Interview: Go, See, Write (Michael Hodson)

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My parents tell me it’s a generational thing. In ‘their’ day, most people had one job or one profession for over thirty years and then they retired. All did their best to sock away a nest egg of sorts for their ‘retirement’ years and some were even lucky enough to add a well-earned pension to that chunk of money in the bank. They tell me, ‘today’s generation is different’. I’m sure you’ve heard it a hundred times yourself. Today, in the age of 140 character thoughts, instant messaging and snapchats, the world of occupational loyalty is different. Now, if a lawyer becomes a lego-artist, a teacher trades the classroom for the world of not-for-profits, or an accountant becomes a strength and conditioning coach less people are surprised. Company loyalty isn’t the same, people don’t tend to stay in the same place for as long as they once did and what was once considered a hobby or side gig can become a full time love. It’s all happened thousands of times before, but today, more and more people are choosing a work-life balance over that handsome paycheck. Michael Hodson, a successful attorney changed his mind. He hit the road in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since. Here he shares his story and what he believes to be the gifts of travel.

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1.When did you get started traveling? I’ve been traveling for a long time, but I started my permanent traveling at the end of 2008.

2.What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? I was a lawyer in the States for about 10 years when I decided to leave at the end of 2008 in an attempt to circle the globe without using an airplane. After succeeding at that quest in a 16 month RTW trip, I decided to just keep going and trying to make a living while permanently traveling.

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3.What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? The main benefit is pretty simple – I get to see more of the world. It is a huge and wonderful place and I love being out here every day. As to the nay-sayers, I mostly just ignore them. Frankly, I don’t run into many of them. There are far more people asking how I do it than somehow being critical of it.

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 was a lawyer for about 10 years and was fairly successful at it. I had a pretty good nest egg saved up before I left, but that RTW trip took a huge bite out of it. In terms of being able to make enough of a living while traveling to survive, it took me from 2008 until about the middle of 2011 to get to that point. Its not easy.

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? I spend most of my time in Europe, because that is where most of my clients are. Plus, I just like it here. The destinations are a combination of client work and just places I want to see. There really isn’t much more to it other than me thinking, “Hmmmm, I haven’t seen Sicily yet.” As to the accommodations, I do a lot of AirBnB rooms and apartments these days, if I am staying in a place for more than a couple days. I like having my own room in which to spread my stuff. If I’m only in a place for a day or two, I usually just book a hostel via HostelBookers or HostelWorld.

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6.How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? Totally depends where you are. If you are in SE Asia or Central America, it is much cheaper – perhaps $1k a month or so. If you are North America or Europe, it is going to be a lot more – perhaps $3k a month or so.

7.How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? Retirement is a pipe dream at this point. I’m making enough to do OK, but not enough to put money away. At this point, my main income source is video production that I do for clients.

8.How do you handle visas, vaccinations, legal documents/passports, taxes and healthcare while living without a home base or an ever-changing one? Most of those are pretty easy. You can get most visas (as a US citizen) at the borders of countries and for those you need in advance, you just go to the embassy of that country wherever you are and get the visa there. Vaccinations were done before I left or when I go back to the States for Christmas. As to paperwork and other things back home, I have a PO Box in my hometown and it is forwarded to my parents, who have been the greatest support I could ever imagine.

9.If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be? New Zealand. I’d live there in a heartbeat for a number of reasons.

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10.What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/travel-heavy lifestyle? Save up enough money in your “regular life” so that you don’t need to worry about making money for at least a year. This isn’t an easy life and frankly some of the best aspects of traveling full-time are wasted when you are forced to sit in front of a computer every day to make money.

11.In your experience, what have been the two most significant gifts of travel? Meeting great people who also love travel and seeing some of the amazing sights this planet has to offer. It is a truly spectacular hunk of rock we live on. Go see more of it as soon as you can.

For more of Michael’s adventures, check out his travels on his website.

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