About Me and Legal Nomads

Thank you for reading Legal Nomads. I am a former lawyer who has spent the last many years traveling (and eating!) my way around the world.

This site began as a travel blog for my family and friends when I quit my job in 2008 and took off to see the world. I thought I would travel for a year, and wanted to post photos and share crazy stories so that my loved ones could follow along from afar.

Over eight years later…

A return to my old job never happened, and Legal Nomads grew with each passing year of travel. At the same time, a business began to take form at the intersection of what I loved most: storytelling, food history, and connecting to others around the world.

About Legal Nomads

Legal Nomads started as a vaguely chronological recounting of my time living and eating abroad. I wanted friends to follow along, and I loved to write. As a celiac who traveled, food was an important part of my days. I needed to know what to eat, and what to avoid so that I did not get sick. Food became a bigger focus, and through that lens I was able to learn so much more about a place and its people. I also discovered a deep abiding love of soup.

legal nomads

Over the years, Legal Nomads evolved from a personal blog to a multi-focused platform for food, stories, and photography. Readers will find a community that connects storytellers who want to dig deep into a new country, in-depth food guides to cities around the world, and a long set of resources to help plan and budget for long term travel. From my end, I want the site to remain an inspiration to those who crave a life of travel and exploration, but one that also sets realistic expectations about the sacrifices unconventional choices require. Legal Nomads focuses on food, but also the human experience in a modern digital world.

If you are new to the site, you might want to start with:

In recent years, Legal Nomads has won Lowell Thomas Awards for best travel blog, as well as North American Travel Journalism awards for writing and photography. It has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC Travel, CNN, and more, as well as on the blogs and sites of many of my readers. The Links I Loved Newsletter, highlighting the best pieces from around the web in any given month, has been growing steadily as a curated digest of longform writing.

More than anything, Legal Nomads is about a lifelong dedication to learning as much as possible and connecting to others through food.

About Jodi

Jodi Ettenberg

Wandering the streets of Saigon

If you had told me in 1998, when I went to law school, that I would be running a food and travel business from around the world in 2016, I would have laughed at the impossibility. I thought I would be a lawyer in New York and eventually shift into a public advocacy legal role. Never did I think I would be a writer and public speaker.

I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, and spend my childhood skiing and playing soccer and not really thinking about travel or food. It wasn’t until I saw a documentary about Siberia in high school that I began to think about heading there myself, a seed that grew bit by bit as the years went by.

Prior to founding Legal Nomads, I worked for 5 years in New York as a corporate lawyer, having studied in Canada and then accepted an offer at a firm in Manhattan. My school debt was minimal due to Canadian tuition rates, and as I practiced law I was also able to save up for my dream trip: a long extravaganza on the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian Railway.

I set out in 2008, with Siberia as the impetus for a sabbatical from the law. As I travelled, I found something new happening: I started to pick places because of the food. Learning about countries and their history became far more fascinating when seen through the lens of mealtimes, and I wrote about food more and more on the site starting in 2010. By 2012, when I published my first book, The Food Traveler’s Handbook about how to eat safely and cheaply around the world, food had eclipsed almost everything else as I roamed.

I am also a celiac, and part of why I continue to share on Legal Nomads is to help others with the disease travel safely and with less fear. The Gluten Free Travel Guides aim to arm celiacs with more knowledge and less panic as they explore the world.

I’ve been honored that my writing has resonated with a growing community of readers and have tried to share the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, and the stories that I learn along the way.

I’m currently based in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Funding a Life of Flexibility and Food

Given that I don’t take advertising or sponsored content, I wanted to share how I do afford an unconventional life. Keep in mind it is a lifestyle choice, also, and my expenses are far lower than were I to live in New York City. I have been able to save money while building a business, one that has this blog as its heart and food as its mascot.

So, how do I afford my lifestyle?

  • I am really proud of these beautiful hand-drawn maps of food that I designed. They were inked by the talented Ella F. Sanders, and are available in black and white. I’ve got posters (below!), tote bags, and t-shirts. Presently, Italy, Vietnam, Portugal, Thailand and Mexico are in the store, with 10 countries planned. I am excited to run an eCommerce store that sells items I created myself, and that are a loving testament to what drives this site: delicious food!
food map italy

One of the countries in the Legal Nomads store: Italy food map!

  • Social media consulting work and brand audits for brands who want to focus on authenticity, engagement and a long-term strategy. This was born out of my own use of social media. The reports provide a site and social media audit and recommendation report, then I continue to work with those clients on an occasional basis in the months that follow the report.
  • Freelance writing for magazines and websites on an ad hoc basis. I do not pitch stories in advance, but have licensed photography and written destination or food-based writing pieces for publications around the world.
  • Speaking at conferences about food, storytelling, and branding and community building online. These are paid opportunities, or at a minimum cover travel and accommodation. I often stay longer in the conference destination so that I can explore while I’m already in the area, which builds in fun travel time. If you’re looking for a speaker for an event, please contact me to learn more about my speaking rates.
  • I published my first book in 2012, called The Food Traveler’s Handbook. It’s about how to eat cheap, safe and delicious food anywhere in the world.
  • I am building a course for people who want to tell better stories, focusing on the nuts and bolts of narrative storytelling and how to best brand yourself / convey that information in a digital world. You can learn more here.

Site policies, disclaimer, and keeping Legal Nomads ad free

When the site began attracting more attention, I received offers for sponsored posts and text links, as well as ad offers. I decided to keep the site ad-free, and have maintained that throughout my years of travel.

  • Book reviews: I sometimes summarize or list out books of interest to readers, particularly those about food or  ones I read when I was travelling from A to B. Best books posts: Part 1, Part 2, and food books. I welcome emails about books you’ve written, especially if they are food-related. Occasionally publishers send me free books to read, which I include if I enjoy them and leave out if I do not. I also have a long post called A List of Books that May Change your Life, with input from readers.
  • Product reviews: I do not cover products or review them. Instead, I post about what I actually travel with on my World Travel Resources page.
  • Amazon Affiliates : In posts where I reference books I’ve read or product I’ve used, I link to the product on Amazon.com or the manufacturer’s page, where I receive an affiliate percentage of the purchase price. If you click on a product I recommend and it is sold via Amazon or that manufacturer, I will receive a minimal percentage of the sale price (4%-6%, usually). Buying via these affiliate links helps keep Legal Nomads ad free. I do not link to products I have not tested or verified.
  • No sponsored posts, embedded links, or guest posts: I do not accept sponsored posts or embedded text links, nor do I take guest posts. The exception: brand ambassadorship with G Adventures, who I worked with for 6 years. I always disclose in the post when I was on a trip under my ambassadorship with them.
  • Ads generally: No no no. No ads, display or otherwise.
  • No pop upsI know, I know, they work. I hate them. So they won’t be on Legal Nomads.

TL;DR  Legal Nomads isn’t monetized via advertising or sponsored content, but rather through the creative projects and writing. The site is ad-free. Any affiliate links are products I have used or can vouch for and am comfortable attaching to my reputation online. I will continue to maintain this integrity and treat readers with respect, as I would want to be treated online.

Have my travels been fulfilling?

People often ask if my travels have been fulfilling, or if I regretted taking off. In my “why I quit” post I wrote about moments of overwhelming happiness on this journey.  That’s not to say every day has been perfect, but on the whole I have been lucky enough to explore some extraordinary countries, meet terrific new friends and eat as much food as possible. I’ve ended up doing so as a line of work too, which was unexpected but wonderful.

That said, this lifestyle has brought me a lot of challenges, mostly in the form of chronic pain. I have had to accept my new normal and listen to my body when I pushed it too far.

Some posts along those lines:

I’ve also put together an FAQ post for the questions I’ve received most from readers, and the rest of my personal stories are here.

For a longer-form answers, here are:

A video interview from July 2013 with Bloomberg TV for their “Stealth Lawyer” series, about food, travel and life after law.

My talk about taking risks, long-term travel and finding your passion in life from the WDS  2011 conference.

Want to Connect?

I’m on TwitterGoogle Plus, and Facebook, as well as Instagram.

You can sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I curate the best of longform writing from around the web, here.

Thank you for reading!

– Jodi