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March 1, 2012

LegalNomads.com — "I tend to buy a one-way ticket and then just see."


Not-all-that-long story (in last Sunday's New York Times Travel section) shorter: Jodi Ettenberg (above, between two Pa-O tribeswomen in Myanmar) began dreaming about traveling as a way of life while she was in high school in the mid-nineties, but only after going to law school and then working as an attorney in New York City for five years did she decide in 2008 to bag the office and buy a one-way ticket to Chile.

She's been on the road ever since "and her blog, LegalNomads.com, has become a resource for those who want to try it."

Some exchanges from Rachel Lee Harris's Times Q&A with the peripatetic one-time lawyer follow.

Here are excerpts from a conversation about making travel your job instead of your vacation.

Q. What is it about long-term travel that appeals to you?

A. It's getting up every day to discover all the quirks of where you're going; learning about the foods and the history, and how it all kind of weaves together; and meeting people, making connections.

Q. What’s the minimum one should save for a year of travel?

A. $10,000 to $15,000 a year, primarily in places like Southeast Asia or South America, is feasible. In Australia or Europe, it would be more.

Q. Do you work when you’re on the road?

A. I didn't at the beginning, but there are a lot of people who do — travel writers, which I am now. People work at hostels or teach English or work as chefs, skills that are very portable.

Q. Do you ever get lonely?

A. I don't usually get lonely because technology makes it really easy to meet people everywhere. Something like Twitter, for example, allows me to say, "I'm here, is anyone else in town?"

Q. How do you plan your trips?

A. I don't really have a schedule. I tend to buy a one-way ticket and then just see. 

Q. What do you pack for a long journey?

A. I bring a sarong because you can use it as a pillowcase, as a cover-up on the beach or as a towel, as a shawl or as a head scarf. I keep portable chopsticks in my purse because while the food is safe in almost every country I've been to, sometimes the cutlery is not really washed. I carry a headlamp for when the power goes out.

Q. You're a woman traveling alone. What precautions do you take?

A. The little things I do are carry a safety whistle and a doorstop, which makes a sound if someone is trying to get in my room. I don't drink on the road very much. I will pay a little more to stay at a place that is centrally located.

What I tell people, women especially, is to take a two-week trip with a small company, like Geo Trekkers, first and then extend your stay three or four weeks alone after. It will get you more comfortable.     

I'm thinking there are a lot of lawyers — in Gotham and elsewhere — who, sitting at their desks buried in paper, read this with longing and dreamy thoughts of following in Ms. Ettenberg's metaphorical footsteps.

A journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step.


Note added at 12:36 p.m.: I've been reading Ms. Ettenberg's blog posts for the past hour or so. 

She's a wonderful writer and I think I might just bag whatever else I'd planned to do today and just settle in with Gray Cat for a long, pleasant afternoon of vicarious adventuring. 

March 1, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Very intriguing site, I admire her and wish I was more like her.

Posted by: JoePeach | Mar 1, 2012 7:50:30 PM

The student loan goons would follow those associates to the end of the earth....

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Mar 1, 2012 12:12:58 PM

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