travel-money1

Travel

  • July 25, 2017   Money and freedom go hand-in-hand. If you’re planning a long-term travel adventure, you’ll need to save up a good sum for housing, airfare, local transport, and daily expenses. Even if you plan to travel with very little money by volunteering or couchsurfing, you still need an emergency fund.   I’ve saved up for three big trips over the course of the past decade: 4 months in South America (2011), 14 months over 3 continents (2015-2016), and now I’m embarking on another adventure of 9-12 months through Europe, Africa, and India (2017-2018). I’ll share my personal strategies with you here in the hopes it inspires you to pick and choose what might apply to you or inspire you to develop strategies customized to your own lifestyle and values.   There’s three main things I do ... READ MORE
  • June 20, 2017 The following is a guest post contributed by Joaquim Miro, founder of The Alternative Ways   The first time I told my friends and family that I was going to quit my job and travel, it didn’t go so well. They were nervous, anxious, and even scared for me. “How will you find another job when you come back? How will you make enough money on the road?”   While I didn’t have answers to these questions at first, I knew deep down that as long as I worked hard and continued to develop relevant skills, I would be okay. 10 months later, I'm proud to announce that I’ve been offered jobs, year-long volunteer programs, and promising business opportunities.   What I learned is the following: no matter what career you pursue, you can incorporate as ... READ MORE
  • June 4, 2017 If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “I want to take time off to go traveling but I’m worried it will hurt my career,” I’d be one rich blogger instead of one who spends a decent amount of her time scribbling back emails that say, “No no no, just go do it, you’ll be fine and here’s why.”   A bit of my story: Last year I stepped away from a job I loved to take a break, thinking I’d spend four months on the road, rejuvenate a bit, and go right back to work. A year and a half later, I had circumnavigated the globe, crash-landed on the west coast, and found myself applying to jobs in San Francisco with an enormous, unapologetic gap at the top of ... READ MORE
  • May 27, 2017 If you're serious about taking your international job hunt to the next level, I often recommend taking an actual trip overseas. Not a quit your job and buy a one-way ticket type of trip, however, but a strategic "vacation" to the destination where you ideally want to relocate. You'll need to do a lot of homework beforehand, but I've seen it deliver remarkable results for serious international job seekers.   I wrote an article on this tactic for Fast Company this week, so check it out for the full details: Want to Live and Work Overseas? Take This Two Week Trip First.  READ MORE
  • February 28, 2017 I'm coming up on my fourth anniversary as a nomad this March, which means four whole years of living out of two suitcases! I've gotten a lot of questions on what and how I pack, so I'm finally going to dig into the details for those of you who are curious. A good friend of mine also just recently got hired in the same international position as me for Uber and is facing the challenging of packing up her whole life for a year of on-the-go travel for work… so I did this mostly for her (Hi, Adrienne!).    Except when I did my 9 months backpacking through Asia, I've always traveled with two suitcases: a small carry-on and a HUGE checked bag, plus a tote bag and my camera bag with my DSLR. I ... READ MORE
  • February 16, 2017 Like most travelers who’ve been around the world and back again, I left my heart in India.   I sit in Mexico as I write this, a year later and still stubbornly refusing to go home and be normal. And no matter what I do, my mind wanders back to India every chance it gets. So I dig my toes into the powder white sand of the Mayan Riveria and indulge in the waves of memories shamelessly washing over me.    I think of the afternoons spent riding on the back of a motorcycle in central Karnataka, my fingers full of silver rings slung around the waist of a fellow wanderer, my jeweled skirt flapping in the juicy afternoon breeze, villages of colorful boxes stacked into a green swampy landscape peeling by on either ... READ MORE
  • January 20, 2017   I think a great travel photo captures not just the place, but the journey.    We've all read the hackneyed "tips for better travel photos" articles (yeah yeah, find the light, rule of thirds, etc.), so I'm going to just share three key things I do to document my own travels that you might not have heard elsewhere. I'll also share a collection of favorite photos from my travels in order to walk you through a little bit about what makes them interesting and how to apply those lessons to your own photos.   A quick note on equipment: I'm currently traveling with a Canon Rebel T4i DSLR with 18-200mm and 50mm lenses, a Go Pro 4 on a long selfie stick, and an iPhone 7. I also use free PhotoScape software to edit (but not over-edit) ... READ MORE
  • November 21, 2016 Traveling has allowed me to see the world — and by extension, myself, my friends, family, and relationships — for what it is, in all its various shades of beauty and richness. I try not to compare, judge, or long for what’s unavailable and instead see with open eyes simply what is. I’m not going to reminisce about the jungles of Peru while I’m on a desert safari in Egypt, nor am I going to curse a beautiful blonde-haired American boy for his lack of British accent or exotic skin tone. I’m not going to wish I was born in Italy because of the election results, and I’m not going to feel entitled because I’m a citizen of one of the most powerful countries on Earth.  It is simply what is ... READ MORE
  • October 20, 2016   I used to think my traveling fell into a form of escapism, of running away from places and people that were small and constraining, places and people I perceived to be stunting a growth within me I didn’t even fully recognize I needed.    I was like a little bird repeatedly slamming itself into the walls of its cage, squawking and flapping furiously at every glimpse of sunlight, wind, and, God forbid, brother and sister birds that had made it out. I wanted out.   And I still want out. If I’m in a country for longer than a couple months, I start to get trapped bird syndrome. I feel the impulse to learn a new language, cope with a new set of weird challenges, meet a whole new group of friends, take a ... READ MORE
  • October 13, 2016   I once found myself on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Addis Ababa, sitting next to a bright-eyed university student on his way over for a two-week volunteer trip. When he heard I’d be working in Ethiopia for the next several months as a project manager for an international media company, he was visibly taken aback. “Working?” he marveled quietly, like he was considering the word for the first time.    Like many Americans, it wasn’t often he heard the name of a country in Africa and real-world business experience together in the same context — and it wasn’t the first time people reacted that way when they heard I’d been on work assignments in places like Mongolia, Nigeria, or Paraguay.    Fortunately, awareness is now spreading that travel to emerging market countries is ... READ MORE
  • September 18, 2016 And you realize, for the first time, in a world where it’s so hard to be recognized, affirmed, supported, and loved, that you belong. Out in that crazy mess, you’re accepted without question or judgment. And finally, it hits you — you finally “get it”– and you want to give everything you’ve got to the playa, too. You’ve woken up to what Burning Man is all about, and shortly, you’ll wake up an even bigger truth: that just by existing, you’re already part of the community, the art, the show, the world. You were blessed with the gift of life, chosen and sustained by creation, so you’re already deserving, ready, and important. Now you hear creation saying: “Come play.” READ MORE
  • September 16, 2016 It took 9 months of planning, but by the time we hit the playa, we had become a core group of 10, flying in from 5 different countries, all connected by one or two degrees of separation, joining a theme camp of 30+ Burners, and were knowledgeable about everything from reserve tanks and gray water on our RV to the fastest exodus timings. In bouts of sheer panic, I had read every article on the Internet about Burning Man several times over, and my theme camp had dozens of spreadsheets with packing lists upon packing lists. So I thought, after all this work, it’d be a shame not so share it with as many future Burners as possible. Here’s my definitive practical guide to Burning Man, all the things I wish I had known then ... READ MORE
  • August 28, 2016 Swinging haphazardly between the highs of jaw-dropping nature and touching hospitality, versus the lows of being flipped into a ditch by oncoming traffic and lost without a prayer in the remote highlands, my experience tackling the most beautiful state in India by motorbike. READ MORE
  • July 28, 2016 What I’ve found is the identity constructed for me by family, education, religion, society, media, and money has been shattered at my feet, and I’m left blinking stupidly at the pieces. Who am I now that I can stand still? Who am I now that I’ve stopped playing the game? Who am I when I’ve lived seamlessly against a dozen different cultural backdrops?  READ MORE
  • July 7, 2016 I’ve been overseas for three and a half years now — two and a half working, one as a gap year to explore freelance writing and coaching — and people always want to know “how I do it.”    And almost everyone back home says something like, “I wish I could do that, too!”    Well, you can, you just have to be ready to put up with all the crap I put up with to make it a reality.   People shoot me emails all the time about where I live, how I decide where to go, how I fund my travels, what job I had to let me travel, and how I plan my wardrobe. This post is an attempt to concisely answer as many of these questions as I can.   In a nutshell, my ... READ MORE
  • July 5, 2016 It always feels great to accomplish a big goal. Ever since I started going abroad when I was 18, I promised myself I would take a full year off before I turned 30 to travel, and I’ll wrap up my 13th month on the road by my 27th birthday later this year.    I’ve been making my way across Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, and Europe since August 2015, and everyone wants to know how I manage to do it, from a financial as well as career perspective.   I often get people writing into my site who want to take time off to travel, but worry about derailing their career. I’ve already written about that extensively, but the most important thing is to 1) realize life is more than a series of career moves, ... READ MORE
  • June 21, 2016   In India, the standard line of questioning goes:   “Madam, which country?”  “How old are you?”  “Only one?” “Why aren't you married?”    After a congressional inquisition into my marital status, the questions shift to my job. What does Madam do?    Now imagine trying to explain what a digital nomad is to a village of curious south Indians.    “Well, I travel around the world and write a blog and help people find their own path to personal and professional fulfillment” doesn’t usually go over without a lot of squinting and muttering at me in Tamil, so I try, “I’m a…writer?” with only slightly less confused frowning.    These men and women work day and night so their children can go to school and have a chance to someday work in an office or hospital or courtroom in the big city and ... READ MORE
  • June 14, 2016 The first time I went to Europe I was visiting a friend who had been studying in the Czech Republic for six months, and I’ll never forget our epic reunion in a local cafe. In all my excitement, I grabbed her in a huge hug and squealed loudly in delight.    My lovely friend, by then acquainted with a more international standard of behavior, pulled me into our booth and whispered with a smile, “I’m so happy to see you! Remember, we’re in Europe now. Let’s keep our voices down so we don’t disturb the people around us.”    I’m still grateful for that comment and the dozens of other pointers I’ve picked up over the past decade and fifty countries I’ve visited since. They’ve helped me become a savvier traveler and more sophisticated ... READ MORE
  • May 18, 2016 There are tons of articles about what to pack for major backpacking trips, but if you’re anything like me, half the time what I bring traveling doesn’t make it into my purse or daypack so it’s actually available when I really need it. And so I find myself sweaty, sticky, dirty, or lost in the dark thinking, “The flashlight and hand sanitizer are back in the hostel, aren’t they?” After 8 months spent making my way from Singapore to Nepal, here are the key items that were — and always are —  on my person.   …Or if they weren’t, I learned the hard way.   1. Toilet paper. A budget traveler is going to see very few bathrooms that provide toilet paper almost anywhere in Asia. I was surprised when even "decent" guesthouses (think $10/night private room vs. the $3 dorm bed) ... READ MORE
  • March 13, 2016 I sat on the rickety wooden terrace of my guesthouse in central Swaziland, blinking mosquitoes out of my eyes and sipping a cold Savannah cider, fixed in the kind of late-night philosophical discussion you can only have in places in the world that don’t burden its visitors with a constant internet connection. Most members of the group had spent extended periods of time living or traveling on the African continent, so the conversation turned, predictably, to poverty. I had just spent the past twelve months working in Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia, in addition to working and traveling widely in South America and Asia during the past eight years, and wanted share a controversial thought, bracing myself for rebuttals. “The most heart-breaking poverty I had ever seen wasn’t in Guatemalan villages or ... READ MORE
  • December 18, 2015 I’m a 26-year old, 5-foot tall, blonde-haired girl and I’ve backpacked solo everywhere from South America to the Middle East, and now I’m traveling through Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, and East Africa – alone. But this isn’t an article about how backpacking solo is actually really safe; this is just about how to enjoy so much time on your own. READ MORE
  • November 22, 2015 Don’t just do something, do it like you mean it. Don’t just go for stuff, go for it with extra pizzazz. Don’t just stand in front of something new and poke it with a ten foot stick, dive right in. You’ll never know until you try for yourself, so live life unapologetically in the driver’s seat. READ MORE
  • November 19, 2015 Why are we so scrupulous with money, an inanimate and technically infinite resource, and so frivolous with our time, the only thing we really have, which can expire at an undefined moment’s notice? Where do we muster up the arrogance to assume there will be more of a resource we do not own or distribute by our own free will? The idea of that alone is sheer lunacy. READ MORE
  • September 25, 2015 Tens of thousands of these motorbikes sped past my taxi window, passing on blind curves and weaving a smoggy, motorized braid of metal and rubber towards Bali’s endless temples and rice paddies, an absolute surrendered belief to the goodness of the universe seeming to govern everyone at the handlebars. Naturally, I mused, I had to try this. READ MORE
  • September 5, 2015 Here I am, staring at a little backpack and one-way plane ticket to Asia in utter disbelief at my ability — our ability as humans — to conceive of a vision for our lives and then proceed to execute it, step-by-step. It’s the coolest universal talent we have and we should all dare to use it more often. READ MORE
  • August 24, 2015 Over the years, I’ve realized that EVERYONE loves to travel. Most everyone also enjoyed the travel planning process…to a certain extent. At first its fun, but after a couple hours of running in circles about where to go and if the season is right and if Rome is better than Florence or if December is a good time for safari in South Africa, it’s acceptable to want to throw in the towel or just book the next hotel that pops up when the page refreshes. Planning a trip consumes more time, energy, and research skills than most people realize. Sometimes nothing more than raw experience can get you the answers you need. READ MORE
  • April 28, 2015 It can only be from the living rooms of obscure towns in Ethiopia, with people who fed you and poured you honey wine and coffee and told you about their lives and made you upset and confused about the world, that you realize traveling is not about coming up with all the answers, but about knowing how many questions are out there, and understanding how very humiliatingly, paralyzingly capable we are to respond to them. READ MORE
  • April 11, 2015 I’ve been working overseas for nearly 2 years now and have ZERO regrets about quitting my consulting job in 2013 and marching directly in the direction of my fears, which happened to involve hopping on a plane to Lagos, Nigeria and embarking on a job and lifestyle that both embodied everything I ever wanted to do and also completely terrified me. If you ask me what I’ve learned and gained in return, it is nothing short of growth, adventure, friendships, business contacts, new skills, and unforgettable memories. And I want everyone to feel like this. READ MORE
  • March 18, 2015 The fact is, too often we smile, snap, and share like we have something to prove, to our social media networks and to ourselves. Back on the ngalwa, with only a sarong and sunscreen tossed in a small bag at my side, I felt feather-light. There I was, on that beautiful hackneyed ship sailing along an ancient coastline, speaking about angels with a man who could have been my Kenyan grandfather in another life. READ MORE
  • December 19, 2014 Because I’m completely nomadic, I pack up everything I own and move to a new country 4-5 times per year. And that doesn’t even count the other dozens and dozens of times I fly somewhere for the weekend or work out of another city for a week. What does this make me? Ridiculously good at packing. READ MORE
  • November 12, 2014 Slow travel is a mindset that requires us to redefine our relationship to time, to see it as plentiful rather than scarce. It requires us to take a deep breath and say, “I have the time” or, more powerfully, “I will make the time.” It’s not about how far we go, how fast we arrive, and how much we see, but about the depth of our adventures, the warmth of our relationships, and our closeness to the world itself. READ MORE
  • June 2, 2014 One of the biggest challenges of being a traveler is understanding and embracing your own national identity, and coming to terms with the perception and context that may precede you as an individual as a result of that identity. READ MORE
  • May 15, 2014 Maybe more than anywhere else before, I fell in love with Ethiopia in a uniquely toxic way, surprised and delighted at every turn. Descending into the countryside left me breathless each time, our 4×4 hurtling over half-completed roads, meandering through colorful fruit markets, dodging ramshackle donkey carts and massive herds of cows, passing over undulating mountain ranges and racing across green coffee plantations. With the warm African breeze in my face and thousands of years of history racing past me, I would close my eyes and pinch myself that I had the chance to see this all with my own two eyes. READ MORE
  • January 14, 2014 I have learned that being a wanderer means scattering your heart and soul around the globe, sprinkling little pieces of yourself as you go along. It means being joyfully open to the wonders of the Earth and its people in a way that those with roots simply can’t be. You become a cell with porous walls, letting everything seep in to you and letting everything take part of you away. READ MORE
  • December 29, 2013 I once had the strange pleasure of calling the world’s coldest capital home: Ulaanbaatar. Viewed from above, half-finished buildings and cranes dot the skyline, peeking through thick brown pollution oozing out from coal-fired furnaces of the city’s ambling ger districts, where one third of the population of Mongolia resides, former camel herders clinging to the edges of the only major urban center in their country. READ MORE
  • October 28, 2013 These days I am perpetually packed for 11 months of the year, never knowing if I will land in the South Pacific or Siberia. Although my situation is a bit extreme, like all travel warriors, I know what I need, I know what I don’t need, and I know how to charm the airline staff at check-in so they don’t charge me for those extra kilos. Remarkably, I can pack and unpack that 11-month suitcase in 20 minutes flat. Here’s 15 of my little favorites. READ MORE
  • September 2, 2013 Locals face life in chaotic Lagos with a graceful strength, an unshakable core of endurance for the city’s assault on the human senses. Its 20 million residents are unrelenting, virile, and enterprising, forcing outsiders into a jolting recognition of what it means to be alive in the most raw, feral way. Even with so much going wrong, Nigeria has taught me a lot about how to do things right. READ MORE
  • August 28, 2013 Travel is the thing almost all of us would like to do (or do more of), the thing that inspires envy when we see our peers jet-setting to Europe, backpacking across continents, and seemingly spending weeks and months and years of their lives on the road, living richly through not-for-sale experiences…and we find ourselves wondering why we can’t do the same. READ MORE
  • January 24, 2013 As someone who has done a fair amount of vagabonding, I have become something of an expert on spending months on the road with very little money. People tend to think I’m secretly rich because of the amount of traveling I do, but reality couldn’t be any farther from that assumption. It all comes down to saving well, planning properly, and spending strategically. READ MORE
  • December 24, 2012 I had gone from a place where the people still live fairly similarly to how we all lived thousands of years ago in the jungle – primarily concerned with finding food, shelter, and water for our friends and family – to a place where people are intensely preoccupied with things so far from human necessity. READ MORE
  • December 22, 2012 It occurred to me as I sat mesmerized by the ultimate tranquility of Mother Nature that morning, with my toes in the chilly sand and my breathing still, head clear, and spirit worry free, that I hadn’t watched a sunrise in three years. Because there is “no time” in my busy, self-important life to sit and do nothing except watch the sun inch its way out of a deep slumber. And what a shame that is. READ MORE
  • November 13, 2012 There’s an indescribable thrill to flying to another continent with nothing more than your passport, backpack, and guidebook – and a rough idea of the possibilities awaiting. READ MORE

 

About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Currently in: Malawi

 

 

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Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

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