Instead of doing some blah-blah-blah CV, we decided to tell you a little more about ourselves by answering the questions everyone asks. So here you go.
Why are you traveling?
We want to see the world while Tim still has some vision left and we’re both healthy enough to enjoy it. We both grew up in LA and lived most of our lives there. We love the place, but what were we going to gain from being there another 30, 40, 50 years? We wanted some adventure.
I’ve never understood working your whole life to be able to retire when you’re too old to enjoy it. Also, being a writer, there’s no firm ‘retirement age’ anyway.
So it came down to – if not now, when? It was the right time for us to go for it.
Why are you called Team Hazard?
Back in 2007, Tim’s eyes were already going bad following the removal of a brain tumor in 2004. The radiation follow-up had also left him with very low energy, and that’s when he put on the extra weight. Well, I got the bright idea that we should do a triathlon – just a little one, sprint distance.
While we were training for the bike portion, I would lead and Tim would follow me on the bike path, but I had to wear a hazard orange t-shirt so he could see me. Not to mention, having a blind man on the bike path is a little crazy in itself. (Tim was an expert rider and we never had an accident.) Thus, with the bright orange shirt and our ‘caution to the wind’ attitude, we became Team Hazard.
Now we’re Team Hazard Rides Again because we had a long pause between our travels while we saved money for this, and it’s like we’re hitting the road again.
How bad are Tim’s eyes? How blind is he?
Being legally blind, and having a white cane, in the U.S. has specific standards, but knowing those doesn’t begin to describe Tim’s vision. He has very little contrast in his vision so it makes edges hard to see. One eye sees a tiny amount of clarity in the center but the rest is blurry. The other can see on the periphery, but that’s all. He has some odd color perception, when he can see color, and not much is truly clear. Some days are better than others.
As of 2021, his vision has been declining further. Tim is mostly blind and it’s been a challenge adjusting. His balance is off and he’s not nearly as independent as he used to be.
We are so glad we started traveling when we did. If we had waited, he wouldn’t have been able to see, or do, much of anything on our journey. From here on out, he will do as much as he’s able, but some parts of our adventures I will be doing solo.
This is from 2018: What this translates to, is that I need to warn him about steps, curbs, rocks or anything that makes for a less than flat path. His stick does this job, too, if he’s on his own, but where we’re traveling there are so many things that can trip him up the stick alone can be a very slow process. He often needs to be told what food is where on his plate and sometimes I help him manage his food. I help him identify and find things on a regular basis.
He still enjoys the things we do and see, but if any of it involves details, or images that are even a few feet distant, he won’t see them. I narrate these things when they’re particularly interesting.
How long do you plan to travel?
We’re not sure, there’s so much to see. Probably another few years. Part of the decision will depend on budget, and part will be answered when we find a place we like to settle down. We’re looking for a little simpler, less money-intense lifestyle and are probably going to find somewhere outside of the U.S. to live. As we travel, we’re evaluating places we like for livability. Even once we settle, we’ll still travel. We’ll just be doing it from a home base
The one thing we’ve discovered is that being on the go all the time is tiring. We are shifting to slow travel to accommodate Tim’s health and relieve some of the pressures of constant travel.
How can you afford to travel full time?
We saved for a lot of years. Some were just direct savings techniques, and we made it a point to live fairly simply. The last two-and-a-half years before we left I had a particularly good paying job that made saving for this journey much easier. Technically the savings we’re using should be our retirement fund, but we wanted to see the world while Tim could still see, at least some.
Being disabled, Tim is able to collect Social Security, which handles some of our monthly expenses. Since we travel on a budget, and to mostly inexpensive countries, we find our money goes a pretty long way.
We also sold almost everything we own, vehicles, collectibles, furniture – and that’s gone a long way to improving our savings.
How do you choose where to go next?
Weather, cost and a logical (and safe) path are the top concerns, after, of course, being interested in a place. But almost every place has interesting stuff.
For example: Our original plan was to start in Indonesia and get up to Mongolia by the end of summer in 2018. We were already behind schedule when Tim broke his leg. And by the time he was healed enough to travel again, winter was just too close to go to Mongolia.
Knowing that West Africa is more comfortable in the winter months, we decided to head that way. But, it was still early enough in the year to go to Morocco before it got too cold, so we decided to start there. But then, as I researched flights, I realized they were all transiting in Spain and costing a lot to go onto Morocco.
So I looked into stopping over in Spain. We decided to go to Barcelona because I’ve always wanted to see the Gaudi architecture. It was a bit of a splurge, but we thought it would be worth it – and it was. But Spain was more expensive than we anticipated, so instead of traveling down the coast, we decided to get an inexpensive flight to Morocco. We then covered Morocco and Mauritania.
We were going to overland through West Africa, but Mali was looking pretty iffy as far as safety. Then I read about the Voodoo festival in Benin, in January, and we decided to time our travel to be here for that (coming soon). So we flew into Benin and we’ll be heading west overland to go through Togo and Ghana.
After Ghana, weren’t sure where we’re headed. We ultimately went to China and then to Vietnam.
Then the pandemic hit. We discovered that Vietnam was doing a very good job of handling things, and the US wasn’t, so we decided to stay. We’ve been in Vietnam for about a year and a half. We’ll be leaving in mid-July 2021, to return to the US for a couple of months, get vaccinated and tie up a few loose ends.
Then the plan is to return to West Africa, starting in Senegal. This time truly overlanding, as much as possible, our way to Ghana. We’ll be documenting this journey in videos the entire time. I expect it to take 1-2 years.
After that, we may settle in Ghana, or keep going.
The trick to long term travel is remaining flexible.
How many languages do you speak?
We speak English, and enough Spanish to make traveling in Barcelona easy. Our French is coming along very slowly, but we’re trying.
What do you miss most from home (besides friends and family)?
How much luggage do you carry?
We have one fairly large roller suitcase for Tim’s stuff and bigger things, like hiking sticks and jackets and items that need to be checked in for flights. Then we have two carry-on roller bags and we each have a personal-size backpack. A portion of our space is taken up with Tim’s medical stuff. I’d love to reduce our load by one more bag, but I can’t quite figure out how, yet. We’ve been trimming as we go.
Are you ever scared to travel certain places?
If we’d be that scared, we don’t go. We want adventure, but that doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks. We know better than to believe every scare story out there, so we keep tabs by checking in on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, and on regional travel Facebook groups – and talking to locals, of course. These things together give a better picture of the security situation for any place we may be considering.
What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
I think we’d both agree Indonesia has been our favorite so far (as of January 2019), followed closely by Thailand. They both have wonderful people, great food and a huge variety of things to see and do. We highly recommend either one for people looking for awesome destinations.
But there’s still a lot of travel to come, so I’m sure our Favorites list will grow.
Is there anywhere you’ve gone that you haven’t liked?
We didn’t love Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It was a little bit too much rude big city and if there’s charm there, we weren’t able to find it. Though we did make two great friends, so it wasn’t all bad.
We did love Ipoh in Malaysia though. Both the city and the temples in the surrounding area were great.
Have you found a favorite new food as you’ve traveled?
Tim discovered Martabak Telur, an egg-based dish in Indonesia. This is a breakthrough because previously, Tim didn’t like eggs. But Martabak transforms them into something delicious, he says.
AND – our friends at Bab Sahara in Mauritania actually got Tim to eat vegetables – and like them.
I was already familiar with a lot of the dishes we had in Asia, so I can’t claim too much new, but I LOVED the chicken satay from the street vendors in Jakarta. And I did finally figure out the traditional Asian porridge breakfast and how to make it tasty.
There have been a lot of delicious things here in Benin. I just can’t remember what they’re all called. It’s more of a ‘surprise us’ approach since there are no menus.
Do you ever get bored?
Tim might have gotten a little ‘templed out’ by the time we got through Southeast Asia. “Enough with the Buddhas.”
For long bus rides, Tim has a plethora of entertainment on his iPod and I’ve got ebooks. We also are both good at sitting and absorbing the atmosphere of the ride.
And we love watching things like the Kung-fu channel in French, so TV is usually an option. Actually, a Chinese station in any language usually works out well because it’s really easy to tell what’s going on, whether you understand the language, or not.
How do you get around?
Within a city we use tuk-tuks and taxis, or Grab (SEA Uber). We’ll use share-taxis in places where we can figure out their routes. We’d consider city buses, but with Tim’s vision, boarding and disembarking these usually overcrowded buses can be rather challenging.
In-between cities, we usually take a bus. Sometimes that’s a minivan, and sometimes it’s a big bus – it depends on the route.
In Mauritania, anything that’s not a main, paved road means you get to go off-roading. That’s a lot of fun.
What’s the best way you’ve found to stay in touch with friends and family?
Skype, email, Facebook. Staying in touch isn’t hard.
Do you ever fight?
We’ve never been ones to fight. Of course, there are always those times when something goes sour, but we usually give a little space and then come back and talk and have it resolved in short order.
I know, boring. But it’s the way we’ve always been.
Is it hard to get Tim’s medications on the road?
Sometimes. It definitely pays to plan ahead. If we’re somewhere that is well supplied, we stock up. Also, it’s important to know the generic names for everything, and some medications have different international names. Like Novolog insulin in the U.S., is NovoRapid everywhere else.
Another important factor is not waiting until he runs out. In Udon Thani, Thailand, we could get everything, but some of it had to be ordered and we had to work within their ordering schedule. It also took a few tries to find a pharmacy that could get what we needed.
Mauritania was the toughest place to deal with. Tim’s insulin was running low and we ended up buying a similar, but unfamiliar insulin, just in case. They didn’t have the modern flex pens, but the old vial and syringe. Tim’s had diabetes his whole life, so he knows the system and could manage the change. Fortunately, we didn’t have to use it and were able to get the newer stuff in Cotonou, Benin. We still have it as back-up, though.
What’s the most annoying thing you’ve encountered while traveling?
We have two.
First, SOME of the airport people that handled getting Tim through the airport when he was wheelchair bound. He had one smash a suitcase against his broken leg, instead of letting me roll it. Several took off at a high rate of speed, leaving me behind and stuck carrying everything. I almost completely lost track of them one time. Oh, and the airport people who handled his personal wheelchair and walker and broke, or lost parts off of, both.
The other annoying thing were the pushy sellers and kids in Fes, Morocco. There’s a lot to like about Fes, but everyone is looking for their cut, and it felt like we always had to be on guard. We couldn’t browse as much as we’d have liked for fear of getting involved with a pushy salesman. We still recommend Fes, but this definitely tainted our visit.