Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer/copywriter/content strategist with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch. She blogs at gigigriffis.com and has authored 11 unconventional travel guides.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
I just celebrated my five-year anniversary of full-time travel, actually. It was late May 2012 that I locked up the door of my little white-picket-fence house in Denver for the last time and headed abroad. Since then, I’ve mostly been bouncing around Europe (the place I feel most charmed and most at home), though I’ve also spent some time in North and South America.
Please describe what you do for income.
In the last five years (and the 10 career years before that), I’ve actually done quite a few different things all centered around writing, strategy, and online marketing. I’ve been a full-time copywriter and content strategist, a travel guide author, a foreign correspondent for a travel magazine, etc.
These days, I am mostly a copywriter and content strategist. Basically, this means I plan for, create, and manage content for companies in the travel and tech industries. I write websites, brochures, billboards, and blog posts. I help clients plan blog content and understand how to connect with readers. Etc.
In a given month, copywriting and content strategist work makes up about 50 – 90% of my income and it’s what I usually lead with when people ask me what I do.
The other 10 – 50% comes from several different sources, including my 11 self-published, unusual travel guides, web consulting (helping clients build WordPress websites, understand SEO, etc.), my DIY Website Workshop (a new income source I launched this year: a seven-week course designed to help creatives and entrepreneurs launch a strategic, professional website), travel writing for magazines and websites, and the occasional tiny bit of affiliate income from my blog.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
When I first started freelancing, I worked like crazy, probably anywhere from 40 to 80 hours per week. But now that I have six+ years of self-employment under my belt (and have had some serious stress-related illness), I try to keep my hours under 25 per week.
How much money do you make?
This varies pretty greatly month to month, but the average is somewhere around $3,000 per month right now. This year, my lowest month was about $1,100 (and, Murphy’s Law being what it is, that was also my highest spending month of the year) and my highest month this year has been just over $4,000 (and, irony at work again: it was my second lowest spending month).
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
Yes! My lifestyle is actually extremely affordable (I spend way less traveling than I ever did living in the States), so what I make is more than enough. My goal this year is to save about 50% of what I make (and when I say save, I mean the goal is that 50% will go into retirement and/or emergency funds). So far, I’m hovering just under the goal at about 49.5%.
Right now that extra money goes into high interest savings/checking accounts, but I’d like to put it to work for me a bit more and have been researching options for investing – just haven’t yet felt confident enough in my knowledge to pull the trigger. (See also: Where to Invest Your Travel – and Other – Savings)
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
Freedom and creativity!
I have always loved both writing and problem solving and doing a mix of content strategies and writing projects means I get to do both on a regular basis. There’s something deeply creatively satisfying about helping a client find their voice, simplify their website, or take a complicated topic and make it simple enough for a non-technical reader to understand.
I also love that both writing and strategy force me to be constantly learning. In my career, I’ve written about everything from Belizean beach resorts to addiction to oil and gas regulations. Some of these topics are fun and light. Others are research-heavy. And I love how much I end up learning about topics I never would have researched or discovered on my own.
Finally, there’s the freedom. It was pure chance that I chose a career that I can do from anywhere and on any schedule, and I’m so glad I did. I love that I can create a schedule that highlights my most productive hours, gives me the freedom to take a break and get outside on a gorgeous day, and allows me to work from Paris one day, the Croatian coast the next.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
The only big ongoing challenge for me has been Wi-Fi. Getting to a new place and finding out the WiFi isn’t good can throw a serious wrench in my work-life. I’ve gotten better about this over the years (now I ask my Airbnb hosts to do a Wi-Fi speed test and send me the results), but it was incredibly frustrating those first few years. (See also: Digital Nomads – Internet Speed Makes A Difference. Do You Care?)
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
Right now, my partner and I are thinking we’d like to have a home base in Europe and spend about six months per year in one spot while traveling the other six. So that’s probably in our near future. We’ll still be location independent and working fully remotely, but it is nice to have a place (or a couple places) you love and come back to again and again.
Career-wise, I can’t imagine ever giving up on writing, though the types of writing I do are constantly shifting. In my spare time, I’ve actually been revisiting a childhood dream of mine and writing a novel. I’ll be really excited if I can take that passion project and turn it into an income source and possible career path as well.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
The most important thing to understand is that the principles that apply to saving and spending back “home” apply on the road. To live a financially sustainable life, you need to make more than you spend. And the bigger the gap between what you make and what you spend, the better.
That said, I think my biggest tip is to understand yourself. Know what you love. Know what you hate. Know what you need and what you don’t. If you need a quiet sunny space to work, don’t be afraid to put more of your budget toward finding the right apartments along the way. If where you live doesn’t impact you as much, but what you eat does, give your food budget the bigger boost. And if tourist attractions don’t thrill you, you can skip them and their entrance fees – even if everyone else thinks you “should” go up in the Eiffel Tower. Know yourself and spend your money accordingly.
Want to know more about how to design your life so you can earn money while traveling the world? Check out Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom.