has had a purpose. This year, I find myself quite pensive. Thoughts of life changes, challenges, growth, choices and friendships have popped into the forefront of my mind more times than I can count. Is this forty? Is it a time when you take stock of people, choices and things in your life? Is it normal? Does it happen to other people? I haven’t taken a poll-but I’ve been taking stock, for certain. It’s been a big year. Read the rest of this entry