Jodi Ettenberg on her life as a long-term traveller
RACHEL LEE HARRIS
IN 2008 she left her job and bought a one-way ticket to Chile. She has been roaming the world ever since, and her blog, LegalNomads.com, has become a resource for those who want to try it.
Here are excerpts from a conversation about making travel your job instead of your vacation.
Q: What is it about long-term travel that appeals to you? A: It’s getting up every day to discover all the quirks of where you’re going; learning about the foods and the history, and how it all kind of weaves together; and meeting people, making connections.
What’s the minimum one should save for a year of travel? A: $10,000 to $15,000 a year, primarily in places like Southeast Asia or South America, is feasible. In Australia or Europe, it would be more.
Do you work when you’re on the road? A: I didn’t at the beginning, but there are a lot of people who do – travel writers, which I am now. People work at hostels or teach English or work as chefs, skills that are very portable.
Do you ever get lonely? A: I don’t usually get lonely because technology makes it really easy to meet people everywhere.
Something like Twitter, for example, allows me to say, “I’m here, is anyone else in town?” How do you plan your trips? A: I don’t really have a schedule. I tend to buy a one-way ticket and then just see.
Where do you like to stay? A: I tend to pick hostels or smaller guesthouses in bigger cities. They’re usually the most reasonable option. Outside the bigger cities, I get small guesthouses or bungalows.
Which travel apps do you use? A: There is one, SitOrSquat, for finding toilets around the world. There’s also a fun app called ICOON, a global picture dictionary that sorts images by category so that if you can’t speak the language, you can use pictures.
What do you pack for a long journey? A: I bring a sarong because you can use it as a pillowcase, as a cover-up on the beach or as a towel, as a shawl or as a head scarf. I keep portable chopsticks in my purse because while the food is safe in almost every country I’ve been to, sometimes the cutlery is not really washed. I carry a headlamp for when the power goes out. And I bring thank-you cards. Because if you do meet locals and go somewhere to dinner, you’ll be scolded for bringing a gift. It’s a small gesture, but it really goes a long way.
You’re a woman travelling alone. What precautions do you take? A: The little things I do are carry a safety whistle and a doorstop, which makes a sound if someone is trying to get in my room. I don’t drink on the road very much. I will pay a little more to stay at a place that is centrally located.
What I tell people, women especially, is to take a two-week trip with a small company, like Geo Trekkers, first and then extend your stay three or four weeks alone after. It will get you more comfortable.