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I have been travelling the world full time for the last five years, working from my laptop. AMA!

Nov 9th 2014 by global-goose • 56 Questions • 2648 Points

I am a freelance writer and travel blogger, originally from Canada. Everything I own I carry with me in my backpack and over the last five years my boyfriend and I have been travelling and working remotely.

PROOF (under the photo of me in Brazil with the toucan on the right hand side)

EDIT: Wow, thanks for all of the questions everyone! I'm working through them one by one and I will answer as many as I can (as long as it isn't "what laptop do you use?" for the 10th time!)

EDIT 2: Front Page! This is amazing! I didn't expect this much of a response. Thank you so much everyone! I will do my best to answer all of your questions!

EDIT 3: It's late here and I've gotta get some sleep. Keep sending in your questions and I will answer more tomorrow. Thanks again everyone!

Q:

I'm a software developer and want to do this. Did your rates reflect your home country or the country you resided in at the time? Did you travel on tourist visas or explained that you require business visa to work remotely? I assume the later would be too complicated to explain.

A:

When I first started I wasn't making a good wage. It took about a year to build up my freelance reputation and gain clients until I was able to make a full time income from my writing. I had a full time job while building up this career, which allowed me to save a bit of a "buffer".

My rates reflect a decent (but not huge) wage in the Western World, which goes a lot further in many other countries.

We travel on tourist visas and just don't mention the fact that we work remotely. The visa regulations haven't really caught up with the new generation of online workers, so there isn't even a category for me - it's easier just to class myself as a tourist.


Q:

I can answer this one since this is exactly what I'm doing right now (Software Engineer). Also from Canada, I lived in NYC for 3 years, and now in Melbourne for almost 2. I'm starting to become a bit restless and eyeing Japan or Germany next.

You rates reflect your environment, period. Don't expect to be paid NYC rates in middle of nowhere, where the rent and food is cheap. Some countries (many commonwealth) allows you to work, almost unrestricted, for a year (like in Australia, it's called a working holiday visa). After that, you need to get sponsored. The USA is a lot stricter however and you need a proper visa before entering the country (if you're Canadian, a TN visa is fairly easy to get with sponsorship).

In her case however, it's very different since she owns her own business and doesn't have to work for someone at the location she's at, which I would imagine you'd be doing. If not, you simply need to create your business in your 'residential' country and travel where ever using a travel visa. Unless you conduct business in that particular country (working for your company while there doesn't count), you're all good.

A:

In her case however, it's very different since she owns her own business and doesn't have to work for someone at the location she's at, which I would imagine you'd be doing.

Yes, this is true. I am earning pounds and dollars, whether I am living in Thailand, Peru or Bulgaria. My location changes, the wage stays the same.


Q:

How long did it take for the blog to become popular and start to earn enough to contribute to your travels?

A:

It still doesn't earn us the majority of our income - that comes from my freelance writing.

The blog started off as just a way for us to share our travels with friends and family. As it grew we started getting contacted for advertising eventually. It took at least 2 years until it started to earn any worthwhile money.

With blogging you really do get what you put into it. When I get too busy with my freelance work and the blog gets ignored, it doesn't earn as much. When we focus our energy on it, it really grows.


Q:

Who pays you to write, how much, and where do you find work? I've tutored college level English for the last five years, and I often write for fun; however, I've never considered it possible to make an income off of it. Direct me, dear friend?

A:

Check out websites like Elance, PeopleperHour and Odesk. They are platforms designed to connect freelancers with the people who need work done. Create a profile with your CV and your writing samples and then you can bid on the jobs available.

I started out with a few small jobs here and there and now I make a decent wage. There's lots of work out there if you can write! Establishing yourself in a niche will help you to earn more, so think about what you can write about with knowledge and authority.

Good luck with it.


Q:

What was the final push that made you want to live such an awesome lifestyle? Was it something you always have wanted to do, or did it just kind of develop randomly?

Also do you ever see yourself settling in one spot for good?

A:

I had the idea while on a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand. I started doing some freelance writing work on the side to fund my travels. I realised I could turn it into a full time income, then I would not have to be based in any particular location. I have always wanted to travel, so that made perfect sense.

I see us settling down somewhere at one point, but not necessarily "for good". I think we will always want to travel.


Q:

Well congrats on being so bold, and also one more question.

Making an assumption here, but... Where is the one place you two would want to have your wedding?

A:

That's a tricky question... he's from the UK and I am from Canada so the answer isn't easy. Maybe we should just elope on some tropical island.

But the question hasn't even been popped yet, so we'll figure that out later. :)


Q:

Just elope in an exotic area and have two receptions. One in Canada and one in the UK. But again, getting ahead of myself.

Can you post a couple pics of different places you've been?

A:

That's a good idea, are you a wedding planner? ;)

Here are some of our favourite photos from our travels


Q:

Did you have to call his mother to help with the broken wrists?

A:

NO NO NO NO NO


Q:

Wow. This is actually a dream of mine. I'm a self-employed software developer and want to do this. I just need to save up money for the initial step. How did you meet your boyfriend?

A:

In prison in New Zealand... it's a strange story...


Q:

Please please please go on.

A:

Well, it was a dark and stormy night in September 2009...

I was a 22 year old Canadian dork on a Working Holiday in New Zealand and I had managed to score a job as a tour guide working at Napier Prison, a historic prison from the 1860s perched high on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The job was a work-for-accommodation arrangement and the accommodations were in the creepy old prison cells.

I arrived on a Saturday night and stepped off the bus in quiet and deserted downtown Napier. After a few minutes, a big white van screeched to a halt and two blonde German dudes in prison jumpsuits and full zombie makeup jumped out.

"Are you Kelly?"

"uhhhh... yes..." I stammered.

"Come wiz us."

"oookay..."

So I did what any sane person would do and jumped in the van. It drove up a dark and winding street to the prison, which looked dark and foreboding with thick brick walls and barbed wire. I could hear terrified screams coming from inside, but Jan and Hendrich, my new German Zombie friends, explained that these were coming from the tourists on the "Haunted Hill" scary night tours.

They snuck me into the staff room, where a six foot tall Northern Englishman also dressed as a dead prisoner was sitting on a table and drinking a beer. That was the first moment I saw him... I'm not sure love at first sight is the correct term...

Actually, they were doing scary tours all weekend so for the first few days I knew him he looked like a zombie. How incredibly romantic.

Over the next few weeks we got to know each other while living in the prison cells. I guess prison brings people closer?


Q:

Did you bonk in the romantic prison accommodation as well?

In full zombie makeup of course

A:

A lady zombie doesn't tell...


Q:

Which platform do you use to find your freelance work?

A:

I use Elance, Odesk and PeoplePerHour. Also, I have quite a few ongoing clients established now that send me work on a regular basis. That's the key to creating a good work flow.


Q:

What's in your backpack?

A:

Everything I own!

  • clothes
  • laptop
  • probably more toiletries and beauty products than I need, but less than most other girls
  • first aid kid
  • food (jar of nutella, soup packets, teabags, etc.)
  • Kindle
  • iPod
  • a plush lamb I had as a child (for good luck)

Q:

Any advice on what to study in college for a person who wants to do what you're doing?

A:

I did go to University, but I don't even really count it because I got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts and it turned out to be a useless, pretentious, circlejerk degree. I wish I could get a refund.

I have no writing qualifications. My boyfriend is a freelance web designer and he didn't go to college or university at all. When I apply for work I don't often mention my degree because it's not even relevant. People hire me based on the quality of my writing portfolio.

That said, conventional jobs are usually more friendly to people with degrees. If you do want to get a degree, related fields like journalism, languages or tourism might come in handy if you want a career that will lend itself to a lot of travel. However, a degree is not strictly necessary for what I do. What's more important is passion, hustle and creative thinking.


Q:

You appear to be living that dream life that a lot of fine arts majors aspire to live. However, you have mentioned that your degree was useless in this endeavor. I would encourage you to write a blog post explaining your viewpoint - think about how much money you might be able to save for many counter-culture 18 year olds who are currently thinking they want to major in art, etc.

A:

That is a fantastic idea for a blog post, thank you!


Q:

Please update! :) Id love to read that :)

A:

It's a great idea and I do plan on writing it. If you "Like" our Facebook page or subscribe to the blog you will be notified when I post it.


Q:

What happens when you get sick? Do you have something like travel insurance?

A:

Yes, we have travel insurance. When my British boyfriend Lee broke both of his wrists in Canada we were very very very glad we had travel insurance otherwise it would have cost us a lot of money.

We have had food poisoning, skin infections and other minor ailments on the road. We usually treat ourselves and there has been the odd time that we have needed to go to a local doctor... which was totally fine. It wasn't fun when the Malaysian nurse scraped the pus out of the deeply infected mosquito bite on my leg - but she spoke English, the clinic was clean and the antibiotics she gave me were so cheap that I didn't even bother claiming them on the insurance.


Q:

What's the most beautiful country you have visited so far?

A:

It's hard to choose!

My home country of Canada has some pretty stunning landscapes. Right now we are in Brazil and just spent a couple weeks in the Amazon, which was gorgeous. I'm a huge fan of natural beauty, so Borneo was also a real treat.


Q:

How do you deal with different languages in the countries that you visit?

A:

Great question!

If we were living in one country for a long period of time it would be worth learning the language and I would certainly make an effort to. However, since we are just travelling through I am only able to learn a few basic phrases.

After several months in South America I am now able to make myself understood in very basic toddler-like Spanish, such as when asking directions, booking hotel rooms, ordering food, etc. I'm a long way from conversational but I am slowly getting there!

Fortunately, English is a universal language and it is widely spoken in many of the places we have been. It makes us a bit lazy when it comes to language learning, but it does makes things easier.

Sometimes there are those moments when you can't find a common language with people, which is when your charades skills come in handy!


Q:

Hello! First off I am completely jealous of you and your other half's lifestyle! I'm trying to pick up the courage and research the means and ways of travelling myself! My question: I do you just look online for activities to do and things to see? Or do you prefer to get stuck in and see how the locals live? Also, when I go on holiday to new countries, I find their transport systems daunting! Especially when they speak a different language! How would you get about in most countries?

A:

do you just look online for activities to do and things to see? Or do you prefer to get stuck in and see how the locals live?

Yes, we sometimes use Wikitravel or Google "Things to do in ___" But we also tend to find out about things to do from the locals or the other travellers in our hostel. Staying in hostels is great for that, you tend to get invited along on fun adventures with your new friends from all over the world.

How would you get about in most countries?

I agree, transport systems can be daunting when you don't speak the language and have no idea what is going on. We use Google maps to help us find the right bus or subway line to take in places where it works. You can also ask the staff at your hotel or hostel as they will probably have a knowledge of the local system. If all else fails, sometimes you just have to dive in. If there are other people waiting for the bus, tell them your destination and they will confirm you are in the right place or point toward where you should be. People are generally helpful.


Q:

Do you still manage to save money? its pretty much my dream to make a living while travelling.

A:

Yes. In most of the cheaper countries we are able to save around half of our income and in the more expensive countries we still manage to save a little. We have a nice nest egg growing. :)


Q:

What were the most affordable countries you've lived in?

A:

Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka... most of Southeast Asia actually.

In South America... Bolivia and Peru so far.


Q:

Do you always take Powerade with you when you go hiking?

A:

We each carry our own stuff now... it's easier that way.

Lee says hi. :)


Q:

How has traveling affected you as a person? Did you become more mature, intelligent and good decision taker? Any awesome stories about people that you experienced.

A:

Wow, that's a tough question that I could probably write an entire essay about!

One of the major differences is my confidence and ability to handle uncertainty. My first travel experience was a solo trip to Europe in 2008 and I was scared out of my mind when I arrived at the airport in Paris. My French friend didn't arrive to pick me up and I nearly had a panic attack and jumped on the first plane home read the story here. That solo trip taught me a lot and was incredibly empowering.

After travelling and placing myself in all sorts of strange and unfamiliar situations, I now feel like I can deal with anything.

I also have realised that the culture I grew up with isn't necessarily "right" or "the best", it's just what I am used to. Now, when I go back to Canada I experience reverse culture shock.

As for awesome stories, there are so many. I'll just choose one - Raj the wonderfully generous Indian guy and his family in Taiping, Malaysia. We met them randomly in the supermarket and they insisted we come to their house for dinner. They fed us homemade curry until we nearly burst because we didn't realise that we were supposed to leave some food on our plates to signify that we were finished. I'd always thought the polite thing was to clean your plate...


Q:

As a Malaysian, I think Raj was pulling your leg :p

A:

It would certainly fit his character. :)


Q:

Awesome. Thank you! Wishing you very awesome more adventures.

A:

Thank you very much! I wish you the same! :)


Q:

How do you afford it ? And is there any scary/dangerous situations you have gotten involved in?

A:

I earn a living as a freelance writer and my boyfriend does some web design work. We also have a travel blog that generates a portion of our income as well.

As for scary situations, we did have to save a drunken Danish girl from drowning in a river in Vang Vieng, Laos.


Q:

When starting out did you focus on boosting your blog or picking up freelance work?

Also, what is your situation for being paid? I imagine that you have earnings focused on one bank, but I would like to know if this was a trial and error process.

I am currently living in Taiwan, after a year in Melbourne, and this idea keeps me up at night. Thanks for showing up.

A:

You're welcome!

We have always prioritised the freelance work, as it is what makes the most money. The blog has been a side project all along that earns us a small portion of our income. We mostly do it for fun, it's a hobby that makes a little money.

I get paid via Paypal mostly, which I then transfer into my bank account. Some clients also pay me with a direct bank transfer, depending on what works best for them.


Q:

If you had to settle in one country at pension age, what country would you choose if you had extremely little money?

A:

I haven't found that place yet! I imagine that older me would like a warm climate and a low cost of living, maybe somewhere like Malaysia. I love Malaysian food too. :)


Q:

What country has the best sandwhiches?

A:

Not a country... but a city.

New Orleans. Those po-boys and muffalettas...


Q:

Is it fun seeing all the places around the world? Does it ever get boring?

A:

Sometimes it can be boring when you are going to the 20th temple that you have seen that month... but not if you seek out a diverse range of things to do. Every destination offers something different.

Think of it like watching movies... would you ever get bored of watching movies? No, because each one offers a totally different experience.


Q:

On average, How long do you stay in a country ?

A:

We tend to travel quite slowly, often spending a week or two in each city/town. It really depends on the size of the country... for example we have been in Brazil for three months because it is such a huge country. We also spent 10 months travelling in Canada, it's enormous!

Small countries such as Uruguay or Slovakia might only get a week or two. To keep costs down we don't stay in very expensive places, such as Singapore or New York, for more than a few days.


Q:

Brazilian here. How could possibly afford living in Brazil with a freelancer wage?

Also :do you ever feel lonely?

A:

Brazil is one of the more expensive countries that we have travelled in. We have been staying in budget hostels and cooking our own food to make it more affordable. I make a decent wage so we can still cover our expenses and save.

I don't feel lonely because I travel with my boyfriend, who is also my best friend and business partner. Also, it's hard to feel lonely when you stay in hostels most of the time and meet cool and interesting people from all over the world.


Q:

I really want to go 'vagabonding' and haven't yet a SO. Can you imagine doing this alone?

A:

If you want to go vagabonding, do it.

Just get out there and do it now. And yes, absolutely go by yourself.

You know why? Because if you want to meet that special someone who shares your passion for the road you might not meet them in your home town. If they yearn to travel like you do, they are probably already out there. You will meet them in a hostel, or on a plane, or at some crazy live music festival in a small fishing village in Brazil or on a walking tour of historic architecture in Prague.

I started out alone and I met my SO on the road. We connected because of our mutual love for exploring this amazing world and we worked together to build this life. Your travel partner is out there, so book a flight and have fun finding them!

I wish you many great adventures.


Q:

How did you came to this idea before you started out?

A:

I read the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts while I was on a Working Holiday in New Zealand in 2009. That was one of the major inspirations for me. It got me thinking about how I could create an unconventional life of long term travel.


Q:

Does your boyfriend have any suggestions for finding remote-friendly software or web development work, freelance or otherwise?

A:

He says,

"Don't let them come to you. If you look at a company's website and it is not as good as it should be, get in contact with them and offer your services. Show examples of your work and don't price yourself too high. Under-promise and over-deliver and you have earned a client."


Q:

Awesome! I was also born in Canada and my parents owned an online company, so they could work anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection. Most of my early childhood was just constant travel. I had visited almost 50 countries by the time I was 6!

What do you think the pros and cons are to having this sort of experience as an adult vs as a child?

A:

Hmm... interesting question. They are definitely different experiences. As an adult the lifestyle is more in your control and you will have a better grasp of what is happening. You will also probably appreciate it more.

That said, seeing many different cultures as a young person is certainly nothing but a positive for your development.


Q:

Where are the most beautiful ladies?

A:

I am a girl but I can appreciate beautiful ladies.

Serbia had quite a few, also the Philippines.


Q:

She obviously doesn't have a "backyard" dumbass.

A:

Yes. This is the answer.


Q:

What sort of logistics were involved getting started with this?

How do you ensure Internet access anywhere you're going?

A:

In order to build up the freelancing career I needed to establish myself as a writer, build up a portfolio and create a base of clients. This took about a year, from first writing gig to full time income. I did this while working full time, writing in the evenings and weekends until I was able to go part time at my "day job" and eventually quit.

We identified a basic amount that I needed to make from writing every month to sustain ourselves. We also saved a decent chunk of money so that if it all went wrong, we would be able to afford a flight back home.

Then, we needed to get rid of our stuff. This wasn't too hard as we had met while backpacking, so had already reduced our possessions a little. We sold or gave away anything that didn't fit in our backpacks. We gave up the place we were renting and went for it.

We started by renting an apartment in the South of Portugal for three weeks just to get used to the idea and the lifestyle... sort of like a practice run. It was very successful, so we decided next to backpack across Canada (that was in 2011). The USA followed, then Southeast Asia, Europe and now South America.

As for internet access we do our best to choose hostels, guesthouses and hotels with Wifi connections. It's easier in some countries than others. If we show up someone without a connection, we will leave and stay somewhere else. We also use an iPhone with a shared hotspot as a backup in case the wifi where we are staying goes down.


Q:

Do you have a recommendation on what it might cost somebody to afford this lifestyle? If that's too close to talking about your own financials, please disregard the question.

This is really cool, thanks for taking the time to do the AMA and giving such thorough answers!

A:

When we first started we worked out that we would need to make at least $2500 USD per month to fund our travels in a sustainable way.

These days I make more than that. We probably spend a bit more now than when we started because we can, but we still manage to save.


Q:

I have been doing something like this as a teacher for 8 years. I'm dreaming of ways to work remotely without teaching. What skills would be the most useful to become location independent? What did you learn that you wished you knew before you started?

A:

It depends... what type of job do you want to do as a location independent career? There are many things that you can do remotely, including web design, translation, writing, blogging, marketing, etc. What are you interested in?

What did you learn that you wished you knew before you started?

Don't eat the fish curry from the dodgy looking restaurant in low season in Koh Lanta.


Q:

What does your significant other do to help out with the finances? Does he have an income that he can generate on the road like you do? Does he help you with your writing? Or is he living my dream....?

A:

He also freelances as a web designer, although he is only really part time. He maintains our travel blog and he is also responsible for a lot of the practical aspects of travel planning and getting us from point A to point B.

Plus, he also does all the cooking. I bring home the bacon, he cooks it. :D

He does joke that he has the sweeter end of the deal. :)


Q:

Just want to say how much I love the sound of your lifestyle and I hope to do tbe same one day, as I'm a web designer too with a passion for travelling!

Just want to ask, do you need to pay tax on what you earn? How exactly does it all work earning money while abroad?

A:

As a Canadian citizen, being abroad doesn't exempt me from tax. I have an accountant in Canada who figures it all out for me, it's kind of complicated.

Lee is British and doesn't have to pay tax, as he is outside of the country for most of the year.


Q:

Sounds like an awesome life! I have been pondering about this myself, but what really keeps me from doing something like this is leaving all my friends (and family, but family will always be family, no matter how long you're gone) behind... Do you still have friends at home? Have you lost (good) friendships because of this lifestyle, do you regret this and why (not)?

Thanks and have fun on your future adventures!

A:

I just booked a flight today to visit my family back home at Christmas - it will be my first Christmas with them for 5 years!

I am still in touch with my best friends from back home. The thing about true good friends is that even if you don't see them for a couple of years, the moment you see them in person again you go right back to being as close as ever - like no time has passed at all.

Also, in the era of Facebook, Skype, etc. it's easy to stay in touch with friends and family. It's not the same as in-person interaction, but it's the next best thing when you are on the other side of the world.

Also, I have made so many amazing friends while travelling that I would never have met otherwise. Some of the most wonderful friends I know were random strangers whom I shared a hostel room with and formed a bond. Those bonds have lasted for years and have spawned other meetings and visits too!


Q:

Where did you spend your time traveling in Canada, being your home base and all, and where was the most beautiful part, and the nicest people?

A:

We did a trip across Canada from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, stopping in every province.

Most beautiful? Perhaps I am biased as an Albertan - but the Rocky Mountains in my home province are mind-blowingly gorgeous.

Nicest people? There were nice people in every province, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the Newfies. We spent 4 months in Newfoundland and met some wonderful, funny, down to earth, welcoming people. I can't help but grin when I think back to our adventures hitchhiking around the small fishing villages.


Q:

is it a giant back pack?

A:

There is a picture of me carrying it on this page. That was a couple of years ago, it has a lot more flags on it now!


Q:

how do you get clients?

A:

I mostly use freelancing websites like Elance, Odesk and PeopleperHour. Also, I get some clients through the website and some via word of mouth from other satisfied clients.


Q:

mind if i ask your hourly rate? or do you bill by project?

A:

I quote a rate depending on the individual project. My rate is typically $25USD for 500 words, but it can be more than that depending on the amount of research or the type of project. I have a decent writing speed so I can make a nice hourly wage.


Q:

are you strictly a travel writer? And which publications do you write for?

A:

I write mostly travel related content, but I will work on other projects too if I find them interesting. I have also written theatre and art reviews and sales copy for websites.

An example of someone I write for is Flight Network.


Q:

travel power adapter advice?

A:

Oh man, don't even get me started. Half of Lee's backpack is full of travel power adaptors.

But seriously, invest in a good universal adaptor and a power bar. Plug your power bar in, then plug everything else into it.


Q:

I would want to ask- How much would someone need to have to live a lifestyle like you all?

Does 50k for the year cover your expenses?

A:

Yes, 50k certainly would. We don't fly very much and we stay in hostels and reasonably priced guest houses so our expenses are quite low. In fact, in some cheaper countries we spend less while travelling than we would if we were living in somewhere like Canada or the USA.


Q:

Awesome. You guys really give me inspiration. Enjoy what you are doing!

A:

Thank you very much!


Q:

So I do know that you said your other half does logistics.

How do you find the hostels and guesthouses? Internet or just walking around?

Have you tried AirBnB?

A:

He usually does a bit of research before we arrive somewhere and he sometimes has a place booked or at least a name of a hostel in mind. However, there have been many times when we have showed up on a night bus at 4am with no hotel booked and we have just wandered around until we found something.

If we do book ahead we only book one night, just in case the hotel or hostel is terrible or has bad wifi - we can stay one night and then find somewhere else.

Yes, we have used AirBnb. We rented a lovely apartment in La Paz, Bolivia for two weeks on AirBnb, it was great!


Q:

What kind of Internet speeds do you typically find? I'm a soon-to-be traveling programmer, and this is a major concern.

A:

In the cities the speeds are fine, depending on the hotel or hostel. You can usually find good speeds and if not, there are always coffee shops.

In some places the internet speeds are incredibly slow, so we treat those places as time off and don't spend too long there. We were just in the Amazon rainforest last week and understandably internet was just not happening.


Q:

Do you have internet on your phone when travelling? If so how do you do this and not get charged a ridiculous amount in roaming fees etc

A:

Yes we do, we buy a local SIM card for the country we are in.