World Travel Resources

Welcome to the Legal Nomads Resources page.

When I quit my job in 2008, I feverishly researched what I would need to pack, plan, and budget for a round the world trip. I did not find many world travel resources on the web at that time, so I cobbled together notes of my own. I update it frequently, and my goal is to have the basics of long term world travel all in one place, perfect for those seeking make a change and travel but unsure of where to start.

This long resources page is available on Legal Nomads freely, but it will soon be possible to download it as an ebook, along with additional resources for digital nomads, for a small fee.

If you have found the page useful, you can support me and the site by buying my Food Traveler’s Handbook or one of my hand-drawn typographic maps of food


Table of Contents

Pre-trip planning
Packing tips and packing lists
Budgeting your trip– Updated as of May 2015
Travel Tips and The Travel Mindset
Booking Flights and Travel Hacking
Technology, Electronics, and Apps
Safe Eating Abroad
Solo Female Travel
Get Social: Connect with Jodi

Pre-trip Planning

1. Research, research, research!

While I always caution against planning your entire itinerary, it is essential to do some basic research about the area you plan to visit. Starting points:

Research the Weather. Do not discount weather in your planning. Exploring the Philippines was an awe-inspiring few months, but when monsoon season started I quickly learned just how difficult backpacking could be when you’re constantly dripping wet. While wet and dry seasons are less delineated these days, it still makes good travel sense to get a rough idea of when to go. The best times are usually shoulder seasons, on the cusp of the high or low periods. Prices are lower and while you might get some bad weather you’ll also avoid a good amount of the crowds.

The Culture: Part of what makes the world interesting is to explore a country through its cultures and customs. This custom deep dive can refer to table manners, tipping styles, or simple the ways that people say hello and goodbye.

Start with the links below and then filter by destination.

2. Build a timeline and spend some time looking at visa requirements.

Depending on your nationality, you will need visas in some countries, but might receive a visa waiver or visa on arrival in others. Since many countries require a visa ahead of time, one that cannot be obtained when you enter the country, it’s best to read up ahead of time about each country and its requirements.

  • Resources: For American Citizens, entry requirements are here; for Canadian Citizens, entry requirements are here. IATA’s global visa database is also a great resource for anyone – plug in the country you’re from, your resident country and where you are headed.
  • Also take a look at country reports for your destination. The Government of Canada’s landing page for international travel is here (and they’re on Twitter here) and the USA’s Department of State country warnings are here.
  • Canadians! There are work programs available for you if you’re 18-35 years old. Several countries have bilateral treaties that allow you to work without a fixed job ahead of time, but as a means to reduce your travel costs. More info here.
  • You can use the “Do I Need A Visa For?” site to see if you require one – handy and an easy to remember URL!

3. Prepare for the Worst, and Hope for the Best!

Vaccinations: Yes, you need them. Not all of them, but some basics are important before you head to environments wholeheartedly different from the one your body is used to. Regardless of country, I’ve always made sure I had the following shots up to date: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Yellow Fever, Tetanus booster, Typhoid/Diphtheria, MMR booster (measles, mumps and rubella) and Polio. There are others such as cholera, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis that are more subjective based on budget and destination, and your doctor will be able to help ascertain how necessary they are.

Medical insurance. There were several times on this trip where I got sick, and while some countries are not expensive to find good medical care, others break the budget. Medical insurance is something that you hopefully won’t need on your travels, but if you do get sick, you’ll be relieved to have a policy to protect you.

  • Resources: has a handy comparison chart for several medical insurance plans popular with round-the-world travelers.

PDF copies of your things to yourself. Before you leave, PDF yourself (and archive) copies of your passport, your visas obtained in advance and any other documents you might need to show and/or potentially lose on the road.

Consider getting a Google Voice number so you can receive emails of voicemail transcripts or texts left for you while you were on your travels. While not a failsafe method of communication (let’s just say their voice transcription technology needs a little work) it comforts me to have a number for my parents, bank or friends to reach me along the way.

Back up your Laptop: If you are traveling with a laptop, consider backing up your photos and computer files online. It’s awful to lose all of your photos and if your computer and backups are stolen, you’re going to be very upset.

  • Resources: Companies like Carbonite, Crashplan, or Mozy will backup your laptop or desktop to the cloud. I currently use Mozy but friends have spoken very highly of all 3.
  • For your photos, SmugMug is another good option. I host all of my photos on SmugMug, who have very reasonable storage plans and a great interface for building photo albums. This affiliate link gets you 20% off a new SmugMug account. And if you want to see what their galleries look like, my photo albums are here.

For additional tips about food safety and heath, see my Safe Eating Abroad section.

What to Bring? Packing tips and Packing Lists

1. Choose your bag.

There are so many backpacks, suitcases, and duffels on the market that it is no surprise that the “what bag to use?” question is one of the most frequent that I receive.

My advice: pick your bag based on your needs, and how well it fits.

  • If you want a smaller daybag: I went through a slew of different daypack options over my 5 years of travel but have ended up with a 19L Synapse bag from Tom Bihn. It’s small but holds more than you would think, it is really well built and they even have a safety whistle on the sternum strap.
  • If you want a bigger backpack and you’re a short woman like me:  For longer trips where I need a technical pack that fits well, I go with a Gregory Jade 60, but they have discontinued this 60L size. A similar bag is the Wander 50 from Gregory, or the smaller Gregory Jade 40. (Both are available in XS torso size, which is a lifesaver for small people like me. The close fit allows me comfortable to carry weight while camping. I’ve yet to find another brand of bag that fits my small torso as snugly for trekking or backpacking. I no longer use this in my day-to-day travels as a back injury has led my doctor to request I stick to wheels, but when needed for camping or short technical trips, these Gregory bags fit to a T.
  • If you’re looking for a suitcase, think about a packing system like Eagle Creek: I use Eagle Creek’s packing systems for packing cubes and toiletry cases for the most part. When traveling with a suitcase, I use either the Tarmac 22 or the Load Warrior 25, depending on my needs. My bag’s insides are a tetris-like mix of packing cubes and other sachets. For toiletries I use the Wallaby foldable accessories case — it houses everything from shampoo and soap and face wash and makeup, as well as important medicine and some of what’s in my first-aid kit above.  To pack inside the suitcase I use rectangular packing cubes as I mentioned above, or if space and weight are an issue, the thinner siliconized nylon version.
  • If you’re looking for a carry-on only bag that is built both for protecting your laptop and accessing all your belongings with ease: Try the Minaal, which was built by two Kiwis who decided they just couldn’t find the backpack of their dreams and so they needed to make it themselves. It’s got a clamshell packing system, a separate suspended laptop compartment, and the size also fits perfectly with those packing cubes I mention above from Eagle Creek. This is what I use when I want one bag for a shorter trip, instead of a daypack + suitcase combo.

2. Medical and Safety Related Packing Suggestions

Round out your First Aid Kit. A first aid kit is a must. While I have been mocked for carting it around with me most of the time, the travelers who did fall/break something/tear their calf open while jumping off a boat were among the supporters. Many of these can be purchased and/or replaced from the road, but if starting out in a more remote destination, it’s a good thing to have a more thorough kit from the get-go.

Here is a list of items that I don’t leave home without when traveling to developing countries:

  1. Neosporin or a similar triple antibiotic cream; (Note: if you’re going to be spending a good part of your time in the tropics or somewhere with high humidity (Southeast Asia), you might want to also include antiseptic powder. I’ve had deep cuts where using the cream actually made it worse, because the cut never dried out. In high-humidity environments, antibiotic powder is your friend).
  2. Anti-itch cream;
  3. Small sutures/stitches;
  4. Burn gel;
  5. Diclofenac (anti-inflammatory cream sold over the counter);
  6. Gauze;
  7. Ciprofloxacin (if you get food poisoning/stomach infections, you will want some of this)
  8. A “Z Pack” aka, Azithromycin (another option for stomach infections as many bacteria in Southeast Asia are becoming resistant to Cipro, discussions with doctors there)
  9. Metronidazole (for giardia or amoebic dysentery; I’ve picked these up for reasonable prices in Thailand or other parts of Southeast Asia);
  10. Immodium, but only to take if absolutely necessary since trapping whatever bacteria you’ve got in your intestine is a bad idea. I only use it if I’m about to board a bus for 8 hours and know that I’m not going to make it without copious bathroom breaks.
  11. Sewing kit;
  12. Ibuprofen;
  13. Benedryl or other anti-histamine pills
  14. Anti-malaria meds (consult your doctor about using these as a prophylactic; I keep a dose on me in the event I do contract malaria and no doctor is nearby);
  15. Band-aids;
  16. Matches;
  17. Moleskin and 2nd Skin for blisters (the former for regular walking, the latter for hikes);
  18. Charcoal tablets for your stomach, to help absorb the bad stuff after a bout of food poisoning;
  19. Oral rehydration salts;
  20. Diflucan (for the ladies);
  21. Anti-mozzie spray plus 100% DEET (for spraying drains in showers/sinks);
  22. Sterile syringes;
  23. Alcohol wipes; and
  24. Tweezers (I swear by Tweezerman!)

Research your Water Purification Options. Safe water is an important part of travel, and thankfully there are a several options that are easy to keep with you that won’t weigh you down.

  • The popular SteriPEN, a small wand that you insert in a glass of water, powered by AA-batteries.
  • For filtering there is the Sawyer Squeeze filter system, which is compact and comes with 3 collapsible bottles. It screws onto the bottle you are drinking from, so it provides fast filtration with no awkward parts you can lose.
  • Aquamira chlorine dioxide water treatment drops are inexpensive and really lightweight, with two small bottles that require an hour wait prior to use. (Note that these treat viruses as well as filtering bacteria and parasites).
  • For those looking for a non-chemical filtration and virus elimination system, the Lifesaver 4000UF  is another option that protects against bacteria as well as viruses.

Safety Whistle: A safety whistle is small, but important. I wrote a post about how my safety whistle saved me on three separate occasions in Asia. It’s a small piece of plastic, but when you need it, you need it. Highly recommended. You can pick one up from Amazon or at your local outdoor store.

Doorstop. Small and easy to carry but brings some extra peace of mind if you’re staying somewhere and are worried about someone trying to get into your room at night. While not fail-safe (of course!) I’ve used my doorstop several times on my travels and it’s been a small tool I am glad I had.

Waterproof your Electronics. I use Ultra-Sil nylon dry bags to keep my electronics dry and dust-free. If you’ll be headed to the islands or will be on water, I’d recommend a sturdier, more waterproof bag like this See Bag from Sealine.

3. General Packing Tips and Essentials

Don’t forget wool socks. I live in my SmartWool socks, which I’ve been buying and wearing long before I set out to travel. I keep a pair of the expedition weight socks with me because I’ve found that as they are worn, they compress so that they provide a bit of cushion but are still quite warm. Their regular hiking socks work for those who — unlike me — are not freezing all the time. Wool socks! Don’t leave home without them.

Earplugs are your friend. I am a very light sleeper, and regardless of whether I stay in a crowded dorm room or a chaotic city like Saigon, I always have a pair of earplugs with me to quiet noise when I am ready to sleep. I have tried so many different earplugs. So many. The ones I’ve found work the best for me are Spark Plugs, the official ear plugs of NASCAR. If they work for racing cars, they work for me.

Packing Cubes or Compression Sacks. I love the Tetris game that is my packing strategy! For suitcases, I use the packing cubes I mention above, but for backpacks and their rounded shape compression sacks (siliconized nylon and super thin so they don’t take up extra room) are ideal. The compression sacks have the added bonus of being water resistant.

Headlamp: I’ve used my headlamp (I have had the same Petzl Tikka headlamp for years and it’s still kicking!) in a staggeringly broad cross-section of situations, from cave spelunking to reading in a tent to navigating my way to the bathroom in a hostel at 4am. I use a Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp and it has stayed intact over 3 years of travel.

Get a Point It Dictionary: People often write to ask how I get by in places where I don’t speak the language. This Point-It Dictionary is a big help. From a homestay in Siberia to ordering food in China (by pointing to my meat of choice in the book) to entertaining kids in Burma, this dictionary comes with me no matter what. It’s wise to learn a few safety words (“fire”, “thief”, “help” and the like) in the local language to be able to shout at the top of your lungs, should you need to.

Duct Tape: For everything from taping up ripped window screens (Jodi 1; mosquitoes 0), to rips in my pack to a cut that won’t close, I don’t leave home without it. You shouldn’t either. Adventure Medical Kits makes miniature duct tape rolls that are lightweight with no center cardboard, so they are easy to carry in any bag.

Smartphone. I’ve found having a smartphone on the road a very useful thing, especially now that mobile photography has become a fun and interesting way to share stories. If the phone is unlocked, SIM cards are very cheap and easy to procure from the road – in Thailand, for example, my SIM cost me $1.50 and came preloaded with enough to make several calls. In Vietnam, data plans are 70,000 dong ($3.19) for unlimited monthly data. In Greece, it was 15 Euros for 5gb of data on WIND Gr.

  • Resources: Too Many Adapters rounds up the many SIM card options in Southeast Asia here, and there is a worldwide prepaid SIM card wiki here.

Sleep sheet. I live in mine whenever I’m outside North America, and sometimes within it too. I loved the Sea to Summit cotton and silk blend sheet, but they’ve replaced it with a silk liner that is stretchy and comfortable.

Thank you cards. A great gesture for anywhere you stay or are invited to eat, bringing a thank you card is an excellent option when you don’t know what to bring but don’t want to show up empty handed. A lovely option here.

Bring business cards for meeting and greeting. Working as a lawyer for several years meant that I was guaranteed a very staid, simple business card. So when I decided to head out and travel, I was excited to get something a little more fun. I ended up with Moo Cards, which allow me to upload my own photos (up to 50 of them per order) to the front of my card, as well as a headshot on the back. I currently use a version of these cards with my Legal Nomads logo on them, and they’re of good quality and durable. People love them.

For the ladies:

  • Foldable flat shoes.  In my post about 21 tips from four years of travel, I advocate packing jeans as a way to both fit in with others when you’re dining out in a city, and feel like yourself despite being far from home. Another arm of the same advice would be to find a pair of foldable flat shoes you can take with you, which dress up even the most casual of outfits. I’ve never found anything as comfortable as Tieks, since they’re padded and made of leather so they stretch.  These were sent to me for review, and they are quite expensive but I stand by the fact that they are stupidly comfortable. I’ve actually never found a pair that fit this well and didn’t give me blisters. Other less expensive options Sidekicks or Dr. Scholl’s ‘fast flats’. Of the two, I’ve found the “fast flats” to be more comfortable, and slightly more padded, but still unwearable for more than an hour or two.
  • A Menstrual Cup. For the first two years of my round-the-world travels, I lugged around Ziploc bags of tampons, in case I found myself in countries where they could not be bought. No longer! I now have a reusable menstrual cup. While not necessarily the most popular topic for dinner conversation, I’ve encouraged quite a few female friends and readers to buy one, as it truly has been life changing. I use the Lunette, which was recommended for shorter torsos. If you’re in North America, the Diva Cup is likely the easiest to find. Plenty of women I’ve spoken with are equally as happy with their cup as I am with mine. If you are worried about leakage, start using it mid-period, but I promise that I have never had any trouble with it. Because it’s made with medical grade silicon, it can be left in longer than a tampon, and it can be used just before you are due to get your period, in case you’re on a long bus ride and worried about timing. For cleaning, I use these Lunette cleaning wipes, or just buy baby wipes in whatever country I’m in — they are readily available everywhere. Basically, I can’t recommend it enough, both because of its environmental friendliness – no wasted materials discarded several times a day – and also comfort. If you want a more detailed write-up of the Diva Cup, Shannon from A Little Adrift has a review here.

Please see my Solo Female Travel section for more advice.

4. See what others have packed in these packing lists below. Updated as of June 2015.

Budgeting Your Trip

*Updated as of June 2015

Budget is, of course, integral to any endeavor of this kind. How much you need to save for your travels will in part be determined by where you want to go. For travels through Southeast Asia or the Subcontinent, you’ll definitely need far less than if you were to spend that same amount of time traveling through Europe or Australia/New Zealand.  I saved up to spend an approximate $12,000 – $15,000 per year, and I came in at the lower end of that spectrum, even when you factor in long-haul flights back to North America for family or health reasons. Unfortunately, I’ve never done any spreadsheets / budget breakdown but the travel community is full of great resources in that domain. Here are a few of them, broken down by destination:

1. Round the World Travel Budget

2. Asia Travel Budget

3. Europe Travel Budget

4. Oceania Travel Budget

5. Africa Travel Budget

6. Middle East Travel Budget

7. South & Central America & Mexico Travel Budget

8. Mexico Travel Budget

9. North America Travel Budget

10. Other Options to Stretch Your Travel Budget

Keeping budget low is, of course, a bit of a priority for most of us. Other than the usual —  eating street food, cooking when you can — there are ways to minimize costs and get creative. Some options:

  • WWOOFing: working on farms as a means to supplement housing costs.
  • HelpX: trading accommodation for services in a wide variety of industries
  • WorkAway: Another site for trading lodging for services.
  • Housesitting: several options exist for house-sitting gigs, and each site has pros/cons. For more info see Housesitting 101 from the Hecks, but here are the main ones: House Carers, Mind my House, Caretaker’s Gazette, and Trusted Housesitters
  • For those not interested in hostels, a weekly rental at an Airbnb will be cheaper than a hotel in my experience, with added benefits. It has allowed me to just parachute into an area and feel far more like a local than I would otherwise. The hosts have been really happy to give food suggestions and given that the apartments are not in touristy areas, and it also allows me to see more of a city or parts of it that I might have missed. Another suggestion is HomeAway. The rates in bigger cities are usually far below hotels, and I’ve found often similar to private rooms in a hostel, with the privacy and comfort of an apartment. Even in times that I’ve rented a private room vs. my own place, I’ve found the hosts to be fun and gracious.

The Travel Mindset: Long-Term Travel and You

1. On Quitting Your Job to Travel

There are more than enough posts on the web about quitting your job from a variety of perspectives, so I’ll keep this brief.

It’s not for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with taking the vacations allotted to you at work. You will never see a blog post on Legal Nomads telling you that you have to quit your job, because it’s a highly personal decision.

For those who are interested in quitting and traveling long-term, I do have some advice:

  • If you’re going to travel long-term, pick a deadline where you assess your goals: It’s good to sit down and ask yourself what you want out of the trip ahead of time, and also set a timeline for meeting that goal. Is the aim to keep traveling the world, or is it to be creative about a new career as well?
  • The money runs out: There are many places where cost of living is quite low. On average, I spent $12,000 a year during my first two years of travel, and the budget section above can help you gauge your budget goals. But eventually, your resources will deplete. Before you go, ask yourself: what is your worst-case scenario when you can’t live off savings any longer? Are you willing to get a working visa, or trade accommodation for services? It’s important to stress that if a primary benefit of traveling indefinitely is flexibility, that often means working for yourself.
  • If you want to be strategic, work on developing a skill that you can leverage from the road. There’s a lot of talk about being passionate about what you do. As someone who accidentally found what I love, I understand why. But the most practical advice I can give is to start by focusing on a skill set that is portable, whether it’s learning to code, getting better at writing, website design, or building apps. If you become good enough, you can create your own terms–and often that means working anywhere.

Long-term travel can be baffling to those at home, and I am often asked “don’t you miss having a home?” My thoughts on the matter are in my post on 7 years of long term travelbut the TL;DR version is: if I were tired of it, I’d do something else! That said, it is a matter of personal preference and comfort levels with uncertainty. Here are some posts on Legal Nomads that might be useful for this question:

2. Staying calm and Positive on the Road

These are more philosophical than practical, but are equally important when the sights, smells and chaos of a new place overwhelm you.

These are more philosophical than practical, but are equally important when the sights, smells and chaos of a new place overwhelm you.

  • Give yourself a few days to adjust before making judgments about a new place. You usually arrived tired from the trip and less open minded than usual. Give yourself a chance to warm to it before you decide to leave. Initially I didn’t enjoy my time in Bangkok but after getting out of the main tourist areas and living in the middle of street food heaven, I found myself enthralled with the city. Sometimes the places that make the worst first impressions end up being your favorites.
  • Learning a few words of the local goes a long way. This is helpful not just to get what you need, but also to break the ice in a new place. I’d also and make sure that the translation of “no problem” is on that brief list – it’s a surefire way to get a smile!
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Clichéd, but true. The sooner you start to weigh down your days with resentment or anger at things that cannot change, the sooner you’ll want to leave. Things will not go as planned, but that’s part of the adventure, and oftentimes they really do work out in the end. Save the stress and the anger for the things that really matter.
  • Build a vacation into your vacation. When I came home for the holidays in 2009, people asked me how my vacation was going. I explained that my round-the-world travels were my life, and my time home was my vacation. Travel in developing countries can be tiring and it can be frustrating, and there are times when you really do need to give yourself a break. Whether that means sitting on a beach for a week, finding a festival you love, and relaxing or treating yourself to a nice meal every so often or upgrading your hotel to something different, figure out what you need to give your brain and body a break, and then indulge in it once in a while.
  • Experiment with food and markets. Experiencing the world through food is by far my preferred method of traveling, and the best ways to do so are to parachute into a busy market in a new place and see what’s what. From the bustling, colorful morning shopping on Inle Lake in Burma to the teeming animal markets of Otavalo in Ecuador, markets led me to new explorations in food and a connection to locals that I would have otherwise missed.
  • Remember that the travel community is very active online, and will happily provide advice and support whenever you need it. Prior to starting a blog, I had no idea that there was such a robust, supportive community of fellow travelers out there who were available to provide advice and suggestions. For those who aren’t planning to write about their trip but are active in social media, Twitter and Instagram are excellent places to get off-the-cuff accommodation picks, food suggestions and people to meet along the way.

Booking Flights and Travel Hacking

This remains the mother of all questions for RTW travelers, and the subject of much vitriol on many of the travel forums. People seem vehemently for or against a round-the-world ticket, with little room in between. I’m a big proponent of not buying a round-the-world ticket, mostly because some of the places I loved the most – and spent the most time in – weren’t even on my initial itinerary. A person you meet who tells you it’s somewhere you cannot miss, some article that catches your eye along the way; many reasons why you want the freedom and flexibility to do as you please, as you go.

For me, it was more important to have the flexibility and freedom of being able to change my plans on a whim, than it was to calculate the aggregate savings of a RTW ticket. I am sure a RTW ticket would have run me less in terms of bare costs, but I’d like to think that the fun I’ve had in being wholly spontaneous was a fair opportunity cost for those savings.

Round-the-World Ticket

For those people who feel more comfortable knowing the general route and schedule in advance, this is a perfect option and generally cheaper than the pay-as-you-go ticket buying, below. Conversely, the downside to these types of tickets is a lack of flexibility in destinations and mode of transportation, as well as the limit of 12 months.


  • Star Alliance – Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, bmi, EgyptAir, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, United, US Airways. RTW ticket is based on mileage (and not “stops”). Overland mileage between destinations counts toward your total.
  • One World – Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qatar Airways, JAL, Iberia, Lan and Qantas, offering either of a Global explorer or a oneworld explorer, depending on the amount of continents and stops you want to include in your trip. Good for South America due to the inclusion of LAN in the OneWorld alliance.
  • SkyTeam Alliance – Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest Airlines, Air Europa, Copa Airlines, Kenya Airways.
  • Airtreks RTW ticket options is another option. I used them for the first series of long-hauls I booked on my travels, a set of open-jaw tickets when I knew I had to be somewhere specific. E.g. I booked a flight from NY to Santiago and then several months later, a flight from Buenos Aires to Cape Town. This can be done separately, of course.
  • BootnAll’s travel planner is further option for planning round-the-world travel. A new offering from Bootsnall, you can use them to add custom build and price itineraries for your long and short haul ticket strings.
  • Nomadic Matt’s Travel Hacking Guide (primarily US-focused) on mileage and airfare.
  • For the Canadians, Steven’s Travel Hacking for Canadians.
  • Airtreks has a sample timeline for potential round-the-world travelers here.

As-you-Go Flying

For many travelers, the idea of a RTW trip often includes freeing themselves from whatever routine or life they have been living and giving themselves up to the unknown. If this feeling/goal is more important than knowing where are heading next, opting against a RTW ticket might be better for you. As-you-go flying means taking advantage of the budget airline options out there, as well as any other modes of transportation between countries (trains, buses, motorbikes, etc). It also means that you might decide to change your itinerary entirely upon meeting people headed in a different direction, and that you need to do a lot less pre-trip destination planning since you could inevitably end up somewhere entirely unexpected.


Technology, Electronics, and Apps

I get a lot of emails about technology and travel as well, about what computer I bring (if any) and the phones or gadgets I use.

1. Technology in my Bag

For more on mirrorless cameras, please see this review from Shawn Blanc comparing different models (Panasonic, Olympus, Sony). See also this more sterile review of mirrorless cameras in 2015.

  • Prior to that point, I had a Canon S90 point and shoot cameraAll of my travel photography up until October 2011 was taken with this point and shoot camera. At the very beginning, my photos were tepid at best, but I’ve tried to learn as much as I can as I go. If I was not using a mirrorless camera today, I’d opt for the Sony DSC-RX100 as my point and shoot instead.Note: For the professional photographers out there, Laurence Norah has a packing list for his photo kit here.
  • iPhone 6 (unlocked): When I do not have a local SIM, I just use it with WiFi. I love, love, LOVE Instagram for sharing photos with my family and friends and for note-taking, currency conversion, maps and more, it has been a fun tool. I also carry an external charger for the phone when I’m away from outlets for a long day of photos and writing.
  • a Macbook Air 11″ notebook: As I’ve transitioned into more freelance work and photography, I had to upgrade my computer to something with more processing power (and a screen that’s a little larger too). I choose the Air because it is lightweight, I’ve been able to use Time Machine to back up on the road. I’m amazed at how fast the Air is, and it’s amazingly lightweight. Syncs with my iPhone (of course that’s Apple’s master plan) and I’ve yet to find anything else I enjoy as much.
  • For those with an iPhone: I use Kenu’s Highline, which is basically a bungee cord for your phone so you don’t ever drop it on the ground again. It’s got a tough safety lock that firmly grips the phone, Kevlar cord. Their new Highline case for the 5S came out too, and it fixes the problem created by the smaller new charger by housing their Kevlar cord along with the case. I drop my phone a lot, so I find it helpful to have a bungee to keep it attached to something (in my case, my purse). Bonus, in Vietnam people gave me a thumbs up ALL the time because of phone theft being a rampant problem; everyone wanted to know where I got it. I liked it so much I got a discount code for the product – adding legalnomads at checkout will get you 20% of your purchases.
  • Western Digital 500GB My Passport Drive: 500GB drives are mighty small nowadays, and as someone who had all my photos stolen with my laptop and cameras, I make sure to back up my photos as I go. I also use to back them up into the cloud, just in case.
  • The Kindle Voyage is the one I would buy today, though I currently use a Paperwhite. I read a lot, and though I do miss holding books and reading them lovingly, I don’t miss carrying all that weight. I use Calibre as my library manager on my laptop.
  • Boingo Membership (link is to a chart of their plans available for purchase): While I wish that wifi were free in more airports and hotspots around the world, it’s just not. There are a bunch of options for Wifi hotspot plans out there, but I’ve used Boingo for the last few years and it has been great for long layovers in Dubai and elsewhere. It also affords access to the many membership hotspots in bigger cities like London when used with their free iPhone app, good for when I don’t have a local SIM and need email to coordinate meetings. Expensive for budget travelers, but for those working as they roam and needing constant access, a good option to do so. For Legal Nomads readers, a 50% off Boingo for the first three months coupon, for access to Boingo’s 600,000 hot spots around the world.

2. Apps

When I started my trip in 2008, I had no laptop and no smartphone. As the years have gone by and I’ve continued my travels, I’ve picked up a phone and kept an eye out for apps that help me as I navigate strange places, be it via language, food or helping make my life a little easier as I go.
  • Onavo (iphone only): Onavo’s aim is to shrink your data usage, and it does so by installing a configuration profile on your phone, so that the data you receive from the interwebs is streamed through their cloud-based compression service. This means that the compression takes place before it gets to your phone, and this also means Onavo saves you some money if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.
  • Skype: Being on the road for over three years means that I’ve had no SIM card and no home base. As a result, Skype has been a savior – it allows me to use WiFi to reach my friends, I can forward its services to a local number, and I’ve added SkypeOut credit for those family members (*cough* dad *cough*) who refuse to get an account themselves.
  • Google Voice: For those who are in the States, getting a Google voice number is free and simple, and has been great on the road. It allows me to call my family from my computer for free, and when they ring me on my local number it calls me on my computer
  •  ICOON Global Picture Dictionary: When words just won’t work, be it because you can’t speak the language or you need a doctor ASAP, this is your friend. Photos by category, foods, body parts, lodging basics and more.
  • Google Maps: it works in a startlingly comprehensive list of countries; it helps when you’re really exhausted and just cannot figure out where your hostel is and all the street signs are in an unfamiliar language. If you’re directionally disabled like me, Google Maps is a must, especially when you can use it to show your taxi driver where you need to go in their native language
  • Oanda’s Currency Conversion App: Currency conversion is a helpful thing to have available on the road, especially farther afield where you are sometimes negotiating for rates when changing money. Those countries with a closed monetary system (Myanmar, for example) won’t really care what your app says, but for the most part it’s very helpful to have an interbank rate at your immediate disposal. I’ve used this app throughout my worldwide travels and it comes in handy not just for ensuring I get a decent rate, but also to keep track of what I’m spending by converting to USD as I go.
  • DuolingoI’m currently using this free app to learn Portuguese, but there are many other languages to learn with daily exercises and a great interface. I love it.
  • Evernote: I use Evernote on my laptop to keep notes on a destination, and the iOS app to have those notes accessible as I roam around. Often with addresses of restaurants or places to visit. Very useful.
  • Prey: Security and tracking app Prey helps you find your phone if it is lost or stolen.
  • PocketMy go-to for saving longreads from around the web, it integrates with Twitter and you can set up automated IFTTT recipes where favouriting a Tweet sends the link directly to your Pocket. Great for reading when you have no internet, the app has an excellent interface and I use it daily.

3. Tech gadgets for travel

  • Belkin’s mini surge protector is one that I keep with me at all times. It allows me to charge whatever I need, is tiny enough that it doesn’t take up too much room, and comes in handy when there’s only 1 outlet in a hostel and people are clamoring for it.
  • For those of you with a serious amount of USB charging required, the USB Octopus has your name on it: 7 USB ports in one tiny gadget.
  • Less practical but very fun to have on the road is the X-Mini II speaker. The tiny podlike speaker fits in a felt bag and gives off far more sound than their size would indicate. I’ve used them all over the world to play some of my music to locals who are curious about what I listen to; inevitably, people forget about the music and start oohing and aahing over the X-Mini instead!
  • For those of you in warmer, sunnier climates: you can opt for this Poweradd solar-powered bar for battery-charging goodness.
  • For technology and travel (targeting digital nomads specifically) see Dave Dean’s book Hammocks and Hard Drives. Entering code legalnomads will give you a 20% discount upon purchase.

Safe Eating Abroad

Eating, as many of you know, is the main reason I travel. And I don’t mean at fancy restaurants — I mean the tiny plastic tables and chairs at the side of the road. I’ve found, too, that talking about food can bridge cultures, allowing me to slide sideways into kitchens and bakeries, butcher shops and market stalls.

But there were two problems: how to eat cheap food without getting sick (and I got sick many, many times — from lukewarm llama empanadas in South America to contaminated soup in Myanmar), and how to eat on the road despite having celiac disease. Over the years, I gathered tips for eating safely, and that’s essentially how The Food Traveler’s Handbook was born.

Here are a few suggestions from my book:

  • Everyone tells you to eat at the stalls with the longest line of locals, but an important addition to that is to opt for the stalls with women and children in line, too. More variety in the customer base usually means the stall has been vetted enough that it’s safe for everyone.
  • For a cheap lunch, go to the local university and find a place nearby. Students are a hungry bunch without much to spend on food, and throughout the world cheap stalls pop up around universities.
  • When choosing a stall, try to make sure the woman or man running it doesn’t touch both the money and the food with their bare hands. Either pick a two-person stall where someone’s handling the cash and someone else the food, or a place where the chef is wearing plastic gloves while making the food, and touching the money without them.
  • It’s important to pay attention to local mealtimes as a guard against getting sick, especially in developing countries where refrigeration lacking. Again, be it tiny stalls or restaurants or street eats, you want to be consuming the food when turnover is high and it is still hot.
  • Aim for food that has been fully cooked. My worst bout of food poisoning was from eating a llama empanada on the Bolivian border that was not cooked the whole way through. Despite knowing it was likely a terrible idea, I ate it, and then paid for it in spades. If your dish is cold in the center, you want to order something else or ask for it to be put back in the oven or wok for another few minutes.
  • Cutlery is often the culprit for bacteria while the food is safe and fresh, since the water used to wash the utensils or bowls might be contaminated. This can be an issue in places like India or where river water is used to wash the cutlery instead of fresh water. A priceless tip is to take portable chopsticks, useful in the rare cases where food is fresh but where the utensils might not be washed as thoroughly as you might like. A second best: baby wipes to wipe down the utensils you receive. You might get a few funny looks, but your stomach will thank you later.
  • Some of the advice for street food or food in developing countries is quite aggressive and means you would miss out on one of the best parts of travel! I would never tell someone “Avoid all fruit!” or “Avoid anything with ice!” As with any place, research is needed. Does the city have a subsidized drinking water scheme, such as Bangkok or Saigon? In those cases the ice might be readily available with filtered water. I would agree that it is wise to avoid fruit that cannot be peeled when you do not know the place well, especially those from countries with heavy pollution. Bananas, longan, lychees, mangoes, rambutan, and mangosteen are all incredibly delicious and have an outer skin to peel away. Strawberries, while temping, ought to be avoided in those cases.
  • Translation help. You could also bring a Point It Dictionary if you’re concerned about eating food you can’t place. For those with iPhones, there’s an app for that: ICOON . Both can be useful when you have questions about what is being served, but no language in common.
  • For those of you who are celiac or gluten free, visit the gluten free travel page which deals with this dietary requirement specifically. I write regular posts there about where to eat safely as a celiac.  I’ve started compiling my own gluten-free cards in several languages for Legal Nomads readers.  These include not just “I can’t eat wheat” but also lists of what foods should be avoided that have wheat in them. Many countries do not realize what has wheat in their dishes, since there is no reason to be vigilant. These cards will hopefully go a long way toward getting sick. For now, I’ve started with Japan, which you can find here.  Until then, two options for printable cards are Select Wisely or Allergy Translation. They go a long way toward getting your point across — certainly more so than my initial “gesture feverishly while mimicking getting ill over food” — and Select Wisely has a strongly worded option for those with more life-threatening allergies.
  • Read How to Shit Around the World before you go. Written by a doctor with a great sense of humor, the book aims to demystify street food, help you stay healthy and get people to give you strange looks when you read the book on the subway. Ok, the latter is my own contribution but riding the R in New York was much more fun with this book in hand.

If you just love food and want suggestions about great books to read to inspire both wanderlust and appetite, head over to my Food Resources Page. For city guides to food, see my crash courses to cities page, including Saigon, Montreal, and Marrakech.

Solo Female Travel

I don’t brand myself as a solo female traveler, because I can only travel in the body I’ve been given. And that body happens to be that of a five foot tall female. That said, I receive many questions from worried women or girls, who want to travel but are afraid of what’s out there. I thought I would add a section to this resources page with my tips for solo travel.

I want to reiterate that violence against women happens everywhere, at home or abroad. The question should not be “should I travel as a woman, alone”. It should be “why is it unsafe for me to walk alone at night in so many countries of the world?”

Things – bad things, ugly things, evil things – often cannot be mitigated or planned. Nor do they only happen in countries far away.

It is almost exclusively the women who write with concerns. I understand. However, the tips below can and should be applied by both genders, despite the label of this section.

Many are common sense.

  • Carry a rubber doorstop (I’ve been doing this for years), to wedge from the inside of your room at night.
  • Carry a safety whistle (also keeps the monkeys at bay – trust me).
  • Pay a bit more to stay at a central hostel or guesthouse in a well-lit area of town, with a 24 hour front desk.
  • Watch your drink and certainly don’t get drunk, especially if you’re alone.
  • Err on the side of dressing conservatively. I don’t want to get into a “but it’s an issue of men’s perceptions of women” debate because the reality remains that when you’re traveling, you do need to err on the side of dressing conservatively. I bought a longyi in Myanmar, I covered my head in parts of Indonesia, I wore long sleeves and long dresses and scarves throughout the Middle East and parts of Morocco. In the end, I still stood out, but in respecting the local dress, I definitely felt and saw a difference in the way I was treated.
  • Be vague about your hostel/guesthouse. Sometimes a casual conversation will lead to a question about what hostel you are at, or where you are headed next. It’s wise to stay purposefully vague, or have a (faux) backup hostel or guesthouse in mind for those situations. I’m always wary of giving too much information about my whereabouts when traveling alone. This applies, of course, to men as well.
  • Be aware that eye contact in some countries can invite aggressive behavior. Again, it’s not the message I’d like to put out (as in, I wish this wasn’t something we had to worry about) but it can be the case. I am mindful of this fact, especially as a Montrealer – a city that has proudly declared its love of eye contact.
  • If you are travelling in a country for more than a few days, register with your local embassy. I’ve done so here for Canada in Vietnam, as have my American and Australian friends in town. Most consular services do include registration for citizens abroad, and it is very helpful in the event of emergency (or even natural disasters). For Canadians, it’s here. For Americans, here.

Connect with Me

Jodi ettenberg

If I don’t respond to your email right away, it’s likely because I’m eating soup.

You can reach me in the following ways:

links i loved legal nomads newsletterMonthly Newsletter, called Links I Loved. This isn’t a summary of my travels, but a place to share the most interesting articles I’ve read in the last month. While I update with recent posts and any news, the focus is on links to learn from. Newsletter powered by Aweber.

RSS Feed. Legal Nomads updates, directly to your RSS reader or inbox.

Facebook. I organize my meetups through Facebook and post links from around the web as well as many photos from my travels. I’ve been grateful for the great commentary and interaction from readers who have interesting perspectives on the information I share. A fun place to stay in touch.

Twitter. I post a wide variety of links, mostly technology, news and astronomy related. Travel interspersed between those categories, but it isn’t the focus.

Instagram Photos from my travels taken with an iPhone 6, and where I update most frequently, especially between posts.

Pinterest: Why yes, I did create a board called “trees that look like broccoli”. Why not?

Via email. Send me a message through my contact form.

Hopefully I have inspired you in some way to seek out those things in life that make you thirsty to live in technicolor, despite any obstacles in your way.

Thanks for reading!


A reminder the Legal Nomads is ad-free and earns money through sales of products in the shop, as well as via affiliate sales. The links above to Amazon, Eagle Creek, and Tom Bihn are affiliate links. I would never endorse a product I didn’t use and believe in, but clicking through and purchasing via these links helps keep the site ad-free.