I’m Steph, a Michigander turned (mostly) solo world traveler currently adventuring my way around Latin America, while my home is based in Puebla, 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.
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.
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 workweek – 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.
A year and a half after arriving in Bangkok, something that I never thought would happen, especially in the city of Sin, did. I met the most amazing, intelligent, sweet, travel-loving man I could imagine. He asked me on a date to an Indian restaurant I’d been dying to try. It was my best (and last) first date. Ever.
After Bangkok, we moved to Rio de Janeiro 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.
drinking Caipirinhas on Leme Beach
Now? I am based in Puebla, Mexico with my lovely husband and naughty dogs, and I’m continuing to follow my passions for travel, writing, learning, and adventure while growing my freelance writing and social media consulting career – and studying to be a counselor.
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) – just 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.
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.
My Most Life-Changing Travel Gear
In all of my travels, I ONLY travel with carry-on luggage. This means space is at a premium, and there are a few things I’ve discovered over the years that I won’t travel without, whether I’m lazing on a beach in Mexico, searching for sloths in the Panamanian jungle, or roaming the streets of, well, Rome!
Waterproof, Shockproof Mirrorless Camera
My Nikon 1 AW1 is my best travel buddy. It’s waterproof (you can even take it snorkeling without needing additional underwater housing) and shockproof, so I can bring it along on even the most intense adventure. This thing is also super light and compact and fits in all but the smallest purses. This is a great mirrorless camera for a beginner to learn on, and grows with you. It fits all Nikkor 1 lenses, which is great for upgrading lenses as your budget allows.
I love Travelon bags because they are also tamperproof (little zipper clasps make it impossible for anyone to sneakily slide a hand inside) and lockable, making them the perfect choice for any journey on public transport.
I have the Anti-Theft Classic Light Slim Waist Pack, which I’ve converted into a cross-body bag, and I am obsessed with it! It’s just big enough for my mirrorless camera, small iPhone, and a pen and some paper for notes.
I LOVE this PacSafe TravelSafe. I use it when my room doesn’t offer an in-room safe (or if it looks sketchy and I don’t trust it), but I also use it to secure my valuables inside my backpack to prevent pickpocketing, and even at the beach or poolside to lock my camera and Kindle to my beach chair when I get up to go into the water.
I use the pictured version of the Travelsafe, which is big enough for my camera and money and passport (and could also fit a small ipad). You’ll want a bigger one (like this) or an entire backpack/bag protector (like this) if you plan to put your laptop inside.
I keep this universal adapter and surge protector in my bag for all trips, even if I don’t think I need an adapter (you never know when a janky outlet could fry your Mac book, no bueno). I don’t want to risk it. Besides, it is small, lightweight, and barely takes up space in my bag.
File this under the purchase I thought I wouldn’t like but ended up being absolutely essential. I will not go anywhere, even the grocery store, without my Kindle. The charge lasts forever, it’s lighter than a “real” book, and it has revolutionized the way I feel about waiting. Now, I love long lines (okay that’s a bit facetious) because it gives me the opportunity to catch up on a good read. I thought I’d miss the heft of a book in my hand, the feel of the pages… but honestly, the convenience is SO worth any sacrifice. I read voraciously, and even more now that I have the world’s library at my fingertips. Literally.
While I mostly travel with solid toiletries (read on for more details on THAT), if I travel with any liquid toiletries (like sunscreen), I need to move them into TSA-approved size-appropriate containers. These ones are leak proof and cute.
I’ll throw in a solid shampoo bars have revolutionized my backpack and my showers. The idea seemed weird (like, soap for your hair?) but I am SO sold. No more tossing toiletries when you forget about size restrictions, no more leaked shampoo all over your clean clothes. Try it, you won’t regret it. I like Lush for this, especially the Godiva bar.
When I travel, I usually bring a solid conditioner bar (I like the Big Solid Conditioner from Lush), because I used to go through so much conditioner (before I chopped my hair for Locks of Love), and it tends to leak even more than shampoo. Don’t know why. Solid conditioner bars solve ALL my problems. Or at least, some of them.
While I wasn’t convinced at first, one try of the Diva cup and I was absolutely sold on ditching tampons for a reusable menstrual cup. It is more environmentally friendly, more hygenic, and so much cheaper!
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)
Living Unconventially – Podcast Interview