Yep, that’s me up there pretending to be cool. Call me Jules.
I’m a graphic designer and digital nomad that grew up in the burbs of Chicago before relocating to Orlando, Florida where I realized a life-long dream of working for The Walt Disney Company for three years. In 2014 I decided to trade my beach towel for hiking boots and am stoked to presently call Denver, Colorado my home base.
It’s been a dream come true getting lost in the mountains and exploring the great outdoors with my wonderful, amazing, supporter-of-my-travel-dreams husband, Tim. When I’m not outside camping or hiking you can find me trying not to fall off my skateboard, going to punk shows, playing the latest video games and just generally being a huge nerd. I also have an addiction to photography and I feel absolutely lost without a camera in my hands.
Why graphic design?
Whether it was writing, drawing, or teaching myself web coding and making my mom buy me Paint Shop Pro (because it was cheaper than Photoshop) so I could make god-awful Kingdom Hearts fansites on Geocities at 13 years old, I’ve always been a creative at heart. This was primarily due to my past (and current) obsession with animation and all things Disney – so when my high school art teacher mentioned to me in passing that it was possible to, you know, actually work for them someday, my little teen mind was blown.
To get my foot in the door, I enrolled in the Disney College Program where I spent four amazing months working at Epcot, then went back to Chicago where I worked for the Disney Store while finishing up school. After months and months of hard work and agonizing over my portfolio, during my senior year of college I finally nabbed a year-long internship as a Graphic Designer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts! I credit that opportunity for molding me into the designer I am today, and I would not be where I am in my career if it weren’t for those three collective years I spent working for the Mouse.
For the last two years I have been doing primarily UI/UX design and am loving every minute of it, but I also have an extensive background in print and marketing. Bringing an intangible idea to life is the greatest feeling in the world, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
I’ve had an insatiable desire to travel and see the world for as long as I can remember. SO CLICHE, right? But it couldn’t be more true! As a kid I developed a love of road trips and the great outdoors thanks to many adventures across the country with my parents and grandparents, and I still absolutely ADORE road tripping to this day. My ultimate dream is to own a campervan and camp across the country!
My first experience leaving the U.S. was on a vacation to Costa Rica with my mom and sister when I was 14. We took riverboat rides through the jungle, saw an active volcano and trekked to waterfalls in the rain. That trip is what started it all.
It would be over 10 years before I left the country again for a work trip to Australia in 2015. In the couple of years leading up to it, I had been meticulously saving money and doing research for my own secret travel goal, which I had kept mostly private because I was convinced everyone would tell me I was insane. I had zero solo travel experience outside of the country and every time I brought up the idea in passing to my family, all I heard was “that’s not safe” or “you’re going to get murdered.” The only real encouragement I got was from friends who had solo traveled before, and from the countless travel bloggers I followed obsessively as I began to plan. Eventually the fear melted away into excitement as I browsed photos and read stories. I was determined to make those stories my own.
After months of research and gearing my anxiety-ridden self up for what I soon realized would be four months of me having no idea what I was doing, I grabbed a backpack in July 2016 and hopped on a plane to travel around Southeast Asia.
I learned the ropes as a solo female traveler and how to work abroad, which is a lot tougher than you’d think when most every travel decision has to revolve around finding decent WiFi. Despite a few hiccups such as almost getting stranded at a Vietnamese border crossing and having to go to a Cambodian hospital, experiences like riding elephants in Laos and getting a Sak Yant in Thailand more than made the journey worthwhile. Travel isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but it would be far less exciting and meaningful if was, right?
What is a digital nomad?
I know it looks like I’m on vacation, but I’m actually working. A lot.
A digital nomad is someone who can work remotely from anywhere in the world, usually via laptop. Careers that lend themselves well to this lifestyle are graphic design, writing, blogging, social media marketing, coding & developing…pretty much anything you can do involving a digital workspace. I’ve met translators, tutors/therapists, virtual assistants, business owners, you name it. Many digital nomads are freelancers, which is why my situation is a bit unique.
I work remotely for an Australian company that encourages flexible hours and work environments. Because of this, I am lucky enough to be able to do my job from anywhere in the world. Full-time digital nomads are a bit harder to come by, but I have noticed a steady increase in the amount of companies offering this lifestyle to potential employees.
How can I afford to travel for months on end?
Through a combination of luck and a ton of hard work, mostly. My student debt from college and monthly rent are my largest expenses that I have to deal with, but I have worked immensely hard to get where I am in my career and have always been very careful and frugal with my finances. Like I said, it took me years of saving before I could even begin to consider my trip to Asia, but this is where the luck comes in: my current job.
I fell into the remote work lifestyle completely by accident. I never anticipated that I would be a digital nomad, and my original plan at my old job was basically to save up a ton of vacation time and leave for maybe 3, 4 weeks max. I had always planned to freelance as a means to travel, but I got lucky by landing a full-time remote job, which meant that I would always have a steady stream of income no matter where I was. It’s how I was able to extend that trip to Asia from 3 weeks to 4 months, and it’s the reason I am able to presently travel for many months at a time.
What’s it like to travel with anxiety?
I have struggled with generalized anxiety disorder for most of my life and it was a huge hurdle I had to overcome before I took my first solo trip abroad. I was literally shaking in the Denver airport before stepping onto the plane. I should have been ecstatic because I was about to embark on the trip of my dreams, but that’s the joy of anxiety. Uncontrollable fear for no reason and worrying about every potential horrible outcome of every horrible decision I was likely going to make.
Though I am able to control my anxiety fairly well through yoga, meditation and exercise, I found that travel was more or less a miracle cure. It was incredibly hard to deal with in the beginning of my trip, but after the second week abroad it was all but gone. I had long forgotten what it felt like to not have a little, nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to worry. But something in me snapped when I realized I had navigated four planes to a country I’d never been to, all by myself. I had ridden a bike 5 miles to a beach, surrounded by street signs in a language I didn’t understand. Eventually I felt like I could take on the world. And I did!
I plan to write a more detailed post about it soon, but if you struggle with anything similar, I highly recommend checking out a blogger named Lauren Juliff. Her book is what got me through my first two weeks abroad.
Wander with me – let’s take on the world!
With this blog I hope to share with you my favorite co-working spaces, cafes, travel inspiration, budgeting tips and experiences from Denver and beyond so that you can make your own dreams of exploring the world a reality, as a digital nomad or otherwise. If you had asked for my stance on long-term travel 3 years ago, I would have said it was unattainable and that no one could possibly afford it. Well, I’m a broke mofo and an emotional wreck and I somehow made it work, so don’t get discouraged. It might involve a lot of hard work, time and penny pinching, but I promise when you’re standing in a place you’ve always dreamed of being, everything will have been worthwhile.
So set a goal, work hard and don’t give up. Your dreams are closer than you think.
Having said that, if you’re a fellow world wanderer, digital nomad or even a travel daydreamer: contact me! Ask questions, say hi, give me feedback – I’d love to connect anyone and everyone from around the globe.