Vagabonding Case Study: Los Fogg
Age: 36 and 30
Hometown: Valencia, Spain
Quote: “Take the firm decision of doing the journey first, and everything else will fall into place by itself.”
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
Like many, I read a blog post on Tim Ferriss’ blog (http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/02/25/rolf-potts-vagabonding-travel/) and a lot of what was said there resonated with the way we think and try to live: Time is money, keep it simple, slow down, don’t set limits, etc.
How long were you on the road?
13 months and a week. We left in July 2010 and we were back in September 2011.
Where all did you go?
We traveled a total of 22 countries in North and South America, Asia, Oceania and Europe. We traveled westward through: USA, Canada, Mexico, Belize (transit only), Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Mongolia, Russia and The Netherlands.
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I worked as a freelance consultant for software companies and Manu worked as a graphic designer. We saved money for four years, mostly by eating and drinking out less.
Did you work or volunteer on the road?
Working on the road was an option we considered initially, but we were quite naive in our planning. Our travel philosophy was “improvisation”, but finding a job requires planning and… actually looking for a job.
But we could improvise some WWOOFing in Chile, and that was just the right thing to do at the time: we had to wait for three weeks for a cheap flight onwards to New Zealand and we were a bit tired of changing places and faces every two to three days. Working on a farm in the quiet bay of Metri allowed us to recover our sanity and get ready for the next stage of the trip.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
This is a very difficult question that we get asked all the time. We don’t have a favorite place or country. Everywhere we go we tried to find the positive things. We enjoyed the tranquility of Metri bay in Chile and the pristine beaches of the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia. We were overwhelmed with the emptiness and silence of a night in a camping tent in Mongolia. We were excited to go back to Bangkok, and taste their amazing street food. The smiles of the people and children in Laos disarmed us. Our CouchSurfing hosts in Argentina were amazing and they gave everything even when we stayed with them during Christmas eve. Truly, every place has something.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
The crowds and gray skies of Beijing were very tiring. In Southeast Asia, anywhere in the Banana Pancake trail, where the tourism has impacted the local environment in a negative (in our eyes) way. Places like Vang Vieng in Laos, where westerners go to party hard, misbehave, and do the things they don’t dare doing back home.
Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?
Before we started the trip we were concerned about our personal safety. Specially in Central and South America. It was interesting to see how every country perceived their neighbors as more dangerous: “Are you going to Mexico? Things are tough in Mexico…. (in Mexico) Are you going to Guatemala? Things are really, really bad in Guatemala. Honduras? Now, THAT is dangerous.”
But we were very lucky, and used common sense, and we didn’t run into any safety problems.
Healthwise we were also lucky and we only had a couple mild episodes of food poisoning, altitude sickness and traveler’s diarrhea.
As a couple we were also worried that being together, 24 hours a day, every day, would be very challenging for our relationship. But the opposite happened, we were confronted with each other’s weaknesses and issues and, in the end, we came out as a stronger couple. As we say in Spanish: “We now know which is each other’s limping foot”.
Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful?
Our top three useful gear:
- Headlamp: Useful when arriving late, leaving early or going to the toilet in hostels. It was also key in places where they didn’t have electricity, and when camping. Or for reading in a night bus.
- Earplugs: A quiet place to sleep is hard to come by when traveling on a budget. Late-night-arriving and disrespectful hostel guests; karaoke bars and discos; livestock… all of these can easily ruin your night of well deserved rest. Earplugs were so important that we carried many pairs in our luggage, jackets, pants, just to make sure we always had them handy.
- Sarong, kroma or equivalent: Essentially it is a long piece of cloth worn around the waist by men and women in many parts of the world. Ours doubled as: towel, blanket, pillow, scarf, table cloth, seat cover, makeshift bag…
The least useful: Any kind of chain or locking device to keep our backpacks safe. They are heavy and useless.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
For us, vagabonding was the living of a dream. The complete freedom to decide when and where we wanted to be. Leaving everything behind and living a simple life allowed us to value everything we have in our homeland. It also taught us so many life lessons in such a short period that we feel like we’ve lived a small life in thirteen months.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
In terms of money people initially think that the vagabonding lifestyle is an expensive lifestyle, but it is actually not. The sacrifice comes on the earning side: by leaving our jobs and starting traveling we actually spent less money at the end of the month, but we didn’t earn any money, so every month our savings account went down instead of up.
It gets very tiring at some point having to worry every other day about where you’re going to sleep, making “ephemeral friends”, moving around, carrying our backpacks. We missed having all of those things taken care of so we could dedicate our time to other projects. Towards the end we started missing doing more meaningful projects and work.
What lessons did you learn on the road?
We wrote a whole blog post about this (in Spanish). A few of the lessons:
- In the western world we live very comfortably and we flush the toilet with drinking water
- Adventures are moments to be remembered happen when you get out of your comfort zone
- The best experiences, a beautiful sunrise, laughing with friends, a warm meal, don not necessarily cost a lot of money
- The more expensive the hotel, the smaller the chances of having free wifi
- Human beings tend to always want more
- It is possible to live a very simple life. We don’t need half of the stuff we have, and the same goes for the other half…
- In every country people have to eat, sleep and move around. Even in the countries perceived as very dangerous. As a friend of ours put it: “There aren’t bandits around every street corner waiting to rob us”
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
We didn’t have a personal definition, but we had idealized the vagabonding lifestyle as something unique and rare. Right now there are lots of people out there that have left everything behind and have embarked in an unforgettable experience. For good or bad, that has also started to create an industry around “backpackers”.
As the year went by, we started valuing more the experiences we lived, the people we met and the cultures that welcomed us, as more important than just following a guidebook and going where everybody else was going.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Definitely: Pack less stuff. Leave behind everything you won’t be using frequently and everything you packed “just in case”. You can buy stuff along the way.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
The biggest objector to a trip like this is inside our heads. Take the firm decision of doing the journey first, and everything else will fall into place by itself.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
How do you know there will be a next? Of course there will be one! Even when we were traveling we were already planning our next trips. We are considering some sort of trip where fly far away from home and come back by land, potentially using unusual means of transportation (horse carriage? taxi? hot air balloon?)
|Website: losfogg.com||Twitter: losfogg|
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