I get at least 5 messages a day asking me how I maintain a travelling lifestyle so I thought it was about time I shared with everyone how I do it.
(This was supposed to be short blog but it turned into me sharing half my life story with you so for those of you who just want to know how to travel for a living read the paragraphs: The Initial Grind and The Answer downwards. The long version is for people who want to know more about my journey too).
I too used to watch travel influencers constantly travelling to luxurious destinations and I thought that, that kind of life was only possible for a lucky few but as I have come to learn - that is not true. Yes it is rare to be paid to travel for a living but it is not rare to learn how to earn a living so you can constantly travel.
Travel is what makes me happiest in life. For me, falling in love with a new place is the most magical feeling in the world. And it was growing up watching travellers on Youtube and Instagram that made me crave it as a lifestyle, not just a once a year thing.
The Initial Grind
So when I got close to finishing high school I began dreaming of the gap year I had been longing for. I had worked two jobs all through high school and I was a crazy hard saver. I didn’t buy new clothes, I never ate out, I didn’t really drink until I was 18 either. Having a little nest egg sitting in the bank, something I could rely on, was worth so much more to me then clothes, nice food and partying. Yes it was embarrassing wearing the same clothes over and over again, yes I missed out on a lot of social events but I had something to work towards and I kept that in mind. When I was 16 I put a poster up on my wall that said, “Determination is Remembering What You Want”. I had days when I wanted to go shopping with the money I had to by nice clothes for a date or to blend in with my friends latest clothing but I had bigger, long term dreams that I knew outweighed the short term urge to buy a new outfit that would make me feel great twice and then seem average every time after that.
By the time I turned 18 I had saved up $9,000 which sounds lovely but it took me 5 years, working 2 jobs and the work I had to do was at minimum wage and painful. I was a tennis coach 4 times a week which may sound fun but picture looking after a group of 10 kids, aged 5 to 7 running around with balls and racquets, with very little eye hand co-ordination. The minute you turn around to help one kid, 2 kids have been hit in the head with a ball and a racquet, someones peed their pants and and someone’s sitting down crying because they want to go home to watch SpongeBob.
I also worked as a landscaper - I am a very hands on, practical kind of person (although I don’t really look it). So I did everything from mowing lawns, to weeding and carrying wheel barrows of dirt backwards and forwards for 8 hours a day in the scorching summer sun. My finger nails came away from the skin, my knees were always bruised from kneeling down weeding and my back always ached. It wasn’t easy. I worked hard for that money. On top of the two jobs I had to complete homework and keep my grades up and try and have some kind of social life so I didn’t feel like a complete loser.
Go to University Girl
A few months before I was due to finish high school my mum sat me down and asked me to consider going to University. I felt like crying, I had been dreaming of tropical islands and chaotic cities and I had been working ridiculously hard to make it possible but my mum had sacrificed a lot for me growing up. She is the one who taught me good saving habits, who never felt the need to wear makeup, buy branded clothing – not that there’s anything wrong with that but we didn’t have the money to live like that and she never pretended we did. Instead she prioritised education and good food. She had shaped me into the woman I am and at the expense of living her best life so I owed it to her.
So off I went. What was meant to be a 3 year degree in Architecture turned into a long 5 years masters in Architecture and Landscape Architecture (urban planning and designing cities and public space, not gardening people) . During that time I continued to work hard to maintain my savings balance. I worked while I studied and then I used my summer holidays to gain experience in the architecture industry by working in firms. In New Zealand the government loans you the money for your university tuition and gives you an allowance each week which you only have to pay back once you start working so I was spending very little a week on study and living and adding to my savings when I could.
To keep the travel bug at bay during this time I booked little trips now and then with some of the money I had earnt to help get me through uni. These were trips like my Rarotonga one, which I booked 8 months in advance to secure $200 return flights. I was smart about where I went and I only ever booked a trip if the deal for the destination I was going to seemed too good to be true.
The start of Instagram
In my last year of study I treated myself to a trip to Bali for my birthday and this is where I fell in love with instagramming and sharing travel. I was very shy behind the camera and had never posted photos of myself before but Bali was beautiful so I decided to start taking photos of the scenery and by the end of the trip I had started taking photos of myself. The moment that everything changed was when I posted a photo in a bikini at a beach club called La Brisa. A big Bali page on Instagram with 300,000 followers re-shared the photo and I experienced my first wave of gaining followers. It was exciting that people liked what I was doing and I got a rush from seeing the followers coming in. From that moment on I started sharing my travels with my followers and I began dreaming of finishing uni and being able to spend more time travelling.
Put on Hold. . . Again
I finally finished my masters in February this year and began making plans. I booked a trip to Europe with some girls in the middle of the year and began to plan other trips around this. Then I got a call. To cut a very long story short I was approached and asked to be the lead designer on a big project in New Zealand. Getting a job out of university can be hard but to be asked to be the lead designer on a project fresh out of uni was insane. It was an offer I couldn’t say no to. It was terrifying and exciting and it meant sacrificing the first part of the year travelling but I had worked so hard for 5 years to get my masters it felt wrong to turn down a dream opportunity like this. The project was supposed to be a 6 month long project but with Europe booked for July this wasn’t possible. I vowed to get the job done in 4 months so I could do both and the client agreed to it.
It was the hardest time of my entire life. I can’t put it any other way. I had never designed anything that had actually ever been built let along an entire school, I had no life - a normal day for me was 15 hours at the office, 20 if it was a bad day. I had the weight of a lot of peoples expectations and hopes on my shoulders. All I did was work, sleep and eat. One thing that I struggled with a lot with during this time was keeping up with social media. I had spent so much time building up my Instagram but I just didn’t have the time to produce any content or reply to messages. Going on and seeing people asking me why I wasn’t posting and watching my followers go down day by day started to give me anxiety. I tried posting some old photos but I didn’t really have any good content left. Eventually I turned off all notifications and moved the Instagram app to the back of my phone so I didn’t have to look at it. I had told everyone I was going to start travelling and people were disappointed I wasn’t.
But I got there. And all that hard work meant I had the money to have fun in Europe. I finished the job at 2am on the morning that my flight left to Europe. When I woke up I had 6 hours to shop for anything I needed and pack. My main priority was bikinis because I had so few of them and I wanted to create some cool content for Instagram the minute I got there. I went shopping around Auckland for an hour and couldn’t find anything. The bikinis were either too expensive $100+ for just the top, or too cheap and nothing special. It made my wonder why no one was selling beautiful but affordable swimwear. So I gave up, packed my bag and got on my flight to London.
Keep Riding the Wave
One of my first stops on the trip was to Glastonbury with my friends Greer, Emily and Ceceline. The festival (which you can watch on my story highlights on Instagram) was the most amazing experience of my life and it really opened my eyes to the kind of experiences that are out there. The trip through Europe was 2 months long but after waiting 10 years for this and working my butt off, 2 months of travel wasn’t enough for me and I knew my body and mind couldn’t handle going back to work straight away (the doctors confirmed that I had exhaustion and needed to take 3 months off because my nervous system was so wrecked). I had waited so long and had so many things get in the way of me going and I was now free! I had no job to go back to, no one needing anything from me, I had to keep riding the wave.
But money was going to start becoming an issue. I had spent half of my travel savings on the Europe trip and I had my other savings account which I knew I could tap into but it was sitting there with the purpose of one day becoming the deposit for a house (which in the Auckland market will probably happen around the time I am 80). So it got me thinking. How do I keep riding this carefree, euphoric travel wave?
The answer was to earn money while I travel. It didn’t need to be a lot, just enough to cover flights and cheap accommodation. I had tried a few things like writing travel blogs for holiday companies but I only earnt a few hundred a month so that wasn’t sustainable.
It was in my last few weeks in Europe that I had the brainwave. The answer for me was bikinis. I practically lived in them, people liked seeing the ones I was wearing on Instagram and there was a big gap in the New Zealand market for unique bikinis at affordable prices. I set aside 2 of the last days of my holiday for research and planning in London and I worked. I looked into how to build a website, I called my best friend Audrina who is a web developer and quizzed her. I looked at hundreds of websites analysing what I liked and didn’t like, I looked up every swimwear site I could think of and studied them until my eyes for sore. I got in contact with some clothing suppliers I knew from a short summer job I had that involved imported clothing and homeware. And I started drawing up some style ideas. To cut a very long story short I created what is now LittlePeach.com as a way to enable me to continue travelling.
The Little Peach website enables me to work from anywhere in the world, I can order stock, update the website, take photos, write blogs from anywhere I please. And the beautiful thing is that most of the skills I have used to start the brand I learnt from my degree in architecture. There is no way I could be doing what I do without websitecoding knowledge, Photoshop skills, knowing the important rules of design and aesthetics and what the human eye finds pleasing. My ability to sell an idea and a dream comes from learning how to pitch projects to clients in the architecture world. My masters also provided me with the security to try and start my own business. If the website failed or I had to go home for some reason I have something that allows me to work and to earn money. The key is not to think that online retail is the key. My degree was the key and it opened me up to so many other opportunities and provided me with the security I needed to take the leap and start my own company.
So from there I took out most of my savings and I used it to start the website, buy the stock, travel to take the photos of the stock in beautiful locations and throw a launch party to get the brand out there. I knew I was using precious travelling money but it was an investment. I said goodbye to my dream of owning a property anytime soon and I used every last dollar I had to start my first ever business.
It was absolutley terrifying.
I was scared to lose all my hard earned money I had saved up from the past 11 years. I was scared all the hours of working and the sacrifices wouldn’t pay off. I was scared to look like a failure infront of a lot of people if the business flopped. I was scared of disappointing people I loved and cared about. But nothing I had ever done that was good was easy. And the potential outcome – the chance to continue to travel indefinitely, outweighed the risk of becoming broke and having to go back to work as an architect.
The Hard Work gets Harder
Now to anyone who watches my travels on Instagram I know it looks like a luxurious lifestyle. But one thing I don’t show you is the hours of work that go into creating this life. The research I have to do, the ongoing designing, the communication between suppliers, the admin that arises from receiving the wrong stock, stock that’s not good enough or incomplete, the constant maintenance on the website, creating ads, creating content, organising orders, dealing with customers and that’s just to start. On my recent trip to Bali I worked 8-9 hours a day planning the launch party for the business. I annoyed my friends who wanted to spend time with me, I missed out on a lot of opportunities to go and explore. I made time to do certain things to still enjoy the holiday but no one saw the hell that went on behind that trip. There were so many stuff ups and people who messed me around, the time I spent minimising and dealing with issues made up half the work I was doing. There were tears, there were days when I didn’t want to get up and face the storm ahead, there were money issues due to very large unexpected costs that came up out of nowhere. But you don’t see any of that comes across on social media. The hard work stays hidden because it’s not glamorous or enticing.
Currently, on this US trip I work about 5 hours a day, 7 days a week on my website and other things related to it. And if I can’t get work done on a certain day it means the next day for me is twice as long. Recently in New York I came home from a night out clubbing at 3am and had to sit in bed until 6am resolving an issue that came up with incoming stock which then lead to updating stock numbers and details. I work more than I ever have in a regular job.
Nothing about the journey to get here or where I am at now is easy. You don’t get to a point where you can stop working, this kind of work just means the better you do the more you have to work. It has become a 24 hour, 7 days a week job that involves a few hours of fun with three times as many hours of work to get you to that point. And getting here has involved many hard and challenging sacrifices. I had to wait 10 years to do what I had planned, I have been told no, not now, I have been told not to do any of this in the first place, I have had people laugh in my face, mock my aspirations, call me a joke for wanting to dream big. I have gone round in circles, taken 5 steps forward and 7 back, all to get me to where I am today.
But I am here now and I am happier than I have ever been before.