Ep. 220: How this skiing expert writer lives a location independent lifestyle with Felice Hardy
In this episode, I speak with Felice who is the host of Action Packed Travel podcast and the co-editor on Welove2ski, and has written for almost every national newspaper.
She contributes as a freelance writer to publications that include Conde Nast Traveller, Tatler, BA Highlife, and Country Life.
Listen on to find out how Felice has been able to become location independent as a skiing expert.
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Hey everyone. Thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to be interviewing Felie today.
Hey, Felice, how are you?
I’m very good. Thank you. I’m really excited to be here.
I’m so happy to interview you today. Before we get to all of your stories, can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?
Well, I’m a freelance journalist. I’m a travel writer. I’ve done it for many years. I can’t think I could ever work in an office again. I mean, at the beginning of my career, as a journalist, I worked for Vogue magazine and several other magazines; going to an office in London every day and I lived in London.
And then when I met my husband, he was working for a newspaper, we decided we had enough of that for the thing and we would become freelance and just work from home. Ever since we raised our three kids, we have lived the life that we want to live. Live without going into an office, we just do it from home.
And it’s been really flexible with bringing up kids too because you can kind of put them in and switch around them. It’s just much more flexible and friendly and it’s great. It means we can travel whenever we want, take our work with us, and that got easier and easier over the years because Wi-Fi has got better and laptops got better
Now you don’t need a big camera anymore. You can just take your iPhone and take all your pictures that way.
So basically I’ve just been traveling on and off. Sometimes we do long trips and we take all the kids usually during the school holidays. So one year we went to Australia for a month and we went to the motorhome and we drove from the very top, North tip of Australia – Darwin, right to the very center of Australia called the Red Centre with our three kids.
We took our work and we were writing various articles for newspapers while we did it. It was really good, fun and wonderful. Yeah. It was very memorable. We just fit in our work so we go wherever we want.
So one year we went to Austria, in the Austrian Alps in summer. This time, not only did we take all three kids but we also have two dogs. So we took those as well and we went by car and you can drive to Austria, it takes about a day if you do it either from the UK.
If you want to do it gently without being in a rush, you can spend the night somewhere in front of the way, which we did. We found a dog-friendly place to stay and then we got to the place. We rented an apartment for a month and it was great.
We just went hiking in the mountains and the dogs enjoyed it, we enjoyed it. We did our work from there because we knew we had good wifi. We took our laptops with us and really didn’t matter where we were.
That’s awesome, Felice.
And it’s really interesting because a lot of people think that being a freelancer and doing what you’re doing, especially since you have a family that you need to support, you have children, that it’s something that you can’t really do, right?
And for the most part, this is something that people tell you, is a no-no, it’s a big no-no. But you and your husband actually did it and you still continue to do it, you raised your children, you’re able to travel. You kind of had your cake and ate it too. So that is pretty incredible.
When both of you decided to leave those jobs that you had that most people thought were really lucrative because you were working with some big companies as writers, what made you decide to do that? What made you decide to take that leap, to leave that type of security and do this on your own?
It was my husband who decided first of all because he was working for a newspaper, a national newspaper in London. And he was really fed up with the job of working, really, really long hours and not having a home life. Because he was just working the late hours, they expected so much of him.
And I was working on a small magazine by then. I wasn’t at Vogue anymore, I was working on a ski magazine and I realized that that job wasn’t really going anywhere. It was fun. I did it for a few years but I wanted something else.
So we both decided to leave our jobs and set up as freelancers and it went well. We sort of had work right away. We also set up a picture library, I think that’s called a stock library as well. So we took pictures of where we went, which we sold to go with the articles we were writing.
At that time, it was easy to do. So we could have doubled the money in a way by selling the pictures. Not just to go with our articles but to go with the people as well. We collected a huge stock library together.
That was great but it got more difficult because there were lots of people doing it. And a lot of stock libraries are charging nothing or very little so we stopped selling the pictures.
It seems like you were trying a lot of different new things to really figure this out. Did you do anything to prepare to actually leave the jobs that you had? Was there any sort of financing that you had to do, whether it was to save or to figure out what you needed to make in order to fully commit to this new lifestyle that you had?
No, we didn’t need any money, we just needed laptops, basically. My husband was given money to leave his job. They paid him something like six months’ money because they were asking for people voluntarily. The newspaper was cutting back on staff and they asked volunteers who would like to leave and be given some money to do so. So he said, “Yes, please.”
So he had enough money that we could live on anyway. We managed to get work straight away so we were okay. We were never going to be really rich or anything. The lifestyle was not that good but we didn’t mind.
The secret I think was that we continually reinvent ourselves. So if something is working, we go ahead with that and if something isn’t working like the picture library, that was good at first and then it wasn’t quite as good anymore, so we thought, “Let’s stop that.”
And then we started writing some guidebooks to skiing and also to business travel. And that was good too. Well, that lasted. That was for a few years but then everything went online at that stage that people won’t buy guidebooks anymore.
So we thought, “Now is the time to change again and start doing stuff online, not depend on printed books and printed newspapers so much.”
It seems that the both of you also were there from the beginning when all of these things really changed from print to online and you really have to adapt to all of these things in order to still create income and make it sustainable for yourself.
And later on, we’ll talk about how the both of you, you and your husband, have been really trying to get your head around covid and all of that stuff. But I do want to go back to one of the things that you did mention, which is a lifestyle, right?
And I think a lot of people believe that they need to make a lot of money to have a really good life. But as you mentioned, it’s all about the lifestyle and I have talked about this and other episodes before, and in other podcasts before, where instead of really going for the dollar amount, try to look at the lifestyle you actually want and figure out how much money you need in order to do that.
And it would actually surprise you what you come up with, right? If you don’t need any fancy things, if you don’t need a yacht, if you don’t need to have a big big house, you can actually work a lot less and still live a really good life on top of that.
And you and your husband have been able to do that, right? Because you are really trying to reach for your ideal lifestyle and not technically the money that most people will tell us to do typically.
That’s right. And I think it’s healthier, actually. It’s less stressful. You can make a lot of money working in banking and finance and that’s what you think but it sounds to me, my friends who do that, they’re very stressed. And it was the same when my husband works for a national newspaper. It was a stressful job.
So yeah, I think our lifestyle is great. We live in the countryside now, we don’t live in London anymore. We moved out because we could get more space for the same money and a healthier, better lifestyle. We are happy with that.
Our kids have grown up in the countryside. They can run around wherever they want. I should have said it’s safer than the city too and that’s what we’ve done and we’ve been happy doing that. And I would never ever go back to a job in an office sitting behind a desk with a boss telling me what to do. I couldn’t do that nor could my husband.
Yeah. I think once you leave the nine to five, I mean, honestly, it’s for a lot of people but some people like having that type of accountability, I guess. But because when you are working remotely, you’re working for yourself, you have to hold yourself accountable, and for a lot of people, that is a huge adjustment to have.
But for someone like us, once you leave your 9 to 5 and you have that complete freedom over your time of what you’re doing, it changes everything: your mindset, the way you work, the way you see the world, it’s completely different, right? And that’s why we’re still doing this and we’re continuously doing this.
And you have been doing this for a very long time, and you created a whole lifestyle from this, which is pretty incredible. And it’s really exciting that we can see that it is sustainable even throughout the years and you can create a life and a family and still be really happy and have that lifestyle.
That’s true. In my job, as a travel writer, I have been to some amazing places. I would never have been able to go otherwise. For example: I’ve been to a yoga retreat in India where I’ve been able to take my work and do my work from there.
I’ve been on safari in East Africa and been able to do my work from there. As long as there’s internet, you can really work from anywhere. The only time we had a problem ever, and we went with our kids and we were sailing around the Greek Islands, there was nothing. There was no mobile signal. There was no internet. While we’re on the boat, there was nothing.
I’m sure that the bigger boats have everything but the one we were on has nothing. So we went for sometimes 24 hours without any communication with the outside world. Only a week though but that’s the only time.
It’s kinda nice when you have that when you’re out of reach for a little bit of time because it also clears up your mind ’cause sometimes you’re so bombarded by technology and social media and everything that goes around with it, that it is a nice little break to have that.
So you mention traveling quite often, especially because you are a writer and you do write about travel, how do you actually manage your time as a remote worker and especially if you’re a nomad, right? Because that can take a little bit of time when you’re traveling and you’re trying to see all of these different things but you also need to work. How do you make sure that you have a balance between both?
Well, I usually choose the time of day to do my work. So for me, that would be 4 to 6 p.m. or something like that. If I’m visiting a new location, I have to go around and talk to people and see the various sites or whatever there is to see in that new location.
So let’s say it’s a city I’ve never been to before, I’ll go and look up museums, I might go and look up different amazing views, or try different foods, things like that. But I need to have a couple of hours a day to put this all done somewhere on my laptop. Obviously, I won’t take that with me.
I used to take a notebook but now I just checked all my notes on my phone. When I was in Rome, Italy, I had a notebook. I was writing all my notes down and I left them on the Colosseum which is a great big old building in Rome – Rome’ most famous for. Left my notebook behind and I never saw it again.
So that’s all the work I’ve done, all the information I’ve been collecting – all left behind.
But usually, I just do it on my phone and that’s fine. And I can always email the notes to myself, something like that.
It’s funny. I was watching a documentary last night and there was a writer and they were talking about people not taking down notes anymore, writers not taking down notes anymore. And back then they actually archived a lot of these great writers’ notes because you can see their process of how they wrote, how they did interviews, like, their way of creating.
And then now, because you have Word and then you can just edit, you can delete, nobody really sees a writer because writers, I feel like they’re artists too but with words, right? And I feel like there is a process with that. With what you’re editing, how your mind thinks.
Now, because all of us are editing online through our computers, there is that beauty that is kind of like when you are writing it down. You are taking down notes that you don’t have anymore. So in some way, it is kind of nostalgic when you do that but it is also really convenient.
So it’s like what is more important? Conveniency or like seeing an artist at work and their process? So there’s kind of a thing there, I guess.
You see which one you’re willing to do to lose. I guess.
Yeah, that’s true.
And now, covid happened. I lost all my work as a travel writer. That was the problem because no newspaper, magazine, or online website wants information about travel at the moment because it’s been such a long time that people haven’t been able to go anywhere.
Last March 2020, my husband and I decided to start a travel podcast. And while we can’t actually travel very far from home, we would interview people all around the world who have traveled to different places and that’s been really fun.
And I think that’s something we’re going to carry on with because I think podcasting is the future. More than the printed word, more than something that you read on the internet because you can listen anywhere. And that’s what’s good.
You don’t have to look at it, you can be in your car, you can be hiking, and you can listen to a podcast. That’s what we’re doing and we have done some live, on location episodes. Quite close to home because we live in a place called Winchester which is a very small city.
It’s more of a town because it has a cathedral in it and it’s surrounded by countryside. And it got some quite the same tourist spots nearby like Stonehenge, Oxford, a lot of different sorts of places with beaches, things like that.
So we’ve done some podcast episodes at those places. And then as travel comes back again, we plan to do more episodes on location. But ‘till then, we’re interviewing people who live in different places which has been fun.
Yeah, that’s amazing.
And you’re right, podcasting is definitely a platform that’s here to stay. I talked a lot about how podcasting is really a platform that most people can intake from anywhere if you’re traveling, if you’re driving, if you’re doing housework, it’s just something that’s really unique.
And for me, I’ve been able to create a whole brand from it, create businesses from it. So it’s something that allowed me to start working remotely because when I started over three years ago, almost four years now, I wanted to start working remotely. And I interviewed people who were remote workers and lo and behold, I was able to do this through my podcast, right?
And that’s why I’m such an advocate of that and it became part of my business as well – is to help people through that process because it’s such a great platform to do. And yeah, I love it too.
So, for you, Felice, and your husband, I know you talked about losing a lot of jobs because of covid because you were both writers and especially travel writers, how do you both manage? How did you manage to pivot throughout this whole process? How were you able to create income still?
Were there any changes that you had to do? If so, what did you do to kind of make sure there was still income coming in and there was a balance in your life and not go crazy?
Well, we still got one or two clients left. My husband does the marketing so he still got some work and we have a ski website called WeLoveToSki.com Come on. And that’s coming back again. People are starting to advertise on it, that’s how we make money on that website.
And then our podcast which is called Action Packed Travel, hopefully, we intend to monetize that pretty soon. So we are just building an audience. In the future, we really want to make sure that we can get an income from that as well because that’s the direction we’d like to go.
Love that. I love it. I love when people want to start monetizing their podcast, that’s like my bread and butter. When I first started that’s really where all of my income came in but I also love that you were able to have multiple streams of income.
And this is why this is so important for freelancers, for remote workers because there are things that are going to come up that you don’t foresee, and having multiple streams of income, God forbid, something happens, like covid happened, you still have other streams of income coming in.
And I love that, Felice. You and your husband were able to do that. If you were just solely relying on your travel writing, you would be in a complete bind right now because you had all of these other streams of income, you weren’t in a complete bind which is amazing.
So that is such a great way to do that and now you’re adding more to it. And I think a lot of us have had to really think outside of the box in terms of how to start making different streams because we had no choice. You have no choice. You have to think outside of what you currently have.
And I think it’s a good thing because now, we are learning more skills and I think it’s always a good thing when you do that.
We learned completely new skills with the podcast. My husband edits it and does all the production side. He knew nothing about that before and I find the guests and I run the website, the company podcast. And together, we do the hosting, the interviewing.
And the other stream of income we got is AirB, which disappeared as well for most of covid. Our kids left University and things like that so they’re not at home. So we got space in our home and we rented out rooms in it. Basically, we do Airbnb.
Yeah. That went very quiet but it has come back again. So, that’s another stream of income we have. Maybe we’ll expand on that because we’re thinking of moving closer to the coast where people go on holiday, on vacation. And do a bit of holiday letting from our home or maybe have a garden, something like that. We got all sorts of ideas.
That is awesome and I think now that people are starting to travel again, it’s all going to come back, and more and more people are going to start to travel. We talked about this before we did this interview about revenge travel, about people, just, they can’t wait to go out there and for so many people who have that itch to leave again. I think that is going to be amazing for the travel industry. So that is going to be amazing.
So, Felice, let’s fast forward to about 20 to 30 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?
I’d like to be remembered for being a good mom and raising great kids which I have done. And I’d like to be remembered for being a writer. Another thing I’m doing is I’m writing a book and I just finished it. I’ve got a literary agent, he’s trying to find a publisher so hopefully, that will be something else.
I think I just want to pass on the lifestyle I live to my kids and hope that they lead fulfilling lives so none of them will be tied to an office or anything like that. I hope they’ll carry on in the same way and then back in and so on.
Well, that is a great legacy to leave; show them true freedom. And I think that is incredible and more parents should be like that. And to think outside of the box. I love that, Felice.
So before we say goodbye, I do have five rapid questions for you that you can answer in maybe one sentence, very short. Are you ready?
Alright, first question, Felice, what has been the best money you’ve ever spent while you were abroad and why?
I think going on a safari in Kenya is the most memorable experience I’ve ever had. And I had a massage there next to a river in Kenya, where there were hippos in the river and I could hear them. And it was just the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.
Knowing that these hippos, which are quite dangerous, big, aggressive animals, they couldn’t get out, they couldn’t come to where I was yet, I could hear them. There I was lying in paradise having a message. It was amazing.
That sounds idyllic. It sounds like a true fantasy come to life. That’s amazing as long as you don’t have a fear of hippos or something.
Next question, describe what your ideal day would look like.
Ideal in the UK or anywhere in the world?
Yeah, ideal anywhere in the world if you could live out your days like this.
Okay, well at the moment, all I can think of is going somewhere warm. Going somewhere with a lovely beach and swimming in the sea. My favorite location is anywhere on the Indian Ocean and I love it because the water stays warm.
At the moment, I mean, this might change once we’re back traveling again, all I can dream about is being on a beautiful beach and maybe going and doing a bit of snorkeling and swimming in a lovely warm ocean and eating some delicious food. That wouldn’t be everyday of my life. That might get boring.
Paradise might get boring if you have that every single day but that’s what I think about it at the moment anyway.
Yeah, I’d like to be there with you on that one, Felice. Oh, I’ll have a little hammock, some coconut, coconut juice drinking out from a coconut, just freshly picked. That would be nice.
I’m with you on that one, Felice.
Where is the best location to live, you feel like, as a remote worker?
It really doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’ve got a laptop and good Wi-Fi. And one of the places I thought of working before covid came along, my husband and I decided that we would go to the Italian Alps for the winter because we love clearing.
So we would work from somewhere like that and we found this lovely village called Champoluc, initially. The prices are really reasonable and the mountains are so beautiful. And it would just be a fantastic place to work remotely because you could get up, go and do some skiing or go and do some hiking, eat some delicious Italian food, do your work.
When the weather is good, go out skiing, when the weather is not so good, do your work.
It’s the best of both worlds; things that you love to do all at once and then such a beautiful setting. So I love that choice.
Now, if you could have a superpower, Felice, what would it be?
To be able to fly.
Yes, spoken like a true traveler but would you have the strength to lift your husband with you as you fly?
I don’t think so. He’d have to fly himself.
So your superpower would be to have the fly and allow your husband to fly with you.
Otherwise, he would still have to take the plane and meet you there.
That’s always a good superpower to have if you do want a little time off for yourself.
All right. And last question: what’s the one thing you wish you did sooner?
Travel. Because when I left school, I went straight to college without a break, and then I went straight into a job without a break. I really wish I had taken a year to maybe go backpacking or something like that and see the world a bit sooner than I did. I have to wait until it was my job to travel.
Yeah, and I think a lot of people feel the same way as you do. I’m sure you’ve taught your children lessons that you have found and mistakes that have brought you there. So, thank you so much, Felice, for answering all of our rapid questions and for sharing your journey with us, we really appreciate it.
If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?
Well, my podcast has a website which is www.ActionPackedTravel.com.So you can go there and you can contact me through the website and you could listen to the podcast, which is on all the platforms like Apple, Spotify, and Amazon. That’s the best place to find me.
Perfect. Thank you so much, Felice, we really appreciate it. Thank you again for being here.
Thank you very much for having me. It’s good fun.