Tomorrow, May 1st, 2019, is the second anniversary of the best decision of our lives: we left Miami with our belongings on our backs and a list of goals to accomplish (many of which we didn’t know yet!).
23 countries and 75 cities later, we find ourselves in Playa del Carmen, Mexico – a year after of writing “How a Year of Traveling Around The World Has Changed Our Lives Forever” – and we’re still astonished at how things have turned out for us. Nothing to do with our “2-year adventure around the world.”
In the beginning, we had planned to spend a year in Southeast Asia and a year based somewhere in Europe so that we could travel about while running our blog as a full-time job.
Instead, our plans started changing 8 months in. We decided that we were ready to leave Asia and start exploring Europe a little early.
Because we didn’t have a home base, we continued to hop around, jumping from one country to the other; we spent the most time in the Balkans and in Spain.
This year has been a bit slower than the previous one.
Still, we’ve had our fair share of adventures: in the past 365 days, we:
Went on a month-long Euro trip (crossing countries via bus)
Attended our first travel blogging conference in Rotterdam
Spent the whole summer with family and friends in Spain and its beaches
Volunteered with “Small Project Istanbul”, an amazing non-profit organization, to help Syrian refugee families in Istanbul
Flew to the wrong airport in Germany
Missed our flight back to Miami
And, finally, reunited with our US family and friends after 2 years of being outside the US.
So, while this past year has been less adventurous than the one before it, it’s definitely been the most rewarding. Let’s recap.
About 11 months ago, we realized that even though we have this blog to thank for getting us to where we are now, it’s not the only thing that we want from our “digital nomad/location-independent” careers.
We love The Passport Memorandum, and this project will continue to live on indefinitely, but we’ve decided to open up to new possibilities not related to the travel industry.
We didn’t want to be a travel blog that does “everything for the ‘gram” – or one for whom getting free things is a priority. Instead, we decided to write the blog posts we want to write, and to get involved with unique projects and collaborations that really interest us.
Plus (and maybe more importantly) our savings started to run out last summer faster than we would have liked, and bringing in some cashflow became imperative. So, it was the perfect time to evolve and keep growing!
Getting to know ourselves and embracing our strengths
I’ve always thought of Robert as having an artist inside him that, throughout the years, has been “manifesting” itself in different ways: music, dancing, and in the last few years, photography.
Even though he has put his soul and countless hours into photography, he realized last year that he enjoys photography more as a hobby and way of seeing the world than as a full-time career.
So about 12 months ago, when a friend we met in Thailand offered him an entry-level position in SEO and digital marketing, he was really excited to embrace this new journey and use what he’s been a master at since he was a teenager: being a pro behind the computer.
12 months have now passed, and 2 freelance/contractor gigs later, he’s now at a much better position in the industry (still growing and learning), and we’ve been able to use all of his new experience and knowledge in personal projects that we hope will bring us extra cash in the future.
And what about me? Unlike Robert, I never really defined what I was especially good at or what my strengths were, so after decided to move away from the blog and do something else, I felt a little bit lost.
Fortunately, though, my decisive and tenacious spirit was ready to figure out my next big challenge: how to become my own boss.
I created Planless Travels, which brought me occasional travel-planning projects, and while I’m good at it, I discovered that I dislike dealing with things on the customer service end, so as soon as I could, I started looking for and trying new things.
Then, after a few translation gigs, I started to get into the world of Virtual Assistants.
What’s a virtual assistant? It’s essentially someone who assists business and entrepreneurs remotely and digitally. For example, you could find administrative virtual assistants (i.e., a “remote secretary”) or professional graphic designers, or even web developers to help your business remotely.
So, I created “Marta Pahino Virtual Assistant” and, in the span of 5 months, went from having 1 client to a having 5 long-term clients, where I was able to start specializing in doing the things I like most: the online marketing industry (social media management, website creation/management, and light graphic design).
Who could have predicted 2 years ago that, only 700+ days after leaving the corporate world, we’d be where we are now?
We’re not even close to where we want to get, but we’re definitely on the right path. We still have a lot of work left, but we’re completely sure that soon we’ll be reaping the rewards of what we’ve sown along the way.
Traveling will always be a priority
When we started, we said that we’d travel for 2 years – and after that, depending on how things worked out, we would see how we could manage to keep traveling and working.
It never fails: we’re always asked when we’re going to settle down somewhere, and where.
And, although we’ll be spending a few months in some of our upcoming destinations (rather than jumping from place to place), in the nearest future, we don’t see ourselves living in one place year-round. The idea, for now, is that we’ll probably have a European base during the European spring/summer, and a tropical base during the fall/winter months somewhere in the Caribbean.
And up until now, we can only say that we know where we’re going to be up until November of this year.
We currently don’t have to live somewhere based solely on location anymore thanks to our completely remote freelance jobs. So traveling will be always a priority in our lives: to learn and grow, to feed our adventurous souls and, of course, to spend time with our families and friends.
Money: how much did this last year of traveling around the world cost us?
This is probably the question that people are most curious about. How can we afford to travel so much? Well, here’s a quick summary:
We don’t have a rent or mortgage to pay anywhere, so our “rent” consists of the Airbnbs and occasionally, the hotels we rent at our destinations – we now spend half of what we used to spend for accommodation when we lived in Miami.
We don’t stay at luxury resorts. Most of the time we stay at the cheapest places with the best reviews we can find.
We don’t do a lot of the touristy stuff that most people do when visiting a new place (activities that are often pricey).
We cook at our Airbnb/apartments most of the time.
We don’t have kids or any other dependents that need our support.
We don’t buy things or clothes we don’t need.
Also, in the past 12 months, we have spent a total of 2 months with amazing friends and family, which helped with our accommodation costs this year.
These are only some of the basic rules we follow that allow us to live this lifestyle, but if you want to know, in numbers, what this last year has cost us, here’s the answer:
In the past 12 months, we spent about $23,700 (that includes everything – from accommodation and flights to any kind of miscellaneous expense). Although I track what we spend on a daily basis through an extensive Google sheet, I might have forgotten to write a few things down, so let's round it up to $25,000.
We basically lived out off our savings until we started to make some money mid-2018, and we recently started to break even (which is a big win for entrepreneurs and freelancers!). We feel proud of how we’ve been able to handle our finances: controlling ourselves without going crazy consuming everything we came across, yet still enjoying every minute of this journey along the way.
What’s next for us?
As we said, TPM isn’t done! There are so many more travel adventures coming up this year (and the next!). So far, we’ve confirmed our adventure in Mexico (got here a couple of days ago!), Cuba, Tanzania, Kenya, and Egypt! We’re also plotting a possible quick getaway to Italy and Portugal.
Aside from our travel plans, we’re focused on our online careers and businesses now and looking forward to a future that allows us to keep living wherever we want and that offers us the perfect balance of both work and play.
As I started saying in this post, our lives are at the point they’re at now because of all the twists and turns of the past 2 years, so our attitude toward our third year of traveling the world and working remotely is exactly the same: remain open-minded, learn new things, and stay flexible to whatever the journey may bring.
The truth is that when you try a bit of this kind of “freedom,” you get addicted; at this point, fear is not an option for us, and we’re “all in” with what the future has in store for us.