How to Take the Leap and Travel Full-Time

I interviewed world wanderer Julie Szmyd to find out the secret to becoming a full-time global citizen. Julie hails from Chicago and writes Salt Trails as well as freelancing for international travel publications. Follow her on Instagram @julieszmyd.

“Anyone could do it, it’s just about priorities. At the end of the day it is cheaper for me to live on the road travelling than to have an apartment and bills.”

1. What compelled you to make the leap to travel full-time?

I’ve been travelling for many years. My first backpacking trip was when I was 20. I was hooked. I basically spent the next 10 years working with travel as the ultimate goal. The evolution of spending more and more time abroad was inevitable. I finally gave in fully in September of 2013, sold everything I owned, and shoved my life into a backpack. Up until then most of my trips were anywhere from one month to eight months long.

2. What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened so far?

I suppose the most interesting thing to happen is not one event or encounter I have done or seen but how my personal journey of blogging while travelling has shaped my perspective. It has changed how I travel. I am more engaged with my surroundings, I ask more questions, and I push myself a little more than before. I truly enjoy sharing my travels and hope it can inspire others who want to do the same but maybe think they can’t.

My new friend louie. #luwak #begadangbackpackers #giliair #indonesia #travel #backpacking #salttrails

A photo posted by Julie szmyd (@julieszmyd) on

3. Have you developed a travelling routine? What’s a day in Julie’s life like?

Ah, routine, that’s one thing I miss to be honest. It’s an illusion I continue to try and chase while on the road. Routine seems to be one of the things you simply give up to travel full time. I think every lifestyle requires sacrifices and this is one of those for a traveler. I do my best to set aside time for certain things like writing and yoga but it is not easy. Usually I just fit work, personal time, and adventure in wherever I can. I love making a list of goals or a schedule for the day but without a doubt something comes up and changes those well-intentioned plans. But to travel is to go with the flow. Some of my best days are to get up and leave on a whim just because I feel like it, or perhaps run off to do something fun with people I’ve unexpectedly met. When you never really know where you’re sleeping, what you’ll be eating, or who you’ll run into, routine is difficult.

4. What advice would you give others if they wanted to travel full time?

Don’t try too hard at it. Don’t set expectations. Don’t be hard on yourself about doing and seeing every last thing. Just roll with it. You will never see everything, there is never enough time, and there are many variables that will play a role in what you do. Try not to control every step, you’ll find more adventure that way.

#hammocklife #pai A video posted by Julie szmyd (@julieszmyd) on

5. I hope this isn’t an impertinent question but what are the practicalities involved in becoming a digital nomad? Did you save for a long time, what did you do before Salt Trails and do you support your travels through your writing?

I actually love this question. So many people think I must come from money, or have won the lottery or something nutty. The truth is I worked in the restaurant industry waiting tables for a long time. While I enjoyed it, it was always a means to save money for travel and an easy job to leave and return to after months of absence. I made it a priority to spend my money on travel (and dining out…my other favorite thing). I chose not to have a car, to have roommates, and to live cheaply otherwise. Anyone could do it, it’s just about priorities. At the end of the day it is cheaper for me to live on the road traveling than to have an apartment and bills. I had a very lucky opportunity to write Salt Trails and live my dream. I make a small income from it but would love to grow in the travel industry and with blogging to be able to do this for a very long time.

6. In three words what does travelling mean to you?

Connecting. Learning. Exploring.

7. Where to next?


“The luxury of slow, long term travel is choosing places for unconventional, and sometimes strange reasons.”


I think Bulgaria. The plan is to head north from Greece and make it to the Czech Republic to get a tattoo for my birthday in August. The luxury of slow, long term travel is choosing places for unconventional, and sometimes strange reasons. When I was in Gili Air, Indonesia, I started chatting with a girl about a beautiful tattoo she had on her back. We became fast friends and spent almost two weeks together. She’s back in Prague and suggested I visit and get the tattoo I’ve been wanting from her artist. Sounded like a good enough reason for me! Reconnecting with a fellow traveler in their home base is really the highlight, but getting myself a unique birthday present in the meantime is icing on the cake.

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