The desire to travel independently is a feeling that stirs within a lot of us. It’s a big step that not everyone will take. But at 19, Alexandra Baackes wanted it badly enough to make it a reality.

She cobbled together a “DIY Summer Abroad” to volunteer and backpack in South East Asia. Along the way, she met a collection of folks living a life of travel, working on the road to support themselves. She knew then that was how she wanted to live her life as well.

Like me, Alex spent time bartending abroad to support her travels only to learn she didn’t want to continue with that work when she got home, and instead wanted to learn a skill that she could do from anywhere in the world. So she studied graphic design and travel writing and rather than look for a job out of college, she created a life of travel.

In 2011, Alex left her life in New York for one of exploration, more dedicated to adventure. Since then, she hasn’t stopped traveling and writing about her experiences over at She’s a dive master, designer, videographer, and all around multimedia creative and she is really embodying a lifestyle that I find ideal and realistic — one in which you can use your talents to earn money while living a more adventurous life to put yourself in the position to let amazing stories happen to you.

Words from an Explorer

“I met people who were making travel not just two weeks out of the year but their entire existence and I knew I wanted to be just like them.”

What We Cover

  • Why Alex made independent travel a priority, and how taking that trip led to interactions with people that were life-changing experiences
  • How she’s become a Digital Nomad to perpetuate her life of travel
  • Alex chose her skills deliberately. She learned graphic design in school knowing it would be a skill set she could use anywhere.
  • “Do not ever, ever, ever fly without signing up for that airline’s frequent flyer program.” Seriously you guys, it’s free.
  • Ways you can earn on the road, with or without special training or specialized ‘digital nomad’ skills

Alex’s Travel Advice

  • The First Step: Make yourself accountable in a public way.
  • Money Saving Tip: Stop spending it. Alex did a 2 year money saving fast before she left.
  • Cheapest Airfare: Skyscanner and Kayak. Setup a travel alert, and don’t forget to fly Southwest.
  • Packing Tip: Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. “I’m obsessed with them. They’re a game changer ”
  • Internet Travel Resource:, the most amazing resource of Southeast Asia travel
  • Favorite Travel Book: Wanderlust, short stories and by Don George
  • Favorite Travel Gear: Her SteriPEN Classic Bundle Pack with Pre-Filter
    . It’s a UV light that allows you to sterilize
  • Weirdest Food: Live Ants

Mentioned on this Show

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I’m a lifelong international traveler, the host of The Travelers podcast, and founder of Holocene, a framework and community for writing the story of your life using travel and creativity.