I’ve been traveling full time almost two whole years now, and not a day goes by that someone doesn’t try to crack the code of how I afford my mysterious lifestyle. It’s come to a point where I’ll fib about what I do when I meet new people (my go-to fake occupation: Disney princess at the Magic Kingdom), because it’s just so complicated to describe every facet of my current career in a way that makes sense.
Some typical questions I get: When are you going to get a real job? When are you going to settle down? How do you pay for all this? How much money do you make? How can you afford this lifestyle?
I’m sure no one means any disrespect, but I don’t ask, “Hey, how do you afford that gaz guzzling SUV, multiple flat screen TVs, cashmere sweaters for your dogs and Hot Pockets for your clones?”
I’ve been accused of all sorts of tomfoolery – prostitution, drug smuggling, coming from a wealthy family (gasp – anything but that!) – but no one ever really suspects the truth.
Read on to find out…
Myth 1: Angie is lucky.
I don’t believe in luck. I believe in making good choices. “Luck” is what happens when you’ve made good decisions & kept your priorities straight… it’s also often known as the Golden Rule and “planning ahead.”
So when folks say to me, “Oh, wow, I wish I could be as lucky as you,” it feels like they’re saying, “You have it all and it fell into your lap with minimal effort on your part. You’re a jerk.”
Often I hear, tinged with resentment and dismissive snootery, “Hmmph, it must be nice to travel the world all the time.” You can bet your butt it’s nice. I worked for it, too! I watched my parents struggle with jobs they hate for their whole lives, then went and earned my degree, moved to cities where I knew no one, suffered through some pretty rotten colleagues and clients, and sacrificed being near to my family to gain valuable experience to get me to this moment, right now, where I’m furiously typing away at a Starbucks on my favorite Hawaiian island.
None of that was easy; none of that was lucky.
Those were decisions I made early in life that lead me to where I am now, which I consider to be the fruit of many years of focused priorities. I chose to go to a good college, even if I had to go into debt. I chose to study abroad, even though I was terrified to go by myself. I chose to minor in two foreign languages, even though it meant I didn’t get to take any fun electives in college. I chose not to get married and not to have kids at an early age like many of my friends.
What the “Angie is lucky” myth implies is that I got here by accident, by chance, by some random series of events, and while I have been immeasurably blessed… I most certainly didn’t “luck” into the situation I’m in.
Myth 2: Angie is rich.
The only thing I’m rich in is experience! My Mom taught me me how to live on very little money, so with that skill and the cash I saved working for seven years in PR, I was able to quit my job and travel the world in 2011. (Don’t be fooled – that money I saved wasn’t a result of a huge NYC salary and an overflow of Benjamins. It was a result of not buying frivolous stuff I didn’t need. Plain & simple. I have no other secret to saving money to travel other than not spending it on bags, shoes and designer duds.)
As I traveled, I worked to build up AngieAway.com with funny stories and helpful travel tips and pretty photos, and I wrote freelance travel articles here and there about my adventures. The funds I earned were enough to travel a little longer and a little better than I’d originally budgeted, but I still wasn’t flush.
After about a year, I’d spent my entire life savings to finance my dream RTW trip and I had to make a decision. I could stop as planned and get back to the working world, or continue the uncharted path using my varied skills and nomadic desires to make money on my own. I began to monetize my web site, consult for tourism boards and manage public relations/social media campaigns for hotels & destinations around the world.
None of that has made me rich, but I have food and usually I find somewhere comfy to stay, and my office almost always comes with a breathtaking view… so I’d take that over a fat bank account any day.
And I’d say to all the people who ask me, “How do you pay for all that?” to keep in mind how much cheaper it is to have no rent, no car and few bills. I still have student loans that I pay and I still have a child that I support through Compassion in Bolivia. I still pay my 10% tithe to my church on any income I make from my various projects. And I have plenty of money to support the lifestyle I want to live. Again, it’s all about priorities. Those are all choices I’ve made to live the lifestyle I have.
Myth 3: Angie must have rich parents.
My parents are two of the most hardworking people I know, but they are not rich and thankyouverymuch, they’re certainly not financing my world travels. If I needed it, they would help me if they could (as would my awesome grandparents), but it’s not their job to ensure all my dreams come true – it’s mine.
A fellow blogger was recently eviscerated on Twitter for the possibility that her wealthy parents were funding her lifestyle, and that speaks to a cultural perception that I find incredibly disturbing. Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean their success (or $$$) was handed to them by their parents or anyone else. Suddenly it seems that anyone who’s earned a living or become successful is suspected of playing with a stacked deck… but no one ever seems to suspect that one’s success comes from endless hours pounding the pavement or typing away at a computer.
No one is entitled to happiness or success, but everyone is entitled to go out and get it for themselves.
Myth 4: Well, if Angie’s not rich and she doesn’t have rich parents, she must be a prostitute, drug mule or CIA agent.
I’m a rule follower – always have been. The CIA would probably be a great fit for me, though if I was a covert agent, I sure wouldn’t tell you.
But I’m not a high-priced international call girl and I definitely don’t transport drugs from border to border. I thought crack came from crack dealerships… that’s how much I know about drugs.
I’m the girl next door, much too straight laced for such shenanigans.
Myth 5: Angie gets everything for free.
With my experience as a travel publicist, journalist and blogger, now and then I do come into my share of freebies. Those freebies usually result from hours upon hours of research and pitching, and from those hours, maybe 10% of my emails are ever answered.
In almost two years of traveling, I’ve had exactly 2 flights paid for out of 75, and have been on just 3-4 sponsored trips. Having now spent more than $35,000+ of my own self-earned cash supporting my travels, I can honestly say I don’t break even most of the time. It surely costs me more to do this than I can make in measly freelance writing paychecks.
Myth 6: Angie is always on vacation.
While it’s true I may spend much of my time in vacation destinations, and I do seem to have a heckuva lot of fun, I’m definitely NOT on vacation 24/7. A day in the life with me, as any of my friends who’ve traveled with me can confirm, consists of 6-15 hours in front of the computer. Fortunately I make my own schedule, so if I want to go spelunking during the day, it’s my prerogative to do so as long as I can stay up all night to work.
I realize that my Facebook albums and blog posts certainly look like I’m always on vacation, but that’s the job I’ve created for myself. I doubt you’d read past the first post if I wrote about what I did every single day… work, work, work, work, work!
I know it might seem like I get paid to sit by the pool drinking Mai Tais all day. I wish! I usually need to schedule pool time if I am in a tropical destination, otherwise I will surely stay inside working on my computer, only looking up long enough to see the sun setting and another day gone.
Myth 7: Angie’s life is perfect.
Oh, this is one of my favorites. I recall having a rotten day on the road last year and posting (something I rarely do) about it on Facebook. I had multiple comments saying, “Oh get over it, you’re in Greece!”
Guess what? Regardless of GPS coordinates, people get sick and die, tragedies happen and life goes on. I may not be sitting at a boring desk job in my hometown, but you can bet drama and 4 a.m. bad news text messages follow me to the ends of the earth.
And did I mention the tsunamis, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, riots, grenades, plane crashes, mystery parasitic illnesses, snakes-on-the-toilet, protests, government overthrows, heartbreaks and frightening middle-of-the-night gropings? It’s not all Champagne and roses, even if I Instagram a lot of Champagne & roses.
Myth 8: Angie is really brave.
This one blows my mind more than any other, because I would never, ever, ever consider myself brave. I do a lot of crazy stuff now and then to get a good story, but I’m always scared to death. My knees knock, I feel lightheaded, I sweat profusely… and that’s just for karaoke! I can’t tell you how many times in the past two years I’ve questioned my own sanity.
I think all of you who are raising kids and working on marriages are brave. I’ve always thought of myself as taking the easy way out of adulthood… skipping bills and mortgages and oil changes and pest control appointments in favor of an on-the-go, extended adolescence. Hats off to the real brave grown-ups out there.
So now you know all my secrets! I feel so naked! (And now I’ve said naked, call girl and hooker in the same post. Should get me some very interesting Google traffic…)
I’m glad we cleared the air. Now you know I’m not lucky or a hooker, or a lucky hooker. I’m not rich and neither are my parents, and as far as you know, I’m not in the CIA. I work really hard for this lifestyle and it is my job, whether I make it look easy or not. I have no idea how long I’ll proceed in this semi-unorthodox way, but I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride!