DU Alumni

Alumni couple take an around-the-world adventure

Michael and Amy Chamberlain-Torres stand in front of the Český Krumlov Castle in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic, during their trip around the world. Courtesy photo

In November 2011, one year and four months after their wedding, Michael (BSBA ’08) and Amy Chamberlain-Torres (BS ’09, MBA ’09) took the plunge they’d talked about for years. They quit their jobs, put their possessions in storage and set off to travel around the world. The couple—who met on their first day at DU—are blogging about their experiences at chamborres.wordpress.com. In mid-April, after journeys through Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic, the pair landed in Split, Croatia, where we caught up with them by phone.

Q: Are you planning to hit every continent?

Michael: The plan is to try and visit every continent other than Antarctica — we haven’t quite figured out how to make that work. The plan is to head from here to China, and after spending about a month in China we’ll head to southeast Asia and work our way down to Australia and New Zealand, catch a flight from there to South America and then work our way back up to the States. As far as Africa goes, the only stop we were able to make so far that we really have planned is visiting Morocco.


Q: Do you have a set schedule — are you staying in each place a given amount of time, or are you leaving when the mood strikes you?

Amy: It’s mostly when the mood strikes us. We have a little bit of a plan currently because we want to book airfare in advance. We fly to Istanbul in a couple of weeks, so we know we have to be in Sarajevo to make that flight, but for the most part the trip is pretty flexible and we fly by the seat of our pants.



Q: Is that scary, or is that liberating?

Michael: A little bit of both at the same time. When we first started doing it, I think it was a little bit scary to not know where we were going, but we’re reaching the point where now it’s a lot more fun and liberating to just do a little bit of research and say, “let’s go.”


Q: I saw on your website that you’re traveling very light and just carrying one pack each.

Amy: We each have one what we consider relatively small backpack, so not too much with us, but it’s actually been really liberating — one of the most liberating things about the trip, at least for me: no belongings other than what’s on our back.


Q: Do you think that’s going to give you a different perspective when you come back, as far as how much stuff you actually need in your life?

Amy: Definitely. Our life is packed away in a storage unit in Denver, and I think when we come back we’re going to realize, “Wow, we have way more than we really need to live life.” We’ll see how that goes when we get back.


Q: You’ve been at this since December — what are some of the other lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Michael: One that we talk about frequently is we’re on this trip thinking it will be so great to quote-unquote “see the world,” but every time we go to a city, the world’s not getting any smaller, it’s just getting bigger and bigger and we’re realizing more and more what an enormous place it is and how much there really is to see out there. Instead of trying to conquer it and see everything, we’re just trying to really enjoy every day and enjoy what we can see.


Q: Do you get the sense that in countries like China or places in the east — is that going to be any more difficult in terms of hostels and getting around, compared to European culture where maybe it’s a little more like America?

Amy: It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Neither of us has visited Asia before so the excitement and the unknown aspect of it are different than Europe. Europe is very much like America in a lot of ways. We’re excited to jump into Asia and see what surprises it has for us. I think it might be different in terms of accommodations — I don’t know if hostels will be as much of the type of place we’ll stay in Asia, but we’ll find out.


Q: Tell us a little about the genesis of this trip — is this something you guys had been talking about for a long time and finally decided to pull the trigger on, or it did it all happen pretty fast?

Michael: It’s something that we had been talking about casually for many years, then we really started talking about it right around the same time we were planning for our wedding. So that would have been around two years ago that we started to make a savings plan and started setting aside money and cutting down on our costs and looking at where we might want to go. Then probably July or August of last year is when we really pulled the trigger and said, “OK we’ve reached a point savings-wise where we can make this happen.”


Q: And what was that point — what did you feel like had to happen before you were able to do it?

Amy: A lot of it was monetary — being confident that we were going to be able to pay student loans, pay our mortgage and confidently resign from our jobs while being able to meet all those expenses and the anticipated ones we were going to have on the trip. A lot of being able to pull the trigger was monetary. Emotionally and travel-wise we were ready to go years ago.


Q: What was the reaction like from your co-workers and your bosses when you told them you were quitting to do this?

Michael: It was positive across the board, which was really great. It’s never easy to resign from a position, particularly when it’s a job that you really like, but both of our direct bosses thought it was great and really understood it was the opportunity of a lifetime right now while we’re young and childless to be able to travel the world and see everything that was out there.

Amy: It was also nice that both of our employers gave us the OK to come back to work for them if that is what we want to do. It’s reassuring to have that in the back of our minds.


Q: Do you have the sense that the trip will change the course of what you want to do, career-wise, when you get back?

Amy: It’s something we talk about often. Both of us were very content and excited about our career paths before the trip so it’s definitely something we would consider going back to, but after 2½ months on the road, we’ve learned so much and talked about different businesses we’d like to start. We’re both really entrepreneurial, and we’d love to make the travel industry part of our career path. It’s definitely still up in the air as to what it will look like if and when we go back home.


Q: You’ve been married almost two years — what’s it been like spending every waking minute together in a way that maybe you didn’t before when you were both working?

Michael: It’s actually been really, really great. It’s something we were a little bit worried about. Sometimes you read things about traveling, like when you spend all day with someone, they can drive you crazy, but thus far we have absolutely loved it.


Q: You both did study abroad while you were at DU — was that the beginning of your love affair with traveling, or had that already been going on?

Amy: I’ve always had a dream of traveling. I grew up in a big family where our vacations were camping in the nearby forest because there were so many of us that that was our travel. So that was one of my dreams, but for me, studying abroad through DU, in Denmark, definitely lit the fire and made me want to go see more and more.

Michael: For me, it was something I wanted to do as a young kid. My grandmother was a travel agent, and I remember seeing photographs and trinkets and journals that she had from all her travels when I was growing up, and it always inspired me to go see the world. Studying abroad in Chile really made me think that it’s doable — that I can go out there and explore and the world’s not going to be a scary place but more of an amazing place.


Q: Did doing study abroad change your outlook on travel at all, or did it reinforce what you already thought?

Amy: For me it changed my outlook because of the fact that I lived with a host family. I’d never traveled with a home-space situation before, so being able to dive into one culture and really become a part of it changed my outlook on travel. When you go be a tourist in a country it’s a totally different experience than when you live with a host family or surf on someone’s couch. DU study abroad opened me up to the possibility of immersion travel rather than tourism.




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