Vagabonding Case Study: Sherry Ott

On March 25th, 2016

Sherry Ott of Otts World

Age: 41

Hometown: Peoria, IL

Quote: “Trust that everything will work out. You don’t have to have all of the answers.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
I had heard of the book before, but quite frankly, I have never read it! However I started reading the website during my travels and utilized it for travel information and inspiration to keep going!

How long were you on the road?
I’ve been on the road for 4 1/2 years now. However my initial career break trip was for 16 months starting in 2006. It changed my life, and I decided to go back to America, sell everything I had and go back on the road. It’s a nomadic, uncertain life; but I love the freedom.

Where all did you go?
On my initial career break I went to 23 countries – some of the highlights were Kenya, Tanzania, Bali, New Zealand, Laos, Borneo, Vietnam, India, Morocco, Croatia, Greece, Japan, and China. Then I lived in Vietnam for a year and used it as a home base to go to Mongolia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Nepal. Most recently I’ve been traveling through Jordan, Lebanon, and now currently in Sri Lanka.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I had been working in Corporate Business/Information Technology jobs for 14 years. However I really started saving for the trip 3 years prior to leaving. I set aside and saved my annual bonuses and used that to travel. Once I reached a certain amount in my bank account, I came home and that’s when I decided to get my ESL certification and go back out on the road and work and travel. Now I fund my travel lifestyle mainly through travel blogging and travel photography.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?
Yes I volunteered during my career break in India for a month teaching English, computers, and interviewing skills. I have also since volunteered in remote Nepal villages for a few weeks at a time.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite! I can give you a top 5 though…Vietnam, India, Nepal, Morocco, Mongolia

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? Absolutely – Egypt. It was definitely challenging – and that was back in 2007. I’m not a huge ‘temples’ person – but I did enjoy the felucca on the Nile and the Sinai area.

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true?
Yes – I was worried that I may never want to come back and that did come true! Other than that, most of my worries about lodging, safety, loneliness, lack of money never came true. Once I got on the road, I adapted my lifestyle and attitude and quite frankly I was never lonely on the road. As a solo traveler you always meet people everywhere you go.

Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?
I had been initially subletting my apartment back home in NYC, and when I wanted to extend my travels for a few more months I had to find new renters while I was halfway around the world. Luckily I had a good friend back home helping me with all of the screening and paperwork.

Which travel gear proved most useful?
My sleep sheet, headlamp, air freshener balls for my pack, luggage locks, ipod, first aid kit, and my keene sandals.

Least useful?
My global sim card. Once I discovered Skype there was no real need to have a cell phone.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Without a doubt you increase your ability to deal with uncertainty. You become more flexible and patient. Plus in a strange way I think you become a better communicator. I only speak English – so I have to constantly read people’s body language and determine how to communicate with people. You think on your feet and are challenged each and every day. I personally think these are all super marketable skills for when you want to return to the workforce. I am more confident in my ability to survive. The added benefit I didn’t anticipate is that you end up with friends all over the world!

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Even though you meet people all the time, you can never really go very deep with them. The relationships are quick and you are constantly having to leave people and may never know when you will see them again. It feels like a revolving door at times. There’s no real stability, and that can be difficult at times. I also always found it hard to be away from home for the holidays.

What lessons did you learn on the road?
I learned to eat anything put in front of me. I learned that my body is stronger than I thought and that constant cleanliness and bacteria killing sanitizers are overkill.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
I think for me it it started as a temporary thing – an adventure with a beginning and end. However now the term vagabonding is my lifestyle. I don’t know when and if it will end.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Trust that everything will work out. You don’t have to have all of the answers. Answers you didn’t even know were possible will appear.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Surround yourself by supportive people who are board with your adventure. If your family or friends don’t understand, then find people who will and spend a little time with them. They will give you the inspiration and drive to keep going when the planning gets difficult or you start to worry about what you are going to embark upon. When I started there wasn’t much access to other people like me. Now with Facebook, blogs, Twitter and websites like Vagabonding and Briefcase to Backpack – you can met all kinds of people who are preparing for similar trips. You can find support now!

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
My next BIG adventure this year is the Mongol Rally. Myself and 3 other travel bloggers will be driving an ambulance from London to Mongolia this summer for charity. This adventure even has me a bit nervous! But it will be epic.

Read more about Sherry on her website, Otts World.

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Image: South African Tourism (flickr)