Greetings from Paris! I've been traveling non-stop all over Europe these past six weeks, and finally have some down time today, so I'm parked at my favorite cafe and writing a [long overdue] blog post. But rather than putting together one of the many travel guides I have coming, I wanted to touch on somewhat of a different topic.
If you’re new around here, I've been traveling almost full time (over 250 days out of the year) for a while now. This nomadic lifestyle of mine seems to yield a lot of questions about how I do it-- and rightfully so! If you would have told me a few years ago I'd be traveling this much, I would have been asking the very same things. So for starters, let’s clear up a few of the misconceptions.
I'm not a flight attendant.
I don't work for a travel agency.
I didn’t win the lottery, inherit a small fortune or stumble upon a suitcase full of cash.
So if none of those apply, how do I travel so much? It’s a bit of a complicated answer, but honestly, it’s likely something you can do too if you're up for being scrappy + getting creative. I've managed to make it work following these guidelines:
This is how I first got my start in frequent travel. I was employed by a company in Colorado that flew me out there for a week every month. A friend suggested I rent my place out to make some money while I was gone since I wouldn’t be home anyway. I then realized I could also rent my place out to help pay for vacations I wanted to take as well (even if I didn’t make a profit once I booked flights, at least it would make trips I wanted to take more affordable). You can either rent out your entire house to guests while you’re gone, or you can even just rent out your guest room for people to stay while you’re still there (it’s a fun way to meet new people!) It's worth noting that I have a 1 BR house, so it’s treated more like a hotel room and less like a house party (something to consider if you can sleep more people).
Lots of people ask me if I’m weary of letting strangers come in my house. Personally, I’ve only found people to be incredibly respectful and wonderful (they usually even leave nice notes or leftover alcohol they purchase!) I've even become friends with some of these fellow travelers who stay at my house and end up giving me recommendations for their cities or getting back in touch when they visit again.
There are definitely some steps you need to take (I liked this article with some more details about those details). It’s not always the right fit for everyone, but I’d argue it’s a great solution for more of you than you think. Either way, I definitely couldn't be gone the way I am without being an Airbnb host.
Interested in becoming an Airbnb host? It’s easy! Sign up here.
2. NEGOTIATE DISCOUNTED RATES BY OFFERING YOUR SERVICES
I first had this lightbulb when a friend asked me what my blog (which I had just been doing for a fun creative outlet) monthly page views were and what I was doing to leverage them. As it turned out, some travel partners (hotels, restaurants, tours, etc.) saw my audience size as significant enough to give me a free stay/ meal/ tour in exchange for coverage of my experience. Keep in mind, I had already been blogging consistently (with no alternative agenda) for about a year to grow my audience. But regardless of your audience size, or if you even have a blog, you can likely find ways to at least negotiate a media rate. Are you a stellar photographer? Or maybe your graphic design skills are out of this world? Whatever your talents, find a way to pitch yourself clearly and concisely.
PRO TIP: Don’t be ambiguous. Get straight to the point when making this request and be clear + concise. “I’d like to offer my photography services in exchange for a media rate during my stay.” Clearly outline the deliverables you’re willing to provide and what you’re asking for in exchange. Put thoughtful consideration into your pitch and link to examples of your past work to show off your capabilities.
3. STRATEGIZE YOUR ROUTE TO CUT COSTS
Everyone asks me how I can spend long amounts of time in Europe like the past 6 weeks or the 4+ months I did last summer/fall/winter. “Doesn’t that get expensive?” Clearly, it could. But I’m not charging a stay at Four Seasons to my credit card every night, people. Let’s rewind a bit, shall we? I’m renting my house out while I’m gone to cover my expenses back home. I’m leveraging my skills to negotiate media trades at hotels, restaurants and tours to cover the majority of those costs while I’m abroad. So what costs does that leave? Largely, transportation. Overseas flights (while you can find at very competitive rates) get really expensive really quickly. For me to go all the places I went in Europe this fall/winter (quick refresh in case you forgot), it would have taken several trips had I not stayed abroad for a while. This means I would have spent significantly more money than I had to since I only did one long flight. Flights once you’re already abroad are actually very cheap (I never paid more than €145 and paid as low as €35 for some). Plus, you can easily take trains for a fraction of what domestic flights in the US cost. Regardless of whether or not 5 months is realistic for you, I’d argue if you have a flexible schedule it’s more affordable to go and stay for a while (even a few weeks) rather than booking multiple international flights.
4. FIND TRAVEL COMPANIONS
By nature, travel is cheaper when you have someone to share costs with. Whether it’s splitting a cab to Charles De Gaulle or half-ing a pizza in Italy, there’s strength in numbers. This factor often is what causes me to build my itinerary a particular way. If I know one friend can come with me from Brussels to Stockholm, I’ll try to find someone else to meet me within a few days of that for a while (and the more you learn to negotiate media trades + get free hotels, the easier it is to get people to say yes to come meet you!) But even if your friends aren’t willing to spend the money or make the trek, you can easily find ways to connect with other travelers while abroad (in fact, I’d highly recommend doing that regardless.) If you’re looking for ways to meet people abroad, I’ve honestly met so many people through blogging or on Bumble (went on some fun dates this way too!) Some of my favorite travel buddies today are people I met while being abroad and connecting with unfamiliar faces. It’s no longer deemed weird or desperate to meet people in some sort of digital format these days, so put your pride aside and get past that ancient mindset. I’m currently working on a partnership with a brand I really believe in that does this well, so stay tuned for more...
5. FIND OTHER WAYS TO PAY YOURSELF
All of this is all a really long-winded way of explaining how I break even when I travel. So how then do I make money? That’s a very loaded + complicated question that I’m frequently asked. My short answer is simply this: I get creative. Sometimes my livelihood comes from sponsored Instagram or blog posts or affiliate sales from a monetization program I’m a part of. Sometimes it’s consulting businesses on their social media + marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s contributing articles I write for third-party publications to run on their site. Sometimes it’s people reaching out to me with opportunities and sometimes it’s me cold-calling someone with a pitch idea I have. Regardless of what it is that particular month, it’s honestly never the same. But it always comes with a lot of hard work + hustle (and it absolutely means that some months I still scrape pennies together).
*Side note: sometimes “paying yourself” is simply finding ways to eliminate costs you normally have. For example, I participate in several mutually-beneficial trade partnerships- for example: promoting my hairdresser Lauren (who is a rock star). I truly believe in her skills and am happy to promote her work. She sees that as advertising, we trade our services and everyone wins. The same principle can be applied to products you'd normally need to purchase (I get lots of my travel gear this way).
6. know YOUR LONG TERM GOALS
While this may all sound like a piece of cake and something I'd be crazy not to do for the rest of my life, let's be very clear: it isn't all glamorous and it certainly comes with a price tag in multiple areas of your life.
From a financial perspective, I used to have a cushy job with a great paycheck, and some days I really (really) miss the comforts of that. Simple things like health insurance, a 401K match, and the consistency of a paycheck that you always know is coming is nothing to breeze over lightly.
Aside from finances, I'd be lying if I said this lifestyle doesn't impact your relationships. Being gone means you miss birthdays and weddings and baby showers and everything in between for people that you love. When I am home, I have to choose between seeing lots of people a little bit, or a few people as much as I can (I'd advise the latter - quality > quantity). In addition to how it impacts my friendships, it also means I haven't been able to date anyone seriously- because how could I when I'm never in the same place more than a few days!? (With that said, I'd argue casual dating around the world is incredibly fun for a season if you can still do it...)
There are other "prices to pay" that come with full time travel. And because of these, I recognize that this likely won't be my long-term lifestyle if I'm being completely honest. While I will always be a traveler, I recognize some of the other goals I have for my life that I'll eventually want too: seeing more of my friends, starting a family- the list goes on. But this particular way of life I'm currently choosing (while grueling at times) has provided me with a once in a lifetime chance to see the world in a way I never imagined was possible. It’s hands down been the best thing I’ve ever done and I'd recommend it to anyone who is in a position to do the same.
If you’re in a position to rent out your house, to offer services like photography or consulting not only freelance on the side, but also negotiate media rates— you’re totally eligible to try on full-time travel for a while. And even if you’re not in any of the positions I mentioned above, that doesn’t mean you're not! You may just have to get a bit more creative than what I’ve detailed out. Whatever it looks like for you, I’m a big believer that anything is possible if you’re willing to really chase after it.
My goal with Blonde Atlas first and foremost is to inspire you to live your best life- and I personally believe experiencing the world is one of the very best ways one can do that. But while my appetite for adventure comes with the best intentions, I realize it can look like a glamorized version of life and not my day-to-day reality.
This means you’ll often see when I’m on a yacht in Santorini but not when I’m coming home from a long trip to clean my house up after Airbnb guests have left it. You’ll see when I get spa treatments and 5 course meals at a Four Seasons but not when I’m trying to squeeze a week’s worth of groceries out of Trader Joe’s for $50 while I’m home.
I’m not trying to pretend to be someone I’m not or make myself appear more important than I am. The reality of this life that I’ve chosen is that I simultaneously have to live on a really tight budget, while also getting to do some of the most boujee things of anyone else that I know. It's certainly a life of highs and lows, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because of the lifestyle I've been able to have.
I’m an open book and more than willing to speak honestly about the reality of my world. To be completely candid, the only reason I don’t speak to it more is because it takes a fair bit of time + energy to detail out posts like these and I technically, I get nothing in return. I don’t write that to sound self-centered or greedy, just trying to give you some perspective into my world. When I put together travel guides, I feel lucky enough to have experienced amazing things in exchange for writing about them. When I put together luggage or packing guides, I have the potential to make commission from affiliate sales. But these kind of posts are really just me providing free information- again, which I’m happy to do! I just have to be a bit more strategic about how often I allocate my time and energy into doing so because there’s a lot more of this going on behind the scenes already. In addition to planning my trips or writing my blog posts or planning my content calendar, I get lots of emails asking for travel recommendations, or how I started my blog or people seeking advice about how to travel more or strategize their business. I try to reply and make an effort to always help people as much as I can (because I'd hope people would do the same for me!) but I have to be realistic about how much of my time + energy can go into information sharing vs. running my business.
So in conclusion, the point of this long rant is simply to say this: I want to be honest with you about my travels in hopes that you can travel more too + live your best life. I’m happy to provide as much insight as I can to help from what I’ve learned, so if there’s more that you’re curious about, let me know in the comments below! I’ll do my best to answer, either directly or in a future blog post.
Thank you (as always) for stopping by! You reading this is part of the reason I am able to do what I do, and for that I sincerely can't express enough gratitude.
Stay tuned for a lot more travel talk that will be landing on the blog in the coming weeks!