Making a living out of being a full-time traveler sounds like the absolute dream. You have the freedom to make the world your office. The digital nomad lifestyle and remote jobs have become increasingly popular over the years, but it’s still the non-traditional route. This seemingly glamorous full-time travel lifestyle doesn’t come with a lot of guidance, making the journey from 9-5 to full-time traveler a very difficult one.
Ciara Johnson, the full-time travel blogger and content creator behind Hey Ciara, joins Her Life, By Design. She’s on a mission to empower women to seek meaningful experiences through travel. In this episode, Ciara shares her journey from cubicle to the world. We chat about what building a sustainable career in travel looks like, creating content while traveling, how to travel solo safely, and the future of travel.
Cubicle to the World: How to Become a Full-Time Traveler
I first met Ciara in Morocco in 2017. Funnily enough, it was the year we both left our 9-5s to pursue unconventional careers in travel. Ciara fell in love with traveling on her very first trip abroad. She came by an opportunity to visit Panama through a study abroad program in college. However, it was something that she could not afford at that time, but she had her heart set on it. Even then, she became really resourceful and saved up as much money as she could to make that trip happen.
In Panama, Ciara discovered her love for learning about different cultures and the thrill of cultural exchange. She decided to start her blog as a means to share the magic of travel with people and how it can be affordable and accessible.
From 9-5 to Full-Time Traveler
Hey Ciara started as a simple outlet for Ciara to express her creativity and interests. In fact, it became a safe haven for Ciara when she was working a 9-5 job. The time she looked forward to the most was working on her blog after she got off work.
Before Ciara left her 9-5 working in HR, she took 2 years to save up every penny she had before taking off around the world. She realized that blogging and creating content while traveling full-time could earn you an income, but she wanted to be prepared.
“I pretty much shaped my entire lifestyle around the plan to eventually quit my job one day. Anything that didn’t contribute to that was not a priority.” Living well under her means made her feel as comfortable as she could about taking the leap and quitting her job. Her savings allowed her to stay fully present in her travels for a year, without any added pressure to make an income. So she booked a one-way ticket to Mexico, exploring the world and creating a full-time career out of traveling 3 years later.
Multiple Routes to the Same Destination
Ciara knew that working in a cubicle wasn’t what she wanted to do, even though she sometimes felt guilty about not wanting the security of a 9-5 job. Looking back on it, Ciara admires the confidence and willingness to jump out of security to defy the norm and chase her dreams.
With no income source or freelance jobs lined up, Ciara felt confident traveling for a whole year without the need to focus on work. However, she is hesitant to recommend that other aspiring full-time travelers do the same. Although it was the right decision for her, she reminds listeners that your decision really depends on your specific situation.
For Ciara, she doesn’t regret not working during that year. It allowed her to be fully present throughout her experiences on the road. She was able to meet like-minded people who were pursuing the same alternative lifestyle. Ciara was inspired by her encounters and reaffirmed that anything is possible. “There are so many opportunities and there’s no one right way to do anything.”
In this episode, Ciara reminds listeners that it’s ok to figure things out along the way. She encourages listeners to recognize and acknowledge the things that aren’t for you, but have the courage to change course.
Doing What it Takes to Make Your Dreams Work
Ciara started her year-long travels on a budget to ensure her savings would last. At the end of that year, she realized she needed to figure out some sort of income if she wanted to keep traveling. She came across a job listing from Elite Daily as a part-time travel writer. With no prior related experience besides her blog, she decided to go for it and applied for the job. To her surprise, she landed the gig and was able to work remotely while continuing her travels.
The pay wasn’t the best but Ciara recognized the job as a ridge. It was a temporary solution that would get her to the point she needed to be. This is a common trait amongst entrepreneurs who take the less conventional route. “There might be a couple of things you do before you actually work on the business you want to work on,” Ciara advises.
She acknowledges the shame that comes with quitting your job only to go back to working for someone else. Ciara reminds listeners that these are temporary, but necessary steps. Her part-time job at Elite Daily served her in many ways. It was an extremely pivotal and important experience that played a major role in the development of her own brand.
Nowadays, a lot of people assume that sponsorships are the only way travel bloggers make money, but there are so many different options and avenues to build a career online. Ciara dives deeper into the behind-the-scenes of establishing a career as a travel blogger. She discusses doing the tough things in order to make room for bigger, and better opportunities.
Striking Balance Between Work and Travel
After working with Elite Daily for a year, Ciara decided to quit and pursue Hey Ciara. As a full-time travel blogger, Ciara is now tasked with the added pressure of creating content during her travels. To her, traveling was special and important because of the connections she makes, the things she learns, and the ability to stay present in new experiences. She didn’t want traveling to turn into a means to create content, even if doing so was vital to her job.
Striking a balance between creating content and traveling can be difficult. Ciara’s tip for listeners is to be adamant about setting boundaries and priorities. For instance, she won’t post about a trip during the trip itself, and she makes that clear with any brand she collaborates with. When it comes to the travel blogging industry as a whole, Ciara thinks a lot of people have it all wrong. She acknowledges that people go on trips to create content, rather than going on a trip to experience things. The problem with that is you end up with all these pictures but nothing to talk about.
She reminds aspiring travel bloggers to remember your “why”. As a travel blogger and influencer, it is important to stay in touch with your audience and what they’re responding to. But it’s equally as important to check-in with yourself and ask why you are doing this? “Put your camera away, meet people, go out and experience things, because that’s the only way that you’ll have anything to say.”
Establishing a Career as a Full-Time Traveler
Ciara’s journey from 9-5 to full-time traveler is one out of many others. Throughout the episode, she reminds listeners that there isn’t one right way to do this. When it comes to pursuing an alternative lifestyle and career, your options are endless. But what isn’t negotiable is the willingness to take risks, no matter how scary.
Ciara shares so much valuable information about how aspiring full-time travelers can start planning for the life of their dreams. She discusses her personal process and encourages listeners to find their path without shame or guilt.
Tune into this episode as we chat about all things travel. From working on the road, doing what it takes to create a sustainable full-time career in travel, safety tips for solo female travelers, and what the future of travel looks like. Ciara’s story will inspire you to ditch the conventional and live a life of adventure.
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