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Who’s Out There Now: Warren and Betsy

Written By: jeff

Posted On: January 11th, 2011

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

At Quilotoa Crater in Ecuador. Copyright

In this week´s ¨Who’s Out There Now¨ feature, we bring to you Warren and Betsy, or as they are known online, MarriedWithLuggage. This couple from Seattle left it all behind at the end of 2010 to start their big trip around the world. How big? Try three years!  They started blogging their adventure long before they left showing the world what the process was like leaving it behind including their joys, fears and comical moments.  They’ve now been on the road over almost four months so I thought it was time to check in and see how it was all going.

1. So, where in the world are you answering these questions?

Chachapoyas, Peru. We’ve been hiking, trekking, and visiting the ruins in this gorgeous area of Northern Peru with friendly people and great weather. It is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the time to get here.

2.  Your first blog post was from way back in September 2008! Does that represent the time you first contemplated this trip? Or had you already made the decision by that point?

We made the decision on the evening of September 1 and made our first blog post on September 3. We went from contemplation to decision to public announcement in just a few days. We felt that going public was a way to keep from backsliding on the decision and to keep us motivated by having that accountability. For us it was the culmination of some personal crises that caused us to take stock of our lives and realize that life is short, and there is no reason to wait decades to do what you really want to do now.

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

Fully loaded! Copyright

3. On that first blog post, you broached the topic of how people react to American travelers.  How do you think you’ve been received so far?

Most people are surprised that we are doing this. We are certainly in the minority as far as nationality is concerned. In terms of acceptance, we’ve made a huge effort to learn Spanish, and this goes a long way in gaining acceptance. We’ve had some political discussions around healthcare, death penalty, and social security mainly with other travelers from around the world, which is eye-opening but always civil.

4. So, how is the Spanish going? You’ve used some pretty creative ways to pick up the language, including reading children’s books (a little trick I’ve used as well).

We’ve been doing pretty well with Spanish. In fact, we spent 6 hours on a trek yesterday with a Spanish speaker and have had similar encounters for Warren’s website client work and even a 2-hour gossip session at the beauty salon (the topics of which, by the way, are the same in every language!). We feel confident now starting and carrying on conversations in Spanish with everyone from people on the bus to Spanish-speaking guides. We feel great about the progress but know there is a long way to go to be able to have a television interview in Colombia. :)

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

Eruption of Volcan Tungurahua in Ecuador. Copyright

5. What was the most important thing you wanted to get out of your career break? And, are you achieving that goal?

First and foremost, we want to see the world! In just 3 months we’ve been shocked by the cultural differences, small and large things that expand our view beyond what we’ve had the past 40 years. Another important point for us was to learn to live more in the present and appreciate not only the destination but the journey. As planners in our past lives, we often looked to the future, and we’ve noticed a remarkable change in our level of happiness by focusing on the here and now. When it takes 2 days to get somewhere, you can either be frustrated that it takes so long or start learning to appreciate the beauty along the way. We’ve spent 20 years living and working one way and want to explore what other options are out there. Meeting people on our journey, both locals and other travelers, is opening our eyes to the variety of ways people live and we are definitely paying attention.

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

Going our own way in Peru. Copyright

6. What was the biggest fear or concern you had in planning the trip? Knowing what you know now, was it a valid concern?

For Warren, the biggest concern was leaving his career, the fear of “can I shut down work mode?” He was concerned that there would be a void that would be left for the drive and passion that he put into his career. Warren feels the concern was valid at the time, but from the time he left his job he has been surprised at the ease in which he has been able to embrace the new life we are charting together. None of Warren’s concerns have manifested on the trip. For Betsy, the biggest concern was leaving friends and family behind. She’s a pretty social person with a large network of friends, and the thought of being without their support and companionship on a daily basis for several years was worrisome. She still misses them, of course, but email, Facebook, and Skype make a huge difference. She also counts on the promises of many of them to actually come for a visit! What has surprised her is that her relationship with Warren has become much closer, and in some ways the active social life she had before got in the way of reaching this next level of intimacy with Warren.

7. What was your first ¨We’re not in Kansas anymore¨ moment?

A couple of weeks into our trip we took a cab down to Otavalo one morning for some grocery shopping. The cab driver was about 20 and wearing a futbol (soccer) uniform, and we figured he must have a game later that day. As we drove past the local futbol field (which is made of cement), our cab was stopped in the middle of the road by 3 very intoxicated young men. They appeared to know our driver, and they were having a conversation we couldn’t understand. The drunk guys then turned to us in the backseat (with another traveler from our lodge) and offered us a drink of their beers, which we accepted (when in Rome…). It turns out they weren’t there to rob/kill/maim us – they were celebrating in anticipation of the afternoon’s futbol game and our driver was one of the local stars. This entire interaction took about 10 minutes and we stayed stopped in the cab in the middle of the street the entire time with no one complaining. You wouldn’t actually see something like that in the US, we don’t think.

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

In the high Andean jungle in Ecuador. Copyright

8. What´s been your most ¨local¨ experience so far?

Without a doubt it was being a part of the “Day of the Dead” celebration at the indigenous cemetery in Otavalo. We went with some local friends and were up close and in the middle of the event, walking through the graveyard with hundreds of families who were honoring their dead and celebrating the circle of life. Had we not been with our local friends we would have never felt confident enough to go into the cemetery, and it remains one of the highlights of our trip because we were able to actually be a part of something instead of witnessing it from the outside.

9. What has been your most embarrassing moment?

We like to think that we have our most embarrassing moment in front of us. Each day gives us plenty of opportunities, whether it is boarding the wrong plane (whoops) or boarding the wrong bus (I’m sensing a theme here), or a variety of communication blunders in between.

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

Mojanda Lakes in Ecuador. Copyright

10. It’s never a dull moment with you guys: from a close-up with an erupting volcano, to getting “trapped” in southern Colombia to Betsy’s recent close call while hiking. What is travel teaching you so far?

Flexibility! We’ve learned to embrace the positives of flexibility, which allows us to bend and sway as we need to but also to really appreciate the wonder of the the things we’ve seen: witnessing a volcano eruption from a safe distance, learning how to adjust when things don’t go our way, getting to see new locations that were not previously on the itinerary or that we didn’t even know existed, and also appreciating our own growing self-reliance in every situation.

11. In a recent post, you took issue with your friends’ notion that you’ve put your life on hold.  Why do you think that perception is out there?

It seems as if many people believe there is only one proven path to happily ever after, and veering from that path causes worry and concern. Where will the next paycheck come from? How will you deal with retirement? What about healthcare? People think of life generally as career and then retirement, and along the way you have a couple of vacations. We personally did not know anyone who had done this before, so we can see why people consider it “putting your life on hold” because “real life” includes career, mortgage, kids, etc. But as we stated, no one has the ability to put their lives on hold – not us, not you, and not your readers. Life is lived every day in every decision and action you take.

travel advice, career break advice, travel the world, career break travel

Post-swim at the waterfall in Baños, Ecuador. Copyright

12. What´s your secret for getting the most out of your journey?

The interactions with people – both locals and other travelers – is the secret. We do not normally plan our trips out. Instead, we listen to what people say about an area and base our plans this way. It gives us an insight into the area we would not have otherwise had, and we get to meet a lot of really great people. This is another reason why speaking the language – even a little bit – is so important. The other secret is our interaction with each other. Spending 24/7/365 together can be tough for even the strongest relationships, and learning to treat each other with courtesy and compassion – and having a 1 meltdown per day rule – has made this trip (and our relationship) better than we could have imagined.

13. Finally, our lightening round.

a. Best dish you’ve found so far – Warren: empanadas at the Otavalo Market, Betsy: Amparo’s special recipe arepas in Colombia

b. Most exotic food eaten – learning to eat in roadside shacks, open-air markets, and stalls in dusty bus station parking lot – no matter what the food!

c. Most breathtaking moment Warren: swimming under a waterfall in Baños, Ecuador – it literally took his breath away, for Betsy: walking along an old Incan road surrounded by breathtaking mountains in Peru

d. Biggest disappointment - Colombia (not being able to see it due to the weather and not being able to meet Jeff in person)

e. Most memorable place Otavalo, because that is where we spent the most time, started and honed our Spanish, and made some very good friends.

f. Most memorable person Ove and Aase at Magic Stone B&B in Baños, inspiring people we want to emulate.

g. Best thing to have on a long bus ride Betsy: an iPod. Warren: Patience.

h. Worst thing to have on a long bus ride Warren: screaming children. Betsy: an overcrowded bus with people standing in the aisle.

i. Best thing you packed: Ex-Officio underwear – quick dry, feel good!

j. Dumbest thing you packed: iPad. Totally unnecessary. Should have stuck with the Kindle.

k. Funniest travel habit the other one has Warren: Betsy is always on the quest for a Coca-Cola Light or Coca-Cola Zero. Betsy: Warren can never remember which pocket contains his tickets – it is always the last one he checks.

l. Place you wish you could’ve stayed longer: Colombia, of course!

You can follow Warren and Betsy online at, on Facebook and on Twitter @wtalbot and @betsytalbot.

Every week, Career Break Secrets profiles a different traveler or traveling couple who are embracing the ¨Because Life Is Out There TM¨ travel spirit.  These are people who have taken the plunge to embark on a career break and are currently traveling the world.

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5 Responses to “Who’s Out There Now: Warren and Betsy”

  1. Thank you Jeff for including us in your series on travelers. We are truly living our dream and loving every minute of it. We just finished a 4 day trek through the Peruvian Andes to explore ruins and test the limits of our physical abilities. Each day is something new for us and we appreciate the opportunity to share our story with your readers. If anyone wants to chat with us, feel free to pass on our contact information. We would love answer any questions for others considering their own career break.
    Warren Talbot recently posted..Round-the-World Trip- 5 Must-See Destinations

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BriefcasetoBackpack and Warren Talbot. Warren Talbot said: Hey, that's us! RT @CareerBrkSecret: Who's Out There Now? It's Warren & Betsy Married With Luggage #careerbreak [...]

  3. [...] over at Career Break Secrets asked us some really great questions about our trip so far, including what we find quirky about [...]

  4. Paz says:

    What a great interview of Betsy and Warren. I love how their pictures look on your site too. I am not sure but the pictures on their site don’t look the same. I love the information on what they packed and the little quirks that you learn along the way about someone even though you have been living with them for years. So inspiring and refreshing to hear the truth. I love that about them. I don’t ever feel like they are saying what they think their readers want to hear. I will have to check out your site! This is the first time i have come across it. Thanks Warren and Betsy. Besos from the mid-west.

  5. jeff says:

    Thanks Paz. Yes, they are great. Sad to have missed them in Bogota over the holidays. But, still hopeful we will run into each other later this year.
    jeff recently posted..Making a U-Turn in Northern Argentina

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