The amount of travel blogs has sky-rocketed over the last few years, each providing a unique and inspiring perspective on the world of travel. Among the most popular of these blogs are ones where families and solo travelers alike abandon their daily routines and nine to five jobs in favor of traveling the world for an extended period of time. I have yet to catch any of these blogs in their nascent form, to be able to see the inaugural post and watch as extended travel is planned, financed, anticipated and, eventually, executed.
Now I have my chance. Over Yonderlust is an up-and-coming travel blog from a twenty-something couple (Erica and Shaun) living in Austin, Texas, who are planning their first extended-travel journey to South America. Despite a fast approaching deadline of December 26th, Erica was kind enough to answer some questions about her upcoming trip.
You wrote in your blog that your family moved around a lot during your childhood. Did this feed your desire to travel the world? What other experiences or beliefs have driven you to forgo the proverbial “American Dream” in favor of a nomadic lifestyle?
I’m not quite sure that the moving around a lot sparked my wanderlust, but I do admit that it helped with not putting down roots where I am. Oftentimes this can be looked upon negatively, however, it definitely helps with a more nomadic lifestyle. Maybe one day I will find my “home”, but until then, it helps to be mobile.
My mom and dad got divorced when I was 8 so I grew up with a single mother who wanted to make sure we were set up to be “successful”. My mom always told me, “Mija, traveling is only for rich people.” or, “Mija, you need to stop being so independent, you’re scaring the boys away.” While I understand she was looking out for my “best interest”, what she didn’t realize is that her single motherhood philosophy taught me to be fiercely independent. At an early age I thought, “If it’s not working for her, or for so many people, why would I want to repeat the process?”
It wasn’t an instant thing, but a philosophy that has changed over the years. When Shaun and I went to Barbados for our honeymoon, it was then that the fever really took over.
How did you and your husband decide to travel through South America? What places are you most excited to see when you’re down there?
As a forewarning, this is a bit silly.
Shaun and I had wanted to visit Machu Picchu for quite some time. While we always discussed it, we never really made any solid plans. One day I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on Ecuador and I thought, “Oh man, I would also really love to visit Ecuador.” And it slowly snowballed after that. “Well, since we’re down there we should visit Colombia, and Costa Rica, and Patagonia… and so on. Shaun is really laid back and honestly is down for any adventure so it wasn’t very hard to convince him.
How much planning is going into this trip? Do you have a tentative itinerary set up or are you two just going to see where each day takes you? Which countries are you definitely planning on visiting?
I am an OCD planner. I am using this trip to try and break away from my normal habits so we’re trying to be a little more flexible in how we plan. Shaun gets a big kick out of how frustrated I can get going by the seat of our pants. But we do have a very general itinerary:
We’re leaving on December 26th to Mazatlan, Mexico to go to my friend’s family’s wedding and staying at his house until after New Year’s sometime. After that we’ll take our time getting to Guatemala where we will be taking Spanish classes for a few weeks. We will then be heading to Honduras and getting SCUBA certified at a diving school there. After Honduras we’re making a beeline for Costa Rica. I think we’re going to try and rent a place for a month or so while down there. Shaun wants to learn how to surf so we’ll probably end up in a surfing town of sorts. After that we really have no clue. I think we’re going to wake up and say, “I’m ready to leave, let’s go to [fill in the blank].” for the rest of the trip.
I know we also want to hit Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and we’re debating Bolivia, Venezuela, and Colombia as well. Although, we have no clue how we’re getting from Costa Rica further south yet.
How have the people in your lives reacted to your decision to drop everything to travel to South America? Why do you think a majority of people react to others’ long-term travel plans in such an unsupportive or hesitant-to-support manner?
Our families have reacted a bit differently. My dad likes to brag about my adventures so he was super excited about our trip. Shaun’s mom/dad and my mom, on the other hand, want to be supportive but don’t know what to make of our decision. Shaun’s family has been through some crazy economic times over the past 10 years so seeing us just drop everything and ditch security for the unknown makes them very uncomfortable – and they make sure to let us know this. My mom wishes she traveled the world when she was younger so now that I’m living her dream as a photographer/traveler, I think she’s a bit sad about what she has accomplished. All of them are waiting for us to “grow up”, settle down, and have the pitter patter of little feet in our home.
I think people tend to be unsupportive because it definitely goes against the status quo. People like comfort and security. The fact we’re “rebelling” against it just brings up emotions of confusion and jealousy in some cases. I think how people react depends on where that person is in their life. We’ve gotten a million different emotions on our trip already and we’ve only started making some of the big jumps.
Can you give us a rundown of what you guys plan on taking on your journey?
We’re going to try and be as minimalistic as possible when it comes to packing. I’m going to take a 45L backpack (or less) and Shaun is going to do the same. I’m a real low maintenance girl so I don’t require much to be happy.
We haven’t set our packing list in stone but I’ll list what we do know:
• MacBook Pro
• 2 Nikon D80s with 4 different lenses, batteries, etc.
• 2-3 pairs of pants/shorts
• 3-4 shirts
• Undies and socks
• Bathing suits
• A pair of sandals and a pair of good shoes
• Travel towel/sarong
• First aid kit
• As little as possible with soap, shampoo, etc.
• Eyeliner and mascara (all I need)
• 1 dress
• Rainproof jacket
If we need anything else I think we’re taking everyone’s advice and buying it while there.
In one blog post in particular, you described, at one time, being plagued with doubts. Are those doubts still in the back of your mind? If they are, do you think they will subside once you are actually in South America?
I still do have doubts about what I’m doing. Even though I officially had my last day at work recently, I still question if I’m doing the right thing.
I think that once we get going a lot of my concerns will be laid to rest. Shaun has been my psychological cheerleader in all of this and it has helped immensely. He has facilitated me leaving my job by putting in more hours into his. He’s awesome.
How have you and your husband financed this trip? What do you plan on doing if you run out of money and head back to the States with out a dollar to your names? Also, while we are on the topic of money, how do you think the travel blogging community is restructuring the way people view travel? [i.e. travel is not just for rich people]
Shaun and I have been saving every extra dollar we have had to put toward this trip. While we are still going to be paying on car and school loans while abroad, this is something we have taken into consideration with our budget. We make a conscious effort to only spend money on what is needed (no new clothes, no house, no new car, etc.). We also cut as many extra costs as we can in preparation of travel; but very few people are willing to make that sacrifice for the impending reward.
In addition to saving money, we are also supplementing our income by utilizing other skills. Shaun worked as a mechanic for several years, so he is offering his services to friends and family for donations. I am also taking donations for my photography prints to which the proceeds are solely going to the travel fund.
Right now the plan is to travel until we’re broke and head home. Shaun’s sister is super supportive and will let us stay at her place until we’re back on our feet. Luckily we have this buffer and plan to take her up on it. We’re also lucky that Austin wasn’t hit too terribly by the recession so getting jobs with our skillsets should be cake.
As for the travel blogging community reshaping the thoughts on travel, I think that they are doing a superb job. The only way to get ideas out and change the world is by sharing. I have already seen how our previous travels have inspired many people. I believe that by reaching out to more people in the blog world, it will make an even greater impact.
What inspired you to start a blog tracking your adventures and what kind of posts can your audience expect once you get to South America?
I currently have a personal blog that documents a self-portrait project I do so it made sense to also document something so near and dear to me. I had seen a few people do the travel blog thing and it definitely piqued my interest.
One of the main goals of my travel blog is to get some on the job training in regards to photography. It is one of my passions in life and I want to make sure that I can use the trip to my advantage. In addition to the posts about our experiences abroad as a couple, I will also be posting spectacular travel photos. Shaun will also be carrying a second Nikon D80 around so I’m very excited to watch him grow.
One quality that sets your blog apart from a lot of the other travel blogs out there is the fact that you’re not promoting solo travel. What do you hope your blog can teach people about traveling with others, particularly a significant other?
I did notice that I was in the minority when it came to couple travel. One of my main goals is to show people how important it is to travel with your significant other as this can help strengthen your relationship. I understand that there can be times of conflict while travelling, but I think that one of the most important things to learn in life and in a relationship is compromise. If you can’t compromise on a location, how can you expect to make long term decisions in the future?
I want to make sure that people realize how fulfilling and fun it can be with someone who is willing to share everything with you. We’re definitely not boring people and can keep up with the best of them!
Any far-off plans for another long-term travel adventure after South America? [Haha, I know you haven’t even left on this one, so this question is a little premature…]
Absolutely! We already have a million things planned after this. I’m not sure what we’re going to do next, but we have Southeast Asia, Egypt and surrounding, and Australia on our list. Too many places, too little time!
In one sentence, what is your travel philosophy?
To learn from our experiences abroad and implement them in our daily life.