On the Road with Warren & Betsy Talbot
Shortly after hosting our Inaugural Meet, Plan, Go! event in Seattle this past September, Warren & Betsy Talbot (aka Married with Luggage) took off for their three year career break. Now with four months under their [shrinking] belts, we check in with them to see how they are adjusting to life on the road.
You spent two years planning your career break travels. Now that you have been on the road for four months, what have you found to be the most valuable aspect of your preparation process?
We have found that living on a budget is the most valuable skill for a long-term trip like this. In addition, doing the research to figure out what the trip would likely cost for our style of travel means that we are comfortable traveling with the budget we set out for ourselves and do not anticipate running out of money early. We lived for 2 years on a fairly tight budget, which means once we started on the trip, there was absolutely nothing to get used to. In fact, we felt like we could splurge more once we were on the trip because we had lived under budget for so long – which is a great feeling!
Another thing that really worked well for us was selling off our possessions. We know this isn’t right for everyone, but for us it gives us nothing to think about but the trip. Our advice for anyone planning a trip like this is to make sure you have your “home details” locked in before you leave – hopefully with someone else to look after them – so you don’t have to waste any of your energy on what you left back home.
Do you feel like you were over-prepared in any ways?
We bought into the hype that we needed special travel clothes, gadgets, and medicine for the eventual “traveler’s illness.” This was a big mistake because we spent too much money on things we either don’t like, never use, or can find abundantly (for less) in every country we have visited so far.
Have you had any encounters in which you felt under-prepared? And if so, how do you think you could have been better prepared?
Learning Spanish has been by far our biggest challenge. We thought that we could learn it when we landed – which is possible – but the nature of traveling as a couple means we mainly speak English to each other. Without a concerted effort, it is difficult to learn the language as quickly as you need to have a more enjoyable experience. We would recommend that other travelers spend more time before leaving in learning the basics of a foreign language or two.
There comes a point for every long-term traveler where you feel like you’ve gained your road experience and have settled into the backpacking lifestyle. At what point (if any) did you feel like you gained yours?
We ran into a slew of travel problems due to weather around Christmas, at the 3-month-mark, and it caused our normal “rule-following” personalities to shift into a more savvy traveler mindset – mainly out of frustration. The old version of us would have never paid a bribe at immigration or felt so bold as to help other people do the same to get out of a sticky situation, but we did then. And after that it just seemed like things have just flowed better for us. We had to stop being tourists waiting for “the rules” to help us get by and become travelers who problem-solve a little bit differently.
What has surprised you the most about yourselves?
Warren has been surprised most at his adaptation to being more flexible. Before now he was a planner (both in personality and at work), and since we’ve been on the trip he has eased into the lifestyle of not planning our trip very far in advance and taking almost every suggestion for a detour from other travelers. His goal of learning to live more in the present has not been nearly as big of a challenge as he feared.
Betsy has been surprised at the amount of weight loss this trip has sparked. As of this writing we have been traveling for 125 days, and in that time she’s lost about 20 pounds with no attempt at dieting. She thinks that satisfying her curiosity about the world around her has kept her actual appetite in check, and of course the physical activity to get to these places has helped, too.
For those currently contemplating a career break, what advice would you have for them now that you have started yours?
Set the date and tell your family and friends. Seriously, it all comes down to that. Once you set the date you just have to work through the logistics, and you can easily do that by doing your own research and listening to other travelers. That’s why we love the idea of Career Break Basic Training – we learned through our own travels how much it helps to listen to other people who have gone before and adapting their advice to our own situation. Chances are, you probably don’t know very many people in your everyday life who have done this, so you have to reach out and find people who have. Having something like Basic Training at the start of our trip planning would have saved us a lot of time and money.
Last, we would advocate keeping an open mind. The rest of the world is both exactly like home and entirely different, and you’ll see what we mean when you get out there. You cannot call a place foreign when you are standing right in it, and to think of it that way keeps you from fully experiencing it.