There are many travel influencers online who make the travel life seem like it happened overnight with instant success. While that may be the case for some, it was quite the opposite for me. In fact, it took me over a decade to get to this point. While it has been a dream of mine for nearly 15 years, it took me breaking through many barriers, limiting beliefs, old programming, and learning to overcome the voice in my head telling me I would never be able to do this.
The number one question I get from friends and total strangers is,” How can you afford this?”
And there’s not really one simple answer. I had to risk it all to get to this point. While that may sound a bit dramatic, for me, it’s the truth. The first time I traveled outside of the U.S. was in 2004 when I studied abroad with my university in Vienna, Austria. During my semester abroad, I visited 14 countries across Europe and the United Kingdom. It lit a fire inside of me that I had never felt before. And when I graduated college and got a job, I began a “work to travel” lifestyle. I would work, earn money and take a big trip each year with friends.
While that was a great lifestyle and way to use my vacation time, I would fall into a pitfall when I’d return from a trip. It was as if I was living two different lives. I would go on a trip, and be high on life loving every moment of exploring different cultures, and then I would return to the states (and back to reality) and enter post-vacation depression. I would place many expectations on each trip thinking that this would be the trip to change my life. I would meet someone, fall in love and never look back, or I’d fall in love with a place and never come back. I would have to plan another trip upon return, so I would have something to look forward to.
I felt trapped and like I would never have a way out. I thought this was life. Just like a roller coaster, sometimes life would be high and sometimes low. It wasn’t until I was called out by seminar leader in a program I was participating in, that I saw the glass shatter.
“Robin, travel is your drug and until you get your next fix, you’re miserable and will never be satisfied.”
That one statement hit me at my core. And it was the truth. I was living in misery and placed way too many expectations on the external rather than living in the moment and being present to all the amazing places I visited.
That was in 2015. After that hard truth was realized, I began a journey to transformation. I participated in programs through Landmark Worldwide, found a therapist and began weekly sessions, started meditating and going on meditation retreats, began communicating with inspirational and unconventional travelers, and got back to a regular yoga practice. I developed a healthier relationship to travel and being present and live in the moment wherever I was—even if sitting behind my laptop at my corporate job.
Through all this transformative work, the thought of giving it all up never left me. I still loved travel and wanted to experience more of this exciting world and its beautiful cultures.
I knew what I wanted to do; I just wasn’t sure how I could do it.
In July 2017, I went on a Wildhearted Meditation Retreat in Guatemala. During our first guided meditation, I had the stark realization that I was playing it safe in life. And I was tired of living life like that. I spent the rest of the week creating a new possibility—quitting my job of 10 years to travel the world.
I returned from the retreat ready to give a 60-day notice. The day before I was going to pull the trigger, I had an insight to check my employee handbook and make sure I wasn’t missing anything about quitting. Through reading, I learned that if I left before the end of the year, I wouldn’t get my annual bonus. And that was dire to me making this jump. I had little savings and needed that money. So, I changed directions and chose to stay a few more months.
Knowledge is very powerful, and it’s what you do with the knowledge that makes the difference.
I had an end date in mind and did nothing to financially prepare for that date. I continued to live in the moment and live for experience—took a trip to Scotland, enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training, got my own apartment at a higher rate than I was paying when I lived with a roommate, and so on—I was living as if a big life change wasn’t coming. By the time I got my bonus, I had already spent it.
Nothing was going to change.
I could see the pattern was going to continue. Round and round it would go. And I couldn’t let that happen. I enrolled in a leadership program called the Self-Expression Leadership Program and went on another Wildhearted Meditation Retreat in Mexico. It was through those events, my journey through Yoga Teacher Training and reading When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want that I found the courage to commit to this bold jump without the financial discipline I wished I had utilized prior.
I turned in my 60-day notice (which turned into 90 days) and began preparing for this journey. I sold my furniture and many of my possessions, began purging what I would no longer need when I became a nomad, and bought a one-way ticket to Australia.
I knew I had to do something drastic for this jump to happen.
On May 1, I ended my career at my company of almost 11 years, and on May 2, I hopped on a plane to Sydney, Australia. In the end, I left on my nomadic journey with a little more than one month’s pay, a quarter of my bonus, and about $500 in savings. It was the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken.
I wanted to test the waters and see how I liked solo travel and nomad life before deciding about my car. I was only a week or two into this journey when I knew this was the life I had always been dreaming of. My car had to go. I came back to the states, sold my beloved car, Stella, for $11,000 and set off to Mexico and South America. I picked up some contract work here and there, but mostly lived off of savings.
It was quite an adjustment going from 11 years of having a schedule and responsibility to the freedom to create each day from scratch. And it took me several months to let go of making myself wrong about not looking for work. I had just left a high-paced corporate job and the American work-work-work lifestyle. And I was still stuck in that mindset (even though I was living my dream). I finally gave myself permission to travel until the end of 2018. I took the pressure off from making myself wrong about how I was doing it, stopped listening to others’ criticism or projected fears, and allowed myself to just be.
This is my story. It may not resonate for you and may even give you anxiety—what was this girl thinking? That’s so irresponsible! While I don’t recommend you quit your job without financial preparation, sell your possessions, and cash in some of your live savings, it’s what had to happen for me.
I had to risk it all for anything to change.
Now that I’ve completed my first season of solo travel, I’m entering creation mode. I’m in a much better mental space now and have so much confidence for starting my own business and taking on work that inspires me. It’s all thanks to spending 7 months traveling across 4 continents and 11 countries by myself. I finally believe in me and my gifts, and trust I can create work that I love to sustain this lifestyle.
So, no, it didn’t happen overnight for me. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always glamorous. But it was 100% worth it. No regrets. No looking back. It all unfolded as it was meant to.
Tips and Tricks for Traveling the World as a Nomad
Follow your own path. It’s great to be inspired by others and learn from their stories, but know each person has their own story and obstacles. No two people are alike. Discover what you need.
Ignore the fears others project on you. When you make a major life decision like this or live life unconventionally, you are bound to face criticism. You may be excited about following your heart’s desire, share it with others, and be left feeling diminished and start questioning whether you should be doing this or not. Know that this is not you. When people criticize or question your lifestyle, they are projecting their fears on you. They would be terrified to let everything go and do something bold like this, or they’re jealous and wish they could as bold as you. So acknowledge their concerns, and continue to listen to your calling.
Support is there for you. While some may criticize your lifestyle, many more will be supportive. I was blown away at how supportive so many people were when I made this choice. My former company cheered me on and wished me the best, my parents didn’t try to talk me out of it, my friends encouraged me, and strangers applauded me. And every time I share what I’ve been up to, people are blown away. It’s so reassuring and empowering.
Save your money. As you can tell, I’m not the best influencer when it comes to preparing for a big life change. If you know you are going to make a big life change like traveling the world for an extended period of time, get your ducks in a row. Cut back on eating out and drinking, expensive groceries, outings, sell what you don’t need (it can always be replaced), and learn to live a simpler life—know that you’re sacrificing temporarily for a bigger life.
Know your options when it comes to lodging. There are so many resources and options available to you. I balanced my travels by staying with friends, Airbnb, guest houses, and using points to stay in luxury hotels.
Airbnb – This is a great way to support locals wherever you travel. And often you can get very affordable rates. Airbnb allows you to rent an entire place, private room, or shared room. I personally will only rent from individuals. If I see that it’s a company renting the space, I won’t do it. I want to support locals, not invest in companies buying up loads of spaces—my own personal preference. If you have never signed up for Airbnb, you can get $40 off your first stay.
Hotels – Anytime you stay at a hotel brand, sign up for their rewards program. Most of them are free and often offer better rates to members when booking direct. And if you get hotel credit cards you can get member status. I personally stay at Hyatt, IHG, and Hilton and have brand credit cards for each.
Hostels or Guest Houses – While I am not a fan of staying in a dorm, this is a very affordable option to stretch your dollars further. And most hostels have several options from staying in a mixed dorm room to gender specific dorms to having your own private room. I have found in my experience that it is often cheaper if you book directly with the hostel rather than going through sites like hostelworld or booking.com. Hostel owners will often give you a better, local rate than what is listed on the site.
Trusted Housesitters – I have not personally used this site yet but do have a paid membership for future. You sign up for an annual membership and have access to house-sits all over the world. I know many people who have stayed in some fantastic places all over the world using this site. Sign up here and get 25% off your membership.
Couchsurfing – I have not used this myself but have met many travelers who do. You can download the couchsurfing app and search for offers all over the world. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone, meet locals, and stay for free.
Join Facebook Groups to connect with other Nomads around the world. Everywhere you go you can almost always find a Facebook group for that city where you can connect with people visiting or living there, get tips and support. I recommend these groups for general inquiries, advice, and support.
7in7 Society (membership group for digital nomads full of great resources!)
Global & Travel Insurance - It is important to be protected when traveling. A lot of people think their U.S. health insurance will cover them if something happens, and that is often not the case. You will likely need to get supplemental insurance.
Short Term Travel - I recommend World Nomads. They cover more extreme and adventurous activities (skydiving, bungee jumping, mountain climbing, etc) that a lot of travel insurance companies will not cover. They have 2 plans. The first is standard and the second (explorer) covers the more extreme activities and includes collision damage insurance if renting a car. They also cover medical emergencies and trip interruption or cancellation.
Long Term Travel - If you are going to be traveling outside of the U.S. for more than 3 months of the year, I highly recommend getting global insurance. I have mine through GeoBlue (which is through BCBS). The coverage is amazing and even has better deductibles than when I had U.S. insurance. You have to travel outside of the U.S. for at least 3 months out of the year. I work with Kristin Ash of Ash Global. She is phenomenal and will help you find the best plan that suits your needs. You can submit a quote directly on her website or email her at email@example.com for assistance.
Reward Credit Cards - Reward credit cards are a great way to earn points to use for flights and hotels. If you are interested, I would appreciate if you would sign up using my links so you and I both can get rewarded! After all the Points Guy doesn’t need anymore points…
Chase Sapphire - This is my top flexible rewards card. The Sapphire card allows you to transfer points to various airline and hotel partners for award travel. I used my rewards many times in 2018 to fly to Australia, Thailand, and back to the states from Uruguay. Currently offering a 50,000 point bonus after you meet the minimum spend within your first 3 months of card opening (as of January 2019).
Hilton Aspire - My new favorite card of 2018! This is a new card offered by American Express. They have 3 different options each with different fees and sign up bonuses. I went with the Aspire card so that I could get the large sign-on bonus of 150,000 points, Diamond Status (the highest status through Hilton), Priority Pass Lounge access, $250 flight credit each year, $250 resort credit, $100 hotel credit, free weekend night upon opening and on your card anniversary, and more! It comes with a $450 annual fee (which is more than made up for with all of the perks). If you do not want to pay that high of a fee, the other two options still come with fantastic bonuses and rewards. Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved!
World of Hyatt - This is a great card and gives you Discoverist status which includes room upgrades and sometimes breakfast when you book directly through Hyatt. Earn up to 50,000 Bonus Points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card (as of January 2019). I used my points last year to stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney (category 7) and Park Hyatt Bangkok (category 5) for FREE! The Park Hyatt Sydney would have cost me $600-700 USD per night had I paid in cash.
IHG Premier - Another great card. Gives you Platinum Elite status with IHG brand hotels (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Kimpton, etc). The point conversions for free rooms is pretty low and they have a points + cash option that’s also great. They offer a free night on your card anniversary which more than makes up for the annual fee. They offer varying sign-up bonuses. I got 80,000 when I signed up. I think the current offer is 50,000 Bonus Points with the IHG(R) Rewards Club Premier credit card (as of January 2019).
Southwest - This is a great card if you’re wanting to get to Companion Pass. Check the offerings as they fluctuate. I would wait for at least a 50,000 point bonus. Sometimes they offer 60,000 points depending on the time of year. The fastest way to get to Companion is to get the Southwest Premier card and Business card. You need 110,000 to reach Companion level. Once you reach that you can elect one person to fly for free with you! And it starts when you get to that level. So if you reach it in April (for example), you get it for the remainder of that year plus the following calendar year.
Delta Gold - If you fly Delta a lot, this a great card. It waives your bag fees and allows you to get into Delta Sky Club lounges for $29 rather than $59. And if you want to avoid a fee for Skyclub, get the Amex Platinum.
Amex Platinum - this is a great reserve card if you travel a lot. It comes with a steep $550 annual fee, but the rewards offset the cost. Monthly uber credits, airline credits for baggage, seat upgrades, travel concierge access, Centurion & Sky Club lounge access, Priority Pass, and more! Currently offering a 60,000 bonus after you meet the minimum spend in the first 3 months (as of January 2019).
Chase Ink Business - This is another great card if you have a business. It links to your Ultimate Rewards account which can be combined with your Chase Sapphire points. You can maximize on points by using this card at office stores and for your phone and utility bills. Earn 80,000 bonus points with Chase Ink Business Preferred once you meet the minimum spend of $5,000 in your first 3 months of card opening (as of January 2019).
**Chase 5/24 Rule: The Chase Sapphire, Ink, IHG, Hyatt, and Southwest all fall under the Chase 5/24 rule. If you have applied for 5 or more cards in 24 months, you are not eligible. Read here for more details.
There are many more resources available to you for your journey. And if you’re looking for support and connection, I recommend attending World Domination Summit in June in Portland and/or 7in7 (conference for digital nomads) in New Zealand in October. These two events changed my life and connected me with life-long friends all over the world.