Instead Of Conforming To Society's Expectations Jess Carved Out Her Own Path As A Digital Nomad, Travel Blogger, & Content Creator
What is GAFFL?

GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

Jess
Jess works as a digital nomad, travel blogger, and content creator
22nd Apr | 12 min read

Table of Contents

    Jess works as a digital nomad, travel blogger, and content creator. Together with her partner Steven, they have adopted a nomadic lifestyle that they call "travel-living." Taking their lives and careers on the road, they are able to maintain a normal routine while taking advantage of frequent and amazing travel possibilities.

    Instead of conforming to society's expectations and following a traditional path, Jess did what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it. You can connect with her on GAFFL.


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    How We Met & Started Traveling 

    I have loved traveling ever since I was a kid. My family and I used to take annual trips to Walt Disney World every year and I fell so in love with it that I worked there for 7 years during and after college! The cool thing about Walt Disney World is that there are cultural influences from all around the globe – especially in EPCOT! The World Showcase alone has always inspired me to want to see more of our beautiful planet.


    During my Disney days, my favorite thing to do outside of work was travel with my friends any chance I got. I did a ton of domestic travel, studied abroad for a summer in the UK, and even did a 2-week trip out to Asia!

    Around 2019, I met my current partner, Steven, who was teaching abroad in China at the time. We connected via Instagram all about our love for both Disney and Travel. After 7 months of international texts, Facetimes, and a few trips planned, our relationship blossomed. The pandemic actually relocated both of us into the same place, which was one huge blessing that came out of that difficult time.

    Since Steven and I initially bonded over our love of travel, we spent the majority of the pandemic thinking of ways we could incorporate more traveling into our lives in the near future. Once we got clear on what we wanted to do and when the borders opened up, we decided to take the jump to pursue a nomad lifestyle around Europe!

    How We Decide Our Next Destination

    Our method is quite simple – we keep an ongoing note in our phone of everywhere we want to go. The locations on this list are derived from our own personal bucket lists, as well as people we meet along the way! We love word-of-mouth recommendations so a lot of our destinations are inspired by the excitement of others!

    From there, we have the months written out of when we will be traveling, and we just plug in the locations that make the most geographic sense for that period of time!


    Duration Of Our Trips

    When we are nomading, we live in one location for about 4-6 weeks. We book the monthly rate on Airbnb and use that unit as our “home base.” Instead of paying for rent back in the States, we use all of that money towards this and it works out pretty evenly! This system gives us plenty of time to work, live, and travel in that location!

    We prepare for each move by making sure we have appropriate clothes for the climate we are about to enter (or we buy new items when we get there). We double-check any visa or entry requirements well in advance. Also, we keep a list of ideas of places we want to see when we’re there. I find my best inspiration from word-of-mouth recommendations, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

    But it really is more of a “go with the flow” operation, and there’s only so much planning we can do! As long as we have the basics set, we take things one thing at a time.


    How We're Able To Pursue Full-Time Traveling

    We started talking about moving abroad together in 2019/2020, however once COVID hit we really started brainstorming as much as possible. Around May 2021, we became aware of the concept of nomading around and doing monthly Airbnb rentals. And by July 2021, we had our one-way ticket booked!

    We actually didn’t quit our jobs and just work remotely! That is why we are able to do such long sustained travel. We treat this more like “travel-living” rather than hardcore traveling, because we still do all of the normal stuff from home like cooking, cleaning, staying in, walking around parks, going to restaurants, etc. Especially during the week!

    I look at it like having our own apartment, we just happen to pack up and switch locations every month. The huge bonus of this, though, is that on weekends and in our free time, we’ll casually be able to go somewhere really cool… like the Colosseum!


    The major compromise we have to make in order to pursue this lifestyle is giving up a lot of comforts from home.

    Like the luxury of having your entire wardrobe accessible, appliances you’re familiar with, the ease of having packages delivered to your door, grocery stores we’re accustomed to, and seeing friends and family on a more consistent basis.

    However, to us, the tradeoff is worth it because there are many more upsides than downsides. We are living out our dreams and that’s what really matters to us!

    Favorite Memories Of Exploring With Other Travelers

    During our first month of traveling, we went to our favorite local gelato shop in Rome. We were laughing because we got addicted to this place and this was already our third night in a row.

    When we arrived, there was this couple there who were saying to each other “this is our third time here!” And my big mouth blurted out, “US TOO!!”

    That is when we met some of our absolute best travel friends, Mike and Brent! We sat together at this gelato shop and talked for a few hours discussing our lifestyles, plans, and everything in between. We even realized we were both going to be in Prague in December of that year! So, not only did we have this wonderful time in Rome enjoying gelato together, but we got to reunite a few months later in Prague for a Christmas orchestra concert and a night out at a market!


    I truly believe this was a complete travel synchronicity. I have such a special place in my heart for Brent and Mike, and it blows my mind that our paths crossed on a totally different continent. We all have such similar outlooks and values because we were all living a pretty non-conventional travel lifestyle! You just never know when magical moments like this are going to happen on your adventure. Turns out, some of the best friendships can be started merely from getting a scoop of gelato!

    Countries We Have Traveled To So Far

    We traveled to 11 countries in the 11 months we were nomading!

    My top three favorites were:

    Italy: For the food and the culture. Plus, I have ancestors from Italy and I feel very connected to it!

    London: I felt very at home here. Everything we got to experience was right up my alley – West End Musical Theatre shows, amazing dining, parks, going out for tea, etc.

    Croatia: This was my biggest surprise! I am still in awe of how incredible this country is, particularly the vibrancy of the scenery and the water! Plus, Mamma Mia 2 was filmed here which is my favorite movie of all time.

    My top bucket list destinations right now are the Nordic countries, especially Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark!


    Inspiration For Starting Our Blog

    I have always had such a passion for writing about travel experiences. It all started during my scrapbooking days when I was just 10 years old – my Mom and I would spend hours creating books about the trips we had been on. Reliving the adventures after the fact made me appreciate our travels on such a deeper level.

    Then when I began working at Disney, I used to write Disney Trip Reports on a website called Disboards. They were an absolute treasure to me and that was my first real-time cultivating a community of like-minded travelers who felt the same excitement about the world that I did!


    Nowadays, I love to write about our Nomad Life Adventures. My blog’s mission is to ultimately help people find magic in the world around them. I am a true travel storyteller and I love to make my readers feel like they’re traveling alongside us. So, whether they are planning a trip or just reading for pure entertainment, they can still get a lot out of the posts.

    My blog includes both stories and tangible advice, with the hope that these new perspectives inspire readers to develop an even deeper appreciation for our beautiful world. (and maybe even add a few things to their own bucket list!)

    How We Manage Costs

    Essentially the same way we do at home! One key thing we did was eliminate a lot of expenses (such as car and apartment) and then replace them with our travel expenses. (trains, planes, Airbnb’s, etc.)

    And we also are always on the hunt for deals! Traveling overseas is actually much cheaper in the US, it’s quite extraordinary. You can find flights for $50 or train tickets that are dirt cheap. You just need to be on the lookout!

    We also utilize travel credit cards! Chase Sapphire Preferred is our go-to and it has helped us on quite a few occasions!


    How I Manage Work & Travel

    It’s a very delicate balance. But weekdays are set aside as workdays! Since we work EST, we wake up in the morning and either take it slow, do some chores, or fit in a quick sightsee/lunch. Then once 2 o’clock rolls around, we buckle down and work for the rest of the night.

    Then weekends are completely fair game for doing whatever we want!


    It actually works very well for us! Setting up this routine is what I believe leads to our success in finding balance.

    However, one note I want to make is that we have realized that it is important to incorporate rest time! It’s so easy to fall into the “go go go” trying to see it all. We had to come to a point of acceptance that seeing it all is physically impossible. And that’s okay! The most important thing is to make sure we are healthy and well-rested so we can continue on our journey!

    Skills That A Full-Time Traveler Should Have

    Flexibility – Whether it be train delays, adjusting locations, strange happenings, or more, being flexible is key to the travel lifestyle. The more you can laugh things off and go with the flow, the better your experience will be. Things are just so unpredictable sometimes but I truly like to believe there’s “unseen magic” going on behind the scenes, aligning us for something greater in the long run. (major trust in the Universe on that one!)

    Detachment – If you are someone who needs to be in control of every single little thing, then I would advise working on the art of “detachment and allowing” before pursuing a travel lifestyle. Things are very fluid out there and if you are holding a super tight grip onto the way things “should” go, then you may miss out on the beauty that’s trying to naturally unfold before you. (that’s a pretty good lesson in life in general though, eh?)

    Open Mindedness – Traveling will naturally open you up to cultures and customs that are very unlike the ones you have at home. The more you can keep an open mind, the more you may realize that there are ways of doing/seeing things that may be better than you ever imagined! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that there is no one “right way” to do things – it’s all based on people’s perceptions, backgrounds, and upbringings. This allows me to distinguish what feels true to me, but also respect that there are many differences out there that are also completely valid and wonderful, too.


    GAFFL For Travelers

    GAFFL is awesome because it presents an opportunity to build community while traveling! Sometimes you can’t wait for the people you know from home to drop everything and go with you – but GAFFL finds people who are on your same wavelength! Which is really cool. I love that companies like this exist nowadays!

    Our “must use” apps are definitely..
    GetYourGuide for all of our experience booking! We trust them and always have a good experience. If not GetYourGuide, then we book experiences with Airbnb! As well as all of our living accommodations! Omio for train bookings. Hopper for flight price watching. (turn on those notifications!)

    And then Google Maps is a MUST! We really utilize the list feature there so we can make lists for each country we’re in.


    Advice For Remote Workers Who Want To Pursue Full-time Traveling

    If it’s your dream, just go for it! No one is going to come around and give you the golden permission slip that it’s time to go. And quite frankly, you don’t need them to!

    Get clear on what you want and set your intention that you’re going to get there. Listen to your intuition. And even if you feel called to do something that is seemingly “random,” it may be leading you to something better than you could have even imagined!

    I know it’s a little morbid, but we’re all going to die someday. You only have so many years in this lifetime and you never know when your time will conclude. Spend your life truly living and doing the thing you actually want to do. Not because society told you to. Not to please anyone else, to climb a corporate ladder, or to receive external validation.

    Do things because they LIGHT YOU UP and you think there would be joy there. Chase that joy. We’re on this earth to have fun, and I think it’s easy to forget that sometimes.

    Life is a gift. Go out and live it. Everything is “figure-outable,” especially traveling. It’s one of the most flexible lifestyle choices I know! Just get a little creative with it.

    And trust me, there’s no better feeling than saying “we really did it!”

    To learn more about Jess and her travels, be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Instagram.

    Other uplifting stories worth checking out! 

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