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What is it like to travel around the world? (Reader Questions)

“What is it like to travel around the world? No, really. The behind-the-scenes stuff, the things that don’t make it to the blog. C’mon. You can tell me!”

We get lots of great questions about our lifestyle, and in today’s video we tackle the subject of “stuff” – mainly what we carry, what we do with things as we finish with them, and – most importantly – how many pair of shoes we have. Thanks to Darcey for asking the question. Do you have question for a future video? Let us know in the comments.

(Click here if you don’t see the video below.)

(Oh, and what shoes did we end up buying for our time in Thailand? Check ‘em out. This is our fourth purchase each of Keen shoes over the past few years, so you could say we’re fans.)

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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.

Comments

  1. I travel with a 40L bag & have the same rule if I buy some type of clothing I have to donate one out. I agree every time I do pack my bag & put on my bag I wonder is there something I can throw out? I honestly can’t I think I have everything I need. I wish I could go lighter, but I think 12kilos is light enough for a 2 year trip. I’m sorry to hear y’all really can’t buy souvenirs cus y’all have no where to ship them too. I don’t buy many the only thing I will try to find is a magnet from each country I visit. I also make sure I keep crisp bills of that currency & change to have as a memory in the future. Good to see y’all are in Amsterdam, I loved that city. Be sure to watch out for the bikes… while I was there I thought that is how I was going to die…lol!

    • Hey, Jaime. You are a better backpacker than us – we have 65L bags (though I think Warren could go to a 40L now that we’ve gotten rid of the camping gear). It only takes lugging your bag for a full day of travel to make you rethink the contents before your next destination, eh?

      The bikers here definitely have the right of way. I’m definitely more scared of them than the cars!

      • Oh wow 65L is HUGE!!! Yeah I love my 40L but on travel days when it is on my back and I’m hiking up town to get to my hostel I wish I travelled even lighter…lol. I know I can;t though, but its okay. Oh & yes the bikes are scarier then the cars in Amsterdam.

      • “Does this 65L backpack make me look fat?” :) Yes, we probably should go down to a 40.

  2. Question 1 – could you two be more in love?

    Question 2 – please talk a little more about your shoes. They don’t look like sandals. They look hot (in the sweaty, uncomfortable way; not the naked co-ed spa way) And also, doesn’t that toe thing bug you when you’re barefoot.

    That is all

    • 1 – We plan to be as time goes by. :)

      2 – They are sandals with removable soles, plenty of air space for circulation, and enough substance to climb/hike/bike if necessary. Plus you can wear them with socks a la Seattle style or get them wet if you need to splash through water. They are not as dainty as flip-flops or something like that, but when you only have 2 main pair of shoes to choose from, you want them to be sturdy and long-lasting. (We can get a cheap pair of flip flops in Thailand if we need to – but I pretty much refuse to wear them because they are so bad for my back and I can’t stand to get my feet dirty from just walking – and they always somehow do in flip flops). The inside has a fabric-y lining so there is nothing to bug when you’re barefoot. In fact, the big toe box area and rubbery covering over it makes my toes quite cool and dry even after walking for hours – we’re already tried them out here with and without socks.

      These are actually a big improvement over my first pair of Keen sandals, which did not have a removable sole and got pretty smelly on hot days!

      • excellent!! I will investigate

      • On the Keen shoes: It’s about all I wear, except when I’m dressing up. Right now I’m wearing super cute Keen Bern boots – cute, comfy, warm. I also use their hiking boots when hiking to the summit of Mt. Whitney or some other big mountain.

        They are super comfy and look great, too. Oh, and they last a long time.

  3. First, love the look you are rookin’ Betsy! Like that you talk about keeping it practical and that you speak to having what is appropriate by YOUR standards. So wise.

    • Thanks, Kent! I’m in a hair-growing-out phase and wondering whether to stay with it or cut it…hence the hat. But it is corduroy, so I have to make a decision before we leave Germany because it will be too hot to wear in Thailand (my style is ALL about practicality!)

      When you make a decision to live minimally – whether traveling or not – you have to be confident in your own standards and not be easily swayed by others. If you aren’t, you won’t be a minimalist for long. :)

  4. Very cool! Less is definitely more when traveling.

  5. I’d never heard of the “Keen” brand before. Of course, I’ve been wearing Tevas for the last 15 years at least. Apparently I don’t mind my feet getting dirty just from walking. I have a pretty permanent Teva-tan burned into my feet. It’s even still there in the spring. I’ll have to look into the Keen’s, though. They look like a good shoe/sandal compromise. The last few trips I’ve made I have noticed that footwear takes up a lot of space, and being able to meld two styles into one would be an improvement.

    40-65L packs, you say. That’s pretty amazing. One more thing to make me feel weighed down by my frakking house and possessions. Thanks for that. :)

    • Rob, Warren has had Tevas before and likes them, too. We discovered Keen while living in Seattle and we both like the bigger toe box and stability of wearing a combo sandal/shoe.

      And I realize I’m being a little prissy about the dirty food thing, but it’s one of my hangups. I cannot stand to have dirty feet if I’m not doing anything that should be getting them dirty (like tramping through mud on a hike or something). I don’t walk around barefoot ever, even inside (thanks to my Vibrams), and if my feet do get dirty from walking around (Lima was the *worst* for this) I immediately wash them when I get home. I know, I’m a freak.

      • Everyone has their “thing”. Being concerned about dirty feet isn’t too freaky. I lost that sort of concern after years of TaeKwon-Do (practiced barefoot) both inside and outside.

        Now, sweaty clothing – *that* bugs me. Which is why I’m a fan of very loose t-shirts and baggy shorts/travel pants. :)

      • TaeKwon-Do, huh? I’m thinking of trying a martial art while we are in Thailand – would you recommend this? (I know, I have to get over the feet thing). How long have you practiced this art?

        I’m not a fan of sweaty clothing either, which is why we paid extra for the kind that wicks sweat away and dries quickly. Not perfect, but a damn sight better than wearing damp shirts with sweat rings. Eww!

  6. Sarah Jensen says:

    Great video! My mother swears by her Keen shoes. She has climbed around many a medieval castle with them! :)

    • Hey, Sarah. Imagine the ghosts haunting those medieval castles commenting on today’s footwear! :)

      We actually cheated on Keen with our last pair of hiking boots in South America and have regretted it ever since. So when we went looking for shoes for Thailand we immediately went back to the tried and true. I think when you find something that works with your foot you should stick with it. (Plus Keen’s have all that toe room, which is extra good for me after wearing the Vibram 5-Fingers shoes so much over the last couple of years (http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2009/06/12/vibram-five-fingers-shoes/).

  7. savingfortravel says:

    Interesting film about ‘stuff’. In my experience there is a spiritual benefit from being free from stuff too.

    Questions, Questions…

    I suppose I would ask how lose is your internery. If you really fall in love with a place or feel the need to stay longer, can you?

    Sft x

    • Hi, savingfortravel. That’s a great question about the itinerary and one we’ll cover in a future video. The basic answer is that we control our own schedule, so if we can make the money work in a place we can stay as long as we want. It’s the “making the money work” part that requires creativity.

  8. Tranque Fuller says:

    11 kilos? I think I’m carrying that in my “spare tire” alone. ;)

    As you’ve truly cleared the clutter in your lives in epic zen proportions, what impact has it had for clearing the “clutter” between your ears?

    • Great question, Tranque. It has undoubtedly helped, and this is a subject that deserves a bit of attention and detail (especially since I’m a borderline packrat). We’ll cover this in a future video. Thanks!

  9. Thanks guys!

    We’ just weighed our backpacks in at 15 kilos. Then we have our day packs which must be another 5. It’s getting ridiculous. We’re in Taiwan right now and about to purge a bunch of stuff. We’re going to aspire to your 11 kilo goal.

    Best, Lisa and JEnni

    • Good luck with the purge, Lisa. We actually do a little bit of that at every stop. Last time I got rid of a pair of leggings that hadn’t been worn in months and some raggedy looking socks as well as the t-shirt I replaced. You have to be pretty vigilant about that kind of thing or your bag will explode!

  10. Is 11 kilos usually the maximum weight allowed for a carry-on? I’m current researching for a front-loading backpack that is also within carry-on dimensions. How often do you end up exchanging clothes or just buying cheap new clothes on the road?

    • Hi, Gerard. I don’t know what the max weight is for a carryon – I’ve seen it range from 25 to 40 pounds depending on the airline. We have only rarely flown, so this isn’t a big deal for us (we’d probably just check it anyway). Traveling by bus/train is a lot more flexible on size/weight, though we still try to keep it light. We walked from the train station in Amsterdam to our hotel last week and it was about 10 or 15 minutes at dusk and in light rain. Believe me, you want a pack that is light enough to not make that kind of walk miserable. (and for those wondering why we don’t take a cab…well, that’s part of budget travel. A cab would cost the same as a meal – we can’t manufacture food, but we can use our feet to get around for free)

      If you’ve looked at enough of our pictures you’ll see that we probably don’t change out our clothes often enough, but we’ll cover that question in more detail in a future video.

  11. OMG SHOES.

    Man, I had the best pair of travel shoes – these little maryjane-style Crocs. They were super lightweight, super comfortable, easy to just slip on, nice enough to wear with a dress or whatever AND they could be shower shoes as well. And them some cow stole them from me in a hostel in Buenos Aires. I am still harbouring a deep resentment over this, and I think about them all the time. I hope that whoever took them has some kind of ironic Croc-related misfortune befall them.

    Anyways, I guess my point is that when you’re living out of a backpack everything you’re carrying fills a niche, and you sort of start to depend on it – I also had a t-shirt stolen, and I was like oh MAN, that was my T-SHIRT, now I have to go out and REPLACE IT, that was supposed to be my t-shirt for the next WHOLE YEAR.

    My secondary point, then, is that your fellow travelers are the WORST THIEVES and I am clearly too attached to my stuff. I just hate shopping, is all.

    • Ha! I remember your maryjane Crocs, Katherine. When you only have a set amount of stuff and each item is set to perform multiple jobs, it is harder to replace lost or stolen items. Especially in South America when you travel to such rural areas.

      I mourn your stolen Crocs with you and am sure your thief friend has blisters from wearing “hot” shoes.

  12. Maureen@Vaco Vitae says:

    11 kilos each??? Seriously?? I so wanna be you when I travel-grow up! Jeremy and I travel with no less than 100 pounds each. Yep–that’s like 4 times what you travel with. In our defense, we each need computers and a mini printer to work on our “home” based business while we’re on the road.

    Jeremy makes the cut at four pair of shoes (sneakers, hiking boots, dress shoes and house shoes) but I weigh in at six pair. I’m no diva–but we occasionally get dressed up for dates on the town so a medium height heel is a must. And a pair of flats.

    Like you, we have a strict one in-one out rule. If we don’t make this choice, the airline will make it for us–or we’ll pay the price! We don’t have a home per se, to mail things to, but our kids do, so we always have that option if we see any must have items–although that hardly ever happens. It’s amazing how lightening the load becomes not just a habit, but a fun game. And I’ve yet to talk to anyone who has ever had any long-term regret over something that they’ve gotten rid of.

    But 11 kilos????? Really???? You’re my minimalist heroes!

    I gotta go purge….

    • Maureen, you are joking about the 100 pounds each…right? How in the heck do you carry all of that from place to place? You must have a sherpa or a mule. :)

      You are right about the airlines – they are pretty strict on the overage charges, so that is another incentive to keep it light. After a while, though, we just get used to what we have, and because we aren’t watching tv commercials or going shopping it doesn’t even occur to us to want new things, usually. Usually. Though it is really hard for me to pass a hat shop without wanting a new one. :)

  13. Great video, Betsy and Warren. I enjoy your Marriedwithluggage entries. One of my favorite entries was your “How to Pack for a RTW Trip” with smart choices, should have packed, lessons, etc. Will you be doing another entry like that now that you’re further along in the journey?

    Another question I have is do either of you keep a personal journal and, if so, do you do it on your laptop or iPad as opposed to a paper journal?

    Is the iPad working out for you any better as you’ve passed through countries like England and France?

    • Hi, Daena. We did a 100-day update post on packing: http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2011/01/17/how-to-pack-for-a-rtw-trip-100-day-update/

      We will probably cover that subject again as our 1-year travel anniversary comes up next month, so stay tuned.

      Great question on the journal, since you probably realize only a very small portion of what we do makes it to the blog. It is very hard to balance documenting the details with living the life with working a bit to pay the bills and keep the blog going. So we’ll answer that question in a future video as well.

      I’m still not convinced the iPad was a good purchase for us for the trip. It is a great product, and if I lived in one place or only traveled occasionally and had a service plan with it (we just use available wifi) then I would probably find it much more useful. But for our lifestyle, not so much. We finally broke down and bought another laptop last month for the business.

      • I loved my iPad for traveling, but it wouldn’t be a great choice if there were a lot of typing involved. I did buy a blutooth keyboard for it and that is a little easier, but not perfect since there’s no easy mouse interface to get the cursor where you want to type. You’re constantly touching the screen and then coming back to the keyboard.

        For taking notes, though, Dragon has a voice-to-text app that is both free and works pretty well. I’m going to explore that, as the iPad is as much as I’ll ever carry from now on as a “vacation” computer. It’s all the vacation e-mail/web browsing I need, and the ability to carry a lot of books and music as well is awesome.

        For making money I still carry my MBP as well, though. Hard to beat that keyboard/mouse interface!

      • Rob, the voice-to-text technology is the business I used to be in. :) It has really advanced, and as long as you have it only attuned to your voice and the software learns from your corrections, that technology can work very well.

        For vacations, having mobile access away from your main computer, or just surfing, I think the iPad is probably ideal. As a second computer, not so much.

  14. Hi Betsy and Warren I just saw your video and can see that you are having a great time. You look great too! When I travel I don’t have to use a backpack but I’m not much of a shopper either. So I just buy a magnet in each city and have a good collection on my fridge now. Even if I buy something else I still buy the magnet, it’s my only collection and easy to move if I decide to do so. Hope you continue to have a great time :)

    • Dasi, that sounds like an easy collection to maintain. My mom has always been a collector of magnets, so I think it is strange to see an empty refrigerator door. We tend to think of our pictures and the people we meet as the souvenirs from our journeys (we pack the people on Facebook, though). :)

  15. You’ve inspired me.

    I normally travel pretty lightly, but I’ve never explicitly limited myself. Normally it’s a 25L backpack and a small checked bag. But I think it’s good practice for me to trim down to necessities so that I’m ready & trained when I break free of this more conventional life I’m living. :)

    I’m getting an Osprey Porter 46 travel pack for my upcoming 2-3 week trips. Carry-on dimensions and highly reviewed. Perhaps not “RTW” size, but certainly good enough for any shorter trips, and hey – they make a 64 liter version as well.

    http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/gear_hauling/porter_46?tab=specifications

    • Rob, if Jaime can travel around the world in a 40L, then I think a 46 will do you just fine. It will be interesting to hear your report at the end of your journey as to how it worked for you.

      • Croatia in 3 weeks will be the first test. Thailand in January the second. And possibly a business trip in the middle. I’ll keep good notes. I’m pretty good at being irritated by things that are not as good as they could be :)

      • I examined the Osprey 46L pack yesterday at REI. It really is a “travel pack” in that the shape, straps and the like are not intended for “backpacking” but rather for transporting stuff while you’re traveling. The straps and waistband all hide away so it can also look like a piece of luggage with a carrying handle, and the side panels, used for compressing the bag, are actually semi-rigid and will protect the contents.

        REI has a 40L version that is more of a backpacker’s pack – but obviously carries less and its look could induce the airline to insist it be checked, despite the fact of its outside dimensions being the same as the Osprey pack. It’s also $140 as opposed to $80 for the Osprey pack.

        A world of choices. ;)

      • Rob, I never thought I’d be a backpack junkie, but I check out everyone’s backpacks. A great one can mean the difference between really enjoying your trip and not. We have REI brand backpacks and they are sturdy – in fact, they still look pretty new despite being well used for a year now – and we can hide the straps as well. This is a key thing when you are traveling by bus and don’t know what is in the hold – you do not want to get some of that gunk on the straps you’ll have around your shoulders! You’ll have to let us know which one you decide on and how it works out for you.

        http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2009/07/29/gear-review-rei-grand-tour-womens-backpack/

  16. Love the hat, Betsy!

    Shoes are a huge issue for me because I have fussy feet and really small feet (small enough that I often can’t buy shoes in the story because they don’t carry a small enough size). In the States I would order like five pairs from Zappos and have them all shipped (free!) so I could try them on and return the ones that didn’t fit. That method doesn’t work so well while traveling, so I’m just hoping I don’t have to buy another pair for awhile!

    • Thanks, Christy. Believe it or not, I bought that from Gap about 10 years ago on a discount table. I like it because you can crush it up in a bag.

      One of the tricks of long-term travel is to know what your specific “things” are – the needs that may set you apart from the general traveler. I am always on the lookout for a contact lens supplier when we go places (even though I have yet to need them) because I am blind as a bat without them. I’m also taller than many of the women in the countries we’ve visited so far, so it is harder for me to find pants that fit. Just knowing those things and preparing ahead of time – or seizing opportunities you find as you travel – can take the stress out of worrying about those things.

      (And on a side note, I LOVE Zappos. :))

  17. Super great info as always! Shoes are the hardest to plan for, and I certainly never thought about borrowing clothes for one-off occasions. (I also loved the Keen sandals when I was in India last year, as you definitely don’t want your feet exposed to the earth there.)

    My reader question is about the less positive aspects of long term travel and how you deal with them. Many bloggers don’t really acknowledge them, but surely here must be times where the cumulative frustrations of being on the road add up? While it’s important to focus on the positive aspects for sure and the positives far outweigh the negatives, the reality of long term travel means that it’s not all rainbows and lollipops 24/7 :-) How do you deal with those days?

    • Tonya, that’s a great question we can cover in a future video. We’ve written a few times about this – like the frustration of a broken-down computer system at the Ecuadorian border on Christmas eve that left us in line for hours with no resolution in sight and forced us to commit our first act of bribery to get across, where we took a long bus ride to the crappiest, dirtiest, and least safe hostel we’ve ever stayed in, only to wake up on Christmas morning and feel like we were in the middle of a war zone. Merry Christmas! Or when you get into an epic fight with your partner at the start of a 12-mile hike and have nowhere else to go or anyone else to talk to so you just have to hash it out right then and there without any cooling off time. It really does add up sometimes, and being together 24/7 without the support system of friends and family nearby means you simply have to learn to work it out together. We fight more now than we did before, but we also are better at resolution and there is far less pent-up anger because we simply can’t afford to let it build up (plus we are together all the time – kinda hard to hide murderous rage that way :)) Thanks for the question – it is a good one!

  18. Wow! I’ve been reading the blog so I feel kind of Duh! for saying this … I hadn’t really thought through how much you’ve commited to the traveling lifestyle. You can’t ship things back because there’s no where to ship them! True minimalists indeed. Also because you plan to continue to travel, you aren’t planning to accumulate stuff. I know I’m just restating what is so obvious to you but it was really thought provoking to me. I’m going to be pondering this for awhile… :)

    • Hi, Jen. It is a mind shift, isn’t it! We like to say we are accumulating experiences instead of stuff – much easier to pack, and they last forever. :)

  19. Great post . . . and I simply have to say that Betsy just gets better looking every time I see her. You sure you guys aren’t spending some time at a “spa” (!) You are really the most adorable couple . . . so inspiring to follow your story :-)

  20. Traveling around the world! Can you think of a better experiences than that. That’s totally awesome…

x

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