AirTreks Customers As Entrepreneurs pt 3 – Jodi Ettenberg

There’s a special breed of traveler who, even as we speak, is pushing on toward new and exotic landscapes, slowly but surely assembling a life for themselves that puts travel squarely on the front burner.

Our “Customers as Entrepreneurs” series spotlights former AirTreks customers who have taken their personal travel passion to the next level – they’ve made it a career, each enjoying a level of success that perhaps they themselves didn’t even expect.

In part 3 of the series I have the pleasure of getting Jodi Ettenberg to sit still for a second. Jodi is the driving force behind Legal Nomads, a very well-received travel blog currently riding a wave of popularity stemming no doubt from her dexterity with the written word, her unyielding determination to conquer the world and her instinct with the shutter release button. Jodi’s notoriety caught up with her this year when Chris Guillebeau asked her to be  the keynote speaker at the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR and, above all that, she happens to be one of most charming and energetic personalities on the social travel web. A traveler with a lawyering habit, Jodi’s currently on an extended career break fulfilling a life she herself invented.

She’s been a client of AirTreks’ since 2008.

Jodi, what made you decide to take your first big trip?

Back in high school I saw a PBS documentary on the trans-Siberian trains, and was immediately overcome with a desire to go and see Siberia and Russia myself. Over the years, that desire percolated under the surface and while my longer-term travels only began in 2008, it was what led me to seek opportunities abroad during law school. I spent a year studying in France in 2001 and that was the first time I left home for so long, and so far away. I often wonder what would have happened had my year there gone badly, but it was glorious – the last minute weekend trips by train to places unknown, the ferry rides to Corsica, the new friends made at hostels around Europe. I was hooked, and it reinforced that already seeded desire to see the world. Upon my return, I worked in South America and then started full time at a law firm in New York, all the while dreaming of a point where I would be able to travel yet again.

How did you come across AirTreks and what made you decide to choose us? How was that experience?

In planning my round-the-world trip  – what I imagined would be a year long trip but has become a 3.5year (and counting!) adventure – I turned to a few websites of people who had traveled in a similar vein. Both The Lost Girls and my friends Jared and Julie used AirTreks to plan out their longer RTW endeavors and I called to do the same. I ended up with a very helpful agent and a rough itinerary of a few long-hauls.

How was your trip? Where did you go?

The trip certainly didn’t go as planned, as I got sick in South Africa and had to return home. While I used Airrteks to book the second leg of the trip (to the Trans-Siberian trains) I didn’t end up doing a full RTW. Instead, I got mired in Asia and its wondrous foods and chaos and noise, staying almost 2.5 years on the continent.  However the initial law hauls – from North America to South America, then to South Africa and onwards from NY to Russia after I recovered from the bronchitis.

Of those places, which one do you think left the biggest impression on you?

That’s a tough question to answer because I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as impressions left. Ultimately a lot of how a place affects you depends on what you seek from a trip, and what memories you make as you travel through it. For me, there’s no question that Asia as a whole was one of the more indelible impressions, comprising a multitude of foods and laughs and crazy bus trips full of chickens, goats and laughing children. Of all the countries, the ones where I spent the longest and tried to get under the skin of the culture now take up the most brainspace: Myanmar and the long, rickety train rides, the Philippines and all the quirky dichotomies things that make the country so fascinating and my time with nomads in Mongolia, far off the train lines. While the countries themselves are fantastic, a lot of these impressions have to do with connection to locals and exposure to traditions I’d have otherwise missed if I raced through the country.

How important was that trip in making travel a part of your life, and what part did it play in either establishing the Legal Nomads blog or furthering it?

The trip was what led me to start Legal Nomads, to keep my parents and friends and family apprised of my whereabouts. And to show some shiny photos from the trip, hopefully in a bid to convince them I wasn’t too crazy to quit a good job to travel aimlessly around the world 😉  The site has since grown organically, and as have my travels. I never expected to be traveling still, nor doing freelance travel writing or photography. But those initial plans have taken on a life of their own and I’m very thankful for the result.

What’s on your travel radar at the moment?

I’m currently in Istanbul after a wonderful month in Morocco. I’ll be heading to the UK for the month of December to hang out with my brother who has just moved there and to get some work done. After that, who knows! Debating a return to the Middle East, or back to Thailand (the sticky rice is calling my name) or places unknown. I don’t tend to plan too far in advance, but things work out in the end!

What final piece of advice do you have for people thinking about taking a trip like you took?

I’d encourage them to have a rough idea of what they want to do but not to set too much of a fixed itinerary – part of the fun is to take your time and go slowly, meeting people and learning about places you’d have otherwise skipped or not even known about. Building vague long-hauls as I did – fly into South America on x date and out 4 or 5 months later – is a good way to get a rough plan but leave lots of wiggle room in the middle. There are basics – vaccinations, some packing precautions, some research and reading – that are best done in advance but the most wonderful trips for me have been the ones that take form as I move from place to place.