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Ep. 228: How this travelling woman helps females move and work abroad with Jaime Kaplan-Perico

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In this week’s episode, I speak with Jaime who is an American solo traveler and digital nomad. 

Jaime has lived in many countries including Hong Kong, Serbia, and Croatia, and has visited over 50 countries. Jaime works full time as a Project Manager, and recently started a virtual assistant company called Eiffel VA, which pairs amazing virtual assistants with entrepreneurs. 

Jaime also has a blog called She Travels Solo (shetravelssolo.com) which is meant to inspire and help other women travel abroad and awards an annual scholarship to a high school senior who has a similar passion to travel.

Listen to find out how Jaime travels the world as a solo digital nomad.


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Listen Below:

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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 Jamie. Hey Jamie, how are you?

Jaime:

Hi, Debbie. I’m doing really well. How are you?

Debbie:

I am wonderful. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m so excited to learn more about you. Can you tell us about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Jaime:

So I am Jamie Kaplan-Perico. I am the founder of She Travels Solo, which is just a passion project of mine. It’s a blog and I’m on social. And what really inspired that was, I grew up wanting to travel, especially to Europe. I remember having these dreams about going to the Eiffel tower, but I was raised by a single mom. And although we did travel within North America, we never really got out.

And so when I went to the University of Florida, I knew that’s the priority. So after my freshman year, I ended up going to Israel, a country I knew very little about, and spent the summer there. And while I was there, I met the most incredible people, a lot of actually Americans, that were also students. But I was also interning. So it was a really unique experience leaving north America for the first time, going to a country, I knew nothing about.

And then without getting too political, I was running into bomb shelters the last four weeks I was there. I was 19 receiving a lot of texts and emails from my family saying, “Come home. You’re not safe.” And at that point, I did feel safe.

And I think that speaks a lot about who I am and kind of the resilience and getting through stuff. And so kind of from that experience in 2014 to today, I studied abroad a few times. I studied abroad in Hong Kong and did a program called Semester at Sea.

And all of these opportunities really changed how I view the world and how I live an offbeat life. And I’m, to this day, always traveling. I’m currently in Europe, I just spent five months in South Africa and a lot of people ask me how I do it. And I was not given a lot. I was a scholarship kid in college and I’ve worked many jobs even when I was in high school to right now that has allowed for me to live this amazing life.

Debbie:

I love that. I mean, there’s definitely a lot that you’ve done so far, Jamie, but let’s go back to when you first started living this nomadic lifestyle, how did you actually prepare for the journey? Because this is a big change, right? You didn’t really travel outside of the US with your family. So how did you prepare for that? How did you make sure that you are able to do this and do it continuously?

Jaime:

I just did it. I would read blogs and different things, but I don’t really think you learn a lot, you just have to figure it out.

And so after Semester at Sea, I decided to do my first solo trip and I went to Hungary and Ireland and I was couch surfing. Someone had told me about couch surfing. I was a student so my budget was very limited. And I just honestly did it.

Looking back, I was probably traveling with maybe on like $20 a day or something. I honestly can’t even tell you the dollar amount, but very low. And I met people. I was not afraid to ask people on the street questions if I didn’t know how to get somewhere.

And the worst thing they could do was walk away from me. And so I think it’s just getting out there doing it and then learning from mistakes, learning from the good and bad. And now it’s a breeze. Like, now I feel like I can go anywhere and figure it out. So yeah, I think it’s resilience that got me through.

Debbie:

It’s interesting that you say that you went out and just did it because a lot of people are afraid to do that because there’s this misconception that it takes a ton of money, right?

Obviously, if you want to do luxury travel, that’s a different story but if you can live on a budget, then it doesn’t take too much. Maybe you just need a little bit of savings. And then what a lot of people would do or can do is work while they’re also on the road. So how did you save and did you work while you were on the road as well, Jamie?

Jaime:

Yes. So right now I am working for an American company and I just started my own company. And now I really have like, no bills. Sure. I pay for where I’m living, but I have nothing in the US that I’m paying for. So it’s not like I have an apartment that is empty and then I’m paying rent or paying a mortgage on.

What I just pay for now is a SIM card. Today, I bought a SIM card to get me through the next week. That was $12. I’m not paying for a phone plan back in the US. So it’s like really keeping costs down. I did have two storage units in the US and I felt like it was buying me down. And it was something I was thinking about, but honestly, it was maybe $200 a month that was like really nothing in the grand scheme of things.

So I would say my biggest tip there is to get rid of everything. I realized that one of the storage units I had, had things in it that weren’t really worth anything, but I was holding onto and paying money each month to hold onto. So get rid of expenses so that when you get to wherever you’re traveling to, you’re able to keep costs down.

So right now I’m paying for my Airbnb and making meals here and also able to save, which is really cool. I’m saving a lot more than I would if I was living back in Los Angeles, the last place I lived in the US. So I think you can definitely spend less and still travel. If you really keep track of your finances.

Debbie:

Yeah. I would definitely agree with that. And also living in Los Angeles is extremely, extremely expensive. So once you leave an expensive city like that, then everything seems so minuscule compared to big cities in the United States. So I love that.

Why don’t you walk us through the expenses, Jamie, when you’re actually on the road? Because you mentioned a little bit of some of the things that you’re spending on now. So since you are doing this and it has become more sustainable for you, what are the main things that you’re actually spending on when you’re on the road to give us a little bit of an idea of what to expect?

Jaime:

Sure. So my Airbnb, I’m an open book, costs about $30 a night here. I’m actually in on an island called Korčula in Croatia. So about $30 a night. I don’t have a car. If I want to rent a bike, I’ll rent a bike or an e-bike that would cost $15 to $25 a day. If you’re doing it for a week, you’d get a better deal.

The food here is not very cheap, but I’m doing a combination of cooking and eating out occasionally. So let’s say a meal out is that $16 for a nice fish dinner and then travel. So I’m actually going to Sicily next week, and you’re not going to believe this, Debbie, but my flight that I booked yesterday was 12 euros.

Debbie:

Oh my gosh. that’s insane.

Jaime:

Yeah. From this island to another island is $17 when I’m flying from Croatia to Italy for 12 euros. So, yeah, unbelievable.

So that definitely isn’t a very high expense. I mean, when I flew from K-Town a few weeks ago to split, I think I paid four or $500 which obviously is a bit more than 12 euros, but that’s really it. Oh, I have health insurance that I recently just got and that’s about $40 a month.

And then sometimes I’ll get a SIM card and that can range when I’m living in Serbia, it’s like $10 a month. In South Africa, it’s a bit more, it’s about $50 a month for 10 gigabytes of internet.

But that, I mean, I think those are like the major expenses and they’re nothing compared to what I’d be paying if I had car payments and car insurance, all those things I was paying for in LA. And I mean, I think my rent would be close to between $1,700 and $2000 a month.

Debbie:

Yeah. And it’s so much more or less when you’re living on the road and you’re not in these big cities, you’re in Europe right now and that is ridiculous what you’re spending on. I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Oh my gosh!”

I’m in New York City. So this is one of the most expensive cities, not just in the United States, but in the world. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s amazing, Jamie.”

Jaime:

I’m doing, like, laser hair removal in kind of between countries in South Africa and Serbia and not is a fraction of the cost too. I’m taking advantage of, like, those nice things that might just seem like a luxury anywhere else.

Debbie:

Exactly. Like, self-care stuff that you don’t even have to worry about. You could just do it, which is awesome. It’s like going to the spa every other day. That’s amazing.

So, Jamie, you mentioned this about your health insurance, what international health insurance do you actually use when you’re on the road?

Jaime:

So I hate to admit this, but I went years without travel insurance, but I just signed up for Safety Wing about two months ago.

Debbie:

Love it. And that’s another thing, right? When you’re on the road, and you mentioned this, for a long time for a lot of travelers, we don’t really use health insurance because you don’t think, especially when you’re young, anything is going to happen and then COVID happened. And then a of people got stuck if you got sick.

So it is really crazy and finding insurance when you’re in a steady location, I know that for a fact, is hard enough, but it’s even harder when you’re actually on the road. And if you’re always on the road, it’s even tougher.

I’m always confused by all the requirements. And I need a ton of help when I’m actually going through the process of claiming, which we never want to do that when we’re not in our hometown, our city, ’cause that’s even more of a headache.

That’s why I’m really glad I found a company like Integra Global who has the most incredible customer service. They have 24/7 help and you can submit a claim through their app and your claims are managed by their in-house global experts and team who are able to handle any issues, which means less stress and panic because I definitely do that.

So if you’re interested, you can all go to IntegraGlobal.com for more details. They’re really amazing. They’re one of the only insurance companies actually out there that helped people process their claims even during COVID when it wasn’t even part of the insurance yet. So love Integra global. Again, it’s IntegraGlobal.com.

But I’m glad that you got your insurance now, Jamie, I’m sure that feels better, especially if it’s nice and affordable too. So now that you are actually living on the road, Jamie, this was a tough thing for you because you continued to be a digital nomad even during the pandemic.

So that must have been a little tough, to say the least, and you’re able to hold steady on this. And one of the things that I’m sure you get a lot of questions about is how you actually found your job and to find a stable income when you’re constantly traveling.

So can you walk us through that? And how you were able to land a remote gig because you also not only have a remote job, but you also have a company that you started as well.

Jaime:

Yeah. So it’s only a loaded question for me. So I remember sitting at my desk in LA being miserable, being full that I had to sit there beyond kind of work hours, even though I was working before work and after work, but I just did not want to sit on my desk anymore.

And so I left that company and I took time off. It took about six months and I did some traveling around California and then I did a lot of Eastern Europe. And at that time I had quite a bit of saving and it wasn’t flowing through everything by any means, but I was very comfortable and I was just enjoying life.

And then I ended up going back to Florida. I think it was around Christmas time, 2019 to the beginning of 2020. And I met with a family friend, someone I had known for a long time and she was really frazzled.

And I was like, “Is there anything I can help you with, Tina?” And she was like, “Well, actually I can use help with my Shopify site and social media work. And I was like, “Okay, I’m leaving for South America in a week, but I’m happy to do any and all of this while traveling.” And it worked out.

And I started about maybe four hours a week and then it grew to 12. And then as the pandemic was growing and their main business which is real estate. She reached out to me and said that she had to cut my hours back because they didn’t know how the real estate market was going to be.

Fortunately, I wasn’t reliant on it, but it was helping fund my trip. And then I ended up going back to the US because of COVID and fortunately, within maybe two weeks, my job somehow grew to 40 to 50 hours a week after being told that she was putting back my hours.

So I got extremely lucky, especially during the pandemic, and stayed really, really busy. I had to make it very clear that I did not want to live in Florida where the company was based and not just like, wasn’t really an option for me then.

And so I would say like, my biggest piece of advice is using your network and that’s essentially what I did. And I was definitely in the right place at the right time. But it’s also like being very clear. And if you have enough respect for yourself and the person that you’re interviewing with, or the company you work for has the same respect and trust in you, that I think it’s a lot easier for them to be okay with you working remote.

And of course, the landscape is a bit different than it was when I started working for them. And it’s a lot easier probably to get remote work at this point, but I think it’s the trust aspect. And something that has made it a bit challenging, maybe the most difficult part, is the time difference.

So I’m usually based in Europe and South Africa. And so that’s where I’m six hours ahead of Eastern time where the company is based. So that means that I’m often working late, but it also means that I have the mornings to myself.

And today I was at the beach for a few hours and taking care of personal things in the morning. So it’s really making sure you dedicate time to get your work done.

Debbie:

Absolutely. And you mentioned this, it’s just not being afraid to ask because if you just look at that family friend and you didn’t say anything, then who knows where you would be, right? So not being afraid to take that chance is always a good thing.

But now you also have this business that you’ve built. Jamie, can you tell us a little bit more about that? What you do, why you got started and how’s it going for you?

Jaime:

Yeah, I would love to.

So I started The Eiffel Agency, which is a virtual assistant company and is based in South Africa with US clients. And I really actually came up with this idea well, we all know that there are a lot of virtual assistant companies, but the reason why I decided to start The Eiffel Agency was I was in Serbia in Belgrade and their equivalent to an Uber is called Cargo.

And I was speaking with a driver. He was professional, his English was perfect, he was university educated, really smart, nice guy. And he told me for 10 to 12 hours of work a day driving, he made 20 euros. And I got out of that car, Debbie, and I was about to cry. I was just like, “Wow, how is someone…?” Well, okay, Serbia of course is a less expensive country than the US but that’s not enough to really get by.

And so I think it just reminded me that there are skilled workers all over the world that want to do more. And then there are people in the US who are looking to start companies and feel like they can do it all and then they realize that they can’t, or they shouldn’t be doing it at all.

They don’t need to be doing their social media if that’s not their background. And they should be focusing on the things that really matter: getting new clients, client retention, et cetera. So basically I was going to start the company in Serbia, the virtual assistant company is mostly marketing-related. So getting marketing experts in Serbia and then US clients.

But then just because of language barriers and cultural barriers, I decided to start it in South Africa and it’s been great. So I was just there for five months and brought a few people onto my team. And something that’s different about The Eiffel Agency is that each virtual assistant is paired with a non-profit.

I pay basically the VA to spend hours helping the nonprofit with branding and marketing. So right now we are partnering with a school and a township in Cape Town. I just actually had a meeting with the founder of the school earlier today, and it’s just, like, really amazing.

I’ve always been super into social responsibility and giving back to various communities. And I found a way that The Eiffel Agency can do that. So each VA is paired and yeah, and that’s really it. So we can do logos, we can build websites, we can handle social media scheduling and design work, and then also personal tasks.

So I was able to include travel as I’m also planning travel for people. So I have a client based in the US who I book all of his travel for a plan, a lot of different trips. I just planned a trip for him to go to Alaska. And he had an incredible time with his girlfriend and mom. So it’s not just marketing, but it can also be personal assistance as well.

Debbie:

Love it. And we’re definitely going to add a link to that on our show notes on the website. Thank you for sharing that with us, Jamie, really appreciate it.

So, Jamie, a question for you: let’s fast forward to about 30 to 40 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?

Jaime:

Wow, that’s such a great question. I want to be remembered as someone that took a risk. And when I travel, and my friends were just with me last week and they saw how I just talked to everyone, and I ended up leaving one of the islands in Croatia with like 30 new friends.

I was friends with a taxi guy, all the people. Like, bars and restaurants and the paddleboard rental guy. And so I guess just leaving happiness wherever I go and that curiosity. People always say that I ask a lot of questions and I’ve always been that way.

Debbie:

That is definitely a great legacy to leave, Jamie. I’m sure you definitely made a lot of people happy along the way. So love hearing that. So before we say goodbye, I have five rapid questions for you.

Are you ready?

Jaime:

Yes.

Debbie:

Awesome. Alright. Best money you’ve ever spent while abroad and why?

Jaime:

I’m going to have to go with the $12 I just spent on my flight.

Debbie:

Love that. That is definitely a great deal to have. And I’m sure you’re going to have a great time too.

Alright. Now, describe what your ideal day would look like.

Jaime:

My ideal day would look like waking up around 6:00 AM, going on a bike ride and then jumping in the ocean. Enjoying a few hours there and listening to an audiobook. And from there probably hitting up a beach bar for a bit and meeting people. Meeting other solo travelers or just other travelers.

And then realistically, that would probably turn into dinner with the same people and just hearing stories about their travels, their life, their country, and who knows where the night would end. But I’m assuming it would probably go to a few more drinks.

And yeah, I think it’s just always meeting new people and learning more about different places.

Debbie:

That definitely sounds like a great day. We all wish we could have that. So that’s an awesome one, Jamie.

Where do you think is the best location to live as a remote worker?

Jaime:

Cape Town, South Africa,

Debbie:

And that’s where you just came from, right? Why is that such a great place for you and why do you recommend other people to live there if they’re remote workers?

Jaime:

There’s a huge digital nomadic community that once you’re there and you joined the WhatsApp group or the Facebook page, you’re just in. And there are so many people from all over the world that are kind of doing something similar as far as working remote.

And it’s a beautiful place, it’s inexpensive to live in. There are a lot of places to visit, whether it’s the vineyards or Hermanus, which is great for whale-watching. And really great nightlife and restaurants and just natural beauty.

Debbie:

Love that. Definitely have to go visit. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

Now, if you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Jaime:

It would be two pause time.

Debbie:

Interesting. Love that. I haven’t heard that one before. Why would you want that to be your superpower, Jamie? What’s the biggest draw to that?

Jaime:

I just haven’t noticed, especially the last few years have just been flying by and there’s just so much I want to experience. And I just don’t think one lifetime is enough.

Debbie:

That is very poetic. I love that.

So what’s the one thing that you wish you did sooner?

Jaime:

I don’t know. I don’t really live with regret, but let me think about this one. I don’t think I have any, I don’t think I have an answer for that one.

Debbie:

That’s good too. It means you feel like everything was meant to happen when it was supposed to happen. So that is a great answer as well. Love it.

Well, thank you so much, Jamie, for joining us today. We really appreciate you being here. If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Jaime:

You can find me on social media: Instagram and Facebook – @she_travels_solo or reach out to me through The Eiffel Agency or SheTravelsSolo.com.

Debbie:

Perfect. Thanks so much, Jamie. We really appreciate you.

Jaime:

Thanks, Debbie.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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