Betsy and her husband, Warren, sold everything they owned and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime together. In 2008, they decided that they loved each other but not their lives so the did something about it. They spent the next two years planning and saving and they are still living this dream today! Warren and Betsy are both writers and they share their experiences on their blog and in their published works. I love that they took their dreams, made them happen and use this foundation to help others. Who doesn't want to be living their dream life? But how many people take actionable steps to get there? Not many.
I was really interested in learning more about Betsy so I thought I'd throw some questions her way and share the answers with you.
How many countries have you traveled to together? What was your favorite?
Betsy: We've never counted countries, but it's probably 3 dozen or so. Our Tripline map says we've been to 96 cities so far. We both loved Antarctica because it's like no place on earth, but if you're talking more accessible travel, then it would definitely be Mongolia for us both. It's such an unspoiled place – imagine seeing no fences ever and people and animals living off the land like they have for a thousand years. It is as spectacularly beautiful as the food is incredibly bad. But hopefully that last fact will keep the tourism down and it will stay mostly unspoiled.
What is the biggest challenge in working and living together?
Betsy: It's the 24/7 thing. No matter how much you love someone, it's tough to be together all the time and have every social, personal and professional thing be wrapped up together. You're essentially sleeping with your coworker, and you've read all the warnings about that! And there's no complaining about work after hours because you never really leave the office.
So you have to create distinct roles and respect boundaries. You also have to be nice to each other, especially living in such small spaces all the time. In fact, our next book is about the relationship lessons we've learned from being together so much in the last few years. If the average couple spends 2 hours a day together, we're practically on our golden anniversary, time-wise. It gives a certain amount of wisdom, but it also reveals talents in your mate you might not get to appreciate if you didn't work together.
Even though it was a difficult transition, I'm thankful every day that we live, work and travel together.
Do you write together or separately?
Betsy:As I said above, you have to assign roles or you'll nitpick and over think each other to death. We come up with the idea/structure together through brainstorming, usually with a notepad and during several hikes (exercise is great for creativity). When we have a basic structure, I start writing. Warren is the project manager of the entire book and is the first editor of everything, giving me notes on what I write every week. He also does the majority of the research and the final layout when it's back from the line editor. After 3 books, we've developed a pretty good system of working separately together to make it successful.
If you could start over in your writing journey, what would you do differently?
Betsy: You mean, besides starting sooner? We'd be more open about sharing our work in its rough stages to get the feedback to make it better. We'd also invest in professional help sooner, such as editors and designers. It makes all the difference to have that kind of input into your project.
We've been blogging for a long time personally and professionally, but we didn't do it with the end goal of writing books soon enough. That's one thing I'd do differently.
Do you feel that being a writer and a blogger are two different things?
Betsy: They are two different aspects of writing, that's for sure. It takes a different mindset to write for a blog than it does for a book. In a blog post, you're writing about a concept that will be closed out in 1500 words or less. In the book, you're expanding on a topic for 60,000 words or more. A writer also gets immediate input on a blog post, whereas it takes much longer to get the same kind of feedback on a book.
We enjoy doing both, but we do appreciate the differences in strategy and execution.
Many writers aren't convinced that they need a blog. How has this helped your writing careers?
Betsy: I don't think we could be successful indie publishers without the success of our blog. It's core to our entire platform, and it's where we test and hone all of our ideas before they become books. Every single book we've written started out as a series on our website. (And a few books we didn't write started out the same way; the feedback showed they were ideas that didn't need to be expanded to book form. Knowing what ideas are duds is just as valuable as identifying great ideas.)
We start marketing our books long before they're even written by posting on our blog, and we also publish a podcast and a weekly newsletter of original content through our website. All of these things broaden our platform and give us the necessary insight to write better books for our readers. If you don't know what people want, how could you possibly create it for them? A blog is an excellent way to connect with your readers and establish your identity and overall mission (because you'll hopefully write more than one book).
Has social media played a part in your writing success?
Betsy: I don't know how we would know what to write about if we didn't have connections via social media. We have a certain experience and knowledge base, but knowing exactly what and how to share with your audience comes from connecting with them. You have to ask and listen to know, and social media makes this very easy. Plus, we selfishly like being around other people who want to make their lives and the world a better place, so it's both essential to our writing process and beneficial to the way we've chosen to live.
Another benefit for us has been professionally. We've connected via Google Plus with other writers who work like we do, and having the ability to exchange information and even just blow off steam a little has been incredible. Writing can be a lonely business if you don't reach out to connect with other writers.
That said, I do think there is an over-reliance on social media, at least in terms of time spent. Many writers count their time at the desk as writing time, even if it is spent on social media. If you're not getting your daily line count in but you're checking social media every day, you're probably spending too much time on social media.
What's next on the horizon for you?
Betsy: Professionally, we're working our next book about relationships. We've learned a lot about getting along from having to get along 24/7 these past few years, and it is the book readers have been asking us to write for over a year now. We are really excited to release this in January 2014.
We're also enjoying the success of our new podcast, which is something we had not considered doing before. It's been a great way to connect with our audience in a different way as well as make contacts with other writers and experts who can add value to our message. It may not be the thing you normally think of as a writer, but people are intrigued to hear the voices and personalities behind the words.
Personally, we're gearing up for a 300-mile trek along the Lycian Way in Turkey this fall. It's going to be our biggest physical challenge yet, and we're so thankful for this newfound zest for health and fitness in middle age. Our lives are far more exciting in our 40s than they ever were in our 20s!
Your life story is being made into a movie. Who would be cast to play you?
Betsy: I've been told repeatedly that I look like a younger Shirley MacLaine, and Warren is obviously Patrick Dempsey with that wild sexy hair of his. Hollywood routinely pairs an older man paired with a woman half his age, so I think we'll stick with those casting decisions and see what kind of waves it would make.
Unless, of course, we could play ourselves. Being the DIY type, that would be our first choice!