Vagabonding Case Study: Kyle & Bessie


Kyle & Bessie

Age: 30 (Kyle), 27 (Bessie)

Hometown: Chicago, USA

Quote: “It’s hard to travel just for the sake of traveling; there needs to be some other goal or reward beyond seeing all the sights there are to see. Eventually sitting on a beach will get boring and you’ll want to do something more valuable with your time.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how have you found it useful before and during the trip? Vagabonding came about in a fairly pedestrian manner: I (Kyle) was perusing the travel section in one of those Big Box book stores when I saw the Vagabonding book and thought it had a great cover photo. After perusing the first couple of pages, I was hooked, so I bought it. We didn’t use the book during the trip, but it was definitely a source of inspiration before the trip to keep us to our goals. At times, it was difficult to live in a teeny apartment while saving money for a far off goal, and the book reminded us of our love of travel. It also had some good thoughts that helped soothe the minds of our parents.

How long have you been on the road? A little over 2 years and counting.

Where all did you go? We were in Mexico, Central, and South America for 1 year, then we taught English in Korea for a year. Now we’re on another extended sojourn through SE Asia and India for the foreseeable future.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? Our jobs back in Chicago and then our jobs in Korea have been our sole source of income for our journeys.

Did you work or volunteer on the road? We volunteered in Honduras for a week and in El Salvador for 3 months. We can’t say enough for volunteering, especially for an extended period of time. El Salvador is one of those places that as travelers, we probably wouldn’t have liked that much, but as temporary residents, we really enjoyed the people and the cultural nuances. For instance, in El Salvador, everyone has a nick name and nearly everyone is referred to by that nickname instead of what it might say on a birth certificate. It might sound a bit crude to an outsider, but because of our skin color, we were both called “chele”, which is a mix-up of the sounds for milk (“leche”). It was all in good fun and I’m glad that they couldn’t think of anything more descriptive 🙂

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? We tend to judge places on the friendliness of the people and for us, people were really kind in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Colombia. Of course, it’s not to say that people in other countries weren’t nice to us, but these 3 places stand out in particular. In Colombia, for instance, we had a random stranger not only tell us where the post office was located (on the other side of town), but he walked us there personally and gave us his number in case we needed anything else. It’s those kinds of things that make a place really special.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? Guatemala was challenging just because it was our first destination and there was a lot of adjustment with traveling with each other. Spending nearly 24 hours a day with someone is a difficult thing to do and it took a bit of time and a lot of patience. After a year of that, we had to adjust to not being together all the time when we took jobs.

I don’t know if we’ve ever been disappointed, per se. We try to see everything with fresh eyes as if we are excited tourists and not battle-hardened travelers. The word “tourist” gets a bad rap sometimes, but I think the tourist mentality has a lot to offer anyone who is traveling.

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated? I would say a small fraction of our worries came true. We both got sick at various points, but those were solved pretty easily with a trip to the local pharmacy. We also haven’t been robbed, but we were ripped off a couple of times. (probably more times than we know) We lost about 75USD at the border into Nicaragua when changing money with a guy walking around that was in a rush to get it done, and we couldn’t quite get the math to work. It’s a classic and effective trick, and we always avoid those types since.

In general, our attitude is that there aren’t that many bad things that can happen on the road than our hometown in Chicago.

Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful? The most useful things have been the well-made necessities such as Chaco sandals, SmartWool socks, and ExOfficio underwear.

The least useful thing is definitely the swiss army knife. It looks enticing with all of those functions, but because we seldom camp, we never had a reason to use any of them except spreading peanut butter. Besides, just about everything can be done with a machete.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? Connecting with people and learning the little things about their lives are our biggest rewards. When we meet someone from Guatemala or Korea, for instance, we can easily relate to them and connect at a much quicker and deeper way than if we had never been there. This is the reward that extends beyond the travels.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? The most obvious one is missing friends and family back home. There’s really no way to replace that.

It’s also hard to establish and maintain meaningful relationships when we’re all over the world. Electronic communications help with that, but it’s not the same as being face-to-face with someone.

What lessons did you learn on the road? We’ve learned innumerable lessons, but one recent one that we’ve learned is that it is hard to travel just for the sake of traveling; there needs to be some other goal or reward beyond seeing all the sights there are to see. A lot of people fantasize about being on a permanent vacation, but eventually sitting on a beach will get boring and you’ll want to do something more valuable with your time. We’re using our goals of starting an online business and practicing lots of yoga to lead the next leg of our travels.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? It started out as a term to describe what we were doing: moving around the world while doing and seeing all that it had to offer. Now it is more of a state of mind, whereby we are curious about everything. It doesn’t matter if we are at Angkor Wat or the Western plains of Kansas, there is always something interesting and beautiful there, it’s just up to us to find it.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? Relax. Breathe. Look Around.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? This has been said more than once, but it’s worth repeating: slow down! It’s really easy to get into the trap of going everywhere and doing everything, but in reality, it’s just not possible, so don’t worry about it. Stay in one place until you are bored, then stay another week. It’s amazing the things you find when you run out of “tourist” things to do.

Also, don’t be afraid to go to a mall or McDonald’s every now and then for something familiar. Air conditioning and french fries are not to be afraid of. Even if you love travel, it can be tiring, so settle in and don’t feel pressured to see and do everything.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? We’re on it now! We try to let the winds decide where to take us and it looks like our sails are taking us to India within the next year.

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Posted by | Comments (5)  | May 12, 2010
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

5 Responses to “Vagabonding Case Study: Kyle & Bessie”

  1. Kyle Crum Says:

    Thanks for the interview, Ted. It was good to think about a lot of these questions as we haven’t thought about them ourselves!

  2. Kate Says:

    Great case study! My favorite so far. Thanks, Ted and Vagabonding, for adding this new feature and thanks to Kyle & Bessie for your valuable insights!

  3. Sato Travel Says:

    very nice amazing post all about for travel.