Long Term Travel FAQ for a Digital Nomad

Thinking about working remote as a digital nomad? If so, this long term travel FAQ is for you. I’ve been traveling full time around the world for 14 months now, and I’ve learned so much along the way. From packing tips to where to buy flights and everything in between, here’s all your questions about long term travel answered!

 

How Long Should I Stay in Each City?

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found what I think is the best length of time. Unless a place is truly amazing I like to spend 5 weeks in each city. So, what that looks like is:

Weekend one: Arrive on a Saturday night or Sunday
Weekend two, three, four, and five: four full weekends to explore the area
Weekend six: Travel to new city

We tried traveling on weekdays but with work it was just too annoying. Either trying to get stuff done on busses or flights, having to get work done ahead of time to make up for a lost day, or telling clients we’d be unavailable, it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Surprisingly, traveling on weekends hasn’t been any more expensive than on weekdays, and it’s so much more fun to arrive in a new city and hit the bars or have a day to explore instead being stuck inside with work.

We stayed six months in Medellin and that was WAY too long. Then we stayed two months in Cusco, and finally started just doing five week stays. With four full weekends, you can see the two or three most touristy things in an area, but still have time to get off the beaten path as well.

 

van driving on a road by mountiains

 

How Do I Book Accommodation?

Good question! I 100% recommend Airbnb, and it’s all that I use. It’s great because if you stay for one month or more, hosts almost always offer a discount, sometimes up to 50% off. We rented outside of it once in a foreign country, and it ended in disaster.

If you’re DEFINITELY set on staying off Airbnb (admittedly the prices are usually higher, but it’s a worthwhile trade off for security) then check out local Facebook groups to find a place to rent. Just search the city + expats, or rentals, and there are usually plenty of groups. For more info, read How to Rent an Apartment in a Foreign Country.

 

Taxes Seem Complicated… Explain Them.

No. Honestly, I’m definitely not qualified to help anyone with their taxes, so the only thing I’ll do is explain my own. When Daniel and I taught in the UAE, we did not have to pay taxes in the United States because we were out of the country for long enough each year (I think it’s like 330 days?) and because we did not make enough to be “double taxed” (the income amount is something like 90k).

Once we started freelancing, things changed. We filed as an LLC in the state of Ohio and all of our money from work went through one specific bank account that we then paid ourselves out of. Because we were an LLC we had to pay “estimated taxes” four times a year instead of just once.

I’m still freelancing and using this method of tax payment. No matter where I live in the world, I pay taxes to the US just like I’m living there. Daniel has a full time job now, and pays taxes in the US like normal too (despite us mostly being abroad).

Basically, if you are a freelancer, you will probably have to pay taxes in the US even if you never step foot inside it. If you have a full time job abroad, you probably will only pay taxes to the country you’re in, unless you still spend a lot of time in the US or are making mad money. BUT like I said, absolutely every situation is different and definitely research into your own job and finances. DO NOT take my word for it because I do not want to be sued! Thanks!

 

manor house on a lake

 

What Health Insurance Should I Use?

Ugh, health insurance. It’s different for every country, so this info is going to be targeted at Americans. When we first started traveling full time, I was on my parent’s health insurance still and didn’t need to do anything else because it covered me abroad.

Daniel was over age 26, so he purchased travel insurance. This covered him in every country EXCEPT the United States. The cost was around $250 for six months. This plan was great because we spent no time in the US in 2017 until November. (Be careful though, because some travel insurance carriers require you to also be covered with a US health insurance plan… make sure yours isn’t like this.)

When we returned to the US, neither of us were covered by a job because we were both freelancing, so I bought health insurance through Healthcare.gov. It was a crap plan for about $50 each per month and didn’t cover us while traveling. Soon, Daniel got a full-time job and with that came a healthcare plan in the US. We still have to buy travel insurance on top of it to be covered outside of the country though.

Basically your options are to get a US health insurance plan and double up with the travel insurance, OR if you’ll be abroad all year, find a travel insurance plan that does not require a US health insurance plan as well. If you’re planning to be in the US at all, it’s probably easiest to just pay for a cheap plan year round and get it off your plate.

PS This is only based on my own experience and should not be taken as fact, you should research everything before you choose the correct plan for yourself (aka don’t sue me).

 

shopping at an outdoor market

 

What Should I Pack?

The first time I left the US on a digital nomad, I packed wayyyyy too much. Keep it light, and you’ll be so much happier when you’re moving every month.

For clothes, I usually pack two or three dresses, a pair of jeans, a pair of leggings, four or five t-shirts, workout leggings, six to eight nice shirts, bra, sports bra, strapless bra, underwear, jean shorts, and pajama pants.

I also pack a cardigan and super lightweight fleece jacket.

Hiking boots, running shoes, and flip flops generally suffice, if you want “cute” shoes you can also pack a pair of fashionable boots as well.

Outside of this, I usually pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, and face wash (if you’re checking the bag), razors, sunscreen, hair ties, bobby pins, and medicine (call your insurance ahead of time and sometimes you can pick up three, six, or even 12 months of your prescription early).

Finally, throw in a kindle or a couple books, laptop, phone, portable power pack, a speaker, all chargers and cords, a deck of cards, wallet, jewelry, and sunglasses, and you’re good to go.

 

romanian church and old town under fog

 

How Do You Decide Which Countries to Visit?

The AWESOME thing about long term travel as a digital nomad is that pretty much nowhere is off limits. There are sooo many places that I want to explore that I actually sometimes get really overwhelmed when I have to choose just one for our next stop. These are the steps I usually take when deciding which countries to visit, and some things you definitely need to keep in mind.

Flights

First things first, look for the cheap flights. I always compare prices on flights with Skyscanner, and search from the major airports around me to “everywhere.” I live in Ohio, so I always check flights from Cincinnati, Chicago, and Detroit to find the best deals. If you live near major hubs sometimes its worth using them to save money, especially if you’re traveling for a long period of time.

Accommodation

After you’ve narrowed down the countries that are affordable to get to, it’s time to check on the accommodations. Like stated above, I always use Airbnb. So, search the cities you’ll be staying in for the dates you’ll be there. Are there a lot of options that look nice and affordable? If there’s only one or two listed in the area, that will be a risk.

Cost of Living

The next step is to check the cost of living in the options you’re looking at. Just because Norway is $100 cheaper to get to than Romania, it doesn’t mean it makes financial sense to choose it. You should also make sure it’s a good city to live in. Google things to do there, restaurants, nightlife, and day trips to make sure there’s plenty to fill your time.

If flights, cost of living, and accommodation all check out, you need to make sure internet speeds in the city are good before you move there. Finally, check out the visa situation to ensure you can stay long term, and don’t need to take any extra steps to be approved to visit.

Once this is ALL finished I book the flight and accommodation, usually a couple months ahead of time. Everything else like local transport and planning what to do waits until we arrive.

 

blue and yellow houses with bikes outside

 

How Can I Work and Make Money While I Travel?

There are plenty of different ways to do this. If you want to work abroad you can teach in Dubai with very little qualifications, or get a job working on a yacht. If you don’t want to be tied to a location, no matter how exotic it may be, you can become a freelance writer or digital marketer, or teach ESL classes online. Visit the Working Abroad page to learn more and see step by step guides for each one.

 

How Can You Live and Work in Different Timezones?

Timezones are seriously the lamest. They suck, I know. For the first 14 months that we worked remote as digital nomads, we stayed in timezones close to the US in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. Daniel has a full time job and is tied to the American nine to five.

We’re throwing caution to the wind though, and in the spring we’re heading to Eastern Europe, where our work day will be from 4pm to midnight…. yeah. I’ll report back and let you know how that works out. I actually think it might not be too bad but we’ll see.

As a digital marketer and writer I have had clients in England, Singapore, the Philippines, and Australia, so working outside of your client’s timezone is definitely possible, it just slows down communication a bit. If you really have your heart set on traveling Asia, your best bet is to teach ESL classes online, because you will be working within Chinese timezones.

 

Biltmore Estate

 

Do You Have Any Travel Products You Recommend?

Yes, definitely! Some stuff I really love and use all the time is listed below:

Osprey Backpack

This bad boy is the BEST. It’s pricey for sure, but definitely worth the investment. The Osprey Farpoint 55 is all I use.

Some reasons why it’s amazing are first, it’s carry on sized for most major airlines (not budget ones though) so we can save money on checked bags. Also, it has a second small backpack that you can zip to it! I use the large bag to store all my stuff when moving from one place to the other and for long camping and hiking trips, but I still have the small bag for day to day use.

Did I mention that the entire front opens like a suitcase, so you don’t have to go digging into it every time you need something like a traditional backpack? And finally, Osprey products have a life time warranty, so you can always get it replaced if something goes wrong. If you want to become a digital nomad a rolling suitcase just isn’t gonna cut it. This Osprey bag has everything you need for long term travel.

Vibrant All in One Travel Bottle

I got this for Christmas and am so obsessed. I love the sleek look, and functionally it’s even better. This thermos keeps hot water hot for SO LONG, and cold stuff cold for ages. It also has a strainer at the top to make fruit infused water (my new obsession) or steep tea. For a day to day water bottle, I couldn’t ask for more.

Timberland Boots

The first time I bought hiking boots I was in the UAE. We went from mall, to mall, to mall because all the stores had the tiniest female selections and sold boots almost only for men! So sexist. I finally found a pair of Timberlands. They were expensive and I was on the fence, but I pretty much had no other choice but to buy them.

That was three years ago in Spring 2015 and they’re still going strong. The boots are cute, comfy, and seriously hold up on even the toughest hikes. I wore them on a seven day trek through the Himalayas in Nepal, on the Santa Cruz and Salkantay four and five day treks through the mountains of Peru, scaled a 19,000 f.t volcano in them, and walked through the streets of Europe for miles at a time. They still feel like new even after all that. It’s love.

UE Boom Speaker

Daniel introduced me to the world of quality sound and speakers, and I can’t go back now. We often stay in Airbnb’s with crappy TVs or even no TV, and watch shows on our laptops. Even just for music day to day, this speaker is amazing.

The bluetooth speaker is easy to use and carry around with us, it’s water proof, and the sound quality is amazing. Even after getting chucked in our bags and dragged from country to country over the last year, it still works perfectly.

International Phone Plan

Nomadic Matt recommends the TMobile plan for international travelers, but I disagree. I vetted TMobile, Verizon, and AT&T before I made my choice, and Sprint has has the cheapest plan if you are traveling in the US, Canada, or Latin America. I paid $34 a month and got to keep my US number, have unlimited calls and texts to any country in the world, and 1gb of international data. When I went back to the US, I also had 2gb of domestic data.

Landing in a new country, switching on my phone, and immediately having data is honestly the height of luxury and makes travel SO easy. Just having GPS in our day to day life abroad is invaluable. I definitely recommend the Sprint International plan for all digital nomads and long term travelers in that part of the world.

However, now that I am in Eastern Europe, all that has changed. Sprint’s International Roaming Plan is awful. It’s still $34 but only has free texting, super slow 2g data, and calls are 20 cents a minute. Because of that (and the fact that I can’t even access their website here…) I’m dropping it and will use a local SIM instead for data.

Another option for an international plan is with Google Fi. Daniel bought this before we left, and he gets unlimited international texts for $20 a month, international calls are 20 cents a minute, and each gb of international data he uses is $10 up until the $60 cap. The only problem with the Google plan is that they’re super complicated to set up without a Google phone… it’s possible, but annoying. Good luck!

 

 

How Much Money Will I Spend?

Pretty much as much or as little as you want. It REALLY depends on the country you choose. One month in London is going to cost a lot more than one month in Bolivia.

If you’re trying to keep the budget down, it’s important to find the line between a country with a low cost of living that’s also safe and has fast, or at least usable, internet. If you’d like to know more about what the budget of a digital nomad looks like, check out my breakdowns for six months in Colombia, two months in Cusco, and one month in Mexico.

 

From one digital nomad to another, this long term travel FAQ will answer questions you didn’t even know you had. Understanding health insurance, budgeting, and what to pack while living on the road full time is definitely important to making a successful transition into a full time digital nomad.

Do you travel long term? Comment below with any tips and advice I missed! And if you’re just getting started in this lifestyle, feel free to message me with questions any time!

All my love,
Di

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

The Super Easy Guide to Basic SEO For Travel Bloggers

If you’re an aspiring travel blogger, there are a lot of different ways to promote your work. You can build up a huge social media presence, but don’t forget to focus on basic SEO for travel bloggers as well!

So, what exactly is SEO? The acronym stands for “search engine optimization.” When your posts have better SEO, they will rank higher in a Google search and get more clicks. I know it seems intimidating (especially for new travel bloggers) but once you get the basics down you’ll see how simple and effective it really is.

In July, I stopped focusing on my social media and began working on improving my travel blog SEO. Since then, I’ve seen my daily visitors continuously increase from 25 per day to over 100 and growing. If you’d like to see the same, implement this basic SEO for travel bloggers on your site today.

 

1. Install and Use Google Analytics

Most of you have (hopefully!) done this already, but if not, it’s a must. Google analytics are free, and it will take you about five minutes to follow these steps to install it.

Once you have it set up, you can start tracking your visitors. Use the “Audience” overview tab to see how many visits you’re getting, and how much time people are spending on your site. Use the “Acquisition” overview to see WHERE your traffic is coming from (social media, Google searches, etc.) and finally, use the “Behavior” content drill down tab to see which pages are the most visited on your site.

The content drill down tab is a very useful tool, because it helps you understand which posts are the most popular, and then write more like them. Are you articles about budgeting always getting hit? Or maybe everyone is reading your destination reviews from a specific country… whatever it is, create more!

 

table with type writer and paper

 

2. Install Yoast SEO

The next step in basic SEO for travel bloggers is installing Yoast SEO. It’s a free plug-in on WordPress, and is totally invaluable in making sure you rank. It will add a form below your post and as you write it, it will tell you what you need to improve like adding a meta-description or more keywords, filling out the alt descriptions for your images, remembering to link to internal and external pages, and more. Use this on every article you write going forward, and go back to your old ones to make sure they pass their SEO guidelines as well.

 

3. Write for Obscure Keywords

Ok, maybe obscure isn’t the right word, but you need to be very careful about the keywords in your articles to avoid getting buried in the mass of blog posts on Google. Did you know millions of blog posts are written EVERY DAY? You have to work hard to stand out, and basic SEO for travel bloggers will help you do so. That starts with keyword research.

So, how do you pick the right keyword for your post? Here are some ideas:

1. Google the keyword you want to write for (ex: snorkeling in Playa del Carmen) and see what comes up. If the first few hits are TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet forums that is a good sign. It means not much has been formally written about the topic, and it will be easy to rank with your post. If there’s already two pages of content published by high authority sites (like BBC Travel or National Geographic) your lil’ post probably wont make the front page.

2. Brainstorm what you would search for to find different variations on the keyword that will get hit. Instead of Snorkeling in Playa del Carmen, it may be better to use “Unique Places to Snorkel in Playa del Carmen” or “DIY Snorkeling Trip in Playa del Carmen”. The goal is to always, always try to be on the first page of Google.

For Example: When I visited the Rainbow Mountain in Peru, it had already been covered by tons of travel blogs and I knew it would be hard to rank. Instead, I set my focus keyword in the Yoast SEO plugin to Mount Vinicunca, the actual name of the mountain. Because of that there was way less competition, and now my article is the top Google hit for the search, outranking Wikipedia and even Forbes.

 

city skyline at sunrise

 

4. Guest Post

I once read online about someone who’s professor gave them great advice “Try to get rejected by something every day.” I love it! Email people and sites you think you have absolutely no shot at, because you never know what might happen.

When you are guest posting, you need to understand Alexa Rank. This will tell you the rank of your website vs. every other one in the world. If you website ranks at 5 million, don’t waste time guest posting on a site that ranks at 12 million, because it probably won’t improve your SEO or send much traffic to your site.

The best idea is to try for big names like BBC Travel, HuffPost, Forbes, etc. You can also look for niche sites that are focused on the country or topic you are writing about, like a travel site focused only on Peru, or hiking gear, or all about finding cheap flights.

One great travel blog that I have guest posts on is The Planet D. Their Alexa Rank is 95,000 (that’s great! The lower the better) so a backlink from them (aka a link on their website leading to mine) improves my SEO because it tells Google that an authoritative website trusts mine.

When you are pitching guest posts, make sure the website you pitch to accepts guest posts first (you don’t want to spam them with requests if they don’t) and second, make sure they don’t already have similar content on their site. Once your post is up on their site, you should see the traffic it sends over in your Google analytics account at Acquisition –> Overview –> Referrals. If one guest post sends a lot of traffic, pitch two or three more to the site.

 suitcase and travel gear

 

5. Publish More Content

Learning basic SEO for travel bloggers is all well and good, but you also need to be writing a lot if you want your blog to take off. The more content you put out, the more visitors you will get. Google will also regularly look at your website. If they see new articles every time they come, that’s great for your site. If there have been no updates since their last visit, it’s bad for SEO.

How much should you write? At a minimum, you should be publishing at least one article a week, but aim for two or three instead.

If you’re not traveling at the moment, there’s still plenty to write about! Brainstorm topics that affect you during your travels, or just write whatever comes to mind. Some examples of non destination based articles on my website include What is a South American Suicide Shower?Six Insane Living Places We Can’t Believe People Actually Live, and The Truth About Traveling Full Time.

Since I started focusing on publishing much more regularly in July, my Alexa Rank has dropped from 9 million to 1 million… not bad!

 

6. Publish Better Content

While I’m on the topic of content, publishing BETTER content is also imperative when it comes to basic SEO for travel bloggers. One way to do so is make sure your headlines are catchy to get those clicks (but you don’t have to be click-baity and annoying either. Just make sure they clearly explain what your article is about so people choose to click YOURS on their Google search).

Also, increase your word length. Something that takes 15 minutes to write is just not going to be worth reading. I often click on links when I’m researching my next trip that have no value whatsoever, and it annoys me when a title looks promising but the article was just promotion or fluff and is a waste of time to read.

When people are planning trips, they want to hear about your experience, but they also want all the info they’re looking for in one place. So that means for an article about weekend trip for example, you should include everything: what you packed, how you got there, where you ate, and most importantly, the cost!

Millennials talk about money and it’s no longer taboo (thank God) so please, please, spell out the budgets and costs for your bus, or your hostel, or your month long trip through a country. For prospective planners this is often the most important factor in making a travel decision.

 

mountain and lake

 

7. Improve Your Load Time

This is more important than you think. Did you know that Google reports that 53% of people will leave a page if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds?! Don’t do all the work to get visitors on your site, only to lose them at the last second!

The most common things that people do wrong to slow down their load times are not optimizing their photos for size (or using too many pictures), using things that slow down their website like cumbersome sliders or fancy animations, having a poor hosting plan, and not minifying or caching. I’m currently tackling this problem on my own site, and am working on improving my load time with these steps:

1. Check the page speed at Google Insights. The higher the score the better. Just like a school grading system, 90-100 is best and lower than 60 is failing.

2. If you have poor load times then there are different ways to fix it. For beginners, the easiest solutions are plugins (not too many though, because too many plugins slows down your site too). I use EWWW Image Optimizer, WP Fastest Cache, and Fast Velocity Minify to help improve load speeds but there are a lot of others that work too.

 

8. Sweat the Small Stuff

You’re trying to grow and compete with established travel blogs, which means every little bit helps. Always add alt attributes to your photos. Always respond to comments on your blog. Always make sure every link on your post works and points exactly where you want it to go. Always make sure you use lots of headers and break up the text for easy reading.

Anything you can do to keep people on your page longer will help. Add videos to your posts, and use nice pictures (check out Unsplash for gorgeous free stock photos for your non-destination articles). If you take the time to tweak these small things for every post, it will help your SEO.

 

Old school green VW travel van ready for a summer road trip

 

Basic SEO for Travel Bloggers

I hope these tips on basic SEO for travel bloggers have helped! Take your time to start implementing these into your own blog and watch your visitors grow on Google analytics. If you have any more simple steps I missed, please comment below and I’ll add it to the list. If you try out some of these and see results, let me know!! Best of luck to all you travel bloggers out there, and safe travels 🙂

All my love,
Di

Updated April 2018

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

9 Ways to Manage Homesickness During Long Term Travel

Have you ever been homesick? It’s a brutal mix of sadness and wistfulness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

In the past few years I spent three ten-month stints outside of the USA, so unfortunately I know the feeling all too well. As a full-time traveler, I often go long stretches without seeing my parents, siblings, friends, and pets. I usually start to feel homesick in the middle of a trip, when I’ve been away for five or six months and still have quite a few left before I’m home again.

Luckily, I have years of practice with full-time travel, and I’ve learned how to manage homesickness pretty well. If you need to manage homesickness, give these tips and practices a try!

 

1. Cook your favorite foods

Sometimes, a big part of missing home is missing the food… at least for a foodie like me it’s definitely true. When that’s the case, I make an evening of it. If you’re in a hostel, find the best rated restaurant serving your native cuisine, or hit up a pub owned by a local from your home country. Ask around the expat circles, and you’ll definitely be able to find something that feels like home, even if it’s just for an hour or two.

When I travel long term, I always stay in apartments with furnished kitchens so I go one step farther to manage homesickness. I scour the grocery stores and cook my closest version of a Chipotle burrito, a crunch wrap supreme from Taco Bell, or whatever random restaurant or food I’m craving that day. Taste is actually a super important sense when it comes to memory and comfort, so not only does this option distract me and pass the time, it’s also always delicious and helps manage homesickness pretty well.

 

2. Invest in an international phone plan

I’m not gonna insult you by saying you should Skype or FaceTime your family and friends to help manage homesickness, cause it’s a pretty obvious solution. However, did you know that you can also get an international phone plan? They’re pretty cheap if you look in the right places. The first two years I lived abroad, my phone number was always changing and my friends and family found it difficult to contact me because it was always just a hassle.

This year, I invested in an international phone plan and I’m so glad I did. With Sprint, it’s only $35 a month! I got to keep my US number, get unlimited calls and texts to anywhere in the world, 1gb of international data a month, and 2gb in the US. This has made keeping in touch sooo much easier. Now, I can just pick up the phone and call my mom whenever I feel like it, and text my friends just like normal. I love it, and it has helped me feel way more connected and manage homesickness much better this past year.

 

3. Buy gifts for your family and friends

This has always helped me manage homesickness. If I’m feeling down, I’ll try to find little cheap gifts to bring home to my friends and family. Usually it involves something like a strange local snack or small pair of earrings. It helps distract from feeling homesick, and it’s always fun. Plus, when it IS time to head home, I already have lots of little stuff to bring with me and gift, and I don’t have to scramble last minute when I’m busy trying to pack and move. Win-win.

 

4. Think about it like this…

You’re not missing out on that much. An easy trap to fall into is to feel homesick and start thinking of family get togethers or parties with your friends, and how you’re missing out. In reality, those are usually for special occasions, and it’s more likely that even if you were home, you wouldn’t be spending time with friends and family anyway. Plus, for me at least, all my siblings live out of state. That means they’re all missing our parents and doggo just as much as I am.

Of course, putting it into perspective and remembering that most of my family and friends are also spread around the country and world too only helps most of the time. If you’re spending Christmas or Thanksgiving away from home (like I did two years in a row) It’ll be impossible to manage homesickness and you’ll just have to enjoy the holidays the best you can and power through!

 

5. Stream Sports

This one is weirdly specific, but also highly effective in curing homesickness. There are plenty of places to find your favorite team online and watch them live. Once I get the stream up on my laptop, I like to connect it to my TV as well. Something about the announcers speaking English and the sounds of the game in the background on a Sunday afternoon is comforting. Feels just like being home to me, and always helps manage homesickness when I feel it coming on.

 

6. Pet Some Pups

Dogs are scientifically proven to make everyone happy, all the time (source: my own brain and many experiences.) Find some! If you’re in a developed country, that means heading to a local dog shelter and giving the good boys some pats.

If you’re in a third world country, just step out the door and there will be plenty of strays! Bring something for them to snack on and enjoy watching them play. I promise, doing a good deed to take care of the street dogs in a small way will make you feel way better as well. Sometimes I also look at the local shelter websites from home to see which dog I’d adopt if I had the chance, but honestly this might make the homesickness even worse…

 

7. Talk it Out

A big part of homesickness comes from experiencing a daily language barrier and culture shock. Head to the hostels, tourist attractions, and bars or pubs to find a friend from your home country (or that at least speaks your same language.) I found whenever we ran into Americans on our long-term travels we always loved reminiscing about what we were missing at home. Just hearing that good ‘ol American accent always makes me feel better!

 

8. Send Home a Surprise

I used to do this when Daniel and I were in a long distance relationship for three years. When I really missed him and wanted to feel close to him, I would send him a surprise. Sometimes that meant making a homemade card and putting it in the mail, but sometimes it meant a little bit more. I liked to get pizza or his favorite Indian food ordered to his house when I knew he was home. He was always surprised and super happy, and it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it 🙂 Try it out!

 

9. Get Out of the House

You’re homesick for a reason… because you’re far away, traveling through a new country. Well, get out and explore it. I find I usually feel the most anxious, worried, sad, or homesick when I’m cooped up in the house in front of a computer screen.

If it’s a weekday and you have to work, treat yourself to a coffee or iced tea at the local cafe while you do so. Or, go for a walk, out to eat, hit up a new bar, sign up for a fun tour, go for a hike, the list goes on. If you’re feeling really bad, just say screw it and take the day off from your responsibilities completely. Head out into the great outdoors and r e l a x, take a moment to enjoy where you are and why you’re there. Clear your head a little, and I’m sure you’ll manage the encroaching homesickness just fine.

 

Feeling homesick is just a reality of traveling full time. However, in my past three years I’ve found plenty of small ways to help me manage it. Give these nine tips a try next time you feel homesick, and let me know if they help!

All my love,
Di

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

8 Reasons Why Working Remote is Better than Backpacking

I originally wanted to save money, quit my job, and backpack through South America for six months, and now I’m SO glad Daniel convinced me otherwise. Because we decided to work remote, we were able to spend ten months exploring Colombia and Peru instead of only six, and still have the money and steady income to travel through Mexico and Europe in 2018.

During my time in South America, I met plenty of other young people. They were traveling long-term as well, but with one big difference. They usually saved money, quit their jobs, and traveled for three, six, or twelve months at a time. Once they’re finished, it’s back to the old 9 to 5 in their home countries. They have one awesome adventure under their belts for sure, but for me, that’s not enough. It doesn’t have to be for you either! Here are my top eight reasons why working remote is better than backpacking.

 

1. Travel Longer

Like I stated above, we were originally planning to only travel for 6 months in South America, then settle down and get a job in the States. WOW what a mistake that would have been! Working remote is better than backpacking because your trip never has to end. Endless travel is not a dream, it’s my daily reality (and it’s so damn easy to make it yours as well.)

Because I have a steady income from freelance writing, I can move anywhere in the world, whenever I want. I spent ten months in South America in 2017, and have plans to spend two months in Mexico and six in Europe in the new year. I don’t think I ever could have saved up enough money to see so much, especially in an entry level job after graduation. Instead, remote work while traveling makes it possible.

 

2. No Money Worries

If I blow my budget on a late night out or super cool weekend away, I don’t have to rearrange finances for the rest of my trip, or sacrifice visiting one destination, city, or country for another. Instead, I just slow down my spending until next month’s payday. I’m not moving fast, so if I don’t have the funds for a big tour or trip, all I have to do is wait. No rush and no timeline means I can keep my travel plans flexible and do everything I want to in each destination.

 

3. Unexpected Issues Won’t End Your Trip

This one is semi-related to number two. Because I have a regular income from working remote, unexpected issues aren’t quite so problematic. A broken laptop or missed flight just means the next weekend might be a little more boring than most. Even if it’s more severe (like our landlord keeping our $700 deposit, ugh.) long term saving and budgeting can make up for it. However, when my friends had their passports and computers stolen in Peru towards the end of their backpacking trip, the unexpected costs and passport issues caused them to have to skip visiting Ecuador completely and head straight to Colombia instead. Super disappointing!

 

4. Save Money

Working remote is better than backpacking because it’s cheaper. We travel long-term (like, years at a time) so we don’t have any phone bills, storage bills, mortgages, rent, car payments and insurance, or anything else that we have to pay at home while on our trip. On the other hand, most backpackers still have to budget to keep up with these costs at home along with their trip expenses.

A second major money saving advantage is that working remote allows us to travel slooooow. We always rent Airbnb’s for one month at a time (at least) to get major discounts. Also, if you’re jumping form hostel to hostel on a backpacking trip, you’re going to eat out every meal. Working remote, traveling slow, and staying in furnished apartments gives us access to kitchens to buy groceries and cook in, which is a huge money saver every month.

 

5. No Post Travel Blues

I seriously can’t tell you how many backpackers I met who were in the last few weeks of their trip. They always lamented how sad they were to be heading home soon. Who wouldn’t be? They’ve often saved, sacrificed, and planned for years to take the trip, and know when it’s over its back to their boring 9 to 5, with years before they’ll ever be able to take time off again. Honestly, I can’t relate. Because I work remote, my traveling only ends when I decide it does, and I headed home for the holidays full of excitement because for me it’s only a pit stop between countries.

 

6. No Resume Gap

America is a nation of workaholics. If you’re reading this in the UK or Australia, it won’t apply to you as much, because gap years and long term traveling are much more common there. However, in America it’s totally outside of the norm.

From a career standpoint, working remote is better than backpacking because companies don’t look kindly on six month resume gaps, even if they changed, enriched, and taught you more than you ever would have in the workplace. Explaining a six month or year long gap to a future employers isn’t a risk I have to take because I chose to work remote instead of take time off to backpack. Additionally, when I do decide to move back to the US and search for a full time job, I know I can live off my freelance income until I do so… pretty stress free transition if you ask me!

 

7. Keep a Routine

This one is one of the biggest health advantages to working remote instead of taking a backpacking trip. When you go months without working, there is no routine. That means tons of drinking, late nights, eating out… basically every vice is so much easier to fall into without a routine! That’s all fine for a one or two week vacay, but it’s not gonna end well if you keep it up for a six month trip.

Because I still have a job and am not on vacation, I set an alarm each morning, cook my own meals every day, and have a much easier time limiting my drinking and nights out to the weekends. Working remote and traveling slow also means we have a comfy Airbnb to chill in, watch TV, and read or relax in at night. If you’re backpacking and stuck in a hostel, you’ll be much more tempted to get out, hit the bars, and spend money every night of the trip.

 

8. See More

My last, and one of my favorite aspects of working remote instead of backpacking, is that I get to see so much more than an average backpacker does. I don’t have to limit all my traveling to just a few months. I spent four months just in Peru, instead of trying to visit the entire continent of South America in the same time frame. Because of this, I get to see and do a lot of stuff that’s off the beaten track. Some articles I write are among the first of their subject on the web because spending a day at Llaullifest or hiking at Kinsa Cocha are so off the beaten track for most backpackers. I like traveling slower, and seeing more of each country that I visit.

 

Do I have you convinced? One short-term backpacking trip may be exactly what you want, but if you’re here I think you’re looking for something more. Definitely consider these eight reasons why working remote is better than backpacking. Next, check out my Working Abroad page to learn all about how I paid off my student loans and visited eight new countries while teaching in Abu Dhabi, and how I now make money working remote as a digital marketer and freelance writer. As always, if you have any questions comment below or shoot me an email and I’ll definitely get back to you!

All my love,
Di

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

I live out of my backpack for the majority of the year, and travel full time. So, I made the perfect holiday gift guide for travelers on your list. I know they’re hard to buy for because you don’t want your gift thrown in storage, and of course you want to give them something they’ll actually use! So, I made this up as a combination of things I’m asking for this year, things I can’t live without, and things I found myself wishing I had as I traveled. I promise, if you have an avid traveler on your list, this holiday gift guide for travelers will have something for everyone (and every budget!)

 

Travel Gifts Under $10

 

Waterproof Cell Phone Case $6.99
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Love it because: I am always super careful and concerned with my phone on dive trips, boat tours, and at the beach.
These waterproof cell phone cases protect the phone from water completely, while still keeping it available for
photos through the transparent case. So perfect.

 

 

Spotify Premium Subscription $9.99/month
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Love it because: I can’t live without music. However, both the free versions of Pandora and Spotify limit international listening. With Spotify premium, you can listen as much as you want to their extensive music collection ad free, and best of all, download music for offline play on long bus or plane rides. As an avid traveler who gets motion sickness from reading, music is everything on those trips. Plus, right now you can get the first three months of premium for only 99 cents! Nice.

 

Vintage Travel Wall Posters $8.99
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Love it because: This classic look never goes out of style. Buy one as a thoughtful gift to commemorate
a meaningful city or trip abroad

 

 

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World $9.75
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Love it because: You can’t go wrong with a good, inspirational book. Any travel lover (and book worm) will enjoy this.

 

 

 

Travel Gifts from $10 to $25

 

 

Universal 3 in 1 Camera Lense Kit for Smartphones $12.49
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Love it because: It’s an easy and small kit for a beginner photographer to experiment with, and take a few cool photos without lugging around a giant camera bag.

 

 

Jackbox PartyPack $24.99
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Love it because: These games are just fun as hell. They also load directly on a computer and are played with
smartphones, so they require zero additional packing for a heavy traveler.

 

 

World Scratch Off Travel Map $24.99
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Love it because: It’s beautiful, and a super fun way to scratch countries off the bucket list… literally

Anker Portable Charger $14.99
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Love it because: No more worries about a dying phone on that long layover or bus ride. Now I can listen to music and stream movies to my heart’s content, and charge on every trip to make sure I always have power for more photos

 

 

Eye Love Polarized Wood Sunglasses $24.97
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Love it because: Travelers are always on the move, and that means small things like sunglasses get broken or left behind a lot. I’m always replacing mine, so getting an extra pair as a stocking suffer would be amazing!

 

 

Sterling Silver Mini State Pendant Necklace $19.00
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Love it because: It’s small, it’s delicate, and its a great way for a traveler to bring a little piece of home with
them wherever they go. Just click the drop down to see any US state.

 

 

Wise Owl Outfitters Portable Hammock $25.95
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Love it because: It’s the perfect gift for any outdoor lover or camper on your travel gift list. They’re lightweight, and great to put up and relax in anywhere, making the view even more enjoyable on every hike.

 

 

VIBRANT ALL IN ONE Travel Mug $24.95
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Love it because: It’s a tea infuser, hot coffee thermos, and so much more. A great water bottle becomes a beloved family
member to any traveler who spends months on the road. I think this one can stand up to the challenge!

 

 

 

Travel Gifts from $25 to $100

 

AKASO EK7000 4K WIFI Sports Action Camera $74.99
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Love it because: I’ve been blogging for almost a year, and have been dying for an action cam to add better videos to my site. Unfortunately a Go Pro was out of my price range, but after extensive research Daniel found this well reviewed (and waterproof!) camera… for only $74.99. I’m super excited to unwrap it on Christmas and try it out in Mexico!

 

 

Trtl Pillow – Scientifically Proven Super Soft Neck Support Travel Pillow $29.99
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Love it because: I suck at sleeping on long bus and plane rides, and I’ll try anything new that may help. This compact travel pillow is small and super supportive… definitely looking forward to giving it a try!

 

 

Kindle E-Reader $79.99
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Love it because: When I’m abroad, my choices are to either lug around heavy books in my small backpack, or search in vain to find bookstores with overpriced books in English. A super light kindle e-reader makes reading on a long-term trip so much easier.

 

 

 

AirBnb Gift Card $25 and up!
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Love it because: Everyone knows experiences are better than things. Give the gift of a stress free holiday or weekend away

 

 

 

Travel Gifts over $100

 

Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack $180
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Love it because: I. LOVE. THIS. BAG. Seriously, any traveler or backpacker in your life would swoon to unwrap this on Christmas day. The bag is super high quality, opens easy, and has a smaller day pack attached as well. I’ll never go back to a rolling suitcase, and no one else should have to either. If you have the budget… this is the best gift for any traveler on your list.

 

 

Kate Spade Going Places Metro Watch $195.00
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Love it because: It’s just cute!!

 

 

No more wondering and searching for the perfect gift this Christmas. Everything on my ultimate holiday gift guide for travelers is tailor made to be small, useful, and perfect for any traveler on your Christmas list. Happy holidays!!

All my love,
Di

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Where to get the Cheapest Flights and Best Travel Deals

I travel a lot. I’ve been to over 25 countries and lived on 4 continents. That means, a lot of flights have been booked in the past few years, and I don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve spent…

Luckily, these websites, newsletters, and email lists help me find the cheapest flights and best travel deals every time I’m planning to book (oh, and did I mention they’re all free to use?) If you’re starting to think about your next vacation, give these a try and save some big bucks on your trip!

 

1. TravelZoo

This is pretty much the ONLY email I subscribe to that I open regularly. The TravelZoo newsletter and website is great for three reasons. First, you can customize your departure airports, so you only get deals nearby that you’ll actually use. And second, you never buy from a third party. Every deal you see is purchased straight through the company that offers it, so no scams or bamboozles here. And finally, the deals they find are insane!

For Example: Just yesterday I got an email listing an 8 night tour of China, with hotels, food, and flights from the US, for $399! W H A T?! If I was more organized and ready to book travel plans for next year, I would have been all over that.

The Catch: The only catch with this site is that sometimes the best deals are offered out of season, or only leave on certain days, like a Tuesday or Thursday. If you’re a flexible traveler, somewhat spontaneous, and open to booking great deals when you find them (rather than being set on a certain vacation plan every year) then this website will help you get some of the cheapest flights and best travel deals I’ve ever seen.

 

2. Scott’s Cheap Flights

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a mailing list you can sign up for to receive awesome deals straight in your inbox. I love it because it is super simple, and helps you discover some destinations that may not have even been on your radar before.

Basically, what this guy does is find fares and deals that are either mistakes, or just super low for some reason, and send out an email letting you know where they’re from, where they’re going to, and where to book the flights.

For Example: One of his recent deals was Mexico City to New Delhi for $555. It might sound like a lot, but the normal price is $1200! You can also sign up for Premium Service for $39/year to get more that free users miss out on.

The Catch: The only catch with this list is that the fares are usually only available for a short time, so if you’re going to book them, you gotta book ’em fast. Because of this, once you choose your vacation days and budget, I suggest keeping an eye on this email newsletter for a couple weeks to see if anything pops up as a perfect fit.

 

3. Skyscanner

Ah, ol’ reliable. Skyscanner has been with me from the start.  I booked my very first international flight (to Egypt, Israel, and Italy) through this site, and have been going back ever since.

Skyscanner is great for a few reasons. First, you can compare prices on flights with Skyscanner super easily. Just put in your departure airport and dates then set the destination to “everywhere,” to search through the cheapest options available without choosing a specific destination. That’s usually how I get started planning almost all of my trips. I’ve also found that Skyscanner consistently shows me some of the cheapest flight fares for every destination. I just love it because it makes it so easy to compare countries and airlines, and find the cheapest flights and best travel deals.

For Example: For my trip to Germany in 2015, I found round trip flights from Dubai to Berlin for only $250 per person. A great deal I snapped up immediately, and never would have seen if not for their “search everywhere” option.

The Catch: The only catch is that Skyscanner shows a lot of offers from third party vendors like edreams, Expedia, etc. I personally avoid these and ONLY ever book directly from the airlines. If you find the flights you want and they’re all through one airline, it’s easy to just click and continue booking through them. Otherwise, just head straight to the airline website, search, and purchase it there. Easy.

 

These three websites and email newsletters are my go-to places to get the cheapest flights and best travel deals online. If you’re just in the starting stages of planning your next trip and open to anything, check these out today to get some huge savings.

Good luck, and happy travels! If you find some amazing deals on these sites, comment below and let me know (so I can buy them too!)

All my love,
Di

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Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

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