The longer we travel, the more couples like us we discover or even meet. Like us they dreamed about traveling, like us they made the big trip happen, and like us they document their experiences online. In the Two Toothbrushes traveler interview series we introduce fellow traveling and blogging couples to share their story and draw inspiration from them.
Tamara Muñoz and Donny Loeber have been traveling together slowly and deliberately since 2004, with “no cure for an insatiable wanderlust and an undeniable need to live life to the fullest.” On their blog TurtlesTravel they reflect on newly-discovered places, people, and ideas, and hope for like-minded people to meet, explore and be inspired.
Where are your toothbrushes, where are they headed next, and why?
Our toothbrushes are currently [as of 8/29/2014] in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After spending a month or so in Colombia earlier this year, we accepted a 6-month mobile-marketing contract. Our work will take us on a US road trip, spending a week or two in the following spots working for a client at big events: New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Atlanta, Orlando/Tampa, Miami, Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, and finally back to New York. This weekend we’re looking forward to exploring the Minnesota State Fair.
What’s your definition of home?
This is such a complicated question, but one we’re called upon to answer all the time! Since we’re rarely “not traveling,” we don’t keep a physical dwelling, so that part of the answer is easy. We do have a few special places we consider to be bases of some sort. We have family on Cape Cod and in Atlanta in the U.S., and almost-family in Venezuela and Japan. We know we can arrive in any of those places anytime and be welcomed with open arms.
Home for us involves a feeling of belonging, and we have come to feel that the world is our home. We feel at home in the energetic chaos of Southeast Asia; we are at home with the music, color, and family ties we feel in South America; we are at home, too, with the orderliness and structure of Japan.
Home for us is a constantly shifting, nebulous place, but we also feel that wherever we are together (sappy, but true) we’re home.
How do you make yourself feel at home wherever you go?
Slow travel is something we feel most comfortable with. Spending an extended amount of time in a single destination is more rewarding for us than a few days in more places. Slowing down like this allows us to settle in and get to feel the rhythms of a place better. Shopping at the market and learning to cook with local ingredients or eating street food always helps us feel we’ve really arrived.
Why this (or the most recent) trip, why now (then)?
Our most recent long-term trip took us from the U.S. through Japan, South Korea, China, 4-5 months in Southeast Asia with Bangkok as a base, India, and a short stop in England and Scotland before returning to the U.S. We didn’t have specific goals, but we were tired of traveling on someone else’s schedule and in serious need of a break.
What were your greatest challenges in making the trip happen? How did you overcome them?
Financing a long-term trip is always a challenge, but we used a number of techniques like streamlining and cutting spending to reach our goal. Getting ready for this last trip, we had a previous year-long trip under our belt. That really helped, but this last trip posed a few extra challenges. We don’t like to be roped into specific dates and locations, preferring to be able to stay longer when we fall in love with a place and move on when we feel we’ve been somewhere long enough.
On this trip, we used air miles for the bulk of our flights. Not surprisingly, the airlines don’t make it easy when it comes to handing out free flights. After extensive research, we decided against the more restrictive “Round the World” fares, and opted for an award based on the number of miles actually flown. With One World Alliance, this was called an Explorer award (the program was discontinued earlier this year). We ended up re-routing and re-calculating until we came up with 7 free flights for 100,000 points each, economy class. We used these for the long-haul legs of the trip. In between, we traveled mostly over land by train and bus, with a few short-hop flights as well.
Since both China and India were on our itinerary, there were some additional logistics we had to tackle. Both of these countries require a visa in advance for U.S. citizens. We had to be sure we had all the details on multi-entry vs. single entry visas, and how long we could stay in each place clear, since we rarely plan very far ahead.
What do you enjoy the most about your traveling life?
I [Tamara] was born with a gypsy spirit, and tend to feel restless if I’m still for too long. Although traveling full-time requires a lot of discipline (patchworking together sources of income and budgeting, for example) we wouldn’t trade the freedom for anything.
As a naturally a shy person, I need something to push me outside of my comfort zone. Travel does that. Travel teaches us to “Get over yourself!” Forcing oneself to embrace what might initially be an uncomfortable situation often proves to be very rewarding! Travel presents us with situations like these all the time. Extending this further, travel helps us conquer our fears. Rob from Hungry Escapades sums up just how we feel about kicking fear to the curb and “living the life you love.”
Share a moment from your travels that you will share with the next generation.
There are so many moments from our travels that we have learned something from. Many have to do with the inherent goodness and generosity of strangers. We had been in China for a month or so, when we found ourselves hot and tired, wandering aimlessly around Xi’an. Language was sometimes a struggle, and we had, against all of our rules against it, sheepishly walked into a Dairy Queen to enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning and a bite of ice cream.
A friendly little girl asked where we were from. This is quite common, with lots of people wanting to practice some English, but when we answered, she said “Oh, I’m from Maryland!” She was 10, and visiting relatives with her mother for summer vacation.
We ended up loading into their SUV and driving outside the city for dinner at a relative’s restaurant. We were initially a bit nervous about the whole outing turning into a scam or worse, but we ended up enjoying an amazing feast! As the seemingly endless array of dishes spun around on the big lazy susan, we enjoyed cold, sliced mountain yam with strawberry glaze, purple yam with blueberry, fried corn, pork spare ribs, spicy chicken skewers, grilled lungfish, sweet and sour squirrelfish, a tofu and egg dish served on a bed of crispy rice strings, and mushroom soup featuring six tasty mushroom varieties. It was the best meal we had in China, and we will always remember the generosity of Shi-li, her daughter Cindy and their extended family.
This memory is not unique. It’s experiences like these that remind us of what life is really about: sharing, making connections, and relying on the kindness that exists in all of us.