After Three Years of Travel, What’s Next?

Three years of travel in one photo - Legal Nomads

It feels like yesterday that I sat down to write a post celebrating two years on the road, one that has remained the most popular of everything I have posted here on Legal Nomads. I was in Chiang Mai as well and remember sitting blurry-eyed in front of a computer screen at an internet cafe near Chiang Mai University thinking “do people really care why I quit my job to travel the world?” Apparently people did, and they still do.

An important lesson for me: while sharing experiences and shiny photos is definitely the backbone of a travel blog, sometimes your readers want to know a bit more about you. Since then, I’ve continued with photos of food and urban decay in Yangon, of misadventures in transportation and a seriously funny language mistake. But I’ve also occasionally dipped into the personal and those have been the posts that have seemingly resonated with my readers. Honestly, while they were hardest to write, they remain posts that I am proud of too.

Three years of long term travel in one photo Three years of travel in one photo.

More Long Term Travel? You Bet.

The cycle of these last four seasons has brought me back to Chiang Mai once more, and in the spirit of transparency, I thought I would answer some questions, set out some of my plans for Legal Nomads and write about what’s in store for me in 2011. There will be more travel, but also some interesting and — for me at least — fun updates for the site.

Thrillable Hours Series

I started my new Thrillable Hours series after one lawyer joke too many, inspired in part by my friend Jeremy’s stint as a corporate lawyer working in Kabul – quite a change from the assumption that lawyers merely push paper all day long. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t fault people for wanting to stay in private law; there are many motivating factors like families and mortgages that I’ve never had to worry about. But for those people looking to make a change, there are many role models out there. Some have left their former careers entirely, while others remain within the ambit of law, be it in international practice or human rights or as teachers or students. And so, what started as a fun play on billable hours has turned into a really exciting project for me, and I’ve been thrilled (hee) with the response. I’m looking forward to posting more Thrillable Hours Q&As in the coming months.

Making Money in Travel Blogging

As the site has grown, people have written to ask about monetization. As I’ve said before, I started Legal Nomads so that my mother, former colleagues and friends could keep track of what I was up to. Like a lot of travel blogs out there, I didn’t expect my site to be a source of income. It was meant to be a place to share the experiences, food and funsies from the road, and hopefully inspire people to try their own hand at independent travel.

With the exception of a few affiliate programmes (e.g. Amazon’s, where I get a percentage of purchases when they are made after clicking through to Amazon from my site from the large Resources Page for World Travel), the answer to the monetization question is no. I’ve turned down offers for sponsored posts, text links or advertising. Instead, I want Legal Nomads to be a springboard for other opportunities, a CV of sorts to documenting the stuff I did under the resumé line “traveled the world”.

Recent Press

Friends tell me I need to be better with the self-PR. I do tweet my posts when they come out and usually once or twice after that. However, I feel awkward asking people to promote my work for me. So as part of this round up (and in part to appease those who heckle), I’ve listed some of the press, interviews or articles about Legal Nomads that have appeared since my last travel anniversary of April 1, 2010.

– The Montreal Gazette recently named me their Lawyer of the Week and ran a long interview on their online site. This was exciting in part because I’m from Montreal and in part because my grandfather was able to open the paper and see my face on Page B2. And then he was able brag about it to his friends during bridge. And who doesn’t want their grandfather to brag about them during a bridge game?

– McGill Law School asked me to contribute a piece about how my legal education influences me today, which dovetailed nicely with my new Thrillable Hours series (I pose the same question to each of the participants). Uh, I did not send them the gargantuan header with the words “The Legal Nomad” scrawled in bright green, though I do appreciate their enthusiasm.

– Droit-Inc, a French language business and law site from Quebec, contacted me about excerpting parts of the McGill article and doing their own writeup about Legal Nomads.

– named me their first ever Featured Longreader recently. I’m very excited about Longreads (and similar sites like The Browser) because they emphasize the benefits of both curation and long form journalism on the web.

– I was featured in Austria’s Miss Magazine (self-described as “Austria’s Elle Magazine”) in an article about unconventional lifestyle choices and the benefits of balance. It’s in Austrian German but my German-speaking friends assure me I was not trashed in the article.

– I was voted one of Chris Elliot’s Top Travel Blogs of 2010, despite not being on the original nominee list.

– Chris Guillebeau interviewed me for his Art of Non-Conformity blog about saving up for world travel, solo female travel and motivation and has asked me to speak at his World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon this June.

– Gadling featured me in a Q&A about my travels, obsessive love of street food and some tips for potential round-the-world travelers.

– And just today, my food recommendations for my hometown of Montreal went up at Jazz Hostels. (Poutine, FTW!)

…and thus concludes the “rah rah Jodi” portion of this post.

What’s Next?

I’ve transitioned from travelling purely using savings from my years of lawyering to supporting my travels with freelance work and other projects. Though I have no big picture plan just yet, there are several areas that provide some exciting opportunities for 2011.

1) Travel Writing and Freelancing

Understandably people often ask how I sustain myself on the road. I have lived off my savings the last few years, but upon my return to Thailand in January, I started working on a few freelance projects. One is my occasional contribution to CNN Travel, where I’ve written about Burma and Indonesia and travel burnout. The Hipmunk also hosted me for a three-part series on round-the-world travel, from packing to planning to how to stay positive on the road. I hope to work more with them in the coming months. They’re a fun company, run by the same (big) brains that created BreadPig and Reddit. I’ve also been working on the Northern Thailand chapter for a Thailand guidebook, which will ensure some travel to places I’ve yet to see in the area.

I have a few more interesting travel-related projects planned for 2011, which I will post about as they arise. You can bet some of them will involve food. Hopefully none of them will involve birdcrap.

2) Twitter and Curation

As with many things in my life (say, applying for law school) I joined Twitter on a bet. Specifically, the bet was that if I reached 2,999 followers without following people back merely because they followed me (but rather because they had something interesting to offer in their stream), my friend Allen would join Twitter too. Allen is long on Twitter, and as a source of great links I think we all benefit as a result.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I don’t limit my tweets to travel-related links. This is because I use Twitter to share interesting stuffs that I hope people will enjoy, regardless of subject matter. Before I quit my job, I cobbled the news together in an email list called “Daily Linkies”. With a focus on technology and astronomy and quirky science articles, it was something that kept me entertained while on long conference calls. Twitter has essentially become a real-time version of Linkies, and though I’ve gotten a lot teasing about the astronomy links, my profile does warn than I’m a geek. And who doesn’t love a good nebula?

People have asked about curation and social media, so I have put together a resources page for that too, here.

3) Legal Opportunities

Outside of the travel sphere, some really interesting legal opportunities have come my way quite recently. People often ask if I would return to the law, and my response has been the same: not at a private firm, but I would definitely consider lawyering in another capacity. The beauty of a law degree is that it allows you to straddle several worlds at once, and with technology allowing for work from afar, I’m not ruling out freelance work in the legal field.

A Big Thank You

A big thank you needs to go out to my terrific readers, who leave insightful comments, send me fun links that they think I would enjoy (*cough* enough with the links about birdcrap *cough*) and have really participated on the Fan Page I set up for Legal Nomads. I’ve even had a chance to meet up with some of my readers during my travels, which has been a real treat. So much of what makes this site fun has to do with you.

Here’s to Another Year of Legal Nomads!

On my 2nd travel anniversary (travelversary?) I wrote “All you really need to do to be a happy traveler is expect your journey to take a roundabout, winding path and then not get irate when it does; in the end, what you see en route informs who you will become as much as the actual destination.” The subsequent year of travel has taught me that the journey is not limited to physical destinations. The organic path that this blog has taken, the slow sprawl into curation and freelance writing – all of it has been a learning experience and has informed who I am as I move into my 4th year of wandering.

The most common question I get is “what’s next?” After years of knowing (“saving up to travel!”) 2011 feels very much like open space. I’m learning how to swallow the fear associated with the unknown and instead focus on the projects that excite me, on the foods that I so love to eat and on sharing these experiences on this blog. I closed my ‘Why I quit to travel” post with the affirmation that I felt lucky as ever to be living the life I wanted. I can say that I feel the same way still, only intensified by the additional memories I’ve experienced this past year.

Regardless of what 2011 actually holds, it has been one hell of a ride.


86 thoughts on “After Three Years of Travel, What’s Next?”

  1. Johnny Vagabond

    Hey, Jodi — I’m not only a huge fan of your site but am also honored to call you friend. Congrats on three years on the road and I know you’ll find even more success in the years to come. The world is your’s, darlin’….

  2. I’d say you’ve crafted a full, passionate life. Maybe not because of travel, but alongside it! Congrats and hope you sing karaoke at the top of your lungs tonight with good friends!

    1. I like the way you’ve framed the last few years in one sentence – I think I will stash it away for future use ;) Thanks for the continued support and hope to see you in Thailand before I head back to North America. Continued safe travels in India, my dear.

  3. Congrats on your travelversary! You are an inspiration for me in the way that you have learned to let yourself wander into things that make you happy, instead of worrying about the future. Can’t wait to see where you go…

    1. Thank you Amy! There’s no question that I still worry – we all do – but when people ask how travel has changed me I say that I went from being paid to sweat the small stuff to learning how to let the wider picture create itself. A big change, and a welcome one. Thanks for following along :)

  4. Congratulations on your 3 years on the road! Loving all the links in your post, many I missed while I was on the road myself. I feel so lucky that we crossed paths on your journey, and that I got to hang out with you in Chiang Mai as well.

    1. James, it was a pleasure to get to know you better in Chiang Mai, and you are also to blame for planting the idea of a second site in my head. As Wes will likely attest too, you’re a website-building bully! In the bestest way possible. Safe travels to India and I look forward to reading all about it.

  5. Congrats Jodi! I love your perspective on blogging and tweeting – you really seem to have a healthy and balanced view of it all. 3 years is a long time to live with uncertainty – but you are doing a hell of a job!

    1. Thank you Sherry! I could say the same about you and your continued ability to keep balanced as you travel long-term. I’m looking forward to catching up with you in person at TBEX and hearing all about your plans for the Mongol Rally.

  6. Wow, three years and still going strong! It’s inspirational to me, and I’m sure to so many of the people that follow your blog and Twitter account.

    I look forward to many more years of following your travels on the blog, reading your cool articles that you tweet, and meeting you this summer back home.

    Happy trails!

    May the light always find you on a dreary day.
    When you need to be home, may you find your way.
    May you always have courage to take a chance
    And never find frogs in your underpants.
    ; )

    1. Thanks Ken! I also hope to never find frogs in my underpants. The birdcrap is enough animal-targeted angst for the moment. Enjoy Jordan and see you for Jazzfest in Montreal!

  7. Three years, yay!! I loved this post, Jodi. You have such a love for what you do and it shows in your writing. I look forward to reading all about your adventures in the coming year.

    Thank-you for the inspiration (and the giggles).
    Pam xxoo

  8. Jodi, you’re…

    (Sorry for the following word. Hey, I hate it too. But sometimes there’s no way round it – it’s the right word). inspiration.

    Your brain and your feet are ever-restless, and your writing is superb. (And let’s not forget “little” things like hitting the top tweets front page on Twitter recently, reaching a massive audience. You’ve left things out in the above list. Tch tch).

    We love how your mind works, and how you demonstrate it.

    Proud to be a massive fan.

  9. Hooray! I always love reading about the interesting places your journey takes you and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

  10. Congratulations on some amazing accomplishments. I look forward seeing where you guy next and to the next 3 years reading about all your adventures. All the best!

  11. Congratulations on three years! Can’t wait to meet up with you again on the road wherever our paths may cross . . . .

    1. Thanks Jana. You were one of the first people I ever met on the road – hard to believe it has been 10 years! And hard to believe the first person I met was basically my Dutch twin ;)

  12. Congrats on this milestone! What an accomplishment. Really enjoy following your journey and applaud how you’ve approached this blog…as a springboard for other opportunities. I think this allows you to have your most authentic voice shine through and clearly that has been a success. Bravo and best of luck with a fourth year of adventure!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I must admit that I had no resolute plan for the site when I started it, but as it’s grown I was happy to keep it in my own voice and try to share some of the adventures I was living. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading and appreciate the comments (here and on the Fan Page).

  13. Rah rah Jodi!

    Really glad to get to know you via Twitter, and this post answers a few questions I had in my queue to ask you when we eventually meet in person, whenever that will be =)

    Had I known about WDS in Portland, I would have considered heading up there, as the event sounds interesting.

    Happy weekend,

    1. Well, we’ll just have to make our own conference for Team Mogwai. I’m sure Nick and Mike won’t mind ;) I do hope to meet you at some point this year, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your writing and refreshing perspective about travel, life and everything in between. Thanks for reading!

    1. Thanks Matt! As much as people love Lightroom or Photoshop, the collages that can be done with (free) Picasa are a pleasure! This one (and the collages on my Best Of page were cobbled together using that software. Hope to see you back in NY this summer!

  14. ★ª”˜¨¨¯¯¨¨˜ª¤.¸`*•.¸*•¸★☆☆CONGRATULATIONS JODI☆☆★¸•*¸.•*´¸.¤ª˜¨¨¯¯¨¨˜”ª★¨
    and thank you for such inspiring and interesting reading. May the next three years be as wonderful as the last three for you. Love, Carol xx

    1. Happy you’ve enjoyed reading and thanks to you as well for sharing your photos and memories from your time in Asia. It’s great not only to write about my own experiences but to be able to reminisce with those readers who have been before and after me. Have a great weekend!

  15. You live a life many of us only dream of, Jodi. Congrats on all your adventures and success and travels and fame. You deserve them all. Of all the people I know–many with advanced degrees–nobody pushes as much intellectually stimulating information my way as you do. I often wonder how you manage to read so much! But thanks so much for sharing it. I hope I get a chance to see you this summer in the States.

    1. Thank you Gray – those are some huge compliments. :) I’m sure we’ll get a chance to hang out this summer, if not at BTV than you can drive into Canadia and come visit me (right? RIGHT?).

  16. Congrats Jodi! Under “what’s next” I was expecting to see “leading tarsier tracking expeditions in the Philippines.” When is it going to happen? By the way, my revised theory on this animal is that they have survived this long because predators find them too ugly to eat. Will be in touch with some naturalists to confirm this. For serious, looks like you have some good stuff in the works! Look forward to the adventure continuing :)
    B well,

    1. I can’t believe you haven’t been won over by tarsiers, Phil. How can you resist the lure of those gargantuan, googly eyes? Thanks for the kind words (minus the ones about tarsiers) and safe trip back to Africa!

    1. Thanks lady! So glad we got to hang out some in New York. I’ll only be in Thailand until end of April – when will you get here? I’ll be back in Bangkok end of May (13-31), so hopefully during one of those windows drinks will be had.

      1. I get to Bangkok on April 7, then tootling around up north for a week or so, then down to Phuket and the islands. Will get in touch when I’m close!

  17. Great stuff Jodi! Congrats on all the recent pub. And I always wondered why you didn’t follow a lot of people. Understanding that bet makes the Twitter thing make a lot of sense. It’s good that you have decided to do this how you want to do it. You definitely have a different perspective on writing than most and I think that is what makes your writing so unique and interesting to people.

    1. The bet is actually long over, but I’ve kept my following count down because I tend to treat Twitter as an instant news source. Which is great – Twitter is a wholly self-curating medium, and part of the fun is being able to craft a voice for both yourself and the stream you choose to follow. It’s kind of nuts that what started as a bet has turned into something I love to do so much – yay for Twitter! And I’ve had the benefit of meeting so many great people through Twitter. Should I be thanking Allen for all those serendipitous meetings too? ;) I do have separate lists for travel and law and ‘brainfood’ (for tech and science links), which I read daily. But I prefer to keep the home page/friends feed down. Congrats on your new site and thanks for the comment!

  18. Nick Berggreen

    Can’t wait to see what you do next, Jodi. Your travel blog was one of the first I discovered–shortly after reading Rolf Potts’ “Vagabonding.”

    It has a special place in my heart!

    1. Thanks Nick – that’s very kind! And I know I owe you a Q&A – will send that over soon. Congrats on the launch of your new site, and safe travels in the coming months.

  19. You’re one of my favorite travel blogs! You don’t try to sell me stuff – it’s just your personal travel experiences, and those are very nice to read. I’m sick of all those ‘travel’ blogs that spend more time trying to sell me their e-book than actually writing about travel.

    I enjoy reading your articles, and I hope you’ll continue like this in the future!

    1. Hi Wouter, thank you for reading and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the content on Legal Nomads. Every blog has its own voice and this is the one that has worked for me. No e-book plans in the near future, though a newsletter might be on offer soon ;)

  20. Congratulations on a super three years. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the coming year. It was great getting to know you better in Bangkok and meeting the Nomad behind the Legal Nomads. All the best to you and we will be with you all the way!

    1. Agreed – all too brief a time at TBEX and it was a pleasure getting to know the people behind Planet D, especially while eating delicious street food. Enjoy your time in Jordan and see you this summer!

  21. Awesome! Congratulations! I love reading your writing- if fact, I printed out your Myanmar posts and took them with us to Yangon when we went for a month last summer. They were more useful than any other reference books we’d packed. Seriously.

    From one restless Canadian to another, I send you exuberant well wishes for your first three years and a cheering section for the next three (and four and five).

    1. Wow, that’s quite an endorsement! I’m glad to hear that you found the posts useful. I had many more to write but with most of my photos (and backups) stolen in the fall and my handwritten notes about Burma with them, I lost a lot of what I wanted to write about. What did you think about your time there? Thank you for the cheerleading and enthusiasm!

  22. Felicitaciones Jodi…!! Me sumo a los saludos de toda esa gente que te quiere. I’m very happy for you and I hope you continue with this mix of experience and creation that is so enjoyable and meaningful not only for you but also for others.

    I remember very well your “Daily Linkies”. I don’t use twitter… maybe I should start to use it.

    Hope to see you this year.

    1. Muchas gracias. Espero que puedo veerte (y Sara!) en Nueva York esta verano. Hard to believe I met you way back in 2002, during my first solo trips to South America. I’m sure neither of us thought we’d be where we are now, but I know you also have enjoyed the terrific ride you took to get there. Hasta pronto, Roni!

  23. Congrats on 3 years. Keep the Twitter links coming, you always tweet the most interesting links. Can’t wait to keep reading your blog over the coming years.

    1. Thank you Mike. It was great to meet you in Chiang Mai and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blog and my Twitter feed. Safe travels to you as you continue through Southeast Asia! Eat lots of good street food for me ;)

  24. Congratulations!! Our family celebrated three years on the road this spring too and it’s an amazing feeling! So much of what you say resonates with our experience as well. Perhaps our paths will cross one day as we make the jump to Asia in the fall.

  25. Three years on the road is quite the accomplishment! Can’t wait to hear about more of your adventures as the year unfolds. :)

  26. I backpacked thru Asia from 1988 to 1998 and I would not consider myself experienced enough to give advice to people, maybe friends but strangers, I just think that wouldn’t be right.

    1. Hi Wally! That’s your choice, of course. I don’t think advice here is solely about experience in the an “I’m expert” sense, but more about having experienced something personally. I get emails quite often about what I packed or where I stayed or did when I was in a specific place, and I’m happy to give my thoughts to strangers and friends alike. Safe travels to you and thanks for reading.

  27. Congratulations on the anniversary Jodi! I like you, love your site & twitter stream and admire the path(s) you’ve chosen. Definitely an inspiration to me. So I’m excited to continue to follow you in your adventures and see where they take you!!

    1. Thank you Kirsten – that’s high praise! I’ve enjoyed your photography and unique take on what’s going on in the world, so the feeling is mutual. Looking forward to catching up in person come June!

  28. Love this post, as I do, in fact, everything you write. Not only are your travels and attitudes interesting, but you write about them so well, and I LOVE your philosophy! I opened this tab days ago, and it looked so long I’ve only just got around to reading it – and now realize it looked so long because of all the well-deserved comments! I also look eagerly for your tweets, they never fail to interest or amuse! I am looking forward to reading about what comes next, and also to still going right back to the beginning, which I haven’t yet done! Just wanted you to know that you also helped me to resolve some issues and dithering I’ve been having (people asked me about advertising, and I turned them down so far, and have been told that’s crazy, but I feel that I made enough compromises when I was working, or as a wife, and now it’s just about what I believe!), I am happy now to know that it’s possible to go onward without having to give in! Thanks.

    1. Such kind words Linda, many thanks. I am glad you’ve found the tweet stream interesting and that this post has helped you figured out what you will do next with your own site. Feel free to email me if you have any questions – I’m happy too offer whatever advice I can!

  29. Big congrats on your third anniversary, Jodi! You’ve been a big inspiration to me. I wish you loads of success as you go into your fourth year. It sounds like you have some great projects up your sleeve. I look forward to seeing the ass-kicking things you do in the future :)

    1. Thank you Emily! I missed this comment prior, so apologies for the delay in responding. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the site and hope to see you in 2011!

  30. Congratulations! I personally really appreciate the candid honesty you bring to your writing. It’s refreshing to see another lawyer who has stepped back and said “travel is worth it.” I look forward to being able to make that my life as well (soon!). Thank you for continuing to write about this amazing journey.

    1. Thank you April! I’m happy you feel the blog and my background resonates with you – it’s always great to get emails from lawyers and former lawyers who speak of the same kind of incurable wanderlust. Best of luck in your work and hope to hear from you on the road in the not-too-distant future!

  31. Pingback: Travel to Jordan in 2011 | Legal Nomads

  32. We are coming up on three years on the road ourselves, since putting our youngest in college. Many of your points sure sound familiar to us too. Not sure how long we’ll keep going, but for now…..
    Happy and safe travels to you.
    -David & Veronica

  33. Hi Jodi – Looks like you’ve got a really nice following! Your three years on the road and traveling sounds amazing. I wish you all the best of luck in the next year and I’ll be sure to follow your travels.

    2 Questions:
    1. Any idea of where you are off to next?!
    2. If you don’t monetize your site, how do you pay for your travels? Lots of saving up before you started? Teaching on the road? Other side jobs?

    Thanks! Good luck!

    1. Hi Kerrin! Thank you for the kind wishes. To answer your questions: I’ve just returned from Jordan and am back in Thailand. Will be in North America for most of the summer, starting with Oregon and Vancouver and then to Montreal for a great bunch of family reunions and weddings (it’ll be great to see everyone all at once!). In the fall, I’m not too sure – but I promise to share it here once I figure it out ;) For the 2nd, I paid for my travels using my savings for the last few years, and am now starting to do freelance travel writing work and other writing (guidebooks, etc) to pay for my travels.

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