My name is Barbara Weibel and I’m the owner/publisher of Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel. I’ve always envied people who love their jobs. Unlike those lucky souls, my various careers over the years (marketing, advertising, selling real estate, working in a retail store, owning a public relations firm, and selling snow cones in the largest water park in Puerto Rico, among others) were just means to an end – a way to earn money and have a comfortable lifestyle. I never loved what I did and I can’t really say I was ever really happy, but I plodded on because I was raised to be dependable, to always give 110%, and to work hard in order to be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement. All of which meant going to work every day, regardless of how much I despised my job.
I knew I wasn’t being true to myself. My inner voice constantly nagged, “Who am I, why am I here, and what is my purpose in life?” I had often heard that we should do what what we love, what makes us joyful. So I asked myself, “What makes me joyful?” But I had no answer. I knew there had to be something better out there; I just didn’t know what it was. Then I got sick. Really sick.
My health had been failing for some time but the doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. More than once it was implied that my illness was all in my head. Finally, after five years of suffering, I was diagnosed with what had by then become chronic Lyme disease. During the initial treatment I was practically bedridden. Since I could barely drag myself from the bed to the couch (much less go to work) I had a lot of time to examine my life. I decided that things had to change. I was like a donut – a wonderful outer shell with an empty, hollow inside. I could no longer ignore the need to feel that I was living a purposeful life. I needed to fill the hole in my donut. Again I asked myself, “What brings me joy?” This time, I had some answers. Photography. Writing. And travel. I promised myself that when I recovered I would find a way of living that focused on those things that bring me joy.
As soon as I was healthy enough, I left my job, strapped on a backpack, and traveled solo around the world for six months, determined to visit the places I’d always wanted to see. I traveled without major plans, took thousands of photos along the way, and blogged about every place I visited. Upon returning to the States in September of 2007, I rented an apartment in Florida and continued to travel more than half of the time, while simultaneously pursuing freelance writing opportunities. By the end of 2009 I was traveling so much that it made no sense to maintain a home base, so I sold or gave away my remaining furniture and hit the road full time.
For the next eight years I traveled perpetually, staying long-term in many countries in order to immerse in the local culture. But with age came some new challenges. In my early sixties, I began to experience hip and knee problems that were likely effects from my long bout with Lyme disease. More and more, I found it difficult to carry a suitcase up and down the stairs of railway and Metro stations around the world. I began to worry that my traveling days were over.
Fortunately, I was able to correct my joint problems through stem cell therapy. But the mobility issues I had suffered convinced me that it was time to have a home base again. Thus, in December of 2017, I rented an apartment and became an expat in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m still traveling a significant amount of the time each year but now I can return to my home base whenever I need a rest, and I no longer need to carry everything with me all the time. It has made a world of difference, and I once again believe I will continue to travel well into my 70’s or even my 80’s.
Throughout my years of travel, I have continued to publish stories on Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel that feature the destinations I visit, the interesting people I meet, the crazy (and often humorous) things that happen to me along the way, and the never-ending spiritual lessons that come from travel. With its self-deprecating humor and focus on the inner journey as well as the outer, Hole In The Donut has attracted a loyal following of readers who travel with me vicariously. So grab a chair and settle in for some unique and interesting travel stories.
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