Full-time travel blogger and digital nomad roaming the world on a whim, Isabel draws energy from being outdoors. She believes there is nothing more fulfilling than being unplugged. An explorer at heart, the world is her playground. She chronicles her travel adventures and budget tips on Bel Around The World.
Tell me the backstory of your travel blog, Bel Around The World, how did you get started?
I started blogging back in 2015 when I was in college and joined a student exchange program in France for a semester. During that time, I was able to visit 16 countries and 55 cities in Europe and Southeast Asia. I was terrified to travel alone, but also really excited about the adventure. I decided to start Bel Around The World because I wanted a place to document my travels and experiences.
After the student exchange program, did you work a full-time job?
I was working full-time for a bit as a Social Media Manager, and I was still blogging on the side. As the blog grew, I was getting opportunity offers that I had to miss out on because of my full-time job. At that time, I felt like I had reached my potential in my current job.
I decided that I would branch out on my own to focus on my blog and see how things worked out. I wanted to give full-time travel blogging a shot. I gave myself three months to work in Japan without any distractions or peer pressure. During that time, I learned that after putting all my effort into it, I was able to reap the rewards and sustain a full-time income travel blogging.
Can you tell me about some of the money-saving tricks you learned while traveling for 6-months straight?
When I went on my 6-month trip to Europe, I was sleeping on people’s couches and staying in hostels. I was saving a lot of money on accommodations.
When you travel alone, you have to be adaptable because it’s not like taking a vacation. It’s not cost-effective to take trains and planes everywhere. I substituted plane rides for overnight bus trips, and that really helped me save money. I was also able to use my student discounts on attractions and museum entries.
What has been your experience traveling alone vs. traveling with friends?
When I’m traveling alone, there is more flexibility. I was able to do things that my friends maybe wouldn’t be comfortable with, like couchsurfing. I realized I could save a lot more money traveling alone than with other people.
When I travel alone, I feel like I can push myself out of my comfort zone. Everyone was advising me not to try couch surfing and not travel on my own to the US because it’s dangerous.
I didn’t let their opinions stop me, I did all those things on my own, and I enjoyed the experiences.
I really encourage everyone to travel alone. You find out things about yourself that you never knew before.
What is most rewarding about long-term traveling?
I think it’s really being surprised by the kindness of strangers.
When I was in Ghent, I was feeling very lost in a place I had never been to before. This host was really attentive towards me, and she was very receptive to my feelings. She wrote this really comprehensive guide on how to explore the city and gave me very clear instructions on how to get around.
Another time, I was in Germany, and my host picked me up at the train station really early in the morning. She and her daughter took me around the city to go shopping and do girl stuff. When we got back to the house, she asked if I had any dinner requests. She cooked a special meal to welcome me. She really made me feel like I had found a family away from home.
What are some challenges that you faced while traveling?
For one, it definitely gets tiring moving around all the time. Sometimes you wish that you just had a home base and you could unpack your luggage instead of living out of your suitcase. At times while I was on the road, I just craved routine.
Also, just having to rely on yourself all the time can be taxing. When you have company, you can share the decisions about what to do next, how you’ll get around, what you’ll eat, what’s safe – all the choices that come with exploring on your own.
What are your future plans for Bel Around The World?
I hope that this blog reaches a bigger audience to inspire more people to embrace this digital nomad lifestyle. To show people that this lifestyle not only gives you freedom but improved wellbeing.
I want my story to improve someone’s life in a way that makes them realize it’s okay to be uncomfortable as long as you are moving forward.
I got lucky because I discovered what I really love doing, and I’m able to make a living out of it. There are people who just stick to routine and stability, but they’re not happy with their situations. That’s what I’m hoping to bring light to, to help these people out of their shell to discover and pursue what they really love.
What does your ideal lifestyle design look like?
Part of what I love about traveling is finding new places to fall in love with. My ideal lifestyle is being able to live in a place that has nature, the beach, and a community of people who embrace the digital nomad lifestyle.
When I was in the US, I met this digital nomad on Instagram. He happened to be close to where I was staying, and he invited me over. We met and really connected. When I went over, I saw that he was living in an RV, which I’ve never encountered before. He opened my eyes to a new way of travel and inspired me to consider living that kind of lifestyle. To this day, we still keep in touch and are trying to plan our upcoming trips so we can meet again.
What does success look like for you?
To me, success is being able to touch people’s lives. When people tell me that my story inspired them to take action, that’s my idea of success.
It’s being able to connect with people through my stories and being able to live a sustainable lifestyle that makes me happy. I hope to be able to expand the team because I have all these ideas, but not enough manpower to execute them. I’m working to hopefully build a team out to be able to share Bel Around The World with a bigger audience.