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Tips For Working On-The-Go

By | Freelance, Travel

I’ll be honest, I get stressed out relatively easily. Unlike most, it’s usually not stemming from my chauvinistic boss or working too many hours; it’s more than likely caused by my on-the-go lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong, being a nomad has been wonderful. I’ve been able to escape the chains of San Diego-priced rent and see corners of the world I never would have had the urge to otherwise. As a freelance designer (doing what I love to do), I’ve achieved a sense of freedom seldom found in one’s career and I’m forever grateful for that.

Being a nomad, however, has taught me many things in the realm of remote work. If you’re a jet setter like me, I’ve come up with some tips along my journey that I hope you also find useful:

1. Power to Paperless

Ditch your printer. Seriously.

We live in the 21st century; a wonderful time that allows us to rely heavily on technology. Whether that’s a good or bad thing I won’t get into but for the purpose of working while traveling, we can certainly use it to our advantage. You will rarely catch me on a flight without my laptop, external hard drive, and cell phone that literally hold the contents of my entire business. If you’re still one that prints out everything, traveling can become a lot more of a hassle… Avoid the “Oh ****, I forgot ____!!” and keep it simple for yourself; keep your files (organized) on your hard drive along with an online backup in the cloud for safekeeping.

2. Don’t be a Pack Horse

If you’re a jet setter, you’ve probably already learned to ditch the 10 facial ointments, perfumes, and unnecessary makeup while you’re constantly on the move. Depending on your trip, a carry-on could save you much hassle while traveling as there’s no risk of losing your baggage, waiting forever at the baggage carousel, or overweight fees. Remember to always pack liquids in their own easily accessible, sealed 1-quart sized bag and to keep each bottle under the standard 3.4oz (100ml).

3. Tell Your Clients

Even if you’re only on a 1-hour flight headed straight for the nearest Starbucks to work in a new city for the day, it’s smart to be up-front with your clients.

Coming from the corporate world, I felt guilty at first for taking time off for re-locating during business hours as that would have not flown in my previous 9-to-5. Now that I’m an experienced freelancer, I’ve learned to suppress the feeling of guilt so long as I’ve been open with my clients of my limited availability for the day. If there’s an emergency, I’ll even take a phone call on a layover or work off the airport’s free WiFi – my clients will be much more understanding of my situation if I’ve told them ahead of time.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Most of us have grown accustomed to at least one night a week spent at home vegging on the couch with our favorite Netflix show. Taking this sort of relaxation out of your schedule while traveling can have its toll on you – and your mood. When you’re scheduling your travels, make sure to give yourself a night to just do nothing once in a while. I assure you it will make the adventurous parts of the trip even better!

5. Have a Backup Plan & GO WITH THE FLOW

As a frequent traveler, you’re well aware that plans can change at a moment’s notice. Your hotel lost your reservation? This city doesn’t have UBER?!? The WiFi is down?!?!?

Because you have clients relying on you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Do ample amount of research before your trip(s) to make sure you know of the closest public WiFi spots, taxi/shuttle #s, and backup hotel stays. Since I travel to rural areas often, I even upgraded my Verizon plan to include a mobile hotspot just in case (which I’m able to write-off). You’ll also want to prepare yourself mentally for drawbacks – and how you could potentially fix them. It takes the right kind of person to be able to travel and work; you can’t get hung up on the little things like crappy hotel shampoo or hard-to-find hotel parking.

6. Take The Right Kind of Clients

It’s tough to realize sometimes but, as a freelancer, you have the power to choose your clients. Although the money is important, so is your sanity. Make sure to screen the clients you do business with to make sure they align with your business and personality. Take it from me, a nightmare client is NOT worth the $. To make sure they mesh well with your traveling lifestyle, make sure to casually mention something about it during your initial consultation/phone call. You can normally tell right away by gauging their reaction whether they’ll be chill or not chill.

Affordable 10-Day Patagonia, Chile Itinerary

By | Travel

From the coastal desert in the North to Patagonian mountains in the South, Chile has a lot to offer to the wandering tourist. For my recent trip to this diverse country I focused my itinerary primarily around hiking in Torres Del Paine, the famed national park on the southern tip of Chile (although it was tempting to extend in order to see the rest of the country).

As I began planning the trip, it quickly occurred to me that I’d be traveling to the Southern hemisphere and thus scheduled for their summer in February. You’ll find in a quick Google search that the best times for Patagonia trekking is between November and March.

Another thing you’ll notice if you’re planning a Torres Del Paine adventure is that they are very up-front about their reservation requirements, even for tent camping. This makes things a bit more interesting if you’re planning the trip without a guide as I did (I personally prefer budget travel and found the guides over-priced). Make certain to book 6 months in advance as that is when reservations will open up and will sell out quickly.

If you’re looking for affordable, I’d suggest flying into Santiago and staying a night or two on either end of your trip. I say this because Santiago has a large International airport likely to have more travel options (and prices) from your home airport. Next, you’ll need to book a flight to southern Chile to either Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas, both of which you can book with Latam Airlines.

TIP: I highly recommend flying into Puerto Natales if you can as it will save a lot of travel time getting into the park. I say this because all buses depart early in the morning from Puerto Natales, making it necessary to stay there on either end of your trip into the park for timing reasons.

If you’d like to extend your trip, you can easily take a penguin tour from Punta Arenas, something we regret not doing.

Below is what our itinerary looked like, complete with links to all of our accommodations and transportation. Like I said before, make sure to book the camping reservations far in advance (and before you book anything else). You’ll also want the bus reservations prior to your trip as they will sometimes sell out.

Day 1: Depart from your home airport. Depending on how far you are, you likely will not land in Santiago until the following day/morning.

Day 2: Land and check in at your hotel – we stayed at Hotel Sommelier. If you’re really pinching pennies and land during normal business hours, brave the public transit that departs from the airport every 15 minutes. NOTE: They won’t speak a word of English. If you go this route, make sure to research your bus stop closest to your hotel before leaving on your trip. We got around relatively easily with their bus and metro system.

Day 3: Fly with Latam Airlines to Puerto Natales and check in at your hostel. We loved Hostal Alcázar as it was near to the bus stop and they offered pickup from the tiny airport (you must email them in advance to schedule the transfer).

Day 4: Take a bus from Puerto Natales (bus pickup: Avenida España 01455) to Pudeto within the Torres Del Paine park (7:20am-10:45am). Next, take a Catamaran across beautiful Lake Pehoe (catamaran departs at 11am, you must pay there with $40 worth of Chilean Pesos). Stay at Vertice Paine Grande campground – you may camp with your own supplies, rent a tent/sleeping bag from them to conserve on your backpack weight, or stay in the rather expensive lodge. We decided to carry everything (yikes). Next, drop your packs at the lodge and take a day hike up to Glacier Grey. We only made it halfway due to high winds.

Day 5: Hike 7.6km to Campenado italiano (free to camp here and much more immersed in the wilderness without a lodge), drop your packs and hike up Mirador Brittanico. Seeing as Campenado Italiano fills up quickly, you can also stay a bit further at Campenado El Frances.

Day 6: Hike 16.5km to Refugio Torre Central campground (less if you stayed at El Frances). This is the day that kicked our butts with our 50lb packs – be ready for steep up and downhill climbs.

Day 7: Hike 5.5km to refugio & campenado el chileno, drop your packs and then day hike to Mirador base (the main attraction of Torres Del Paine). Roundtrip is 8km. El Chileno has the option of staying at the lodge or staying on a ‘Platforma Premium’ meaning a tent, mattress, and sleeping bag are provided for you along with included meals at the lodge.

Day 8: Hike 5.5km back down to Estancia Cerro Paine’s Welcome Center (about a 15 minute walk from Refugio Torre Central) and catch a 2pm shuttle from there to laguna amarga. Laguna Amarga is where you can find your returning bus to Puerto Natales at 2:30pm. We stayed at the same Hostal Alcázar.

Day 9: To save some $ we booked our returning flight to Santiago from Punta Arenas, a 3 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales. Board your bus from Puerto Natales and ride directly to the Punta Arenas airport (last stop). Fly back to Santiago and bus/taxi to your hotel. We stayed again at Hotel Sommelier.

Day 10: We booked a flight late in the day, which left time for a tour to some Chilean wineries. If you have the energy, you could also take a longer trip to hot springs in the mountains before your flight back home!

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Vegas: Two Ways

By | Travel

Most of us think of Vegas as one thing: a place of sin. After all, the location was founded on the still widely celebrated tagline, “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.”

Just a few years ago, I would have turned my nose at a trip to Las Vegas without the late night parties, clubs, and enormous amounts of alcohol. My recent trip there, however, made me open my eyes a bit more to the city’s splendor beyond the alcohol and gambling (or maybe I’m just getting old).

Coming from San Diego State University, the city of sin was only a 4-5 hour drive, making it a popular destination during my college years. Every single trip involved booze, boys, and hangovers. I even spent my 21st birthday in the penthouse suite of the MGM, strutting into the best clubs with promoters and free cover.

But here I am now as a 26 year old already thinking about how I’m going to handle a hangover this Saturday from 3 glasses of wine (sad, I know). Drinking like I did at 21 certainly does not sound appealing anymore… so what else is there to do in Vegas? Having taken my most recent trip with my mom and grandma, I found it quite easy to enjoy the city in a new light.

If you’re not set on spending your money gambling and drinking, it leaves you with a great budget to spend on other Vegas activities. Our first day included a private limo ride, check-in at the fabulous Wynn Hotel and a festive, fruity drink by the pool. We ate at Sinatra, a high-end Italian restaurant in the hotel modeled after Sinatra himself, before heading to the show Le Reve – The Dream.


I highly recommend the show; it’s similar to cirque du soleil but with water expertly intertwined into the choreography.

It felt slightly odd yet refreshing to be in bed before midnight.

On day 2 we rented an SUV and drove just 30 minutes from the strip to Mount Charleston Wilderness for some drastically different scenery. Who would have thought there would be so many outdoorsy spots so close to the strip? Without really realizing it, we reached an altitude of 8000ft and continued to ascend to a trickling ‘waterfall’ deemed Mary Jane Falls.


Having made it to nearly 10,000ft, the air was cool and patches of snow remained in shady spots.

After returning from our hike, we headed to Fremont Street – a street filled with commotion, street performers, live music, fatty foods, and gambling. Even though I have been to Vegas numerous times, I was always too busy clubbing to make it over to Fremont so this was my first experience.

Everywhere you look there are new lights, sounds, and interesting people. There’s even a zip-line strewn above the street, riders whizzing by in a ‘superman’ position up to 35mph! TIP: if you’re interested in the zip-line, book in advance! All time slots were full for us as it was a Saturday. If that weren’t enough, there are some of the most creative street performances I’ve ever seen (I couldn’t help but wonder how much $ these people take home – I’m guessing enough for a full-time cash income).

If you’re looking for anything remotely healthy to eat, Fremont is not the place. To give you an idea, one of the buffet restaurants encourages unhealthy via an enormous sign displaying the message, “Over 300lbs eats free”… sad.

Day 3 consisted mainly of pool time, followed by a sunset horseback ride outside of the strip near Red Rock Canyon.

All in all, I’m proud to say I’ve done Vegas two ways: party vs. tourist. Although my days in Vegas during my early twenties were unforgettable, I must say that it’s refreshing to leave the city of sin hangover-less. For those of you that have yet to visit, I also recommend the following:

  • Bellagio fountains at night
  • The Las Vegas High Roller Ferris Wheel
  • A stay at The Palazzo, connected to The Venetian (I’ve found this to be the most bang for your buck on the strip)
  • New York New York roller coaster

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How to Take Time Off As a Freelancer

By | Freelance

One of the main reasons I decided to quit my 9-to-5 job and become a freelancer was so that I could take more time to myself, mainly to travel. Asking for time off from my boss was literally my least favorite thing to do – there was no avoiding it and I felt guilt every time. It always felt like I was taking more time than everyone else and I could just feel their eyes on me every time I left the office prior to a vacation.

Fast-forward a year and I’m taking pretty much all of the time off that I want. What I didn’t realize though was that vacation/free time has a whole new meaning when you’re self-employed.

Time off at my 9-to-5:

2 weeks + 7 sick days

Pre-approved, scheduled dates where I am FREE from all things job-related.

Time off as a freelancer:

UNLIMITED!

Unknown, often un-scheduled time where I may or may not need to take a phone call/email.

 

Unlike working for the big man, I now can take time off sans approval! With that freedom, however, also comes a bit of responsibility.

Throughout my time freelancing I’ve kept an important business goal: keep your clients happy. I can attribute a lot of my success to my willingness to provide what my clients need. Being self-employed, a happy client often eventually converts to referral business (the best kind of business), which is what has kept me quite busy.

Since I place such an emphasis on pleasing my clients, I’ll admit it’s difficult to take time away from my work. They need me to meet deadlines, take phone calls, answer emails, and project manage; and it all feels like they need it RIGHT NOW! How can I possibly take time away when there is so much to be done to achieve my goal?

It’s SO easy to get sucked into your business and forget why you started it in the first place. If this is a fear of yours, or you find yourself in the same situation, here are a few pointers:

1. Don’t take time off just when you’re slow

Just like life itself, your business will have up’s and down’s, busy times and slow times. My natural instinct going into my freelancing career was to simply wait for a slow time and then give myself time off. Fortunate for me, there wasn’t a slow time in sight for a good few months into my freelancing career. About a month in, it became painstakingly apparent I had forgotten why I had started all of this in the first place; for the freedom to take time off. Slowly, I started to learn to schedule my projects accurately and set boundaries with my clients that allowed for more freedoms. I started to take time off during weekdays to do random things – go to the store at 10:30am and avoid the checkout lines, go for a run at the gym while everyone else is at work, or take a 2 hour lunch break because I felt like it. It was then that I also noticed my quality of work increasing! The happier I was with my work/life balance, the easier it became to produce phenomenal work. So my note of advice is this: take time off consistently each and every week regardless of your workload and schedule your timelines with clients accordingly.

2. Time off doesn’t necessarily mean vacationing

One of the things I love most about freelancing is being able to get out of the office at random times of the day – and without any need for an excuse. For me, I had to use ALL of my vacation time at my 9-to-5 for vacation and left no free days to just take for myself. I regret this now that I’ve experienced life with free time to spend – it’s hard to realize that you need it if you never give yourself the chance.

3. Set boundaries with your clients

As a general rule of thumb, I always try to have my clients schedule calls with me rather than calling me out of the blue. I certainly reserve the right to ignore an un-scheduled call – and you should learn to do the same. Although that may sound a bit harsh, the phone will still be there after your lunch break (and there’s also a thing called voicemail). It’s also fair for you to ask your clients to be up-front about any harsh deadlines. If the deadline seems too soon, tell them! Being honest from the start is much better than missing the deadline in the end.

4. Stick to your calendar

If you’re in the middle of busy season and you’re dying for a vacation, set the dates for one in your calendar a few weeks out. Next, notify all of your current clients. What’s nice is that there’s not much they can say that will stop you from going – you are your own boss now! When a client asks for a deadline during your vacation dates you can then say “no” without hesitation.

5. Take advantage of the weekdays

Another awesome part of freelancing is the ability to beat the weekend crowds. When I find I have a Monday deadline, for example, sometimes I’ll switch my Friday for a Saturday so that I can enjoy a park or hike in the peaceful serenity of a weekday. Nothing’s better than enjoying an area to yourself!

If there’s one thing to take from this all, it’s to make sure you remember why you chose freelancing to begin with – and never forget it!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Freelance Career

By | Freelance

Taking the leap into a full-time freelance career can be extremely scary. Trust me, I’ve been there. Not only would your income stream no longer be guaranteed, but also your lifestyle must alter drastically. After making the change myself, I’ve come up with a few questions I feel are beneficial to anyone considering becoming a full-time freelancer in their trade:

1. Why are you considering freelancing? List the pros.

This is a good exercise before you make such a big change in your life. The reasons that freelancing is an attractive option vary from person to person. For example, my main motivators were freedom to travel more and to feel fulfillment in the work I was producing. For you, it could be so that you can spend more time at home with your kids (or dog/cat).

2. Why aren’t you getting that (insert answer from #1) from your current job situation?

I believe this to be a good qualifier for whether freelancing would really make you happier than you are currently because it will quickly identify whether your goals are achievable in your current situation or not.

For example, before I made the decision to quit my job and become self-employed, I moved departments and tried to find work within the company that I would feel fulfillment in; as you might have guessed, I was unsuccessful which gave me all the more reason to start my business. In addition to that, there was no real way for me to get approval for the extended travel trips I truly wanted to go on.

3. Are you self-motivated?

If the answer to this is, ‘I’m not sure,’ I wouldn’t shoot down the possibility of succeeding at freelancing right away. You may enjoy coming home from work and vegging on the couch with 0 productivity until 9am tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you’re not self-motivated. If you’re someone that will meet deadlines consistently, and doesn’t need someone to remind them of projects, I’d say that’s enough to consider yourself as a potential freelancer.

That being said, a sense of motivation is extremely important when you’re your own boss. YOU are the one in charge, YOU are the one setting your own deadlines (that will keep your clients happy), and YOU are the sole person responsible for creating a quality product or service (that also pays the bills). Sound like a lot of work? It is… at times. And it certainly takes a minute to get used to, however, the rewards are well worth it.

4. Where will you work?

It doesn’t matter if right now the answer is ‘Starbucks’ – make sure you’re going to have a place to operate your new business. Although this seems a bit unimportant, I find it is a good place to start before diving into the more stressful topics of money and client acquisition. If you don’t have a place to work at home, check out shared workspaces near you and if their pricing seems reasonable (or ridiculous).

Try to picture your day-to-day as a freelancer – do you need to answer phone calls? Do you need a location to meet with clients physically? Do you need super fast Internet? Make sure to think these things through when you’re considering your answer.

Personally, I’ve only rented a shared workspace for a few months out of the entire time I’ve been freelancing. It varies for everyone, but for me I am perfectly productive sitting in my own apartment/hotel/home (as you may or may not know, I’m also a traveling nomad so my workplace tends to change a lot). No one knows you better than you; so what do you think? Could you be productive straight out of bed without physically going into an office? Or do you feel it’d be necessary to have an office to produce quality work?

5. Can you afford it/are you financially responsible?

While you certainly don’t need to drain your entire savings account, you should have some cash available for up-front business expenses before you start. These will range depending on what type of business you’re in but I suggest making a list of recurring and one-time expenses you foresee if you DO decide to become a freelancer full-time.

Also don’t forget you won’t have any of your job’s benefits anymore (unless you have a spouse with benefits that you can latch onto). This can be a big one as health insurance premiums have skyrocketed in the recent years. If you will be needing to purchase a plan, do a quick google search for plans/pricing and add that to your list of expenses.

I added ‘financially responsible’ to this question because you must have incredible restraint when it comes to saving money for taxes. As a freelancer, you’ll most likely pay into estimated quarterly taxes, so you won’t have to drool over the money for more than a few months, but it still can be tough to not spend.

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10 Designer/Web Terms I Wish Everyone Knew

By | Design

1) Landing page

There are many different uses of this term which clients have often found to be very confusing. An article on Unbounce couldn’t have put it any better: “In the purest sense, a landing page is any web page that a visitor can arrive at or “land” on. However, when discussing landing pages within the realm of marketing and advertising, it’s more common to refer to a landing page as… Click To Tweet Now, you’re probably thinking ‘Really? A landing page is separate from my home page?’ Yes! The reason why this is important to understand is because a true landing page can be extremely useful for marketing your product or service and getting quality potential customers to your website. This is because landing pages can direct the user’s focus away from all the distractions a usual homepage would have and keep them focused on a special giveaway, offer, sign-up, or product you would like them to click on.

Unlike a homepage, landing pages are most commonly used for segmented audiences, meaning you would not send everyone who googled your service to this page (i.e. everyone who googled “Graphic Designer”); for this purpose, we would want to send them to the actual homepage because it is designed to give a generic overview of your product/service. For a specific type of user, on the other hand, (i.e. someone who googled “Logo Designer for cheap”) we would want to send them to a landing page that would relate to their unique interest (i.e. I would send this user to a landing page highlighting a special on logo designs and a call-to-action to call/email me or view my portfolio for more info).

2) Placeholder

I will commonly catch myself using this term without realization that it is not fully understood by the non-designer. A placeholder could be an image, object, or text placed within a design or web page in lieu of the actual content; a temporarily-placed item with the intent of having it be replaced with the correct item in the future. As you can imagine, this word can cause an upset between the client/designer relationship if it is not understood… “WHY ARE THERE PICTURES OF HORSES ALL OVER MY WEBSITE?” “Sir, they are only placeholders.”

3) Lorem Ipsum

“WHY IS THERE LATIN ALL OVER MY BUSINESS CARD???” Another common question every designer has heard (and silently chuckled about). Lorem Ipsum is a language created for use as a placeholder, used by us designers when we have not yet been given or placed the actual content within a design or web page. No, it is not Latin, Slovak, Spanish, Greek, or any other language you may have thought it was.

4) White Space

A very important aspect of design. To put it as simply as possible, white space is the area surrounding any object within a design in order to give that object priority or room to ‘breathe’. This term is harder to describe to the non-designer because it is commonly under-appreciated by someone that has not studied the principles of design. Just trust us on this one 🙂

5) Bleeds

This term pertains to designs that are going to be printed. As designers, we create bleeds around all edges of a design document that give the printer extra room (usually about 1/8th of an inch extra on all sides). The printer will ultimately be trimming the bleeds off as excess/unneeded paper. This is important to understand for anyone sending items to print because it also makes you realize that a printer will need a sheet of paper 1/4th of an inch wider and taller than what is actually required in the finished size. For example, printing an 8.5 x 11 inch design with bleeds would require the printer to use an 8.75 x 11.25 inch sheet of paper. Sometimes, depending on where you are getting your designs printed, a printer will not require bleeds. This sometimes can lead to lower-quality printing but still gets the job done! TIP: When hiring a designer for anything you will be printing, research what printer you’d like to use BEFORE the project begins. Ask your selected printer if they’d like the designer to create print-ready files with or without bleeds and also obtain quotes for different sized printing options, deciding on a final size BEFORE the designer begins the project. Re-sizing after a design is complete could add hours to design time that we don’t want to charge you.

6) High-Resolution

Most non-designers have some idea of what this means, but do they REALLY understand it? Designers will ask for high-resolution photos in order to maintain quality both within web and print designs. This means that the photo is large in size and high-quality (300dpi+ to be exact, but we won’t get too detailed here).

7) Responsive

This is a term used to describe the functionality of a website across all screen sizes – desktop, mobile, tablet, you name it! Responsiveness is often confused with a ‘mobile website’ which is, in fact, quite different. The difference is that, with a mobile website, there is a completely separate site when someone views on a mobile phone versus what they would see on a desktop. This also means that in-between sized screens such as a tablet do not see a correctly re-sized page but rather a desktop view that could be cutting things off or resizing the page oddly. Responsive websites, on the other hand, will resize the same website instantly when the screen size is adjusted. You can see this happen if you click and drag the size of your browser on your desktop to be super skinny or wide.

8) Body Copy

Body copy refers to the larger chunks of information/articles found on your website or printed collateral.

9) Tagline

Much like the term ‘landing page,’ the use of tagline varies dependent upon context. Within the design/advertising realm, Cambridge University puts it nicely: “a short, easily remembered phrase that a company uses in its advertisements…so that people will recognize it or its products: Writing a tagline is a good way to add character to your brand.” A tagline in this sense is the same phrase used again and again throughout designs for a brand – it is not meant to be a single-use title or phrase.

10) Hierarchy

When a designer refers to Hierarchy, they are talking about the importance of each item within a design – and how that importance corresponds with the rest of the items in the design. For example, in many designs you see there is the largest text found within a main title, second largest text for a sub-heading, and finally the smallest text for the body copy. Each piece in relation to each other should have consistent and easy-to-understand levels of importance.

The Commitment-less Millennial

By | Freelance

Space travel, solar-powered homes, self-driving cars, light speed wifi, and instant communications from every corner of the world – it’s easy to say the 21st century has brought us incredible change and innovation. Along with such technology, we are beginning to view life in a different light; one that is constantly connected, online, and unhitched from a single location. Our social media feeds are cluttered with ‘Travel around the world!’ ads and friends whom have taken just that action – thrown away commitment and began to embrace true sense of adventure and freedom. And, as you probably already know, I have chosen to do the same.

With the increasing amount of technology, millennials have an ever-growing urge to rid themselves of commitment. From making plans for this afternoon to committing to a college major or relationship; these decisions become more and more difficult as the realm of technology distracts us with the wonders we could be missing out on.

So what led me to my rash decision in leaving my sought-after corporate career, beautiful San Diego home, and close-by friends? Amongst many other things, for me it was the concept of being free; the freedom to travel, to take vacation time guilt-free, to manage my own workload, and quite frankly… do whatever I want (and sometimes suffer the consequences). I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions of my life. I’ll admit, it’s a lifestyle only suited for certain types of people and, fortunately, I believe I am one of them.

 

Nothing about the transition has been easy yet the perks of being self-employed, remote-working, and relatively commitment-less are priceless. I no longer feel the need to rush appointments or errands during my lunch break, I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to take a vacation (save for my bank account), and I have the freedom to work from wherever I want so long as there’s wifi. I have regained my creativity I felt I was losing sitting behind a desk, given myself time to do the things I truly enjoy, and traveled internationally.

As I begin this journey, I want to give confidence to those who were in the same shoes as I was prior to taking on full-time freelancing. With no doubt, the decision to go ‘digital nomad’ was an emotional, difficult one. You can’t help but ask yourself ‘Is this the wrong decision? Will I try just to result in failure?’. If there’s anything to help rest these qualms, I believe it is reminding yourself of why you are considering the freelance life at all – and why your current situation isn’t fulfilling that.

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5 Tips to Backpacking Torres Del Paine, Chile

By | Travel | No Comments

One of the sole reasons I wanted to turn to freelancing full-time was my love for seeing the world. My freelance career has allowed a freedom no employer could truly offer me, seeing as sometimes I prefer last minute excursions, extended stays, or locations that take me off the grid completely.

 

Recently, I took advantage of my freelance freedoms and booked a trip to Patagonia, Chile – Torres Del Paine to be exact.

After returning, I have so many things I want to share, but I’ve narrowed it down to the 5 most important tips for anyone considering a similar trip:

 

1. Book in Advance

Torres Del Paine is not your typical backpacking adventure, as you may have read before. The hiking here allows for somewhat luxurious backpacking experiences as there are lodges at each campground available (at a price). If you want to rough it a little more, there is the much cheaper option of camping in the campgrounds adjacent to each lodge, which requires you to carry your supplies such as stove, food, tent, etc. Most of the larger campsites even offer reservations for pre-pitched tents and mattresses to help save you the worry of carrying your own (I wish we would have known that before going, it would have saved my back from 15 extra pounds).

If you begin to research accommodations within the park, you’ll soon realize they are somewhat hard to come by. Make sure to book FAR in advance, especially if you plan on traveling during their summer (December-February). For us, I booked exactly 6 months in advance and saw the campsites fill up shortly after I made our own reservations. Also to note – do NOT try camping without a reservation, you will for sure get turned away.

Booking the reservations can be tricky as the park lodges/campgrounds are operated by several different entities. Some are operated through the government agency, CONAF – these are the hardest to come by and the most ‘nature-filled’ experiences with no running water/electricity or availability to rent your own gear.

The rest of the campgrounds are operated by Vertice Patagonia and Fantastico Sur. You’ll also want to book shuttles to and from Puerto Natales, we booked through Buses Gomez via email.

 

2. No Need for a Water Filter

I’m super paranoid when it comes to water filtration as I’ve known people personally to have gotten giardia, a sometimes deadly microscopic parasite commonly found in remote waters. I read online that the water is safe to drink out of the Torres Del Paine park, however, I ignored the advice and carried my water filter 3000+ miles across the world anyways.

After we arrived in the park, it became obvious the water truly was safe to drink. Every single person we met was drinking straight from streams, tap water, you name it. We decided to follow suit, and it sure was rewarding; nothing like fresh glacier water.

 

3. Pack Lightly

My travel companion, Callie, and I weren’t necessarily well-trained in backpacking mountains prior to our trip yet I felt we were both in pretty good shape before the trip. Even so, the hiking got pretty strenuous during certain parts of the trek, largely dependent on weather. Torres Del Paine is known to have unusually bi-polar weather patterns which we were prepared for yet still surprised by the extremity of it all. In one day we experienced sun, clouds, rain, AND snow, all with consistently strong winds.

Because of this, I highly recommend you leave behind everything but the essentials. If you have to, leave some items back with your hostel in Puerto Natales as you hike the park and return for them afterwards. We both had nearly 50 pound packs which definitely took a toll on us on our longest 10 mile day. The trails are very up-and-down with sharp inclines and declines which become much more difficult with a heavy weight on your back.

 

4. GET A JET BOIL STOVE

I felt all caps was necessary here because this was one of our few downfalls during the trip which I hope none of you ever have to experience. Backpacking in the states I’ve been using a super lightweight, simplistic stove system that can run on de-natured alcohol or 90 proof drinking alcohol. We took this on the trip as I read it would be easy to buy the fuel (which we couldn’t fly with) in Puerto Natales, however, the fuel we bought was very obviously incorrect. The first night we went to use the stove for a hard-earned meal, the fuel burst into a giant flame that nearly gave me a heart attack (Chile is extremely strict with their fire laws which added to my anxiety).

We tried the stove twice more with little luck and continued the rest of our trip with either stolen hot water from the lodges or cold water for our freeze-dried meals. It was not pleasant to say the least.

Many of the campgrounds have designated mess-hall areas to cook with the rest of the campers. Through this, we learned that nearly everyone in the park uses jet boil stoves, which you can find fuel for nearly everywhere in Chile. I would highly recommend investing in one of these for your trip in hopes you’ll have more hot meals than we did!

 

 

5. Reward Yourself

I’ll never forget the bottle of wine we drank in a lodge after our longest day of hiking. If you’re a wine drinker like me, you’ll love Chilean wine (and the prices on it). Take the time to try the local food and/or drinks during your trip as it will most likely lead you to connecting with other travelers in the lodge. Torres Del Paine’s beauty draws people from all around the world, most of which share a passion for travel and the outdoors as you probably do if you are there yourself. Push past the exhaustion and take advantage of the social aspects of the park as well.

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