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Ep. 136: How this former financial planner travels the world as a remote English teacher with Laura Peters.

In this episode, I speak with Laura who is the owner and author of the travel blog, Mike and Laura Travel.

After struggling for years to break into the digital nomad lifestyle, Laura and her husband, Mike, finally found traction. After finding a source of income as a remote English teacher, they set out to travel the world full-time.

Now, they run a successful travel blog and show others how this offbeat lifestyle can be achieved. 

Listen on to find out how Laura and Mike are able to create remote income.

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RELATED EPISODES:
Ep. 135 How this travel junkie landed a remote digital marketing position without previous experience with Grace F. Kim
Ep. 134 How this online entrepreneur travels the world as a Pinterest Marketer with Molly ho
Ep. 133 How this 9-5’er is able to earn extra income as a self-published author with Kay Kingsman

 


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Transcription :

Debbie: 

Hey everyone, thank you so much for joining me. I’m really excited to be here with Laura. Hey Laura, how are you?

Laura: 

I’m great. How are you?

Debbie:

I am wonderful. Thank you so much for being here. Before we get to all of your awesome tips and tricks for us with this journey that you have been going through, can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Laura:  

Yeah. So, I started probably four or five years ago trying to figure out a way to work remotely, have my own schedule, travel the world, and it just wouldn’t work for me. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I started with a travel blog that ended up failing and I finally got the hang of it once I got my feet on the ground with teaching English online and now I’ve been able to dedicate more time to my travel blog. And so, I know what it takes when you need to build a travel blog and failing and restarting and so, I live an offbeat life because I can now travel wherever I want, live wherever I want,` and just have my own schedule

Debbie: 

Pretty much most of our audience dream is what you’re doing right now, Laura.

Laura: 

Yeah, it’s definitely the dream.

Debbie:

So, before you went into your travel blogging full-time and teaching online full-time, what did you use to do as your “nine-to-five” and day job.

Laura:

I graduated from college in 2013 and as soon as I was finished, I either had the option to get a full-time job or go back to school and get my Master’s. Unfortunately, going back to school didn’t work out. It’s a lot harder than most people think going back to school. So, I decided to just get nine-to-five at a financial planning office just a couple of miles from where I live and my parents were happy and it seemed like a really great job and I had wonderful coworkers, but it just… I sat at my desk all day and Googled different places to travel. And so, it was hard to look outside and see that I couldn’t be out there exploring. And so that was my nine-to-five.

Debbie: 

Yeah. That’s one of the main things that we all think about when we’re still at the beginning of our journey. That’s kind of like the moment when you realize that this is really not what you were meant to do. And especially now with social media, we see everyone’s lives, right.

Debbie: 

I know 80% of that is to fake, but there’s  20% that’s actually a little bit true too. And we definitely want to put ourselves in those shoes, right?

Laura: 

Absolutely. And that’s what I would do; look at other people’s travel blogs and YouTube channels and just lost after travel.

Debbie:  

How did you prepare for the journey to become location independent and to leave that nine-to-five that you didn’t want to do anymore?

Laura:  

Well, the first thing that I did was I planned a two-week excursion to Europe and that just set everything off. After that happened there was no going back. I ended up going back for a couple of months, but I was already planning my exit. I applied to work abroad, I started teaching abroad in Thailand and that kind of gave me the independence to be away from my family and be in a foreign land and explore on my own. After returning from teaching abroad, again, I can’t go back to the nine-to-five. I know what it’s like on the other side. So I decided to move from the comforts of my hometown to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I lived for a couple of years and I wanted to live in a place where it felt like I was on vacation, but really I was at home the whole time. So, that’s kind of how I set myself up. And from there I met my husband who also wanted to do something similar and we actually bought a fifth wheel and started just traveling around the United States. So that’s kind of how we set ourselves up.

 

Debbie:   

Well, this is definitely an interesting journey that you had gone through when you were just starting out. Did you save any money to prepare for this journey and how long was it before and how much did you actually spend and what did you do to budget your money to last?

Laura: 

So, before I started teaching in Thailand, I didn’t save as much as I probably should have. However, traveling in Southeast Asia is ridiculously cheap and I knew I would have a job there that would pay me enough to travel around and enjoy the travel lifestyle. And when I came back and moved to Steamboat, I stayed there for about two years. However, it was only about the last five months where we started to plan our exit from Steamboat and we ended up saving $25,000 within five months.

Just budgeting, we moved in with friends and shared an apartment and saved money that way. We also worked in restaurants in Steamboat, which is very lucrative, especially because it’s a ski town and that’s where everyone goes. So, we were able to just cut down on all of our expenses. We never went out. We hung out with our friends at home and just saved all of our money, which helped us put a down payment on the fifth wheel. And so yeah, that’s how we started and that’s how we saved our money.

Debbie:  

I think that’s the hardest thing for most people, especially if you have a day job and you’re always relying on that as to finally put down everything, put it on paper, what you need to do to actually get into this lifestyle. Did you have any budgeting tips and kind of tricks that you did to make this maybe a little bit more fun and tolerable?

Laura: 

Oh yeah, absolutely. The best thing that I can suggest for anyone is to actually look at your bank statements and your credit card statements. So, you don’t know what you’re spending because all you’re doing is handing over a card each time. But if you look and really add up how much you’re spending on each category, maybe it’s eating out or groceries or miscellaneous kinds of things like Spotify and Netflix – these things add up.

And so every month I did kind of a budgeting thing and I’m kind of a nerd, so that was really fun for me. But each category I decided, all right, we can have this, we can cut this price in half if we maybe don’t eat out as much, maybe we cancel our Hulu subscription that we haven’t turned on in months, cancel our XM radio and that kind of thing. So the best thing that you can do is actually look your finances in the face and understand where you’re spending your money.

Debbie: 

That is such a good idea because you said we turn a blind eye over everything and you’re right. Having apps and maybe looking at your bank account online is so helpful for that. And sometimes I feel really guilty when I spend too much.

Laura: 

Yes. And it’s actually really scary to do because you just don’t want to face it, but you just have to do it and kind of look it in the face and be like, “This is because of me and own up to it really.” And there’s no reason to feel too bad about your spending, but just use it as a baseline and say, “I can do better than this.” So we would set aside a certain amount of money each month to go out with our friends, to go grab drinks and dinner, and maybe to go to the movies, have iced coffee – that kind of thing. But other than that, if we hit our budget, then it was time to hang out with our friends at home and find creative ways to do the same kind of fun activities.

Debbie:   

When you were finally leaving your day job and you had decided to teach English online and you had decided to travel, did you ever have a “what now?” moment after doing all of this? I know I’ve had this when I left my day job and I was finally going into this process and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what now?” What was yours like?

Laura:  

Yeah, it was definitely surreal. I mean, I have been trying to make this happen for years and years and once we got there and I was able to make a remote income and support us through our travels, it was kind of like, “Okay, so now what are we supposed to do?” We like to set goals and right now we have a goal of visiting the 10 most beautiful islands on every continent and we made a list of all those continents. So, we’re kind of working toward that goal as well as really amping up our blog. So, we make a full-time income from our blog right now, but we really want to kind of use that to look at other avenues of income and stuff like that.

Debbie: 

That is a great way to create income, especially now when everything is online. And I know a lot of people are saying that it’s harder to get into blogging. What has your experience been like with that?

Laura:  

It’s a frustrating topic for me because for so long I would read those blog posts about how to start a blog, how to make money in 30 days from the blog – they’re not real. Maybe that worked in 2011 or something but that does not work today because of such a high volume. There are so many people out there trying to make blogging work. But what I found that really, really worked is to invest in my blog. So, instead of just writing and writing aimlessly about random topics I have things that I’m writing about that have purpose and I’m writing about them for a reason and I’ve really learned the skills of SEO, which is search engine optimization, affiliate marketing, and stuff like that, which I’ve taken courses on, they are absolutely worth every penny. So, that kind of helped me really break into the travel blogging world.

Debbie: 

It is really hard to also find courses that you can definitely trust. Are there specific ones that you would recommend that’s worked really well for you?

Laura:  

Yeah, absolutely. I just invested in a course, maybe the summer and it’s called Stupid Simple SEO and it’s run by Mike Pearson and he is just a genius when it comes to search engine optimization. And instead of having blogging be like a guessing game, this is a for sure answer, like you are blogging for a purpose and if you keep doing the things that he suggests, your blog will be successful. So that’s what I thought was really cool because I’m watching the results and it’s just amazing. It’s wonderful.

Debbie:  

Well, it’s always great to find something that’s actually legit and you can trust. So that’s always good. Thank you so much for that. I do know about him actually. He is really well-known in the industry and a really great person to learn from about SEO.

Laura:  

Yes, definitely.

Debbie: 

What has been the biggest setback so far that you have encountered as an entrepreneur?

Laura:  

I guess I never really knew how much work it would be. So, every day you wake up and you get different results every day. Whether it’s a bad class for teaching online or whether you have a bad day with traffic to your website or you can’t think of new topics to write about – every day is a challenge. And for me, I didn’t realize just how much work it would take to become my own boss and to become independent. So, that’s been a big setback but it also gives me the motivation to work harder.

Debbie: 

Yeah, it’s easy to watch other people’s journeys and kind of see the middle part of it, but you don’t understand how long it’s been for them. That journey is not very short. And you mentioned this about blogging too making money in 30 days now unless you’ve been doing blogging for years and years and you know how to do this already, it doesn’t come that easy, right? Even when you have all of the tools that you need, you still need to take some time to implement all of that and it takes a little bit of time as well.

Laura: 

Yeah, absolutely. I was just shocked at how much work it actually takes.

Debbie: 

And I think that’s also most people’s viewpoints once they actually dive into this lifestyle. And I tell people this all the time, “It’s okay to go back to your nine to five if you decide to do this. And you can have a nine to five that’s actually online as well. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, but if you really want to be remote, you can.”

Laura:  

Oh, absolutely. And that was kind of our fallback is if this doesn’t work out, it’s not like the world just shut you out. You will have the opportunity, you can find other jobs. So, that’s why it gives me motivation; I don’t have those fears anymore because I can always go back.

Debbie:  

What’s the secret sauce do you think to make your business and your work successful?

Laura:  

I would say just a really, really strong work ethic because if you don’t have that drive and you don’t think that you’re going to be successful, then you’re not. You will not be successful if you don’t believe you will be. So, my best advice is to treat everything like it’s already your job. Even if you’re not making money from whatever it is you’re trying to do, pretend that you are and so that you are forced to work on it every single day.

Debbie: 

Self-talk and self-motivation is a huge part of being able to work online and to work independently. And there’s not a lot of people that will be with you through this journey unless of course, you have like a community already. But when you’re first starting out, that is a really hard thing to do. How did you and your husband find a community when you’re traveling around the world?

Laura: 

Interestingly enough, we actually found a community through a podcast. We listened to Heath and Alyssa as The RV Entrepreneur, it’s a podcast about RV’ing especially for young people and starting your own business remotely and being able to travel the world. From there we joined their Facebook group and even if you’re not a part of any conversations, you can go in and read and see that these people are experiencing the exact same difficulties that you are. So, that brought the community to us. We also meet people everywhere we go. And although it’s hard to kind of connect with people once you’ve left a location, you still have them on social media. Again, social media has just been wonderful for us to build a community.

Debbie:  

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think there is a huge backlash now in social media being really tough, especially if it’s part of your business. But we also have to be thankful for everything it’s given us. The community that it’s allowed us to find, especially in this world, right?

Laura:   

Absolutely.

Debbie:  

Now, what types of equipment do you use to help you work remotely?

Laura:  

Well, I use a laptop, of course. My MacBook Air goes everywhere with me. It’s perfect because it fits in our carry-on. It’s easy to take out during flights, I can work on whatever I want during the flight. And then, I would say just anything virtual; we have email marketing software that we use, we have social media schedulers and stuff like that. But a lot of our equipment is just online.

Debbie: 

Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. And as a remote podcast or I use a lot of those similar products too. And for me, it has to be right because otherwise, it can get really tough to be in this industry without that. That’s why I’m really glad to have partnered with Olympus because I used our handy dandy Olympus LS-P4 hand recorder as my go-to tool when I’m recording on the road. And also in terms of traveling, it’s going to be really hard to find lighter equipment since it’s under three ounces with super performance.

So, don’t believe the hype, everyone, that podcasting and working remotely need to be super complicated and expensive. The Olympus LS-P4 is travel-friendly, inexpensive, and will give you optimal recording for your show. Check it out at getolympus.com.

So, for your ongoing road trip and now travels with your husband, right? Has there been anything that really stuck out to you throughout this whole journey that you really learned from?

Laura:  

Apart from learning to be my own boss and work remotely, I think it’s really taught us how to have a relationship when you’re in such a small space with someone all the time. So, it really has taught us how to handle each other and when to give each other space and just kind of how to have a better marriage really.

Debbie: 

I think that’s a really big part of this lifestyle because oftentimes we think of people who are doing this solo, but there are so many couples that are able to do this and it can either make or break your relationship.

Laura:   

Oh, absolutely!

Debbie: 

And you guys are still together so you’re all good.

Laura:  

Yes, we’re going strong. We’re going strong.

Debbie:  

Now let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Laura:   

This might be cheesy or however you want to call it, but I just really believe in happiness. If you’re not happy doing what you are doing, then you need to change it. So, I’m the first person to always convince people like, “Oh, you’re unhappy with your job. You should quit.” There are so many other options out there. If you’re not happy, then what are you doing with your life? And that’s what I want to be remembered for is always, always do something that makes you happy. Yeah.

Debbie: 

And also we are living in a time and a place where we have so many luxuries, so many opportunities. And if you think about it, there’s a lot of people that don’t have the opportunities that we have. So if you’re wasting it, then it’s really a crime for you to do that.

Laura:   

Definitely. And I think travel really teaches you that too. Like how many opportunities were offered from just living in the United States or living in a developed country? [inaudible]

Debbie:

When you and your husband are thinking about going off to another place, how do you choose the area that you’re going to be staying? Do you usually stay there for a long period of time or do you kind of go off to different places? Uh, shorter periods.

Laura:     

We like to slow travel because it’s much more budget-friendly. So we actually pay less to travel than we would if we were living back in the United States. So our rent abroad will stay in places for about a month before moving on. And our rent abroad is usually less than $500 a month for a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment. Um, we choose our location based on is there hiking around there? Is it, um, is there transportation that it’s easy to reach different locations and destinations without renting a car? Um, is it cheap? And sometimes we live in places where it’s not so cheap and then we have to budget for that. But that’s pretty much how we base all of our travels.

Debbie:  

Of all the places that you have lived in for that slow travel that you guys have been doing, what has been the most budget-friendly and digital nomad, the friendliest place you’ve ever stayed at?

Laura:  

Well,  of course, Thailand. Everyone knows that Thailand, it’s like the Mecca for digital nomads. I mean it is ridiculously cheap. Everything is delicious and costs less than a dollar for a meal. And um, why Phi is wonderful. It’s, it’s so budget-friendly. However, if you want to kind of get away from the Thailand Southeast Asia version of a digital nomad, I would recommend, um, Montenegro actually has been our recent favorite. It’s definitely budget-friendly, amazing views, activities. We loved it. One of my friends actually just bought a property there with her husband. They’re also bloggers and they decided to stay in Montenegro and now they have like a huge property there. So I am so jealous. That is what we were, we were talking about it as we were visiting. We’re like, okay, let’s look in, just see how much prices are to buy a place here. So it’s done thing.

Debbie: 

Maybe I’ll do a followup interview with them because I actually interviewed her last year. So maybe I’ll do that.

Laura: 

Yes, absolutely. I would love to live in Montenegro. So are you currently working on anything recently that is really exciting to you as well? Apart from just really getting the blog going and watching the traffic and watching people reach out to me for advice, that has been awesome. And I’ve, we’ve been working on a couple of projects that they’re still in the work, so I’m not sure that I’ll really say anything about them now cause I don’t want to promise anything. But, um, we always have ideas going on. We, our ultimate goal is to buy property, um, different locations throughout the world and rent them out on Airbnb or rent them out on like a holiday kind of thing and kind of use that as an additional source of income. So that’s our ultimate goal is to find the property and invest.

Debbie: 

I love that goal. My fiance and I are actually in the middle of closing our first, um, investment property right now. So I always love when people want to do real estate investment as another source of income. I think it’s really exciting to do that.

Laura:  

We were really interested in doing like, um, unique stays, so we want to like, this might be silly, but we want to build like igloos and treehouses and dome houses and just like something really unique that gets people excited about traveling in a new experience.

Debbie: 

I think that’s really cool. That could be a really great spot for a lot of people to, to go to and another attraction. Oh absolutely. If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Laura:   

They can find us at Mike and Laura, travel.com. We’re also on Instagram or, yeah, we’re also on Instagram, but my name is Laura Peters, 24 and my husband has a different Instagram. He doesn’t, he uses it mainly for music, but, um, we also have a YouTube channel, which I think you can find just by looking up Mike and Laura travel.

Debbie: 

Perfect. Thank you so much, Laura, for coming here today and telling us all of your amazing journeys.

Laura: 

Yes. Thank you so much, Debbie.

 

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH LAURA WHERE SHE SHARES HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ERROR FARES TO TRAVEL CHEAPER.

 


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

 


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