Meet Anna and Daniel, the full-time traveling couple I (plus tons of loyal readers) follow on Anna’s blog, Slightly Astray!
These two have been traveling together for about as long as Ian and I have, so that got me super excited for this interview in particular.
I’ll let Anna begin by telling us a little about their nomadic lifestyle. Then we’ll jump right in and get to know these two!
Hello! I’m Anna from Slightly Astray. I worked as an engineer in Los Angeles before I quit my job to travel with my boyfriend, Daniel. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this is where life would take me, but it ended up being the best risk I’ve ever taken. The journey has brought me to all these amazing places in the world and I share it all on my blog! I write about my favorite travel memories, love, food, and making sense of life as a new full-time traveler.
I’m so excited to chat with Diana today about our travels, lifestyle, and how we fund our travels on the road.
The Travel Couple At a Glance
Names: Anna and Daniel
Blog: Slightly Astray
Quit Date: March 2014
Location Independent For: 15 months
Home Base: Everywhere and anywhere (as long as there’s high speed internet)!
Money Makers: Daniel’s online business is right now our only source of income. Currently, we have a new project in the works that hopefully (soon) will bring in a second stable stream of income. And in case you’re curious, Slightly Astray the blog to this day has not earned a single penny. In fact, it costs me money.
Posts They’re Most Proud Of — You’ll wanna read these!
- 1 – On Purpose: When Travel Ceases to Fulfill
- 2 – One Year of Blogging (and why I’m NOT a Travel Blogger)
- 3 – When You Spend Every Minute of Every Day Together
Current Location: Lyon, France
Q & A with Slightly Astray
Q. When did you decide to quit your job to travel full time? How long after that did you actually quit?
I think we first toyed with the idea of full-time travel around April of 2013, but it took a several more months of serious discussion. And it just happened that at that time, I was facing a promotion and a project transfer at work, so I felt overly guilty about quitting. Finally in November of 2013, we bought our plane tickets, and thus cementing our decision.
After that, it took a few months for me to gather my guts to quit my job, move and rent out the house, sell most of our possessions, and rehome our pets. I officially left my job in mid-March of 2014, and we flew out on April 1st.
So wait, you have a house? How does that work when you’re traveling full-time?
Actually, Daniel had a house (I just moved out of my apartment). We cleaned it up and found renters to take over, which covered the mortgage + taxes. We’re lucky that Daniel’s parents live near by so they took care of things when the renters moved out after a year and new renters moved in.
I had a dog before we took the leap (he now stays at my parents’ place), so I know how tough it can be to leave a pet behind. Was it a difficult decision to rehome your pets?
I had two pet bunnies (that I had for 6 years) and I truly believe that giving them up was the BIGGEST sacrifice I made for traveling. Because I feel like when I adopted them, it was a promise to take care of them their whole lives, and now I was going to cast them aside for such a selfish indulgence. I cried over it for weeks (or even months), but I realized that the best thing I can do is to find them another good home. I still feel guilty but I am happy that they are at an even better home now. And I still miss them everyday.
Q. What were the biggest influencers on your decision to quit to start traveling?
It all started when we were looking into possibly taking a vacation to Costa Rica. This led us to a blog which led us to another blog which somehow led us to the discovery of Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Workweek.
The book was quite literally a life changer. It painted a dream of traveling through exotic countries, completely freed from the 9-5 drudgery, all while using just a laptop to make a living. And Daniel wanted in. From the second he turned the last page, he worked hard to implement the strategies on his own small online business, with the goal to travel while working.
My own travel story isn’t as hard earned as Daniel’s. All I had to do was decide whether to go with him or not. The decision was not an easy one as I felt conflicted about giving up my own career and disappointing my family. But ultimately, I picked love. 🙂
So Daniel’s into motorcycles, eh? (I checked out his website.) Any plans to take a motorcycle road trip on your travel horizon?
Haha, we have actually talked about it! But only in a wouldn’t-it-be-cool kind of way. I think it’d be awesome to do a United States tour or Europe tour on a bike. But I think that would seriously freak out my mom.
Q. What was/is your game plan for getting by? (Did you spend a lot of time planning? How closely have you stuck to your original plan? What (if anything) has changed your plans along the way?)
To start off, we only planned for six months of travel: three in South America and three in Europe, with a stop back home after each stint. We planned it that way at first because we were unsure if we’d really like the nomadic life (ha!) or if Daniel’s business would run smoothly with him away. It didn’t take us long to fall in love with life on the road, so after the second visit home, we finally flew out again on a one-way ticket.
Now, we plan about 4-6 months ahead of time. Finding proper accommodation suited for working (privacy + fast internet) is the most important to us so we always make sure we arrange it months in advance. As for where we go, we just pick places we’re both interested in visiting. 🙂
Ian and I could learn from you two. We originally thought not planning too far in advance would be great for flexibility’s sake. Now I’m learning that leaving our options TOO open is more stressful. Planning travel on short notice isn’t as fun as it sounds!
Sometimes, I wish we could be more flexible and just play things by ear, but I do like having everything set up in advance too. When we plan further in advance, we can get better flight prices, and have more cheaper housing options.
Q. What made/makes your situation unique? (Why do you think YOU do this, while many others never do?)
If Daniel didn’t already have his own business, I don’t think we would have done this. I’m not saying it’s not possible, because I know people who travel on savings or find work on the road, but it would be harder. And it may even be a risk that we would be unwilling to take. His business ensures that we have a monthly cash flow.
Daniel’s business is an online retail shop but he does have an office/warehouse. He has a business partner and employee back home who manage the office and handle customer service. A lot of the other work has been shifted to overseas assistants which greatly reduced the overhead cost. Daniel manages the tech/online portion of the company, which can be entirely handled from just a laptop.
I am very grateful for our situation, but I think other business owners could do this too if they are willing to let go of some control and delegate. Trusting others to do the job has freed up a lot of Daniel’s time and responsibilities and allowed him to be completely location independent.
So Daniel, do you have any tips for our readers who are thinking about starting a business and hitting the road?
A retail shop isn’t the easiest to manage remotely. So my newest venture is a subscription based software-as-a-service (SaaS) business. This model is usually the best bet because it doesn’t require physical infrastructure and the time required to launch and see profit is short, compared to a traditional business. SaaS based businesses compliment the nomad lifestyle perfectly.
As long as you have an idea, you can find a way to actualize it. I don’t actually code myself these days, but I do understand the basics and there are plenty of individual developers and designers on eLance that can help you realize your vision. I would also recommend jotting down a business plan and having a vision in place for how your business will evolve over time. As with most things in life, you can’t let fear stop you and you shouldn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty.
Q. What are your goals for your blog/business/traveling life?
While Daniel’s online retail business does allow him to work remotely so that we can travel, it’s still inconvenient to own a business that still deals with physical products and is so dependent on the economy. I think ultimately, we want to be rid of it for good. In the meantime, we have a new project in the works that’s entirely internet based and more suited to the digital nomad lifestyle. We hope this will eventually provide a more reliable stream of income!
As for myself and blogging, I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I started a blog in hopes of making some money. But a year and a half later, I learned that I’m a good blogger but not a smart one. Not only do I not know how to turn it into a business, I kind of have no desire to put my time into learning about SEO or do social media, etc. I enjoy writing for writing’s sake and the last thing I want is to sacrifice the quality in favor of Google rankings. For now, I’m happy with keeping it as a digital scrapbook of our memories and spending more time helping Daniel with his new venture.
As for traveling, I know there will be a time when we’re ready to settle down somewhere. As for now, we’re collecting a list of places that would make good possible future homes. 🙂
And the favorite so far?
Taipei is at the top of my list right now! I love it for the culture, food, and low cost of living (I could go on and on, so here’s everything I love about it!). Daniel leans more towards European culture; he would love to settle down in France someday! I wouldn’t mind that either. 😉
Q. At what point did you just know you could really do it?
I think we reached that point when we finally booked a one-way ticket. Because that meant that we have truly decided that we belonged on the road. That we’d go wherever our hearts take us. It meant that we are confident that we could sustain the business while on the road.
Q. What’s the biggest thing you’ve struggled with since you started your new exciting journey, and what have you been doing to overcome it?
Keeping our weight in control (see #8)! Full-time travel is not often the healthiest lifestyle. I feel like we’re always putting ourselves on a diet every few months. It’s seriously exhausting!
But more seriously, I’ve really struggled with finding my own purpose. I came out on this journey for love and adventure. I quit my job with no other real plans of my own (except a vague dream of creating a business out of my blog). I just wanted to live my life to the fullest.
At first, travel was everything I expected and more. But after a while, I realized that maybe just travel alone doesn’t fill the innate need to fill a purpose. It’s hard to feel like I’m no longer contributing financially to our life. But at the same time, I’m also not sure what it is that I want to be doing or could be.
Putting all my efforts back into blogging helped with the feelings of uselessness. Now, I also spend more time working on the new venture. I admit that I do still have slump periods of low motivation, but staying busy helps.
You have no idea how much I relate to this! It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who struggled with not having a purpose. For several months at the beginning of our journey, I felt lost, with no sense of direction. But now I see that time as a normal, maybe even necessary, part of the process of transitioning into this lifestyle.
Do you have any tips for others like us? For the half of the couple embarking on this journey who doesn’t have it figured out yet?
I’m still trying to figure it out too, so if any readers have any suggestions, please let me know! I don’t think having a purpose necessarily equals making money, but rather that you have a passion and goals and something to contribute to the world. So keep busy and have your own hobbies/projects. Learn a new skill. Try different things. And who knows, one of those just may turn into a great business idea one day! There’s always something you have to offer the world.
Btw, congrats Diana on your new business! 😀
Q. What’s the most awesome thing about the journey you’re on now?
All the FOOD!! We are both major foodies and the whole journey has been a such a delicious and awesome food adventure. We would choose to pick spending money on eating local food over seeing the attractions any day!
Here I have to butt in to ask you to share your favorite food posts! I know you have a ton and they all look so delicious!
Oh so glad you asked! My food posts are always the readers’ favorites! Here are some of the best:
- A favorite food story: Eating Pets?
- A favorite cuisine: Vietnam Eats: 10 Dishes to Try in Hanoi
- A favorite round-up: Breakfast Around the World
- The ultimate foodporn: A Year of Travel in Food
On a more digital nomad related note, the most awesome thing is the freedom. I cannot express how amazing it is to be able to wake up without an alarm, not have to drive an hour to work in traffic every morning, work in bed or at a cafe, and not answer to anyone else.
Q. If you were single, would you have done it alone? Do you think it was easier to quit as a couple?
To be honest, I would never have come up with this idea by myself. I never considered an alternative path besides working up the career ladder. I never would have even dreamed of full-time travel if not for Daniel. And I know that if Daniel were single, even though he does have the ability to work remotely from anywhere, he probably wouldn’t have done it alone. I think bringing me along is probably harder on him, but I know that he would rather that I’m there than without. 🙂
Q. What advice do you have for a couple (or individual) considering taking the leap themselves?
I don’t necessarily promote just quitting your job to travel without a plan for income, or at least a backup plan. I know that I’m incredibly lucky that Daniel already had a business in place. I would advise to save as much as possible. Save enough money to support yourself for a good while if everything goes wrong.
But ultimately, I think if you want to do it, you just have to take the leap. You have to be willing to let go of your old life and start a new one. To step into the unknown. You have to be willing to take a risk and be prepared to fail and have a plan to stand up again. I think a lot of people are just scared, plain and simple. You have to just decide you want this above all else and just do it.
And when you do it, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier than you’d think.
Q. Do you ever regret quitting or wish you had your old life back?
Sometimes, we do wonder if we did the right thing. We’re now living on considerably less income than we had combined back then. And I also worry about no longer having health insurance. But I still can’t regret quitting. When I think about all the places we’ve been and all that we’ve done, I feel that despite the fact that we’re not as financially stable as before, our lives are richer than ever.
No health insurance? Have you looked into purchasing an international plan? Ours was pretty affordable (though now that I’m thinking about it, I think the coverage limit was one year…)
We do use World Nomads travel insurance, which covers a lot, but not serious health concerns. And I’m one of those people who freak out over every new freckle and think it’s cancer. If something like that really happens (but dear god, please don’t), I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do.
Q. Where are you now, and where to next?
Currently, we’re in Lyon, France. We’re loving the smaller French city life and all the food! We’ll be here until the first week of August, and then we will be traveling in Italy and Japan for the next couple of months. After Japan, we’re going back to Taipei and we plan to stay put there for a good few months. It’s a city that we both really fell in love with and feel that we could live happily in. I’m really looking forward to some normalcy for a while!
Final Thoughts from Anna & Daniel
Our kind of lifestyle may seem luxurious to most people, but the truth is that we are living all over the world, eating delicious local foods, and working from home all for what our rents alone cost per month back home. This kind of lifestyle is more accessible than most people realize. You don’t have to be rich or retired. The most important ingredients are an open mind, ambition and motivation, and a desire to explore. So are you ready for your own adventure yet? 🙂
Let’s Keep Chatting!
Have a question for Anna and Daniel about life, travel or nomadic entrepreneurship?
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.