Hi! My name is Lauren Juliff and I’ve been travelling the world for 12 years and counting.
Battling a Travel Addiction From an Early Age
For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with the idea of travel. I was always that person who was daydreaming of foreign lands and unfamiliar cultures; spending time coming up with travel itineraries that would challenge my perceptions and help me gain a deeper understanding of the world. During every spare moment, you’d find me browsing guidebooks and reading about faraway lands.
I was convinced I’d never have the opportunity to visit them.
When I was five years old, my parents had to drag me home from yet another miserable English vacation where it rained non-stop and we did nothing but argue. I couldn’t stop sobbing. Our week away had sucked and yet, I would have done anything to stay. I was always happiest whenever I was exploring somewhere new.
Over the following twenty years, I’d spend every spare minute counting the days to my next holiday — with a big countdown affixed to my bedroom wall — but then as soon as I arrived, I’d dread returning home.
When I started university, I made a big decision.
I started putting together a tentative plan that would allow me to build a life I didn’t want to escape from.
I knew that exploring new countries was something that made me happy, I just didn’t know how to do it for more than two weeks a year. It didn’t seem possible. I had no travel experience: I’d never been away from home on my own, and never had a holiday that lasted for more than several weeks. And anyway, travel was expensive. Who could afford to vacation every single day of their life?
Studying, Working, Studying, Working
I didn’t have a huge amount of money or savings when I decided I wanted to see the world — there are no rich relatives funding my adventures. Instead, for the five years that I was at uni, I made travel my priority. Whenever I wanted to buy something new, I’d equate every $30 to an extra day I could spend exploring Southeast Asia, and then suddenly, I didn’t want that new jacket or lipstick so much anymore.
My first step towards travel was to increase my savings so that I could dedicate at least a year to travelling the world. I crossed this off the list by working various retail jobs, earning just over $5 an hour while studying full-time. Every day I worked would allow me to spend another two or three days in Thailand. I sold anything I owned that I didn’t have a sentimental attachment to. I didn’t eat out at restaurants and I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need.
By staying focused on this goal, I was able to save £15,000 ($24,000) over those five years, and I estimated this would be enough to keep me on the road for a year or two.
But, um, what if that wouldn’t be enough?
Before starting my travels, I began to invest my time in building a framework that would allow me to be location independent — I was desperate to find something that would allow me to work from anywhere that had an internet connection. This was back in 2010, though, when digital nomads barely existed and the internet was littered with get rich quick scams. There were only around 50 travel bloggers on the internet, and roughly 48 of them weren’t making a cent.
I have to confess: I thought I was wasting my time. I didn’t know anybody who worked online and never really thought it was a possibility. But I decided to give it a go.
At the time, I was studying for a masters in physics — a subject I adored, but a subject that doesn’t exactly lend itself to a career online. And so, I came up with a list of my interests and skills and began researching if there was a way to do any of these from anywhere. If I was passionate about it, if I could make money from it, and if I could do it online, then it was something worth pursuing.
I slowly built up a freelance writing portfolio that would help me find writing and editing jobs. I researched english and physics tutoring online (but nobody hired me), and built terrible sites to bring in income via affiliate sales and advertising (they didn’t — well, not at first). I taught myself graphic design and coding (and sucked at both).
The majority of these failed horribly, often making me several dollars after months of hard work, but I didn’t give up.
And then I launched Never Ending Footsteps.
Starting this travel blog was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Leaving England on a One-Way Ticket
After years of saving and months of planning, on the 17th July 2011, I broke down in tears as I said goodbye to my family, knowing I wouldn’t see them for at least a year. My dad drove me to the airport and I almost missed my flight — my first misadventure had taken place before I’d even left the country.
Then, I took a deep breath, stepped on the plane, and flew to my first destination: Dubrovnik, in Croatia. I stayed in the first hostel of my entire life and was kept awake by people snoring. I made friends and took day trips into Bosnia, and realised that travel wasn’t so hard after all.
I had my first six weeks of travel booked solid in an attempt to give myself one less thing to worry about but soon worked out I functioned best without plans.
When leaving the U.K., I told friends and family that I was planning for a one year trip around the world. I didn’t know if I would even like travelling long-term, and I was afraid I was setting myself up for failure.
Unsurprisingly, I fell hard for travel as I always expected I would. Within a few months, I knew that a year wouldn’t be enough.
I began doubling down on freelance writing, wrote books, started running courses, and worked on building websites; desperate to find a way to continue funding a life of travel. I was part of the first wave of digital nomads and I was determined to find a way to work from anywhere.
I Turned My Travel Blog into a Business
Unexpectedly, that small travel blog — this travel blog — I started six months before my departure date started to make me money.
As I began to make my way around the world, I was contacted by advertisers who wanted to reach my growing audience of readers. At first, I was offered $200 to promote a company to my audience, then $700, then by the sixth month of my trip, I was making $2,000 a month.
Even better: I had just turned up in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where you could rent a modern studio room in an apartment complex for $300 a month. I stayed for three months, and by the time I moved on, had replenished my savings back to their original level. It was at that moment that I realised if I really worked on this site, I could turn it into a business and never have to go home.
So that’s exactly what I did.
Within a couple of years, this website had evolved into a thriving six-figure business, allowing me to travel extensively for years on end.
The work I do has fluctuated over the years and it’s still evolving now — from having an income solely from placing adverts all over Never Ending Footsteps to backing away from the advertising and focusing on freelance writing.
I decided to move away from freelancing when I unexpectedly landed a book deal through this blog, along with a big New York City agent. How Not to Travel the World was published in 2015 and sold out its first print run within a month! I was bowled over by its success.
As a published author with a travel memoir in thousands of bookstores across the globe, I doubled down on storytelling, launching a Patreon and a course — and even a mentorship at one pont!
Eventually, though, I decided to move towards a more passive income. Diversification is key when you work online, so you have to be cool with change.
In 2023, I fund my travels through two main methods:
Advertising: You’ll see display advertising scattered throughout this website and in the sidebar. I try to keep these ads to a minimum, but they make up a significant portion of my income, so I’m always experimenting with density.
Affiliate sales: The rest of my income comes from affiliate sales on Never Ending Footsteps — if I recommend a hotel, a guidebook, a tour, a backpack, or a travel insurance company and you decide to purchase it through one of the links on my website, I earn commission from that sale at no additional cost to my readers. I love this way of monetising Never Ending Footsteps because it means I can reduce the amount of advertising on the site, I don’t have to resort to taking comps, and I can remain fully independent.
The one thing I’ll never do to fund my life? Any kind of sponsored travel. I don’t take press trips, I don’t have my accommodation or activities covered, and I don’t even accept free products for review. I want to show you how achievable and affordable travel is and I can’t do that if I’m getting everything for free.
I’m basically the anti-influencer.
To reach this point took many years of hard work and lots of trial and error. I made hundreds of mistakes, wasted energy, and squandered time — all so that I could spend the first few years of my travels spending more time staring at a laptop than lying on a beach. I’d say I averaged 90-hour work-weeks for the first three years of my travels. It wasn’t exactly the definition of a work-life balance.
I Even Found Love Along the Way
It was just when my travel blog was starting to take off that I met Dave.
I was four months into my trip and travelling in South Korea; he had just quit his job in Australia to see the world. We had known of each others’ blogs for several months (he’s a travel blogger, too!) and followed each other on Twitter. One drunken night, we turned our mutual admiration of each other into some seriously hardcore flirting when I slid into his DMs.
From that moment on, we couldn’t stop talking. As Dave packed up his life in Melbourne to prepare to travel to Thailand, I wandered through Hong Kong and the Philippines, spending far too much time on my laptop. Not only was I working on my site, but I now had a kickass guy to keep in touch with.
Dave moved to Thailand to work on building his blog and a week later, I flew to Chiang Mai to meet him. We immediately hit it off, moved in together, and found ourselves travelling the world as a couple.
Amazingly, we turned out to be wonderful for each other and we’ve been exploring the world together ever since. When I first started travelling, I told myself that the last thing I wanted was a relationship, but it turned out life had other plans for me. We recently celebrated our 11 year anniversary.
Where I’ve Been Over the Past 12 Years
Twelve years of travel! Phew. The map above shows exactly how those years have broken down and where I’ve spent the vast majority of my time.
In other words, you’ll notice that despite travelling for over a decade, I still haven’t been to half of the countries in the world!
I’m not much of a country-counter, to be honest. I’m far more likely to plan a six-month motorbike trip across Vietnam than I am to spend a day in Hanoi and jet off again, crossing the entirety of Vietnam off my list in one fell swoop. And what that means is that I’m a proponent of slow travel.
I love spending extensive time in the countries I visit and truly getting to know them. Let’s face it: if my goal was to see every country in the world as quickly as possible, I’d have probably achieved that by now, but that’s not what I’m about. I prioritise returning to my favourite countries just as much as I do exploring somewhere new, and the longer I can spend getting to know a destination, the better.
I do have plenty of travel goals, however, that I’ll start hitting over the next few years. Some of these are:
- To get to every country in Europe (I’ve been to 39 so far; the ones I have remaining are Albania, Belarus, Malta, Moldova, and North Macedonia.)
- To travel through every state in India (This is a big old goal, as India is home to 28 states and I’ve currently been to… four. Haha. But India is my favourite country [I adore Rajasthan] and I’m so keen to explore more of it.)
- To visit every country in the South Pacific (My favourite region of the world! I love the South Pacific and try to visit a new country there every couple of years)
- To hit up the Caribbean (I’ve never been! But given how much I love paradise islands, I think it’s time I started planning a trip.)
The Evolution of my Travel Style
The way in which I travel has evolved a lot over the past decade. Whereas I used to always choose the cheapest dorm bed in any city, regardless of the ratings, I now avoid dorm rooms in favour of a good night’s sleep.
After 12 years of travel, I still carry a backpack, but I stay in guesthouses and mid-range hotels instead of hostels. Let’s just say I now value my sleep more than saving a few dollars.
I travel with Dave most of the time. However, because we both begun our travels alone we recognise the benefits of solo travel. Every so often, we’ll head off to different countries and focus on getting out of our cosy couple bubble.
I used to spend my life on social media, sharing every single detail of my travels online and meeting up with readers across the globe. These days, however, I relish having a little more privacy in my life. Mid-pandemic, I deleted all of my social media accounts and now aim to spend as much time offline as possible. If you’re looking for me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok — sorry! I don’t use any of them. Deleting social media has significantly improved my happiness levels and I highly recommend it.
Dave is originally from New Zealand, so we were able to use our relationship to obtain permanent residencies for both Australia and New Zealand for me. I’m thrilled that I’m now able to live and work in both countries — two countries that have so much to offer up for travellers like me.
The Lifestyle Wasn’t Perfect
The digital nomad lifestyle wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds.
Travelling full-time can be tough on your physical and mental health. When I was on the road full-time, I didn’t have a gym membership and would often eat out at restaurants for three meals a day for months on end. It can be challenging to stay healthy when you rarely have access to a kitchen.
It’s something that gets worse as time goes by. In the early days it was amazing — delicious restaurant food for every single meal? Amazing! When you’ve done so for every meal for five years straight? You’re unwell, unhealthy, and spending so much money on food.
Mentally, I missed having a constant set of friends. My life was one that was filled with people, but it was also all about the goodbyes. I craved hanging out with friends who’d known me for more than a couple of days. When I returned home, my old friends had moved on and found new friends. On the road, I rarely spent more than a day or two with the same person.
I wished I could pursue hobbies, like surfing and embroidery and painting and running, but it was impossible to do when I was never in a single city for more than a week or month.
And yeah, it was hard to not feel jaded sometimes. When you’ve seen 100 waterfalls on your travel, it takes a hell of an impressive one to wow you. When you step foot on a beach, it’s tough not to compare it to the ones you’ve been to in Bora Bora or the Maldives.
Working while travelling was difficult, too. Imagine turning up in a brand new country and having a full week to travel and explore. Now imagine that you need to work every single day of that trip. It’s challenging to fit it all in to a single day. When you throw in bad wifi, power cuts, noisy streets, and working from a bed, you have a recipe for a fairly poor work-life-travel balance.
That’s Why I Decided to Find a Home Base
I decided I wanted to stop travelling continuously in order to work on my health and happiness. It didn’t mean that I was going to stop travelling altogether, but that I wanted a place to base myself and rest between trips.
I’ve tried many cities on for size since then.
In 2016, I moved to Lisbon, Portugal and made it my home for two years.
In 2018, I moved to Bristol, in the U.K. and spent several years living closer to family.
And in 2022, I moved to Australia. I’m currently based in Melbourne and exploring as much of the country as I can.
Having a base doesn’t mean that I don’t travel — far from it. But rather, it means that my adventures are now punctuated with long, delicious stretches at home, spent recovering from food poisoning and replenishing my bank account.