Traveler Interview #9: Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler

Traveler Interview #9: Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler

The travel community is filled with incredibly interesting people. Chris Christensen (of Amateur Traveler) is one of those travelers who found a way to add travel into his life. Living in Silicon Valley with his family, Chris travels around the globe for a good portion of the year. His podcasts, blogs, and advice are ever present in the travel world of social media. Here, Chris shares his story of how the gift of travel adds to his world.

Interview with Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler

1.When did you get started traveling? My family traveled when I was a kid. We visited most of the National Parks in the west pulling a small travel trailer.

2.What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? I am not a nomad. I have a house, a wife with a job even though I am now traveling about a quarter to a third of the time counting work trips. Since the late 80s I have worked in Silicon Valley with most of that time at small startups but did quit the day job last August to work for myself. Since then I have been juggling blogging/podcasting, working on and working as a contractor 3 days a week for TripAdvisor to pay the bills. Being a contractor has given me time to work on my own projects as well as flexibility to do more press trips.

3.What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? I currently have an interesting mix. I am neither a nomad now nor a full-time employee. I am not cash strapped but still have a lot of flexibility. How could anyone be a nay-sayer about that?

4.How did you save money to be able to afford living ‘on the road’/traveling often? How long did it take you to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based life? I work as a software engineer which pays well. Then I built a large audience for my blog and especially my Amateur Traveler podcast which gets me invited to do a lot of press trips. As it is I still have to turn down some trips because I don’t have enough time, but if I can get my new company working then I can be even more location independent. But, my wife still is not interested in hitting the road full-time so I have no plans for being a full-time nomad.

5.How do you choose your destinations and for how long you’ll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? Are there any specific resources you recommend? If I am traveling as a guest of the tourism board then they do most of that planning. I then try and tack on personal trips. My business trips rack up a number of free hotel nights, and then we look for moderately priced hotels for the rest. Occasionally we have done apartment stays which are nice for a somewhat longer stay.

6.How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? That is kind of hard to say as I write off almost all of my travel against revenue from Amateur Traveler so… I generally travel at a profit. We just have to pay for my wife’s travel if she comes also which I pay for with contracting work and her job.

7.How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? I save from the contracting work for retirement. When I am traveling I am generally not earning from that so I end up working about 20 hours a week on average. Fortunately software contracting pays well.

8.How do you handle visas, vaccinations, legal documents/passports, taxes and healthcare while living without a home base or an ever-changing one? As only a semi-nomad we handle those issues like most people do. For healthcare, I rely on my wife’s job for that. She works full-time.

9.If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be?  We are “settled” in Silicon Valley.

10.What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/ travel-heavy lifestyle?  Consulting, contracting and other location independent work can be a useful route to traveling more but you have to build in time to work somewhere, either from a home base or on the road. Build up a skill that other people find valuable. The more valuable they find that skill the fewer hours you will need to work.

For more details about Chris, his work and his travels, check out his website:

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