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Ep. 277: How This Travel Influencer Lives a Sustainable Freedom Lifestyle with Alyssa Ramos

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In this episode, I speak with Alyssa who is a self-made, globally-recognized travel blogger, influencer, entrepreneur, and the founder of My Life is a Trave Movie. 

She is a true adventurer and a nomad, who has been traveling full-time and working remotely for the last ten years. Alyssa is also well-known in the travel world as one of the token original solo female travel influencers, and also as one of the most successful and hard-working travel entrepreneurs. 

Listen on to find out she has been able to build and expand her travel brand.


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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone, thank you so much for being here!

I am really excited to speak with my guest today. I’m here with Alyssa.

Hi, Alyssa! How are you?

Alyssa:

Hi! I’m really well, just living the dream over here in Mexico.

Debbie:

I know, before we hit record Alyssa was telling me that she’s in Mexico, she has a pool close by. And I’m so jealous cause I’m here, up in New York City and it’s like a huge heat wave and I wish I had a pool to go to.

Alyssa:

Well, come visit.

Debbie:

I know, I’m like, “Yes, I will be there.”

And yea, thank you so much for being here Alyssa!

Can you tell us about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Alyssa:

Sure! So I have been a digital nomad, travel influencer, travel blogger, travel entrepreneur—there’s so many titles, I never know what to say—for ten years now. And I’ve been living abroad, more like traveling full-time, I’ve been nomadic for about 8 years now. I’m known as being one of the first solo female travel influencers on social media.

So, I don’t claim to be one of the first female solo travelers, we’ve been doing that for a really long time. But I was doing it when Instagram became really popular and they dubbed the term ‘influencer’ and just dropped it on us bloggers, who are using the platform to drive traffic to our websites. So, I’ve been doing it for quite a long time. It is a dream come true, I didn’t think it was going to happen. But I worked my booty off, the same amount that I work now, I’ve never stopped my workload and my hustle.

I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to see 118 countries, mostly for work, which means there are sponsored tours, sponsored hotels. So not only was I getting to travel for free but also getting paid on top of it. Which has been also a crazy dream come true because it’s not just like money here and there, it has been enough to actually buy a home. Which is why I’m in Mexico, I just purchased my first condo in Tulum.

Super exciting! And yea, I’ve just been expanding and expanding as my brand grows and my audience grows with me, so a lot of people have been there since the beginning and they’re really dedicated and amazing. They actually come and travel the world with me on my group trips.

Debbie:

That is incredible! And obviously this has been a long time coming, right? You’ve built up this brand, this business. And you’ve been doing this since, you know, when influencers weren’t even really called influencers yet. And now, everyone can just call themselves influencers if they have Instagram and some sort of following.

But when you first began, Alyssa, and obviously you were doing this to build up your brand, especially with your blog. How did you transition to make this full-time? Because this is something that most people will say, “Well, this is really unrealistic.” “You can’t make money off of this.” “How do you make a living off of traveling and just taking photos?” And doing what you essentially really love to do.

Alyssa:

Yeah, exactly. So in the beginning everyone thought I was crazy. Especially, as I mentioned, this was 10 years ago. When being a blogger meant you have a rich boyfriend, or rich parents, and you’re doing something cause you’re bored and you say that’s your job. So that’s what people assumed of me. It was very hard to deal with haters and nay-sayers and keep doing it. I lived in LA, so people were literally accusing me of having a sugar daddy and that’s who’s funding me being able to travel and blog about it. And again social media didn’t really have anything lucrative that you can do with it yet. 

I had a lot of side hustles. I was a virtual assistant, which was one of my favorite jobs, so I was working for multiple clients online. I actually, once a year, teach a course to train people to be virtual assistants and then I hire them to people that I know who would like one. But I learned everything from, just like learning online what people needed done. And I actually worked for a celebrity publicist so that’s where I learned all about SEO and getting your name in media publications and getting featured and getting link backs, getting interviews like I’m doing with you right now. So I used to be the one scheduling interviews for these C-list celebrities and now I’m grateful to say that people reach out to me to do interviews about myself. So, I learned a lot from my side hustles. I didn’t make a ton of money, but the money I made I saved and put towards my trips. 

But my hustle, when I say it was real, was like I had to convince people that giving me a free tour was going to help them get business and no one else was doing that yet. There were travel magazines doing media exchanges or media visits. But I wasn’t media, I was a blogger. I did have a bit of help because I wrote for the Huffington Post for free. So I could say that I was a Huffington Post writer, and at the time that was more powerful than me being a blogger or me having social media. So I really used that to my advantage and then when I would get the collaborations, I’d be like, “Well, you know, I’m also going to post it on my blog and on my social media because I have this amount of followers.” And they’ll be like, “Okay, how is that going to help me?”

And I would be like, “Because the people following me want to do what I’m doing.” And I started being able to prove that, so people started going to the hotels, they started taking the tours. And the companies would come back and be like, “Okay, you’re right. This worked.” Like, “This is interesting.” Like, “We wanna know how we can get more publicity from you.” So, I just kept doing that, doing that, doing that. I never really tried. I didn’t understand how I was going to make money for it. Cause it took me like 2 years, to be honest with you, before I started getting paid. But I would do my side hustles, I would take the free stuff, do really well at the work so that I would get a really good reputation. Because a lot of people think that you just get the free thing and post a picture and that’s it, but there’s so much more work that goes into it. And then 2 years into it, I’m very lucky because I started getting really big deals, like that. I will say though, I did go viral so I did become really well-known around the world. And then I was on the news because of it, I was getting offers to have my own TV shows—never ended up happening but whatever—and then I was like, “Well, where’s all these collaborations?” I thought I was going to need it so I could get paid right away.

It didn’t happen until 6 months later and I had just decided to get rid of my apartment in LA and travel for a month instead in Asia. And I was posting so much content from Asia, and it was just like epic content. Because I was in Japan, and then I was in China, then I was in the Philippines, then I was in Bali. And no one was posting this rapidly, this often, and moving so quickly to all of these countries, solo. So this was when my social media really started to explode and then I started getting the emails that were like, “Hey, we want you to come here and do pictures here that you are doing there, here. And we’ll pay you.” So I started getting these paid trips, and one paid trip would be able to fund me traveling for another month. So I kept taking all of the collaborations and that’s how I started making the money. And that became my full-time job, I became a full-time traveler. Fully nomadic.

It was a bit of a hard transition because I had to not have a home for the first time and also figure out what to do with my dog and who’s going to be watching him. But yeah, I jumped into it really fast, it was just like a whirlwind. And once everyone started becoming an influencer, like you were saying, and the industry became quite saturated, it was scary for us. But those of us who were already established were fine, we’re still getting our brand deals and things like that. But the other side of it is that rather than being worried about there being so many influencers, instead it was like well now all the brands and companies are finally understanding that influencer marketing is a thing.

And so, it’s much easier to tell them your pricing and then not be shocked like, “You want me to pay you this amount of money to do a post?” and now it’s quite normal. Not only is it quite normal and easier for us to pitch, it’s a lot easier in regards to brands coming directly to us and being like, “Hey, we already know who you are. We already know your story. We know your brand post. We know if you’re doing good or not. And this is how much we want to offer you this much for this post.” So it’s a lot easier now, but there are less opportunities because there are so many people.

I kind of shifted into monetizing my audience in different ways, which I don’t see many people doing but something I always suggest, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, forgetting brand collaborations because it’s just not realistic right now. So, like I said, I expanded into doing group trips which is one of my main incomes right now. I’ve just written a book, I have an online shop, have a swimwear line, tons of different things just to keep the money coming in from all angles just in case one of them dies out like these collaborations.

Debbie:

Yeah. Well, it’s also that you learn as you go because there are so many things that have happened within the last 10 years. I mean going from nobody really knowing what you’re even doing with your life, you not knowing whether this is gonna work out. And it seems like it’s very common, right? When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to be really persistent with what you’re doing because there’s no guarantee it’s always in constant risk for yourself.

Like you said, Alyssa, it took you 2 years to finally make a living from this. Now, between those moments, in those 2 years where you were like, “I really love this” but it’s also, “Is this sustainable?” Like, “how am I going to make money?” And I know you said you made side hustles, what was your mindset like? Did you ever think, “Hey, let me just stop this because the side hustles are making me more money, and just continue with that and maybe later for that but this is what’s giving me the income right now?” Why did you choose to keep going even though it was those years that you had to keep working at it.

Alyssa:

To be honest with you, I’m a very stubborn person and a very proud person. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m gonna do it. If someone told me to be something, I’m not gonna do it. So, there came a point where—before the side hustles—I was working in person as a personal assistant and I absolutely hated it because I was constantly being told what to do so obviously that didn’t work too well with me. And I had actually started the blog and I was told that either I couldn’t have the blog or couldn’t put my name on the blog. Because my boss at the time was like, “Oh, people might read it and know that it’s me that you’re talking about.”.

So, I was like, “Okay, well then I quit.” So that’s when I went on my first trip, so I took all the money I had saved from my old job, my side hustles, I went on my first trip ever by myself. And I went to three countries, South Africa, Thailand and Australia with all the bad stereotypes in my head that you get in the United States and I was completely proven wrong. And I was so blown away by how wrong I was and by how amazing that trip was. Then I got back, I thought all I wanna do is be a travel blogger, and I want to travel and I want to share what I just experienced with everyone else. So I just kept doing the side hustles, that was how I was making the money again.

And I just kept blogging and I really enjoyed doing it. So I like writing, in the beginning I wanted to be mostly just a writer. I didn’t know that I was going to be a face. I thought I was just going to be behind the computer writing and then posting random pictures I took on my travels. You can say it’s very strange, cause now I don’t do as much writing and it’s mostly pictures of myself, which I wasn’t expecting. Also was not expecting to be 34 years old and doing photoshoots with professional photographers and things like that. It’s been a really interesting journey.

As far as what kept me going, I was still getting free collaborations which was like my fuel. And I was still getting these people like, “Oh wow, you’re doing this? I can do this too.” It was the audience and the tiny wins that really kept me going even if I wasn’t making money. The money, I didn’t think it was going to be ever a thing. I didn’t think it was ever going to be enough to support myself full-time. Instead of having the mindset ‘I want to do this to make money,’ I had the mindset, ‘I want to do this to travel and to help people’ and that’s what helped way more.

Debbie:

Yeah, it’s kinda incredible how that journey became to what you’re doing now and now you have a full brand because you did take that risk and you did kind of believe in what your mission was and what your passion was. And sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but you did take that risk. And also one of the things that you did mention, Alyssa, was transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle and that was a huge change for you because you did have a life in California.

So can you take us through that process also of really understanding what it’s like to be on the road, you know? We all have this dream of being on the road, making it really like a movie right? Like, “Oh my gosh, it’s going to be like Eat, Pray, Love.” You know? “I’m just going to have a great time.” But as we all know, there are realities to our dreams. So how did that transition go for you?

Alyssa:

It was a big change. Like I said, I had an apartment—I always had an apartment since I was 18, I’ve had my own space, a huge closet—also in LA, like you said, I had a life. I was in the social scene, I had all these friends, I had my dog and one day I was like, “I have to make this decision because I can’t keep going back and forth, I just can’t afford it. Either afford an apartment or afford to travel.” So I told my friends about it, my friends were luckily supportive of my crazy ideas all the time, and they were like, “We’ll help you watch the dog,” “Just keep your stuff in storage,” “You can crash on our couch when you come back,” “It’s going to be fine, we’ll all be here when you get back.”.

So I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do this.” I put all my stuff in storage and I just kept one suitcase. And actually back then, it was a carry-on. So I was very broke and I could only really afford the cheapest flights, which oftentimes didn’t include the luggage. So I traveled most of the time with just a carry-on. I learned how to be really good with packing. And also in the beginning I wasn’t fashionable, I hid my fashion side because I wanted to blend in. So I always only wore a long sleeve black shirt and long black leggings, so that made it a lot easier.

But yeah, I just kind of learned how to go from place to place, unpack, pack-up. Find somewhere randomly a few days before you arrive, find somewhere if you need to when you arrive, be comfortable on flights by yourself, be comfortable in places where you can’t speak any of the language. I picked the hardest place to start, literally Japan, China, Philippines where hardly anyone was speaking English at all. It was beautiful and it was amazing and shocking and it prepared me. I was also fortunate because right away, I did get into a travel relationship as well. A male blogger, we met in Bali and we traveled quite a bit. And it was like, check, dream come true. Right away, as well. But I learned that there were more people like me, I just didn’t really know.

And I didnt know it was a thing to meet up with people. To meet up with other travelers and like, have that support. Just because when you’re doing this, no one else knows how you feel. It’s a weird life. Like, my boyfriend now, I come back after a month and he’s like, “How’s your trip?” And I’m like, “Mhm. I just went to 8 countries in 40 days. It was great.” And I went, “Do you know where I went?” and he’s like, “No.” and I’m like, “Hm, okay.” It’s very interesting to find people who are supportive of you and a lot of people’s friends and family will be like, “What are you doing?” But I’m grateful to have family and friends that were like, “Yeah, cool! That’s amazing, I wish I could do it too!” So if you don’t have people that are supporting you, my biggest recommendation is just don’t listen, go on the internet and see all the people who are doing what you wanna be doing and reach out to them instead and make some friends.

Debbie:

And yeah, it’s a tough situation right? Because when I started having this type of lifestyle—because essentially, Alyssa, you have a freedom lifestyle, you can take off whenever you want, wherever you want, you’re still able to make money because that’s what a lot of the stress comes from, right? When people want to start traveling or they want to do long term traveling, it is that, “okay, how am I going to make this sustainable,” “how am I going to make income,” “how am I going to make money.” But when you have a business or even if you have a job that’s remote and you can do it anywhere, you have a lot more freedom and flexibility.

And one of the things that I found myself before my husband actually also became remote, is that it can get really lonely. Because even though you do have that freedom, people that you love and care about may not have it so you’re often solo, right? And you have to get used to being on your own or making friends on the road. So, you mentioned that your boyfriend right now does not necessarily travel with you and he’s not remote—well, I don’t know if he’s remote but he’s in one place. How do you make that type of relationship work? Because that can be hard in that situation, where you’re like, “I’m so excited to be here,” and then sometimes you just look at a place and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful. I wish my other half was here to see this.”.

Alyssa:

Yeah, I have a few different thoughts on that. Because a lot of people, especially in the beginning, were constantly like, “Aren’t you lonely? You want to be alone? Don’t you want to have a husband and settle down and have babies?” And I was like, “No, and yes, I want to be alone.” Just let me go exploring because every time I travel with someone it’s more about them than it is the place. So me, personally, I still, to this day, prefer being solo when I’m traveling to new places.

If I’m going back like a second, third, fourth or fifth time, I prefer to be with people. But if it’s a brand new place and I’m really trying to understand the country and see everything, it is 10 times better doing it on my own. And for me, I’m obviously so used to being alone that it doesn’t bother me but I have had to work really hard on relationships especially with people who can’t come with me. So my boyfriend, technically, is nomadic but he isn’t in the position where he can just randomly go to Africa with me for a month. So I just have to work on having really good communication, setting up a communication plan, pretty much. Like, what time we’re going to do video calls, what time it is for me when I’m going to sleep and you’re awake, and things like that just to just make it a little easier.

Definitely in the beginning, I had to immediately have that talk where I was like, “Okay I’m here, but I have to leave for work.” It’s not always easy finding people that are going to be okay with that. I’ve had, obviously, a couple relationships failed because it was way too much for them and they wanted me to be there more often than I could be. But now, especially, with so many moving into digital ‘nomadicness’ it’s a lot easier to date if you’re a nomad as well and you’re traveling solo. It is so easy to meet people, so many people are becoming flexible.

So, that’s another amazing thing for us serial digital nomads. It’s funny now though because in the beginning, it was like, “I can’t find anyone to travel with me.” And now it’s like I can’t find a trip to be alone on. If I’m not hosting a group trip, there’s someone who wants to meet me and do the trip as well.

Debbie:

Yeah, that’s the beauty about being remote and having all these remote work available for people now is that you can have that freedom to travel when you want or even just live how you wanna live, it’s pretty incredible. And I love that you’re like, “I love being alone,” “I like seeing things on my own schedule.” Because it’s true if you travel with friends or even your significant other, you also have to make sure that you’re scheduling it for them but sometimes you’re just like, “I want to see this place the way I want to see it.” I love that.

So, let’s go toward your business. Because another thing that you have talked about, Alyssa, is being able to transition as your business changes, as the world changes. And now you have to create all of these multiple sources of income because as an influencer now, there’s a lot more people on the market and you had to make sure that you’re able to pivot and go with the changes. How has that gone for you? And what did you find that really works for you to figure out what is the right way to monetize your brand and your business?

Alyssa:

I basically just listen to my audience, and that’s my biggest tip. A lot of people think you just need to gain followers, for the numbers, but your followers are basically your income. But don’t treat them like that, treat them like they’re your brand. They’re part of your brand. I just listen to people. So, I’ve been doing group trips, next year will be my 7th year, and it came about because people kept being like, “Oh my God, I love your travels.

Can I come with you, cause you’re always solo?” And I’m like, “No, the point of me being solo, is for me to be solo. Not for me to invite random people.” But so many people kept asking that I was like, “Alright, I’m going to see what happens if I put together a group of people and we go on a trip together. And maybe I can make some money from it as well since I’m putting it together.” So, I did and my first trip actually had 10 people on it, and we went to Iceland. They were super chill, I made some money off of it. And they were like, “okay, so when’s the next one?” And I actually had a couple of them join me for Antarctica. And I was like, “Wow, if people are willing to go to Antarctica and come to Iceland, maybe I can keep making this thing.”.

So, I really just listen to them. I always listen to them on the destinations that they want to go to. So if I hear a lot of feedback from a country that I’m in solo, I’ll offer the next year as a group trip. The other thing that I did was, I realized a lot of people would ask me where I would get my clothes or my earrings, or things that I would either randomly find in Amazon or find in the countries I was traveling in that I can’t really buy and sell. So I learned how to do drop shipping, and I would find similar items doing drop shipping and sell them on my website. So basically just listening to people and giving them what they’re asking for.

Debbie:

I love that. That’s the best way to do it because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you don’t have to do this complicated brainstorming. They’re literally asking for it, so that’s so simple but very very effective. I love that.

So Alyssa, let’s move forward to maybe about 40-50 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?

Alyssa:

I don’t know, I guess just mostly for inspiring people to take their solo trips because I do get the most feedback on that and everyday it makes me really proud, really happy, because I wish I had someone like that when I was thinking of taking my first trip. And it really does inspire me and make me super proud that people are literally traveling all over the world just because of something I posted. So really just that, and I also would like to be remembered for my hard work, because I really do show people how hard it is to do all of this and the never ending work and effort that I put into it.

And people know. People that have never met me, they know. They’re like, “Girl, you work so much, you need a vacation.” It’s a good feeling because a lot of people think, “Oh it’s just posing for a picture and posting it.” But it’s so much more than that. And I am actually—I mean, it’s probably too young in my life to do it—but I’m already starting to write the books of my story. Just because so many people ask and they wanna know in the beginning how I even start. I just finished writing the first book, it’s coming out soon. Then I’m working on the second one about how I finally went nomadic and started getting paid to travel. I’ll just keep going with that. I really want to be retired with my little travel family and write books all day.

Debbie:

That’s amazing. And pretty much, you’ve started it already so you’re on the way there. And it’s so crazy how someone like you, Alyssa, obviously when we look at your images it just looks very effortless and easy and then people usually don’t see the hard work that you do have to do in terms of how you produce this type of work. And I always say, the easier it is, the harder it actually is. Just because you did a really good job on it.

So, thank you so much, Alyssa for joining us today! If our listeners want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Alyssa:

So I have a few different platforms. The main one is @mylifesatravelmovie on Instagram, if you’re interested in my group trips though check out @mylifesatraveltribe. And I also have TikTok, @mylifesatravelmovie.

My website is My Life’s a Travel Movie, my website if you need any tips or whatsoever in solo traveling, living abroad, and I also have a ton of itineraries so you can have a lot of free information in there. So yeah, those are the main ways to find me.

Debbie:

Thank you so much Alyssa!

We really appreciate you and sharing your story with us.

Alyssa:

Yeah, of course!

Thank you for having me.


Listen to Alyssa’s extended interview where she talks about how to live and work abroad permanently.

What you’ll find:

In this episode, Alyssa talks about how to live and work abroad permanently.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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