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Married With Luggage – Best of The Best Blogger Series

by on October 12, 2011

Married With Luggage - Best of The Best Blogger Series

In the 16th edition of our Best of the Best Blogger Series, we’re bringing you Betsy and Warren Talbot, who run  The tagline for Married With Luggage sums up Betsy and Warren’s philosophy nicely:  Life is short.  Live your dream.

And let me just say that Betsy and Warren are, in fact, doing just that.

They are, quite literally, living their dream.

You see, after an eye-opening, life altering experience that profoundly altered their perspectives, Warren and Betsy formulated a plan to redesign their lives to “step outside the norm,” sell everything they owned and travel the world.

The both left corporate jobs that were very comfortable for them financially but mind numbingly un-fulfilling (my words not theirs).  They’ve now spent the last 375+ days traveling the globe while supplementing their income with freelancing skills they picked up during their corporate careers. Living the dream is right…

We caught up with Betsy and Warren recently to talk about hamster wheels, Antarctic exploration, Helen Keller and, most importantly, living the life that most of us only dream about.

Married With LuggageQ: After reading your story, I must say, I think you might be the envy of the civilized world. How can your tagline “life is short – live your dream” sound so fantastical yet so completely rational all at the same time?

A: We want to start a movement, Bill! Life is short, and if you aren’t living your dream, then what the heck are you doing?

We spent years running on the hamster wheel, trying to sustain a life that we didn’t even like, thinking that we would finally get to do what we wanted when we retired. After two people close to us suffered life-threatening illnesses in their 30s, we had a wakeup call. None of us have a guarantee of time, so why not make the most of the life we have right this minute?

Q: One of Helen Keller’s most famous quotes was the following: “[Life] is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Talk about the people who’ve inspired you the most to live the life you’ve dreamt about.

Betsy and Warren Talbot

A: (Betsy) My mother is the last person on earth who would want to travel the world or do many of the things I’ve done with my life, yet she has always been my cheerleader in any endeavor. When you are raised with that kind of mother, it is hard to believe there is anything you cannot do.

The great Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton inspired Warren. Once you read his story about surviving a journey beyond belief and doing everything to ensure survival, you’ll realize that you can do just about anything you set your mind to (and even motivate people to join you). Not only that, he went back out and did it again!

Q: My father always talked about the “stuff-gathering” phase where we feel the need to collect stuff, such as clothes, cars and homes, but in the end, that’s all just “stuff” that isn’t really important. How inevitable is it that we go through own “stuff gathering phase” before we can see what’s truly important to us?

A: It is really hard to avoid that “stuff-gathering” phase in the Western world. We are bombarded with advertising images every single day in ways that we are and are not aware of, so it is no big surprise that we all have garages we can’t park in, closets that are overflowing, and spare bedrooms and basements that are really just glorified storage rooms.

Once we start feeling the weight of all of these possessions – when they start restricting our living space, our energy, and our activities – we realize the true cost of owning them. When you bring something into your life, whether you got it at a great deal or spent a lot of money on it, you have to maintain it and protect it. The real secret is to make sure you have enough stuff to live the life of your dreams and not one thing more.

Q: In your new life together, you talk about getting rid of everything except a sense of adventure and your 2 backpacks. So, what did you actually take in your backpacks with you? Did you take an iPod or an iPhone?

A: We took the basics – clothes, shoes, toiletries – as well as a few gadgets. We use our 5-year-old iPods for long journeys to listen to music or learn new phrases via podcast for whatever country we happen to be visiting next. We also have electronic readers because it is not always easy to find English-language books in our travels (and they are too heavy to carry). We have one laptop each so we can work (Warren builds websites, I write) at the same time and play at the same time.

We each carry a 65-liter backpack and have a daypack for our electronics.

We do not have a phone of any kind, and have lived without one for over a year now. We thought we’d end up buying one while in South America or Europe, but we never felt the need. Living without a phone has been one of the most liberating things we’ve done.

Q: What has been the most unexpectedly difficult thing about downsizing your life? What has been the easiest thing about it?

A: The hardest part and the easiest part are actually the same thing. We had to learn that possessions are not memories. The possession may remind you of a memory or a person, but it is not the actual memory or the person. I was a bit of a pack rat before, so this was harder for me to learn than Warren.

Once you learn this and know there are other ways to keep that memory alive, then downsizing becomes easier. One of our best experiences in downsizing came during my “Reverse Birthday Party” about 10 months before we left. I pulled out 39 of my favorite things in honor of my 39th birthday and asked my friends to “shop” through my belongings at my party instead of buying me a gift. It was a huge success, and I watched those things leave my house with people I loved after a night of laughter and fun. Instead of being sad these things are gone, I can now imagine them being enjoyed by people I love, which adds another layer of memory on top of the one I had in acquiring each item.

When you realize that possessions are temporary but experiences are eternal (you can’t “un-experience” something), downsizing becomes almost second nature. We still downsize on a regular basis, always asking ourselves if we really need everything in our backpacks of they are weighing us down too much to enjoy our trip.

Q: In your series, How We Saved Enough Money to Change Our Lives and How You Can, Too, you wrote a great post awhile back titled “Necessary and Unnecessary Expenses” outlining some expense items to consider cutting out. How can we avoid a “deprivation mindset” when we’re cutting expenses and downsizing?

A: It is really hard to think about saving money or downsizing or making any kind of big change in your life without a goal at the end. That’s why outlining a dream – even a dream of “I don’t want to live like this anymore” – is key in motivating yourself to make changes.

When you have that kind of mindset, the changes are not seen as a deprivation. They are seen as a way to get to the dream. In fact, some of the things that seemed so necessary for us before were actually the things holding us back. Take television, for example. We spent a ridiculous amount of money to entertain ourselves in the evening between the flat-screen TV, the monthly cable bill, the DVDs, the video games, etc. The life we are living now is far more entertaining than anything on the television. Had we not chosen to get rid of it and save that money, we’d still be excited over the new season of The Amazing Race instead of living it ourselves.

When you think of it that way, the sacrifice or deprivation is in continuing to pay for something in time and attention that keeps you from living your dream.

It’s been an incredible opportunity to get to know Warren and Betsy and their personal journey a little better. While our interaction has admittedly been brief, I must say that their story has been incredibly uplifting and inspirational for me.  It’s had a profound impact on me in a very personal way. Thank you, Warren and Betsy, for that gift.

Now, I think you have a plane to catch … off you go!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sherry Liskin October 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Wow. Very cool stuff … any advice for a single Mom who want's to "live the dream" and travel the globe (with an 8 year old in tow?)


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