I’m a former lawyer currently traveling (and eating!) my way around the world, one country at a time. This site began when I quit my job in 2008 and took off to see the world, having saved up money by lawyering for 5 years in New York City. I wanted to have a blog where I could post photos and share crazy stories so that my friends and family could follow along from afar.
I thought I would return to lawyering after a year or so on the road, but as you know (since you’re reading this now), a return to the law never happened. This is my vaguely chronological recounting of my time living and eating abroad. It is mostly about the stories, so while I do post as I discover new places, I often share stories from earlier in my travels several years later. More than anything, it is about connecting to others through food and learning.
From lawyer to career breaker to travel writer
Casting aside my initial itinerary, I found myself organically moving from one place to the next based on my tastebuds or a fellow traveler’s recommendation. It’s meant that my travels have had a flow to them, linked by common connections and shared meals. And as I kept writing and sharing my photos, trying to improve my photography and provide tips for people looking to set off on their own journeys, Legal Nomads started gaining a readership of its own.
By late 2010, I started receiving offers for freelance writing and inquiries to buy photos, and now have formed longer-term partnerships with several companies I respect and enjoy working for.
After two years of round-the-world travel focusing on what I wanted to eat and learn about, I found myself morphing into a new form of traveler, someone who still does those things but does so at a much slower pace, built around existing work contracts and speaking opportunities.
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.
The only money I make through the site is via affiliates for products I use, primarily via the Amazon Associates Program, which is an affiliate advertising program designed to provide sites with a way to earn commissions on products they link to on Amazon. So if you click on a product I recommend and it is sold via Amazon, I will receive a minimal percentage of the sale price (4%-6%, usually). This applies to the books I recommend here (including my own), and the products (safety whistles, doorstops, etc from my resources page) that I use and recommend because they’ve been great on the road. Buying through those links helps support Legal Nomads and offsets hosting and other costs of the site, while at the same time remaining fairly unobtrusive.
So, instead of monetizing Legal Nomads directly, I’ve used it as a springboard for other opportunities and jobs and the work I do has stemmed from people first finding me here, and then reaching out to work with them elsewhere on the web. I’ve also recently started a shop with hand-drawn typographic maps and illustrations, built on the stories I share on the site.
So how do I afford to keep travelling?
Understandably, readers often ask how I can afford to keep travelling, even if my travels are no longer of the round-the-world variety. As I said on my FAQs from 6 years of travel post, I’ve been asked if I had a rich boyfriend, or a trust fund. No, and no.
Keep in mind that the lifestyle I’m living usually has me in Southeast Asia for the bulk of the winter – that means $350 a month rent for apartments and $1 street food feasts. At present my life could not stay as is and sustain me in North America or Europe, but in Southeast Asia (and a few other places too), the income I make allows me to cover all costs and save some money too.
So, how do I afford this?
1) I do occasionally take unpaid press trips where expenses are covered, like my trip to Jordan earlier in 2011 and also in 2010 for an adventure trip on the Dominican Republic’s north coast. You’ll always know if I take a press trip as I disclose it in the post. I do so where it’s a place I’m excited to see, and I think my readers will benefit from the history and the food and the stories that spring from the trip.
2) I have long-term partnerships with companies like Longreads, G Adventures (I am one of their Wanderers in Residence, hopping on a few trips per year with them and also writing for their Looptail blog), and SilverKris from Singapore Airlines. The income from these partnerships allow me to keep travelling as I do. I also do quite a bit of freelance writing for magazines and websites on an ad hoc basis.
3) I’ve been speaking at conferences about social media curation and strategy, each of which usually cover flights and accommodation as well as an occasional speaker’s fee. (I’ve also started a newsletter, Links I Loved, of the curatory variety.) 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.
4) I do social media consulting work for brands who want to focus on authenticity, engagement and longtail strategy. This was born out of my own use of social media, and I’ve really enjoyed it.
5) I partnered with a great artist to make a total of 10 hand-drawn typographic maps of countries and their foods, which I’ve put up for sale in limited campaigns. The first was Vietnam, and next up will be Thailand. Other fun shirts are in the works, like my current “Say No to Olives” campaign. (Don’t worry, the “say yes to olives” shirt is coming soon.)
6) 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.
These six things help support the travel I do, but are by no means the only travel I am doing. I’ve sought to keep a balance between the work travel and the funsies, and it’s been great to piggyback one on the other.
And where have I been?
Thus far, I’ve traipsed through South America and then moved on to South Africa, Russia, Mongolia and China. After several months in each of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, I spent 6 weeks in Burma (Myanmar) and 3 months in Thailand during its tumultuous protest-filled spring. Coming back to North America in the summer of 2010, I had a chance to explore the Dominican Republic, take a whirlwind trip through South America and catch up with friends and family in between my travels. 2011 began with a flight back to Asia, a continent I love (where the food is cheap and delicious, and the clothes fit me), as well as travels through Laos, Jordan, Morocco and Turkey. I ended the year in England and Scotland with my brother and his friends.
Last year began with more Asia (no surprise), and then Italy and a summer of time with family in Canada. I spent the fall in Portugal, Iceland, and visiting my family in England. I’ve spent the bulk of my Asia time in the last few years in Vietnam, eating my way through Saigon and exploring some of what the country has to offer.
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.
Travel has also helped me keep life in perspective in the long and short term, and led to many reflections on what it means to be ‘home’ in a world of in-betweens.
In April 2013, I wrote a long post about what comes next and how 5 years of travel has changed me. It’s far more personal than the usual but it provides some insight into why I keep doing what I do.
For a longer-form answers, here are:
1) Video interview from July 2013 with Bloomberg TV for their “Stealth Lawyer” series, about food, travel and life after law.
2) My talk about taking risks, long-term travel and finding your passion in life from the WDS 2011 conference.
World travel tips and resources
After many great emails from readers asking about packing, planning and budget for round-the-world travel, I’ve built a World Travel Resources Page that hopefully serves as a starting point for those feeling overwhelmed. The page (which started small but has sprawled into quite the list) now includes information on how to stay positive on the road, some recommended reading, what to put in your first aid kit and gadgets to bring along as you travel.
There’s also a list of 21 practical tips for long-term travel, cobbled together after 4 years on the road.
Looking for more?
I’m on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook, as well as Instagram if you’d like to see other content like mobile photos and links I loved. For the longer-form ode to food, my book is available on Amazon here.
Thank you for reading!