I’m Steph, a Michigander turned (mostly) solo world traveler currently adventuring my way around Latin America, while my home is based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

But how did I get here exactly?


A day before the flight home from my first trip abroad, to Thailand, I canceled my ticket.

I gave up my comfortable life in favor of unknown opportunities and in search of something…. more.

Was it scary?


It was terrifying!

But I had more faith in my ability to find fulfillment, than belief in the empty promises of the American Dream.

I had my quarter life epiphany, and I didn’t look back.

I had to take a trip around the world to find what I’d had with me all along – myself.

Steph Valle la Luna Chile

My life wasn’t always like this.

In 2011, I graduated from Central Michigan University with degrees in Psychology and Religion. A few months later, I jumped into a marketing career at a great company with a position that was interesting and a boss that listened to me. I also worked part time as a fitness instructor. I had a pretty apartment, big Jeep, good friends, too many clothes, and could buy whatever I wanted (within reason). I was working at least 60 hours a week between the two jobs, and didn’t know why. I was content, but I never realized I wasn’t happy until I went to Thailand.

While many friends were going through quarter life crises, I was having my quarter life epiphany on my first trip overseas.

Railay Thailand Beach Selfie

After I decided to stay in Thailand, I felt exhilarated and like I was dreaming constantly – but I knew it was the right choice.

A few months after backpacking solo through Southeast Asia, I started a new job in Bangkok and rejoined the 40-hour work week – but with new priorities, perspectives, and goals. I continued to travel every chance possible, achieving my goal to see a new city at least once a month.

After Bangkok, I moved to Rio de Janeiro with my then-boyfriend where I studied Portuguese, became an English volunteacher, rediscovered a love for hiking, and quit my remote working job to blog, write, and provide social media services full time.

…all while sneaking in time to travel as much as possible.

Maracuja Caipirinha Rio de Janeiro Leme Brazil

drinking Caipirinhas on Leme Beach

We later moved from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Puebla, Mexico (then to Mexico City and then back to Puebla and now in Puerto Vallarta), and I started my master’s degree in psychology.

Now? I am based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, continuing to follow my passions for travel, writing, learning, and adventure while growing my freelance writing and expat life consulting career – and studying to be a counselor.

Eat Mexico Street Food Tour: Tacos de Canasta La Abuela

Making friends with street food vendors in Mexico City

I love my life, and you can too.

Your life belongs only to you. Getting trapped by the notion that there is only one way to live (the ‘right way’) is the most harmful illusion we can partake in. There are a million ways to make money. Work to live, not live to work.

Choose happiness. Prioritize joy. Make the leap.

You don’t need to be a full-time traveler or digital nomad to travel.  Whether you are a freelancer, part-timer,9-5er, or my personal choice – expat! – you can still incorporate travel in your life (or whatever else makes you happy!) by problem-solving and planning.

Find your passion, set your priorities, design your own lifestyle, and live your best life – whatever that means to you.

It is my hope that the stories, advice, and guides I share on Joy and Journey will aid or inspire you in taking your own leap of faith in yourself.

Whether you’re looking for information about living as an expat in Bangkok, Rio, Mexico (or in general), destination daydreaming on your lunch break, or considering the path less traveled, I’m here to help.

Whether you have questions, need encouragement, are seeking advice, or really loved a post (or maybe hated it) – get ahold of me! Send me an email, leave a comment on the blog, or look me up on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter – I LOVE to hear from readers and respond to each and every comment or message.

Caldera Canyon Oasis in Boquete PanamaThe secret of happiness is freedom.
The secret of freedom is courage.

My Travel Manifesto

I believe in travel as a catalyst for change. I believe in travel as a way to open the eyes of travelers (and locals) to other perspectives, cultures, and beliefs… while creating empathy and furthering understanding.

I believe in travel as a way to discover your dreams, to deepen your values… and to question your own beliefs.


Huffington Post: Female Travel Bloggers On The Rise

Matador Network: 11 Female Travel Bloggers Totally On The Rise

MSN.com : Top Female Travel Bloggers On The Rise


Washington Post – Tourists Really Don’t Know How to Fit in At Rio’s Beaches (to my article on Cangas)

Published Work:

Matador Network

Travel Versed




Travel Jerusalem

Journalist on the Run

Living Unconventially – Podcast Interview

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  1. Navid
    May 17, 2015 / 9:15 am

    Im living in Tehran and I’m ready to help you enjoy your vacancies in this town
    I leave here my phone number for any things if you Needed you can call me
    See you

    • May 17, 2015 / 1:09 pm

      Thanks Navid! When I come to Tehran I will definitely let everyone know. Thanks so much for the offer.

  2. leblackrabbit
    June 1, 2015 / 4:08 am

    Good on you for having the smarts and the guts to dump the must do/should do/ and gotta do world to live a ‘i wanna do’ life. I did it ten years ago and moved to the south coast of Turkey for 4 years, a farm in northern France for 5 years, a cattle ranch in Texas for a year and now my wife and I are back on the south coast of Turkey to build a house. May the sun always shine on you and may even more amazing surprises await you in the future.

  3. June 4, 2015 / 8:38 pm

    This is so true. I was on a similar road to burnout before I decided to leave the country. I’d love to be a full-time traveler but it worked out for me to have a job that allows me to work remotely, within certain parameters and for my husband to ask his company if we could relocate to their office in Brazil to explore another region of the world. We live in a small city and it’s not glamorous but still an amazing opportunity I feel so blessed to have. I’m loving your blog, hence the very thorough stalking 🙂

    • June 6, 2015 / 7:30 am

      That’s awesome! Remote working can be great for travel – when I first came to Brazil from Thailand, I was remote working for the first time ever (now freelancing)..
      I think small cities can be even better than the big ones!
      Thanks!!! 🙂

  4. June 10, 2015 / 11:25 pm

    Hey Steph, amazing that you took that initial leap of faith…! I’m a Brazilian living in Singapore, but have lived in many other places in between (US/London/Belgium/Japan). I love Rio and my heart is still there, so definitely looking forward to reading your experiences as an expat there…!


    • June 12, 2015 / 1:42 pm

      Hi thanks!! Yes I live Rio! Cariocas are so friendly and it is without a doubt the most stunning city in the world. The beaches and mountains, wow! Every day I’m still impressed.
      I’ve been to Singapore – quite different from Brazil! How do you like it?
      I’ll be sure to check out your blog and have followed you on IG 🙂

      • June 13, 2015 / 10:06 am

        Rio is my favorite city in the whole world, I always think of moving back…! I’m glad to hear they are treating you well!! Singer is quite easy to live in and I don’t have to worry about the things that you have to in Brazil. Will be following your journey as well! x

  5. September 10, 2015 / 6:06 pm

    I just discovered your blog through the Nestle Linqia campaign and I can honestly say — you are doing it right. My husband and I just returned from 3 weeks in Thailand and loved every second. We call Hawaii home, but are planning to uproot and move in the next year or so. You have a new reader in me!

    • September 10, 2015 / 6:13 pm

      Hi Kait! Thanks so much for checking MyQLE out! And thank you for your kind words of support 🙂
      Thailand is seriously my heart home, I can’t wait to move back in 2017! I hope you had a great time?
      Hawaii is on my wander list… I’ve always wanted to visit (it was my mom’s dream) but I haven’t made it yet. It looks so beautiful and natural! But as I’ve experienced in Rio, sometimes a place is much better for visiting than it is for living (and vice versa as it was for me in Bangkok).

  6. November 11, 2015 / 12:56 am

    First of all, let me say I found your site at probably the most unlikely of locations – via a comment you left on airbnbhell in April 2015…I curiously followed the link at the end of your comment and read the blog post about your experiences in Rome (as I’m an AirBnB n00b, it completely opened up my eyes on AirBnB safety precautions), and then proceeded to check out other posts. Needless to say, you write awesome stuff!!

    I’m a travel enthusiast myself, not wanting the what ifs of life to escape me – I tell myself to make sure I travel at least once a year. I love the holistic view of life and travel you have and completely agree with you that there is no ‘one way’ to life. I’m so glad you’re sharing your experiences with the world via this blog!

    • November 11, 2015 / 9:57 am

      Hey! Thanks so much for coming by! And thank you soooo much for the compliments. Yeah my Airbnb experience was definitely pretty eye-opening, and sad because I used to LOVE the platform and be such an advocate for them.

      “Not wanting the what ifs of life to escape me” – that is SUCH a wonderful line and captures the feeling so beautifully! I checked out your blog as well, it is gorgeous and really relatable. I especially like this post

  7. November 25, 2015 / 10:04 am

    Ahh I love your story! So amazing that you are living the life you want. Can’t wait to check out the rest of your site 🙂

    • November 25, 2015 / 10:26 am

      Hi Kate! Thanks so much! I love My Spiritual Roadtrip – I’m so sad you’re done blogging but I look forward to reading your other work… are you going to share links on your blog? Also just followed you on IG, your feed is lovely! I look forward to reading more of your stuff… I’ve been veg for 16 years and am transitioning back into vegan (I stopped being vegan when I moved abroad – I miss Earth Balance and nut milks!!) and also have intense interest in self help and spirituality so finding your blog is a total blessing! 🙂

    • mussi
      January 31, 2018 / 11:00 am

      Great blog, and amazing experiences, I am french working in Naples,
      Not visiting Naples, means not visiting Italy, for many people and of courses Italian Naples its not Italy.
      But according me its one of the best to visit and of course to live.
      Let me know for tips

      • Steph
        January 31, 2018 / 7:21 pm

        Thanks so much. If I make it back to Italy – hopefully! someday – I will definitely let you know.

  8. May 21, 2017 / 1:52 pm

    Hi Stephanie,

    Just want to say what a great blog!! So informative and well-written 🙂 From one traveler from Michigan to another, I wish you much more joy and many more fulfilling journeys! Thank you for sharing your adventures and for your all of your advice.

    • May 23, 2017 / 8:37 pm

      Thank you so much! <3

  9. June 13, 2017 / 11:42 am

    Fantastic presentation! One I couldn’t agree more as it almost happened the same way for me, only a little later (I was 29 whe I left for a 10-month trip around the world, that completely changed the way I saw things, life, travel and happiness).

    I’m now married with a Mexican guapo and we recently moved out to Holbox island, Mexico, to open a bar on the beach! 😉 I’m back in France for the summer and can’t wait to read more of your adventures, live more of mine, find new places to travel to and live together.

    It is awesome to meet up (vicarously through the internet) people that have the same passion and smile for what’s in store and know that anything is possible if you put your mind into it and step outside the box.

    Enjoy it all!

    • Steph
      June 15, 2017 / 8:16 am

      Thanks so much! That is awesome, I love hearing stories like this!

      I have heard Holbox is amazing, but I haven’t been there yet… somehow I ended up going to Isla Mujeres 3 times, though… It’s definitely on my list of places I NEED to visit in Mexico!

      Sending a hug, thanks so much for connecting! Enjoy summer in France!

  10. May 20, 2018 / 6:00 pm

    How did I just find your blog, I love it! My husband and I moved from the U.S. to Tulum, MX 2 years ago and never looked back! I’ve only just started to check it out and am going to now binge on your page all evening! 🙂 Love it!

    • Steph
      May 29, 2018 / 5:04 pm

      Hi Ashley,
      Aw, thanks so much! I’ve really enjoyed visiting Tulum in the past, I can see why you live there!

  11. Peter
    June 1, 2018 / 1:08 pm

    Hi! I have two wonderful kids ages 11 and 12. I turn 62 in a few weeks and at the end of summer I am going to apply for social security $2,900 per month and disability (health problems). After several months I will be eligible for the higher disability amount of $4,200 per month. So I want to take the kids to another country for 6 months or longer while they are still kids, learn another language, have lots of fun and TRY to get a better value system in their heads… Mexico City is close and has a lot to offer I hope…What do you think???

    • Steph
      June 2, 2018 / 10:34 am

      Hi Peter!

      Mexico City has SO much to offer, and I would imagine it’s especially appealing for kiddos in the preteen age, as there are so many great parks, museums, and other fun things to do. The schools also offer great activities.

      Some considerations:
      – I would check with your social security/disability program to be sure they will pay out in Mexico, and also that your health insurance covers you here. If not, you’ll want to take an expat coverage for you and your kids (most require you’re out of the US for at least 6 months, which seems like it’s not a problem with your plans), I use GeoBlue (it runs me about $120 a month).

      – “American/European level” schools in Mexico are expensive (especially in Mexico City: $6000USD just for admission and registration per child, plus a little over $1000USD per month per child for tuition, and rent in Mexico City is the highest of anywhere in Mexico, starting at around $1000USD for a fully-furnished 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in a “good” neighborhood, you’ll probably want to choose your neighborhood based on where the kids are in school, as traffic is unreal).

  12. Michael Middleton
    June 19, 2018 / 11:18 pm

    Hi Steph.
    Really enjoyed your blogsite. Sorry some people have to be snarky, but that’s the reality on the web. It’s easy for cowards to hide behind their laptops. We’ve had many similar travels including Thailand and much of Mexico. I guess I’m entering middle age now and looking to see how Mexico is shaping up. Back when we were 18+ year oldsurfers we would take baja trips and cross the border with a note from our mom’s saying it was okay…I kid you not. But we had long hair and surfboards on the rack and we looked even younger than our age. We got tired of paying off every fat federale that pulled us over and claimed we were speeding. We were not!
    Your site informed me some has changed…much has not. Still, Mexico…it’s pretty cool! Michael

    • Steph
      June 20, 2018 / 11:03 am

      Hi Michael!

      Wow – crossing a border with a note from Mom! 🙂 The times have certainly changed: the current border situation has been on my mind and the topic of conversation for days now, so heartwrenching.

      Aw thank you. I am very, very used to snarky and it’s okay. Everyone has their own version of release, and I guess for some, it’s taking out their life frustrations on someone who’s just trying to share about the world, connect with and help people! Haha can’t win ’em all!

      I love Mexico! Ups and downs like everywhere and anywhere else, but its certainly one of my favorite corners of the world 🙂

  13. Hayley
    December 27, 2018 / 2:20 pm

    We went to Puerto Vallarta last year and absolutely loved it, the people, the friendliness, and of course the sunshine! We have been to the other side of Mexico- Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Cancun, but I loved the hominess of PV and the “old town” and the mountains with the beach. We would love to have a condo there and live part time. Any advice? If you buy a condo in a reputable place is there still a lot of trouble with water, gas or internet? Are the real estate agents helpful? Is it better to live outside of town or closer in the city? I like the idea of not having to need a car and being able to walk to restaurants.

    • Steph
      January 9, 2019 / 3:24 pm

      Hi Hayley! No matter where you live, pretty much anywhere in Mexico, you can have problems with water, gas, and internet. Every area of PV has issues, even the Zona Romantica. If you own your own house, though, you can have a water tank installed, solar panels, and a big gas tank so that even several-days-long outages aren’t that bad.
      Whether you prefer to live outside of town or closer is totally a matter of perspective. We live in Fluvial and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, mainly because it is quieter but still easy to access grocery stores and the centro.

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