This is part of my unconventional interview series, designed to demonstrate the wildly varied ways we can live, work, and chase our dreams. Please keep in mind that, since these are interviews, the opinions, methods, and websites contained within do not necessarily reflect my own views or experiences. (Which is, in my opinion, part of what makes them wonderful.)
First, tell us about you, your adventures, and your work in a nutshell.
We are Betsy and Warren Talbot, and we left the US to travel the world in 2010 just before our 40th birthdays. We had some wake-up calls that life was short, and we wanted to make the most of it! Still, it took us two years to make the change, and we started building a much stronger partnership from the moment we made the decision to travel the world.
Since then, we’ve traveled in South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Asia. We’ve discovered a love of the outdoors and completed some magnificent long-distance hikes. After one such hike, a 500-kilometer trek in Turkey, we came to Spain to housesit and recover from our time away. It was then that we fell in love with this little village and bought a house. Today we live in Spain when we’re not traveling, spending our time working on books, courses, and our podcast about creating the kind of lifestyle you want no matter where you live. This year we’ve also started a contemporary romance and adventure series for women over forty called The Late Bloomers Series, and we’re having a lot of fun with that.
Was travel always a shared passion or did one of you have to do some convincing to get the other on the road?
Travel was the first bonding point of our friendship. I had just returned from a trip to Italy when we first met, and Warren spent an important summer there in college. Our conversations always centered around travel and exploration, even before we became a couple. Our goal was always to travel full-time, but much, much later. We didn’t think we could possibly do it before retirement.
When a good friend was hospitalized with a serious illness while we were all in our thirties, we asked each other the question: “What would you change about your life if you knew you wouldn’t make it to your fortieth birthday?” That question is what refocused our relationship and our life and created the bond that carried us through a pretty intense couple of years of planning and an even more intense first year of travel together!
What are the biggest challenges of traveling as a couple and do you have any tips for overcoming them?
The biggest challenge is learning to communicate clearly and be nice. I know it sounds basic, but for all the years we were together before, we never had to be as clear and direct as we have had to in our travels, and learning to stop assuming, expect each other to read our minds, and saying what we want has been a huge help. And the being nice part? You really appreciate this when you’re in tight quarters 24/7. Please, thank you, and little favors go a long way in making life more pleasant.
So yes, I would say being clear and direct in everything (as well as assuming the best of each other at all times), and taking those extra steps in making the day more pleasant are the keys to long-term compatibility on the road.
What are the greatest joys of traveling as a couple?
You get to share the trip of a lifetime with the person you love, which means you get to see everything through two sets of eyes. What I miss, Warren picks up. What he feels may move me in a different way. Sharing our experiences and our different reactions to them is what helps us grow as a couple and as people.
What have been some of your favorite shared experiences on the road?
In 2011, we took a cruise ship from Antarctica to England. We were the only passengers on this repositioning cruise, and over about six weeks we had the run of the ship. We learned so much about the ocean, the life of the crew, and how a ship operates. It was a magical time, and one of our favorite memories is going up to the top deck after dinner and asking the chief to turn off the outdoor lights so we could see the blanket of stars overhead. The only sky that’s come close in our experience is the Gobi Desert. In this modern world, there are not too many places to a sky unpolluted by lights and civilization. We never knew there were so many stars!
Could you tell us about a time that you were so grateful/overjoyed to have your partner along?
In 2013, my backpack was stolen on a train from Vienna to Budapest. It was a stupid move on my part to put the bag in the overhead bin, one a seasoned traveler should not make. But after an overnight train from Germany I was sleep-deprived and not at my best. When we discovered the theft, I thought I was going to throw up. The backpack had everything we use to make our life and business run: my laptop, camera, passport, credit cards, backup drive, and more. I was in shock, hardly able to believe it happened, and I just shut down. If Warren hadn’t been there to cancel our credit cards and change our passwords (thank goodness he still had his laptop and wifi on the train), it could have been a lot worse. Plus, he didn’t yell at me for making the bag easier to steal, knowing I felt bad enough as it was. When the shit hits the fan, it’s nice have someone there to support you. We call it “being the hero” when it is your job to get your partner back to normal after a crisis, and we’re both pretty experienced at it.
Do you have similar travel styles or did you have to work to meet in the middle as far as how you travel?
Warren is a planner, and he likes knowing where we’re going and what we’re going to do. I’m more of a show-up-and-see-what-happens kinda traveler. The good thing is that we’ve learned to work together on this. I can’t expect him to plan everything without any help and just show up and enjoy the trip. That makes him a tour guide. And he can’t plan everything for us before we get there or it takes all the spontaneity away. We’ve both become good at respecting each other’s preferences and working to honor what makes us tick.
If someone is single, but is looking for a travel buddy, what characteristics would you suggest they look for? What makes a great travel partner?
A good travel partner is someone who speaks up to say what he/she wants, is able to entertain themselves or go off on their own for a time, and is capable of pulling their weight in your travel planning and expenses. A great way to find one is to plan a short trip first, maybe a day or weekend. If your partner is compatible, responsible, and the kind of person you would want to share a fun experience with or trust to help you through a bad one, then they might make a good longer-term travel partner.
It’s not just about who you like; it’s about who can be a good teammate. Though of course you want to like them, too!
How do you choose where to travel next? Is it always a joint effort? Do you take turns?
It’s funny – we’ve chosen destinations based on books we’ve read, recommendations from other people, movies, and great hikes. We have a running list of places to visit around the world, and when the mood strikes, we generally try to plan a long trip to see many things in that area of the world. For instance, I wanted to see the Naadam games in Mongolia, similar to the Olympics, after reading about them in a book about Genghis Khan. At the time I read the book, we were in Thailand. The games take place in summer, so we planned an overland trip across Asia, through Mongolia, and onward to Europe and then back to the US, a journey that took six months. It all started with the festival in Mongolia, and we just built a really long trip around it, both of us contributing suggestions.
Anything else you’d like to tell the readers about couple travel?
Traveling with your partner is the best thing we’ve ever done for our relationship. More than the joy of seeing the world, we’ve also become true teammates (Go Team Talbot!) and watched each other grow during this experience. It has been a beautiful journey for us, and one we never want to end.
If you decide to do it, take some time beforehand to talk about expectations. The biggest problem we see between any type of partner travel (lovers, friends, or family) is having a different set of expectations going in. Better to hash it out before you leave home than to arrive and discover you have different styles, desires, and budget ideas about your journey.
But once you do figure those things out, you’ll realize that you can do just about anything together, which is the strongest glue I can think of for any relationship.
What’s next for you guys? What projects are you working on and where will you be traveling this year?
Now that we’re living in Spain, we want to immerse ourselves deeply in an area and focus on one geographic region. This fall we’re taking a train tour around Spain for a month, and before that we’ll be in Madrid for about six weeks and in cool Galicia during the hottest part of summer. It’s a different kind of adventure to live like a local in a country and one we are enjoying very much.
We’re also having a lot of fun with The Late Bloomers Series, a contemporary romance series written for women over 40. The five women of this series are travelers and adventurers, and each one is at a crossroads in her life and finds her path while in a new country. The first book, Wild Rose, was released in March, and the rest of the books roll out this year and next. You can find out more (and download a sexy, free short story about these five women on a trip to NYC), at www.BetsyTalbot.com.
Other than that, we’re still enjoying our weekly Married with Luggage podcast. We’re over 100 episodes now! You can listen at www.MarriedwithLuggage.com or find it on iTunes or Stitcher.
What about you guys? Do you travel with a partner? Any tips for finding and keeping them?
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