Imagine planning your life around your career, seeing the road ahead of you so clearly, knowing exactly what you want. That was Alex’s mindset when she was working her way up the corporate ladder in the fashion industry. It came as a shock when that dream was seemingly snubbed out by a big setback in her career that would change the trajectory of her life.
Now, ten years later, Alex has spent the better part of the last decade traveling the world and building a business that helps women make smarter packing decisions. Alex runs the blog Travel Fashion Girl, a site dedicated to teaching women how to pack smarter for long-term travel.
Alex’s fashion tips (though spectacular) weren’t what drew me to her; it was her tenacity for life, passion for travel, and mindset to always go after what you want. Alex is a true inspiration, and a firm believer that travel is meant to be serendipitous and magical, and that experiences should not be interrupted by “trying to find a wifi connection”.
This interview is full of wisdom, passion, and candid insight into Alex’s world. After reading this, you will want to start packing your bags and booking your next flight.
I want to hear a little bit more about you, and how you got started traveling for a living?
I didn’t initially create the website to earn a living. The truth is that I was already traveling long-term before I started my business. I traveled as a backpacker for four or five years before I launched the website Travel Fashion Girl.
You left your full-time job and began traveling around the world. Were you unhappy with the corporate lifestyle?
I wasn’t unhappy. I genuinely loved my corporate job. I was always very career-focused.
My goal has always been to work in fashion. I saw myself becoming a VP or the president of a company one day. I wanted to own a retail chain.
What was the process of leaving your full-time job?
My boss groomed me to take over his job since the day I started in my position. Then, when it came time, the job was given to my coworker who I then had to train on how to do the job.
I quit shortly after. It was a very hard decision. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt depressed about what happened – it was a slap in the face.
It seems as if many people in the corporate world were fired or let go during the 2008 recession. I think they felt undervalued and started questioning why they’d worked so hard for companies that felt little loyalty towards them.
I always told myself that if I ever quit that job, I was going to take a three month break to travel. I wanted to go to Asia or Africa, a part of the world that was different to destinations I’d previously experienced.
What was it like deciding to travel instead of doing the practical thing and finding another job?
It was really scary. While I had some money saved, it wasn’t enough to cover travel, rent, and my car payments for too long. I took a chance and decided to travel anyway. I had nothing to lose. I figured I’d spend it all and then come back and find a job when I was ready.
I watched the flight schedules every day. I didn’t know where to go and didn’t want to travel by myself. Back then, staying at hostels and traveling solo wasn’t as common for Americans.
The idea of traveling alone seemed particularly scary because when you’re used to the comforts of home, the world seems like a big scary place.
How did you resolve to face your fears and go for it?
My solution was to go on group tours where you can travel alone but not alone. My first major destination was India. It was inspiring on so many different levels and I had an epiphany about my life.
I realized that I didn’t have a mortgage, kids, a serious boyfriend, or anything else holding me back from continuing to travel.
Inspired by the other women in my organized tour, I set off with the goal to see all 7 wonders of the world in 2008.
Everything about that journey was magical, much of it serendipitous. My mind was blown away by everything I experienced during that time. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to see the world and I’m also grateful about the results from my decision to take that leap of faith.
What do you love most about traveling, being your own boss, and living this laptop lifestyle? What are the best and worst parts?
The worst part about living the laptop lifestyle is that it changes your priorities. Instead of being focused on your destination, you are worried about wifi, which doesn’t really have anything to do with the location you’re going to.
At that point, it can hinder your ability to fully experience the true impact travel can potentially have on your life.
I also think it’s important to note that traveling is completely different from being your own boss. Unfortunately, it seems that people have a misconception that living the laptop lifestyle is the only way to travel.
Can you talk a little bit more about the challenges of starting your own business while traveling full-time?
The reality is that I traveled for four to five years before starting my website. I went home, worked hard, saved money, then traveled long-term maximizing a small budget. From 2008 – 2012, I didn’t work while traveling, and didn’t really have a laptop or a phone.
That was so much better than working while traveling. The day that I started blogging my travel experience completely changed, and it was never the same again.
Nowadays I ask people why they want to work while traveling. Many times they trade a well paid job in a cubicle for a potentially lower paying job in a co-working space (which is kind of a cubicle).
I highly encourage others to travel at least 6 months non-stop on savings alone and then decide if you enjoy traveling long-term enough to start a business that allows you to work while traveling. I ask them how much money they have in their savings or how much money they could save in one year.
When I created Travel Fashion Girl, it unknowingly (but thankfully) turned into my business. This changed EVERYTHING. I love my website, but the travels I have now are never as magical as when I was truly free, present, and in the moment – technology free.
If someone wanted to live this lifestyle, what advice would you give them?
My ultimate recommendation is to save cash before you go and enjoy the experience before you start working on the go.
Work like crazy for a year or two, get an extra job, stop spending money, move back in with parents, friends, or a roommate. Do whatever it takes to save money.
I did whatever I could to save every penny. I worked an extra job. I saved all my money. I cut my shopping, and I cut my eating out. I saved $13,000 in about a year that I then used to travel around the world for nine months.
Every bit of that hard work totally paid off.
What do you think is the best age to travel around the world?
You can definitely do it whenever. I started when I was 25, and back then, I was always one of the oldest people that I met. I had a lot of good times in my twenties.
I would say at the very minimum travel when you already have some life and work experience first. My experience in a corporate job made my website that much more successful. I learned how to be professional and run my business as a company would run theirs.
“I remember sitting on a bus going to the Ganges River in India. That’s where I had my epiphany. So many of my epiphanies have been on a bus not having my phone just sitting there thinking just being one with yourself.”
What would you say inspired you to start designing this travel lifestyle?
It wasn’t something that I always wanted to do. I didn’t grow up traveling or anything. I took some vacations when taking a break from my corporate job. When I did meet travelers from other countries that had been to all these places I thought, how are you guys affording this? I started realizing that it didn’t have to be expensive, I started getting inspired by those people that I met.
That was what inspired me, to take the three month sabbatical and then I experienced those life- changing moments.
I remember sitting on a bus going to the Ganges River in India. That’s where I had my epiphany. So many of my epiphanies have been on a bus not having my phone just sitting there thinking just being one with yourself.
That’s serenity. That was the passion. That’s what made me fall in love with travel.
Now that you’ve experienced traveling all these places and you have a successful business what’s next? What are your goals?
It’s actually one of my goals in the future to get the message about the power of travel minus the laptop and minus working while you’re on the road.
I’m hoping to have more in-person experiences in the future, whether in the form of a travel conference, organized tours, or retreats. I want to give others a different experience of travel – the way I learned.
What does your idea of success look like?
My idea of success is feeling happy and satisfied with whatever you pursue. Whether that’s travel, whether it’s running a business, whether it’s being a digital nomad; success is finding that happiness, peace.
It’s something that you don’t need to tell other people about, it’s just something that you’re satisfying within yourself. You can look back and say, wow, I did all that stuff. It’s not necessarily something that the world needs to know. It’s something just for you.
Success has nothing to do with my business success has everything to do with what I’ve accomplished. I’m particularly proud of all the travels I did pre-website. I did a lot before then, and that to me was a success. I took a chance. Success is taking a chance and seeing where the road takes
you and not limiting yourself. I look back now and I think, “how in the world did I do that?” Being able to accomplish those personal goals can then transcend into your business.
Ultimately a “laptop lifestyle” business is still going to be a job, a nine to five. It’s still working. So it doesn’t matter what you’re “job” is, it’s more important that what you’re doing outside of your job is valuable and meaningful.