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Internal Adventures: On the Road with Betsy and Warren Talbot

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

I met Betsy and Warren in Seattle—and then I promptly saw them again in Barcelona, Portland, and probably some other places. Like me, they get around.

Tell us about yourselves.

We’re Betsy and Warren. In 2008, Betsy’s brother had a heart attack. Then, our good friend Maria had a brain aneurysm. They were both 35. Realizing there are no guarantees in life, we asked one another, “What would change about your life right now if you knew you wouldn’t make it to 40?”

“Travel!” was the answer for both of us. There was really no reason to wait, so here we are, two years later, seeing the world our own way. Right now we’re working on our “Romance Bucket List” of 52 items. (Yes, we have a spreadsheet!) The whole trip is as romantic and dorky as we are.

Why did you both feel so inspired to travel?  

We’re both curious people, and addicted to the constant change and stimulation that comes from travel. This constant learning and questioning of the status quo has helped us strengthen our relationship, lose a combined 85 pounds, and finally realize our dream of writing books for a living. The adventure from the outside is fascinating, but the adventure from the inside is even more incredible.

Can you tell us about that internal adventure?

Well, it certainly surprised us! We expected to be amazed by the world and the people in it, but we didn’t expect to challenge and grow our relationship, exceed our personal boundaries by a large margin, or develop the skills we now have.

In almost every single way we feel closer to each other than we ever did before. Through good and bad experiences (and a lot of in between), we’ve learned to rely on each other totally, which is something we didn’t do before.

We also feel incredibly capable, both together and separately. You could drop us almost anywhere in the world and we’d find a way to get by. That kind of confidence takes you places you never imagined and gives you a whole new outlook on what’s possible for your life.

Talbot_France

How else has it changed your relationship?

When you travel with your partner, you get to see the world from two different viewpoints. No one views a situation in the same way, and being with the person you love adds a richness to the experience that can’t be matched.

But it’s not all pretty. There are countless decisions to make every single day, and you either quickly learn how to balance the load and work through stressful moments or you implode. There’s no happy medium, and all the long-term traveling couples I know have a special “shorthand” with each other that makes daily life hum along better.

Our story is pretty public. Not only is it on our website, but you can read it in our latest book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World. It’s as close a look as you’ll get to a long-term trip with your lover without taking one yourself.

What was one of your recent, memorable trips?

We hiked the Lycian Way, a series of ancient routes along the southern coast of Turkey. For almost 30 days, we carried all our belongings and camped along the way.

A couple of nights in, we landed a prime camping spot overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Sitting on the ledge, swinging our feet as we ate our dinner and watched the sunset. About 4 hours later a huge storm blew in and we waited it out for 4 hours before deciding to break camp in the dark and climb up the wet trail to safety.We spent the last few hours of the night huddled under a porch of what we thought was a vacant hostel… until the owner woke us up on the hard concrete floor the next morning offering breakfast!

Clearly, the trek was difficult in some stages, but the magnificent scenery made it all worthwhile. About halfway through, our friend in Kas introduced us to her boat captain friend. We chartered his boat for a screaming deal and he met up with us every afternoon for the next 4 days. We didn’t have to carry our heavy packs, and we swam and slept on the deck under the stars every night.

How do you save the money you need for traveling?

First, we dreamed and set a departure date. Without a deadline, it’s easy to keep this goal in “dream” mode and never take the action to make it happen. But once you put it on the calendar, it becomes a part of your real life and not a fantasy.

Saving was actually fun instead of a sacrifice (since it was fueling our dream). We estimated that we’d be spending $100/day. Buying something that cost $100 meant giving up one day of travel.

It took us two years to save enough money to feel comfortable leaving and to have a nest egg to return to. Funny enough, we just used that nest-egg to buy a house in Spain. We’re not going back to regular life!

How many miles and points do you have banked right now?

We have 100,000 points banked now from our credit cards, but we don’t actually rely on points as much because we travel slowly, renting apartments instead of hotels and taking ground transportation more often than planes.

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The great debate: aisle or window?

Betsy says window and Warren says aisle, so we’re a pretty perfect pair. When we fly we usually book these and leave the middle seat open, hoping no one will buy it. If a middle seat passenger “offers up” their seat so we can sit together and we ALWAYS say no. We love each other, but not enough to voluntarily take a middle seat!

Have you met any fun or interesting people on the road?

We like slow travel, and Warren is great at striking interesting deals. He once negotiated a 5-1/2 week cruise across the Atlantic as the only passengers on a boat that was repositioning from the Antarctic to the Arctic. We didn’t pay for anything but our bar bill in exchange for our opinion if the trip could make money as a cruise for others.

Another time, we became friendly with a hostel owner in Mongolia and were invited to go with one of his employees to the Gobi Desert to attend a special family reunion honoring the 94-year-old grandmother. It wasn’t a tourist package, simply a way for his employee to be paid to attend a reunion he couldn’t go to otherwise, and we got a front-row seat to an incredible cultural experience.

Best travel tips. Go:

Chat up people.

Ask questions politely and engage people in conversation, even if you don’t speak the language well. The worst that’ll happen is nothing, and the best they’ll do is invite you into their home for a meal or show you something spectacular that few people know about.

There are many ways to see the world.

Pick the one that works for you, whether that’s camping across the US or jet-setting from resort to resort.

Where are you headed next?

We’re currently on a tour we’re calling “An International Love Affair,” and we’re visiting ten cities in Europe by train and writing about our adventures and the relationship lessons we’re taking from the journey.

Follow Betsy and Warren at their blog, Married with Luggage, or via Twitter at @warrentalbot or @betsytalbot.  

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