Life Updates Long-Term Travel Public Journaling

I get paid to travel the world. Here are the 7 biggest lessons I’ve learned.

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes


Cappadocia, Turkey | The Blog Abroad
This is what 28 looks like! Apparently it IS possible to still make something of your life without a 5-year plan?! What is this sorcery? // Cappadocia, Turkey

I woke up in Turkey this morning, my 61st country. Ringing in 28 beautifully messy years on this planet. Warning: this post is gonna get pretty raw, so get ready for some brutal honesty, painful vulnerability, and striking revelations.

My birthday started off great. I meditated. Ate breakfast. Then opened my Spotify and saw a new “Guilty Pleasures” playlist on my home page. I immediately played it and found myself, air mic in hand, singing to the most memorable songs of my childhood. Yes, this is definitely how 28 should look like.

To anyone chasing a dream, here are my best pieces of advice after finally living mine. Click To Tweet

Life is good, and the way I measure that is by making sure my bare essentials are covered. It may sound silly, but after years of hustling for this lifestyle, there was never a time where all 3 were easily or comfortably covered.

I have a roof over my head and no longer have to rely on Couchsurfing with strangers, although I still love the website for the community it’s given me over the years.

Yes, I know where my next meal is coming from — fun fact, I lived off bread and butter (and Nutella and malnutrition) for several months.

Yes, I am HAPPY. Happiness — we put so much weight of that in people and things and moments that we forget we are the only ones that are in total control of it. Happiness is a daily choice. It’s a lifestyle. And I wake up and choose it every morning — throwing it on like my aubergine shaded lipstick. It suits me well.

Wow, all 3 bases are covered and accounted for. I’m finally doing it. I’m living it. I’m breathing it. The dream I’ve hustled so hard to achieve.

Birthday Reflections | The Blog Abroad
I was told I reached my camel photo quota, so I better start getting my hump on in other ways // Cairo, Egypt

But! I’m the kind of person who starts to panic when life is going too smoothly. The way I see it, if I anticipate failure, then I won’t be so disappointed when something inevitably goes wrong.

How toxic and self-destructing that mindset is. I’m on my 3rd glass of wine, in a beautiful hotel (Koza Cave) in Cappadocia, Turkey, where I’m celebrating my 28th birthday solo.

It’s the 5th birthday I’ve celebrated abroad and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

2017 – Johannesburg, South Africa

2016 – London, England

2015 – St. Tropez, France

2014 – Santorini, Greece

I am blessed. Simply put. I’m privileged, fortunate, and sometimes unworthy of all that’s fallen into place, however messy it got during some chapters.

In the first 3 months of 2018, I’ve already made more money than I made in all of 2017. And with the projects and leads I have underway, I fully anticipate for this blog to be pulling in 6 figures annually by the end of next year.

That is TERRIFYING to think of.

Because a few hours ago, my very Nigerian uncle called to wish me a happy birthday and tell me how much my mom wishes I’d just come home.

“AHHHPPPPY BATHDAY OOOOH. WE WISH YOU WELL OOOHHH — WEETH WOTEVAH IT IZ DAT YOODO. YO MODA JUST WEESHES YOU WILL FIND A OZ-BAND. SHE TEENKS YU HAFF TRAVELT ENUFF. YU NEED A MAN OOOOH.”

Thanks, unc. Gotta go. Goodnight.

Nigerians. You gotta love them.

They will be on their deathbed and tell you that the only way to revive themselves is through your medical school curriculum and immediate conceiving of grandkids for them. It’s comical really once you get past the mental abuse tears and therapy.

Anna Bay Sand Dunes, Australia | The Blog Abroad
The side-eye I give my mother when she still calls me telling me about doctoral programs // Anna Bay Sand Dunes, Australia // Photo Credit: @jedventures

But I never want to downplay or glamorize my life too much. When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them about travel blogging, I’m met with blank stares.

So I resort to the cliche line of how I get paid to travel, and if I could take a screenshot of their faces, you’d get a mix of disbelief and envy.

So I always quickly follow up with how it’s a thankless job filled with hateful emails, endless hours, and a non-stop grind.

But the most recent time I uttered this, I had to check myself.

It’s actually been a long time since I got a really hateful email.

The endless hours during campaigns are too real, but the reality is I can say no to these jobs and essentially wake up whenever I want.

Is it a non-stop grind still? Well, yes and no.

I have a manager and an assistant now. And they both keep me in check. Though I’m still working on how to give up full control of my brand, it is such a beautiful feeling to have other people invested in my goals, dreams, and success.

I’m rambling now and the wine is flowing, but I wanted to break down a few lessons I’ve learned after 2,000 days on the road, at the mercy of strangers and foreign countries, chasing my dream of getting paid to travel the world and finally living it.

Fail big. Fail often. Fail forward.

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico | TheBlogAbroad.com
FAIL, but don’t FALL. Especially not from a cliff if you can help it. // Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

I didn’t realize how crucial failure was to success until I found myself on the learning end of valuable lessons from those exact hiccups.

And I don’t mind sharing my downfalls and shortcomings, because I want to make sure that if people glamorize the dream, that they also glamorize the hustle and struggles that come along with it.

My most recent failure?

My group trip to Italy. Portugal sold really well, but for some reason, my audience just wasn’t interested in going to Italy.

It could be the dates.

It could be the price.

It could be a mix of several factors, but my goal of selling out the trip didn’t manifest and now I’m having to do a bit of damage control.

Did I sulk?

Absolutely not.

I emailed the few people who did sign up and started offering alternative solutions.

Failures humble us and give us a reason to continue learning, growing, and seeking more in life.

If I excelled at everything I attempted, not only would you guys hate me even more, but I would lose all motivation in life, because everything would be too easy.

A part of the thrill of chasing a dream is knowing that there is a LARGE chance that you might not succeed.

Don’t let your partner or a lack of one, stop your momentum.

Bali, Indonesia | The Blog Abroad
Running towards non-existent bae // Bali, Indonesia // Photo Credit: @dakotaadan

There is nothing more marketable than a young, hot couple traveling the world together taking drop-dead gorgeous photos in exotic countries around the world.

Take for instance, Lauren (@gypsea_lust) a fellow influencer who I had the pleasure of traveling with back in 2015, and who actually shot the photo which is now the cover of my paperback book.

Her and her partner Jack can charge up to $10,000 for a single Instagram tag and look damn good doing it too.

Brands are catching onto the power and influence of Instagram, and they’ve certainly paved the way for a lot of the Instagram travel marketing trends you see today.

Being here in Cappadocia now, hotel managers tell me how all it took was one viral photo of them for their hotel to be booked solid for the next 6 months. Now that is POWERFUL.

Social media marketing works. This is no longer a matter of opinion. It is fact. Click To Tweet

But I’ve always been a solo traveler at heart. That’s how I started and that’s what I love and prefer. I go on occasional trips with friends or have reunions with my besties (hey Samantha, hey Greg!), but at my core, solo travel is where I’m at my best.

I use a tripod to take my photos, I use Snapchat as my public diary, and I let myself fall into the arms of strangers, hoping their words of warmth catch me on my way down.

It’s a vulnerable way to live, but it’s pretty much all I know.

Dating as a full-time traveler, not to mention, one who is committed to her uncommitted ways, is like a downhill, losing battle.

I don’t know many [secure] men who would be okay with their woman jetting off around the world, sometimes, with just 48 hours notice, like I often do with last-minute campaigns.

But that’s the nature of my job. It’s thrilling, and I love it.

Men, as I’m learning, are fragile creatures. Here’s where the #NotAllMen army chimes in to further corroborate my point. I digress.

But this isn’t entirely in a derogatory sense because the average guy just needs his partner to validate him — constantly. A man who isn’t being validated and praised by his woman, will seek that same ego-stroking elsewhere. All the puns.

I can’t provide that, yet, so I’m willing to opt out of the ballgame altogether. It would be selfish of me to enter a relationship just for the sake of having someone, knowing I would be giving them 20% [on a good day].

I’m in a tunnel-vision-focused chapter of my life, and when I’m done with world domination (aka paying off my student loans), I’ll make room for love later. Until then, let’s stop demonizing single life. Because girrrrrrl, if you ain’t out here living your best life, no man will magically do it for you.

Bali, Indonesia | The Blog Abroad
I sleep so well at night knowing my non-existent boyfriend isn’t cheating on me. // Bali, Indonesia

I’ve also found myself in situation-ships where after 3 weeks, I’m bored and I don’t even know how to have the conversation of…

“Hey, you no longer excite me, so I’m just gonna go back to reclusion because I have more fun alone. So it’s not you entirely, because it’s also me. But also kinda you. But whatevs. Kthxbaiiiii.”

I’m fiercely independent, and I love that about myself.

It’s not that I don’t want a man; I just don’t need one.

I went to college with girls who went from one relationship to the next, just days apart, because they put so much of their self worth in their relationship status. Blame movies and Ryan Gosling.

Luckily, I was an ugly duckling all my life, so nobody wanted my wretched @%$ anyway.

God’s timing is perfect. My glow-up came as soon as I got my degree.

God was like,

Okay my young and faithful daughter, I will bless your bank account with money to fix your teeth, give you a bit of fashion sense, and reduce your chipmunk cheeks back down to human size. Now go forth and sin no more!

Me and God are tight like that.

Baby photos | The Blog Abroad
Even my sister was holding me with a look on her face like, “Wait, when did we get a pet?”

Anyways, I’ve just never been the person to be validated by a partner.

Don’t look for your better half. Be whole on your own, and find another whole person where you can both grow into your best selves together.

Isolate yourself often. It’s healthy.

I didn’t realize how much travel turned me into an introvert until I found myself getting social anxiety in situations that I normally could handle like a champ.

I didn’t realize how much I loved my own company until I found myself making up the most ridiculous excuses just so that I could just stay in my room and avoid people.

I didn’t realize that forcing myself to be in social settings that didn’t inspire me was only killing me slowly inside.

When you become your own biggest fan, there is nothing you’d rather do than curl up and create.

Write in your journal.

Watch your favorite YouTubers.

Listen to a 90’s playlist.

Read a book you started a year ago.

Write your next book.

Cook a meal.

Exercise for a change.

Finish a bottle of wine in one sitting.

Drunk text your crush.

The list is endless, beautiful, and inspiring.

I love my own company so much, that I was no longer willing to compromise the happiness I brought myself to please others.

Do a social media detox like it’s the 11th commandment.

Bali, Indonesia | The Blog Abroad
Bali, Indonesia

When your job revolves around creating content for social media, it is so easy to get sucked into the negative cesspool of lies and corruption on the internet.

There are days I’d share five posts back-to-back on Facebook that all have to do with social injustice, politics, or racism, and it’d put me in the worst mood.

I had to learn to pick my battles. Not only that, but deliver those fights in a way that was both receptive and constructive to those who I wanted to digest it the most.

What good is telling a someone to check their white privilege if your message is filled with profanity?

Tact and diplomacy are two of the greatest qualities you could ever develop in your adult life, because you will never get a point across to your opposition without either.

I also had to start putting myself in the shoes of ignorant people who couldn’t understand issues from a black point of view.

If they grew up in a small town in Colorado, with a 0.2% black population, how could I fault them for not understanding the reality of being black in America?

There is so much more to empathy than just emotions. We need to put realism back into it, because it is so much easier to accept someone’s differing point of view when you add the context of their background.

Learn e-mail etiquette.

Manila, Philippines | The Blog Abroad
Manila, Philippines

There is nothing wrong with reaching out to people you admire and letting them know how they inspire you.

It’s even acceptable to ask for a piece of advice or guidance if they have time.

What’s inappropriate and slightly annoying is when you demand answers, time, and help with urgency as if we’re getting paid to research things for you.

The number of entitled people who email me demanding answers, requesting favors with no substance, or just have no type of mannerism in the way they address an email, is so cringe-worthy.

I’m no email-Nazi, but there are standards you should have when it comes to asking people for things.

If the first time you reach out to someone, it’s to ask for them to share your GoFund Me page, you’re off to a bad start, and I recommend starting a new life email and trying again.

I get over 100 emails and messages a day asking for tips, favors, and advice to travel the world. Though my time is short as it is, the ones I answer immediately are the ones that include some variation of “I know you’re busy, so please don’t feel obligated to answer” or “I just bought your book and I’m so excited to learn more about your journey, here’s a quick question I had when you have time.”

What those two sentences do is take the urgency off me, and also show their support. I love when people tell me “I have a quick question!” and then type a novel after. It’s honestly my favorite thing in the world!

Everything I do takes time. And when I do take the time to answer and people can’t be bothered to say thanks, it’s a reminder that not everyone deserves my time.

On the flip side, whenever I read an article, listen to a podcast, or watch a video that inspires me, I always write a message or email to the author (because I love speaking light and life into people) and I say something along the lines of,

“You have no idea how much I needed to hear this! You may get this a million times, but let me be one million and one to tell you how grateful I am for your existence and online presence. This video/article/podcast is the reason for my smile today. Thank you for your light in this world, and please don’t feel the need to respond. When someone blesses me this much, it’s just impossible for me not to share it with them. Have a great day! -Glo”

Every single time I send a message like this, I get a response, and even a follow back — from multiple New York Times best-selling authors, artists, and even a few small celebrities and it’s amazing! Learn the power of your words. And learn to check your approach when seeking the help of others.

Learn to have a healthy relationship with money.

I’m the kind of person who you’d need to pull teeth to get me to tell you how much I make. It’s not because I’m ashamed, it’s just still an awkward topic for me, because I come from such a humble background.

I never want my bank account to define me more than my work. I want you to go to my blog, look at my photos, and read my stories and come away with richness from that.

If I shoved my paychecks in your face, I feel like I become less relatable. Sure, people are motivated by money, but at the end of the day, how much value would a number attached to my brand really add to your lives.

None.

And that’s why I don’t really talk about it. There are bloggers who publish monthly income reports and I think that’s incredibly brave.

To let people into that area of your life isn’t easy. But they have their reasons and I respect it! Again, money is a motivating thing, so it makes sense.

I’m also hesitant to talk money because in my 20’s, I’ve had my bank account go from the negative to 5-digits in a matter of weeks, and vice versa.

There are so many ups and downs with what I do, how long it takes for checks to clear, sponsors who pay on a 90-day cycle, random bills or accidents that happen abroad, and me essentially not having any form of back-up.

I have amazing friends who’ve saved me when two cards were simultaneously compromised while traveling and I had no money to my name.

It is the lowest point to be at, especially when you have a brand to maintain and you post a photo from the Eiffel Tower, and hope that your friend doesn’t think you’re lying or that they’re actually funding your “vacation”.

My moral compass is constantly banging in my head, and however annoying the echo, it keeps me humble.

Invest in yourself. Which is ultimately an investment in your happiness.

It takes money to make money. But the spending part is so hard.

The current camera and lens I have now retails at about $4,000 USD. Was it easy to drop this amount a few days’ apart? Absolutely not.

Was it worth it for the quality shots I can now take to grow my brand? ABSOLUTELY phuckin’ YES.

Everything that will help your brand is an investment.

I even finally got a logo because I was tired of not being able to brand my content with a recognizable text or image. Thanks to Court Marie (@court_prather) for her incredible design skills, and I will finally get to unveil it tomorrow!

So take the steps to get yourself where you want to go. Pay close attention to the people who are where you want to be.

But most importantly, take a chance on yourself. If you’re not willing to bet on yourself, then why would anyone else?

When a friend posts about any new business venture, I’m the first to congratulate them because I know how terrifying and lonely that journey is!

Birthday Reflections |TheBlogAbroad.com.
*daydreams in Arabic* // Cairo, Egypt

Because once you start winning, your friends start dropping. People want you to do well, just never better than them. It’s sad, but it’s human nature.

So the more money you invest in your dream, the more likely you’ll commit to executing. How many people will spend $1,000 on an online course and not sit through the classes taking notes like their next paycheck depended on it?

I’m blessed to a degree that I never had much disposable income growing up, because I can truly appreciate the extent of what it allows me to do now.

Donate $100 to my friend’s kickstarter.

Tip 50% when traveling in third world countries.

Buy equipment that will actually last.

Treat myself to a day spa because I spent the last 30 days working back-to-back campaigns and I deserve it.

So now that the bottle of wine I cracked open before writing this is officially at its last drop, I’m drunk about ready to wrap this up.

If you somehow managed to overpower your ADD to read through this whole thing and you feel compelled to share, I would love you forever.

The travel industry is small, but I know there are certain taboo things that just wouldn’t fly.

Publishing a tipsy post like this is definitely one of them.

But nothing about me is by the book. I hope I inspire someone to go against the grain of what’s normal and just be themselves in your pursuit of that dream.

There will never be another version of you, no matter how many carbon copies take the scene.

Thank you so much to those who’ve been with me for 2, 5, 10 or more years of my 28 years of life. You all inspire and motivate me so much, and I hope that this blog and my brand continue to evolve and become more of a resource that you guys can continue to benefit from.

And here’s to the next 28 years [but hopefully more, because 56 would be way too young to die].

Thank you.

I love you.

28th Birthday Reflections | TheBlogAbroad.com
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