Favorite Blog: Hole In The Donut
When I first came across the blog “Hole In The Donut” and read the description of its author, Barbara Weibel, I immediately knew she was a “Briefcase to Backpacker”.
[singlepic=1424,175,,,left]After years of working 70 hours a week at jobs she hated, baby-boomer Barbara Weibel felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside, but empty on the inside. Searching for meaning in her life, Weibel abandoned her career and set out on a six-month solo backpacking trip around the world, during which she pursued her true passions of travel, writing, and photography. Since returning, she has continued to travel and blog about her journey, both physical and spiritual.
It is always interesting to learn what inspires people to make life changes like this, and for Barbara, it was being diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Being practically bedridden for nearly six weeks gave her time to analyze the way she was living her life. During this time of reflection she decided that in order to live a life with purpose, she needed to figure out what brought her joy. And what brought her joy was photography, writing, and of course travel.
[singlepic=1428,125,,,left]When I began to read her entries from the beginning of her six-month journey (March – September 2007) I was immediately entranced.
Being introduced to a new travel blog that has already happened is like being introduced to a new tv series and you’re able to watch entire seasons in one sitting without commercial interruption. With each entry you get hooked even more and can’t wait to see what happens next – and you don’t have to! That’s how it was with “Hole in the Donut”.
Barbara writes with such honesty and her self-deprecating humor and self-described “snarky tone” makes every post a delight to read. More than once did I catch myself laughing out loud with her funny observations (“In order to become a cop in Italy, you must first pass a drop-dead-gorgeous test”). And some of her gutsy moves had me holding my breath until the end of the post, like the time she decided to take on guards at the Cambodian border or play cop to airport scammers in South Africa.
But it was also her style of travel that spoke to me:
[singlepic=1430,175,,,right]So many people, when they travel, limit their experience. They go to all-inclusive resorts and never leave the grounds. Or they won’t try the local food for fear of getting sick. I am not interested in that kind of sanitized travel. I want to fully experience the places I visit. If I hadn’t taken the shortcut through the Buddhist Monastery the other day I wouldn’t have been bitten by the dog. But if I hadn’t gotten off at the wrong water taxi stop in Bangkok and then wandered through the neighborhoods I might never have seen the locals trying to capture a giant monitor lizard that was trapped in the sewer. If, over the years of my travels, I had assumed that everyone who stopped me on the street was a scam artist or a tout, I would have missed out on meeting some wonderful people.
Discovery Versus Danger
Some of those wonderful people included Ron, a British ex-pat living in a small village in northern Thailand close to the Myanmar (Burma) border. Having traveled to Pai for just four days, four years later he was still there, having fallen in love with a woman and the region and starting a new family – at age 68. His life was a simple one, but one surrounded by love, and he lived with an open heart – taking in an orphaned Shan girl and helping to raise money so another village boy could have much needed heart surgery.
When I read a post dated nearly a year later, I was saddened to learn that Ron had passed. Even though Barbara had only written one entry about him (but continued to stay in touch with him), I felt like I too lost a friend.
Perhaps the most relatable thing about Barbara’s six-month journey over four continents was the various emotions she experienced. At her three-month mark, she noted:
Along the way I have been intrigued, elated, fascinated, amused, delighted, introspective, questioning, grateful, honored, irritated, challenged, scared, and a myriad of other adjectives too numerous to mention.
Three Month Half-Way Mark
Good or bad, these various emotions only helped in finding inspiration.
[singlepic=1425,200,,,left]Even though Barbara returned in September 2007, she still keeps her blog regularly updated. Today it documents her journey, both physical and spiritual, focusing on travelogues, travel industry news, stories about the crazy things that happen to her and the interesting people she meets along the way, and inspirational videos.
“Hole In the Donut” is definitely a great inspiration for the Briefcase to Backpack community.