When Dani Heinrich hit the road with her partner in 2010, she had no long-term travel funds, plans, or expertise -- nothing but an unstoppable drive to explore the world. A one-year trip turned into a nomadic lifestyle over the years, and as the Globetrotter Girls rambled through South America, the U.S., Europe, and South East Asia, the chronicle of their adventures surged to the top of travel blog lists. Dani is now beginning the next chapter of this exciting story as she continues on a solo journey.
Dani shares her unique perspective on location independence in my interview with this courageous globetrotting gal. Don’t miss it!
1. Hi Dani, when you began your nomadic adventure back in 2010, how did you take your work on the road?
I worked as a recruiter in the financial services industry before I left on the trip and after resigning, I was asked if I wanted to do some freelance work during my travels. Of course I didn’t say No, considering how few savings I actually had. The change from having office hours to being in charge of my own working hours, not having a boss to report to on a daily basis and the distractions of the internet were actually a big challenge for me in the beginning. It took me a while to adjust to being a freelancer but there’s nothing more satisfying than working from a hammock 🙂
Over time, I took on less and less freelance work and focused more and more on our website which had started to support our income through advertising and sponsorships.
2. When did the one-year trip start to become a travel lifestyle (and business)? To what extent does your web business support your travels?
About six months in, I realized that I wasn’t ready to go back to my old job after the planned 12-month sabbatical. The world was just too big, I wanted to continue traveling and it was about then when I realized that traveling and working at the same time was actually possible as long as you were determined enough to make it work. At the moment, I am able to support myself on the income from my website, and take on freelance projects on the site which pay for more expensive things like flights or new camera gear.
3. When did you start blogging, and has your success changed how you view your own travel experiences, or how you encounter different cultures?
We started the website in April 2010, just before we set off on our trip. It was supposed to be an outlet for Jess to showcase her writing (she was a freelance writer at the time and wanted to pitch travel stories) and my photography, which I had wanted to take to the next level. We had no idea that we’d actually be able to make money with the website itself (although it also helped to get some freelance work and helped me to sell my photos). It definitely changed how we traveled - we started to pay much more attention to the little details on our travels and wanted to share our experience with others to help them make the most of their own travels. I find myself grabbing my notebook constantly scribbling down notes on places to eat, transportation information, hidden gems I stumble upon. But it also makes it harder to ever ‘switch off’ - when I arrived in New York City, for example, where I am spending a couple of months this spring / summer, I just wanted to enjoy a weekend in Brooklyn, and ended up taking notes on the neighborhood I was hanging out in, taking pictures, and checking out places to eat and drink to include them in an article. I find that since we started the website, I’ve been traveling in much more conscious way, and writing all of our experiences down makes it much easier to remember them. I have vivid memories of most of the places we visited in the past four years while I barely remember any details of previous travels I’d done.
4. Your very loyal readers follow every step of your journey. How did you cultivate this strong online community? Why do you think that so many people have latched onto your story?
I think when we started to write in a more personal way, people could actually relate to us as a couple and as independent travelers, and found it interesting to follow our journey instead of reading a generic travel article. We were also always approachable through social media and via email and helped countless people over the years who emailed us with questions and their concerns on solo travel in Central America, for example. In return, we gained a loyal following. I think it is important to be yourself and be honest, even in times when you’re struggling and NOT living the dream - that’s what people want to know about, too.
It took us a long time to get to this point though - we put a lot of effort into getting the word out about our website when we started taking it seriously (about six months into the trip). We guest posted frequently, we commented on other sites, were active in the travel & blogging communities on Facebook, reached out to fellow travel bloggers, and tried to always produce top notch content, of course.
5. Did you ever envision GlobetrotterGirls taking you this far? How are you reshaping the project as you move forward as a solo traveler?
As I’ve already said - we had no idea where this website would take us! I still can’t believe what opportunities it has opened for us, the people we were able to meet through it, the way it improved our travels through cooperations with tourism boards around the world.
I am still in the process of figuring out how I am going to reshape the site as I am globetrotting solo now - I have some visions and ideas, but have only started to run it by myself last month, so things are still very fresh and I am taking the time I need to make changes.
6. When do you know that it’s time to move on to the next adventure? How do you choose your next destination? What do you look for?
I am always restless - after two months in one place i am usually ready to move on. New York City might be the only exception but I guess I’d be ready to move on as soon as it starts getting colder - I hate winter! How do I choose my next destination… a good question. I am trying to keep an open mind to any destination but I have places high up on my travel wish list that I am dying to see a(like Northern India, Morocco and Cuba) and others that would be nice to see but that aren’t that important now (Brazil, Australia and New Zealand for example). When I am traveling to one region, I usually try to see as many countries there as possible before moving on to the next region. That also helps me to keep travel costs down. I am always looking to spend a good amount of time in each place so that I can actually get a feel for the culture, get to know locals, visit several cities as well as destinations off the beaten path. I love the outdoors but am a city girl at heart, so I always make sure to get a good mix of both.
7. Is the nomadic life still everything that you dreamed it would be? Or has your vision shifted in the course of your journey?
It definitely is what I dreamed it would be and just looking back at the past few years and all the places I was able to call home for a while - it is an incredible lifestyle and I am so glad that I get to live it! Being able to work from anywhere in the world, and decide on a whim where to go to next, has always been a huge thrill.
My vision has shifted in the course of my journey, however - and not just now that I am a solo traveler. Jess and I had actually been talking about making Berlin our base next year, at least for six months out of the year, and travel the other six months (escape the cold! 🙂 ) Not having a base can be tiring at times and the longer we traveled, the more I craved some stability.
Another thing that had changed: when we started our trip, I wasn’t very close to my family. My brother and sister were in their twenties, doing their own thing - but now they both have kids! I am a proud aunt to two nieces and one nephew and miss them dearly when I am traveling. I love being an aunt and want to be in their lives, not just some random aunt who is roaming the globe 🙂 Like I said though, six months out of the year in one place would be ideal since there’s no way I could stop traveling entirely!
And now as a solo traveler, I wouldn’t want to be nomadic forever. I like sharing the experience with someone, having a partner by my side.
8. As you’ve been exploring so many other cultures, what have you discovered about yourself?
The main thing I have discovered is that I don’t have any reason to complain. Before I set off on this journey, I was always complaining about something, even though I had a good-paying job, lived in one of the greatest cities in the world (London), had a girlfriend who I loved and was able to travel six or seven times each year. Seeing cultures that are less privileged than we are has made a huge impact on me. As somebody from a developed nation, I am pretty blessed to be able to live this life, to travel, to have a passport that allows me to visit most countries in the world. And I don’t have any reason to complain about anything, really!
9. Where do you feel your journey is leading you now, Dani?
Great question, Tal. I think that everything happens for a reason and that I’ve now been sent on this solo journey to a yet unknown destination - I am sure fate has something good in mind for me and I am looking forward to finding out what that is.
Dani Heinrich is a digital nomad and passionate world traveler who runs GlobetrotterGirls.com, a premier travel blog aiming to inspire savvy travelers to create authentic travel experiences. You can also find Dani on Twitter @glbetrottergrls