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Ep. 282: How This Digital Nomad Inspires Solo Female Travel with Julie Be Trippin’

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In this episode, I speak with Julie who is a digital nomad who has been traveling full-time for almost two years. Originally from New York City, she now lives out of AirBnBs in whatever country is calling her name. 

Julie is passionate about human rights and directs her own non-profit project building technology for human rights research and investigations. On the side, she shares practical travel tips on TikTok and Instagram for aspiring or current digital nomads and solo travelers.

Listen on to find out how this digital nomad has inspired solo female travel.


Listen Below:

 

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone! Thank you so much for being here, I am so excited to speak with my guests today.

I’m here with Julie.

Hi, Julie, how are you?

Julie:

Hi! Good, thank you so much for having me.

Debbie:

Thank you so much for being here with us!

Before we get to pretty much most of the things that you’ve done, can you tell us a little bit about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Julie:

So, I am a full-time digital nomad and I have been traveling full-time for almost two years now. So I don’t have a home, no apartment, everything I own I keep in a couple suitcases that come with me wherever I go.

And I should have counted the countries I’ve been to, but it’s been about one country for a month, for two years. So, a lot of different places and I just work remotely and make an income through that and get to enjoy experiences and life on their own.

Debbie:

That is amazing, which is, I’m pretty sure most of our listeners are trying to do as well. Now, how did you get started with becoming a digital nomad? I know you’ve been doing this for several years now. How did you start that and kind of jump into it?

Julie:

I do have to give a minor shout out to covid because it made everyone learn how to use online tools. So, I’ve always worked in the human rights field and very quickly realized that technology was desperately needed in the human rights arena. And so I self-taught myself different tech skills, never went to school for it wasn’t necessarily proficient in any one thing. But always used kind of various tech skills to do human rights work.

Now that’s work that can just be done behind a computer, but for years, everyone just assumed that you had to be in an office for some reason. So, I had quite a few jobs where I was, you know, I’d walk in, I’d sit in my cubicle, I’d be on the computer all day. But I was told I had to come to an office once covid hit. I was able to, well, this is actually a little bit before covid, let me not rewrite history, I started working for a company that wasn’t where I lived. I was living in New York City. I didn’t wanna move.

And I said, “Listen, I’m going to stay over here, but I’ll be available if you need me to come in from time to time.”, and so we kind of, we built that relationship up of, “okay, she can be away, but is still within the area when we need her.”.

And then covid happened and everyone learned how to use video chat and from then I think the people I was working for and myself realized that there’s really no reason for me to be in person or traveling and spending money on travel to meetings that can all just be hosted online. So I turned my career into kind of a fully remote gig.

Debbie:

That is pretty incredible. And yeah, shout out to covid because even though it’s, it’s a horrible thing, it has allowed remote work to really flourish and so many more people are able to live a freedom type of lifestyle that they’ve never even had before even imagined.

Now, you became, not just a remote worker where you’re, you know, you could work from anywhere, but there’s a lot of remote workers out there that has a home base and they don’t really travel often, but you went in another direction, you became a digital nomad and you ended up, like you had mentioned, you traveled to a different place, like every month. Why did you decide to do that?

Julie:

Travel has just always been such a passion. I always wanted to do human rights work, but one of the benefits of that is that you do get to travel a lot if you work in like the international arena. And I thought, okay, it’s enough to go on work trips every once in a while. And I realized I was getting much later in my twenties than I would like, and I hadn’t seen all of the things I wanted to see. And so I didn’t go full throttle. I started working remotely and the first trip I took was just back home to see my parents for the holidays, because I used to get to see them one week a year when I took paid time off for Christmas. And I went back and I spent November, December and January with them. And I was living in New York city, which is cold as heck then, and I hate the cold and they were in Arizona.

And I was like, “Wait, I just skipped winter. Like, this is something that I can do. I don’t have to deal with winter.”. So, I thought, “All right, I like this on the road lifestyle. I like being a snowbird.”, is what Arizonians call people who come and ditch their cold homes. I tried sub-letting my apartment, thinking I need my stuff. I’m not ready to just give up everything I own. And I hated being a landlord. And I got so detached from the things in my home. I really hated being a landlord. It is not fun. You know, I was so often without those things, like what’s a couch when you’re never sitting on it, you know? And so I just, I was like, let me, let me get rid of it.

The hardest thing to do was actually letting go of my apartment, cause I did have the best apartment in Brooklyn. So, I held on longer than I should because I didn’t want to get that place up. But I did. And there has been really no looking back since I don’t regret it. Like at all. There’s no days where I really sit there and miss having that home. Sometimes, I miss moving a lot, but I don’t miss the stuff. Like I just don’t and so I’ve been able to explore and go everywhere. I wanted to go and yeah, I just don’t even think about it. I know it’s atypical. Probably not for your guests on this podcast, but a lot of people are like, “Wow, you really live out of suitcases”, and “yeah, I do.”. It’s possible.

Debbie:

I love that.

Yeah and I could vouch for the fact that, Julie leaving that apartment was a huge deal because finding that in New York city right now is pretty much impossible, let me tell you, but yeah, I mean you’re living your life right now, the way that you want to live, but also were you traveling during the pandemic? Because that must have been really tough too.

Julie:

Not when it was like not safe to. I was in New York for that, shout out to all the new Yorkers who powered through the pandemic era together.

Right when it got reasonably safe to, is when I went and visited my parents and then yeah, was able from then on to start traveling full time. So, it has been difficult to travel through covid, I’m a believer in covid and the dangers of it.

So, I wasn’t doing anything super risky. I think the few trips I took, you know, I would go to some place, get tested before, get tested after, stay in, make sure I wasn’t exposing anyone. So, it added, it definitely added additional logistics, but was still so worth it. And yeah, luckily never had an issue and I think did it relatively safely, so.

Debbie:

It definitely changed the way we all traveled. And thank goodness. Now things are kind of getting back to normal. It’s not the same, obviously, but at least we can travel again. It’s not as chaotic as it was before, but you were able to transition to this life, to fully go into it.

How did you make it sustainable for yourself? Because one of the things that I hear from digital nomads and what I had gone through when I did travel quite a bit for, for work is when you are traveling that often, it can become really exhausting.

How do you make that sustainable for yourself? And you’ve been doing this for, for a while now as well.

Julie:

Yeah. So, a couple things make it easier. One is I’m at a later point in my career, so, I have more money than I did when I was a young budget traveler.

And I keep the same standard of living wherever I go. Like, that’s one thing that’s important to me. I’ve learned that I can’t live without a washing machine. Like, I work out every day and I don’t have enough clothes to get me through the week.

There’s gotta be a washing machine in my apartment. And that means you’re paying a premium and a lot of AirBnBs and younger Julie could not afford that.

But now I have the resources to, which I know not everyone has, but it’s those small things. You just have to realize what makes you comfortable? Like, that’s my one thing I won’t give up where I live. There’s a lot of comforts I’ll give up, that one I won’t, like dryers, I never, I never get a place with a dryer, so my jeans never look good, but the washing machine I keep, but, yeah, so it’s having that freedom and moving slow, I think is, is the key.

There’s like a new term, ‘slowmad’. I don’t think I’m a slowmad, because usually they stay for maybe three to six months, maybe try and get some type of visa. I’ve never. Most Americans get, which I’m an American. Most Americans get 90 days in whatever country they go to.

I’ve never overstay that, but I do stay long enough to get a routine and to get comfortable. So, you know, I find my grocery stores the first week. I find if I’m gonna go to a gym, a gym or where I’m gonna a running path and I keep that routine for six weeks, four weeks, eight weeks, sometimes it varies, but it allows me to keep my same lifestyle.

I’ve actually, I have pretty bad ADHD. And I was never someone who was able to keep a routine before, but even like a consistent workout program. But because everything else in my life changes so much, keeping a work routine, a workout routine has actually become so much easier for me, a good sleep schedule because it’s the one thing that I can keep consistent.

So, I’ve had a lot of mental health benefits from it too. And I realized I like working evenings. That’s also really helped me be more sustainable in this work, which is, which is just a personal thing. I don’t know if I can generalize that, but being in New York through winters, you wake up, you’d go to the office or sit at home. If you have a remote job, then maybe 5:00 PM, that’s your time to do stuff and it’s dark out and I need sunshine.

And so with this flexibility, I have spent a lot of time in Europe or in Africa because most of the people I work with are in the US and I’m six to seven hours ahead of them. So, right now I’m in Kenya and it is 6:00 PM for me. And this is like my work sweet spot versus, you know, it’s 11 in New York.

Yeah, I would’ve barely gotten my day started. So, that’s just a personal thing. But it’s something that I’ve found was like, so freeing with remote work was not having to wake up, not having to keep like a nine to five schedule.

Debbie:

Yeah, definitely.

And you know, it’s the routine, right? Because when you have your regular nine to five, most of the time people will complain that it’s their routine. They hate it, but it’s not technically the routine that you hate. It’s the routine that’s given to you that you hate.

So, like you found out Julie, that you love working at night, you know, and some people love waking up early in the morning. I don’t really think that there’s a one size fits all in terms of that. I think you just have to figure out when you work best and it’s different for everybody.

So, I love that you were able to figure that out. Now, one thing that you did mention was that you also have a routine, not just for your work, but also your lifestyle when you are in a different place. And that is super important because then you kind of feel like you are living there. You feel like a little bit of a local, even though if it’s just for a month or two.

Now, if you find that you enjoy the place that you are in, how do you keep moving? Do you ever get tempted to stay? Do you ever stay, how do you figure out what you’re gonna do or where you’re gonna be after, after that? And what do you do if you actually really love it and you enjoy it?

Julie:

Yeah. So, I don’t plan ahead. I, I think it’s either the result of me having ADHD or being a Sagittarius or a combination of both. But, I can tell you right now, I have this Airbnb book through next Friday, and I have no idea where I’m going after. And that doesn’t stress me one bit because I take it day by day. I don’t know if I wanna stay in the current neighborhood or city I’m living right now. We’ll see if I do I extend if not onto the next no place has caught me enough where I’m willing to try and go through a visa process. And I’m in a place in my life right now where I like not having too many connections. I’ve been calling this my selfish years where I’m not taking care of anyone, no kids, no partner, no pet, no home.

And I don’t wanna start building those kind of, one thing that’s hard about being on the road, let me put it this way is you miss people. Of course you don’t get to see them as often. And so the deeper connections and bonds you build in places, it certainly gets harder and harder to leave. And I’m not saying I make superficial connections by any means, but I don’t stay long enough to where it’s a heart wrenching goodbye. I make friends, we keep in touch.

It’s “I’ll see you later,” but I’m not trying to fall in love in a country or with a country. So, it hasn’t happened yet to where I’ve really felt the need to stay long term. But I have been to places where I would’ve liked to stay longer, but life happens. I sometimes do go to work events and conferences in the US friends get married. Friends have babies, stuff happens with family. And so, I haven’t had a stretch longer than two months where there hasn’t been something knocking on my door that I’ve had to head back for. And then usually that’s my reason to switch locations. And it’s worked out like that pretty consistently so far.

Debbie:

And that’s the beauty of it because you have that flexibility. So you can take your work with you wherever you go. And you did mention not having those types of relationships where it is like a deep bond. And I’m pretty sure you have that with your family and friends back home.

How do you get over, you know, those moments where things happen and you feel like you need to talk to somebody or not just talk because we can all do that, right? We can Skype, we can FaceTime, but just have that meaningful connection with someone that’s like face to face. And maybe you feel lonely sometimes. How do you get over that when you are away from home, away from close relationships and friendships?

Julie:

That is a really good question. I haven’t had too many of those low moments. And I think if it ever happened that severely I would pack up and go visit someone. But, I know for a lot of people, that’s not a possibility or a reality, especially, if you’re on some sort of visa, you can’t leave and come back. But one thing I did, I remember, I think it was last November.

I was in Croatia and started getting pretty bad seasonal depression, which I would get in New York, but I was like, I”‘m in Croatia, there’s sun, what’s happening?”, and that was the first time where I really felt like, “oh, I wish someone here was looking out for me”, because I don’t have, you know, you just don’t have that person there who’s looking after you. I cured it with a virtual therapist and jogs along the beach every morning and laying out in the sun until the sun healed me.

But you build a toughness. There’s no, there’s no cure, you know, for times like that, there’s no real cure for loneliness, but you do learn how to be more self-reliant and independent and realize that you can get through things alone.

So, it definitely makes you more of a strong person when you can’t see your friends and family close. But New York is also a great training ground for that because when I was living there, I was in Brooklyn and my friends were on the upper east side and that’s an hour commute, at least, we’re seeing each other, maybe once a month, you know, like New York friendships, New York relationships. My friends in the Bronx, I saw once every two months, it was a good training for like, not seeing the people you love often. But it, you know, it’s comfort having people nearby and it is, it is different not having that sort of comfort zone for sure.

Debbie:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It’s it’s funny and New York is like that. And also people work so much that you barely see each other and like another borough is like another state or another country for us. It’s like, yeah, if I have to travel that much. If I had to get out of my neighborhood, then that’s too much for me.

But also it’s traveling solo, it is one of those things that really allows you to see what you’re capable of. Because when you’re surrounded by comfort and people that you know, things that you know, places that you understand, it becomes of a comfort zone, right? It becomes something that you take for granted. And then all of a sudden, you go out into the world, you do things on your own and it’s hard, but then you start figuring things out and you become really proud of yourself too. It’s like, “oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did this.”. Even eating on your own is a huge accomplishment.

Julie:

Exactly.

Debbie:

So, now that you are doing this, do you foresee yourself doing it for longer? Or do you see yourself slowing down, maybe finding a place that you can settle in?

Julie:

Man, I don’t know. I went into it thinking, “eh, this last three months, six months, we’ll see.”. All my friends were like, “You’re such a New Yorker. True and true. You’ll be back here in a year.” And now it’s been two and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon, but I do think some roots might be nice in a bit, but I don’t have that desire right now.

I think if I were to ease back into having a home, I’d maybe get a place that I could Airbnb for long periods, so that I could still, you know, pop off to another country when I want. But I’m still in selfish Julie year and I’m still loving it. I think the things that ease people out of this are finding, you know, a connection with someone that you wanna be with, either you travel together or you have to stay with where they are or you know, something in life I’m sure will bring me tie me down somewhere, but I’m not ready for it yet.

So, I got at least a year left in me, but it could be five, who knows?

Debbie:

Yeah. I mean, it seems like the road is still calling you and you’re gonna follow it until, you know, it stops, it stops calling you, but when you go off into a different location and I know you said you don’t really make plans, how do you choose your next place?

How do you choose the next place that you’re going to be in? Is there like a list that you have, or you kind of just figure that out as you go?

Julie:

Yeah, I wish I had more strategy, it would save me a lot of money if I wasn’t such a last minute person, but I know what I like, which is sunshine in like 70 degrees. So, I will seasonally, seasonally I will only pick, you know, which destinations have good weather at the time.

And I only speak English and I used to speak Spanish. I’m sure if I went to a Spanish speaking country, it would come back enough, but those are limitations for me. I don’t wanna be in a place where I really can’t get by with either of those languages.

So that limits me and then time zone as well. I know a lot of nomads go to Bali, go to Thailand. I’m not ready for that big of a time zone jump, especially cause even though I work remotely, I work with a lot of Americans and I just don’t wanna wake up in the middle of the night.

You know, I don’t wanna be calling my family or like, so that kind of puts me in a certain, you know, there’s certain destinations that fit all of those criteria. And then I go where my heart desires.

I’m in Kenya right now because I saw a documentary on ‘The Great Migration”, which is when millions of wildebeests cross over through Tanzania in Kenya. And it looked fascinating. And I said, “I wanna see that” and so I hopped on a plane and now I’m in Kenya.

And then I saw that Mount Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. And so I said, “maybe I’ll hike that mountain, which I actually am training to hike”. That’s not something you could ever take lightly, but I’ve built up enough confidence doing this solo travel thing that I think I can do anything. And Mount Kilimanjaro will be the test if it’s way over confidence which definitely might be.

But, so I’m gonna go to Tanzania next and then yeah, we’ll see, there’s an endless bucket list, but I think most travelers know the more you travel, the more locations you add to your list. So, every time I knock something off, 10 more things get added.

Debbie:

And even places that you are introduced to because maybe there are certain things you didn’t even know about places you didn’t even hear about. And then you meet somebody when you’re traveling and they introduce you to it and then you become really intrigued and you wanna go there as well.

Julie:

Yeah, exactly. So yeah, it just, it’s an endless addition to the list.

Debbie:

I love it. I find it so incredible that you’re able to do this and you’re able to see the world and still create income, doing what you do and see all of these incredible things.

So, Julie, let’s fast forward to maybe 40 to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life.

What legacy would you like to leave and what do you wanna be remembered for?

Julie:

Oh wow. Debbie with the deepest questions ever. That, that one I need to sleep on.

I think I will be really proud of myself for taking this time though, because this has been a childhood dream that I can’t believe I’m living. Like, I don’t know if you’ve seen that TikTok trend where people are like showing pictures of their younger self like, she would be so proud.

I know like 10 year old, Julie, 15 year old Julie would be like, “You’re kidding me. You get to live in whatever country you want. And you’re working in human rights, which is like your passion. Like how, how did you, how did you make this happen?”. So I, the same way I don’t plan travel destinations. I don’t plan ahead. I knew this was always what I wanted my life to look like. And I never thought farther in the future from there so that’s like a daunting existential question to ask me, you know, 40, from 50 years from now what the rest of my life will be.

But I know, I know I’ll be proud of myself for doing this cause it did take some guts to get rid of everything. I didn’t know the term digital nomad when I did it. I didn’t know anyone else who had done this. I didn’t know it was a lifestyle other people led. I just knew I wanted to do it. And I thought maybe I could make it work and I have, and I have, you know, it’s especially difficult I think, for women who are, I will give my age, I rarely do, but I’m, I’m nearing 30 in a couple months. It’s staring me down in my face. And this is the time when we’re supposed to be getting married, seriously dating at least, having children. I had two friends have babies just this past month.

And so it does, I think also take some courage to stand against that and be like, “that’s not exactly what I want my life to look like”. And I’m not gonna take the time pressure that society gives me that I’m too old to be running around the world single without, you know, but that’s what I want. And I’ve seen a lot of other women kind of go in the direction they think they’re supposed to and then feel unfulfilled. And I think because I’m doing this now, whatever timeline I end up on, I’ll be happy that I made the time for this. My Julie selfish years, I don’t know if I answered your question, Debbie, but that’s the best I can give you.

Debbie:

I mean, yeah, at the end of the day, you have to really understand what you want, right? Because you, I feel like people say we can’t have everything, but in a lot of ways, we really can’t, right? Cause sometimes you have to sacrifice certain things to achieve certain things.

And especially as women, specifically as women, you know, and there are certain things that if you wanna have children, there’s just certain ages where you can’t anymore. But, also if you have children, there’s just certain things that you can’t do because you wanna make sure you’re taking care of them the best possible way.

But you know, there’s a lot of moms that have done that as well and traveled with their family. But at the end of the day, it’s just understanding what you want with your life and also understanding what it is that you are doing and if it’s right for you and if you’re doing that, then that’s what you should be doing.

And if it’s right for you and if you’re doing that, then that’s what you should be doing. And I feel like choices are a good thing for everybody. And thank God we’re living at a time that we, we are now because there’s so many choices for us, especially women.

And now with remote work, we can do all of these incredible things and you know, 30, 40, 50 years, even 10 years ago, if you’re doing what you’re doing, it would be like saving, having life savings to do it because you wouldn’t have remote work.

And now it’s such a huge possibility for almost everybody. So, it’s pretty incredible. And you’re definitely one of the people that someone will look to Julie and be like, yeah, I could totally do something similar to that, which is pretty awesome. And I think a good legacy to leave as well.

Julie:

Aww, thank you. Yeah. I hope more people realize that it’s a possibility, cause I have started hearing, you know, a lot that, “oh, I would love to travel or I’m living vicariously or I wanna do what you do”, and I’m like, “hold on, you could, hold on.”.

Like, let’s talk about this. “You do taxes. I’m pretty sure you could do taxes online.”. You know, it’s like you, I think it’s just too, it’s getting more normalized, but it’s still a pretty unconventional offbeat lifestyle where people don’t even consider it a possibility. And the more we normalize it, the more people can start kind of living this lifestyle, which is a dream for a lot of us.

Debbie:

Yeah, absolutely.

Well, thank you so much, Julie, for being here with us, for sharing your journey with us.

If our listeners wanna learn more about you, where can they find you?

Julie:

I am on Instagram and newly on TikTok and my @ is JulieBeTrippin’.

So it’s my name. And then B E T R I P P I N.

And yeah, if you’re interested in the nomad life, I do post all about how to make it work.

I specifically made the accounts not to be like, “look at me here”, but more to try and normalize this and make people realize it’s, it’s a possibility.

So, if you’re interested, check me out or send me a DM, I’m always happy to answer any questions.

Debbie:

I love that. Well, thank you so much, Julie. We really appreciate you!

Julie:

Thank you, Debbie!


Listen to Julie’s extended interview where she talks about making new friends while on the road.

What you’ll find:

In this episode, Julie talks about how to make new friends while being on the road.


Follow Julie:


Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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