Hello friend! Chances are, you found me through Instagram and don’t know much about me or my background, so I thought I’d take some time to share my story with you.
Big thanks to those of you who submitted a question, and thanks to those of you who take the time out of your day to read my answers!
It means a lot to me and hopefully, you’ll get something valuable from it, too.
Please note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Sweetest Way!
When did you start your blog and what made you decide to start it? –@aurorehernandez
In 2013, I was traveling through South America on a solo backpacking trip when I jumped into a cab in Peru with two girls from New York. One of them just happened to be a travel blogger (whom you may know quite well) and it just happened to be her birthday.
We were staying at the same hostel and with the help of a few too many shots that night, we became fast friends. Over the next few days, I watched in awe as this 20-something girl sat by the pool with her laptop, working away on freelance projects and her blog, making a living while she explored the world.
It was an eye-opener for me–I didn’t know such a lifestyle existed at that point!–and it definitely sparked my own desire to start a travel blog (an idea that had been bouncing around in the back of my mind for awhile). I wanted to live and work from anywhere, and starting a blog (even if I didn’t monetize it) seemed like a good way to create online work opportunities for myself.
On top of that, I’d been living abroad and traveling for two years by that point, and I could tell my friends and family were getting tired of my incessant emails. So, a month after this chance meeting, in December of 2013, I started my blog, The Mochilera Diaries (it was a play on words, but nobody got the reference, and nobody could pronounce it–just a few of the reasons I eventually changed it to what it is now).
What do you do for work? –@email@example.com
Currently, I am a full-time travel blogger, but it took me a long time to reach this point!
Since beginning my journey to a location independent lifestyle, I have done many different things for work. I started as a freelance social media manager (hired by the very same blogger above who inspired me to start mine), picked up freelance writing gigs where I could, and eventually became successful enough with Pinterest to make it my specialty.
For a time, this was my main source of income–managing Pinterest profiles for bloggers and travel brands and offering one-on-one consultations.
Then there came a point where I wanted to go all-in with my travel blog to see if I could really make a full-time living with it, and that point was April 2016.
So since April of last year, blogging has been my main gig! I earn money primarily through ads and affiliate marketing, but I also sell my own digital product (an e-book on how to achieve location independence) and do the occasional sponsored post.
I don’t manage Pinterest accounts for people anymore, but I do still offer consultations every so often (a lot of people find me through a guest post I wrote for the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents, and others find me through Pinterest!).
This year, my goal is to get into portrait and brand photography. This part is still a work in progress as I’m a little hesitant to dive in, but I absolutely love photography and would really enjoy doing more with it from a professional standpoint.
Here’s a more detailed post on all the ways I’ve made money online 🙂
Would love to hear your whole story about how you got to where you are! –@pastelsandpassports
Telling the WHOLE story would take a pretty long time (and probably bore you to death) so I’ll try to offer the abridged version. (Keyword = try).
The Beginning(ish): I graduated with a BS in Nutritional Sciences from UC Berkeley in 2009 and promptly moved to the east coast for a one-year dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital. This was one of the worst years of my life–I hated everything about it and realized pretty quickly that nutrition was NOT for me.
So, the next year while living in New York and picking up whatever work I could (after dropping out of my Master’s program and deciding not to take my registration exam), I came up with this idea to live overseas. I hadn’t really traveled much but it was all I could think about, so I made the decision to teach English in Thailand as my first step.
In late 2011, I moved to Chiang Mai to take a TEFL course and got my first teaching job shortly thereafter. I fell absolutely head over heels in love with living in this place that was SO completely different than what I was used to. When I started to grow tired of the city after a year and a half, I made moves to a new part of the world.
My new plan was to travel through South America and eventually settle in Buenos Aires where I figured I would get another teaching job.
On my way there, though, I hit a few snags–I met that travel blogger and saw that working from anywhere was possible–and all of a sudden my plan to stay in Argentina for a year or longer completely lost its appeal. What if I hated Buenos Aires? What if I grew to hate teaching??
It was all so stressful that when I made it to Buenos Aires at the end of this 8-month trip, totally broke and exhausted, I didn’t know what to do anymore so I flew home to the US instead.
It definitely felt like a failure at the time, but I realize now that it was supposed to happen this way.
I started replenishing my savings through temp work and by working as a virtual assistant–my very first “digital nomad” job. But I also knew I didn’t want to stay in the United States OR in a 9 to 5 job, so the goal was to build a financial cushion that would allow me to go back to South America while I worked on my blog and built other online income sources.
The Middle(ish): My first time in South America, I’d fallen in love with Medellin, Colombia, so that’s where I headed. It was a great experience living there for about 5 months–before it became the digital nomad mecca that it is now. I got some experience with freelance writing for a local travel site, got better at Spanish, and discovered that Colombian men, for the most part, couldn’t be trusted.
My travel blog was also gaining some traction, which was really exciting. I wasn’t earning anything from it yet (it was a seriously steep learning curve for me when it came to blog monetization) but I was reaching more people and making connections with other bloggers, and I loved that aspect of it.
I decided that in order to keep up the momentum, I needed to invest in myself, so I signed up for my first TBEX travel blogging conference and made my way to Europe for the very first time.
The conference was crazy in the best way possible and I took so much value from it (and the TBEX name was still somewhat reputable). But it also made me realize that I needed to spend some serious time in Europe, because Spain and so many other countries had always appealed to me and this was my first time on the continent, at the age of 28.
So in the summer of 2015, I kept traveling and blogging and eventually picked up work as a Pinterest manager to keep myself afloat financially. Then, while traveling through the Balkans, I picked up something entirely unexpected–a Swedish boyfriend.
Over the next year, I saw TONS of Europe, flew back to Thailand for another TBEX conference, met my family for a vacation in Hawaii, and then split my time between Washington state (where I’m from) and Sweden (to be with the boyfriend).
I realized I needed (and wanted) to slow down, but I couldn’t seem to find my footing. When my relationship with the Swede ended in 2016, things got less complicated, if only slightly.
Present Day(ish): So I went back to Washington, this time to stay for a bit, but still not really feeling at home there. So, as any good travel addict would do, I made plans to leave the country again and flew out for Oaxaca in southern Mexico in January of 2017.
This time I had a homegrown boyfriend (no, seriously–we grew up 10 miles from each other) and with our relationship just getting started, it was hard to be apart. I wound up cutting the trip short by three weeks to come back to Washington.
This was around the time I decided to pursue blogging full-time, but it took a few months to put my plan into action. By April, I was doin’ the damn thing and it was scary as hell, but I was determined to make it work.
Hans and I moved into an apartment together in the same town where he grew up. We spent 2017 traveling locally–or within US borders, at least–and got engaged in October. Now here we are, still living in Central Washington but contemplating our next move, possibly (most likely?) to Seattle later this year.
And since some of you are probably wondering, no, we don’t have a wedding date yet, but it’ll most likely be in the summer of 2019.
Phew! If you made it this far, I applaud you.
How do you keep yourself from getting camera shy when out in big crowds or areas where there are lots of tourists? How do you help people loosen up and act natural when you are taking photos of them? –@shelby.jo.campbell
I actually don’t have a good solution for combatting camera shyness when there are lots of people around, because even though I take a lot of photos in public places, it’s never NOT awkward to some degree.
But on the bright side, this forces me to laugh at the situation, which leads to a natural smile in the photo!
And I guess you just start to get used to the funny looks when you do it enough. Plus, I like to remind myself that I’m never going to see these people again, so what does it matter if they think I look silly or vain or [insert judgment here]?
To help other people loosen up when they’re in front of the camera, I try to always have a few jokes on hand to get them laughing. Or, we’ll find a place with fewer people if I can tell they’re really self-conscious about being photographed in a public space.
And since most of us are not models, I find it’s helpful to offer a lot of direction when it comes to posing so they’re not wondering what to do with themselves. Otherwise, I’ll just wander behind them and snap candid photos while they’re not looking, ha!
How do you keep your tummy so thin? –@attyvandebrake
First of all, I’m flattered that the word “thin” comes to mind when people see me. I have never considered myself thin and have in fact struggled a lot with body image and self-esteem in my lifetime. BUT I figured if my story could help even one person, it’d be worth it to share.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a degree in Nutritional Sciences, so you could say that I’ve always been pretty mindful of what I put in my body. But in high school, with all the pressure to be thin and a distinct feeling that I was anything but, my mindfulness became an obsession and I developed an eating disorder.
For seven years, I struggled with binge-purge disorder. In hindsight, I think my interest in nutrition was just a symptom of my low self-esteem–I knew a lot about good nutrition, but had a horrible relationship with food and simply wanted to control this aspect of my life.
Once I was able to kick this destructive behavior and got out of the field of nutrition, my relationship with food changed in some drastic ways. I stopped being so militant about what I ate and what I avoided and instead adopted a mindset of “everything in moderation.”
I don’t weigh myself, I sure as hell don’t count calories, and I don’t deprive myself of things that I want. But I also don’t overdo it.
Yoga and other mindfulness practices have also been extremely beneficial. I now know how to listen to my body and am much more attuned to what it needs. And since I hate the feeling of being too full (probably a lasting effect of my binging days) I pay close attention to how I feel when I eat and stop as soon as I feel satisfied.
I’ve also been vegetarian for the better part of two years and I have to admit, it feels easier to maintain my body weight these days, even when I fall out of my exercise routine.
I’d never suggest someone become vegetarian just for weight loss purposes, but it’s a nice little perk of swapping out meat for more veggies.
The other side of the coin, of course, is an active lifestyle. I love to be outdoors, I love to exercise and move my body. I definitely think of food and movement as forms of medicine and have crafted a lifestyle around this value.
What are some of the routines that you do daily to keep you grounded and productive either while traveling or while at home? –@eva_explores
I am definitely more of a morning person than a night owl, so I like to start my day on the early side, waking up around 7 (if you can call that early). I enjoy my breakfast slowly while maybe reading a few pages from a book.
I will be the first to admit, though, that consistency isn’t my strong suit when it comes to my morning practices. Some days I will do some light yoga or meditation first thing in the morning, and other times work takes precedence and I have to make time for mindfulness later in the day.
Ideally, though, I will do this in the morning before beginning work.
Another practice that I really enjoy (but don’t do regularly enough) is what’s called ‘morning pages.’ This means freewriting in a journal first thing after waking up to get out the flood of thoughts that roll in so I am better able to focus on the tasks at hand that day.
I write down whatever comes to mind, whether it’s about the dream I had the night before, song lyrics that are stuck in my head, worries I may have about the future, or whatever else it may be, only stopping when I have filled three full pages.
I find that I am more focused and usually better able to write creatively if I have done my morning pages, and sometimes it even leads to new blog post ideas.
What camera and which app do you use to take and edit your pictures? –@fayfrayya
Most of the photos you’ve seen on Instagram were shot with my old camera, the Canon Rebel SL1. It was a great camera and a perfect beginner DSLR–it’s super lightweight and easy to travel with, and it takes beautiful photos.
Recently (about one month ago), I upgraded to my first full-frame DSLR, the Canon 5D Mark IV.
For editing, I use Adobe Lightroom. I just recently purchased a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop.
This also gives me access to all of Lightroom’s features on my iPhone.
How do you keep the balance between being in a serious relationship and taking solo trips? Is this something you two are on the same page about or is it something you had to discuss? –@theopenroadie
This is a great question, because my partner is not location independent like I am, and so this is something we have had to discuss. I knew there was a possibility that travel opportunities would arise and he wouldn’t always be able to join me so we had to make sure we were on the same page.
Right after we started dating, we were apart a LOT–I went to Mexico for five weeks, then he went on a monthlong national tour with his band not long after that. Next, I went on a 10-day trip I had previously planned with my mom.
It was really difficult and we both hated it!
So ideally, we will travel together whenever possible but Hans has warmed up to the idea of me taking solo trips if need be, and I wouldn’t ever plan a trip that would keep me away for more than a week or two at a time.
Thanks again for asking great questions and taking the time to get to know me better! If we haven’t connected yet on Instagram, you can find me at @thesweetestway!