About Barbara Weibel

My name is Barbara Weibel and Iโ€™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.

Barbara Weibel
Barbara Weibel

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.

You may also enjoy:

How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World Full Time
Travel Packing Tips
Everything You Need to Know About Booking a Round-the-World Flight
Travel Safety Tips
Volunteering Opportunities Are Not Always What They Claim to Be

335 thoughts on “About Barbara Weibel”

  1. Hi Barbara! I am Claribel Toro-Hernandez from Puerto Rico and yesterday I posted this picture of you in my pesonal page as I was reading your blog (which I love) and it was a sensation! Everybody thought it was me traveling around somewhere in the world! Later I looked at other pictures of you and in them you donยดt look so similar but believe me this one was amazingly similar to me!
    I have a public page in Facebook, Bufete Toro & Toro because I am an attorney in Puerto Rico and I also have a personal page in FB under my name.
    I wish I can do the same as you, my daughters are all adults by now and I am single and free!
    My job keeps me down at my office since it is pretty expensive to travel and to tell you the truth I am afraid to travel solo. Any suggestions how to start it all?
    Wish you happy travels and hope I can do the same pretty soon!

    • Hola Claribel. He visto su Pagina de Facebook y te acuerdo – hay una photo que me parece muy smilar a mi, excepto eres mucho mas joven! Vivi en Puerto Rico por un ano en 1996, en Rincon. Me gusta mucho Puerto Rico, pero ne he regresado por muchos anos. Gracias por su comentario, y disculpe mi Espanol! Necesito practicar mucho mas.

  2. I just came across your site and so glad I did!! I’ve been working around a plan to travel now for over a year, a thought i got long before that but only took it seriously about a year ago. The idea / concept allows me to travel and earn, my dream has always been to travel but i wanted to do it with a means to earn, hence I came up with a few ideas. When I knew this, I too gave up everything, including a relationship (which I hung onto and wasted many years cos of it) moved here to my daughter to get my plans up and ready but am procrastinating, worrying too much about taking someone with me and who it should be, and the resources like cameras, vehicle etc. I was set for end April, and because I havnt been too focused on “me” now have postponed to end May, that is bad, very bad. In actual fact, just last Friday nite, after being in tears from frustration and let down by someone who wanted to join me (my sister) my daughter sat down with me and gave me a good talking. She basically told me to do exactly what you are doing, forget about who’s and whats and get my sites etc finalised and plan to hit the road NOW, asap! … ALONE!! If i do need anyone/ anything it will all fall into place. (she said) My one fear over and above going it alone was that I’m in my 50’s, kept thinking that it was already too late for me. You have given me so much hope and inspiraton and made me so excited, who knows, if Istay as fired up as i am right now, this minute after reading about you I may hit the road end of April still. Going to bookmark your site, look at it every day. I have no intentions of coming “home’ (which i dont have) and will also be travelling in the direction the wind takes me. My dream is that while travelling I will come across the place / island (has to be tropical) that will win my heart over and there I will retire and settle down. I am from Cape Town, South Africa, my first travel plans are to do my own country, all around SA and Africa. After that get onto a yacht, do the islands, have to fullfil that dream, lastly do international countries.

    • Hi Judy: Very interesting story; appreciate you sharing it. I can certainly relate. After my first round-the-world trip in 2007, I returned to the U.S. and settled back in to a rather boring life, traveling in the U.S. only. Even though I was a well-seasoned traveler, little-by-little I lost some of my confidence. I knew I needed to get back on the road full time, but it took me 2.5 years to make the plunge again. These days I come back to the States once or twice a year for a month or two each year, but I spend most of my time traveling, so there’s not enough downtime to get “stuck” like that again. One thing I can assure you of, once you’ve been out on the road for a week or two, it becomes the new norm and any fear you might have felt when you set out will gradually drain away. People the world over are basically good and, having been a traveler all my life, I can honestly say that I am treated better now at 60 than I ever was as a young woman. It’s absolutely NEVER too late – just do it!

  3. I love this story so much. I’m in a similar position at the moment: questioning my purpose having left a miserable existence as a designer, and it brought a smile to my face to read that someone else was in the same boat, and had done something about it.

    I’m just starting to read travel blogs but I think I’ll be back to yours! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi Barbara,
    A good friend of mine in the wine business just introduced me to your website and story. I am in the wine business, kind of part time right now, as my daughter and her husband are running things for me. I am a retired airline pilot for United and love to travel. I have been so many places in the world from high end to low end third world countries. My kids are travelers and foodies too. I just love to hop on a plane and go to some place that I have never been before. I travel for free which gives me the incentive to be going all the time. I think what you have done is exciting and I can certainly tell that you are happy doing it. I will get more into your website and would love to follow up with you very soon. Your lifestyle is what I have been doing on a limited basis for many years and have always cherished my free time to do more traveling. I was a 747 Capt and bid schedules to only work 6 days a month because my free time was worth so much to me. I can’t wait to hear more about your travels—–

    • Hi Eve: Wow – you really threw me on that one. I’ve written more than 1,700 posts and have never had anyone ask that. Probably the best way is to do it month by month, beginning with November 2006 (https://holeinthedonut.com/2006/11/). That will take you to a list of posts written that month, scroll down to the bottom (you may have to go to page 2 or 3), & work backward. Only a portion of each article show up on the list; you’ll have to click “continue reading” to see the whole post, then hit the back button when done. When you’re done with November, just change the url to the next chronological month (https://holeinthedonut.com/2006/12/ – then https://holeinthedonut.com/2007/01/, etc. Happy reading!

  5. HI Barbara, I am so glad to find your site.We obviously have something in common.I am a truly certified wanderlust and being in my fifties ,I am tied down to a job that pays comfortably but does not fulfill my incredible longing to see the world. You gave me hope to get out of my comfort zone. I am also a breast cancer survivor and reallly, this changed my perspective in life and how i relate to the world and to people in general.Your travels gave me hope to fulfill my dream of traveling the world in untrodden places. I have travelled quite a bit in Europe and in Asia but your travel stories and circumstances gave me more courage to purse the world like you do.Will it be alright if I can ask you a few question mainly how do you do it and how do you support your travel along the way. I will be taking a Mekong river cruise on a Sampan boat this summer from vietnam to cambodia to Laos and Myanmar. Any suggestions how I can do it cheaply with not a lot of money? I will do it the backpacking way if i have to.Thank you so much again for posting your blog.A great inspiration for travel enthusiasts like me.If you ever go to the Philippines this summer,I will be there from may to july- ( I am a filipino american) you are more than welcome to stay in my house in Laoag City which is north of the philippines. Nothing more exciting than to meet and share stories of a fellow travel enthusiast.God bless.

    • Hi GlobetrekkerMel: So glad I could inspire you to follow your passion. Freelance writing does not pay well enough to keep me (or anyone) on the road these days, especially since the Internet has taken over travel. Instead, I sell advertising on my blog, which has supported my past travels, however it is getting harder and harder to earn enough in this way. I will soon publish my first eBook, which will help, and am working on a way to earn more money from my photos – can’t say what it is yet because the site has not yet been launched. But to be able to afford perpetual travel, I no longer have a permanent home, which is not for everyone. Basically, you have to look at your talents and find a creative way to earn money from them as you travel. The Philippines is definitely on my wish list, so I may well see you one of these days!

  6. Just happened to pass by on your site. Love your personal story. It is veryIntresting,Thanks For Sharing Your Story

  7. Hi Barbara; I guess you found your joy and purpose since you are still travelling and blogging and inspiring others. I am still looking for my courage to do the same. Being stuck in security mode is not my “happy place”. Once upon a time I left everything with $3500 to my name, to live and work in Japan which turned into a 5 year awesome experience. I was 45 years old then and my first grandchild was just 6 months old. I have never found anything as satisfying in my life since my return to Canada. I’m now 65 and looking for the way to retire into something I already know, would satisfy my soul. I have my health, equity in a home and savings enough to keep me going until I would fall into the way to earn a meager living over and above pension income, maybe teaching English along the way. Its my time, but my courage seems to have left me. I’m looking for the adventurous risk taker I was way back, once upon a time. I am inspired reading your blog and so glad I bookmarked it way back when my daughter discovered you through her own bust loose experience. Any advice you may have for me would be exciting to hear. I’m ready to retire “hostmom” and follow my “heartstrings”, just not quite giving myself permission yet. How long did you go through the “what ifs” before you cast caution to the wind?

    • Hi Vicki: don’t really think I was in a “what if” mode. Mine was more along the lines of trying to please everyone else in my life but me. And, I was worried about giving up my material comforts and the potential to arrive at retirement age without enough money to exist. For me, it took the Lyme disease and thinking I might die before I could do the things I’d always dreamed of before I finally got true to myself. The one thing I can tell you is that you’ve just got to set a date and go. Once you get out there, the fear begins to subside and within a short while traveling becomes the new norm. In the words of Nike, “Just do it!”

      • Thank you so much Barbara, for taking the time to reply. Your advice is something simple that I aleady know but sometimes I need an extra boot in the butt from the outside. I will definitely tune in and let you know when I have set that date. Meanwhile I’m going to learn about blogging while I embark on what could possibly be my last season at my current well-paid JOB.

  8. Hi Barbara,

    It is nearly the end of January, but Happy New Year! Judging by all the replies to your post, it’s been nearly a year (maybe more?) since you wrote this. Also, judging by all the replies, this site keeps you busy.

    As mentioned by other women here, I am working towards a similar journey. I am turning 50 in less than one month and my divorce was finalized one month ago, so you see, I am in between 2 big events right now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I raised my 23 year old daughter alone, and she has finished University and now that my (second) husband and I have agreed to part ways (I spent quite some time looking after him)… it is my time.

    I recently developed Plantar Fasciitis, and it scared me. I went to my doctor and he told me there is no cure. That scared me. The idea that I may never be able to walk without pain, scared me. Luckily I found a compound pharmacist here who has developed a compound that helps a great deal.

    Like everyone here, I want to travel and see the world. My daughter, very wisely, told me that I need to finally do what I want to do. I spent all those years sacrificing and raising her and then doing the same for my husband. I plan to sell almost everything (except the basics and my treasures) and I need to find a way to make an income and travel. I left the corporate world a few months ago and I am trying to get my own VA Business off the ground.

    I just wanted to stop by, and thank you for so generously sharing your story and your world with all of us. Thank you for being an inspiration.

    Warmest regards,
    Jen ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Jen: Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your comment. It is SO helpful to me to hear that what I write touches a chord with readers. I know you haven’t asked for my advice, but I feel compelled to offer some anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ You didn’t say what you’re new business is, but there are so many ways to earn money when you’re location independent. I know other travel bloggers who do public speaking, offer technical support, design websites, do seminars, offer freelance writing, etc. You just have to look at the talents you have and then be creative in your thinking about how you can take them on the road. Once you know what you want to do, begin to visualize how you want your life to look. If you can do that, right down to the most minute detail, you’ll create it. I know it sounds simplistic but I am living proof that it can be done, as I’ve done it time and time again. Best of luck to you; I’m cheering for you!

  9. Hi Barbara,
    reading your story I am amazed, doing what you have done I do think it is the best
    just feeling yourself in peace with your work and your life.
    My wife got multiple esclerosis disease, with so similar synthoms like your Lime
    disease and this kind Lime similitudes are so new and amazing for me.

    We like to travel so much, but now it is not possible and I would like to travel with you.

    Thanks a lot, yours emiliano arribas

    • Hello Emilliano: So sorry to hear about your wife and that she can no longer travel. Unfortunately, I only travel solo.

  10. I have been reading your blog for a while and I am sure at some point many many moons ago I read this bio but it didn’t resonate the way it does now. I am so where you are, and I am coming so close to do the same. Unfortunately, I have an 8-year old dog and am still paying off law school debt. But I feel this is something I NEED to do. I can’t really articulate the why (I can, but not in a way that will do it justice), but the FEELING is there. I let it go for a brief time but that same feeling always returns. It nags. It’s constant. And I can’t ignore it anymore. I’m 32, I’m not married, I have no kids, and I may never get this time back. But I worry about the pup and about the debt and about making it all work (bc thus far I, like you, have been so RESPONSIBLE). Reading your story again is inspiring. We’ll see where the next few months take me… Merry Christmas!

    • Hi Koren: I’m glad I could be of some inspiration. I certainly understand what you mean about the dog. I had a 17 year old cat that kept me from making the move until she finally passed. Just stick with your intention and it will happen when the time comes.

  11. I love your blog. Itโ€™s great seeing people take the plunge and follow what truly makes them happy. You have some amazing articles and photos. If you are ever interested in submitting any articles or photos to us at BarrelHopping, we have ongoing contests where you can win cash to help fund your continued travels. For every article or photo you do submit we will also provide a link back to your site for more exposure. Our end goal is to help fellow travelers like you do more of what they love. If interested the details are on our Travel Blog

    • Thank you for the nice compliment Mike. Unfortunately, my blog and perpetual travel keep me so busy that I rarely have any time to do guest posts. But I’m so glad you enjoy my blog and appreciate that you took a moment to let me know.

  12. Hi Barbara,

    You are an inspiration! I’m so glad I found your website, it’s fantastic.

    Hopefully, I can join you in spirit in a few years as I work full time in an office and am nearing burnout even though it’s a ‘great’ job, ultimately– it does not bring me joy. I feel like I am only going through motions, this sitting in front of a computer 40 hours a week is not something humans were meant to do, I’m afraid.

    I especially liked your piece on Guanajuato. I found it because I’m looking for places to retire abroad hopefully in the future (I’m 41), so it gives me something to look forward to. All your travel tips are much appreciated. I wonder if you have any expat site recommendations?

    Thanks again & Peace to you, Lovely woman ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hi Angela: So glad you enjoyed the story of how I got to where I am. Unfortunately, I had to be hit over the head a few times before I “got it” and started following my passions, but everything happens for a reason so I’m just happy I finally woke up. Best of luck with your plans – just visualize the life you want and you can create it. I do know of one Mexico expat site that I highly recommend, written by my friends Nancy and Paul Dardarian in Mazatlan, Mexico: http://www.countdowntomexico.com. Guanajuato was fantastic, as you could see by the article I wrote. It would be among my top 5 retirement choices.All the best to you and I’ll send energy for your eventual (hopefully rapid) escape from the office drudgery.

  13. Hi Barbara,
    I came across your blog through a link via Leap Local. I’ve written a couple of Monday Escape stories for them. I’m writing to say good luck to you in your travels. What you are doing at 60, I did at age 23. My friends were working 8-5, saving up for condos and cars. I had my car and my 8-5 job as a technical writer/editor but was unhappy. When two girlfriends and I planned a trip to Europe, they stayed for a month. I, however, had quit my job and ended up gone for a year. I traveled through Europe and South Africa. I returned to Canada, only to leave for Australia, where I ended up living for 14 months. I also spent six weeks in New Zealand. Many years later (and after spending time in Vancouver and southern Ontario) I now live in Edmonton with my husband and three young daughters. I am also a writer. Your “confessions” about not having much money due to your lifestyle hit home to me. I was also like that during my travel days. Some days it must be hard, but your life experiences must be fabulous.

    If you ever decide you might need a bit more income, I might have the “job” for you. Like you, I’ve done many different things for income: retail sales, waitressing, cleaning houses to support my travels, writer/editor, secretary in hospitals and universities, elementary school teacher, published poet and short fiction writer. I’m now involved with a network marketing company, as it gives me flexibility to be there with my kids, and helps me with my own health! This is a fabulous company with the highest integrity called USANA Health Sciences. So many of the associates travel, as it’s a business you can do (in part) without a very permanent address. You do, however, need an address, but this can be changed depending on what country you are in.

    We have markets in over 15 countries. The business is health-related and involves, in part, very high-quality nutritionals that have helped many people (including the microbiologist founder) with issues like chronic fatigue sydrome. I hope you have recovered from the effects of Lyme Disease. I understand it is difficult to diagnose. Perhaps USANA’s products would help you. USANA is involved with many charities as well (Children’s Hunger Fund and Dr. Oz and wife Lisa Oz’s charity, Health Corps, to name two.) USANA has also been involved with building clinics in Guatemala and other third-world nations.

    USANA’s associates are like one big family. We have people in their 20s through to people in their 80s. It’s incredible what we can offer each other in terms of life experience, etc. If you ever want more information about USANA, let me know. In fact, depending on where you are, there might be a seminar near you. I can find out for you!

    I wish you much luck on your travels. I recall with great fondness my travel days, often on my own. I still keep in touch with some of the people I met all those years ago. What a fantastic thing to do with your life. Keep safe, Barbara. Best regards, Michelle Ward-Kantor
    p.s Have you made it to Turkey? I don’t know how safe Turkey is these days. I was there for six weeks in the late 80s. The people were fabulous and the scenery and geological areas are wondrous (Cappadocia and Ephesus are two areas that come to mind!)

  14. Barbara,
    Thanks for the IPhone tips while traveling. I was in Tanzania last year and found your photos of that area reminiscent of my trip. (see my photos @ http://www.vicrosenbergphotography.com ) I leave Friday for the Galapagos Islands. I saw 1 photo of the Galapagos on your site, but didn’t see any others? Any tips for photographing there? Also, I’d be interested in what photo gear/lenses you are carrying?
    Thanks in advance,
    Vic Rosenberg

    • Hi Vic: Only one photo of the Galapagos? I published SO many! ๐Ÿ™‚ Try clicking on this link to see more: https://holeinthedonut.com/tag/galapagos-islands/ You can get very close to the animals but it helps to have a telephoto lens. I travel with a 75-300 Tamron, which I use for portraits and wildlife, and my walk-around is a Canon EF-S 10-22 mm super wide angle, which is great for landscape and architectural shots. My camera body is a simple Canon EOS Rebel T3i – I never worry about the body but instead invest in good lenses. It’s also helpful to shoot with a polarizer. Have a wonderful time in the Galapagos!

  15. Hi Barbara,

    You’re brave. Your stroy is amazing. I run my own business and know how hard it is. I wish to do exactly the same as you do, but I need time and money. It’s hard to leave the comfort zone and face the change. I’ll keep your story as my inspiration.

    Wish you hapiness and joy in life with the great health to keep walking or contuining your journey.

    • Thank you so much Chintana. Your good wishes for joy and health mean a lot to me. I always tell people that if they can visualize the life they want, right down to the tiniest detail, they can make it a reality. So, hold a mental image of that life in your mind and have complete faith that it is happening. I firmly believe a path will open up before you. The courage part is actually taking the path. Best of luck.

  16. I am so glad i stumbled on to your blog it only confirms I am doing the right thing for me. At 52 I decided to jump in and take my first out of country trip and do it fly by the seat of my pants adventure solo( my husband refuses to travel..his loss)As I am currently unemployeed I am able to take as much time as I like and do EXACTLY what I want some family members think I am nuts but my husband has been my cheer leader and now finding someone else who has already gone before me you blog is a wonderful source of information and do’s and don’t. Thanks so much I look forward to more

    • Hi Denise: You are truly blessed that your husband is supportive in this endeavor. Lots of people told me I was crazy but fortunately I followed my own guidance, finally, after years of doing what everyone else wanted me to do. Best of luck -you’ve definitely got an adventure ahead of you!

  17. hi, barbara i really appriciate u. I am also sometimes back for a few weeks in the summer, either for business or for family. Frankly, if I had no family Iโ€™d stay overseas all the time. I prefer it to being in the States. Iโ€™ve never really done the math for my travel expenses, but if I had to guess Iโ€™d say I average betwee $20-25 per day, including accommodations and food

    • Thanks annelieseamsel: I really appreciate you taking time to comment. I’m pretty much the same way -don;t like going back to the U.S. Looking for my perfect place (or combination of perfect places), but not sure I’ve found them yet.

  18. Balance in life is lost easily and you lose sight that something other than work exists. You forget how to be a person and become a robot in so many ways. Good for you for making the changes you did.

  19. Hi Barbara, this is Augstin i,m proud of you about your 6 months travel as solo also agree with you to got what you are lost in your life i,m so happy for that and thanks for providing valuable money tips about credit cards.I will definitely follow those tips.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your story ! and what an inspirational woman you are! hope to meet you at Nepal when you are in Nepal/

  21. Dear Barbara,

    This is Kong Sothanarith. I appreciate very much your travel, your photography and information you shared. Your photos were fantastic. I am enthusiastic while seeing Angkor Wat temple from my country in your photo gallery.

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