Vagabonding Case Study: Denise Diamond

Denise Diamond


Age: 36

Hometown: Texas

Quote: Be more awesome and do the things you’ve only been talking about doing until now.

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

 In 2010 I met a few people, one right after the other, who were taking extended sabbaticals. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could do such a thing, least of all me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, why couldn’t I? I went online and bought three books on long-term travel –Vagabonding was one of them. I then realized all of us could be  Vagabounders, we just have to take the steps to make it happen.

How long were you on the road?

My first trip was for six months.

Where did you go? 

I spent three months in Europe and three months in Asia.

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

My career was in the marketing & advertising industry and it funded my travels. I’ve now saved for two long-term trips, each time taking about a year to do it. My biggest money-saving strategy? I always put bonuses, tax refunds, and any “unexpected” money into a travel fund – even if I’m not planning a trip.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?

In 2011 I did two, one-month homestays with families in France while helping them with conversational English. In exchange I received room & board. Later that same year I did a Yoga Teaching Certification in Thailand for a month. Currently I am volunteering as an Office Manager at a school in Tanzania for six months. The organization provides education opportunities to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the option.

Each opportunity I’ve been a part of has certainly impacted my life for the better. I not only obtained new skills, but also gained significantly more insight into other cultures.

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

This is always a tough question. Each place is unique with various offerings in their own right. How do you compare a big city with a beach town? But being someone who doesn’t typically repeat destinations, Thailand and New York are two places I always want to return to. It’s interesting how you can have an immediate connection to certain places just by a feeling you get being there.

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

So often I find myself judging a destination more by the circumstances of my visit than by the place itself.  For example, if I go to a city where I happen to meet amazing people and everything went right I may rave about the it. That spot will definitely get an unfair advantage over an instance where I arrived tired and didn’t meet any people. Vienna was my least favorite European city. But was it Vienna’s fault or did it get a raw deal because it was the last city on my European trip? I also didn’t love Morocco, a huge disappointment; I had wanted to go there for so long. But, I didn’t dislike Morocco itself; I just disliked it as a solo female travel destination.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

I wouldn’t travel without these three items:

  1. An iPhone: Besides being a phone it provides so many uses – provider of directions, reservation confirmations, a guidebook, a map, music, games, and more.
  2. My Kindle: I am in love with it. There have been so many instances where I would read a book simply because it was available where I was in English, not because I wanted to read it. Now I always have something good to read and it takes up hardly any space.
  3. Earplugs: These little gems have given me back several hours of sleep I would have otherwise lost in hostels. An essential for light sleepers such as myself.

Least Useful? I would never pack a sleep sack, a money belt, or any piece of clothing I wouldn’t wear at least once a week.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

For me, the two biggest rewards include having more personal time and the excitement of not knowing what each day is going to bring. When I’m home in a traditional job it can feel like life is passing me by. Each day is a continuous loop of going to work and counting down to Friday. In my vagabonding life I never know what each day is going to bring and many times I’m not even sure what day it is.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Sometimes I miss being around my close friends & family – those people who already know you, skipping “get to know” you conversations…What’s your story? Where are you from? How long are you traveling for? I love to meet new people, but sometimes I just want to talk to someone who already knows me.

And living out of a suitcase isn’t my favorite.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

  • People around the world are more similar than they are different. We may look a little different, pray to different Gods, speak different languages and wear different clothes – but at our core we all basically want the same things out of life.
  • I’d rather spend more time in fewer places.
  • I don’t need to see everything the guidebook says I need to. Cramming too many things into a day can turn into a chore.
  • Because it’s spoken almost everywhere, I am really lucky English is my native language. And I usually feel lame among people who are multilingual.

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

Vagabonding is still about taking time from normal life to experience the world -but what I do with that time has certainly evolved. Initially I had a crazy notion that while traveling, I’d have a magical epiphany of what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I would somehow become enlightened and know all the answers. That doesn’t necessarily happen. If you want to make significant changes during your trip, you have to do specific things to make them happen. Set goals, learn new skills, network with the right people, write, create a website, etc. Just being away doesn’t always bring significant change, however, it does provide a new perspective to inspire it.

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

I would have told myself not to worry about going against society’s ideal of what I should be doing. And not to worry so much about what I would do when I got back. When I set off on my trip I was single, 33 years old, and in the middle of my career with a solid job. I questioned many things about this scenario. Could I go off gallivanting if I wasn’t in my twenties or retired? Was I an idiot for leaving my stable paycheck when so many people were looking for a job? Was I forgoing long-term relationship potential by not staying in one place?

At the end of the day, I decided to do what makes me happy and what would make me a more interesting and experienced person. You have full control to make your own rules in life and if you’re smart about it, everything will work itself out when you get back.

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

  • Don’t keep talking about the trip you want to take, actually book it!
  • Go with a rough plan, but don’t worry too much about the details. Things will change as you go.
  • The more money you save the better.
  • Try new things on your trip you normally wouldn’t. Those are the things you’ll remember when you look back.
  • At some point during your travels something will go wrong. When it happens, get over it quickly. You won’t be able to change the situation, but you will be able to change the amount of time you’re upset about it.

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

 I am volunteering in rural Tanzania with two months to go. I am then headed back to South East Asia to visit spots I didn’t include on my first trip such as Indonesia and the Philippines. I also want to spend a little time in Australia -a new area for me, but certainly not as budget friendly.


Read more about Denise on her blog, A Diamond Abroad, or follow her on Twitter.

Website: A Diamond Abroad Twitter@adiamondabroad

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Posted by | Comments Off on Vagabonding Case Study: Denise Diamond  | July 18, 2014
Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

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