Hi! My name is Lauren Juliff and I’ve been travelling the world for a whopping 11 years and counting. 

Lauren at Rotorua in New Zealand

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 forever daydreaming of foreign lands and unfamiliar cultures; wasting 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 once 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?

Lauren at the Grand Canyon

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 university, 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 $8 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 didn’t yet exist 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 websites 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.

riding a camel in the sahara

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 England, 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 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 a books, started running courses, and working 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.

Mount Aspiring

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 a month 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 the amount I’d had when I first left. It was at that moment that I realised that 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.

Several years later, this website had evolved into a thriving six-figure business, allowing me to travel the world and build up my savings as I did so. And let’s just say I was grateful for those savings when the pandemic hit and I lost the entirety of my income overnight.

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. Then, I began moving away from freelance writing to create a passive income. Diversification is key when you work online, so you have to be cool with change.

In 2022, 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 hostel, 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. 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 travels? 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 — where I can cover my expenses and travel full-time — 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 trip 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.

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 wi-fi, power cuts, noisy streets, and working from a bed, you have a recipe for a fairly poor work-life-travel balance.

Lauren and Dave selfie

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’ travel blogs for several months 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 head to Thailand, I travelled 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 his travel 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 10 year anniversary.

One the great wall of China

The Evolution of my Travel Style

The way in which I travel has evolved a lot over the past 10 years. 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 10 years of travel, I still carry a backpack and I still consider myself a budget-to-mid-range traveller, I just value my sleep more than saving a few dollars. I now opt to stay in guesthouses, private rooms in hostels, or apartments on Airbnb.

The speed in which I travel has slowed down too. I used to race through countries, visiting a couple of cities over the space of a few days and then move on. I couldn’t keep up this pace forever and travel burnout took hold quickly. I now choose to base myself in places for at least a month — both so that I can get to know the place better, and so I have time to cram all my work in.

I travel with Dave most of the time. However, because we both begun our travels alone we recognise the benefits of solo travel. Several times a year, we’ll head off to different countries and spend a few weeks meeting new people and getting out of our cosy couple bubble.

I’m an independent traveller and I’ll almost always opt to explore somewhere myself over taking a tour. I don’t accept comped activities or press trips in exchange for a review. I pay for all my travels myself, every single aspect, so there’s never any confusion as to whether my opinion has been influenced. If I can’t afford to do something, I’ll either work my ass off until I can, or not do it at all.

Dave is originally from New Zealand, so we were able to use our relationship to obtain permanent residencies for both New Zealand and Australia 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.

Cuddling a koala in Sydney Australia

This Lifestyle Isn’t/Wasn’t Perfect

The digital nomad lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.

Travelling full-time can be tough on your physical and mental health. When I’m on the road full-time, I don’t have a gym membership and 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.

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’d return home, my old friends had moved on. 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 rock climbing, but it was impossible to do when I was never in a single city for more than a week or a 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 or the Philippines.

Lauren Juliff at Taj Mahal
At the Taj Mahal. India is one of my favourite countries!

That’s Why I Decided to Stop (Sort Of But Not Really)

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 18 months.

In 2018, I moved to Bristol, the U.K. and stuck around until the pandemic hit.

And in 2023, I’ll be moving to Melbourne, Australia.

Yeah, I change my mind a lot.

Having a base doesn’t mean that I don’t travel — far from it! I still aim to spend around six months of every year on the road and six months basing myself in one place.

So, from next year, I will be basing myself in Melbourne, Australia over the southern hemisphere summer (I’ve been avoiding winters for over a decade now!)

Each year, I’ll aim to spend three months in Europe over the northern hemisphere summer.

I’ll spend a month or so exploring new regions in some of my favourite countries in Asia — India, Thailand, and Vietnam are my usual choices — and a month hiking in glorious New Zealand. With one extra month left in the year, I’ll assign that to adventures, whether it’s exploring a little-known South Pacific island, overlanding across West Africa, partying it up in Central America, or hiking through South America.

And until I reach Australia? I’ll be travelling across Europe and the Middle East for the rest of 2022, soaking up the joys of digital nomad life.