Me on the Great Ocean Road

How I Can Afford My Life Of Constant Travel

Derek Popular, Work & Travel 1346 Comments

Me on the Great Ocean Road

I’m confused.

I’m simply confused as to how it’s possible that I have so far failed to properly explain how I’ve managed to travel/live/work abroad nonstop for 12 years straight (and counting).

The questions are still pouring in every single day: How do you do it? How is it possible to travel for so long? Where does the money come from?

And while I thoroughly enjoy communicating with readers (I’m being completely serious and encourage you all to continue sending your emails to me as often as you wish), the fact that these very questions are on the minds of so many of you out there has led me to believe that I need to do a better job at providing the answers.

While it’s true that I’ve already written plenty of posts on the matter, clearly all of these posts, even as one collective entity, still fall well short of proving that a life of travel is not some crazy fantasy but a perfectly reasonable and easily attainable lifestyle option instead.

I’ve even referred to other travelers who are out there living a similar nomadic lifestyle, but apparently, that hasn’t been enough either.

So what am I to do?

How do I prove, once and for all, that you do not need $500,000 or even $50,000 in your bank account, that if you are able to scrounge together $500 bucks, there’s little stopping you from becoming a full-time nomad. I’m not joking here. After all, this is exactly what I’ve done myself. Okay, I first left home with $1500 to my name but that’s not exactly a fortune either.

I’m not going to give up trying, so here’s another attempt to show you how I’ve managed to live a life of constant travel.

The following is a brief summary of the past 12 years of my life. It is a timeline of sorts that details where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing and where my money has come from at all times. Ultimately, it shows just how one ordinary person has so far managed to fund 4,195 days straight of traveling and living abroad.

Dead Cities in Syria


December 25, 1999:

  • Left home and flew to Bangkok with $1500 in my bank account
  • Planned to spend 3 months traveling around Southeast Asia

March 2000

  • Decided to officially extend my trip despite having only $500 left to my name
  • Taught English in Chiang Mai, Thailand, earning approximately $150 USD per week (more than enough to live well in this city at the time)

October 2000

  • Returned to the US with $300 in my account (after paying for the flight home)
  • Spent 2 months in Boston working as a high school substitute teacher
  • Saved $2500 during this time

January 2001

  • Returned to Asia and spent 12 months traveling through Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia
  • While in India, volunteered as an English teacher for 3 months in exchange for room and board
  • Stayed with friends for 3 months in Thailand and taught English once again in Chiang Mai
  • Lived with friends for 2 months in Australia, which kept my expenses quite low
  • Returned to the US with no money at all

February 2002

  • Through a contact, I applied to work on board cruise ships
  • Landed a job as a Tour Staff with Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Worked on board two different ships during one 8-month contract
  • Saved $8000 during this time and then decided not to return for another contract

November 2002

  • Traveled to Australia for 4 months

February 2003

  • With $4000 in the bank, I spent two months living with a friend in Los Angeles
  • Found a short-term job at an advertising company through a temp agency
  • Worked for two months and left LA with $5000 in the bank

April 2003

  • Traveled to Thailand, Bangladesh and India

Norwegian Cruise Lines

September 2003

  • Landed a job as a Tour Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines
  • Worked two contracts on board ships located in Hawaii and the South Pacific
  • Traveled to Europe during my 6-week vacation between contracts
  • Saved $20,000 by the end of my second contract

July 2004

  • Spent 7 months traveling to Europe, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan

March 2005

  • With $10,000 still in my account, decided to work two more contracts as a Tour Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines
  • Saved an additional $20,000 during these contracts
  • Traveled to Europe during my 2-month vacation in between contracts

December 2005

  • Traveled for 8 months to South America, Europe and India

La Boca, Buenos Aires

September 2006

  • Was offered a job with Cunard Line (cruise line based out of the UK)
  • Worked as a Tour Manager on board the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liners
  • Spent 18 months with Cunard, saving over $3300 per month
  • Traveled through Europe, Caribbean, Mexico, the Middle East and SE Asia during my vacations in between contracts

April 2008

  • Traveled back to India for 3 months

July 2008

  • Worked one final two-month contract for Cunard Line, saving an additional $6000

September 2008

  • Left Cunard (with more than enough money saved up by now) and moved to Australia
  • Spent five months in Melbourne working on creating online streams of income

December 2008

  • Sold my first eBook online
  • Continued working on promoting my eBook while creating a second eBook to sell
  • Began earning some income through affiliate marketing

February 2009

  • Spent six weeks in Thailand
  • Volunteered and traveled in India for six weeks
  • Visited Italy for a few weeks

Tuscany, Italy

June 2009

  • Traveled through Central America and Mexico, finishing the trip by renting an apartment in Sayulita, Mexico
  • Continued working on my online projects
  • Income from my online projects reached $1000 per month for the first time

December 2009

  • Moved to the Caribbean coast of Mexico and rented an apartment in Playa del Carmen, where I spent more time working on my online projects
  • Officially launched

September 2010

  • Spent 6 months traveling around the Middle East, Australia and Southeast Asia

April 2011

  • Returned to Playa del Carmen (where I am currently living) in order to catch up on work
  • Reached $2500+ per month in online income through the sales of three eBooks I’ve authored and through my efforts with affiliate marketing

Right Now

  • Planning some new adventures for later this year, including a most interesting 30 day train challenge for the month of September (more details to come in my next post)
  • Life as a permanent nomad continues

And that’s all there is to it. The truth of the matter is…

$2500 per month, and even $1000 or $1500 per month, is more than sufficient to achieve a lifestyle that involves extensive travel. It really doesn’t take much. Some teaching English here, some cruise ship work there, some internet marketing in your spare time and VOILA!

And this is only a tiny fraction of the opportunities to earn money while traveling that exist out there. Once you realize this, you’ll also realize that luck, miracles and having an overflowing bank account play no role whatsoever in allowing you to achieve your travel goals.

All you need is the courage to take the first step and a mind that is open to trying new experiences!

***If you want to create your own life of travel, you may be interested in my new project – How to Live a Life of Travel.

This one resource will teach you everything you need to know. Be sure to check it out!***

Since 1999 I've been traveling and living around the world nonstop. Sign up below for personal stories, real advice and useful updates from my adventures. Only good stuff, no nonsense.

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Comments 1,346

  1. Shaily Poladia

    hey Earl,
    i am a fashion student . i live in India. loved your blog.
    i really want to Travel. But i dont have a plan. I wanna live an Independent life for 2 years. Explore World Art , Music , Fashion , Culture etc
    Please guide me as to how can i earn and work out on my expenses , since i am just a fashion student and and have no other educational degree
    waiting for your reply

  2. dags

    Great stuff man! you are very inspiring! I stumbled across your blog about 6 months ago and now I have also my “normal lifestyle” and am now on my world trip by small motorbikes!
    Here’s to following your dreams!!

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  7. Matt - The Gambling Traveller

    Just wanna drop by and say Hi Earl!

    I’ve followed your blog for a few years now and have realised that whilst not a full time traveller, I am a traveller in my own way. I have literally just started my blog, which was mainly inspired by yourself and a number of other blogs in the travel niche.

    Hopefully one day in the future I will come along on one of your tours!!

    All the best.

  8. Jeth Poland

    Hey Earl!
    This is my first time I have ever been on your blog and I am amazed!
    I’m 16 right now and I want to travel all over the world. Especially The swing at the end of the world ( Casa Del Arbol ). I just have the question, how do you make enough money to keep going from country to country ? I read that you sometimes get a job wherever you are staying at but will that be enough to keep living this lifestyle for a while?
    Get back to me soon please !(:

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jeth – Just have a read through the blog as I write about it all – it was a combination of teaching English, working on cruise ships and now, working online with various projects.

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  10. Sivaraaj

    Hey Earl,
    Am Siva from India….I would like to lead a life like you, but I don’t no were to start.Really the way u come’s ….really interesting and feel the pain of struggles. ANYWAY AM READY TO START MY LIFE in the way of your,….ANYONE IS THERE TO JOIN , pls mail me guys…..”rvmhss086@gmail. Com”.


  11. Matthew

    Just stumbled across your blog now and I’m truly amazed. ☺ I can’t believe that you’ve been travelling for so long. I think having that comfort in money is what a lot of people look for when they travel. Truly inspiring. I’m definitely gonna follow your posts.

  12. Kim

    Great article, thank you for the inspiration 🙂

    I’ll be returning home soon after a year travelling around Asia, but I don’t think it’ll be long before I start planning my next adventure!

  13. Angel Nicolas

    Wow, very cool!!! Two thumbs way up. After reading this, I am now a fan. In my own way I am trying to travel to as many places before I bite the big one. You are way ahead of me my friend. Keep posting and I will keep reading.

    Keep traveling

  14. Erick

    Wow! Amazing timeline! Classic “If there’s will, there’s a way” story:) Thanks for sharing and i’ll definitely check out one of your books..

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  16. pola

    Hey Earl! your story is very inspirational, and do you need to have some sort of degree to travel? I mean i guess the more people see your work experience and degrees the better. Did the people ask for some type of degree when you thought English????

  17. Eva

    Hi Earl,

    What you have done is just truely amazing, and inspirational!
    While I was drinking my morning coffe, I accidentaly found your cruise ship farewell post. It is 3 p.m. here in the UK, and I am still in my pijamas, and reading your blog. 😀
    My journey started in 2011, when I left my home in Hungary, and became a crew member on board. It took me for a long time to accept who I am… I am someone, who doesn’t want carrier, children, house, car, garden and dogs. I don’t want anything else from Life, but travel! I want to see, and experience as much as I can, and it makes me feel so good, that I am not the only alien on Planet Earth. 🙂
    I hope one day you will cross my way, and we can share some storys live! And don’t forget, “not all those who wonder are lost..” 🙂

    Best wishes,

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Eva – I look forward to meeting you somewhere out there. Seems like we’d have a lot to talk about! Until then, keep on enjoying your journey 🙂

  18. Arifur Rahman

    Hi earl, Nice to see that you traveled in Bangladesh in 2003. I was only 15 years old then.
    If you come to Bangladesh again please feel free to contact with me. You are a great person. Travelling all over the world doing a lot of job sounds so interesting and inspiring. If you need any accommodation, holiday lettings or any help for booking hotel i will be here always. Best of luck.

  19. Jamiee

    Hello Earl! So inspiring that you are travelling the world and working while doing so. This is exactly what I am trying to do now, just getting my passport and visas worked out, but how do you keep getting a visa? Youth mobility Visas are only good for two years and can only be used once, and work visas are hard to get unless you work in a specific field? What kind of visa are you using to continue this long term travel, because I would love to travel for longer than 2 years!


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  21. Anne from Trip Memos

    It’s inspiring on the one hand but still baffling. I have no doubt that an average income of let’s say $25K a year is sufficient for slow traveling. Probably a lot less, if you stick to countries with low cost of living, which is fine.
    My issue is with long-term life planning. I’m not sure how old you are, but when you’re in your forties and have kids in tow, things look a little bit different. Pension plans, long-term savings and retirement are things you have to take into consideration. Will you be able to work, online or otherwise, 10 or 20 years from now? Will you be needing specialized medical care (can be a problem when traveling in some areas)? Will you have enough money to pay for your kids college fees?
    I am convinced it’s still doable, but the monetary outlook is different. May actually blog about that soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  26. Swagatika Chand

    Hi Earl, I was thinking that travellers life is difficult and it is actually for Indians. I want to be a traveller and i m trying my best but i dont knw where actually i lack behind. If u can help me get through by any chance though i m trying to be in your path. Regards Swagatika

  27. Joan Sullivan

    I’m 22 and currently planning a trip to europe for a month(or more). This is really inspiring because I’ve always wanted to be nomadic and only recently did I discover it’s possible. I was wondering if you think me being a woman changes anything? I’m really nervous about my safety (I’ve been abroad before). Reassure me, even as a woman, I can do this too right?

    1. Shyler

      I totally relate to that. I am a woman planning a 6 month venture in Europe soon and I worry about traveling alone. It’s so hard to find people who want to drop their lives and travel. So my choices are go alone or not at all.

      1. Robin

        Hi Shyler. Have you started your venture yet? I can relate to you. I want to live a nomadic lifestyle, but i would like someone to travel with. In the beginning at least. I think it would be a little easier if i had a friend to share experiences with. If you want someone to travel with, we could get to know each other and see if we have the same interests. And maybe venture together?

  28. mahmudur rahman

    Hi Earl,
    It is true that I excited to read your inspiration story as well as fascinating to me . I am huge fan of you. Go ahead !!!

    Thanking you,

  29. Sean Stout

    Hi Earl,

    I am so glad I found your blog. Unlike you, I am just about to begin my travels. I have an online job making $2500 a month. I am planning on starting in Bucharest August 1st. I want to stay in Bucharest for a few months and then travel to the other EU countries and then who knows. I am an American with a newly renewed passport with enough income to go anywhere. I will definitely be looking to your blog for inspiration. I am 45 so I am starting out a “little” later in life than you but hopefully I will get as much enjoyment as you. Maybe will cross paths one day.

    1. Sofie

      Hi Sean,

      What kind of job that earn that much money online? Im interested because I want to know how to do it. Im thinking of studying veterinary medicine in Bucharest this fall, it would be nice to have an online job on the side.



  30. Chris Robinson

    With all the elevated violence in the world these days, particularly the ISIS groups and affiliates, are your travels impeded? Is it more dangerous to be a traveling American right now than it was a few years ago? I am wondering if the world’s view on Americans has changed or if the level of violence in the world has changed that much or is it just US news outlets make it seem like that unduly.

    Your travel logs are really interesting and inspiring!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Chris – I’d say that the only difference is that there are a few more countries I wouldn’t visit right now that I would have, or did, visit a few years ago. Apart from that, nothing else has changed.

  31. Caron

    Hi Earl! Thank you for writing such an inspirational post! I feel way more inspired after reading this! How do I go about signing up to work in a cruise ship? The only skill I have is cooking as I’ve been doing it fr 6 years now! Maybe working as a server too. :p It would be great to get some information from you. As I am interested to work and travel at the same time! 🙂

  32. sue wilkie

    I love your lifestyle…..I too have lived overseas and taught ESL in Asia and traveled to 30 countries, I have worked on a cruise ship and and on an island and in the tropics and lived with friends. I adore the nomad lifestyle.
    RIGHT ON!!! Keep it going! If you have lectures or give speeches…I would like to hear you. Thanks, you are a great role model.

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  34. Ace

    Hi there Wandering Earl! I am planning to move to mexico and was hoping you could help me out with a few questions? I read your blog about living for less than 1k per month in places and wanted to know about Riviera Maya for living? Is that a decent affordable place to live? I wanted to know also do we need passports to drive there from the U.S? Is it a safe place? Will we need a car? I have some money some I mean about 3k maybe a little more. I am a 28yrold woman with 2 sons who are 6 and 8. Any help you could give would be soooo wonderful! Thanks my traveling friend!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ace – The Riviera Maya has become much more expensive in recent years and while you could still live there on less than $1000, what you get for that money is significantly less these days. Yes, you do need a passport to enter a foreign country. The Riviera Maya is very safe if you use the same common sense you would use at home. If you need a car – that depends on what you plan to do, where you plan to live, if you are okay with public transportation, etc. I would say that $3000 won’t last the 3 of you too long down there at the moment. It might be better to look at less expensive regions.

  35. raj

    Hey man wandering Earl. Let me just first say……………YOUR THE MAN!!!!!.your living the life I’ve always dreamt of !!This was my dream lifestyle eversince I was a little kid . I’m from India and am 19 .I’m a huge fan.

    I have a plan of earning about 2 to 3 million dollars by the time I’m 38 and put it in a savings account and then live my dream.the good thing in India is that you get 10 percent interest on your fixed deposits so a moneyed guy is pretty much guaranteed a fixed income for life.

    This is what keeps me going in life.i was wondering if you could suggest some good cheap destination as I am planning to make a short vacation in sept this year

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Raj – There are many options, from SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, even Malaysia) to Central America and Eastern Europe as well. I would focus on the places that really jump out at you and get you excited because you can almost always find a way to travel on a budget!

  36. Ronan

    Hi Earl,

    Your posts are always very inspiring and to be honest your whole lifestyle is what I dream of. My question is, do you think this sort of lifestyle is achievable for a shy guy? For example, you clearly aren’t shy otherwise you would never have been able to teach English without any sort of tefl cert etc. I have always wanted to live the life of travel but am very shy and tend to just go on trips of 3+ weeks. I’ve been to Thailand 3 times alone and it’s a bit of a utopia for me. Maybe I have more confidence than I give myself credit for because would people without confidence really go to Thailand alone?

    I am considering my next move as a working holiday to Australia but i’m worried I won’t make friends there because of my shyness. But at 24 I guess it’s time to grow out of that if I want to achieve my dreams.

    1. Nathaniel

      You just answered your own question 🙂

      Biggest thing is, if you want to change something, or do something, don’t wait around: just do it. Like that Nike commercial. XD

    2. Stefany

      I traveled with a friend in New Zealand on a working holiday visa for 6 months a few years ago (I’m now 24, like you). While I was with someone, we were in the minority! Many people traveled alone, and made friends along the way. It’s actually quite easy to make friends abroad, even if you’re really shy and introverted (like me). Sometimes all it takes is a connection like, “You’re from the United States? Me too!” Really, you connect with people you never thought you’d befriend in your own home country.

      Best of luck to you! I hope you end up going. 🙂

      1. David

        I concur. No one should ever be afraid to travel alone as you do make friends easily, and if you’re by yourself, you’re more approachable than if you’re in a group. Many more people come up and talk with you when you’re by yourself compared to being with a friend or group of friends, as groups are more intimidating and so individuals are less likely to approach your group to start a conversation. Never let fear stop you travelling (within reason of course 🙂 )

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  38. Ed

    Most excellent, Earl. This is the most forthright, honest journey I’ve read. Most folks save the details for their book, which makes sense, as another source of income. So, I really appreciate you putting it all out there. I’m finishing my TEFL course & setting off to teach English overseas. Thailand was my first choice but, w/o a degree, it doesn’t look promising. So, I thought about Colombia, but I’ll only be able to break even. Which leaves China. I can save more of my income in China than either places. I just hope I can stomach the air quality for a year. Like you, I’m leaving with only a couple thousand. I do my time in China. Get some teaching experience under my belt. Save some money then head out – building website, teaching, volunteering, exchanging… pretty much your template. I’d traveled to 17 countries in my 20s so I know that opportunities, that I can’t even predict, will come my way. Anyhow, awesome site. Your stories got me venting. Haha! You have a new fan.

  39. Maxime

    Great article. I’ve been following you for two years now and I bought both How to Live a Life of Travel and How to Work on Cruise Ship.

    How to Live a Life of Travel is the best ebook I have read about travel, I think i’ve read it 3-4 times haha! I recently did a review on my website too.

    Have a good one Earl 😉

  40. Yee Yitathasiri

    Hi Earl,
    Your writting impresses me so much. Moreover, your life with travelling is very charmingfull. i wished I could be as you were. I have some experience in travelling, but not as much as your.
    nice to know oyu and just owul dliek to let you know, once you happen to be in chiangmai, you have place and food with frienship waitting you here.

  41. Ye

    Hi Earl,

    great blog! great life experience!
    like you, i love to travel a lot though im still a student right now. I’ve done plenty of traveling throughout the world by summer schools and exchange program. Actually im having great time here in France right now. Have you ever been to China? im sure u will find a whole different world there. We Chinese are crazy about foreigners. u’ll experience great fun.
    However i do have some practical questions that i always wanna to ask to a ‘professional traveller’ like you.(i suppose that’s just the way of how chinese people think…) if you do not have enough balance in your bank account, how can you deal with some unexpected situations like a major disease(god forbid)..wont that be a disaster?… how about when you r older and cannot live a nomad life like this anymore(though i hope u’ll do it forever)? have u considered where the money source will be then?


  42. Jess

    Hi Earl,

    Wow your life of travel sounds amazing 🙂
    I have one question – I’ve tried sifting through the other comments to find the answer but there are so many of them!

    While you were working abroad in all these different countries…did you need to obtain a working visa at all? I know how much of a hassle it can be to get sometimes (UK working visa especially).

    I’m from New Zealand, I do Graphic Design to make a living, hoping to travel South East Asia and Europe towards the end of this year.


  43. Mike | VagabondingMike

    $2500, $1500 or even $1000. You are so right! I have easily traversed the globe on $1000/m. Not necessary living ‘high off the hog’ but accomplishing my ultimate goal of travel.

    Prioritize what is important to you and the rest will fall inline.

    Happy travels!

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  46. Stevan Alburty

    I am a freelance journalist, and your story fascinates me. (I have written for the NY Times.) I would like to write a story about you, but I find the whole premise suspicious. I would like to interview you (Via Skype: alburty) You wend a profound influence on a lot of people. It deserves some inspection. Come out, come out wherever you are.

    1. Andrew M

      Hi Stevan. Not sure if I properly understand your post re your suspicion, but it sounds like you’re questioning whether the way Earl posts that he is able to travel is true. The way Earl described it is very familiar to me as I did something somewhat similar, on a smaller scale, for a couple of years hitchhiking around Australia. I went and worked in a ski resort for 3 months and then took off up the coast, and just kept going, then back down to the South the following winter, followed by a couple more months working in the snow. This gave me enough cash to head off for another 6 months, ending up in Westen Australia, teaching a bit of guitar, and some days in a music shop. I was camping and staying in hostels most of the time whilst on the road, and living very cheaply. These days, Couch Surfing is a much simpler way, but this was a while ago. Met some wonderful people, and have some great memories. Just about to jettison 99% of belongings and do the same again! But this time, around the world. Open ended.

    2. Aaron

      You find the premise suspicious? You find working periodically to save money and then traveling to places much cheaper than the west on a small budget suspicious? You find writing on a blog about your travels and making a book about the same topic to earn extra money suspicious? You find affiliate marketing while having an online presence suspicious?

      I find you suspicious you f’kin wanker.

  47. Shauna van Bruggen

    Hi Earl,

    Binge reading your blog. You are amazing, so inspiring. Glad to see someone living my dream life. Hopefully one day I will be able to live that life too!

    Thanks for the tips and motivation

    Shauna 🙂

  48. Carlo Alberto

    Hi Earl,
    I have been a shrink for 20years and then a casting manager in TV reality shows for 10 (and once in a while a documentary presenter), so I will answer your question “Why people do not understand what to do”.
    Of course being a real example is not enough (modeling is the psy world for this). The same is true also for telling people “How to”, just because they will read and tell themselves that they simply are not Earl.
    I think this is our common mistake. Which is telling the solution, which will always be only a personal solution.
    Nothing to do with the collective unconscious that drive our journeys.
    On the contrary we all should change our attitude. Telling our controversial issues, the pros but also the cons of what we are doing. The interior struggle, the defeats, and, why not, also out luck and the positive coincidences.
    Everybody wants to be Ulysses, we must (try) to be Homerus.

  49. Cameron

    Hi Earl,

    This is my first post on your blog, although I started reading it a few months, and I have found it inspiring.

    I am 15, and I am about to go to 6th form. I have wanted to travel for some time now, mostly thanks to your blog. I am an academic person, so everyone I know expects me to go into business or science, but I want to see the world.

    I plan to go to university to get a degree, and I want to get through with as little debt as possible. I will then work for a year to save up some money before going off travelling, probably to SE Asia. However, I don’t know how I would break the news to my parents. They have always been quite protective of me, and they want me to get a well paid job, which is not what I want anymore. Do you have any advice for me?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cameron – Thanks for commenting and the best way, in my opinion, to tell your family is to have a plan. Don’t just say “I want to go travel”. Tell them where you want to travel, why you want to go there, what you hope to learn, what kind of experiences you want to have, and how those experiences and this new education will help you later in life. If you have such a plan, it sounds much more realistic then just wanting to travel indefinitely!

    2. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cameron – Thanks for commenting and the best way, in my opinion, to tell your family is to have a plan. Don’t just say “I want to go travel”. Tell them where you want to travel, why you want to go there, what you hope to learn, what kind of experiences you want to have, and how those experiences and this new education will help you later in life. If you have such a plan, it sounds much more realistic then just wanting to travel indefinitely!

      Also, here’s a good post on the topic:

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