From TV Producer to World Traveler
[editor’s note: In August of 2006 Lisa Lubin resigned her job as a producer with Chicago’s ABC7 to travel the world. Along the way she has found time to write numerous articles for GoNOMAD, BootsnAll and Travel Net, as well as a very entertaining and informative travel blog, LLWorldTour. The entries delightful it’s hard to imagine they won’t find their way into a book some day. GoNOMAD caught up with her on her travels to ask a few questions about her world tour.]
GN: They say that travel broadens one. Do you find this to be so?
LL: Absolutely! I think there is no better ‘real life’ education than seeing the world and meeting its people firsthand. I remember learning in school about Vietnam or the old Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand) and having no clue where these places were and nothing to really allow me to ‘connect’ to them.
But now, being able to visit these places myself just makes the world smaller and allows me to embrace our differences, but at the same time learn how very much we are all alike.
GN: Was there a theme or a fixed itinerary to your journey, and if so, did it change as you went along?
LL: I’ve always been quite the “planner” so I did make a rough plan before I left of the route I would take and the places I wanted to go. I have been able to stick to most of my original plan, but have also been able to veer off of it time to time.
I didn’t buy airline tickets for the whole year. Instead, I’ve just been buying them in chunks. For example, I had them through South American and into Australia. Then once I got to Australia, I was able to stay there and work for awhile while I figured out my next dates.
I also just on a whim returned to Vietnam just weeks after I’d left in order to meet up with a friend I’d made. That kind of spontaneity does not come along too often in life, so I love grabbing the opportunity to enjoy it and ‘just do it!’
GN: What were your expectations when you began? What did you encounter that was completely unexpected?
LL: Wow-expectations of the world…that’s a tough one. I had traveled a bit in the past and have always loved it, but the longest I’d ever been away was three weeks! This is unfortunately, very typical for the American to not be able to get away very long.
I had never really planned on taking a year off before. The trip just kind of revealed itself to me and evolved over time. I’ve always come back from previous trips a bit sad and always wanting more. And I’ve also always dreamed of moving abroad.
This year certain things in my life just fell into place and I realized I was ‘free’ in a way. My boyfriend and I had broken up, I was bored at work, and my cat had died.
Then I read a book called “One Year Off,” by David Cohen. He and his wife took their three (!) kids around the world for a year. Then I realized if they could do it, I could do it! I was a little nervous about doing it solo, but I’m pretty independent at home and I realized I couldn’t let that stop me. The opportunity was there and I needed to grab it!
When I began I didn’t know what to expect as far as if my life would really change or not. On one hand, I thought I could go learn and see a lot, but return and maybe nothing would change. But on the other hand, I had no idea who I would encounter and how these new friends would impact my life.
I did learn that in some ways, a year is a long time (and also in some ways a very short time) and although most of the time it’s wonderful, you still have ups and downs and good days and bad days just like you would normally.
I just had to keep any frustrations in check and always realize that these “little” things, like navigating new towns or having to keep dealing with packing and unpacking my bag, were nothing compared to the stresses I’d endured back home in my TV producing job and other crazy over-achiever responsibilities I had.
There were times that were so blissful, I had to take a moment to really soak it in and try to just marinate in the moment and not take it for granted. Then inevitably there were sad moments when I had to say goodbye to new friends or times when I was just lonely and maybe not getting all out of a place that I hoped.
I learned that I had these transitional days where I’d be missing the last place I was and getting used to my new home. But then around the bend was always another new adventure and new friends to meet.
GN: What have been some of the highlights of your trip so far?
LL: I’ve really enjoyed the fact that I tried to plan different and varied ways of getting to know a place. I didn’t want to be just ‘walking around’ new cities for a year. That could get old and I’d burn out very quickly.
I tried to plan some different things that would keep me from getting bored and also allow me to always be looking forward to something. For example at the very start of my trip, I did a Spanish Immersion program in Costa Rica where I lived with a family and went to a school to learn Spanish and also took surfing lessons.
Then in Ecuador I did the Galapagos Boat cruise for a week. In Southern Chile I took a ferry boat for a few days down through the Fjords. In Buenos Aires a friend from home met me. In Australia I decided to get a job. I worked in a café and was able to meet locals and get a feel for everyday life in Melbourne.
In Vietnam, I did a two-week cycle trip that was the most amazing way to see a country close up. All these different activities also ensured that I would meet new people — other travelers and also locals.
GN: Is there anything you would do differently next time?
First of all, let me say that I am SO hoping there is a next time. I’m only halfway into this year (or longer!) trip and I already know I want to do it again or just keep going.
I am not homesick at all and right now don’t want it to end. I don’t really think I would change too much-I’ve been able to alter this trip as I go. I’ve allowed myself extra time in some places to really get a feel for the city and also to give myself days off to do”errands” (laundry, PO, etc) and catch up on writing.
Having my laptop has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I got rid of my cell phone and don’t miss it at all, but having the laptop allows me to write and always be in touch with everyone. The internet truly does make the world a small place and I certainly feel that firsthand.
And I have to say, that although it’s sometimes lonely, traveling alone is really the best way to do it. I meet WAY more people when I’m alone than when I’m actually traveling with someone.
GN: What advice would you give to someone planning a round-the-world trip?
LL: Just do it! If you are already planning a trip then good for you! Because the hardest part is over — deciding to do it and figuring out how to make it work. I would definitely say it is not that hard. If you have the opportunity and the freedom to just go — grab the chance now when you can… Don’t put it off for tomorrow, because something will always come up to get in your way.
If you are organized, everything kind of falls into place. I love the logistics, but it’s just a matter of making a ‘to do’ list and prioritizing.
What are you going to do with your home? Car? Stuff? Find storage. Get a mover. Notify your friends, family.
One of the best things I did was put a ‘call’ out to everyone I knew and ask for their friends or contacts anywhere around the world. I met some really cool people this way and had more local experiences by hooking up with friends of friends.
Quit your job — a very fun thing to do! Or be lucky and get a sabbatical!
Pack. Shop for travel gear. Buy some tickets and plan out some major things and at least a place to stay in your first country. Figuring out the dates is often hardest as you just don’t know how long you might want to stay in one place…
But just get out your calendar and try to estimate and then just go with it! And just soak in the fact that you are doing something so many others “dream” of but never really have the balls to do!