It takes courage to quit a stable job and head out into the unknown. And it can take even more to do it without someone to hold your hand. So far in our interview series we’ve met couples who’ve decided to take the leap together — with the support of the other the whole way. But now you’re about to meet two travelers who did it alone! Their individual courage ultimately brought them together — you might say it was fate! — but these two individuals were successfully traveling solo before they met. Chris Tyre of Chicago, Illinois and Ismary Torres of Barcelona, Venezuela are proof that you can do this alone… and that you can meet amazing people (even that special someone) along the way.
Want to hear their story? Let’s begin with how these (formerly) solo travelers recently joined forces… just a few months back!
Hola! We’re Chris and Ismary, a couple of global nomads (from the US and Venezuela, respectively), but “couples traveling” is new for us. We met at a language center in Chicago this past spring but didn’t start seeing each other until late May, days before Ismary was leaving for Paris. She had that trip booked before I (Chris) had even met her. The night before she left I told her, “What if I met you in Europe in July? Somewhere random… like Iceland.” She said, “That would be awesome but I don’t believe you.” She thought I was just trying to sweet talk her, but I was serious. I booked a one-way ticket to Iceland the following week. Then the next day she texted me a selfie with a confirmation ticket to Reykjavik for that same day. We were reunited about a month later. Country-hopped for a bit and recently came back to Chicago. We plan on moving to Peru in January “for a year” and will go from there.
The Travel Couple At a Glance
Names: Chris Tyre & Ismary Torres
Quit Date: Chris – November 2013, Ismary – December 2014
Nomadic For: Chris – Almost 2 years, Ismary – Almost 1 year
Home Base: Chris – Chicago, IL, Ismary – Barcelona, Venezuela
Money Makers: Chris – freelance graphic design, photography, door to door sales, administration, waiting tables, driving for Uber, working as a human resource specialist, copywriting and soon teaching/tutoring English
Ismary – currently in vacation/travel mode
Work They’re Most Proud Of — You’ll wanna check these out!
Current Location: Chicago, IL
Next Destination: Lima, Peru
Q & A with Chris and Ismary
Q. When did you decide to quit your job and begin a nomadic lifestyle? How long after that did you actually quit?
We both have very different angles on this. I (Chris) had been looking at opportunities abroad for about a year before I applied for an Australian working-holiday visa in early 2013. I had been working as a creative director for nearly four years before I quit in that October. I was very involved with a number of projects at work that I wanted to see through but had to draw the line somewhere. I then departed Chicago a couple weeks after.
Ismary’s circumstances are a little different. She used to dream of a company that would allow her to travel. Her original plan was to come to the US to learn English so she could obtain that type of job. Then last summer (2014) she was recognized at her company (in Venezuela) for her 5 plus years of service. As she stared at her award she realized she didn’t want to work there forever. It had dawned on her that she didn’t need to find a global company; she could accomplish the work/travel goal on her own. At that point she decided that she’d leave Venezuela for the States in December 2014.
So (Ismary), can you tell us a little more about your move from Venezuela to the States? Was it hard to leave your life and family for a new adventure? Did you save up money, or get a job lined up before leaving? How else did you prepare for your move to the U.S.?
And why Chicago, of all the U.S. cities to choose from?
Well, at the beginning it was a 5-month plan. I saved money and sold a few things like my car, apartment furniture, and some appliances at home. You’re never going to have saved “enough” money. At some point you just need to begin with what you have and go from there.
This is the first time I’ve been traveling long term. My views on needs vs wants has changed dramatically. I’m much more frugal with my spending. The money I make needs to go further to continue to travel. Plus, with limited space, I can’t carry too many things on me.
All of my family lives in Venezuela so it gets difficult at times. I talk with them almost every day. However, I must confess that there’s usually one day a month that I feel very homesick. But continuing to travel and experiencing new things on a regular basis has really helped me grow and expand my mind. Hopefully in the future my family will travel with me somewhere.
I had been to a few other U.S. cities before landing in Chicago. Actually when I left Venezuela I spent the first month in Miami. But I really wanted to experience a real winter. My father had lived in Moscow for 12 years and had shared photos and stories of snowy winters. I had read good things about the “Windy City” and I wanted a city with good public transportation since I didn’t intend on driving here. In the end, I was just very curious about living through a cold, snowy winter and how weather can impact your life. But now that I’ve experienced one, I’m done with Chicago winters, haha!
Q. What were the biggest influencers on your decision to quit and start traveling?
Wanderlust, new opportunities, and the fear of the mundane. We don’t want to grow old and say “I wish I would have…” We are both very ambitious people. There’s so much that inspires us and so much we want to learn. It’s like shaking carbonated passion. Once it explodes, it’s time to start the adventure. We had read articles online of people living “nomadic” lives and working abroad and thought if they could do it, we could do it.
Q. What was/is your game plan for getting by? (Did you spend a lot of time planning? How closely have you stuck to your original plan? What (if anything) has changed your plans along the way?)
Meeting each other while perusing our own independent lives abroad changed the plan! We were both thinking of working in South America this autumn before we started going out but then Iceland and backpacking Europe happened! (We both pushed our budgets on that one.)
The current game plan is focused around language education and heading to Peru in early 2016. Although knowing us we’ll get our hands dirty in other endeavors as well. Earlier this year I became certified to teach English to foreign speakers and presently Ismary is getting certified in the same, but for Spanish. On the flipside, we are both taking classes learning the other one’s language. Once we are down there we plan on working teaching jobs and intentionally renting a bigger flat so we can host guests on Airbnb. The hope is Airbnb would generate enough money per month to cover the cost of accommodations.
So are you two living together now in Chicago, or will that big relationship step come once you head down to Peru?
And side note: Ian and I were considering South America as a destination next year, too (though likely not for as long as you two). Let us know when your Airbnb listing is up and running, and maybe we’ll head to Peru! 🙂
Yes, actually we moved in together a couple weeks after we came back from Europe. Ismary’s lease had ended, so it was good timing. We felt Chicago would be a good trial run before Peru. This way if things didn’t work out here we could easily walk away, rather than find that out the hard way down there. And yes, we’d love to have you and Ian join us in Peru!
Q. What made/makes your situation unique? (Why do you think YOU took the leap into a nomadic lifestyle, while many others never do?)
We have been a “traveling couple” for months, not years! Not only are we learning about our new environments, but more and more about each other. We don’t have albums of pictures together in 50 different countries nor keys to making money passively through a blog.
One of the main messages we want to get across is that it’s possible to work and travel without being a “digital” nomad. Not that either of us are opposed to that (we’re trying to get there), but in all honesty, there are tons of non-digital jobs available. I think there’s this stigma that if you aren’t a programmer, SEO specialist, digital marketer, or work at an international company with offices scattered across the globe that “living anywhere” isn’t attainable. But it is.
Q. What are your goals for your blog/business/traveling life?
Nomad and Camera is my new business endeavor. It offers photography services and travel advice. That may evolve over time as I think of new products and services. One such idea is hosting a “foodography” tour which would combine local foodie spots with mobile photography. My plan is to trial it in Chicago, then take the concept on road if it takes off.
Ismary is building a language program. She would like to develop this idea which takes advantage of her education and human resource background and offer it to companies around the world. As for her new blog Haz Tu Vida Bonita, she’d use this as an outlet to motivate her followers to begin things and find beauty in their lives by taking simple steps toward their goals, whether it’s low cost travel, learning a new language, or having a small personal project by using her life as an example.
Q. At what point did you just know you could really do it? Or have you not yet reached that point?
It’s still early to say that we’ve officially hit that point or rather figured out our sweet spot doing it. Sometimes our confidence level may not always correspond with our income but we know that we are going down the path that we want to pursue.
Q. What’s the biggest thing you’ve struggled with since you started your new exciting journey, and what have you been doing to overcome it?
Two things: Communication and budgeting. I think we are both strong communicators in our own right, but since our native tongues and cultural backgrounds are different, saying your thoughts aloud isn’t always enough to convey our message. Not only that, but for Ismary, she now has to speak English for the majority of her conversations rather than Spanish. And I know a few months down the road I’ll be in the same boat. We are overcoming this with patience, occasional gesturing, and taking language courses. When one of us has a blank stare or raised eyebrow, it’s pretty easy to tell that the other one needs to try saying that again!
It’s almost inherent as travelers to live in the “now” but we need to balance that with planning the future. It can be very tough. So what we try doing is asking ourselves small comparison questions like “Do we buy that bottle of wine or save it for a nice dinner in Peru?”
I think communication and budgeting have got to be two of the biggest challenges for almost any relationship — new or old — and I find it interesting that you’re the first couple to bring them up! Your relationship may be the youngest of the couples we’ve interviewed so far, but I think anyone reading this will agree that you two are clearly off to a great start!
Q. What’s the most awesome thing about the journey you’re on now?
That we’re both still alive and haven’t killed each other yet!
So I take it it’s been a little hard to adapt to this lifestyle where you’re spending most of your time together?
Not hard, just different. Not only were we used to traveling solo, but living solo as well. But splitting the cost of internet and weekly groceries is a nice perk! Haha
Q. If you were single, would you be doing this alone? Do you think it’s easier living the travel lifestyle as a couple?
This isn’t too hard to imagine because we were both single for years before a few months ago! Yes, on doing it alone. A million times over! A traveling partner isn’t required, but is definitely fun to have. Honestly though, even if you’re single, neither of us really felt “alone” as solo travelers. There’s always so much “new” involved with traveling that your brain is so preoccupied on meeting new friends, taking pictures, and trying different foods that “loneliness” isn’t really part of the equation.
Not sure if traveling as a couple is “easier.” There’s more compromise but also greater perspective. The biggest advantage we have traveling together is that one of us is a native English speaker and the other is a native Spanish speaker. That covers North and South America!
Real quick: Where all have each of you traveled solo? (in case any of our readers are considering a solo leap)
Ismary – Well, the United States (before Chris), Colombia, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium.
Chris – Australia for nearly a year, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, South Korea, Germany, and Hungary.
Q. What advice do you have for a couple (or individual) considering taking the leap themselves?
Go for it and don’t look back! Don’t be discouraged by others who think it’s dangerous or a risky decision or that you’re “running away.” If the desire is there, act on it, or it will just eat away at you. The world’s an amazing place full of welcoming people, but as the proverb goes, “the hardest part is leaving your front door.” (But before you lock the door forever, don’t forget travel insurance. Things happen!)
Q. Do you ever regret quitting or wish you had your old life back?
Ha! No. You’ll question yourself to death before you act on the decision, but once you make the leap and start seeing the world in a new light, you’ll be glad you did. Sometimes we feel a bit envious when we see someone our age with a really nice condo or house, but then we remember that our money has allowed us to see the world instead, so we can’t complain.
Q. Where are you now, and where to next?
We’re currently in Chicago. Next stop is Peru.
Final Thoughts from Chris and Ismary
We chose this lifestyle because it fits us, but by no means are we saying, “this is the way you should live.” It’s not for everybody. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Quitting stability takes courage but could also be really dumb if you lack direction or self-motivation. Yes, the idea of “freedom” and being able to live more spontaneously is super exciting, but that’s only part of the equation. You are also leaving stable income, comfort, and potentially your family, friends, and country temporarily or long term. With that said, if you have the passion and put in the work that it takes to sustain that lifestyle, it is incredibly rewarding.
Above all else, no matter what you decide to do in life, do it with all of your heart because you only have one life. It’s a one way ticket and you’re the pilot. Thanks for taking interest in our story and we wish you all the very best!
Let’s Keep Chatting!
Have a question for Chris or Ismary about life, travel or anything else?
Post it in the comments below or head on over to Nomad + Camera or Haz Tu Vida Bonita (in development) to say hello! If you are in Chicago, Ismary hosts free Spanish classes weekly through Meetup. You can also follow their travels on Instagram (Chris/Ismary).
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.