Vagabonding Case Study: Aaron Atencio

Aaron Atencio

Age: 31

Hometown: Buena Vista, Colorado

Quote: “ Even though I was consistently traveling to new places, it’s amazing how just having a support system of friends and and a foundation of familiarity in one place can quickly engage the feelings inside of us that make us consider a place our home.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?

I originally found out about Vagabonding via Timothy Ferris’ blog, author of “The Four Hour Work Week.”

How long were you on the road? On my most recent trip I was gone for 7 1/2  months.

Where all did you go?

Europe was the very first international destination I traveled to. I found myself returning 14 years later to the countries of England, France, Italy, and Spain. I also ventured to Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and Switzerland, all for the first time.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?

Over the past 10 years I’ve created a lifestyle that is to work for several months (in the advertising industry as a independent contractor) followed by traveling for several months. This cycle has enabled me to visit over 65 countries!

Did you work or volunteer on the road? I did not.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? Morocco has a frenzied vibe to it that took some time getting used to. Once I did those little bursts of chaos are what attracted me so much to the energy and pace I found in Morocco.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?

The countries of Sweden and Switzerland were my most challenging due to the expense of traveling there. I’ve become very successful at budgeting on my trips and being able to make my currency carry out as far as possible. The tried and true formulas for budget traveling such as buying food to prepare as meals from local grocery stores and using public transportation, would quickly eat up ones budget in countries with these prices!

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true?  Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?

This European trip was one that I worried about least. I felt somewhat at home, especially in English speaking countries like England and Scotland.

I used Edinburgh, Scotland as my hub due to having several friends in this location which quickly became my “home” base in Europe. I thought the fact that I would frequently leave Edinburgh to venture off for a week or two in other countries would show custom agents that I had no intention of gaining employment as a tourist while in the UK. Instead, I was always red flagged upon re-entering the UK. Technically I was doing nothing wrong but customs agents would drill me much more than the other tourists due to my untraditional form of long-term traveling. Towards the last two months of my trip they started to recognize me personally which seemed to lighten the process greatly.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

My iPod touch has quickly become the one non-vital travel item I carry. This little beauty can do everything from let me video chat with my family stateside to manage my bank accounts to book hotel/hostel rooms. The possibilities are vast and invaluable at times! Its all made better by the fact that it takes up an incredibly small amount of packing space.

I always seem to pack an extra pair of shoes that are never used.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

The vagabonding lifestyle enables a person to take breaks from the beaten tourist path and really dig deep into the culture. You have time to form friendships with locals and get a good feel for what it is like to live within their communities. The freedom of having more time enables your experiences to be richer and more closely aligned with the type of person you are.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

The constraints of a budget can get tiresome after several months. Knowing you do not have any fresh money coming into your back account makes sure you do not get carried away. More importantly, vagabonders seem to know they will one day return to many of the places they visit. Instead of using that old “Once-in-a-lifetime” line, we know the £$ you save today by not getting that latte, means you can probably enjoy that latte next year in Buenos Aires instead.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

On this trip I learned many things like usual –  of them the precision of perfectly packing carry on-only baggage, that some of the slowest and fastest internet connections can be found throughout Europe, and I am always going to hold up the line because the cashier does not have a pen for me to sign my credit card receipt.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?

Even though I was consistently traveling to new places, it’s amazing how just having a support system of friends and and a foundation of familiarity in one place can quickly engage the feelings inside of us that make us consider a place our home. It took me by surprise when I realized how fond I had become of my “home” base of Edinburgh.  I found myself happy to return “home” to Edinburgh after each wonderful journey. A “home” which was 100% foreign to this vagabonder only a few months earlier.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? You totally did the right thing by purchasing just a one-way ticket this time around.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?

Thoroughly study up on Europe’s budget airlines, RyanAir in particular. While the experience of flying with them isn’t great, no other airline gives you the chance at exploring most of Europe for rock-bottom prices! Find out all you can about their pricing policies, routings, practices, and rules. This will pay itself back in no time for those looking to travel around the continent.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?

Even all the way over here in Colorado, I can hear the voices of Asia calling me back. This very well might be on the horizon for me but the country of Iran seems to be calling a little louder.

Twitter: aaroncolorado Website:

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Posted by | Comments Off on Vagabonding Case Study: Aaron Atencio  | July 20, 2011
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

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