Vagabonding Case Study: Travis Ball

Travis Ball

Age: 34

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Quote: “When I started, I was planning on a five-year RTW trip. I think I’ve decided that travel isn’t something you can put limits on like that. I’ve re-evaluated my outlook and realize that travel is now a lifelong thing for me.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? I first heard about the book while reading “The 4-hour work week” and quickly grabbed it off Amazon.  Those two books were exactly what I needed to get motivated for the trip I’m currently on.

How long were you on the road? I left May, 2009 and am currently in Chiang Mai.  I should be returning home around August of this year.

Where all did you go? Spain, England, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and heading to Australia and New Zealand.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? After making the commitment to the trip, I did a couple different things.  I picked up a second job as a bartender to help save but, more importantly, to learn a skill I could work with overseas.  It took two years to pay off my debt and hit my saving goal.

Did you work or volunteer on the road? I’d planned on working as a bartender in Ibzia, my first destination.  After three weeks, and three job offers, I couldn’t get a job there because I couldn’t make the work permit/visa work.  Instead, through the contacts I’d made in those early weeks, I started working as a photographer for a British website covering the clubs.  By the end of the summer, I was running a team of four photographers and spending 5-6 nights a weeks at the clubs I figured I’d only be able to visit half a dozen times when I arrived.

After Spain, I shot a few festivals in the UK and traveled for two weeks through Ireland before heading to Japan to find a job teaching English.  It took two months, but I finally found work and ended up in a small city called Ina about three hours northwest of Tokyo.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? This is like asking what someone’s favorite movie is.  They’re all so different, but the highlights have been Japan, Ireland, China and Thailand.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? Japan was the most challenging because of the living conditions.  Growing up in Los Angeles and teaching in a small, rural part of Japan was a very new experience for me.  Instead of movie theaters and public transportation, there were rice fields and my bicycle.

Like all travel experiences (good and bad), it was a great learning experience, and I took advantage of the opportunity to study the language and culture as well as work on personal projects like learning how to cook.

Living in the mountains, we also got a good 4 months of snow, which was something I wasn’t used to either.  I have to say, I prefer the weather in San Diego, but then who wouldn’t?

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true?  Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated? The main concerns I faced were making sure I found work in Spain and Japan.  In both countries, finding work was harder than I expected, but I made it happen and going through those circumstances and coming out ahead really boosted my confidence and character.

The company I worked for in Japan when bankrupt 7 months into my contract.  All the employees were re-hired on three-month contracts and then the situation deteriorated.  Instead of working out a full year, I left after about 10 months of work.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful? The camera bag I purchased (the lowepro fastpack 250) has been the most amazing backpack for carrying my gear.  I have big pack for my clothes and what not, but needed to find a good bag for my camera, laptop, etc.  It’s held up well but is now starting to show the scars of travel.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? New Experiences.  I’ve seen a whole other side of the world, met countless interesting people, climbed mountains, learned how to scuba dive, taken part in remarkable festivals, and learned so much about the world and myself.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? Certainly the biggest is time spent away from friends and family.  I’m actually shortening my trip so that I can go back and spend some time at home before continuing the trip in 2013.

What lessons did you learn on the road? Countless lessons learned, but the most important lesson has been that I’m capable of so much more and that I can rely on myself and my instincts. Also – life is short, get out and do what you want right now!

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? When I started, I was planning on a five-year RTW trip.  I think I’ve decided that travel isn’t something you can put limits on like that.  I’ve re-evaluated my outlook and realize that travel is now a lifelong thing for me.  This means I can go home and get some work in while visiting friends and family before getting back on the road.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? Stay on top of your photography and writing – it piles up and gets intimidating after a while.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? The first thing is to commit to the trip.  Convince yourself you can do it and make the decision.  Then, tell everyone you know that you’re going.  Ignore the naysayers and find some supporters.  Also look to the web for inspiration – twitter and travel blogs are filled with advice and information.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? Towards the end of 2013, me and a few people I’ve met during this trip are planning a road trip through Central and South America for about a year.

Twitter: flashpackerhq Website:

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Posted by | Comments (5)  | April 13, 2011
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

5 Responses to “Vagabonding Case Study: Travis Ball”

  1. scribonia Says:

    Awesome case study. Very inspirational 🙂

  2. Stephen Says:

    Cool case study, and excellent picture as well! Fuji?

  3. Phytfor Life » Blog Archive » » Vagabonding Case Study: Travis Ball :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] » Vagabonding Case Study: Travis Ball :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog […]

  4. Mike Says:

    I think that picture was taken at the top of Mt. Fuji.

  5. Bill Lyons San Diego Says:

    wow very inspiring! It shows that anyone can make the leap and travel the world. The only thing that stops us are excuses or our own limiting beliefs. Before we know it we will blink and be 70. I admire your ability to take action and follow your dreams. I live in San Diego. The weather will be 77-80 all week…yes preferable…but adventure and exploration are much more desirable. – Bill Lyons