One of the biggest fears that an individual has when considering a new life, is that they will have to give up their great career that they have worked so hard for. While researching and writing The Avant-Garde Life, I spoke with Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads who gave up her career as a lawyer in exchange for a life of travel. I have a lot of respect for her balanced perspective on how she lives her life and how others choose to live theirs. When I first spoke to her about leaving her job she said, “I see nothing wrong with people staying in their jobs, and I don’t advocate escaping from society – I really just wanted to travel, so I went. For people who don’t want to travel, that’s totally fne, and I see what joy they might take in their jobs and lives, and I’d never tell them they’re doing it wrong. It’s highly subjective in my mind, you know? This was just the right path for me, but that’s not to say it’s the right path for everyone.” She was then kind enough to answer several questions that I had about her past and current lives.
Hi Jodi. Please can you tell me about your life and what you do now?
“I’m a former lawyer who now writes about travel, food and culture on my site Legal Nomads. I also recently published a book called the Food Traveler’s Handbook, aimed at encouraging people to travel the world through their tastebuds, using food as a way to connect to locals and learn about new places.”
Why did you choose to leave such a great job?
“I had long wanted to travel, and I took the job knowing that quitting would come at some point, once I had saved up enough money. I never expected to be travelling for so long, thinking it would be a one-year trip around the world. But the initial decision was made long before I quit – it wasn’t that I burned out as a lawyer, but that I really wanted to experience the world by seeing it.”
What made you make this decision?
“I had seen a documentary as a kid about the trans-siberian trains and the idea of longer- term travel rooted then, I’d say. But I had travelled elsewhere prior to quitting – a year in France, a month in China, months in South America in Montevideo and Ecuador and in parts of Argentina. The travel bug, as they call it, was long planted – it was just a matter of logically figuring out how to pay for the travel, and whether a year would be enough.”
How has it affected your life? Was it the right decision to make?
“None of these decisions are right or wrong. If it doesn’t work out, there’s no shame in going back to your job, or a different job, or trying something new. It has been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve met some wonderful people, now friends for life, in the process. I have no complaints.”
Do you have any regrets?
“About quitting? No, it was the right thing for me to do at that point. We all have regrets in life generally, I’d say – whether big or small or significant only in perspective. But in terms of the path I chose, I don’t regret it. I didn’t set out to ‘be’ a travel writer or a blogger – I just quit thinking I’d be back in a year and lawyering again. When opportunities started coming my way – freelance writing work, speaking opportunities and more (they’re all on the Press/PR page), I figured I would see where it took me. I am very thankful for all the things I’ve learned and seen in the process.”
How do you support yourself as you travel the world?
“I don’t monetise Legal Nomads other than via Amazon affiliate links. The money comes from other projects – freelance writing, partnerships with companies I respect and use on my travels, consulting work in social media and more. It’s an ever-shifting process and one I will continue to fgure out as I go.”
What do you see in the future for yourself?
“Who knows – we have to see it when it arrives, right? I’ve enjoyed the ride so far, and I’m sure whatever the future holds, it will include lots of new and wonderful (and of course some not-so-wonderful) experiences. I’ve been working on some other projects around my having celiac disease, and with food, so food will definitely figure prominently in some way.”
Any advice to anyone is thinking of following in your footsteps?
“Depends on what the question is. Everyone’s path is very different. There are many people who don’t want to travel around the world, and for them it’s just not a path to take. Others are happy with shorter term vacations. For those looking to travel longer term, I would say that I’m very happy I saved up as a lawyer and could just enjoy the frst year without working in the process – it was a really wonderful experience. What I do now isn’t travel but more of shorter expat-like stints in a place – I’m in Vietnam for 4 months now, for example – to work and set up a routine, but to do so in a place I love. The world is more accessible and thus skills that can be taken abroad without location dependence are valuable to have.”
Many thanks to Jodi for sharing her valuable insights.
This interview is taken from The Avant-Garde Life [everything your parents told you not to do: disregarding society in a search for sustainable adventure]. You can download it for free by clicking here. I hope it encourages you to have your own adventure.