Who’s Out There Now: Barbara

Written By: jeff

Posted On: March 29th, 2011


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

Barbara in Puma, Nepal Cultural Home Stay. Copyright HoleIntheDonut.com

In this week’s ¨Who´s Out There Now¨ feature, we bring to you Barbara, the WOMAN behind HoleInTheDonut.  I first met Barbara at the TBEX travel blogger conference last June in New York. She’s got a spark and passion that you notice immediately. And, that passion translates online as she has one of the top independent travel blogs out there. She’s over 50 and going strong after recovering from a bout with Lyme disease that wasn’t diagnosed for 5 years. She’s a true inspiration and shows that traveling isn’t for the young, but for the young at heart.

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

Hi Jeff! I’m in Luang Prabang, Laos at the moment, just having completesd a two day cruise down the Mekong River from northern Thailand.

2. So, explain the meaning of the name of your site? How does it link to your style of travel?

The name of my blog doesn’t really relate to my style of travel; it’s a reference to the way I felt in my previous life as a corporate executive: like a donut, solid on the outside but empty on the inside. And since I finance all my own travel, my style of travel is budget in the extreme.

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

Barbara Basking in the View of Himalayan Mountains near Puma, Nepal. Copyright HoleintheDonut.com

3. I was trying to count how many countries you’ve been to. What is the count?

I was traveling for many years before I ever started the blog, so there are many countries I haven’t even written about yet. Currently the count is at 33. That number seems small, given the amount of traveling I do, however the longer I travel, the slower my pace. I almost always spend at least a month in each country I visit these days, so that I can immerse and learn about the culture.

4. There’s always an initial inspiration to begin traveling. What inspires you to keep traveling and keep exploring. Is that different than when you first hit the road years ago?

I can’t say the reason I travel has changed much over the years. I have an insatiable curiosity about other cultures and a burning desire to deliver the message that we are one human family; despite cultural differences, we all have the same hopes and fears, wants and needs. My mantra is, “If we get to know one another, we are less likely to kill one another.” Truly, travel has tremendous untapped potential for facilitating world peace.

5. You have quite few videos on your site (well done!).  What are your favorite subjects to video and what is the favorite you’ve made?

Thank you! Videography was not a tool I brought to the table when I started the blog, but I believe it is a very important part of the mix. Although I’ve produced a number of videos about nature and tourist attractions, my main focus is on cultural activities such as the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyon celebrating Semana Santa (Easter) and Nepali’s enjoying Tihar, one of the most important Hindu holidays. But my favorite so far has to be the Tibetan refugees in Tashiling Tibetan refugee settlement in Pokhara, Nepal celebrating International Human Rights Day with a balloon busting competition

6. Career break, nomadic adventure, backpacking, how do you characterize your travels?

I’m a perpetual traveler, a digital nomad who works from the road and calls wherever I am home. Most of my travel is backpacker style; my goal is to pay an average of $10-15 per night for accommodations, most of which are in hostels and guest houses. In the developed world I’m in the dorms simply because they are the cheapest option; in third-world countries I can usually splurge on a private room. The occasional press trip allows me to stay in some of the world’s greatest luxury hotels, providing a welcome break from the hostel scene.

7. What are some of the secrets to travel that you’ve discovered that you think more people who aren’t traveling should know?

  • Travel is NOT dangerous. Repeat after me: Travel IS NOT DANGEROUS!
  • Solo travel is wonderful; I can do what I want, when I want, and with whom I want
  • Street food around the world is delicious, safe to eat, and cheap
  • The only way I travel these days is without reservations; it allows me to seize upon opportunities that I would otherwise have to pass up if I was locked into concrete travel itineraries
  • The best travel involves meeting locals
  • Bus, train, and boat travel, though tiring, are fun and a great way to interact with the locals
  • Wear your hiking boots, heaviest pants, long sleeve shirt over t-shirt and jacket on days you fly, freeing up more room in your suitcase.

8. What was your first ¨I’m not in Kansas anymore¨ moment?

I began obsessing over National Geographic from the time I was old enough to read, so I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those moments. After having spent months on end in some of the world’s poorest countries, these days I feel most uncomfortable in my skin when I’m in the U.S., where just the enormity of choices in a grocery can send me into sensory overload.

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

Barbara in a Dugout Canoe in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Copyright HoleIntheDonut.com

9. What’s been your most ¨local¨ experience so far?

Nepal, where I was adopted by my yoga guru and his family in Pokhara, and invited to take part in the brother/sister tika ceremony on the last day of the Hindu festival of Tihar. I helped paint a tika (rainbow-colored strip) on the forehead of my yoga guru and they in turn painted  one on my forehead. Later that afternoon I thanked them for allowing me to be a part of their family for the day and they replied: “Oh no, you don’t understand. You are now part of our family forever. You are didi to us (big sister).” I am regularly in touch with them via email and Facebook and feel they are truly my second family.

10. What has been your most embarrassing moment?

My first ever nude beach, on the Costa del Sol, Spain. Halfway down the stairs I realized it was a nude beach and had to make a quick choice: turn around and let everyone know I’d come by mistake, or proceed and grin and “bare” it. Of course, I chose the latter.

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

Barbara at Agua Azul Waterfall, Chiapas Mexico. Copyright HoleintheDonut.com

11. Do you think there is anything different in the way a late 40 something ot 50 something should plan a long-term trip that would be different than a 20 or 30 something?

I think every single person has different needs when they travel, but I don’t necessarily classify those differences by age. For instance, I am a baby boomer (58) but my mode of travel more closely resembles that of a 20-something backpacker than a baby boomer, as I carry a backpack, travel with a lot of electronics, stay in hostels, travel on a limited budget, and would never join an organized tour. On the other hand, as I get older I’m feeling the effects of a bad hip and knee that no longer allow me to do the heavy hiking I so love. It’s all about defining your limitations and comfort zone; having done that will go a long way toward ensuring that travel will be enjoyable. Everyone should plan their travel in a way that makes them most comfortable, even if that means staying at an all-inclusive resort, and none of us have the right to judge how others choose to travel.

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

I try to stay in the present moment at all times and be grateful for every experience. That means never getting angry or frustrates; neither of those emotions serve travelers very well and almost always make things worse

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

Barbara in Penang, Malaysia with university students. Copyright HoleintheDonut.com

13. Finally, our lightening round.

  • Best dish you’ve found so far: Gado Gado in Bali
  • Most exotic food eaten: I’m a vegetarian, so I’ve not eaten much in the way of exotic, unless you can count some tropical fruits like snakefruit
  • Most breathtaking moment: Watching clouds rise off the Karst limestone spires while a family of gibbon screeched to mark their territory at dawn in the Khlong Saeng Wildlife Refuge in a remote corner of southern Thailand
  • Biggest disappointment: China
  • Most memorable place: Pokhara, Nepal
  • Most memorable person: The late Ron Wilcox, a Welshman I met in Pai, Thailand
  • Best thing to have on a long bus ride: A strong bladder – I can’t pee on the side of the road like the guys
  • Worst thing to have on a long bus ride: A weak bladder (sorry, I couldn’t resist)
  • Best thing you packed: Macbook Pro and a wifi antennae extender – can’t tell you how many times that latter saved my bacon
  • Dumbest thing you packed: On my current trip – a tripod. I just sold it on the road
  • Funniest travel habit you have I count everything: no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to stop doing it
  • Places you wish you could’ve stayed longer: Nepal, Mexico, Laos, Botswana

You can follow Barbara online at HoleInTheDonut, on Facebook and on Twitter @holeinthedonut

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: Barbara”

  1. Hi Jeff! Just left Laos last night on an all-night bus to Bangkok, and I’m missing Laos already. It truly is the best of SE Asia that I’ve seen so far, and I’ve been to every SE Asian country with the exception of Myanmar. Thanks so much for this interview. You asked me some absolutely fascinating questions and now, re-reading it, I can’t believe I told that story about the nude beach in Spain. But, what the heck.I’m pretty much “all out there” with my blog anyway. Really appreciate being featured on Career Break Secrets and wishing you continued great success!
    Barbara Weibel recently posted..The Sanctuary Resort on Koh Pha Ngan Doesn’t Live Up to its Reputation

  2. Natalie says:

    Fantastic interview and great pictures from Barbara.
    Natalie recently posted..Turkish Women – Meet A Mother Called Hatica

  3. Theodora says:

    Great interview, with a great narrative travel writer. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ali says:

    I always love learning more about you, Barbara! Great interview, hope to cross paths again sometime soon!
    Ali recently posted..Adventures in Flight Booking

  5. Matt says:

    Great interview! It’s inspirational people like Barbara that further cement my decision to take a year off from my career and head to Indonesia with my family. And I agree with her that Gado Gado is a tasty dish.
    Matt recently posted..Presenting a Sabbatical Proposal

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