Vagabonding Case Study: Sara Schultz

On April 29th, 2016

Sara Schultz of Inspired Adventurer

Age: 35

Hometown: Minot, ND / Portland, OR

Quote: “You’ll never feel more alive and a part of the world than you do when you are on a long-term traveling adventure.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
It seems I read an article by Rolf Potts, which lead me to Vagabonding. I read the book two or three times. The tips about how to actually construct a grand international move, a year off, and staying sane on the road were the most helpful.

How long were you on the road?
Depends on how you count it, but nearly four years abroad in two separate stints with about four months stateside between the two.

Where all did you go?
New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Burma, Laos, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, USA (OR, WA, MT, ND, ID, MN, WI, IL, IA).

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I’m an optometrist by trade. When I work, I live quite simply (still much like a student), so I’m able to save a lot of money for times when I’m unemployed.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?
On the road, I worked a week in a hostel in Oamaru, NZ, which was really fun, and a few tries at WOOFing in New Zealand, which I didn’t really enjoy. I worked for one year abroad at the University of Auckland, and nineteen months with the US Army in Germany.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
Sofia was a city filled with guardian angels and strange chance encounters on each of my three visits. Istanbul, Lisbon and Athens all surprised me with their easy-wandering streets and gritty artsiness. I didn’t expect Sarajevo’s Turkish influence, and the history of the siege of Sarajevo made a lot more sense after seeing the layout of the city. Poland and its people reminded me of the Midwest, both the landscape and its people, and seemed fitting as a last stop abroad before returning home.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
I was not fond of Serbia, though I tried it twice. Mostly people were not very friendly in general, except for a few. Albania was pretty rustic (challenging) but interesting. I heard a lot of good things about Budapest and Vienna but found them both to be overpriced shades of grey.

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 didn’t have a lot of pre-trip worries. I’d traveled a lot in the past without problems. But I was robbed in Barcelona (a pair of men cut my purse off and ran). It was totally unexpected and resulted in months of fraud on my bank accounts even after the bank cards were cancelled. I chalked it up as something that was going to happen sooner or later, but it still was not a fun time.

Which travel gear proved most useful?
Silicone ear plugs, eye mask, universal drain plug, small waterproof backpack.

Least useful?
iPod, tiny speakers.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Most of the focus is on basic needs: food, friends, roof over the head, learning and seeing. Less attachment to things. Distilling life down to the basics is the most rewarding thing- I realized how much of my energy was wasted on a lot of things that have little meaning.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Emotions swing with greater intensity and greater frequency than they do in real life. Occasional self-doubts and loneliness surface made me wonder what I was doing. Being separated from family and good friends, even with internet connection was sometimes hard. Also, it’s a lot of work to travel and no one really tells you that, or understands that unless they’ve done it- the planning, the packing, constantly making new friends…

What lessons did you learn on the road?
Learning who was trustworthy based on intuition, making friends quickly and parting, and establishing friendships which may carry on for years after even if we only met for a few days or a few hours.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
It’s really about living simply and adapting to different situations, whether sleeping on a hostel floor, or in an aunt’s spare bedroom, or in a flat above a garage in New Zealand and making the best of the situation and place.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
You’ll never feel more alive and a part of the world than you do when you are on a long-term traveling adventure.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
It’s easier than you think it will be. Try to sketch out a rough route of where you’re going to go (dates not really necessary, unless you’re really trying to kill yourself with too many locations), and then follow the path like a pilgrimage, taking extra days when you feel like it and moving on when that urge hits too. It matters more that you are going somewhere than where you are going.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
Probably South America, whenever the time comes up. It could be in two years or in six months… I just watch for the opening and go!

Read more about Sara on her website, Inspired Adventurer.

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Image: FraserElliot (flickr)