The guestbook was one of the last things I checked during a Tutoko II cruise in New Zealand’s pristine Fiordland recently. One of the handwritten raves, entered 11/11/11, was from Karen Gill and Ken Schellin of Milwaukee.
Our 14-passenger vessel was one of only two ways for travelers to spend the night afloat in the Doubtful Sound wilderness, and this couple’s compliments were much like the others, with one exception. “Follow our blog!” these Wisconsinites urged, and that led me to nextstopworld.com.
Turns out that Karen and Ken are on a global tour, after saving money for nine years and shedding possessions to travel for 16 months – or whenever their funds run out.
“We sold just about everything we owned, including house and cars,” Karen told me, while in Malaysian Borneo, where they landed after six weeks in New Zealand. “We wanted the freedom of living wherever this great world takes us.”
That means they are homeless, by choice, for now.
Karen is a personal chef and Ken is a video producer; both say they enjoy their lines of work but felt a need to “slow down and experience life differently. Traveling opens our eyes to different ways of life and allows us to meet great people,” Karen says, via email.
On Christmas, they aim to be in Kuching, Borneo, a Muslim area that Karen says has “a Santa town … so we should be able to celebrate something like home.” On New Year’s Eve, they hope to see fireworks in Kuala Lampur, on Malaysia’s mainland.
Ken adds, after a day of scuba diving at Sipidan Island: “We are continuing to do what we love (me: making videos, Karen: cooking), but in very different environments than our previous work in Milwaukee.”
They have somewhat relied on the kindness of strangers. “Friends of friends have been so welcoming to us,” Ken explains, mentioning a recent week in Singapore, where they stayed with two families. “We didn’t know any of these people before we showed up at their door, but they quickly became friends that we hope to keep in touch with.
“It was fantastic to sit on a comfy couch and get a break from hostel/hotel living.”
So far, the couple also has volunteered at a farm (through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms – wwoof.org). Learn more about their adventures, which began in Japan in late August, at www.nextstopworld.com.
Selling the farm to see the world is unusual but not unprecedented. Gary Arndt of Hortonville, population 2,700, did something similar in 2007 and has since visited more than 100 countries.
“Since I started traveling, I have probably done and seen more than I have in the rest of my life combined,” he writes at www.Everything-Everywhere.com, which Time magazine chose as one of the world’s top 25 blogs in 2010.
Gary’s appealing photography, which favors the natural world, captures a strong sense of place. His blunt and honest commentary favors encounters of interest to the average person.
Time refers to Gary as a “onetime Internet consultant and online gaming devotee.” A three-week trip to seven Asian and European countries, because of a 1999 business sale, whetted his interest to plunge into international travel.
So far, this has included swimming with jellyfish in Palau and whale sharks in Australia, riding the world’s highest zip line (in Puerto Rico) and photographing political protestors (in Thailand), being denied entry to Kiribati and preparing for a tsunami that didn’t happen in Hawaii.
Gary’s story hasn’t ended, and what began as a vacation turned into a livelihood. How long will he keep traveling? Gary addresses the question online with this: “I don’t know. I’ll know when I’m done.”
When we connected, he was in England and said he would return to Appleton for the holidays, then fly to Argentina and visit Antarctica.
Keep abreast of Gary’s travels by subscribing to his free newsletter at EverythingEverywhere.com; that move will gain you a free copy of his visually stunning e-book, “25 Favorite Travel Photos.”
Inspired? Gary leads a small-group, 15-day photography tour of the American Southwest in May 2012; the cost is $2,299 (plus airfare).
Much closer to home, on most days, is Fred Keogh. The Connecticut native and his family moved to Fort Atkinson in 1999; his newly published book – “Dream Weaver: A Hitchhiker’s Quest at the Dawn of the Aquarian Age” – recounts life, attitude and awakenings during the psychedelic and idealistic 1960s.
The author is a trained anthropologist who writes of many things, including a summer at a “rundown farmhouse about 30 miles east of Superior, where we earned our fun money jacking timber.”
Fred explains that his passion is theology and cross-cultural religious studies. “My next project, though far from original, will (hopefully) be of another ‘quest’ – my return to Catholicism has planted a desire for a pilgrimage,” he says.
You’ll find paper versions of “Dream Weaver” at amazon.com, but the book also can be downloaded on a Kindle.
Most of my own travels remain close to home, but I’m occasionally involved with remarkable exceptions, which in 2012 will be the springboard for www.travel2connect.com. Stay tuned!
“Roads Traveled” columns began in 2002 and are the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.