#12 Jessica Frances Marshall from California, USA

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. -Joseph Campbell

1. How and why did you choose to go nomadic?

I had always wanted to travel but I just never got around to it. I was really trying to make it work at home, when all I really wanted was to get out there and see the world. When I left home I didn’t anticipate working, I was just planning on traveling. However after I had been out for only 3 or 4 weeks work opportunities started pouring in. Now I am freelancing for a few different projects, and I am making more than enough to live well out here.

My hometown San Jose, California is one of the most expensive cities in America. Last year, I moved to Austin, Texas for a change of scenery and a break from the high cost of living in the Bay Area. Austin was less expensive than San Jose, but not by much. I was working two jobs and living in the cheapest house possible and still didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. After a year of oppressive heat and living in a house with no central air conditioning, all I wanted was to move back home to the cool ocean breezes of the Bay Area but I wanted to travel first. So I booked a ticket to Thailand.

2. What was it like leaving your home country?

I was actually so stressed that I broke out in hives. This was my first time out of the country on my own. I was nervous about traveling, about visas, about currency exchange, about foreign languages. Pretty much every aspect of leaving home was overwhelming to me. I kept a pen and sticky notes by my bed, so when I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about something- I could just write it down and deal with it in the morning.

My family and friends were all super supportive of my traveling. I have a couple friends that had booked tickets to Portugal and Australia already, so I had a circle of people who were going through the same thing. I was very dedicated to the job I was working in Austin, so as soon as I booked my trip, I let everyone at work know. I basically gave them three months notice; that way I could get really excited about the trip talk about it and not have to keep any secrets from anyone about leaving.

In preparation for the trip, I worked every day from the end of May to 4th of July- about 6 weeks straight. I also moved out of my house about a month early and crashed with a friend. The combination of working 60–70 hours a week and saving on rent that month really gave me the space and financial confidence to head out of the country without having any real plan. I drove back to the Bay Area and stored my belongings into my mom’s garage. I flew out of SFO with a one-way ticket and only what could fit into a backpack. That was a little over two months ago.

I still don’t actually know when I’m coming home.

3. What are your biggest struggles? Fears?

I feel like it is important to touch on fears and struggles from the perspective of a female solo traveler. However, I almost feel like it’s irrelevant. There are specific fears around safety, of course, but really no more or less than back home. As with anywhere, it is important to mind your stuff and take caution when you’re alone. With that said, I have never felt less safe here than in America. I was expecting to feel way less safe here, but life in Asia is like, really normal.

To be honest, living abroad is about half as scary and half the struggle that I was expecting it to be. My biggest struggle right now is figuring out what I’m going to eat next. Lol jokes, but in all seriousness, living abroad is not scary. Waking up every day in a town you feel lukewarm about, being constantly broke and feeling stuck is scary. You might as well take a chance.

I’m writing this to you from an open air cafe in the gorgeous Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. I am barefoot and drinking coffee. There are tropical fruit trees and birds and butterflies flying around through the cool mountain mist. There is great wifi, people speak English pretty much everywhere you go, and it costs less than $1000/month to live really well. By the time this is published, I’ll be in Bali.

Seriously, just come travel.

There was so much more fear and struggle before coming out here. Now that I’m here, life just kind of unfolds really nicely. At a leisurely pace.

4. How are you funding your lifestyle and what projects are you working on?

I am currently working on two separate projects that I absolutely love. I am writing articles on vegan and paleo nutrition for Kale.life. These include general articles on nutrition in addition to recipes and restaurant reviews. So I can cook and go out to eat and just write about what is happening in my daily life. It is perfect life/work integration.

I am also working with Todd Dosenberry on his website, PaleoEpic. I am coordinating interviews with the founders of some of my favorite Paleo companies. I create content to pair with online product giveaways. The companies we work with have such incredible integrity and use only high quality ingredients. It is such a privilege to interview these creative entrepreneurs and hear their stories and it is personally gratifying to be able to support the companies that I know and love. This is also incredible work/life integration for me. I gain inspiration and ideas from each and every interview I conduct.

Both of these projects allow me to combine my love for food and nutrition with my love for writing and being with people. Also I can work from anywhere that has internet. It’s pretty ideal. And I reiterate, I didn’t have either of these gigs lined up when I left home. They both showed up for me once I was already out and traveling.

5. What is the estimated monthly cost of living for one of your favorite locations? What lifestyle does that afford?

When I first got to Thailand, I lined up a Workaway. Workaway.info is a website where you can exchange volunteer hours for room and board. So for 6 weeks, I had almost no out of pocket expenses for rent or food.

The Workaway I joined was a yoga/meditation center. We worked on a bunch of different projects including permaculture and gardening, and I was able to work on my paying gigs in the evenings and on the weekends. This also allowed me to have healthy food and an incredible community around me while I was getting used to living abroad. I got to practice yoga and meditation every day and meet a ton of like-minded people.

If I had gotten an apartment in Chiang Mai, it would have cost between $150-$400 a month for my own furnished 1 bedroom apartment. For reference, the average cost of rent for a one bedroom apartment in San Jose, CA (my hometown) is $2527/ month. The same apartment in Austin would be roughly $1300/month.

An average meal in Chiang Mai is between $1.50- $6. A beer costs about $2 at a restaurant. You can get a ride on a songtheaw anywhere in Chiang Mai for $.60. There are bowling alleys and movie theaters and life is really pretty normal, just way less expensive.

6. What is your top tip for someone who aspires to earn money online and travel?

Come on in, the water’s fine! Seriously, if it interests you at all, just buy the ticket. The hardest part is buying the ticket. Drink a couple of glasses of wine first if you have to (like I did) and book your trip. It is incredible how drastically your life can change with the single click of a mouse that signifies the purchase of your one way ticket to a foreign country.

In the wise words of Marie Forleo, “Everything is figureoutable.”

Any final thoughts?

Surround yourself with people whom you aspire to be like. Surround yourself with travelers, entrepreneurs, and ass-kickers. Anyone who’s life you look at and think, “Damn, I want that,” hang out with those people. They are your tribe and they will support you and encourage you and guide you to level up.

Any time you experience envy or jealousy, use that as a compass for where you want to go next. Envy can be an amazing tool for gaining clarity on what you’d like your life to look like. I would not be where I am today without the help and guidance of my close friends who took the leap first and tough-loved me into becoming the truest, most adventurous ballsy version of myself.