Creating Your Adventure Filled Life: Tips From 8 Intrepid Travelers

Ok, it’s time for the big ta-da!

I mentioned in our last post some blogging friends would be “dropping by” (so to speak) to share the stories of how they came to be living and travelling abroad, and how they make it work.    TODAY’s the day!

The Adventure Filled Life on iGlobal caricature avatars for blog to show response to survey questions

Rounding up the Suspects


Just to catch everyone up-
I asked our friends to answer versions of these questions that applied to them:

1.) What made you think [full-time travel; international/work-travel; part-time-travel], vs full-time work, was an option?

2.) What were the most important aspects of your planning that made this lifestyle possible?

3.) What would you say to someone wanting to plan a life like you have?


Before I get into what surprises we uncovered, I think it’s interesting to see what we didn’t find:

  • No one confessed to waking up one morning and having an epiphany that was anywhere close to the life they are now living.
  • Answers did not include having this life path mapped out in university, being fully prepared for cultures they would encounter, or being absolutely fluent in the base language of the location.
  • No one said the decision was easy, straightforward, or uncomplicated. You’ll see quite the opposite!

In fact, we read multiple answers about “not heeding ‘wise’ advice,” “getting the ‘what for’ from family” and generally having skeptics for cheerleaders.

Surprised? If you thought you had to have everything all planned out before you got going, our intrepid travelers say not so, or at least not quite.


Let’s have our guides introduce themselves.

Full Disclosure: The images above may or may not be realistic… (at our age, one can only hope!)

Susan (Marsha) & Stanley (  fit the Adventure Filled Life spot on my blogroll immediately when I read this:

“I am Marsha, an imaginary character in the life of a California writer who uses me to simplify her otherwise too-chaotic existence. My husband, Stanley (who may or may not bear a certain resemblance to a real person) and I retired earlier than wise people would have. January 2011 begins my quest to find out what it is that Stanley and I have gotten ourselves into.

Did we check out of the work force too soon? Will we be able to stay thinking, intelligent people without a schedule given to us by some outside force? Were we ever THAT intelligent? We did retire in the midst of economic crisis, so there’s room for discussion here.”

Haven’t we all asked similar questions about our lives?

These two got started their adventure in the opposite direction, noting that it was clear from the start the vagabond lifestyle appealed to them.  In fact, Marsha writes that, “immediately after they got married they joined the Peace Corps and moved to Colombia, crossing many borders and began to appreciate what travel teaches.” They settled for some years and recently returned to their adventure-filled ways by doing a year in Ukraine with the Peace Corps again. Just proves age is only a state of mind!

Speaking of age, Anne Lowery shows us that we don’t have to wait for retirement, but rather what we can do with a lot of planning and a little nudge from fate. She finished university and began a professional career that, while not being her lifetime job of choice, did provide the means to afford  her part-time travel lifestyle (fittingly, is both the name and philosophy of her blog).

After a few years blogging about travel, the timing was right, and Anne left both her home and job behind and traveled around the world solo for 5 months straight.  She coordinated with friends and got tips from bloggers she knew and enjoyed a life-changing experience. Returning home, Anne continued the change with a move from Southern California to San Francisco, with a new perspective on the 9-5, a new focus on travel writing, and a commitment to continue. She is now a freelance writer full-time, while remaining a dedicated part-time traveler. Whether Anne will eventually live abroad, or continue to use San Francisco as a base for travel and discovery, is a question maybe even Anne can’t answer right now. For now though, either way, her life is definitely adventure-filled.

James & Terri Vance noted that they “both had successful careers, but…the corporate grind was losing its appeal.” They planned the move abroad in conjunction with an early retirement. After living and working overseas, they made the decision to make “a major life change” choosing to make it a full-time adventure lifestyle. They put considerable effort into how to pull it off, as they were making the decision to retire “early… way early,” as they put it. I found James & Terri via their blog,, where they both chronicle their adventures in travel. We’ve compared notes about some unusual expat assignments (Khartoum, anyone?) and the ways Embassies do or don’t fulfill their mandate to help citizens in country- whether registering upon arrival does any good or not (take time read the comments for tips on what to expect).

Margo & Jeff  took the domestic-business-first route as well. In Margo’s blog bio, she openly admits to “never having learned the concept of moderation.”  And true to form, while going back to university to satisfy a love of learning, Margo went to Florence, Italy to study art history for one of her courses. Predictably, Margo fell in love with that city and with Europe in general… Now if that doesn’t stir the travel/adventure-life brew, I don’t know what would!

Margo decided that one day she would like to live in Europe. She and her husband, Jeff, started travelling to Europe often and found that they felt very much at home there. In 2003 they had the opportunity to move to England with a company that Jeff was associated with at the time, and they seized the chance.

We might be tempted to say, “And the rest is history,” except in their case, it was only the beginning.

Margo & Jeff have had a second home in France for several years now. Since I have been following Margo’s writing, her blog has been a source of historical and cultural stories about Florence Italy, London England, and Nice France. It works out well as Jeff uses his financial planning skills abroad and Margo publishes freelance stories for various publications. (I just purchased her newly published Curious Histories volume on French Holidays & Traditions- via Amazon). It’s hard to say this is what the new “retirement” looks like, since they are both “working” (albeit on their own time schedules), but it certainly does fit the retirement dream of many readers, I’m sure!

As for Me, I followed a hybrid approach to creating an adventure filled life. I lived and worked in Azerbaijan for 10 years, allowing me to travel throughout Europe and Central  Asia while living just north of the Iranian border. Traveling as a single female has its moments, as Anne also shares, but for me, living so long on my own allowed me to absorb much of the underlying cultural identities, like Margo and Jeff do, rather than skimming the surface with a few days’ visit. (Visit my Life Lessons blog to share some discoveries).

Like James & Terri, I was introduced to the region via my work with a major oil company. However our stories differ in that, once I saw a need I could fill, I resigned and went back  alone to Baku to open my own business. Initially the decision was a joint one, with my husband knowing a corporate buy-out was coming and assuming a career change was in the future anyway- we figured, why not Baku? (Doesn’t everyone say that?)

As things moved along, however, I was in Baku, for what turned out to be the first three years, solo and waiting for things to be wrapped up at home. Plans changed for my then-husband as I learned I was destined to be unexpectedly divorced and single from that point on.  Not exactly the adventure filled life I had in mind.  (It does, however, highlight exactly what we’ll share further down the list in Take Away #4: Life is about  owning the responsibility and taking control of  your own  path.)

Ok, you’ve met our 8 travelers, and learned how they worked through the process of creating a life changing experience. Now it’s time to reveal the tips provided by our intrepid travelers (Part 1)!
(* We’ll wrap up our Adventure Filled Life tips with more on Take Away Tuesday!)

Take Away #1

If you want an adventure filled life, you can choose to do it early, mid-life, or as a retirement option. Regardless of when you decide to make the change, though, start your planning by simplifying your life.

James and Terri’s mantra is “downsize, downsize, downsize“. Marsha and Stanley noted that they have always lived simply (good training early from that Peace Corps experience? Or just good sense?) They live frugally, travel well and within their means.

Take Away #2

Don’t overlook Visa issues- it’s important to know the rules even if- especially if–  you decide to wing it with a change in travel plans.

Tourist visas are usually easily obtained and can be 14-30 days duration on average. However, some need to be planned from home as a trip to a local Consulate office or Embassy  may be required. Always check first. Margo noted she spent many hours filling out visa forms and renewing visas.  Anne has this blog post on her VietNam Visa Scare – see what can happen when you need a visa on the go!

Take Away #3 

For anyone looking to create an Adventure Filled Life, consider employer projects that could provide long-term expatriate living assignments.

Margo & Jeff commented on thinking of what you want to have as an end goal when  planning. This may work to your advantage when applying for work with international companies looking for your skills. You may be able to fund your travel via an expat role (like James & Terri did), by working with assistance NGO/PVO groups, or with the Peace Corps (as Marsha & Stanley did). The company handles the Visa and the transport for the employee, plus (usually) your accompanying family. (I made my first trip over in this way and it allowed me to see first-hand just how things were done.)

Having a contact for support also makes life easier to navigate, and simpler when trying to resolve local issues abroad.

Take Away #4

Creating an Adventure Filled Life is about taking control of your future. Whatever combination of travel vs home-time, unconventional or traditional, it is still about taking active control.

Some settle on a path early on, and some decide to make a change later. And sometimes, it just happens and you deal with it. Regardless of when or how, just keep in mind, the decision is always about how much control and responsibility you’re willing to take on.

James & Terri commented that making their decision wasn’t about regret over their corporate lives (in fact, their corporate travel experiences actually provided the springboard  for their first forays abroad); rather it was about “having the ability to set our own priorities and goals. This process took a few years, but with some trial and error, we managed it.”

Marsha & Stanley wrote, “We contemplated what retirement should look like (for about 3 minutes) and then joined the Peace Corps again.” This time they lived in the Ukraine for a year- Stanley would be traveling as a lifestyle if he could, but Marsha needs her Home base.

For me, it was a matter of survival, not choice, once I was divorced. I had no means of getting home (no way to renew my US driver’s license, all credit cards were closed, as was our joint bank account, no “home” to go to).

Sometimes when traveling, you find yourself in precarious situations that test your preparation and resolve. This was one such adventure. I have to say that making a plan and knowing what it was going to take to work my way back, provided some of the best lessons and best adventures I’ve ever had. (Part 2 of my story includes how not to do repatriation, plus an unorthodox way to find love after 50!)

Ok, that’s it for the first half of our Adventure Filled Life Tips & Take-Aways.


I hope you’re enjoying getting to know our guest contributors! I encourage you to be adventurous- click on the links for everyone above and leave a comment to tell them what you think!

Make a note for Take Away Tuesday when we’ll bring you Part 2- the conclusion of the Adventure Filled Life tips from our inspiring travelers.

Thanks for joining in- do Stay tuned!


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  2. Naomi
    January 25, 2015

    I love this roundup!! What a great bunch of tips!

    • jlhilleary
      January 25, 2015

      How wonderful to hear! That means a lot coming from an expat who knows from personal experience what it’s like. I had never thought of the Peace Corps though. That was a nice twist from Susan (Marsha) & Stanley.

      I hope your work is going well! I’ll email you when I get home and touch base with you about FIGT2015! So gad you’re nearby this year!

  3. James Vance
    January 26, 2015

    Jonelle, this is a very helpful and interesting synthesis of input from a diverse crew. Thanks very much for including us in your project. We’re flattered to be running with such an impressive crowd. As you point out, an expat lifestyle takes planning, commitment, and in our case, constant tweaking. Terri and I sometimes have the “What if we hadn’t moved overseas?” conversation, and honestly, we never come up with a good answer. Our first expat experience put us on the path that we remain on today, and it’s hard to imagine any other lifestyle – so we must have done something right. And BTW, we love our cute icons. ~James

    • jlhilleary
      January 26, 2015

      James & Terri- I am so glad you liked those avatars I created for you. Marsha (Susan) said Stanley really fit his as he likes to air guitar his Elvis impression! Who knew I was physic (that’s an old joke, not a typo!).

      Just in case you had not seen Part 2-here is the link to the post: (this contains a link to the full post on )

      Thank you both soooo much for your contributions. It literally and figuratively would not have been complete without your insights. I value your experience and appreciate your openness and willingness to share your knowledge with others who may want to adopt this lifestyle of the global nomad! Thanks ever so much. Till our next collaboration!

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