The first time I left the country in 2008, I felt as if my eyes were opened for the first time. As full and vibrant as my life was in the United States, there were thousands of other full and vibrant lifestyles out there to learn about– and I made it my mission to learn about as many as I could during my lifetime.

When I got back to the US after spending a semester abroad in Sydney, Australia, I knew that I had to get out and explore as many different cultures as possible. The only problem was that I was still in university, and after living in Sydney for 4 months, I was flat broke. The remedy?

Teaching English in Asia.

After teaching in South Korea for a year and a half, I went on a backpacking trip around South America for 5 months before returning to the US to begin a “normal life.” I thought for sure that after taking 2 gap years (it was originally only supposed to be one) that the travel bug would finally be “out of my system.”

But just like so many of us, I never lost the urge to travel. Just because many people eventually feel the need to “settle down” after a year or two of traveling doesn’t mean that is what was right for me. After being in the US for just a few months, I already couldn’t wait to put on my backpack and hit the road yet again. My solution was starting a marketing business that I could operate from anywhere in the world.

It’s now been only 6 months since I felt strong enough in my business to hit the road and explore Asia. After 5 months in the Philippines, I am now settled here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There are lots of digital nomads here in Vietnam, but one thing is obvious: most of them are men.

As a female entrepreneur, I feel that my journey has its own unique set of challenges. There is a growing number of us women living and working on the road, and having their support and friendship means a lot to me. But the fact is that, at least for the time being, it’s a male-dominated field. Here’s what I’ve learned along my journey so far.

Female Digital Nomad4

1. It can be lonely on the road.

Saigon is considered one of the top destinations in the world for entrepreneurs. People come from all over the world to stay here networking with other business owners and grinding on their projects.

But even in bustling Saigon, a city of more than 7 million people, it can sometimes still feel like you’re all alone. Some days, you feel like the luckiest person on earth. Other days, you feel intense loneliness. It’s as if there is no one else in the world who knows quite how you feel.

During the first real rough period in my business, I didn’t have any coworkers or peers in the same situation. It was I alone who had to make it through, making those important decisions that are directly consequential to my livelihood.

Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to have the lifestyle that I enjoy. I find it helps to take it one day at a time, settle for Skype dates with your besties back home, and treat yourself with a massage when you’re having a bad day.

Female Digital Nomad5

2. You have to hold your own as a female traveler.

You and I both know that we are just as capable as the men we meet out there on the road. But when it comes to travel, women undeniably have more safety risks than men. Regardless, traveling is something that I feel compelled to do no matter what risks, dangers, or challenges come my way. The other independent female travelers I meet abroad feel the same way.

But with greater risk comes an even greater reward. I’m in awe of the opportunities I’ve had during my travels, and as a woman I gain insight into areas of cultures that men sometimes don’t have access to. Perhaps most rewarding are the messages and emails I get from others who have said that my journey has inspired them to begin their own.

Female Digital Nomad3

3. You’re not doing what you’re “supposed” to do.

In almost every conversation I have with people who are not familiar with the digital nomad lifestyle, I have to answer the same elephant-in-the-room question: “So when do you plan on settling down and having kids?”

While I have many male friends who are entrepreneurs, I’d venture to guess that none of them are asked this question as often as I am. After all, men are “supposed” to explore and succeed in their careers, while women are “supposed” to get married and start a family. I’ve developed a plethora of methods to diffuse that conversation when it inevitably happens.

Anytime you are breaking the mold, you will meet resistance. All that matters is that you are doing what makes you feel like the luckiest person on the planet. And considering that’s how I feel 95% of the time, it’s safe to say I’m on the right track.

Female Digital Nomad6

4. You have to learn to blaze your own trail.

Ho Chi Minh City is packed with entrepreneurs. Ask them where to have pages added to your passport? Got it. Ask the best place to find a replacement charger for your Mac? No problem. But if you need to know where to find a good replacement for your beat-up clothes that you’ve been wearing every day for a year, or help on how to deal with different cultures’ perceptions of gender roles, the answer is a little less clear.

When I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, I needed a haircut, and STAT. But previous communication problems in other country had resulted in too many hair disasters. This time around, I was determined not to lose more inches than I intended. The male entrepreneurs I know could give me answers to just about every question I had about living in this city. But when finding an English-speaking salon, I was on my own.

Sometimes, solutions are simple. Other times, it’s a big game of trial and error. But no matter where you are or what you’re doing, no one has it all figured out. We’re all living and learning together. Do your best, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Female Digital Nomad2

5. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Despite the ups and downs, the challenges traveling sometimes presents, and the occasional bad day, I wouldn’t trade my life as a digital nomad for anything. I recall the sinking feeling that I had when I got back to the United States after two years of traveling. I had to tell myself, “it’s time to grow up and settle down.” But all the while, I was heartbroken that my adventure had come to an end. Now, my whole life is one adventure after another. I couldn’t have imagined this in my wildest dreams.

No matter where you choose to travel, there are always interesting people to meet, friends to make, crazy stories to hear, amazing places to visit, and unusual situations to navigate. Sure, I’m always in a new destination, but I’m always exactly where I want to be.

What do you find most difficult about being a female living on the road? On the other hand, what’s the best part?

Female Digital Nomad8

Anna Wickham is a digital nomad running a location independent business from her laptop while she travels the world. After spending the last 5 months in the Philippines, she’s settled in Saigon, at least for the time being. She blogs about travel, running a business, and the location independent lifestyle at The Worldly Blend.



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I can't stop raving about how the internet is such a great way to connect like minded people.

I recently got an email from Nana of Foreign Geek who wanted to share her blog. I love her down to earth and laid back attitude and the fact that she's had to overcome a major fear while traveling. Here's a quick chat with her:

When did you start a travel lifestyle? What inspired you to take that big leap?

Compared to many travelers out there, I only started traveling recently, in my late twenties. It wasn’t much of a big leap rather it was being dragged by my best friends to travel and step out of my comfort zone, which was a very small imaginary place if I look back now.

My turning point, the time I decided that travel is going to be a huge part of my life, was when I jumped off a boat at Phi Phi Island in the middle of ocean to snorkel for the very first time. I didn’t know that part of the world existed and I was overwhelmed with joy. Then and there I made an underwater promise to myself to always seek more on what the world has to offer, which turns out to be awesomely abundance.

Do you still keep a home base? Or are you traveling long term?


I was working as an expat for the biggest part of my adult life, but I am currently back home, in Indonesia, living under my parents’ roof (eep!), in the midst of a migration process, I guess that is sorta my home base for now.

Though I have never traveled for a long duration, it’s something I have been dreaming abouy; that being said, I genuinely enjoy being a cubicle warrior (even when I gave it up for a while to take a break). I take pride in my work and am grateful that it’s able to fund my wanderlust.

Nana of Foreign Geek9

How do fund your travel lifestyle?

I allocate a certain portion of my salary for a few impromptu small trips and one pre-planned big trip to somewhere far (as far as I could afford to) every year.

Why Foreign Geek?

I choose Foreign Geek as my avatar because those two words best represent who I am. 

I was a foreigner working in a foreign land and I plan to continue to live life as a foreigner for the rest of my life. And as for the geek part; I tend to get all geeky towards the things that I am really passionate about, and in this case, I am combining both how I dream my life to be (being an nomadic expat) and my passion for travel, and voila, Foreign Geek.

How did you find your passion?

There were many little moments that made me want to travel, from inheriting the curiosity gene from my father, to watching Sydney Bristow tackling different enemies in different countries in each episode of ALIAS, to my best friends who fed my wanderlust bit by bit.

I eventually realized that travel, more than anything, makes my heart sing and it’s what I want to do again and again throughout my life.

Nana of Foreign Geek5

Tell us about your Passion Projects.

I blog to record and keep my travel memories alive and the reason keep I don’t set it as private is to inspire people, mainly women, to travel and discover more of this world. Also, to actively choose the life they want and do things that make them happy.

Sometimes though, I have smaller and more specific goals, usually within a period of time. I call these type of goals, Passion Projects. The two main projects at the moment are Stamp Love and #ForeignFood. With Stamp Love I want to share some love and connect with awesome minds all over the world, by sending 100 postcards to 100 countries. While #ForeignFood is an exclusive Instagram project I made to share the picture of unusual meal or snack from different countries to increase the awareness of the diversity and abundance of our planet and evoke people’s curiosity to travel.

Nana of Foreign Geek10

Any advice for women who want to start living their passions but feel like they're stuck?

Start small, but start today! For whatever reason or whomever, don’t postpone it for tomorrow, even if it’s 2 AM when you read this.

Once you have started it, build the momentum by keeping on doing something about it every single day, again, however small your daily passion living routine is. Consistency is another important thing to implement while following your passion.

Finally, little by little, arrange your life to revolve around your passion as much as you can, as long as it makes you happy. Eventually you get to live your passion as it has been integrated into your life.

Nana of Foreign Geek6

What are some major risks you've had to undergo in order to keep traveling?

I am terrified of flying, mainly the fear that the plane will crash every time I am traveling by air. It’s one thing I despise about traveling.

A little turbulence would make me squeeze the armrest like my life depended on it. I don’t see the need to take a roller coaster ride anymore since the hours up in the air provide me with tons of adrenaline rush.

Some friends who know this irrational fear of mine, have asked me why do I keep traveling then. It’s because of the reward traveling gives me. Also, if I die, at least it’s because I am doing something I truly love which is traveling. I convinced myself with the argument whenever I hand the boarding pass to the counter and step into the giant steel bird.

Nana of Foreign Geek1

Who is Miaw and where have you traveled together?

Miaw is my adorable travel companion and the last thing I grab whenever I am going to the airport. He is a dream-life token, sitting proudly on my nightstand, giving constant reminder of the best times of my life, which mostly happened during travels.

He is also the mascot for my blog who at times takes over writing from me. Loved by readers, he is dedicated, practical and over-protective. He has taken countless train rides with me and looked after me when I sleep in many different beds.

Miaw’s biggest life goal is to take a selfie with his ancestor, the Sphinx in Egypt.

Nana of Foreign Geek4

Who are the people who inspire you?

My mom and my best friends inspire me all the time; from being open to try new things, to appreciating the beauty in the unknown places, to being grateful of the life we shared.

Other than people in my life, I am inspired by a lot of writers and bloggers; such as Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Paul Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar), Brenna (This Battered Suitcase blog) and Juno (Runaway Juno), to name some.

The world is filled with truly inspiring role models. Unfortunately, they don’t get enough recognition as the unworthy ones get sometimes. Let’s make it our task to find them, learn from their stories and adapt their good qualities.

Nana of Foreign Geek3

What kind of skills or know how would you consider necessary for someone who is thinking of long term travel?

In a long term travel situation, you are going to spend a lot of time all by yourself in an unfamiliar territory facing new problems all the time. Therefore, being self-sufficient and independent are the most important traits to posses.

Equally important: discipline. Let’s try to be disciplined, whether it’s to save money to afford to travel or to allocate a certain amount of time a day to work to support ourselves while traveling. Discipline is the surest way to make our life much better once we master it.

Last but not least, is kindness, to others and to ourselves. I am a big believer in good karma, the Universe will be kind to us, if we share kindness with the world.

Nana of Foreign Geek2

Want more? Read other features on Sole Sister Spotlight.

Do you know of travelers who conquer the world one country at a time? We would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send us an email at solesisters .weare@gmail .com. We look forward to your suggestions!

Searching for other sisters who make travel happen,
Sole Sister Lois




Get updates on our upcoming ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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Three-toed Kingfisher

Sri Lanka is an island nation off the southeastern edge of the Indian sub-continent that boasts a rich cultural heritage and remarkable biodiversity. In fact, it is one of only 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world. Twenty-seven percent of its plants and 22 percent of its animals are endemic, which makes any trip to Sri Lanka one that will potentially bring you face to face with creatures and plants you can find nowhere else on the planet. In all of Asia, this country boasts the highest density of endemic species.

For serious bird watchers, the allure of Sri Lanka is clear. With 26 endemic species — seven more species have been proposed as deserving endemic classification — and almost 500 different species overall. A bird-watching trip to Sri Lanka is literally something you can't have anywhere else on Earth. If you love birds and are looking to take a trip to one of the world's most remarkable places, book a flight and a hotel. The Uga Escapes Hotel is a great and eco-friendly choice. Set aside enough time to visit these five places where some of Sri Lanka's rarest and most impressive birds can be found:

Yellow-fronted Barbet (Megalaima flavifrons)  @ Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
Photo Credit: Gaurika Wijeratne
1. Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness Area

Filled with tropical rainforest, this wilderness area boasts many rare and endemic trees, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and butterflies. Located along the southwestern edge of the island, the Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness Area is a great place to explore flora and fauna, in general, but because it boasts as many as 19 of the bird species native to the island, it's a particular treasure to the bird watcher. Some of the more notable species include:

  • Green-billed coucal
  • Sri Lanka blue magpie
  • Ashy-headed babbler
  • Sri Lanka broad-billed roller
  • Red-faced malkoha

2. Yala National Park

An area of lowland dry scrub set along the southeastern Sri Lankan coastline, this beautiful park is considered the country's premiere national park and is one of the best spots to spot animals in all of Asia. One of its most popular inhabitants, the Sri Lankan leopard is only found here, and sightings are common. This park is where the serious birder can probably score the largest number of bird sightings. Because of the large combination of variable habitat ranging from scrub and marine to freshwater and woodland, Yala has over 220 different species of bird, and lucky bird watchers have seen as many as 100 in a single day.

Kandy - White-throated Kingfisher
Photo Credit: Drriss & Marrionn

3. Udawalawe National Park

This park is most famous for its elephants, which are easily seen across its impressively wide grasslands, and while other mammals can be found as well, it's the raptors in the park that attract bird watchers from all over the world. From the changeable hawk eagle and serpent eagle to the grey-headed fish eagle, this park can supply the patient birder with many opportunities to see these birds of prey in action.

4. Horton Plains

The highest plateau on the entire island, Horton Plains boasts cloud forests that, like every park and area on this list, are filled with a myriad of endemic animals and plants that are well-adapted to the cooler climate in this part of the island, where temperatures can fall below freezing overnight.

For bird watchers, the interest is in the native species seen nowhere else, of course, and the Sri Lankan bush warbler and whistling thrush are easiest seen here. While it isn't a bird, the dwarf lizard is worth keeping an eye out for here, because it gives birth to live young — an adaptation it developed because of the effects of cold temperatures on its eggs.

Ceylon Blue Magpie
Photo Credit: Koshy Koshy
5. Bundala National Park

Located just about an hour from Yala, Bundala National Park has almost 200 species of bird that call the place home — at least for some parts of the year. Migratory water birds, in particular, flock to the place when on the move, and in Bundala, the most impressive migratory bird is probably the greater flamingo, which travels in large flocks — as many as 1,000 have been spotted at one time. Designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1969, this park is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Birds you are likely to see here include:
  • Lesser whistling duck
  • Indian cormorant
  • Black-headed ibis
  • Grey heron
  • Eurasian spoonbill
Bird watching in Sri Lanka is one of the many pleasures the remarkable place affords those lucky enough to visit. If you ever find yourself there, be sure to tour these five places with a pair of binoculars, a bird identification book, and a sense of wonder.

Here are 10 More Reasons Why You Should Visit Sri Lanka

Annalise Wall is a tour guide with a passion for adventure sports. Her favourite sport is skiing, but when the summer comes she loves to go paragliding.

Main photo credit: Shanaka Aravinda


Get updates on our upcoming ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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A few days ago, I was chatting with a niece who is entering college in the coming months. She was confused about what course to take and what kind of career she wanted. She mentioned that one of her life goals is to be paid to travel.
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Today I got a message on facebook saying: "You're my daughter's idol. She wants to be a travel blogger just like you when she grows up."
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Last week, I got an invitation from Belle du Jour to be a speaker for their upcoming event. It read 'We hope that you can join us in this event, for we think you would be most apt to share your knowledge for our career topic: “Explore and Earn”.' (I had to decline because I am currently based in Europe.)
~

This month, Cosmopolitan Magazine Philippines featured me along with Sole Sisters Adi and Stephanie, as well as photographer Hannah Reyes as Fun and Fearless Females Who Travel for a Living.
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Now that I've suddenly become an "expert" on Getting Paid to Travel, I feel compelled to clarify a few things. Yes, it sounds glamorous and exciting. I mean who wouldn't want to have a vacation- for the rest of their lives, right? But can someone really get paid to travel? Here's how bloggers sustain their travel lifestyle.

Travel Blogger

Sponsored Trips

Since we've gained a lot of readers after more than 4 years of blogging, we often get invitations to go on trips for tourism agencies, brands, airlines and hotels. They usually organize everything from accommodations, transportation, meals, and sometimes even a daily allowance. In exchange, we provide exposure in the form of blog articles and social media posts.

Examples: We've been invited to tour Disneyland Hong Kong, explored Batanes with GMA's Poptalk, and traveled through Allah Valley in Mindanao with other travel bloggers.

Disclosure: We only accept travel related content for publication on the blog and only support brands and services that we personally believe in. We also reserve the right to express our own opinion in our writing style.

Semi-Sponsored Trips

Sometimes we receive gift vouchers for airlines, hotels, or restaurants. They don't organize or sponsor the entire trip experience. Often, they just give them away for free. Others ask for a review or a feature on the blog. If we accept the offer, we have to shoulder other costs like transportation, meals, and other personal expenses.

Examples: I received some vouchers from Cebu Pacific Air and I chose to fly to South Korea. I also managed to get the accommodations covered. So I only paid for my transportation costs (trains, buses, taxis), meals and shopping. I've also been sponsored by Roomorama in New York. Recently, we got an invitation to review a villa in Bali, Indonesia. Sole Sister Rica took on the assignment and covered for her own airfare and personal expenses.

Do what you love

Sponsorships in Kind 

Another major travel expense is the gear. We're happy that we've always been supported by R.O.X. and other brands for all our needs. We've received backpacks, bags, planners, travel towels, footwear, swimwear, and clothes, just to name a few. In exchange, we write product reviews or give away some items for our readers.

Exchange Deals

I have approached some hotels and companies to offer my services as a social media consultant. My role is to create online strategies or campaigns and provide exposure.

Examples: I've stayed at Turtle Surf Camp Siargao and provided reviews as well as online exposure. In exchange, they have given me several weeks stay as well as free tours. Another example is our luxurious stay at Kalinaw Resort. My husband is a drone pilot and he took some drone footage of the resort in exchange for a few nights' stay. We were also invited as guests at Elephant Nature Camp by the founder, Lek Chailert when we mentioned that we can provide some drone footage of the park.

Personal Trips

What lot of people don't realize is that most travel bloggers pay for their own trips most of the time. A lot of us have similar stories: we worked corporate jobs and have had to save money for years before we launched our escape. More than 80% of my trips are self-funded.

will-blog-for-food
Photo Source

Donations

If you look at a lot of blogs out there, many of them have a donate button which usually links straight to their paypal account. I'm pretty sure a lot of bloggers can make an income stream from that alone. This works best when your readers get genuine value from your blog or want to support you to make your travel dreams come true. We have tried it before, but we never got a single cent. Nada. Why? I can only guess. Maybe no one is really willing to pay for your vacation. Or perhaps most people think you're loaded since you're already traveling the world.

Earnings from Advertisers

Many blogs create an income stream from advertisers. This comes in the form of sponsored posts, banner ads, affliate sponsors, etc. If you check out this blog for the first time, you will probably think it's almost ad-free. There are no commercial banners, no pesky pop-ups, and no affiliate links. I receive so many offers daily to advertise on the blog. But I have to decline 9 out of 10 offers. Why? Because I want to optimise your reading experience. I value great writing without the intrusive ads as most people do. I've always put our readers first. I also don't want to write or produce information just for the sake of attracting readers. What I hope to build is a community that genuinely keeps the traveler's interest in mind. 

Disclosure: We do accept sponsored posts every now and then. But we practice discretion and only accept travel related content promoting travel related entities.

Travel Writing

Some magazines, websites and other publications contact me regularly to ask me to write some articles for them. They are either interested in our story or in the destinations we've been. Sadly, travel writing does not always pay well. Payments are often delayed and the assignments don't come frequently unless you really make a career out of it.

The Truth About Getting Paid to Travel2

Odd Jobs

Most people ask me: "How were you able to make a career out of traveling?" It was quite accidental. When I came back to Manila from our 6 month trip around Southeast Asia, I was jobless, homeless and nearly peniless. I had no backup plan. But I didn't want to stop traveling. So I thought of finding ways to continue to travel and not have to work at a 9-5 job again. 

This was difficult at first, but I learned new skills and marketed myself to earn money. Since then, I've been a motivational speaker, lifestyle coach, social media specialist, retreat/workshop organizer and facilitator, hostel manager for Secret Spot Baler and Circle Hostel La Union and a lot more.

Non-Monetary Compensation

The greatest benefit I get from blogging, more than anything else, is connecting with people from different backgrounds all over the world. Even when I was traveling solo, I never felt alone. I've been hosted in Thailand, Vietnam,  and Sri Lanka and many other places. Friends of friends have toured me around their town in Cebu (Philippines), Seoul (South Korea), and Nancy (France). For some reason, people have reach out to me when they find out I'm in their area. I always get offers to stay at their place or at least have a coffee or meal with them. I feel that I have a friend in every place I visit.

These are just examples of how a blogger can continue to fund a travel lifestyle. So what have I learned after more than 4 years of "getting paid to travel"?

1 No one is going to pay for your vacation. The truth is, we're not really getting paid to travel. No one will pay us to lie on the sand in some isolated beach and get a tan. No one will donate to our travel fund to see us jump off a cliff or skydive. No one will even pay us to drink scorpion wine or munch on crickets. Believe me, we've tried. If you want to travel, you have to make it happen yourself. You are in charge of your dreams- no one else is responsible in making them come true.

2 Do the big work first. When we took off for our India and Southeast Asia trip in 2011, we paid for the whole thing ourselves. We had no sponsors or advertisers. We started to attract readers because they could relate not just to our dream but to our struggle. We demonstrated our value by going to places on our own accord and our own pace. And that was the most liberating period of our travel blogging experience. No sponsorship deal or brand endorsement can ever take the place of freedom.

3 Nothing great ever comes easy. The reality is, this lifestyle is tough. Ask anyone. We all post pictures of ourselves drinking coconut juice while sitting on a hammock in front of a river. Or partying at a Full Moon Party with an assortment of people straight from a Benetton ad. We all want to show the glamorous, mind-blowing, lust-inducing side of travel.

But what about the parts we edit out? Like the time I missed a flight and had to eat a packet of biscuits for lunch and dinner just to survive? What about sleeping at a crowded train station just to save money on hotels? Or going on a bus ride from hell filled to the brim with bodies, poultry, an assortment of farm produce and luggage just to get to the next country?

We don't always have the good life. But we do live on our own terms. Most of us can choose where we want to be. Most of us can see the open sky or a beautiful sunset- every day!

4 People will help you achieve your dreams. I've always thought I was lucky. The universe has always conspired for me. People have always supported me or cheered me on, one way or the other. Why? Because I was always clear about what I wanted. People knew what I stood for, and most of them helped me achieve my dreams. I've always tried to make travel happen for myself. But I never did it alone. I may not always remember your faces or names. But your acts of kindness are with me forever.

5 Create something of value. If you want to travel for a long, long time, don't hope that someone will pay you to do it. Sure, you can be a travel show host or a writer- someone who sort of gets paid to travel. But what about the rest of us? Can we really travel for a living? My answer is a resounding: YES. How? Learn a skill or create something that people can find useful or valuable. Figure out what problems most people face and invent solutions.

The Truth About Getting Paid to Travel1

The challenge is to find a way to work from anywhere in world

Whether it's branding websites, designing ebooks, teaching yogacreating art, helping others create a freedom-based business, teaching English abroadtaking portraits, or organizing tours, the ways to fund an independent travel lifestyle are limitless. The only things standing between you and your travel dream are your own desire and creativity.

As for me, I have a couple more ideas to launch within the year. I've been busy writing a book to help people answer the question "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" The ebook version will be available this month. Another project I'm working on is Blog Launch Love- a business to help you create a blog to launch you into the lifestyle you love. I'm doing this with a couple of friends, and I'm excited to launch it soon.

Have you always dreamed of a life of travel? How do you plan to do it? Share your dreams in the comments section- and maybe we can all pitch in to make it happen!

Lois has traveled extensively and have lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She just recently got married and now has a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe trying to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.


Get updates on our upcoming ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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Hi Lois!

I'm Charisse*, a Filipina from Bacolod who adores everything about your blog. Ever since I found out about it two years ago, it feels like my whole body has been engraved with maps, plane tickets, and the desire to travel all around Southeast Asia. To make it happen, I've been saving nearly everything I've earned from my freelance job as a host/emcee. I'm still seventeen though, and no matter how much or how excitedly I talk about Cambodia or Laos to my parents, they're still unsure about the whole "shoestring budget/ backpacking thing". How can I let my parents see that the world's beauty and wonder is worth the uncertainty, worth the constant worry over me? I want to take the road less traveled by and honestly, I don't ache to know any other way.

I wish you much adventure and laughter wherever you are and whatever timezone you're in. Sorry for such a long and sentimental message!

Charisse*


Hi Charisse*, 

Wow you're so young and already itching to travel! I'm so happy to read your note but I can imagine your parents are very concerned. Especially that you are still in your teens. I was a late bloomer. I was already 26 when I first decided to move to the US which is the first time I did "long term" travel. It was difficult for my parents to accept when I told them I had made up my mind to quit my job to travel. But I've managed to get their blessing in the end. Here's what you can do:

Trial Trips

Maybe you can do some short backpacking trips around the Philippines first to gain your parents' trust. You can go to some nearby island or go camping in the mountains. Start with a weekend trip, and once you gain their trust, go away for longer periods. Always ask for their permission and let them know exactly where you are going and how they can reach you. 

Demonstrate Value

Tell them about the life skills you will learn from traveling. To start with: reading maps, budgeting, negotiating, learning languages and so many more. Traveling has also helped me to be street smart and no class can ever teach you that. As a traveler, I'm learning so much more about Culture, Geography, Politics and Foreign Languages than in any classroom I've ever been. Why? Because I now find them essential to my survival in the world. Make them realize that you will a better person after this trip. 

Solo or Group Travel

Are you planning to travel solo? Perhaps you can go on trips with friends first. It may also help if you're traveling with someone they know and trust. Invite that person to your house so your parents can get to know them. Your parents need reassurance that you will be safe and in good company.

Constant Communication

Always try to communicate with them even when it's tough. They will feel better that you are honest and transparent with your intentions and plans. Always value their trust and never take their concern for granted.

Before Leaving

Prior to my Southeast Asian trip, I left a detailed itinerary with my family which included dates and all the places we planned to visit. I also left a copy of my passport. I also purchased travel insurance and left a copy of the policy with my family. 

During the Trip

While on the road, I did my best to contact a family member regularly. I also tried to purchase a sim card in most countries so they have a number to reach me at. When I had to go to some countries with unreliable internet service, I would send a note to a family member and set expectations that I am okay and that they may not be able to reach me and for how long.

I'm sure you will be able to convince your parents that traveling is something that will enrich you as a person. But be patient with them as well. It's difficult to imagine your child in all sorts of dangers. Believe me, I'm a parent now too.

Most of all, keep on dreaming and one day, it will all happen!

Lois

Here's a reply I got from her:

Thank you so much for all of this! I think starting with the Philippines is a really good idea. I'm excited about it too because there's so much to see and experience here. My parents sent me to the San Francisco for my freshman year in highschool and being away from home opened up so much in me. I have a bestfriend who I plan to travel with and she's already like family to my mom and dad. 

Thank you for bring up the insurance part though! That's something I haven't thought too much about. Also, it's very helpful to know that I should leave as much information and details to my parents as you did. I've always had the idea that I could just pack up and go, but it's only now that I understand how much anxiety that would cause my family. It's true that I get impatient and extremely restless sometimes, but I guess that's because I forget how much time and opportunity I still have. It's easy to get carried away and overlook how actually wonderful and supportive my parents are whenever I hear them heavily question my plans. 

Since it's summer though, I've talked to them about a beach trip I want to organize with my class and my desire to spend a single week around Manila with my younger brother. Without any hesitation, they gave me the green signal! Thank you so, so much Lois. Of all things that I got from your message, it's to be patient and to never, never get discouraged! I hope your little girl will pursue whatever her passion is one day too. From listening to all your colorful and magical stories, I hope she will come to tell many of her own. I wish her, and you, nothing but the absolute best!

Charisse*

*name changed to protect privacy

How did you get your parents to support your travel dreams? Share your story in the comments!
Get updates on our upcoming ebook Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia? by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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I always make it a point to visit a market wherever I am traveling. The market is the best place to observe and appreciate the local life. It tells you so much about the place- the local produce, the language, the food and the atmosphere. If you really want to get to know a city or a town, go visit the market.

World Markets - Versailles France

My current favorite is the Sunday Open Air Market in Versailles (France). I walk down a crowded alley and smell the roasted chicken, wild mushrooms, hundreds of different cheese and I know I'm in one of the best places in the world for food. Street sellers call out to me selling their wares: orange blossom flavored honey, goat cheese with different spices, green olives from Southern France- I want to taste all of it! The outdoor market has a lot of fresh ingredients like fruits, vegetables, poultry, cheese and eggs.

World Markets - Versailles France2

I love that most of the people who sell them also grow them in their own backyard or make the food themselves. There are also indoor markets that sell all sorts of meat, fish, wine, pastries and even chocolate. And I love the selection of flowers here too. If you come visit, sample some food that they offer for tasting and bring home some homemade confiture (jam), wild honey, cheese, and bread.

World Markets - Versailles France4

Here are some more favorites from other female travelers:

Brenna Holeman of This Battered Suitcase

World Markets - Livingstone Zambia

Although seeing Victoria Falls is one of the main reasons to visit Livingstone, Zambia, there’s also some fantastic shopping to be had in the city. I found a handicraft market a few blocks from the Livingstone Museum that consisted of one hundred little shops in a row; although most of them sold similar items, it was a great place to bargain and find pretty much anything you’d want to take home as a souvenir from Zambia: beaded jewellery, paintings, wood carvings, masks, traditional cloth, and more. I walked away with many shopping bags full of handicrafts that are now some of my favourite possessions, including a gorgeous painting for approximately $10 USD. While there are tons of souvenir shops around Livingstone, including a large market near the falls, the smaller handicraft market was the place I found the best deals and the coolest stuff.

World Markets - Otavalo Ecuador

If you are ever in Ecuador, you must visit Otavalo’s famous market. A small town near Quito, this market has just about everything you could hope to find in South America: spices, leather goods, alpaca scarves and sweaters, toys, dreamcatchers, paintings, instruments, and, best of all, affordable silver jewellery. The region is also known for its gorgeous textiles, so it’s the place to buy blankets, tablecloths, and tapestries. At the time, backpacking through South America, I had limited funds and had to choose wisely; I now think back to all of the amazing souvenirs and wish I had stocked up on even more. My favourites were three silver rings, all around $15 USD. The alpaca scarf I purchased for only $5 ended up being a lifesaver during all those chilly nights in Bolivia and Chile! The market is most popular on Saturdays, when almost a third of the town fills with stalls; the Plaza de los Ponchos is open every day, however, so if you’d prefer to shop without the crowds, go on another day instead. There’s still lots to be found on a weekday!

World Markets - Luang Prabang Laos

When backpacking around Southeast Asia, most people flock to the infamous night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While I found some amazing souvenirs there, my favourite market in the region was probably Luang Prabang’s night market (Laos), which runs through one of the main streets in town every night. I picked up everything from colourful purses to an antique opium pipe to silver jewellery, all at very affordable prices. It’s also the place to buy traditional Hmong handicrafts, silk scarves, and local paintings that often incorporate Buddhist imagery. I found myself wandering through the stalls every night of my week’s stay in Luang Prabang, just because there was never a shortage of things to look at (and things to tempt me to part ways with my Lao kip). Get here early – the stalls “open” around 5pm and close at approximately 9pm, so it’s best to try to beat the crowds who come here after dinner.

Noelle Hilario of Wanderlust Drifted
World Markets - Goa2

Back in the 60s, the Wednesday Hippie Market in Anjuna, Goa (India) was a famous spot for spiritual-seeking hippies who sold their belongings before leaving Goa. Nowadays, it's a massive market with hundreds of vendors selling jewelry, clothes, bags, textiles, music, spices, sarongs, scarves and handicrafts from tibet and kashmir. What I love about this market is that it's full of energy and pops of color everywhere from the intricately wood stamped scarves, printed tapestries to bright jewels. If you like bohemian style, then this market is for you! It's a wonderful place to shop for crystals and jewelry, silk scarves and beautifully embroidered bags and tunics for a really low price!

World Markets - Goa3

What's also great about this market place is that it's situated in a sandy stretch overlooking the Arabian Sea, so after a long day of haggling and shopping, you can relax on the beach on your newly bought sarong and watch the sun go down. Most items we bought from our travels around northern India were also sold here at lower prices! Bargain hard! And as with most markets, it's important be aware of your things, always keep it safe and secure with you.

Aubrey Daquinag of The Love Assembly

I love visiting markets when travelling - with every visit you enter not knowing what treasures you'll find and leave with. My favourite are flower markets - you're surrounded by vibrant colours, scents and they make mornings brighter, plus there's always stands around that sell market food too! My favourite from the flower markets that I've visited around the world so far (yes I've made it a personal goal to visit all the flower markets around the world) is Columbia Road Flower Market (London), with Sydney's Flower Market (Sydney) coming in close to second. I find the flowers at Columbia Road's is super fresh compared to any other, there's also a wide variety to choose from. It's worth a visit even if you're travelling and you feel there's no point buying flowers. The kind of 'happy fix' you get on an early morning and friendly stall holders are worth the visit alone, but even though you don't intend on picking up a bunch of blooms you can pop into a cafe for breakfast and your morning coffee/tea. This is what I would buy:

World Markets - columbia-road-flower-market2

Do you love markets too? Where are your favorite markets around the world?

Get updates on our upcoming ebook Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia? by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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I know that you've been waiting for some news about our book in progress "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" Well, we're super excited to release it too! Here are some updates for you:

Change of Art

Initially, I was hoping to work with Abbey of Le Rêveur. But I got an email from her that she could no longer continue this project as she has a lot on her plate at the moment. Bummer, right? But it turned out to be great thing because I received an email from another artist who wanted to collaborate.

The funny thing is that she is a French girl currently living in Asia. And I'm this Asian currently living in Europe. How's that for a twist?

Southeast Asia Book6

Collaboration for Happiness

Marie Pottiez is a travel blogger, founder of Miles of Happiness. Curious of everything, she has an unquenchable thirst for discovery and sharing. Originally from France, she lived in Belgium, New Zealand and Indonesia, before settling down in Hong Kong in 2014. She spends as much time as possible traveling throughout Asia, discovering new pieces of paradise all year long.

Two+Frogs+in+a+Suitcase

You can follow her adventures on Facebook , Twitter  & Instagram. You can also watch her videos on Vimeo and get inspired with her Pinterest.

I chose to work with Marie because she's a super talented artist who's also well traveled and she's been to some countries we've visited in Southeast Asia. I also love that she has illustrated a children's travel book, 61 Days in New Zealand. She's a digital nomad just like me who takes her work wherever she goes.

Here's a sneak peak at Marie's work on etsy:

Marie Pottiez New York

Back Cover Description

6 months across 9 countries in Southeast Asia with only about 2,500 USD. Impossible?

Travel blogger Lois Yasay Ribeiro did just that. She now hopes to answer your question: "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" by ranking all the countries she had visited. She also shares her insider recommendations on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do. She reveals her route and itinerary to take you on a soleful journey across Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore. With the help of artist Marie Pottiez, they invite you to go visual vagabonding through a hand drawn map, sketches, and images.

"Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" is 50% art, 50% guide and 100% inspiration.

Southeast Asia Book4

Book in Progress

So all the text has been written and edited. We're just finishing the artwork and design and we're good to launch. The ebook version will ready in April and we're in talks with a possible publisher. So stay tuned for that! 

We promised to give away free copies of the ebook to the first 100 signups. We got so much more than that, thank you. But if you still want to know when the book is ready, you can subscribe to our newsletter.
Southeast Asia Book1

Are you traveling around Southeast Asia soon and also wondering where to go? Ask your questions in the comments section.

Lois has traveled extensively and have lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She just recently got married and now has a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe trying to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.


Get updates on our upcoming ebook Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia? by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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I love road trips, don't you?

I love the feeling of freedom on the open highway. I love listening to unfamiliar music or having a good conversation while sitting inside the car. I love looking at the changing landscape, the road signs and the myriad of sky colors. I even love stopping at the restaurants, coffee shops or gas stations while checking out the local food and delicacy. Most of all, I love the anticipation- that feeling of being in between places.

When I'm on the road, my heart expands with every breath.

I went on a road trip with my husband and daughter recently. We drove from France to Portugal and it's one of the longest trips I've been in a car. The distance from Versailles (France) to Viana dos Castelo (Portugal) is about 1,600 km. You can probably do that in a day with a few stops, but we chose take the leisurely route. We wanted to do it in 2 days so we can stop in Biarritz for the night and continue the journey towards Spain then Portugal the next day.

France to Portugal1

The French highway is called the autoroute and the rest stops are called "Aire". So you would often see a sign that says "Aire de ____" and some icons to indicate if that stop has a restaurant or gas station. Some stops only have picnic tables and toilets. Others have restaurants, playgrounds, hotels, and grocery stores.

Our first stop for brunch in France had a Paul, a boulangerie and  patisserie that sells bread and pastries. I couldn't resist getting a chausson aux pommes or French Apple turnover for the road. I bit into my pastry and nearly choked on something hard. I found a ladybug inside! 

What a great way to wish us luck at the start of our journey!

France to Portugal2

Unfortunately, I had little sleep the night before so I slept a lot on the French autoroute. The landscape was not very interesting on the first leg of the journey. All you can see is one highway after the other. But I did manage to wake up just before sunset and take this picture:

France to Portugal3

We arrived in Biarritz around midnight and found a ghost town. February is off season in this surf capital of France and it doesn't get busy until the start of summer. We stayed at Hotel Palym and they had a comfortable, small room that was perfect for our little family.

France to Portugal4


France to Portugal5

We woke up early so we have time for breakfast and a quick stroll nearby. It was my first time to see the ocean in over a year. I stood on a cliff overlooking the bay and soaked it all in. I couldn't believe we were here!

France to Portugal6

Even though it was still cold, the sun was out and we took our little girl for some Vitamin Sea.

 
France to Portugal7

France to Portugal8

France to Portugal9

We could even see a few peelers in the distance. We saw a few people swimming though no one was surfing. Ben says it's a privilege to see Biarritz like this- quiet and peaceful. He says he wouldn't want to come back in the summer where you have to fight for a wave as all the surfers flock here.

France to Portugal10

From a distance, we could see the Pyreenes mountain range that forms a natural border between France and Spain. There are only a few places on earth where you can see this type of landscape- white snow capped mountains in the background and blue green ocean in the foreground.

France to Portugal11

I would have wanted to spend a few days in Biarritz but we had to save that for another time. Ben was eager to get back on the road as we still had thousands of miles ahead of us. The landscape changed a lot when we got back on the highway. We went from the monotonous autoroutes to the scenic mountainscapes.

France to Portugal12

We were getting closer to Spain- a dream come true!

France to Portugal15

We loved listening to the radio- the foreign languages, the mix mash of accents and tunes that hinted where we were even if we didn't look at the signs.


France to Portugal16

France to Portugal17

Crossing the Pyreenes is exhilarating for both the driver and passenger. There was still a lot of snow and there were many turns on the road. I definitely couldn't fall asleep here! There was so much to see and I was smiling in anticipation.

France to Portugal201

Ben looks at me and tells me how much he loves being on the open road. There's something special about the seeing the horizon, the sky, that line that separates heaven and earth. It's like a dazzling display right before your eyes. The best part is, you can just open a window or even stop and be a part of it all.

France to Portugal18

I wondered if there would be a huge sign to welcome us after we've crossed over to Spain. In the Philippines, even in small towns, it's common to see billboards saying "WELCOME TO ____ CITY! ENJOY YOUR STAY AND COME AGAIN!"

But if I hadn't been paying attention, I would have missed this:

France to Portugal19

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in France anymore."

France to Portugal32

By nightfall, I was eager to arrive in Portugal. I've been wanting to see this country that Ben has been telling me about ever since we met. He is part Portuguese after all, and so is our daughter. I prepared my camera to take a shot of the Portugal sign. Ben told me I wouldn't even notice it.

France to Portugal21

I did. But it went by so fast! And this is all I got:

France to Portugal22

So we stayed at another hotel in Portugal for the night. We went to the Miño River the next morning to take this:

France to Portugal27

France to Portugal23

France to Portugal24

It was so wonderful to be reunited with the sea again! I couldn't resist getting close to the water even if it was freezing. Portugal boasts of a coastal area with some of the world's best surf spots. And we were not disappointed.

France to Portugal25

Do you see lines? 

France to Portugal26

This fantastic view is from the Portuguese side overlooking Spain.

France to Portugal30

We walked on the beach to see the sunset- my first in Portugal.

France to Portugal28

France to Portugal29

It's amazing to note that the mountain behind me is Santa Tecla in Spain. But I'm actually on the Portuguese side. And with that sunset, we ended our first day in Portugal. We look forward to exploring more of the region. I have a feeling we will stay here longer than expected...

Do you love road trips too? Don't forget to share your best memories in the comments section!

Lois has traveled extensively and have lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She just recently got married and now has a baby girl. She is currently based in Europe trying to find a home base for her family. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.


Get updates on our upcoming ebook Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia? by subscribing to our newsletter. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.
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