Lauren at Tulum

Wondering who on earth I am and how the hell I manage to travel so much? Here are some of my most frequently asked questions, divided up into the following sections:

Travel | Finances | Working on the Road | Travelling with Anxiety

Travel

How long have you been travelling for?

Five years and counting! I left the U.K. on a one-way ticket in July 2011, never in a million years thinking I’d be able to keep going for this long.

Where have you been so far?

You can see a full list of every country and city I’ve visited on my travel map. As of May 2016, I’ve visited 65 countries across five continents, spending the majority of my time in Southeast Asia, Europe, Mexico, and New Zealand.

Where’s your favourite country?

Tough question, so I’ll go with a top five: Cambodia, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Taiwan. If you were to force me to choose just one, it would probably be Taiwan. You can read about why it’s my favourite country here!

Where do you most want to visit?

Another tough question, so I’ll go with a top five again. At the top of my list at the moment are: Ghana, India, Iran, the Seychelles, and South Africa.

Where are you going to be visiting this year?

For the first half of 2016, I’ll be focusing most of my attention on Southern Africa. I have plans to hit up Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, and more!

Why haven’t you visited [country] yet?

I get this a lot, especially with regards to India and South America, and honestly? I hate this question. All I can say is that I’m just one person with a limited amount of time! I can’t visit everywhere in the time I’ve been travelling, so some places are still on the list. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to visit them eventually.

Do you have any tips for [country]?

Take a look at my destinations page. You’ll be able to find every post I’ve written about the places I’ve visited there.

When are you going to stop travelling? Are you going to stop travelling?

Never say never, but at the moment, I have no immediate plans to stop travelling. What I do have right now is a long-term base in Lisbon, Portugal. After almost five years of full-time travel, I found that there were certain elements of a more stable life I was craving. The great thing about having so much freedom is being able to reevaluate and change my lifestyle whenever I’m not fully happy with it. In March 2016, I signed a year-long lease on a gorgeous apartment in Lisbon and I’ve never been happier.

To my great surprise, having a place to return to between trips has meant that I can both travel better and work better.

Do you want to visit every country in the world?

It’s not something I’m actively pursuing, but I do tend to visit between five and ten new countries every year. If I ever reached the point where I’ve visited something like 150 countries, I think I’d make an effort to visit the remaining fifty or so.

For now, I’m happy checking out the new countries that interest me the most and prioritising returning to old favourites.

Don’t you ever get lonely or homesick?

Sometimes, but not often. After spending so long on the road, it feels strangely normal to me; almost as if home is wherever I lay my backpack. I do travel with my boyfriend for around three quarters of the year, so loneliness is hard to come by. Fortunately, we both have the freedom to plan our travels around where are friends are, so if I happened to be missing hanging out with anyone in particular, I know they’re only a plane ride away.

I do miss my family when I travel, but fortunately, they live in London: a major travel hub. I typically return home to see them at least once a year, but sometimes as much as five!

Why don’t you travel with your boyfriend all the time?

Because we’d probably end up killing each other :-)

It’s hard to explain, but because we both work online, we often spend 24 hours a day together. There isn’t ever anyone heading off to work because our work is nearly always in our hotel room. Even when we do make an effort to carve out some alone time, things can get pretty claustrophobic.

We therefore spend between one and three months apart each year. It gives us a chance to get our solo travel groove on and it means we can actually miss each other for once.

Are you a budget traveller?

Absolutely! I’ll nearly always opt to stay in a guesthouse or hostel over a hotel, because they tend to have a little more personality.

One of my favourite things to do is splurge for special occasions, like when I treated Dave to an overwater bungalow in the Maldives for his birthday! I find it means so much more when you save up and splash out, rather than travelling in luxury non-stop.

Do you travel with travel insurance?

Yes! I’m a firm believer that if you can’t afford to buy travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. I don’t care too much about the personal belongings cover, because I can afford to replace anything I lose, but the emergency medical coverage is absolutely essential. The last thing you want is to break your leg in rural Laos and have to be airlifted out to a hospital, racking up a hospital bill in the hundreds of thousands as you do so. It’s happened to friends of mine, so it’s not as rare as you think and I don’t want to take any chances.

I use World Nomads for my travel insurance and I’ve been extremely happy with them. They’re the best option for long-term travelers because they allow you to renew while you’re outside of your home country. It’s pretty hard to find a company that allows you to do that!

How do you find accommodation to stay in?

It’s dependent on many factors! If I’m travelling solo, I’ll usually opt to stay in hostels, because they’re cheaper and make it so easy to meet people. I book all of my hostel stays through HostelBookers, because they’re consistently cheaper than anyone else. I’ve run a lot of tests and HostelWorld is nearly always the most expensive accommodation site, so I steer clear of them.

If I’m travelling with my boyfriend, I’ll steer clear of hostels, because guesthouses work out to be the same cost per night as a dorm room in a hostel if I have someone to split my costs with. I book all of my guesthouses and hotels through Agoda, because they’re consistently cheaper and have amazing customer service. When I got sick and had to cancel my trip to the Seychelles, they worked so hard to get me a refund for all of my booked accommodation, which they really didn’t have to do. I can’t say enough great things about them.

What about long-term accommodation, for weeks or months?

In that situation, I’ll book a hotel for a few nights and spend those days hunting out a long-term stay at a hotel or apartment (there’ll usually be signs advertising places for rent). In Southeast Asia, for example, everyone speaks English, the hotel staff are used to tourists booking places for several months, and they’ll usually offer long-term stay discounts. In Chiang Mai or Saigon, I end up paying around $300 a month for an apartment that would be $1500 if you paid the day rate!

Finances

How much money did you save before leaving?

I saved up $25,000 for my travels.

How did you manage to save up that much?

When I left to travel, I wasn’t intending to work from the road, so I knew I’d need a healthy bank balance. The first thing I did was make travel my priority.

I was studying full-time at college, so couldn’t get a full-time job to help fund my travels. Instead, I picked up multiple part-time jobs and worked as a sales assistant in a garden centre, a pharmacy, and a supermarket. You don’t need an amazing job to build up your bank balance! I took every opportunity to work extra hours that I could. At one point, I took on a two-month internship at my college while working every weekend and didn’t have a day off in eight weeks.

In addition to working every hour possible, I sold everything I owned that wouldn’t fit in my backpack. Drastic? Yep, but I’d read about how travel can transform you into a minimalist and I was hoping the same would happen for me. I sold the old clothes I barely wore, my CD and DVD collection, and college textbooks. I sold anything I thought I could make money from and decluttered my life in the process. I’m pleased to say that five years later, I haven’t missed any of it.

Finally, I cut out all unnecessary spending from my life. Cutting out the $5 cup of tea I used to buy every day saved me around $7500 over five years. I didn’t buy any new clothes or shoes unless I needed them, I took packed lunches to work and college, I used blankets instead of switching on the heating over much of the winter, I turned down nights out with friends that’d cost lots of money and arranged movie nights instead, and I bought the cheapest food options I could find. For me, the sacrifices were worth it.

How do you fund your travels?

I’m fortunate to work online, so I can work from anywhere with an Internet connection! With Never Ending Footsteps, I make money through advertising and affiliate sales. I also work as a freelance writer and editor for a few different magazines and websites, using Never Ending Footsteps as a portfolio to find work. Finally, through Never Ending Footsteps, I got a book deal! I now make royalties on my travel memoir, How Not to Travel the World.

You can read about this in far more detail in my article: How I Fund My Travels Around The World.

How Can I Make Money as I Travel?

There are so many ways for you to make money as you travel — you just have to get inventive! I suggest sitting down and making a list of your skills and figuring out a way for you to do them from anywhere. For me, this was writing. For you, it could be any type of freelancing — graphic design, coding, editing, developing apps, social media marketing, translating, consulting… You could also see if your current job would allow you to work remotely. Many jobs that you can do from home don’t mind if you are in a different timezone, as long as you get your hours of work done.

If you don’t fancy sitting in front of a laptop, there are options like working as a surf instructor or scuba diving instructor, working in a hostel, teaching English, etc.

You can also get working holiday visas, for example, in Australia, where you can live and work there for a year or so.

Check out the following posts from friends of mine for some inspiration:

42 Ways You Can Make Money and Travel the World

33 Best Travel Jobs To Make Money Traveling

How much does all of this travel cost you?

I usually spend between $10,000-$15,000 a year. Each year, I’ll choose to split my time equally between Western countries that are more expensive — the US, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand — and cheaper countries, such as Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. I wrote a detailed breakdown of how much it costs to travel with a mid-range budget here.

How much do you budget per month?

I’m very laid back when it comes to tracking my finances. If I check my bank balance and it’s running low, I’ll cut back on the expensive activities and work harder for a few weeks. If it’s looking healthy, I’ll know I can splurge on some treats.

My monthly summaries share the exact amount I spend each month — typically around $30-$50 a day.

How do you manage your money?

I don’t own any credit cards and just use my UK debit card everywhere in the world. I have an online savings account I transfer money into each month, and that’s about it!

When I travel, I do exactly what I used to do back home — you don’t have to do anything different. When I’m running low on cash, I’ll head to the ATM and get out $300 or so, and when it runs out, I’ll get some more out. I don’t use anything like travellers cheques or prepaid debit cards. I rarely pay by card because there aren’t any real benefits to doing so — it’s not like I’m collecting points and miles with it.

I carry a spare back-up debit card for a separate current account in case of emergencies, but I haven’t had to use it so far.

What do you do about taxes?

Taxes are complicated, because I technically don’t spend enough time in the UK to have to pay them there, but I have to pay them somewhere. I hired an accountant to help me file my taxes in the UK as a self-employed travel writer.

Are you saving up for retirement?

I am! I’m fortunate to be pulling in a profit almost every month, so everything that’s left over goes straight into my savings.

Being a Digital Nomad/Freelance Writer/Travel Blogger

I want to start a travel blog. Do you have any tips for getting started?

I actually just finished writing an enormous post about how to start a travel blog. In it, I cover how to choose the perfect blog name and the best hosting company to use, along with screenshots to take you every step of the way. I show you how to install WordPress, find a professional theme and logo, share my top plugins, and advise on how to improve your chances of success.

How much money do you make?

It varies from month to month, usually ranging between $3000 – $6000 a month, depending on how proactive I’ve been.

How much do you work?

It varies quite a lot from month to month. I’m grateful that the vast majority of my income is now passive, which means the money rolls in whether I’m working or not. Because of this I work far less than I used to.

Using the first five months of 2016 as an example, I worked a single 40-hour week in January, took February off, worked 60-hour weeks for the entire month of March, took April off, and worked two 40-hour weeks in May. As you can see, it’s hard to take an average from that!

Before I moved to a more passive form of income, it wasn’t unusual for me to pull 90-hour weeks in front of my laptop. Now I’d guess that it averages out at a 20-hour week?

How do you find freelance writing work?

Here’s a thoroughly unhelpful answer: I don’t. Ninety-five per cent of the freelance writing gigs I have are due to the client finding this site and dropping me an email to hire me. But I guess my answer kind of is helpful, as well, because it shows the importance of building a portfolio. That you don’t have to spend every spare minute pitching magazines and websites; that sometimes you’ll be so inundated with opportunities that you’ll be able to pick and choose the ones that suit you best.

But let’s go back to the start, when I was having to find all of my freelancing jobs myself. I bookmarked several major sites that I knew regularly hired freelancers and checked them once a week — that was how I landed a gig at About.com. I checked the Problogger jobs board every day along with Freelance Writing Gigs, and that was about it! I was able to score well-paying gigs every few days through those sites, which helped me to build my portfolio during those first few years.

Steer clear of sites like Upwork, where the pay is typically terrible, and you’ll be competing with 1000 dudes in third world countries who’ll work for 0.1 cents a word.

Travelling with Anxiety

How long have you had anxiety for?

I had my first panic attack when I was 16 years old. I’ve been battling it ever since.

Why did you decide to travel if you were struggling with anxiety?

I’ve always wanted to travel and didn’t want my anxiety to prevent me from following my dreams. I also knew I’d be having panic attacks regardless and would rather have one on a beach in Thailand than in my bedroom at home!

How did travel help your anxiety?

I think part of the reason why travelling has helped my anxiety is the control it gives me over my life. A substantial amount of my panic attacks stemmed from feeling like I wasn’t in control — commitments like having to go to college or work every day would make me anxious because I was worrying I’d have a panic attack there and wouldn’t be able to escape. With travel, I have no commitments and total freedom. If I’m struggling with anxiety, I can hide away in my room until I feel better, because I can do whatever I want whenever I want.

How do you deal with anxiety when you travel?

I’ve actually written an enormous article about it. Check out the following post on Nomadic Matt’s site. In it, I cover absolutely everything I do when I’m feeling anxious, both before and during my travels.