August 20, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Paul Farrugia & Karen Sargent

Paul Farrugia & Karen Sargent globalhelpswap mongolian steppe b

globalhelpswap

Age: 39 & 36

Hometown: Birmingham, England & Malta

Quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

August 15, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Johnny Isaak

Johnny Isaak Putuoshan.

Age: 54

 
Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho
 
Quote: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William G.T. Shedd
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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

August 10, 2014

The Value of Time

It’s an increasingly accepted as fact that, as a nation, we have allowed a work culture to develop where taking time off is seen a sign of disloyalty or lack of care, and where extended time off is more of a concept than a reality. It’s also a given that more and more data suggest that the costs of this approach in stress and lack of free time for rest, recreation and family is having a profoundly detrimental effect on our society.

Traveling in Europe always brings the difference between the US and European cultures with regard to work/life balance was illustrated in sharp relief for me. It’s one thing to hear how the Europeans put priority on the “life” side of the balance, and it is another to see it in action. As many know, the Europeans enjoy social benefits such as maternity as well as paternity leave, and up to six weeks of vacation time per year.

Enjoying life.

Enjoying life.

To see the very obvious benefits of that strategic choice for a shorter work year play out in the lives of everyday Europeans illustrates the point. Watching families strolling in the parks, laughing and chatting happily, on a weekday afternoon or visiting with friends over a drink in a café—enjoying the free time their generous benefits affords them—is to reinforce any stressed-out American’s suspicion that we are on the wrong side of the equation.

Of course, there are economic trade-offs along with such benefits. With less time focused on work and more time focused on free time, GDP is affected and taxes are high to support these benefits. Countries with a historically take-it-easy approach to life such as Italy and Spain had no trouble swapping time at work for time with friends, but how do these policies fare in the more traditionally industrious nations of the north? Does this bother many of them?

Not very much, it seems. “Everyone hates taxes of course,” a German told me, “but we willingly make the trade-off because it’s a good bargain. The time is more valuable.” Another said, “We made the conscious choice to arrange the society this way, with the emphasis on maternal and paternal leave and more vacation time. It has many positive benefits. We just do with a little less material things.”

In a surprising finding that bolsters the arguments of proponents for more European-syle work arrangements, a recent analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (link to the study is here) found that workplace productivity doesn’t necessarily increase with hours worked. Workers in Greece clock 2,034 hours a year versus 1,397 in Germany, for example, but the latter’s productivity is 70 percent higher. In other words, there’s not necessarily the direct correlation that our system is predicated on.

“You Americans kill yourselves with antiquated work policies,” says a French acquaintance. “You have two weeks of vacation, if you are very lucky. We are a very prosperous, industrialized economy with a national healthcare service too. We make it all work.”

I knew it begged an inevitable question, and my friend asked it. “So why can’t you?”

That statement and its inevitable question was put to me many times, in many places. It is a question I brought back to the US with me. It stayed in my mind as my flight arced across the Atlantic and over the North American continent, remaining as an important souvenir. The issue was never about lingering in cafés or visiting the Alps, but rather the stuff of a good life: choices, time and freedom to make of it what we will. Would you be happier and more productive if you had more of these? What will it take for us as a society to finally demand it?

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Category: Destinations, Europe, Images from the road, Languages and Culture, Notes from the collective travel mind, On The Road, Travel Writing, Vagabonding Case Studies, Vagabonding Life

August 1, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Diana Edelman

Diana EdelmanDSC_7968

 
dtravelsround.com
 
Age: 34
 
Hometown: Rockville, Md.
 
Quote: Life’s not about living happily ever after, it’s about living.
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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 30, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Mariellen Ward

Mariellen Ward11312765965_4a28229541_c

breathedreamgo.com

Age: 54

Hometown: Toronto

Quote: Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. Joseph Campbell

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 18, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Denise Diamond

Denise Diamond

kids

adiamondabroad.com

Age: 36

Hometown: Texas

Quote: Be more awesome and do the things you’ve only been talking about doing until now. (more…)

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 16, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Christine Kaaloa

unnamed (1)

Christine Kaaloa

 grrrltraveler.com

youtube.com/ckaaloa

Age: Never ask a girl her age after she crosses 40.

Hometown: Aiea, Hawaii

Quote: Your horizon is only as far as you can imagine it. (more…)

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Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

July 13, 2014

Lessons from a tour guide, part I

This week I returned from a month and a half overseas working as a tour guide, helping to lead two different groups on an epic Best-of-Europe grand tour. The experience was a new one for me; after years of exploring the continent’s cobbled backstreets and ancient cities as a solo travel writer, I found myself with the unique opportunity of being a guide for one of America’s most well-respected touring companies.

plane image for blog

A couple of concerns dogged me as I flew over the Arctic Circle, the plane making its slow path from my home base of Seattle to the tour departure point of Amsterdam. Questions like, how would I be able to handle a large group as we steam across the continent day in and day out? And, how will the mechanics of moving groups from one site to the other in an efficient way work? But these concerns paled next to the most significant challenge: Helping the scores of American travelers connect to the history and culture of the places they came so far to experience.

Staring out my window at the endless expanse of the north Atlantic, I began to feel the weight of the responsibility settle into my gut. How do I curate this experience for our flock? I’d always done it for myself just fine; teaching others how to appreciate the richness of Europe was something I’d never needed to do beyond my writing. It was easy enough to crank out articles about the places I’d visited and about the treasures—the food, the history, the people, all the things that make up the culture—those places had to offer. Would I be able to help our travelers connect to them and appreciate them in the same way that I did?

A final goodbye to the group near the Eiffel Tower at dusk.

A final goodbye to the group near the Eiffel Tower at dusk.

The teaching I’d done before—giving free travel talks at public libraries to would-be travelers who were interested in learning how to create their own independent European adventure—was indispensable. The classes I’d taught had given me a sense of what tickled a traveler’s fancy and what common-sense issues they worried about. This gave me the advantage of being able to anticipate questions and concerns, sometime before the group members even knew they had them.

The true challenge was facilitating the tour member’s experience of the culture. It was in trying to cast new food experiences as a part of good travel, as “sightseeing for your palate”. It was in helping them fend off museum overload by urging them to see the art of the Louvre and the Accademia with their hearts rather than their mind. It was in not rushing through another “check the box” locale (don’t rush through St. Mark’s square, I counseled, just take your time and find your own way to relate to the space). And it was in fending off cathedral overload by teaching that architecture was art we walk through—art that took generations of devoted believers and craftsman to create—rather than just another drafty old building.

Helping the group appreciate the elegant, historic decay of Venice is a challenge when the city is crowded and hot.

venice 1

Finally I kept the old teacher’s maxim close to my heart: “The task of the teacher is to honor the integrity of fact while at the same time igniting the student’s imagination.”

Over the course of the following weeks I’d work on striking that balance, always trying to bring long-ago stories and long-dead people to Technicolor life. Success for the tour guide also means the tourists returning home knowing that the struggles, the tragedies and triumphs of those who inhabited the majestic castles and cobbled city streets so long ago set the stage for the world as we know it today.

The trick to achieving that was helping them forge an emotional connection to the events a given site had witnessed; that its history was not just a collection of faceless dates and facts, but human beings with hopes and dreams who lived in similarly dramatic times of war, economic uncertainty and dramatic social change. Those folks tried to make the best of it, and somehow got through it. We can too. But more than just the appreciation of history, it’s the appreciation of the culture that really informs a successful travel experience. My hope is that the tour members came away with a renewed perspective on how Europe’s endlessly varied tapestry of cultures, while wonderfully diverse, are similar to our own in the most fundamentally human ways.

If you ever find yourself in the trying but satisfying role as tour guide, I think you’ll find that those lessons are your tour members’ best souvenirs.

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Category: Europe, Languages and Culture, Notes from the collective travel mind, On The Road, Travel Writing, Vagabonding Case Studies, Vagabonding Life

July 4, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Luke McGuire Armstrong

Luke Guatemala

Luke Maguire Armstrong

LukeSpartacus.com

Age: 28

Hometown: Kalispel, Montana

Quote: Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction. - Demotivators (more…)

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Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

July 3, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Leyla Giray Alyanak

Leyla-Sahara

Leyla Giray Alyanak

 
women-on-the-road.com
 
Age: 61
 
Hometown: Born in Paris, grew up in Madrid, studied in Montreal, now live near Geneva, Switzerland
 
Quote: “To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” (Freya Stark)
 
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? I read the book a few years after returning from my trip – and wished it had existed before I left!
 
How long were you on the road? 3.5 years in my mid-forties was the longest – but I’ve traveled for up to a year at a time on other occasions.
 
Where did you go? Up the Eastern spine of Africa, through Southeast Asia, the Baltics, and Cuba
 
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? Initially my savings; then a smattering of freelance assignments; and then I was  finally appointment as a newspaper foreign correspondent.
 
Did you work or volunteer on the road? I worked often – usually writing but occasionally teaching or doing communications work along the way.
 
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? Eritrea. I arrived just after three decades of civil war. Hope was in the air, everyone was optimistic, even those who had lost family or limbs in the brutal conflict. Gender equality was proclaimed, Eritreans started coming home to rebuild their country. And then the regime hardened into a repressive one, and I know if I returned I would no longer be able to feel so positive about it.
 
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? I think Nigeria was the most challenging country I’ve ever visited. Not only is it huge, but few tourists go there so it doesn’t have the tourism infrastructure. Of course Nigerians travel extensively in their own country so where they go I could go, but it wasn’t as straightforward as, say, Kenya or South Africa.
 
Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful? My sarong, bought for a song in Thailand, is probably the most useful thing I have with me. I can wear it around my room, sleep in it, use it as a towel in a pinch, headscarf, protection against wind and sand.  A close second is my trusty rubber doorstop. Just slip it under the door at night and sleep like a charm. Least useful is anything I can easily buy abroad.
 
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? My biggest reward has been to travel slowly and get to meet incredible people along the way, many of whom have become lifelong friends. By taking my time, at least a month in each country, I was able to begin to understand it, not entirely, but certainly more than if I’d drifted through for a day or two.
 
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? My biggest sacrifice was distance from my loved ones, no contest. I traveled well before social media and Skype brought the world closer together. When I was on the road full-time, I was limited to the occasional international phone call and at times, I missed my family terribly. I also missed having a home base, as I got rid of everything before starting to travel. For a number of years, I felt like a tourist in my own life.
 
What lessons did you learn on the road? I learned so much… to rely more on myself, to be more confident, that I needed far fewer ‘things’ than I thought, that I could make friends anywhere… and that people were basically helpful and kind, with exceptions, but that’s what they were – exceptions.
 
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? Initially I thought travel was about time and distance. Eventually it became about depth and breadth. I began to care more about understanding than seeing, which meant spending a lot more time in a place than I’d ever planned.
 
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? Stop worrying.
 
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? Do your homework, make your plans – and be ready to throw them out the window when an opportunity arises.
 
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? It will be in 2015… Either across the USA – I’ve always wanted to visit it in-depth – or perhaps through Scandinavia. I’d love to spend a month or two in Madagascar or Mexico…
 

Read more about Leyla on her blog, Women On The Road, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter

WebsiteWomen On The Road Twitter@womenontheroad

Are you a Vagabonding reader planning, in the middle of, or returning from a journey? Would you like your travel blog or website to be featured on Vagabonding Case Studies? If so, drop us a line at casestudies@vagabonding.net and tell us a little about yourself.

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Category: Vagabonding Case Studies
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