Episode 2 of 1001 Travel Tales: Stories from Seasoned Travelers is an interview with Betsy Wuebker of PassingThru.com, in which Betsy tells us about living a location-independent lifestyle, housesitting in a cyclone and risking her life in a pickup truck, among other things. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here, or click on the image below to listen on Soundcloud.
Betsy and Pete Wuebker
Betsey Wuebker and her husband, Pete, are not so much perpetual travelers as slow travelers. Their location independence, as Betsy explains in this podcast, involves spending longer stays in one place, based on availability of housesitting gigs.
At the same time, they earn their income on line, so as long as they have an internet connection, they’re good to go. They earn money through their blog, using Zazzle and other outlets for e-commerce. Between housesitting gigs, they travel. The money they save by staying for free, they can use for the periods when they travel and need to pay for hotels and transportation.
It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s certainly something I’ll look into once we retire. Housesitting, though, doesn’t just mean occupying a home while the owners are away. Usually it means taking care of dogs or cats, and sometimes farmyard animals. That means that while you are housesitting, you’re confined to a fairly small radius of operations, since you have to walk and/or feed the animals one or more times daily.
And then there’s safeguarding the house as best you can when a cyclone strikes, but you can read Betsy’s story about that here.
On the flip side, it’s a kind of travel that appeals to me. You stay for a period of weeks or even months in one place, which gives you time to really get to know the place, including all of the off-the-beaten-path sights and activities that only the locals know about.
I know one other couple, Duncan and Jane Dempster-Smith of To Travel Too who do the same thing, using housesitting to save money, but in their case, they’re retired, and manage to travel perpetually just using their pensions.
So much stuff!
I completely agree with Betsy’s comment that people in the West have So. Much. Stuff. I live with my husband, our son, and two foster kids in quite a big house, but as I get older I get less and less patient about how much stuff we have.
The fact is, the bigger the house, the more stuff tends to collect and fill in the space. I’m looking forward to moving to a much smaller house when the kids have all moved out, which should be by next fall. We’ll be forced, then, to get rid of much of the stuff that’s cluttering our lives. I imagine it as a liberating experience.
And speaking of stuff, it surprised me, in this interview, to hear that Betsy checks a suitcase when she flies. I pictured her traveling much lighter than that.
When I traveled on my sabbatical, I used a 35-liter backpack small enough to fit in the overhead bin on a flight. It ended up over-packed, and I sent a few items home rather than carry them around. I never missed any of my stuff. Of course, I wasn’t carrying everything I owned, which is what Betsy and Pete have to do.
You can read Betsy and Pete Wuebker ’s whole story of their experience in Cyclone Winston here. I looked up the cyclone and realized how lucky they were. With wind speeds up to 325 km/hr, more than 50,000 people lost their homes (out of a population of a million). About 50 people died and 134 schools were destroyed.
Riding in the Back of a Pickup
Betsy Wuebker ’s story about “throwing caution to the wind” and ending up careering about town on the back of a pick-up truck reminded me of a similar situation I once got into in Malawi. I lived in Mzuzu at the time and one day, my neighbor John and I decided to go down to the beach at Nkhata Bay.
John and I walked up to the main road and stuck out our thumbs to hitchhike. The road takes about an hour and winds down through the hills to the lakeshore.
Soon enough, a pickup truck stopped for us. Unlike the one Betsy and Pete rode in, this one had a cage of metal bars around the flatbed. The top of the cage was quite high. Several people – perhaps ten other hitchhikers – were already standing on the truck, holding themselves in place by gripping the bars on the sides or above their heads.
So we climbed on board, grabbing the bars on the side, and the driver set off toward Nkhata Bay.
It was terrifying. He drove so fast that what normally would take about an hour took more like half that. At every turn – and this road turns a lot – we were thrown around, hanging on desperately not to get slammed against the sides of the cage or each other. We all ended up sliding down to sit on the floor, and that helped stabilize us some.
So we sat there, gripping the bars, white-knuckled, in silence. We prayed that this crazy driver would be able to keep the truck on the road at this speed. If it went over, or veered off the road, we hadn’t a chance. We’d be tossed around the inside of that steel cage like the inside of a baby’s rattle.
We made it in one piece, and climbed out of the cage, weak-kneed, in Nkhata Bay. To go back, that afternoon, we had to face our fear again, since we would need to hitchhike again to get home. I was always choosy after that, sometimes turning down offers of rides.
On Shobha’s blog, Just Go Places, you can read the transcript of this podcast here.
Betsy and Pete Wuebker ’s site is here.
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