Vagabonding Case Study: The Talbots

The Talbots

Age: 40

Hometown: Seattle, WA – USA

Quote: “The more flexible you are the more open you can be to amazing opportunities.

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

We are big fans of Rolf Potts and read his book before we even thought about taking a trip of our own. It opened up the idea of exploring the world no matter where we were and learning to appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

How long were you on the road?

We left in October 2010 and are still still traveling. Together, we might add. There were some that didn’t think this was a smart move for a healthy marriage.

Where all did you go?

We’ve trekked through much of the Andes in South America, camped in Tierra del Fuego near the southernmost city in the world, and then cruised from there to Antarctica, where we hung out with the penguins and watched ice calve from glaciers older than man. After that, we hitched a ride as the only passengers on the same ship and cruised for 5 weeks all the way up the Atlantic Ocean to the UK, where we are spending our time exploring the excellent walking trails and hills all over the country with a rewarding pint at a pub at the end. In our future: A summer in Western Europe with a few choice housesitting gigs and then wintering in Thailand. After that, who knows?

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

We set up a very strict savings plan the day after we made the decision to travel. Over the course of 2 years, we saved enough for our original goal of one year of travel and added enough to extend that journey to 4-5 years. We used our regular paychecks, bonuses, tax returns, and the sale of most of our possessions. (We took on separate side jobs to fund the trip to Antarctica.)

Did you work or volunteer on the road?

The initial plan was to simply travel for 4-5 years and only do a small bit of website development projects.  However, we have now decided to make this our lifestyle so we are able to stop and “settle” for months at a time when we find some place we fall in love with. We plan to fund our travels long-term with WordPress website development and online marketing for small businesses, something that fits neatly with our previous careers and skill sets.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?

We loved Antarctica and felt like it lived up to the hype and then some. Seeing blue glaciers older than anything human beings have ever built is humbling, and of course the penguins, seals, and whales are magnificent to behold. We also loved the experience of cruising up the Atlantic Ocean as the only passengers on a polar cruise ship as it was repositioning for the Arctic season. We had unlimited access to the bridge, zero light pollution to detract from the blanket of stars overhead, and the opportunity to get to know an amazing crew from the Philippines, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Brazil. Oh, and the food. Did we mention the food?

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

We had a big disappointment in Colombia because of the record flooding at the time we were there as well as the holiday season. Our travel plans were severely disrupted by both of these things, and we ended up leaving without seeing more than just the border towns. On the positive side, that little bit intrigued us and we will definitely return to this beautiful country and see what we missed. As for least favorite and most challenging, we would both say Lima, Peru. We overstayed our time there, which made us resent a little bit of the city through no fault of its own. It was very  hot, and we had just spent several months in the cool Andes. We felt a little bit trapped because of a previously purchased flight from there to Buenos Aires that couldn’t be changed as well as a prepayment on a flat rental. It was a good lesson in not planning too far in advance.

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

You mean besides killing each other? One of our biggest concerns was being together 24 hours a day. We are both pretty independent and wondered how this would work out. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much it has drawn us closer and how much nicer we have become in our everyday interactions. It also means that nothing stays simmering under the surface for too long because there is too much togetherness to hide aggravations. Things get resolved very quickly. The problems that occurred that we didn’t anticipate actually started on day 1 of our trip, with a political coup in our first country. The airport was closed, and we had no idea if we would even make it there. Then there was the volcano eruption, the border crossing that required a bribe to make happen, and the night we locked our keys in our room at a remote lodge high in the Andes after the electricity had gone out and the staff had gone home. These are all things that on the surface seem like they could break the trip, but they become the best stories. And they taught us that nothing is too hard to handle.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

Is it okay to talk about our privates here? Because we absolutely love our Ex Officio underwear. It dries overnight, and you could conceivably travel the world with just one pair of these underwear. We wish everything was this easy to wash and quick to dry and stood up to repeated washings with harsh detergents, bar soap, and even sometimes shampoo. The least useful thing we brought – and quickly discarded – was the sterile IV kit we got from the travel clinic. We decided if we were ever in a really remote location and needed desperate medical attention we would likely not remember that we had a sterile IV kit in the backpack back at the hostel. Even in the most remote locations, we have been impressed with the level of medical care available. In fact, in virtually everywhere we’ve been we’ve had easier and faster access to decent medical care than we could have had back in the US.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

We quit our jobs and sold everything we owned, so we are truly free to come and go as we please. It is the ultimate freedom to be able to go anywhere anytime with no considerations for stuff or schedules or commitments. Because we travel slowly, staying at least a week in every location and often weeks or months, we get to know the people and the customs. We learn exactly why many strict Catholic women in South America wear tight clothes, why the Day of the Dead is a celebration and not a mourning, who came before the Incans and what they built and what customs still remain with their descendants, and even what Scottish men wear under their kilts and why they eat haggis. It is this kind of stuff, learned at the tables and homes of local people, that make the journey far richer than checking off an itinerary of places to see.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Without a doubt, our biggest challenge is being away from friends and family. We had a robust social life before we left, and we miss the weekly get-togethers with friends, visits to our families, and just being “in the know” about what’s going on every day with the people we love. Facebook, Twitter, and Skype are great helpers at staying in touch, but of course they don’t replace the real thing.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

We learned how to give a bribe, sleep through the noise of an erupting volcano, skinny dip in the cold waters of the Antarctic, and cross the street without dying in South America. In short, we learned more about living in the moment than we ever would have in our previous lives, and this has changed us profoundly as people and as a couple.

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

The more flexible you are the more open you can be to amazing opportunities.  Some of our best experiences occurred when we did this. For instance, we planned to go west after our travels in South America and visit the Pacific Islands before heading to Australia and New Zealand. Instead, we asked a crazy question to the Gap Adventures crew after our trip to Antarctica and ended up cruising for 5 weeks as the only passengers on their trip to the UK. Our entire itinerary changed, and we have zero regrets. We’ve had countless detours due to recommendations from fellow travelers, and almost every single one has been amazing. If we had not been open to these suggestions and stuck to an itinerary, we would have missed many things that aren’t listed in the guidebooks.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?

Say Yes. We’ve had countless detours due to recommendations from fellow travelers, and almost every single one has been amazing. If we had not been open to these suggestions and stuck to an itinerary, we would have missed many experiences that aren’t listed in the guidebooks as well as forge great friendships.

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

Develop an attitude of embracing new experiences, stretching your boundaries, and saying yes to things that are outside your comfort zone. The good news is that you can start developing these attitudes before you even leave home. For us, vagabonding works better as a lifestyle than as just a mode of travel.

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

We’re still traveling and now consider this a lifestyle more than a trip. We’re heading to Western Europe this summer and then to Thailand for the winter. After that, the loose plan we call an itinerary is blank. Unless you’ve got a spare room, that is. 😉

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Posted by | Comments (6)  | July 27, 2011
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

6 Responses to “Vagabonding Case Study: The Talbots”

  1. Stephen Says:

    These are some of the most thought-through and interesting answers I’ve seen through this whole series. Well done, Talbots!

  2. Betsy Talbot Says:

    Thanks, Stephen. We had a good time answering these questions. One of our unexpected joys on the trip has been sharing it with our readers and friends. The experience goes to a deeper level when you are able to tell someone else about it.

    Happy travels!

  3. Nilesh Morar Says:

    I enjoyed reading this! I am in my late 30’s, single, and want to travel, just need some inspiration to take the plunge!!!

  4. Connie Says:

    Excellent job in writing this article. Also, sounds like a great start to your new life. Now, the questions I’m wondering ….. do you think age “50-somethings” could attempt something like this, as a new live-your-dreams-before-it’s-too-late lifestyle? If so, what age-specific challenges are they/we likely to face? The first thing that comes to mind — physical endurance just IS NOT the same as when we were younger!! But, we’re not couch potatoes either??

  5. Warren Talbot Says:

    Hi Connie,
    Great questions. Based on the way we have been traveling for the last 11 months I certainly do not see it as “too late”. The biggest challenge that anyone embarking into this can face is the burnout of traveling too fast. Most people tend to try to squeeze in as many countries as possible. The challenges to this approach are 1) you get tired quickly; 2) you cannot really get to know the culture of each place you visit.

    Our advice would be to take it slow and enjoy more time in each location. This ends up being cheaper, more enjoyable, and gives you the opportunity to meet people and learn more about each place you visit. While we have done some amazing physical adventures, our best experiences have been getting to know people and learning their story. We have never felt overwhelmed by the physical demands as most of the challenge with this trip is mentally willing yourself to get out and meet new people.

    We’d love to connect directly so please feel free to drop us an email at We’d love to talk in more depth about your goals and answer any questions you may have.

  6. Advantages of Couples Travel | The Pocket Explorer Says:

    […] “The more flexible you are, the more open you can be to amazing opportunities.” – The Talbots […]