A corporate lawyer-turned-traveller shares the 7 biggest misconceptions people have about her 8 years on the road

Jodi Ettenberg in Saigon, VietnamJodi EttenbergJodi Ettenberg in Saigon, Vietnam.

When Jodi Ettenberg quit her job as a New York corporate lawyer to travel in 2008, she planned to return to the law a year later.

Now it’s been eight years, and her life in the legal profession and in New York remains firmly in the past.

Ettenberg continues to roam from place to place, documenting her adventures in her popular blog, Legal Nomads.

She sustains her travels through multiple income streams, including sales from her online store, freelance writing, social media consulting, and more recently, speaking appearances at summits and conferences around the world.

While Ettenberg always had the desire to roam around the world, she never thought that starting a blog would lead to a lifestyle of long-term travel.

But after she discovered that many of her readers share her fascination with street food and its history, Ettenberg began to use her blog as a platform that would allow her to continue travelling eight years later.

Business Insider recently spoke with Ettenberg about some of the biggest misconceptions that she’d encountered from people while living a life on the road.

Jodi Ettenberg
Ettenberg at an Alpaca farm in New Zealand.

1. She quit her job to travel because she was burnt out

When Ettenberg talks about the life that she's chosen for herself, many people project the narrative that she was burnt out from her job.

In fact, Ettenberg had planned to embark on her world trip before she even started working. One of the reasons why she became a corporate lawyer in New York in the first place was to earn enough money to save up for a year of travel.

'I was burnt out in my own way,' Ettenberg said. But it wasn't from being a lawyer, it was from not fulfilling her itch to travel.

Jodi Ettenberg
In Meknes, Morocco.

2. Someone else is funding her travel

Ettenberg acknowledged that the privilege of her background and circumstances play in her ability to adopt an unconventional lifestyle.

Her Canadian legal education, for example, left her with a lot less debt than what faces her US peers. Ettenberg was able to pay off her student loans after just a year of being a corporate lawyer in New York.

And while she now funds her travels through her own hard work, many continue to be suspicious as to how she can sustain her nomadic lifestyle.

'I don't have a trust fund, and unfortunately I have to say that,' she told Business Insider.

Jodi Ettenberg
Stumbling across a cow relaxing in Rajasthan, India.

3. Living a life of long-term travel is like being on holiday all the time

In her World Travel Resources page, Ettenberg writes about how people would ask how her 'vacation' was going when she went home to Canada for the holidays.

Contrary to what people think, Ettenberg's life is not a constant vacation. As she wrote on her blog: 'Travel in developing countries can be tiring and it can be frustrating, and there are times when you really do need to give yourself a break.'

Ettenberg also noted that one of the biggest mistakes that new long-term travellers make is not factoring in what it takes for them to relax.

When many people consider your job to be a vacation, you have to learn what it actually takes for your brain to decompress, she told Business Insider. For Ettenberg, that may mean going back to Canada, or settling in one place and doing nothing for a little while -- taking a true vacation.

Jodi Ettenberg
Ettenberg in Mongolia.

4. Long-term travel allows you to escape from real life

In a Medium post, Ettenberg wrote:

'Travel itself is not an answer. It can't save you from yourself, or the demons that you have. You will bring them along with you as you roam. You can't absolve yourself of your responsibilities or the monotony of routines that will reappear the minute you stop moving. And if you travel to escape darkness, it will eventually find you.'

Jodi Ettenberg
With some locals from Inle Lake, Myanmar.

5. Being a solo traveller means being constantly lonely

While some may see Ettenberg's lifestyle as all 'ponies and rainbows,' there are also others who assume that travelling by herself means that she gets lonely all the time.

Not so, Ettenberg wrote in her 2012 post, 'Practical tips from 4 years of travelling the world.' In fact, travelling has allowed her to form close connections with people on the road.

'The nature of travel is that it intensifies human experiences, transcending social rules that would apply at home. So when I meet a great group of people we end up spending days talking, sharing meals and exploring,' she wrote.

Ettenberg did say, however, that she feels the most lonely when illness hits. One of her biggest challenge has been admitting to herself that she is 'not Seabiscuit' -- that is, accepting that she is someone who is prone to getting sick when she is travelling.

Jodi Ettenberg
Ettenberg gives her keynote address at the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon, 2011.

6. You have to have a traditional job to add value to the world

'There's this idea that if you quit your job, you're giving up your normal contribution to society,' Ettenberg told Business Insider.

She acknowledged wrestling with this dilemma throughout her travels, and had to have several heart-to-hearts with herself to ask what her purpose was in living this lifestyle.

She also asked herself one important question: What would it take for her to be at peace with the uncertainty and instability that comes with being a long-term traveller?

Ettenberg came to the conclusion that she needed to take on projects that deliver much greater value than what she would deliver by sitting in a law office reviewing documents.

Some of these projects include providing travel resources for those with Celiac disease. Ettenberg suffers from the digestive ailment, and has published a handbook dedicated to finding affordable, safe and tasty food from around the world. She's also working towards educating others about her experiences through speaking appearances.

Jodi Ettenberg
Outside The Treasury in Petra, an archaeological and historical site in southern Jordan.

7. Her lifestyle is temporary

People often ask Ettenberg if she's had enough of her nomadic lifestyle and if she will eventually settle down. On her blog, she wrote:

'The problem with the question is that it suggests what I do is temporary. This strange life is my life and one that I am excited to keep living. It may not be normal, but the assumption that it has to come to an end is a very binary way of looking at the human experience.'

When asked about her 10-year plan, Ettenberg admitted that she doesn't know what Legal Nomads would look like, or if it will even continue to exist.

For the short to medium term, though, Ettenberg hopes to focus her energy on making more speaking appearances to those outside of the travel community, as well as building more resources and tools for people with Celiac disease.

'As the business grows, I want to continue maintaining a sense of authenticity,' Ettenberg told Business Insider.

As for how long she'll keep travelling, Ettenberg said that until she feels like 'this is enough,' she'll continue with her nomadic lifestyle.

And for the immediate future, she will keep documenting that journey on Legal Nomads.

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