What Inspired Me To Start Traveling
thought of travel never crossed my mind for most of my life. I was a huge nerd
focusing 110% of my energy and focus on training to become a top physical
therapist. Before starting my doctoral program, I had to do an internship in a
physical therapy clinic across the US.
I met a new
friend in the clinic who invited me out for a beer. She casually mentioned that
she’d always wanted to travel to Thailand, but was scared to go alone. I was in
a YOLO mode, and despite just meeting her, I said, “I’ll go with you.” And I did.
We spent a month
backpacking Thailand, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I’d been so
focused on my career that I didn’t realize traveling long-term was even a
After I got back from Thailand, I
asked my doctoral program to save my seat for a year so I could backpack the
“Gringo Trail” through Central and South America. Halfway through that year, I
decided never to go back.
I was hooked on this lifestyle of
freedom and adventure, and I can’t imagine ever going back to “normal” life.
Choosing The Next Travel Destination
Well, recently our
decisions are mainly based on the pandemic situation. We were stuck on an island
in Cambodia when the pandemic hit. Our home is in Colombia, but their borders
were closed tight. We didn’t really want to go to the U.S., but that was our
We ended up using
the lemons to make lemonade, bought a campervan, and spent six months traveling
around the U.S. — an adventure we never knew we needed until circumstances
forced us into it.
In non-COVID times,
we just play it by ear. I have a list of places I want to see, we look for
cheap flights and any cool events going on in those areas, and we piece
together a route from there.
Length Of Our Trips
have kind of blended together, so
it’s hard to say. When I was getting
to my wife (then girlfriend) while living in Colombia, we took a few month-long
trips to Bolivia and Patagonia. We also
take shorter 1-2 week trips to nearby destinations in Colombia.
But apart from that, our trips
normally don’t have definitive end dates. We buy one-way tickets and figure it
out from there.
Nowadays I don’t do nearly
as much preparing as I used to. I like to keep things flexible, so if we plan to visit
several countries, I just jot down a list of the top things I’d like to do in
each country. I have a rough
potential route in my mind, but we are constantly changing plans and normally
make decisions on the go.
The Packing Manual I Follow
My backpack looks way different now than it did when I first started traveling in 2015, and it kind of makes me sad.
When I first
started, I didn’t carry anything of value. Just clothes, an old iPhone, and my
handy-dandy hair buzzer. Those were simpler times.
Now that I have to actually earn
money and run a business while traveling, we have multiple laptops, tablets,
phones, tripods, drones, hard drives, keyboards, and trackpads...it’s kind of
I enjoy the
freedom that running a location independent business gives me, but I also miss
the good ol’ days of carefree travel.
Favorite Memory Of Meeting New People
Oh boy, there’s just too many.
After meeting my wife, my entire life has become non-stop
exploring with locals.
But one of my very first experiences exploring with locals
was during that initial trip to Thailand.
I was on Koh Tao hunting for a party by myself. It was
the first time I’d ever ventured out alone, which as you probably can remember, is extremely exciting.
into a Thai girl who was also on vacation. She not only didn’t speak a lick of
English, but she was also deaf and mute. We walked around together the entire
night, trying different foods, dancing, and people-watching — communicating for
hours by acting things out and using Google Translate.
The Incident That Prompted Me To Start My Own Blog
I finally settled down in Colombia, my savings account was running dry. And after meeting Day in salsa class,
I realized having a girlfriend is expensive! So I started desperately trying to
figure out how to start earning money online.
absolutely no clue what I was doing, and I latched on to the first idea I
stumbled on — creating an Amazon FBA store. Long story short, I lost the
remainder of my savings.
digging, I realized Amazon wasn’t the only option, there are literally HUNDREDS
of ways to make money while traveling.
That’s when it hit me.
There had to
be other travelers out there like me who were trying to figure out how to
transition from backpacker to a permanent travel lifestyle. People who were
clueless (like I was) about all the opportunities there are to earn on the
So I started to
put together a super-mega-ultra list of best travel jobs — the most
ginormous list the world has ever seen.
That way, I
could help newbies avoid making my mistake and latching on to the first random
money-making idea they come across.
From there, the
Project Untethered mission was born — to provide all the resources people need
to build an “untethered” life, where they can support themselves financially
from anywhere in the world.
Number Of Countries Visited And Bucket List Destinations
I honestly don’t even know. I
don’t keep track. I’ve been to most countries in Central and South America,
some of the Caribbean, and a handful in Southeast Asia. If it weren’t for
COVID, it’d probably be a lot more, but we shifted plans and spent most of the
pandemic exploring national parks in the U.S.
My bucket list
destinations are Iceland, South Africa, Africa in general, and lesser-visited
Eastern European countries.
A Memorable Travel Experience
One of my more recent exciting
travel experiences was when we got quarantined on Koh Rong Samloem, a stunning
island off the coast of Cambodia. Most tourists deserted the island, and 90% of
businesses closed. So we basically had the entire island to ourselves for three
months. Best of all, we scored a luxurious beachside bungalow — a bungalow that
costs up to $180 per night during high season — for just $15 per night.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime
Challenges To Starting A Digital Nomad Lifestyle
It involved a
lot of learning and trial and error, but learning new things is exciting for
me. I was based in Colombia with an extremely low cost of living, which allowed
me to spend most of my time learning and testing new ideas.
The main reason it wasn’t so difficult
was that I was stationary in Colombia. But as soon as I started moving around
while traveling, everything changed. Balancing work and travel is a real
I love the
freedom, but I do miss being able to hang out in hostels, meet new people
all the time, and travel carefree.
As a digital
nomad, your travel style changes. You now have more money and more time. There
is less penny-pinching. But you also have more responsibilities. Nowadays, we normally
stay in Airbnbs, and between work and travel, there’s
much less time for partying
with strangers in hostels or traveling for days (or weeks) off the grid without an internet connection.
What I Believe A Digital Nomad Should Have To Sustain Full-Time Travels
Every digital nomad should have
travel insurance. I am
accident-prone. And travel insurance has covered two emergency surgeries for me
(among other expenses) and saved me over $15,000 in bills. I wrote all about my
experience in this Safetywing Insurance Review.
Seriously, without insurance,
you’re one misstep away from financial disaster. Don’t skip it.
My accident was
one of the biggest challenges I’ve had on the road, but fortunately, the
digital nomad lifestyle is extremely flexible.
Instead of flying home, we just
set up shop where we were. I lived in Bangkok for two months getting treatment
and physical therapy, then had a follow-up surgery six months later while
traveling through Cambodia.
Managing Cost During Travels
So far, most of our
travels have been in low cost-of-living countries (except the US, but van life
is cheap). That means it’s pretty easy to earn more than we are spending. We
always try to find good deals, so we’re not too worried about going over budget.
do keep track of all our expenses using the Toshl Finance app. This lets us
publish realistic digital nomad cost-of-living information on the Project
Untethered blog and Youtube channel.
How I Think GAFFL Can Be Helpful In Finding Travel Companions
I wish I
would’ve known about GAFFL when I first started traveling solo! Many cool
places on earth are expensive to visit without someone to share costs with. An
app that connects solo travelers to solve this problem is genius.
apps I use are Google Maps, Evernote, Skype, Toshl,
Cram (for making flashcards when studying a language, Xe (exchange
rates), Google Translate, Windy (weather), Booking,
Airbnb, TunnelBear (free VPN),
Wise, AllTrails. Most of those
aren’t necessarily travel
apps, but I use them often while
For van life, there’s a bunch of other ones: iOverlander,
Campendium, Dyrt, OpenSignal, etc.
Managing Work And Travel At The Same Time
My best advice is to not be afraid to adjust your travel
style whenever something doesn’t feel right.
while working can be ok for short stints, but it’s exhausting. You have to find
the right balance for yourself.
years of slow travel mixed with work, I’d like to experiment with a different
style. I think it could be cool to base yourself in a couple of different
countries per year where you focus on work (with longer visa options), then
take frequent 2-4 week mini-trips from that base where you completely
As a digital nomad, you may find that it’s hard to enjoy anything
100%. When you’re
working, you feel bad for cooping yourself up and not exploring
your destination. When you’re exploring, you feel bad because there is work to
I’m hoping that my new travel style experiment will help
I wish I’d
have known to go with the flow and be more flexible. When I first started, I
wanted to plan everything. It’s the natural thing to do as a brand new
traveler. You’re nervous and want everything to go according to plan.
But things rarely go according to
plan. And if you’re able to easily adjust your plans, you’ll have a more
learned that you’re never really solo as a solo traveler (if you don’t want to
be). It’s insanely easy to make friends, especially when staying at hostels or
tapping into the local community.
Lastly, solo travel has taught me
that I am capable of solving pretty much any problem that comes my way. When
you’re out alone in a foreign country where everyone speaks a different
language, you’re forced to figure things out. And when you do, it’s extremely