Prepare to Travel with TurtlesTravel
Our tenth installment of our ongoing series, Prepare to Travel, is with Tamara and Donny of TurtlesTravel. Tamara and Donny are a nomadic pair from the US who have been wandering together since 2004. Their first extended trip together in 2008 was a year almost exclusively spent in the Southern Hemisphere: Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. More recently, another year-long journey took them to Asia. When not traveling on their own schedule, they also travel for work, bringing experiential marketing campaigns to cities throughout the United States. Join us as we learn how to prepare to travel with TurtlesTravel.
AfterGlobe (AG)-We hear again and again, how people can’t believe that others are able to travel the world in abundance or long term. Many can’t even imagine doing this. What travelers did before they left to travel always seems to be a hot topic. Would you agree? Do you get a lot of questions about traveling and how you are able to do something so many consider a luxury?
TurtlesTravel (TT): It’s one of the most common questions we hear! How are we are able to live a nomadic lifestyle, without a home base, constantly on the move? How do we afford it? How did we get the money together to get started? People wonder if we’ve secretly won the lottery, or have a big inheritance from a rich uncle somewhere! Most travel bloggers have written a post on the topic, and we all love to read how long-term nomads are making it happen. The fact is that everyone’s strategy is different, but travel shouldn’t be considered a luxury. It’s essential. Making it a priority is really all that is required!
AG- When did you first start thinking about traveling? What changed from dreaming about it to actually making it happen?
TT: I was born to travel. I can’t remember NOT thinking about where I might go next. When I was young my family didn’t travel much, but my grandfather was always telling me stories about working as a traveling salesman: the people he met, the places he saw. I also had a great aunt who traveled across oceans by container ship, which I thought, sounded amazingly exciting. Both of my paternal grandparents were born outside the US, and their siblings emigrated in several different directions. I wanted to hear the stories first-hand and create some of my own. When I was 16 I found my first way to an extended adventure abroad! I left home to spend my senior year of high school as an exchange student to Japan. I think it was that experience that sealed the deal. I would never be able to stay put and follow a traditional path. I’d be a traveler for life.
Donny had traveled quite a bit as a boy on family vacations. Later, through work he had seen much of the US. During those cross-country drives, his wanderlust really took hold (though he didn’t get a passport until his mid-20s!).
AG- Once you decided you were going to travel, what did you do to start working towards making it a reality? Did you make a plan or budget?
TT: When we began to travel together, we quickly knew we wanted to take the next step and make our travels more long-term. In our case we had a head-start due to our careers in mobile marketing. When we are on a contract, most of our expenses are paid. That includes lodging and food, and we also use a company vehicle. We don’t keep an apartment, and stay in hotels when working, so we don’t even have to buy things like toilet paper! This lack of expenses adds up to big savings! We were able to save about $15,000 each before our first extended trip. We were gone for just under a year. We never made a firm budget; we are cautious spenders anyway, so we weren’t too worried.
As far as a plan, first we initially made a spreadsheet of all of the countries we wanted to visit…ever. The list was REALLY long. We’ll be working through it for the foreseeable future! Our next step was more lists (I love Excel!) of routing possibilities, visa requirements and needed vaccinations.
AG- We can relate. Our list of places we want to travel to is really long, as well. Whenever you make a plan to travel, how long is it from that point to the time you leave?
TT: In 2008, when we decided we were going to take off on our first extended trip, we bought a series of airline tickets in mid-June. Our first flight took off from New York to Cape Town at the end of July. We had done a lot of research leading up to buying those initial tickets, but even so, the whole process was probably just a few months in all.
AG- What happened with all of your belongings? Did you sell everything? Were there items that you kept and put it in storage? What was your thinking behind what you kept and what you got rid of?
TT: We had been traveling for work for a few years, but I still had way too many possessions in my New York apartment. In the process of selling, I gave away most of what I owned. What no one wanted was disposed of. I took what was left (including some clothing, a few pieces of furniture, books and some dishes) and moved some of it to my Dad’s basement and some to a friend’s summer house. (The furniture is still being used there five years later as I continue to streamline.) We keep some Rubbermaid bins in parents’ basements, but nothing that would be too difficult if anyone decides to move.
The more you travel, the more you realize how little you really need! When we returned home after our first trip, there were so many things we found that we didn’t remember or want anymore. Also, when you have to carry everything on your back, you become a serial streamliner. We love to get rid of things. Moving on to a new place is an opportunity to see what else we can leave behind.
AG- What did you do to save up enough money before you left? Any advice that you think will help others save for traveling?
TT: Some highlights from the post we wrote on this topic: Make travel your #1 priority. Obviously, you have to eat, but beyond the necessities, learn to put your travel fund first. With each purchase, ask, “Is this something I really need, or just something I want to possess?” Reduce debt, but also reduce bills. Keep focused on your goal, and you’ll soon discover that what seems like little bits and pieces adds up to sizable savings before long.
AG- How do you figure out how much you need to save to travel? Do your savings end up being enough? Should you have saved more or less?
TT: We had no idea what we would need to save to travel. Our plans were open-ended, so we figured if we ran out of money we’d either find a way to supplement or just head home. In the end, we spent less than we thought we would.
AG- Many times when reading travel blogs, we find ourselves thinking that we need to buy a bunch of things to be able to travel. Have you experienced this? What things do you now realize that you didn’t really need? Any recommendations on what really is needed?
TT: I am a big list-maker and a notorious over-researcher. It’s completely understandable to question what you may need. One big thing we learned was that there really is very little you need. We don’t travel with any special gadgets, clothing, etc. We haven’t even traveled with a laptop or notebook. The only tech we had with us on either of our year-long trips was a point and shoot camera and an unlocked cell-phone. When it comes to clothing and toiletries, etc. there’s almost nothing you can’t find away from home. People brush their teeth and wear shoes in most places. You may not find your favorite brand, but there is NO need to pack such items for the long term.
One thing you DO need is travel insurance. Don’t skimp on that one.
AG- Good advice on the travel insurance. What has been the most difficult for you while preparing to travel?
TT: For me, it was difficult to make choices. I wanted to have all the answers. I wanted to know if my research was enough. I didn’t want to miss anything. I wanted a plan, but I wanted to be flexible and free. I wanted to have a reservation so we’d have a destination when we arrived in a new destination, but I wanted to be able to leave a place if we didn’t like it. It all became overwhelming. In the end, I learned to give up control. I would never know all the answers before getting out and discovering them. No matter how much you read the guidebooks, other people’s experiences, news stories on current events in the places you’ll be going, you just can’t know what your experience will be until you get there. I learned (slowly) to stop worrying so much about what might happen, and focus on what I could do to make things happen.
AG- Do you have any additional advice for those who want to travel the world, but haven’t?
TT: Everyone’s situation is different. Our best advice is to take the first step. Whether for you that means making a plan or a budget or convincing your partner you’re not crazy. Once you have a goal there is something to work towards. Say it out loud. Talk to others who have done it. Most (including us!) are more than willing to help with advice, encouragement or just bounce ideas off of. Whether it’s a multi-country, extended journey or a week or two off from work, make the decision and just do it!
Thank you very much to Tamara and Donny for sharing with us how to prepare to travel with TurtlesTravel. Be sure to head over to TurtlesTravel to read all about Tamara and Donny’s adventures on their travels.
What do you do to prepare to travel?
All photography provided by TurtlesTravel.