Category Archives: Digital Nomad

7 Ways Women Get Paid to Travel the World

Of course you want to get paid to travel the world. Who doesn’t?

Okay okay, not everyone wants to make money traveling.  Some people actually prefer to work from a more stable home base. As someone who recently came home after 15 years of traveling and moving around the U.S and the world, I definitely get the appeal of having a car, a gym membership, and a regular chiropractor.

But if you’re not quite ready to settle down, or if you’ve been settled down and you’re itching to get out there and explore,  there are some seriously viable (read: lucrative) options for doing so.

No, you don’t need a trust fund. No, you don’t necessarily need to teach English abroad.

In fact, most of the ways to get paid to travel do not involve a “regular” job at all, regular meaning a stationary gig where you report to the same place everyday and are therefore stuck, just like you were stuck back home.

No, these jobs are truly mobile, in that they give you a way to make money and travel pretty much wherever you want, whenever you want.

If you think that sounds too good to be true, think again my friend! I personally did a combination of #2 and #3 for 13 months while backpacking through Asia.

Also, I haven’t included anything on this list unless I actually know someone who has a) done it, or b) is doing it as we speak.

Ready to get paid to travel? Here are 7 ways to do it in 2016:

#1: Coder/Programmer

If you can write code, develop websites, or know the language of CSS, you can work as a freelance web developer from just about anywhere with a Wifi connection.

Now before you protest that you don’t know how to code, relax: you can learn!

Organizations like Girls Who Code are dedicated to teaching the next generation of female engineers. You can also teach yourself to code on Udemy or teach yourself to code in 8 weeks or less.

Once you’ve learned a coding language, you can hop on websites like Upwork or Freelancer.com to find paying gigs as a coder, which you’ll complete from anywhere in the world you happen to be.

#2: Virtual Assistant

This is a GREAT way to get paid to travel while staying totally mobile. Plus, you don’t have to learn any special skills. If you’re organized and a good communicator, you can get a regular gig as someone’s Virtual Assistant (VA) or online business manager.

Here’s what a day in the life of a VA might look like while traveling:

  • Wake up in [insert foreign city of your choice here].
  • Have breakfast while checking emails from your client and making a to-do list for the day.
  • Work for 2-3 hours in your hotel room or guest house. “Work” could include anything from managing social media accounts to scheduling travel, responding to emails, conducting research, or doing data entry.
  • Spend the afternoon site-seeing in your destination!
  • Enjoy dinner out.
  • Return to your hotel for more work.
  • Lather, rinse, and repeat, adding travel days into the mix when you’re ready to move on to your next location.

Find VA gigs on UpworkFreelancer.com, or Virtual Assistant Jobs.

#3 Freelance writer

Get paid to travel by becoming a freelance writer. This could involve travel blogging, copywriting, journalism, creative writing, or a combination of all of the above.

Assuming you have some decent writing skills, the main question that needs answering is “Where do I find writing gigs?”.

For me, the answer was always through Elance, a website that was recently bought by Upwork. Upwork is the place to go if you want to write SEO copy for online businesses, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.

What do I mean by “SEO copy”? That could mean press releases, website copy, bios, blog posts, eBooks, and so on, all of which have been “optimized” for search engines using the right keywords. (If you want to learn how to do this, you can hire me to teach you for cheap).

For creative writing gigs and journalism, check out Writer’s Market. They post publishing opportunities from magazines, trade publications, publishing houses, and newspapers all over the world.

Freelance writing is a very in-depth topic, but suffice it to say that copywriting will bring you faster cash, while creative writing/journalism will bring more notoriety (and bigger bucks long-term).

While traveling, I loved being able to log on to Elance, bid for a job, work for a few hours from my hotel, and get paid within a few days.

#4 Professional Gambler

Here’s another online opportunity that allows you to get paid while traveling. I knew a girl who made an obscene amount of money as an online gambler. Obviously it helps to know a thing or two about gambling, playing cards, and the like, and to enjoy playing these kinds of games.

If that’s your bag, it’s an awesome way to make extra money while traveling without ever having to find a “real” job!

#5. Insurance Adjuster

My friend is an insurance claims adjuster and she seriously travels more than anyone else I know. Granted, she doesn’t always get to choose her destinations, but she makes enough money that she’s able to travel regularly throughout the year during her down time.

Besides, most of the places she seems to go for work are vacation destinations to most people: London, Thailand, Switzerland, Bermuda….

6. Day trader

Being a day trader is another skilled trade that can be easily learned so you can get paid to travel.

I used to date a guy who was a day trader by day (duh), and a film director by night. He worked from home and had total flexibility in terms of when, how often, and how much he worked.

Jobs like that make perfect travel jobs – just ask this top travel blogger who funds his adventures with day trading.

I personally know zilch about the stock market, but if I wanted to build real wealth while traveling (as opposed to simply make enough to fund my travels), I’d choose this option.

7. Extreme Athlete (or extreme anything)

Don’t laugh! I’m serious! And I promised I wouldn’t include anything on this list unless I knew someone who was making it work…

Well, our contributing writer Shirine Taylor is cycling around the world. That’s pretty extreme, wouldn’t you say? When Shirine began her trip, she was living on savings. Now, after starting a successful blog to document her adventures, she’s gained sponsors, donations, and global recognition.

Shirine isn’t a professional athlete – she’s just a girl who loves to cycle! If you’re passionate about a sport, dancing, heck, even bagpiping, there are people who will pay to watch you do it.

Another travel blogger I know of is bagpiping her way around the world. People who also love bagpipes sponsor her to do it, just like people who love Wandering Earl sponsor him to keep on a-wandering!

If you choose this option, be sure to go big. Choose a niche sport or hobby that people are fanatical about, then start with a crowdfunding campaign to get the word out about your journey.

Are you ready to get paid to travel? Which option do you think would be the best fit for you?

Luxury Travel on a Backpacker’s Budget

“The best things in life are free. The second-best things are very, very expensive.” ~ Coco Chanel

You can experience the wonders of luxury travel on a backpacker’s budget.

How do I know?

Because the most luxurious time in my life was spent traipsing through Asia for 13 months with nothing but a backpack and a laptop.

Let me explain.

By luxury travel, I’m talking about the energized, eye-opening kind of travel that makes your heart burst out of your chest and your soul dive headlong into the present moment.

Sure, there might be a fancy hotel room involved, or a tropical drink sweating in the palm of your hand, but those things aren’t the point. Those things aren’t what makes travel luxurious.

luxury-travel-1

True luxury can’t be bought. Oh sure, you can spring for a stay at an all-inclusive resort, guiltily tip your dedicated waitstaff as they tidy your 16-bedroom beachfront bungalow, or enjoy wine tastings on a yacht made of diamonds.

All of that’s well and good, but none of it is enough to make you feel luxurious in your mind and your heart.

True luxury is time. True luxury is freedom. True luxury is a break from stress, responsibility, and the cares of the world.

luxury-travel-2

There’s nothing more luxurious than freedom.

 

While traveling long-term in Asia, I experienced true luxury travel even though I was more “flashpacker” than luxe traveler.

By working as I traveled and carefully choosing midrange hotels, I experienced the luxury of having money for the first time in my life.

  • I ate out every single meal
  • I stayed in high-rise beachfront hotels
  • I stayed in riverfront bungalows
  • I had my laundry sent out
  • I even splurged on the occasional massage or mani/pedi!

…and all of this on a budget of about $15-$25/day.

But the perks of being an American traveling in South and Southeast Asia had little to do with the threadcount of my sheets or the view from my hotel room.

Simply having the free time to travel and the money to see, eat, and do whatever I wanted was easily the most luxurious experience of my life.

luxury-travel-4

True luxury is being able to afford meals and restaurants you never could at home.

 

Now, in order to experience this kind of luxury travel, choosing the right destination is key. I could probably have never gotten away with this in Europe, or North America, or even in pricier Asian cities like Shanghai or Ho Chi Minh City.

But by choosing destinations that were more affordable, I was able to live as luxury traveler on a budget of about $15/day.

Da Nang: The most luxurious budget travel destination in Southeast Asia

Da Nang is as beautiful as Vancouver BC except sunnier and cheaper.

Da Nang is as beautiful as Vancouver BC except sunnier and cheaper.

Da Nang, Vietnam is one of the best luxury travel destinations on the planet, regardless of your definition of luxury.

There are scores of resorts that line the coast between China Beach and Hoi An, and they run the gamut from $200/night hotels to $10,000/night luxury villas.

But Da Nang is truly decadent because of the possibilities for backpackers and midrange travelers.

  • The beautiful beaches lining China Beach are free and open to the public. If you’d like to drink or dine somewhere posh right on the water, you can enjoy happy hour for less than $10 USD.
  • There are amazing outdoor seafood restaurants everywhere in Da Nang. They offer fresh-caught, live seafood in all shapes and sizes. Customers get to point to their lunch and enjoy ice-cold cans of Bia La Rue while their lobster is being boiled to perfection. You can have a seafood bonanza for two for less than $15 USD.
  • Monkey Mountain commands a skyline that overlooks a glistening city of bridges and sparkling architecture. It’s free to explore the mountain and there’s only a nominal cost to gain entrance to the Lady Buddha statue (Vietnam’s tallest!), which guards the East Sea like an angelic Madonna.
True luxury travel: feeling free on a Vietnamese beach in a weird outfit.

True luxury travel: feeling free on a Vietnamese beach in a weird outfit.

Luxury abounds throughout the world, but it’s possible to experience luxury travel without breaking the bank.

For me, the true mark of luxury lies in the freedom of low-cost living. Being able to truly relax and enjoy each destination is infinitely more luxurious than any yacht or swanky resort could ever be.

What does luxury travel mean to you?

 

 

5 Easy Ways to Make Money Traveling

If you make money traveling, it means that you can travel indefinitely.

Making money while you travel means you don’t have to stick to a strict budget because money is always flowing in.

It also means you’re free to roam the planet at will without being stuck working abroad at a teaching job or other full-time gig.

So how can you make money traveling without signing a teaching contract, becoming an au pair, or searching for one of those elusive private yacht jobs?

By becoming a digital nomad, that’s how.

If you have a laptop and basic computer skills, you can easily make the world your office and travel abroad forever.

Here are 5 websites to help you make money traveling without committing to a “regular” job.

1. Upwork.com

Upwork.com is a website for freelancers.

Companies and small businesses post jobs for everything from copywriting to web design to tutoring services. Freelancers then compete for said jobs by creating and submitting job proposals.

But don’t worry if you’re not a brilliant web programmer and can’t write your way out of a paper bag. There are zillions of jobs posted on Upwork every day, and I know you’ll find something that’s a good fit for your skill set.

When I first started doing online marketing, I got 95% of my clients via Elance (now Upwork). I tell everyone about the site and I’m amazed that more people don’t use it to make money traveling.

2. Fiverr.com

On Fiverr.com, people will pay you $5 to do just about anything.

That could be something that requires technical skills, like web design or social media, OR it could be something completely ridiculous like paying you $5 to break up with their girlfriend.

Check out the site and see who the high rollers are, look at who’s making the most money and how.

Figure out how you can incorporate travel into what you’re offering. For example, can you send people postcards from anywhere in the world for $5? What about writing their wife’s name on a sign and taking a picture with it in front of the Eiffel Tower?

Remember that you’re traveling and people wish they could be you. Work that to your advantage on Fiverr, and don’t forget to offer “upsells” – the postcard is $5, but for $10 they can get rush delivery, and for $25 you’ll send 5 postcards.

Also, don’t forget that if you’re traveling in low-cost countries, $5 goes a lot further than it does back home. (Like, a lot further. Like hotel room-further.)

3. TakeLessons.com

TakeLessons is a site for teachers and students. I use those terms loosely. If you have something to teach, you can connect with someone who wants to learn it.

Teachers teach lessons to students via Skype, Google Hangouts, or in person. Since you’ll be traveling, you’ll probably want to shoot for online lessons, though it could be cool to set up some in-person lessons in the cities you’re visiting abroad.

Popular categories are things like singing lessons, French lessons, WordPress lessons and acting lessons, but don’t let those categories deter you. If you are passionate about World of Warcraft or Flamenco, chances are other people too.

Create a free account, set your hourly rate, and make sure you specify your time zone. Students will sign up for a time slot and you’ll get paid via Paypal.

Voila! Who’da thunk you could make money traveling so easily?

4. Clarity.fm

This site is sort of like Fiverr meets TakeLessons. It’s more business-focused, so if you have a background in online marketing, design, or technology, this is totally your bag.

The way it works is simple: set up a free account, fill out your profile, specify your areas of expertise, and set your “call rate.”

You call rate is the amount of money people pay you per minute to speak with you on the phone (or via Skype) and pick your brain about whatever topic you’re an expert in.

“But I’m not an expert in anything!” I hear you cry.

Oh no? Well, you can read this sentence, can’t you? Which means that a) your English skills are better than billions of other people on the planet, and b) your computer skills, which allowed you to open a web browser and navigate to this page, are equally as impressive.

Clarity also has an “other” section for non-business related skill sets, so now you really have no excuse not to make money traveling.

5. Skype

I will never understand why people moan and groan about the cost of travel when Skype exists.

Using Skype, you can make money traveling anytime and anyplace, as long as you have an Internet connection. You don’t even need a laptop because you can use the Skype app on your smartphone.

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve seen people make money traveling while using Skype:

  • As an online therapist
  • As a life coach
  • As an intuitive healer
  • As an academic tutor
  • As a singing teacher
  • As a business consultant

The benefit of using Skype instead of the above-mentioned websites is that Skype won’t charge a fee when you book a client (the other sites take small to medium cuts of any business you get through them).

On the other hand, if you choose to use Skype you’ll have to do all of the legwork to find and book clients. The other sites make it easy to find prospects and score more business.

The other day I celebrated my 6th full month of long-term travel. Hey, it’s not much compared to rock stars like Wandering Earl who’ve been traveling since 1999, but for me, it’s a huge accomplishment.

And I never could have done it if I’d had to save up a bunch of money first (I suck at saving money), or gotten a job teaching English abroad.

For me, working full time for someone else in a different country is just as constricting as working full time for someone else at home.

I want to be free to travel where I want, when I want, and the only way I can do that is by being a digital nomad.

It’s not all roses and milk tea, though. You have to work hard, and you have to, well, work.

That in and of itself can be challenging when everyone else around you is on holiday and you’re cooped up in your hotel room strapped to your laptop.

But you know what? On days I’m stuck instead working for 8 or 10 or 14 hours, I still get to take a break, have lunch, and walk outside and see this:

make-money-traveling

And I still get to marvel at thoughts like “holy CRAP I’m in [insert crazy destination here] right now!” And thoughts like that make the long hours more than worth it.

If I were you and I wanted to see the world, but I didn’t know how I could afford it, I’d look into any of these websites.

If I had to choose one, it’d be Odesk, especially if you are a native English speaker because you will crush the competition.

Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. Elance.com

2. Fiverr.com

3. TakeLessons.com

4. Clarity.fm

5. Skype!

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

5 Must-have’s for your Digital Nomad Toolkit

The benefits of working as a digital nomad are obvious – the freedom to travel, the ability to make money anywhere, and the gloriousness of being your own boss.

I’m quick to say that all you need to be a digital nomad is a laptop and a strong WiFi signal, but that’s not exactly the whole story.

To perpetuate the digital nomad lifestyle, you need to have a variety of tools in your toolkit.

Some of these tools are tangible things like apps and helpful websites, while others are a bit more esoteric.

Here are 5 ways to pimp out your digital nomad toolkit and make sure your long-term travel lifestyle keeps on keepin’ on.

5. Infusionsoft

Monday's office

Monday’s office

Infusionsoft has saved my life (and my as$!) time and time again.

It’s the application I use to send you all those snazzy emails, manage my contacts, and run my entire marketing department (which consists of, well, me.).

Recently I got really sick while traveling in Vietnam.  I mean really sick, like maybe-my-mom-should-fly-here-to-say-goodbye-sick.

And during the entire month when I was in and out of hospitals, my marketing kept churning as if I was still in my digital office.

Infusionsoft lets you automate everything, and I mean everything.

So when I was lying in the hospital with tubes sticking out of my arms, you were reading an email from me as if I’d just sent it.

It’s truly bomb. If you’re a digital nomad, you have clients and other human-types who send you money when you do work for them.

Infusionsoft lets you keep track of said clients, keep in touch with them, and make sure their money keeps landing in your pocket.

Watch a free demo of Infusionsoft when you click here.

4. WordLens

digital-nomad-tuesday-office

Tuesday’s office

i just discovered this app when the developer shot me an email and was like “Rebs, why aren’t you using my app?”

And I was like “Menno, why should I?”

And Menno was like, “Because it’s awesome!”

I downloaded WordLens for iOS and have been hooked ever since.

Here’s how it works: open the app, hold your phone up to a sign or other text in a foreign language, and click “start.”

The app reads and translates the sign right on your phone.

After having some serious miscommunications thanks to Google Translate (which might as well be called Google Transcrap), this app came as a life saver.

It’s great for a digital nomad who is traveling between “offices,” is on the hunt for a new guest house, or simply needs to know whether they’re walking into the men’s or the ladies room.

Right now the app works with signs that are in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian. I’ve begged Menno to add Chinese and Vietnamese, so hopefully that’s in the works too.

3. Hustle-aciousness

digital-nomad-wed-office

Wednesday’s office

You can’t be a successful digital nomad without hustle-aciousness (n. the ability to consistently hustle). 

Digital nomads can’t sit around waiting for work to come to them, and they can’t travel the world like they’re on perpetual vacation.

Make sure you’re spending some time every day working, following up with clients, and taking care of your bidness – especially on days when you’re out seeing the sights in whatever city you happen to be in.

It can be really, really easy to get sucked into the non-working mentality other travelers have, and to let your laptop start collecting dust.

But if you do that for too long, you’ll have to go home. And that’s the last thing you want to do, right?

2. Shoeboxed

digital-nomad-thurs-office

Thursday’s office

You’ve got to, got to, got to get and keep yourself organized as a digital nomad.

Shoeboxed is a great way to do it. Shoeboxed is what I use to scan all of my receipts and do my taxes while I’m traveling abroad.

If you’re a digital nomad, just about everything you buy is a tax write-off. It’s tough to keep track of zillions of hotel receipts and flights, especially when you’re constantly changing hotel rooms and cities.

With Shoeboxed, I snap a photo of a receipt the second I get it, then recycle it. All of the info I need for my taxes is magically beamed to a cloud-based account, and my backpack stays nice and light without the added burden of paper piles.

Shoeboxed lets you do a free 30-day trial too, which is rad because you can scan a lot of receipts in 30 days – check it out here.

1. Extreme flexibility and mind-boggling patience

Friday's office

Friday’s office

A digital nomad is defined by his or her ability to be flexible and patient in less-than-ideal work circumstances. [CLICK TO TWEET]

  • The WiFi goes out, or is painfully slow, or won’t let you log on to Facebook.
  • Monday you’re in a quiet guest house, but by Wednesday you’re forced to work from a coffee shop.
  • The power goes out so you have to write/design/brainstorm/research using – gasp!  – pen and paper.

Never knowing where you’ll be working (or if you’ll be working) is half the fun of being a digital nomad.

If you’re an aspiring digital nomad, cultivate patience and flexibility within yourself before you get on the road – believe you me, you’re gonna need it.

YE OLDE DISCLAIMER: I’m a proud-as-punch affiliate of some of the services I’ve listed above, like Infusionsoft, Shoeboxed, and some other secret linkedy-links you’ll have to click to find out about! What this means is if you end up taking my advice and signing up for a service through this site, the fine folks at Infusionsoft and Shoeboxed might find it in their hearts to throw a little scratch my way. Scratch that I’ll use to continue being a digital nomad!

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now. 

Quick+Dirty Takeaway

Mighty Digital Nomad,

Make sure your toolkit contains the following 5 essentials:

1. Infusionsoft for email marketing and CRM

2. WordLens to you can magically read signs in foreign languages

3. Hustle-aciousness so the dough keeps flowing and you can keep traveling

4. Shoeboxed so you can track your travel expenses and scan your receipts

5. Flexibility and patience so you don't lose your s$%! every time the power goes out, the WiFi is slow, or your guest house owner decides to throw a party with 67 of his closest friends during your regular work hours.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

5 Travel Apps for Staying Organized and Saving Money

I’m not really an “app person” (those people exist, right?) but for some reason when I started traveling abroad, I became addicted to travel apps.

This is probably because I actually need and use the apps I have, most of them on a daily basis.

These travel apps turn my iPhone into a compass, a receipt scanner, a translator, a currency converter, and a travel agent – and every single one of them was free.

1. GlobeConvert Free (my currency converter)

I still use this app all the time, even though I’ve been back in Vietnam for over 6 weeks and have a pretty solid handle on the conversion rate.

If a taxi driver quotes you 2 million dong for  a 3-km cab ride, you can whip out your phone and remind yourself that 2 million dong is about $100, and inform him that you’ll be using another taxi driver thankyouverymuch.

This app has just about every currency imaginable, and it’s easy to toggle back and forth between them.

2. Shoeboxed (my receipt scanner)

Here’s how my lazy butt “manages my finances” back home: I swipe my debit card, then I check my bank account online. That’s pretty much it.

The problem with traveling abroad in Asia is that the entire continent seems to operate on a cash-only basis, which means I need to get receipts, which means I need to keep those receipts organized.

I stay at a lot of different hotels, so I’m constantly collecting scraps of paper. The problem is that my backpack is already stuffed to the brim without adding an ever-growing pile of paper receipts into the mix!

Shoeboxed has been the answer to my prayers. With this travel app I simply snap a picture of the receipt in question, then toss said receipt in the recycling bin. All of the info from the receipt – including the date, amount spent, the vendor, and the location – is magically beamed to my Shoeboxed account.

Shoeboxed can even detect which tax category my receipt falls under. If I scan a receipt from a hotel I stayed at, it will be automatically labeled as a “travel and transport” write off.

This made doing my taxes so easy this year, that when I was finished, I had a big “I finished my taxes really fast!” party in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

If you like the sound of Shoeboxed, you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking here.

3. Compass by Tim O’s Studios (my – duh – compass)

This app has saved me a ton of money and has saved me from getting lost time and time again.

For some reason the Google maps app on my phone doesn’t always come through. Also, sometimes I don’t buy a local SIM card if I’m not going to be in a country for a long period of time.

In those moments – no cellular data and/or cranky Google gods – I’m flying blind and rely on this app to get me where I’m going. You may not know exactly how to find a place, but you can at least get yourself in the general vicinity.

It’s also great when you’re riding in taxis.

Make sure you know which direction you’re supposed to be headed by checking a map before you get in the cab. Then, whip out your compass app and make sure you’re heading the right way.

If your driver is happily soaring due east when the temple you want to see is most definitely to the west, you can speak up (before the meter runs up!)

4. Skyscanner (my airfare agent)

This is one of my favorite travel apps for booking airfare and checking airline prices, especially in SE Asia. Skyscanner shows you all of the available flights for your desired dates and makes it simple to filter by price.

It also shows you every airline that flies between your destinations, and lets you book airfare right from your phone.

5. Hostelworld (my accommodation agent)

Hostelworld’s app is a great research tool, even if you don’t end up booking through their site. A lot of the time, I only prebook a single night at a hotel or guest house in case I end up hating the place.

This travel app lets you see how much you can expect to pay for a private room at various hostels in various parts of the city.

Let’s say you look up hostel prices in Hanoi and see that a private room in the Old Quarter is around $12/night, while a private room in the West Lake area of town is closer to $30/night.

Armed with this information, you’re ready to negotiate a great deal on a room (and ready to laugh out loud when a $12 hotel tries to charge $30, knowing that you can walk next door and find a much better price).

Conclusion (starring Ryan Gosling)

I’ve heard some people recommend leaving the smartphone at home and buying a cheap cell once you arrive in country.

For me, having a smartphone and using awesome travel apps saves me money, keeps me safe, and even makes me feel a lot more organized than I typically do at home. I really couldn’t survive without it.

I also couldn’t survive without the hope that someday, somehow, Ryan Gosling will realize that we were destined to be together, will dump whichever gorgeous actress he’s married to at the moment, and will fly to Paris to sweep me up and start making a baker’s dozen of Little Goslings. (see how I’m in Paris in this fantasy? That’s what separates the dreamers from the deranged. I might even add a pet monkey into the scenario if the mood strikes.)

Yep, just struck.

travel-apps-2

Which travel apps can’t you live without?

YE OLDE DISCLAIMER: If you sign up for a Shoeboxed account (which you should totally do, btw), the good people at Shoeboxed just might find it in their hearts to throw some scratch my way. But don’t get the wrong idea – I am a loyal Shoeboxed customer and would never recommend the service to you if it sucked. It sucketh not! Go get your free trial already!

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now. 

Quick+Dirty Takeaway

I can't live without....

1. GlobeConvert Free for currency conversion

2. Shoeboxed for receipt scanning

3. Compass by Tim O for my compass

4. Skyscanner for checking and booking airfare

5. Hostelworld for researching accommodation prices

6. Eating great spring rolls with Ryan Gosling in Paris while my pet monkey sits on my shoulder and Ryan and I discuss whether or not we'll have to get rid of the monkey when the twins are born.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

Liebster Madness!

You may have noticed that I have a lot of fake awards and phony testimonials on the homepage of this website.

Well, it seems that I’ve been nominated for a real award, and the inner conflict that has resulted has kept me up nights for – well, for like one night. Ok, for 45 minutes. But those are 45 precious minutes of sleep that I will never get back!

Who nominated The Happy Passport?

I’m thrilled to announce that The Happy Passport has been nominated for a Liebster Award by travel gourmet Dave Cole, the eyes, ears, and nose behind the food-wine-travel triumvirate Cook Sip Go.

Cook Sip Go takes all of things you love about traveling – the sights, the sounds, the delicate clinking of fresh ice cubes entering your cocktail glass – and packages them together in a way that is purely delectable.

Bring you appetite for adventure (and your penchant for a spicy Malbec) and check out Cook Sip Go.

No really. Stop reading and go there now.

Here’s how the Liebster Award nomination works – since Dave nominated me, I have to answer 10 questions of his choosing. Then, I get to nominate 5 outstanding travel blogs and ask the creators of those blogs to answer 10 questions of my choosing.

It’s sort of like getting a chain letter in the mail when you were 12, except instead of throwing it in the trash, your mom puts it up on the fridge.

Without further ado, Dave’s questions, and my answers!

Cook Sip Go asked, and I answered…

1. What is the first travel experience you remember?

My first plane ride when I was 10 years old. My parents surprised us and took my brother and I to Disney World.

Everything about Florida felt so different from my home in Wisconsin – the air smelled different, the trees were different, there were lizards everywhere. It was pure magic to me and I spent the next two years planning to run away and live on the streets of Orlando as a vagrant gymnast.

2. Which destination is at the top of your travel bucket list?

I feel really drawn to Norway and the other Scandinavian countries. I’d love to spend time in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark.

India is absolutely on my bucket list, as is Ireland, Italy, Turkey, Greece…and then there’s the entire continent of Africa calling to me. Wait, was I supposed to pick one place?

3. Where did you experience your most memorable meal on the road and what was it?

It’s May of 1995, I’m 13 years old and sitting in a restaurant in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood.

It’s my first time visiting the city and I’m there to perform in Carnegie Hall with a children’s choir.

I order minestrone soup as a starter, and practically die of happiness the second I taste the first spoonful – my taste buds stand at attention, jump for joy, and proceed to perform choreographed acrobatics for the remainder of the meal.

I remember thinking “Ohhhh, so this is what real Italian food is supposed to taste like.” And that was in the States –  just imagine what will happen when I make it to Italy! (mouthgasm).

4. Who is your favorite travel writer/blogger?

Matthew Karsten of The Expert Vagabond. Reading his posts feels like having lunch with that one friend who always makes you laugh until you squirt beer out your nose. (Yes I drink beer at lunch. Stop judging me.)

If I could write one blog post that was 1/10 as funny and entertaining as his posts, I’d retire from blogging forever and go live in the mountains in Nepal.

5. Even though new destinations are fun, what is one place you could return to again and again?

Cat Ba, Vietnam (and I have returned again and again!)

Hoi An, Vietnam

Pokhara, Nepal

Vancouver, B.C.

San Francisco

6. What’s the most interesting wildlife experience you’ve had on your travels?

First of all, this is the most creative question anyone has every asked anyone.

And I was amazed to discover that I actually had an answer to it, even though I’m not what I’d call particularly “outdoorsy.”

I was trekking in the mountains just outside of Luang Prabang, Laos, and our group came upon a man with a rooster on a leash. Through our guide we learned that this rooster had been trained to call wild chickens out of the forest so that the man could shoot them.

He was an informant chicken. A traitor to his own kind. I still don’t know what’s worse – the fact that the hunter put this poor rooster up to this dastardly deed, or that the rooster failed to organize a proper mutiny against such an inter-species atrocity.

7. What’s one place you’ve traveled to and have no desire to return? Why?

Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s a lovely town, the rivers are beautiful, the night market is dazzling and the wats are gorgeous.

But everything else about the city feels like it belongs in the West – the old town caters to tourists in such a way that there doesn’t seem to be a scrap of Lao culture left to be seen. It’s all wine bars, retired French couples and Australian college kids walking around like they’re in Daytona Beach.

The famous almsgiving ceremony has become a caricature of itself – I hated seeing insensitive tourists up in the monks’ faces with flashbulbs.

Take Luang Prabang and plop it down in, say, San Diego, and you’d catch me at one of the (67) wine bars for happy hour every night of the week.

But when I was in Laos, I wanted to learn something about Laos, and the only thing I learned was that the tourists have taken over and the Lao people have done the best they can to cater to them, perhaps at the expense of their own way of life.

Then again, maybe the locals in Luang Prabang are making great money off the tourists and are perfectly happy having 67 wine bars and I should just shut my trap.

8. What is your favorite restaurant in your hometown?

Raffi’s Place in Glendale when I’m in Los Angeles. It’s the freshest, most delectable, most melt-in-your-mouth Persian food imaginable. I’d ask for their chicken kebabs, homemade hummus and cucumber yogurt as my last meal.

A very, very close second is Boneyard Bistro on Ventura Blvd in Studio City (also Los Angeles). I’ll just say this – there is macaroni and cheese involved, as well as fried dates, aged whiskey, and bourbon BBQ sauce. Insert Homer Simpson donuuuuut noise here.

9. What is the most athletic feat you’ve accomplished while traveling?

Climbing to the top of Marble Mountain in Da Nang, Vietnam with my ginormous laptop case in tow because I didn’t want to leave it with the shady-looking parking attendant.

At one point I even jumped from one rock to another, scaling a four-foot wide divide. If I had fallen, I would’ve fallen about 500 meters to the (very distant) earth below. All while carrying this bulky bag that contained my laptop, my camera, and all my valuables.

And I never would’ve done any of it if it weren’t for this guy.

10. Have you ever attempted to cook at home a dish you first tried while traveling? If so, what was the result? 

The only thing sexier than a woman who can cook is a woman who can eat like a linebacker and not gain weight.

Fortunately I never claimed to be sexy.

The answer, I’m afraid, is no. I love to cook sauces, but I’m dreadful at cooking anything that one might drizzle a sauce upon.

If I could learn how to cook one dish I’ve enjoyed while traveling, it’d be Southern Vietnamese pho tom. (noodle soup with shrimp).

I cut my teeth on Southern pho, not realizing that the soup would be so drastically different in the North. If I could learn how to get the broth just right, I’d make it every day for the rest of my life (except on the day when I get my last meal, because then I’m going to Raffi’s Place.)

Who I’m Nominating

Banker in the Sun – only Rashad (AKA The Banker) can get me interested in money and budget stuff when it comes to travel (everyone else who writes on this topic tends to make me yawn). I love the stories, the tales of romance, the wanderlust and the great cost of living articles on this site. The financial advice truly is unconventional as promised, and it’s nice knowing that it’s coming from an actual vagabond banker!

A Wandering Photo – Shirine is a regular contributor to this site and I’m lucky to have her. She is just 20 years old and is currently on a round-the-world cycling trip with her sweetheart. Shirine is a brave minimalist who writing is poetic, stark, and always thought-provoking.

Adriana Kupresek – Adriana is an author, inspirationalist, and nomadic feminist who’s created an artistic online community for female travelers. Her work is fearless, unabashed, and I love how she’s not afraid to say exactly what she thinks. I also really like how she blends travel tales with life lessons and deeply personal epiphanies.

Anna’s Friends – a great blog and networking site for women traveling and/or moving abroad. Anna is building a worldwide network of women helping women, and she truly practices what she preaches. When I first started travel blogging, she was one of the first people to reach out via social media and make me feel welcome.

Vivienne Egan – Vivienne is true digital nomad working her way around the world. I love following her blog because she covers everything you need to start traveling and to keep traveling by working for yourself online. I also hit up Vivienne’s site for budget travel tips, online marketing ideas, and inspiration to keep traveling long-term.

10 Questions for the Nominees

1. What is the single best part about living, working and traveling in a country other than your own?

2. You’re given a large chunk of money from a mysterious donor. You’re told that the amount is somewhere between $25,000 and $1 million. The amount you’re to receive won’t be revealed until you specify your dream destination, where you’ll have to spend the next 3 years of your life. You will not be allowed to work or make any money during this period of time. Where do you go?

3. Do you consider yourself a backpacker, flashpacker, midrange or luxe traveler? Is it by choice or circumstance? Would you “change teams” if you could? Why?

4. Do you prefer to travel solo, travel with a partner or travel in a group? Why?

5. Which 3 places you’ve visited so far have felt the most like home?

6. A proclamation is handed down from the Universe that states you may no longer travel, and you may no longer write about traveling (or anything related to travel). Where do you settle and what do you do with your life?

7. What is a single, unifying factor that you’ve observed in every single country you’ve visited?

8. Can cross-cultural romances ever work?

9. Name 3 things you do NOT miss about living in your home country (or staying in your home country 24/7/365)

10. 2014 will be a total bust for you unless you _________________.

I can’t wait to read your answers! Thanks again to Dave and the fine folks at Cook, Sip, Go for the nomination!

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How I Live Abroad on $662 a Month

Um. That's the view from my room.

Right now I live abroad on a tiny island off the coast of Northern Vietnam, and my monthly expenditures total about $662 – for everything.

After spending 4 months straight traveling nonstop throughout Asia (while working full time, mind you!) I needed to recover, recoup, and stay put for a hot second.

That also meant I needed to choose a place where it was easy to get a visa, easy to find affordable accommodation, and easy to save money for future travels later this year.

Vietnam was the 3rd country I’d visited in as many months, but by the time I crossed over into Cambodia from Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta region, I was not ready to leave.

The country was so vast, so varied, so rich and diverse that one month wasn’t enough to begin to scratch the surface of all Vietnam had to offer.

A room with a view

A room with a view

My original plan had been to move on to Thailand as soon as my Cambodian visa expired, but as my days in Siem Reap came to a close, I felt called back to Cat Ba.

Cat Ba is an island off the Northern Coast of Vietnam. Its craggly limestone cliffs are perhaps the most photographed natural phenomenon in the world – I’m actually looking at them out my window as I write this sentence.

Cat Ba Town is a small fishing village on the southern side of the island. In the past decade, it’s been built up ferociously to cater to hordes of Vietnamese tourists who descend upon the island in massive droves each year beginning in June.

I mean, it's just stupid.

I mean, it’s just stupid.

But the town itself is anything but touristy. There’s not much to do here, besides take a boat tour of Ha Long Bay, rent a motorbike and explore the surrounding hillsides, or hike up to Canon Fort for breathtaking views of the East China Sea (sorry to my Vietnamese friends – the East Sea.)

Saigon was more exciting, Da Nang had better beaches, and Hoi An positively dripped with charm. Besides, there were so many places I hadn’t yet been to in Vietnam – Da Lat, Sa Pa, Hue, Nah Trang…the list of “don’t miss” places I had missed the first time around was extensive.

So why return to a place I’d already been?

A fisherman rowing his boat with his feet

A fisherman rowing his boat with his feet

Because in addition to being beautiful in a dark, romantic, even tragic kind of way, and in addition to great weather, and in addition to being home to some of the friendliest locals I’ve encountered on my journey, Cat Ba is friggin’ CHEAP.

And this is coming from someone who just spent a month in Nepal, one of the cheapest countries in the world for budget travelers.

I don’t consider myself a backpacker, and I don’t go out of my way to spend as little as possible. I work as I travel, so I’m not on a fixed income and I can always make more money if need be.

That's me, out on the boat.

That’s me, out on the boat.

I get private rooms instead of dorm rooms, I mix street food with restaurant fare, and if I can afford it and it’ll save me time, I’m quick to opt for a plane over a bus ticket.

But Cat Ba is so cheap, you automatically become a budget traveler without even trying.

The first time I stayed here, I rented a room at the Alibaba Hotel, which is on the main road facing the harbor. My high-rise, ocean-view room with en suite bathroom and two double beds cost $5/night.

I wondered if I could get it for cheaper. Not because I can’t afford $5/night, but because ever since I met some professional budget travelers in Nepal, I realized what a fun game budget travel can be.

My friends would one up each other constantly, asking “How much is your guest house?” And then, “Oh yeah? Well my guest house is only $2 a night, and I have hot water!

Kayaking, anyone?

Kayaking, anyone?

I knew I planned to stay in Cat Ba long-term (which, in travel terms, is anything longer than a few days’ stay). I wrote to the guest house owner and asked what he could do for me.

Here was his offer:

$3/night during the month of April

$9/night during the “high season” of May and June

He actually apologized to me for tripling the price, explaining that it was very busy during that time, and that “regular” customers would be charged $40/night.

Wowza!

That makes my monthly rent average out to $216/month.

Did I mention there are 3 beaches within walking distance of my hotel?

Did I mention there are 3 beaches within walking distance of my hotel?

As if that weren’t awesome enough, everything else on Cat Ba is cheap too.

I spend about $12/day on food and drink, and could easily spend less if I chose cheaper restaurants. (alas, I’m a sucker for ambiance. And dynamite spring rolls.)

That brings us to $588 for rent and food. So what other expenses do I have?

  • I pay nothing for utilities since those are included in the hotel room (hot water, electricity, WiFi, etc.).
  • I pay nothing for transportation because the town is small enough to walk anywhere, or I can hop on a motortaxi for a few thousand dong.
  • I spend about $10/month on things like shampoo, soap, and other toiletries.
  • I spend 100,000 dong (about $5) per month on a prepaid data plan for my cell phone. This comes in handy when the power goes out and there is no WiFi.
  • Visa fees: I paid $130 for a three-month Vietnam visa, which averages out to about $43/month.
  • I spend roughly $6/month on laundry

Grand Total: $662

i-live-abroad-6

Now, if I had no debt or other bills to pay back home, I could truly live a backpacker lifestyle in Cat Ba.

Unfortunately I have a big fat student loan payment that’s due each month, plus credit card debt and other expenses related to running this site.

But only having to spend $662 to live allows me to focus on writing my book and running this website.

If you’re looking to pay off debt while living a great quality of life in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I can’t recommend Cat Ba enough.

But if you do decide to come here, don’t tell anyone else, ok? I don’t want this place to lose its small town charm and become another Luang Prabang.

If you’re coming to Cat Ba, hit me up! Write to me and let me know if you want to stay at Alibaba’s too. I will speak with Mr. Ba and see what kind of discount I can get you!

Would you live abroad if it meant your could save hundreds, even thousands of dollars per month?

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. When looking to live cheap abroad, it's all about location.

2. There are cheap places just about everywhere - Vietnam isn't considered the cheapest place in SE Asia by any means, and yet it's been even cheaper to stay here than in Nepal.

3. Make friends with locals! Many people will give you a discount if you return to their hotel a second time, or if you're staying long-term.

4. Places that are slightly less touristy and difficult to get to will always be cheaper (but not less beautiful!)

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

Digital Nomad Dream: A Room with a View

I arrive at the Harvest Moon Pokhara Guest House in Pokhara, Nepal, after spending a very bumpy 7 hours on a tourist bus from Kathmandu.

It is Wednesday, about 3pm, and the taxi drops me off at a flower-drenched bungalow of a home, a two-story L-shaped affair that you’d never know was a hotel except for a single hand-painted sign sighing in the mountain breeze.

After the dirt and noise and pollution of Kathmandu, Pokhara has already proven itself to be the peaceful, clean(er), spiritual ski lodge oasis I’d been promised by some random Australian guy in an Internet cafe.

If the quiet streets surrounding Pokhara’s main tourist area are a refuge from the big city, then the Harvest Moon is a veritable bunker of well-being: rich pink flowers and shiny green leaves rustle in the breeze, their lush offerings turning the second story abode into a protected jungle-garden.

No other hotel on the street looks anything like it, and I get the impression that it’s the flowers themselves that serve as a protective force-field against the noise of the world.

I’m welcomed by the owner’s son Kshitiz, a painfully shy student of 19, and am promptly offered a tour of the place with much smiling and nodding and “Namaste”-ing.

The first floor lobby is the family’s living room, which lies open to the street so the cool mountain air can mingle with the scent of ever-burning incense.

A rooftop patio offers views of the surrounding mountains – to the Southwest I can see the World Peace Pagoda, affectionately nicknamed “the stupa” by locals. It’s possible to see the rounded dome of the enormous structure atop a 1,000 meter hill, and I marvel at how it watches over the city like an amiable guard dog.

View from the Harvest Moon Rooftop - Clouds roll in over Pokhara

View from the Harvest Moon Rooftop – Clouds roll in over Pokhara

After the tour, which takes all of 2 minutes, Kshitiz carries my bag to a second story room that is pressed so far back from the street, it must be playing hide and seek with the rest of the town. The outdoor hallway leading to my door is so saturated with flora, it feels like a terrace one might walk down in order to meet a waiting groom.

Somewhere deep in the bowels of history, a 17th century librarian is missing the key to her traveling trunk. It is with this archaic, cartoonish-looking key that Kshitiz opens the door to my waiting room. And it is because of this very key and its portal-opening capabilities that I am suddenly breathless.

I don’t worry about tipping Kshitiz right now – I’ll have plenty of time for that during the next three weeks of my stay. I thank him and shut the door gently before I attempt to regain my breath.

Terrified that it’s all a mirage, I squeeze my eyes shut and slowly turn from the door to face the room once more.

Welcome to the Harvest Moon

Welcome to the Harvest Moon

I open my eyes and the room is still there, every molecule in place. As I realize that it’s not just a mirage, a squeal of delight escapes me, bouncing off the freshly painted walls like a flying squirrel. Kshitiz probably just heard the shriek but I don’t care – such a beautiful room deserves nothing less than a vocal celebration.

When you’re a digital nomad, the only thing more important than a strong WiFi signal is your room. The room is everything – it’s your office, your creative haven, the place where the magic happens.

If the room sucks, your work will suck. If your works sucks, you don’t eat.

I have to have somewhere quiet, somewhere I won’t be interrupted, and somewhere with a window. It need not be big, and it need not even have a bathroom, but it must be all mine and it must facilitate motivated concentration. If it can inspire with a brilliant view or sparkle with feel-good energy, all the better.

But this room…..this room is other-worldly.

Garden view from Harvest Moon, Pokhara

Garden view from Harvest Moon, Pokhara

There is an enormous double bed with a comforter neatly folded to one side, as is the custom in Nepal. A beautiful, dark wood bed frame hugs the mattress. It has built-in cubby holes, each with a lock and key to store valuables.

I notice sturdy locks on each of the windows, and another enormous bureau with additional lock and key – have they had many problems with theft? I find it difficult to imagine that a place as perfect as Pokhara could ever fall victim to any sort of crime, but I vow to stash my valuables whenever I leave the room, just in case.

I have my own en suite bathroom in Pepto-Bismol pink, and there is even a “work area” where I can write – two leather chairs are gathered around a small bureau, creating an ideal office space that lies smack dab between two – TWO! – sparkling windows.

The room.

The room.

What have I done to deserve this room?!

My “office window” faces south and looks out over the garden pathway and into the yard below. From here I can see the owner’s wife, Shova, bless the yard each morning with prayers and incense as she happily hums her “Hindi song.”

And then there is the window that faces northwest.

From where I sit at my makeshift desk, the northwest window serves as a picture-perfect frame of Fishtail Mountain – that same glorious vision that defines the landscape and feeling of Pokhara for all who journey here.

I can sit in the same spot all day, writing and working, and watch as each minute is measured by the various moods of this mountain beauty. I can tell which jacket I should wear based on how the clouds hang around her neck. I make plans for the day based on whether or not I can see the top of her head in the morning.

View of Fishtail Mountain from the Harvest Moon Guesthouse

View of Fishtail Mountain from the Harvest Moon Guesthouse

At each break, every interval, every moment of frustration or joy, I am always accompanied by her, always watched over.

My room is known by the family as the “writer’s room” as I’m eventually told by Hari, the owner of the guest house.

I could stay here all day. I could stay here forever.

This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available February 2015 from THP Publishing. To pre-order your copy, click here!

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now. 

 

Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. The Harvest Moon Pokhara Guest House is an oasis of awesome in Pokhara, Nepal.

2. As a digital nomad I always look for 3 things in a hotel room: strong WiFi in the room, privacy/quiet, and a window.

3. The better the room, the better your work will be. Having a stunning view, lots of light, multiple windows and gorgeous natural surroundings will help you thrive creatively, and help you work quickly so you can go out and see stuff when you're finished!

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!