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

Travel

How long have you been travelling for?

Six 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 August 2017, I’ve visited 75 countries across five continents, spending the majority of my time in Southeast Asia, Europe, Mexico, and New Zealand. This year, I’m focusing heavily on African countries.

Where’s your favourite country?

Tough question, so I’ll go with a top five: Cambodia, Namibia, New Zealand, Portugal, 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, Madagascar, and the Seychelles.

Where are you going to be visiting this year?

I have so many exciting plans for the second half of the year, from Japan to New Zealand. Check out my 2017 travel plans post for a detailed overview of my upcoming travels!

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 forever.

What I do have right now is a long-term base in Lisbon, Portugal. After 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 2016, I signed a year-long lease on a gorgeous apartment in Lisbon, and a year later, I renewed it.

To my great surprise, having a place to return to between trips has meant that I can both travel better and work better. Now I base myself in Portugal for six months of every year and travel for the rest of the time.

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’d visited something like 150 countries, I think I’d make an effort to visit the remaining fifty or so, but it’s not something I’m working towards.

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 half 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. Literally. 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. On top of that, I’m more into travel than he is, so I don’t want to feel like I’m dragging him around the world with me. If he doesn’t want to head to Rwanda with me, that’s cool; I’ll just go by myself.

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. And because I opt to pay for 100% of my travels myself rather than taking comps, I tend to have to worry more about my finances than other bloggers.

One of my favourite things to do, however, is splurge for special occasions, like when I treated my boyfriend 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. 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 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 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 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:

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?

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 U.K. 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?

Never Ending Footsteps is registered as a limited company in the U.K. and I pay tax there.

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 give advice on how to improve your chances of success.

How do you even make money as a travel blogger?

Right? I still can’t believe I’ve managed to turn my blog into a business. Here’s how I currently make my money.

  • Advertising on the site, via display advertising (ads in my posts and sidebar) and affiliate sales (where, for example, I pay to stay in a hotel, mention it on my site and link to it, and if you decide to stay there, I make a small commission on that sale).
  • Freelance writing for several different websites and magazines
  • Royalties from my publisher of How Not to Travel the World

How much money do you make from your travel blog?

It varies, but it’s always between $5,000 and $8,000 a month.

How long did it take for you to start making money?

I sold my first ad on my travel blog when I was four months in. I hadn’t even started travelling at that point! By the time my blog was a year old, I was making around $2,000 a month — enough to live in cheaper parts of the world indefinitely. In year 4, I finally started making more than $5,000 a month. It takes a lot of work to make money from travel blogging, but it’s definitely not impossible!

Why don’t you take press trips?

There are several reasons why I pay for absolutely everything myself. And I’m super strict about it, too, guys. I don’t take press trips, and I don’t accept free hotel stays or activities. I don’t even accept free travel gear to review. Here’s why.

First of all, I know that my readers prefer to read a blog that is sponsorship-free. Whenever I’ve run reader surveys, you guys have told me your favourite thing about this site is that I pay for everything myself. And conversely, I know that the vast majority of travel bloggers find their readers claim their frequent comps to be their least favourite aspect of their sites.

Secondly, I want to show you that travel is an attainable goal and I can’t do that if I don’t pay for everything else. Sometimes this sucks, because damn, will I ever get to Antarctica if I have to pay $10,000 on a trip? And how about the fact that later this year I’ll be heading to Rwanda, where a permit to trek with mountain gorillas in Rwanda costs $750? Bloody hell. But that’s the thing, though: If I took a comp and hiked to see the gorillas, I’d most likely say it was worth it because I hadn’t felt the pain of that money coming out of my account. When I’m paying for it myself, I’m going to make damn sure it’s worth every single penny of my hard-earned cash.

Finally, it made me feel kind of uncomfortable to take freebies. I don’t want to feel as though my readers will think I’m only giving something a positive review because I didn’t have to pay for it, so it’s easier for me to not do it altogether.

After dabbling with taking comps for a few months, I decided I’d much rather build such a successful business that I could just afford to go wherever I want and write about whatever I want.

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 2017 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 entirely, 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.