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Laura Petersen: Digital Nomading, Travel Hacks & Forbidden Fruit

You are going to get to know Laptop Laura, Digital Nomad, Mrs. Laura Petersen.

If you are just coming to know her, you should know that she is a multiple bestselling author.

She is a speaker, fellow podcaster and digital nomad that has contributed to Huffington Post, Influencive, Thrive Global and many others.

Her country count is 44 and she has got one heck of a background.

You're going to have a lot of fun, especially if you are into travel.

We're going to talk about digital nomading and how much easier it is than you may believe.

For those of you that might not want to commit to being that digital nomad, but still want to travel and get some hacks along the way, we cover that as well.

We talk about the forbidden fruit.

I'm going to leave it at that and let your curiosity take over.

You are in for a treat whether you want to travel the world, you're into stories or you appreciate the journey, you are going to love this episode.

With that said, let's get to it.

Dustin
You're twenty years old, the setting is Germany and you're living with a host family, which I'm excited to get into, but you experienced something a little crazy.
You break out in hives and I love that the host family that you were staying with was into the mindset and positive affirmations.
They think this is mental and nothing more. These hives on your face and your body, these are real. They make you listen to positive affirmations in German because that's going to heal you. What is going through your mind?
Laura
When I was twenty studying abroad in Germany, this was ‘01 to ‘02. Before the general acceptance of what we have now with meditation and mindset, at least I was never exposed to it.
Dustin
Was this a German thing? Do you think Germany caught on faster or did you happen to find that family that was early adopters?
Laura
I'm not 100% sure. Maybe Europe was a little bit more open to it, but I think it was mostly this family in particular because I never heard any other stories around that. We were in Leipzig. We were there for Christmas time and it was the coldest I've ever been in my entire life. It's negative ten degrees Celsius.
I was the coldest I was in my entire life, covered from head to toe in every piece of clothing I owned and still freezing. I was thinking like, “Am I allergic to the cold? Am I getting a cold rash?” I didn't know what was going on. I had never experienced hives before, so I didn't even know about allergic reactions or anything. It started in my mouth, my face was bumpy and itchy and then it did spread down to my arms and stomach.
I went to my host family and I was like, “I don't know what's going on.” I asked my host mom like, “Can you look at this? I don't know what's going on.” She said, “Come in, I'm just getting ready for the day.” I walked in and she's completely naked. That's very European. I was like, “I'm so sorry. I'll come back.” She's like, “Come in,” and completely naked.
She's analyzing my face. Not only do I have this crazy hives, but I'm also standing in front of a naked woman, which is very unusual for a twenty-year-old American girl who’s never seen that before. We were staying with her sister and I think her sister and husband were super into the mindset and stuff.
They jumped in and they were like, “We got this.” They took me to this little side room and put me in one of those little comfy black chairs. It's like a massage chair, but not super in-depth. It's like a recliner. They put the headphones on me and they were like, “You need to stay in here for an hour and listen to this. This will help you.” I was like, “What is going on?”
Dustin
They're making you listen to German. Were you speaking German?
Laura
Yes. I arrived in August of 2001. Thank goodness I got there then because you all know what happened in September of 2001. If September 11th had happened before I left, I bet I would never have been able to go. Thankfully, I was already there because it was the best experience of my life, the year abroad.
I had studied German in high school and college. I was a good book smart-wise, but then once I got there I was like, “I have no idea what they're saying. They're going so fast.”
By Christmas time, my German was pretty good. It wasn't perfect fluent, but I could carry on conversations and completely understand everything that’s going on in a normal conversation. I couldn't have a political debate but I could get around and everything.
This is 100% in German. All the communication is in German. The point is for them to also speak German to me the entire time so that my German improves. The mindsets had to be in German.
Dustin
Did you understand it? Was it understandable to you?
Laura
This was several years ago. Time is flying. It feels like yesterday once we start talking about it, but I remember it as being musical bass in the background with positive words and affirmations. It's like, “Abundance, happiness,” but in my mind I'm sitting there going, “If there were hidden cameras watching this, I wish I could show my friends and family because they will never believe what's happening.”
I'm alone in a room listening to this affirmation stuff, which was weird at the time. I'd be like, “It makes more sense,” because I'm more exposed to that thing, but it was an interesting experience.
Dustin
You totally don't remember them saying, “You are hive-free.” Were you healed after? Did the hives go away?
Laura
No. I remember going to breakfast the next morning and they wouldn't let me eat anything except for water and a couple of little crackers. They rightfully thought, “Maybe you are allergic to some things, so let's start eliminating the stuff from your diet and start to see.”
I’m like, “I'm starving.” I know I'm not allergic to toast, eggs or whatever back then. I was like, “Please, let me have some food,” and they're like, “No, we need to exclude it all.” I'm forced to listen to this crazy talk and I can't eat.
Dustin
You aren't eating at this time. How did you get rid of these hives?
Laura
We left Leipzig because that was just for the Christmas time and the German Christmas markets are incredible. We went back to the university town where I was studying, which was called Göttingen. Once I was back there, the hives got worse and that's when they started to spread to more parts of my body.
I couldn't sleep because I was itchy. After a few days of not sleeping, I felt like I started to hallucinate. I was starting to go a little crazy. I was like, “I need to go to see a doctor.”
My German isn't perfect, so I was resisting going to a doctor. I'm from the US so every time I go to the doctor, it's expensive even if you have insurance. I was like, “Let me stay away from the doctor,” and I finally was like, “I have to go.”
She takes one look at me and she's like, “This is an allergic reaction. Here's some cream, put it on,” and within 24 to 48 hours, it started to go away. It was completely an allergic reaction. I didn't discover what it was until about a year later or so. It was mangoes.
Dustin
Did you say it was negative 30 and they had mangoes? Were you eating mangoes?
Laura
I was eating two mangoes a day. I love mangoes out there.
Dustin
Did you discover mango in Germany?
Laura
I have a great girlfriend from the Philippines. She introduced me to mangoes when I was maybe fifteen or sixteen, but it wasn't something that I knew where to buy and how to prepare.
It wasn’t in my growing up cultural family thing, so I never had any mangoes other than when she brought them into work because I worked with her in the summer at this little office.
In Germany, somehow I rediscovered mangoes and started eating them on my own. To this day, I get hives and my lips blow up really big. I've pushed it and tested a few times. Once on our honeymoon in Panama, it was a bad idea.
In May 2019, I bought three and I said to my husband, “I'm just going to try a little bit.” I had one. Twenty-four hours later, I didn't feel a thing. I was like, “Maybe I'm cured because I'm pregnant. Things are different when you're pregnant, so maybe I can eat them now.”
I ate a second one the next night. It was messier so it was juices dripping down my face and stuff because it was so good, I hadn’t had one in years. Sure enough, my entire face breaks out in bumpy, itchy rashes. It was embarrassing. This time, it went up into my eyes. It started getting swollen around my eyes. My husband said, “Never again. You are forbidden from eating mangoes.”
Dustin
We are very similar. I had the same thing with shrimp and I told my friends, “I think this is mental,” maybe not like your German host family, but I'm like, “Maybe I got tripped up.”
One time, I told them like, “Let's eat something with shrimp in it but don't tell me about it.” We had this casserole so I couldn't see. I ate it and my throat swells. Missy, my wife, she was eating shrimp. It was on her finger and she touched my face or something.
Laura
If I go to Jamba Juice or I drink a juice and there's mango in it, that won't do it. That's good. I have to eat it. When I finally figured it out, it was my senior year at UCLA and hives broke out again.
I was like, “What is going on?” I went to a doctor on campus. He looked at me and was like, “Have you had a mango within the past few days?” I was like, “I have.” He's like, “Many people are allergic to mango. It's like the resin on the skin.”
I did a test where I got this huge box of mangoes from Costco and I washed my hands with soap and water. I de-skinned the mango, washed my hands again, cut it up, washed my hands again like I was a doctor, super surgical about it.
I would eat it very carefully so it never ever touched any part of my mouth or any part of my body and I still broke out in hives after that test. It's not just the resin for me, it is the whole thing. Why can't I be allergic to something that's gross? Mangoes are amazing.
Dustin
Like broccoli?
Laura
I like broccoli.
Dustin
I say that because I hated broccoli as a kid and my son, Dexter, he's falling in dad's footsteps even though I eat it now.
Laptop Laura, I’m super excited that you've created a course with us here at WealthFit. I want to give people a little taste of that here with digital nomading. We've already told some stories and I could see us sharing lots of stories.
I wanted to be super tactical for folks reading the blog. You've been to 44 countries. Do you know the official country count? Isn’t it 180, 183 or something?
Laura
That's something I should know as a digital nomad, expert.
Dustin
I think it's in that range. Maybe it's 200, we've got quite a count.
Laura
It's maybe between 170 and 215, something like that and it fluctuates. That's why we don't know. They’re redefining boundaries and borders.
Dustin
I want first to define this. Some people are just coming to get to know this for the first time. We're calling it digital nomading here at WealthFit. Some people know this as vagabonding. Some people know this as, I don't want to offend anyone, but people that don't stick around in one place and vagabond sometimes has that name. Let's first define what digital nomading is.
Laura
At the core of the definition, it is someone who can live and earn their income anywhere in the world. They're location-independent. They're not tied to a certain location in order to live their life, earn money and pay their bills essentially.
That could be an employee who's working remotely. That could be an entrepreneur who can do anything no matter what as long as there’s internet or some combination. Maybe you've got a part-time job.
For a while, my first foray into it was teaching online psychology with a community college while I was trying to grow my business. I had some base-level income to pay my basic bills while I was working on growing my side hustle to then turn into something full-time.
Dustin
A lot of times people think, “Laptop Laura, you have a trust fund. I’d love to do what she's doing, but I don't have funds to do it,” and the seventeen other reasons. That wasn't the case with you. You were a teacher and teachers don't get paid a whole lot. What else were you doing?
Laura
After college, I read Rich Dad Poor Dad, and I was like, “I want to be a real estate investor and start businesses,” but the internet wasn’t back then like it is now. I was a career academic nerd. My only frame of reference for life success was, “Give me a syllabus. I'll do everything you tell me to do.” I'm very good at following the rules and figuring out the hacks around a certain system.
Being an entrepreneur and being successful in that is completely outside the box. I had a lot of things to unlearn, learn and go through in personal development to become an entrepreneur.
In my mid-twenties, I pretty much was like, “I bought a house at the top of the market. It's now completely underwater. At least it's a long-term play.” I couldn't quite figure out how to make a business work because I was like, “I don't know what to do.” I was like, “Let me run back to what I am comfortable with.”
In my twenties, my top priorities were wealth creation and creating the financial foundations that I wanted. I also loved to travel. At the time, I couldn't figure out them both, so I was like, “Let me go back to what I know, which is education. I'm good at explaining things to people.”
I went and I did my Master's in Education and became a teacher. I loved being a teacher because it was a bit more outside of a box of a normal job. I didn't have a boss watching over me all the time and I could do things my way.
When they told me, “Jobs, let's start with two weeks’ vacation.” I was like, “I'm sorry, what are you talking about? That is not even close enough.” I loved teaching because I had so much more time to travel. The school I taught at, this is in Chandler, Arizona, in the Phoenix suburbs area, was like a modified year-round schedule.
I had about six weeks off in the summer and then two weeks off in October, December and March. I could spread it out even more. Literally, the second the bell rang and the kids were gone, I was on the next flight out as far away as I could.
I didn't come back until the night before and I would roll into the next teacher meeting for training for that next semester jet-lagged and exhausted because I would go traveling as much as I possibly could.
Dustin
How were you doing this on a teacher's budget?
Laura
A lot of people said that to me and I think it's about priorities. I hadn't figured out business. I wasn't doing any crazy investing other than I did buy a house that tanked underwater because of the timing of the market.
Dustin
Was it cashflowing?
Laura
Yes. I did buy a three-bedroom, two-bath house and I lived in the master bedroom. The two extra bedrooms I rented out. That's a sacrifice some people maybe aren't willing to do. I always had roommates. I always kept those full so that I could afford the mortgage because based on my income, they shouldn't have given me that house.
In those days, they were there like, “You got a pulse? Here you go. Sure, you’re qualified.” They shouldn't have ever given me the loan for that amount based on everything, but I made it happen because of that. I would say it’s about priority. I remember a lot of my friends from that similar age. I bought the house when I was 23 and then I think I was teaching when I was 25-ish to 30.
During this timeframe, a lot of my friends loved to go out and party. They go out, “We'll pay you $20 cover charge, no big deal or I’ll get that round of drinks.” These things add up or they would say, “I want to have this huge truck or the biggest newest TV.” Every time the new iPhone came out, they would go and line up and get the brand-new gadget.
Those things didn't appeal to me enough to trade-off because I knew I can’t have it all. I need to pick what's my priority. I was very good about being frugal. I wouldn't say cheap, but being smart with my money day-to-day with things I didn't care about.
When I'd find a great ticket to Southeast Asia, I'm like, “Let's buy it. Let's go.” When I travel too, I've stayed in hostels all over the world that are not as scary as some people make out to be or that crazy movie makes out to be. There are times in Thailand where I pay $5 to $10 a night.
Dustin
Define hostel because there's that crazy movie out there. What's the difference between a hostel, co-op, hotel, living with a family? Will you break that down?
Laura
Most people are probably most familiar with the hotel. You have your own room often. You have very limited extras for foodstuff. You might have a little mini-fridge and a coffee maker, but usually not too much more.
It seems like these days there are more hotel options where you can have a little mini-kitchen in there and live a little bit more like a local, you can cook like your lifestyle. What I find as a drawback with hotels is that you get very isolated.
You pretty much talk to the people at the front desk, you go to the room and you stay in your room until you go to a conference, event or whatever. That can be great and exactly what you want for certain things.
If you're out traveling the world and you want to meet more people and get exposed to the actual local community and lifestyle, it's pretty isolating to stay in a hotel and it's way more expensive.
Hostels are great because you can have your own room in a hostel. It costs more than sharing, but you can have your own room and then there's always a community kitchen. The expectation is that you're going to go out and shop, bring your own groceries.
They always have little areas of the fridge and tape where you can write your name on your bag. You can have your little groceries, use their pots and pans. As you're cooking your food, you're meeting other people doing the same thing.
You can have your own room but definitely, to save money, I would sleep in an all-girl dorm room. There are eight beds, four sets of bunk beds, and you'd have your own bunk. People are like, “You’ll get your stuff stolen,” or whatever. For me, most people are good and most people who are there are doing the same thing. It’s more of a community and less of like watch your back.
Dustin
I want to ask you this on the record. I'm bringing the fire on this one. Did you ever take someone else's food because maybe you were missing an ingredient and it was just easy?
Laura
Maybe not a full-on ingredient, but if there are salt and pepper and I don't have it and I see a shaker, I'll use that. Oftentimes the actual hostel will have some of the staples there that anyone can use. They’ll have like a giant jar of olive oil so you don't have to buy that.
Dustin
How did you find these hostels? Now it's a lot easier because you've got Airbnb around, but is there like Hostelbnb?
Laura
If you go to Hostels.com or HostelWorld.com, you'll find a ton. An Airbnb is a bit different than a hostel. Airbnb is like someone's house or apartment or you can get a room in a place at an Airbnb, which wasn't around when I was traveling in my twenties.
That can also be another great option other than a hotel where you're meeting people. When you're traveling, you want to meet other people. For example, when I first got to Thailand, I was completely alone and didn't know anybody. For a couple of days, sometimes I like that because then I can read, think, not have to talk to anyone or make any compromise about any decision.
It's fun to be alone. Think about the last time you were alone for any period of time. Most of us don’t have that.
I stayed in a hostel, in a big room with all the bunk beds. I remember I got there, it was really hot. I took a shower, came back out and in walked three girls from Wales. They were all hilarious and fun and we chatted for a minute. They were like, “We're going to the beach. Do you want to come?” I'm like, “Okay.”
The four of us ended up traveling together for another seven to ten days after that. You make friends as you're going. Once they’re like, “We're going to Japan,” and I'm like, “I'm not going to Japan, I'm going to Indonesia.” You end up parting ways but then you can stay in touch on social media. You're friends for life.
Dustin
You said a key, which I appreciate alone because I don't get much alone time with the kiddos nowadays. I took the context at first to mean here's a young female in a new country and she's alone.
I think the parent in me says, now that I have a daughter, “Laura, that sounds crazy.” What do you say to the women or even the men that are like, “I don't know about being alone, not knowing anyone in a country and showing up at a hostel?” What do you say to that?
Laura
The first thing I would say to some of these stories I'm sharing are after years of many steps to lead up to the confidence for that. I recommend if you're getting started with that stuff, start with things that can help you take baby steps into it in a very safe way.
For example, my first solo trip ever was to Costa Rica and I started with a language school. I did a bunch of research online and I found a school that looks reputable. They were responsive, they had tons of testimonials and I could even reach out to past students and ask them, “Is this a legit school? How was your experience?”
What I did is I signed up for four weeks of Spanish lessons with the school and they had the option to pay a little bit more. They would arrange a host family that's a part of their community. They are vetted and they would even pick you up from the airport. They had extra little fun classes, so I learned how to cook authentic Costa Rican food while I was there.
I started that way so that I could arrive in a new country, even though my Spanish was really bad at the time. Someone I could trust picked me up. Someone I could trust dropped me off at a house that I could trust.
The host family, the first day of the school, made sure that I could get to the school safely and I knew my way around. Everyone at the school was super supportive. Now I'm in a class with other people doing the exact same thing. Instant buddies. It's like baby steps.
I recommend if you've never done it before, especially if you're a woman because we have to be a little bit more careful, is start with things that have some of those built-in safety features, especially as you're getting your experience in and feet wet.
That can be with a language school or by doing a volunteering thing. It could be a digital nomad retreat. There are lots of different angles to get started.
Dustin
I went to Costa Rica to live with a family. It was great and it felt safe because we had a family. I want to talk a little bit about a resource in the course called Couchsurfing.
One of the options is you don't need even your own room, you can just get on a couch and you stay for free. Why do people do that? Why would I let you stay on my couch in Germany for the right reasons?
Laura
I think that as different as we are with language, culture, and practices around the world, I truly believe that most people are good. Most people are just living their life and they're generous. There are crazies. There are things you need to be careful for and warning signs you need to look out for.
For the most part, people aren't out to get you in a bad way. If someone is going to take the time to set up a profile on Couchsurfing and verify their phone number, verify their address, go through the process, get reviews and share reviews back and forth and be a part of this community.
Chances are like, “Things are fine.” For me, to answer your question about why would I host someone on my couch, I love to travel. I know what it feels like to be somewhere and be like, “I'm trying not to spend a ton of money. I’d like to meet local people and experience what this place feels like,” then I would be willing to open up my doors as well.
The way I started was I didn't have my own profile with a house and a couch. I first went and explored and I personally didn't start by staying in people's houses. You can also meet up for coffee or go out.
For example, to give you a tangible story, when I was in Stockholm, Sweden, I went onto the Couchsurfing website and I was looking for people that seemed nice and legit and maybe had some similar interests to me that I could get together and do something fun with around the city.
I wasn't comfortable staying in someone's house quite yet. I found two guys that were clearly buddies because they had tons of photos together. They had tons of the same reviews.
They were actually what's called Couchsurfing ambassadors. People who are super active in the Couchsurfing community and even throw local events can be distinguished as ambassadors on the platform. They're crazy extra credibility. These two guys were Couchsurfing ambassadors. They each had 100 reviews of people like, “I loved staying at your place. Thank you so much.” It was like, “I'm going to be fine.”
One of them was into dancing and I love salsa dancing. I met up with him first and we went tango dancing because I'd never done that before. We went to a little local amusement park and went on a fun roller coaster together. We just hung out the whole day.
He was like, “My other friend,” the other ambassador guy, “Has some people crashing on his couch and invited us over for a little dinner party. Do you want to come?” I was like, “Okay.”
At this dinner party, there were six of us. Every single one of us was born in a different country. We all cooked dinner together. We ate together. It was amazing. I got to know that other guy. Flash forward a couple of days, I had been staying in a hostel and he was like, “One of my Couchsurfing folks is leaving so I have an open space if you want.” I was like, “Cool.”
I had already hung out with him and the friend and got to know them. They had all this other credibility. I think that was the first time I ever stayed in someone's house, but I had met the person and got to know them. After I did that, I stayed with the other friend and it was amazing. I get to live in a real person's house in Stockholm, Sweden. That's cool.
Dustin
Is it as literal as you sleep on a couch? Is it a pullout couch? Is it a bed or futon?
Laura
It depends on the person. Some people have a separate room and you get lucky and have your own little room. The one in Stockholm was a little couch or a pull-out thing with tons of pillows and blankets, a real couch.
Dustin
When you haven't experienced it, I think of a dorm or a frat couch. Have you ever had that experience?
Laura
I don't think of any crazy horror stories.
Dustin
Not like creepy people, but like, “That couch looks a little used.”
Laura
No, everything's been pretty good, but I can’t say that when I was staying with this friend in Stockholm. There were two other travelers staying too. There were four of us, the host and then the three of us.
They're like, “There's a sauna in this building. Let's all go to the sauna.” I'm like, “Okay, cool.” I'm putting on my bathing suit and the guy from Austria looks at me, he's like, “What are you doing?” I'm like, “We're going to the sauna.” He's like, “Are you wearing that in the sauna?” I'm like, “Yeah.” He's like, “No, we go naked in the sauna.” That’s another naked story.
Dustin
Was there another girl with you?
Laura
Yes, there were two girls, me and another girl and two boys.
Dustin
The other girls were from what countries?
Laura
The host was from Stockholm. The guy was from Germany and the girls from Austria or vice versa. I'm the only American. I was the only one with a bathing suit on in that sauna.
Dustin
You held firm?
Laura
My prudish American upbringing, I couldn't do it.
Dustin
Even after that experience in Germany or was this before that?
Laura
This was after. In Germany with the host mom, I was twenty. At this point, I was probably 27, 28 maybe. That shows the cultural experiences and differences that you'll get because in another place it's weird that you don't take off your clothes, whereas maybe in your home country it's weird if you do. It’s fascinating stuff.
Dustin
I've never shared this. This happened to me in the opposite scenario. We did a seminar in the Netherlands and we had the promoter’s right-hand person was a female and she's like, “Let's go to the sauna.”
I think she shows up in a towel because you could walk through public areas or whatever, and then she gets naked. We're in our board shorts. At some point, she realizes like, “They're Americans.” She left and went into the pool.
I don't know, maybe that was just me feeling the vibe or whatever. I was either engaged or married at the time, so I'm like, “It never dawned on me to adopt the culture and go in naked.” I could never do that. It's interesting that you say that and I'm glad you're sharing these stories and me too so the people are aware.
We've got couches. I want to talk money here. You brought this up. It’s one thing to be saving so that you can go and be mindful of splurging on the right activity so that you can set your life up to go and travel. You also talked about this idea of making money.
Maybe I don't have a job or maybe I want to go on this four-month bender around the world, but I only have the budget for two months. You talked about some strategies or ideas for making money overseas. What's the skinny on that? How do you make money overseas?
Laura
The good thing about this time is more and more companies themselves are hiring workers for remote work either part-time or full-time. Even if your current job that you're in, even if they're not willing to let you be location-independent, there may be one of their competitors that’s open to that.
You can look at opportunities to keep on doing the exact same thing you're already doing, but with a company that doesn't care where you are as long as you're getting your work done. There are many opportunities in that regard.
Things like FreeeUp, Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, there are many different websites where you can type in your skills. Maybe you're great at sales, website design, social media marketing, whatever it is. Type in your skills and you can see what other people are posting as jobs, the different pricing models that they're charging. You can create your own profile and start offering your services.
This is something that you could start doing now to start seeing what's possible. Start building up your resume on whatever websites that you're offering your services and then be able to keep doing that wherever you are in the world.
There are tons of websites to help facilitate that, but then also reach out to your network, share it on Facebook, be like, “I am great at X, Y, Z. Who do you know that needs help with this stuff?” Probably from your network you can start to get clients too.
Dustin
I think I've heard of it, but it's this idea that when you go to a country, you can teach people your language and make money. What is that experience like? Let's say you pick some country. We know English, but let's say we don't know Korean, Chinese or Japanese. How does that work? Talk a little bit about the money behind it.
Laura
If you're a native English speaker, you’re in luck because the entire world wants to learn English. It's the most ubiquitous language other than maybe arguably Chinese because of the sheer number of people. I'm not sure the breakdown of it, but it's the language of international business and things.
People want to learn English, they want to improve their English, they want to learn business English, like a more professional level of English, not just conversational. The opportunities to teach English are around the world and even online. You could even start now tutoring clients on the other side of the world via Skype or whatever.
There are different platforms that you can start finding clients for tutoring and teaching English. You can find a school in a local place. Even teaching English like that can be a great way to start traveling because they're going to pick you up from the airport. They're going to help you find housing. They're going to probably do some language learning things.
When I studied abroad in Germany for a year, I got there August 1st and for the first few weeks, it was German lessons every day, all day long.
When the school started in September, October and I was taking classes in German, now I could communicate. These places are going to have resources to help you start picking up those basics of the language.
You're not going to be fluent instantly, but that's part of the fun. There's a lot of structural stuff built in. If you're teaching English in China or South Korea, South Korea is a big place that pays decently well. You're not going to be making as high of a salary as you would at a job in the US for something that you're an expert in, but your cost of living is much lower.
I have friends in Thailand living in Chiang Mai, which has an amazing digital nomad community. They spend $1, $1.50 and they eat and drink to their heart's content every meal. It's a different scale of the cost of living that you need.
A lot of people do go and teach English and even though they're not making a ton, they're not spending a ton. They're even able to still save money for future trips or when they come back to the US or wherever you're from, you come back and like, “I'm going to buy a condo or pay off my student loan debt.”
Dustin
Germany, it keeps coming up. You mentioned it and you gave me dates. Immediately what came to mind, not that I'm the world's biggest beer drinker, is Oktoberfest. Is it fun? Were you there?
Laura
I'm going to be a total downer. I drink zero beer. I've never liked beer.
Dustin
Was it weird being there or was it cool?
Laura
I'll open up a whole other can of worms. My mom is an alcoholic. It's not that bad, but I didn't drink alcohol until I was almost 22 because I wanted to prove that you didn't have to drink to have fun even though you're in college, all that stuff. It didn't attract me. I drink now, but I have since taken on alcoholic beverages.
The entire year I lived in Germany in college, I did not have one sip of any alcohol. Most people thought I was more religious. I'm not religious, I just happen not to drink alcohol. I'm a downer in that regard when it comes to Germany and beer. I'm vegan, so I don't even eat sausage. I ate meat at that time.
I can't speak too much to Oktoberfest, but I can tell you that I remember going to Munich, which is the main hub where they do the big Oktoberfest celebration. There's a well-known beer hall restaurant called the Hofbräuhaus. I went there and had some other beverage and a giant pretzel with mustard and it was amazing.
There are performers in lederhosen with the oom pah pah band, exactly what you would expect. The waitresses have the dirndl, which is the traditional German garb. You can imagine a frilly white top often with their ample bosoms coming out and then a tight dress around it.
Those are exactly what the servers are wearing. They're carrying the hugest mugs of beer you ever see. I can't even believe that they can carry it. They're carrying like eight in each hand and it’s crazy. I've gone and participated in the fun of that, which is open year-round, but actual beer festival isn't up my alley.
Dustin
I could imagine them with seven beers in their hand and then one nice stein with water for you. They opened one of those in St. Petersburg. That's originally where I'm from and I got to experience it. It is how you describe it.
I want to go back to the teacher thing. I'm thinking of Skeptic Sally or Skeptic Steve, “Laptop Laura over there has a nice background in teaching.”
I'm just American Dustin here, I know English but how am I going to teach another human that speaks another language, which I have no idea? How am I going to teach them English? How does that work for that skeptic that's like, “She did it because she has a background in education?”
Laura
They have incredible immersive training courses. My husband and I moved to Europe for a year. When we moved, we didn't know how long we would stay. We thought we'd stay longer, but neither of us loves snow and it’s too cold.
We moved to Europe together in 2015 because it was like, “We don't have kids yet. We want to have an adventure.” We decided to start with a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course. This is where it's four weeks long. It's lessons every day. They teach you how to teach English.
We did it in Prague in the Czech Republic. I 100% recommend the school. They are incredible. They're called The Language House. Chris Westergaard is the owner. He's amazing. I have a Master's degree in Education and a Bachelor's in Psychology.
I told this to Chris, “These four weeks was better than my entire two years and my Master's.” It was so good. I was impressed. Even if you want to teach in South Korea, you could still go to Prague, take this course and they'll even help you get jobs when you're done.
Dustin
Did you pay for this?
Laura
Yes, and I forget how much it was but it wasn't exorbitant. Let's say the course is $1,500 to $3,000. Plus, we also were like, “Help us with our housing.” You pay a little bit extra for five weeks of housing in Prague, but Prague is also still relatively affordable compared to the rest of Europe.
I adore Prague. It’s enchanting. If you're thinking about it, look at that specific school in Prague as an amazing place to get started. They have a whole team and tons of resources to help you get a job teaching English.
Whether you want to be in Europe, Asia, South America, it doesn't matter, anywhere in the world that they will help you do that. There's stuff out there to help you out.
Dustin
You brought up a term called geo-arbitrage. I felt like we were starting to get to it. Will you break that down for us?
Laura
It’s the idea of like, “Let's be strategic and leverage the power or the differences in costs and currency exchange in different places. Let's say that you have a job and the employer is in the United States or even you're an entrepreneur and your clients are in the United States.
They're paying you in US dollars and then you move to Chiang Mai with my buddy, Tom, over there and you're paying $1.50 in Thai Baht for dinner every night. Now the money you're earning in US dollars can go so much further in Thailand. You're taking advantage of the difference in cost of living expenses and the exchange rate.
Let’s say you want to get even smarter, get some clients from the UK because the pound is stronger than the US dollar. Get clients in the UK, go live in South Korea. It’s fascinating. Think about what your monthly expenses are now in whatever city you're in.
If you made that same amount but you lived in a place that cost you a third to live the same lifestyle or better. Now you've got that extra two-thirds that you can invest, spend on more travel or pick up the hobbies that you've always wanted to do and you don't have time for in your crazy work-a-day worlds.
You're driving 40 minutes to get to the office or you're exhausted at the end of the day that you zone out and watch Netflix all night, you don’t pursue anything. Leveraging geo arbitrage can help you to see that a different lifestyle is possible if you reframe things and mix it up.
Dustin
I want to make it crystal clear around the idea of how much money it is. I know that's different for lifestyle, but I think about maybe case studies of you or clients that you've worked with or families or people that you've talked with around the world.
What does it take to fund this lifestyle? Like in Chiang Mai, do I need $1,000? If I'm making $2,000 a month, I’m great. I can make $24,000 a year, I can live here and I'm going to pay $12,000 for the same things that I need here, but maybe a little bit simpler. I'm not going to get an iPhone every time it comes out.
Laura
You probably eat more like a king than you do now. You go to a “nice restaurant” in San Diego and for one person it will cost you $30 to $50 or more. It depends on how fancy you want to get.
My friends, Tom and Lauren, who are in Chiang Mai, they told me that they went out to the fanciest restaurant they could find. They ate unlimited food and drink, alcohol, everything, and the bill was $50 for both of them and they pegged out like the craziest.
They couldn't even believe it. This was the fanciest place. If you went to the fanciest place in your hometown, could you spend $50 on two people and eat like a king? No.
In a lot of other places, they make their food in a more whole, healthy way. You probably wouldn't gain as much weight even though because we've had a lot of preserves and stuff.
I remember them specifically in Chiang Mai, I think that they pay $200 to $300 a month for a decent sized one-bedroom apartment. If you're alone or with a partner and need one bedroom and you're not carrying around a giant couch everywhere you go. Oftentimes, these places can be furnished too, so you don't have to worry about anything and spend $300 a month.
Dustin
I would love to understand some travel hacks. People love hacks. I'm curious about things that you've done or things that you know out there. Maybe I want to dip my toe, mini-steps.
I'm not ready to live abroad for a month yet, but maybe I'm interested in traveling a little bit more, trying to do a two-week thing. What are some hacks that I can do? I don't know if it's a miles conversation. I don't know what is out there? What are some of the things that you've heard of or that you've used to travel the world?
Laura
I love language learning stuff or even a digital nomad retreat. I went on a retreat to Greece for several days. It was me and 25 other digital nomads. We mastermind and co-worked. We all worked on our own businesses and I learned to kitesurf.
Dustin
How did you find that? Is this a Facebook group? How did you find these folks?
Laura
That one in particular, I had just started my podcast and I interviewed a girl who is from Egypt traveling around the world. She was like, “I'm going to this retreat in a couple of weeks, you should come.” I was like, “Tell me more.” I heard about that one from word of mouth.
You can google digital nomad retreat. I include some in the course’s resources, but that's how I found a lot of the ones I didn't know about is I did a quick Google search and you can find different ones. Like I love to do for everything, go on social media and ask.
Be like, “Who do you know who has been on a digital nomad retreat? Give me a referral,” and I get a lot of good answers or start asking for introductions to people who are already traveling and doing this stuff. They'll put you in the right direction.
That was great because that could be for a week or ten days or two weeks or something. It's like a vacation/work staycation or vacation. You're also meeting other people who are already doing what you want to do.
We all know that we're the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If all you have in your head are friends and family who are like, “Hostels are dangerous. You're going to get mugged. You can't do this. It's too expensive.” Guess what you're going to think?
That’s human nature. You want to surround yourself with people who are already doing what you want to do. If you could go on a digital nomad retreat or even let's say you're like, “I don't even have money to do that yet.”
In your local home town, go to Meetup.com or go to Facebook and search for groups of people who love to travel or digital nomads in your local area. They're going to have even meetups locally that you can go to and other travelers will be passing through.
With Couchsurfing, you can set up an account on Couchsurfing and have someone crash on your couch or if you're like, “I don't want to do that yet,” you can check a box, “I'm available for coffee.”
When someone is visiting from Denmark and they see your profile and say, “We both have salsa dancing in common,” they might message me and be like, “Laura, I'm going to be in San Diego. I would love to go salsa dancing and meet up for coffee. When are you available?”
Now you're starting to expand your network of people who are doing what you aspire to do and that alone is going to be the biggest thing to help you figure it out and take some steps forward.
Dustin
I love this and what I appreciate most about you is you've always found a way to get it done. There is no excuse. You were a teacher. You found a way to get it done. You’re traveling the world.
You try the entrepreneurship because I could see you wanted to do this full-time, but you hadn't figured out how to do that entrepreneurship 24/7, but yet you still made it work. You invested and still did things. You had some false starts.
You learned along the way and then now here you are able to do that. You've got your entrepreneurship thing figured out. You're monetizing and you're able to travel the world. I feel there is no excuse. You need the right tools, information and education to get it done.
Laura
Trust that you're going to figure it out. You know what they say with build your parachute as you're going down. Even as you're describing that, I have met people in my travels who quit their job and they're like, “I don't even know how I'm going to make money yet, but I'm going to go and I've got $500 in my account, that’s it.”
They'll go to a place, stay at a hostel, and they even talk to the hostel people and say, “I need to make some extra money.” I've had people who now work at the hostel part-time, maybe they work in the kitchen or they organize beer pub crawls.
If you start moving forward, it's incredible how the universe starts putting things in your path. If you stay in your house, keep it all in your head and listen to the, “You can't do it,” whether that's coming from other people or yourself. You're right, you can't do it. If you take those steps forward, things are going to come together. Probably not in the way you might have anticipated, but that's almost the point.
Dustin
One of the tools that you illuminated me to is a tool that most people know which is Craigslist, as a tool to sell things, to find couches but also it's a tool to find spouses and husbands.
In your case, how did you meet your husband on Craigslist? Sometimes when I think of meeting people on Craigslist, I think of the Craigslist killer. People always go to that.
Laura
When people ask me how I met my husband, I love to say we met on Craigslist and instantly it's a conversation like, “Halt.” People look at me like, “You seem pretty normal. How is this possible?”
I bought a house when I was 23 in Arizona. This was in 2005 and I rented out the extra rooms. 95% of my roommates I found through Craigslist. I would put out an ad and then I would get a bunch of emails and I got good at analyzing people from their email. You can tell whether they're crazy or not just from an email.
If they got past a certain stage and it seemed normal, I would follow-up, then I would invite them over to the house to see the room. We meet each other in-person, sit on the couch, chat a little bit and see if we would be a good match. You can also ask for references, all the things.
In 2008, my now-husband, Devin, moved out to Arizona after college. I think he had his own apartment for a couple of months, but it was too lonely and stuff. He was like, “I don't want to live alone.”
He looked for an apartment or a place to rent on Craigslist, found my house and showed up at the door after emails. He moved in August of 2008 and we have officially been living together for several years.
We didn't start dating right away. He's also younger than me and he was my tenant. My mindset was not even like, “I'm interested in this guy.” I had a boyfriend at the time. I've seen him date people, he's seen me date people. We know everything about each other.
I used to be the wing woman for him and our other roommates. We'd go out in Scottsdale, Arizona and I'd be like, “Meet my roommates. They're great guys.” We know everything about each other.
At some point, we were both single and we spent more time together. We've been married for a few years and we're expecting our first kid. Coming back to the arranged thing, we started dating secretly and we didn't tell anyone. We were like, “This is weird. We live together. You pay me rent. Is this real? What is happening?”
My husband is half-German, ironically. He didn't grow up speaking it. I happened to study abroad. We have this weird cool connection with Germany. He went to Germany and was visiting his grandparents who still lived there. He was with his mom, dad and his siblings.
They were all asking him for updates, “Are you dating anyone?” He's like, “No.” We were secretly dating, but he didn't tell it to them. His mom said to him, “I like Laura that you live with. Have you ever considered dating her?” I swear the look on his face was like, “How do you know this?”
She had met me a couple of times because they had come out to visit and everything. The next month, my dad came out and was helping me do some painting on the house because I was doing some touches on the house. I drove back with him to California for Thanksgiving.
We get back home and my dad says, “You know that Devin, your roommate, I like him. Have you ever thought about dating him?” We couldn't believe it. We talked to each other, we're, “Your mom and my dad both said that we should date each other and we are, but we're not telling anyone.” In a way, maybe it was a little arranged. Our parents knew.
Dustin
I wanted to add into this fun conversation here. You made me remember for a gig. I moved up to Atlanta and I had to do it quickly because the company was expanding at the time.
I went onto Craigslist and I answered an ad. Lo and behold in Emory the school, I needed a room. I took the ad, I went to the house, I knocked on the door and there were five sorority girls. There was one open room and they chose me.
I'm like, “Five girls picking a guy to live in the basement.” This was like the bad room. I figured probably a girl wouldn't live in this room now looking back. They needed a sucker to come in and pay the rent. I was that guy. I lived with the five sorority girls in a house for a few months. That's all because of Craigslist.
Laura
Are you still friends with them?
Dustin
I am not, unfortunately or fortunately, I don't know.
Laura
Craigslist, hostels, I pushed you outside your comfort zone. All of these things sound scary.
Dustin
Laura, I could keep going on for hours with you. You make it fun and exciting. You do so many different things. You teach people how to write books. You've got a podcast and many more things.
I'm excited that you're educating our tribe here, the WealthFit community, the WealthFit family as we call them on digital nomading.
For those that want to continue this conversation with you, keep tabs, maybe check out some baby pics if you post them on the good old social media. Where's the best place for folks to find you and see where you are in the world?
Laura
On social media, I'm Laptop Laura because I always have a laptop with me no matter where in the world I am and my full name was taken. You can also go to LaptopLaura.com, which will take you to whatever site it’s directing to. CopyThatPops.com is the main hub for my business stuff.
Dustin
You have a way with words. I'm excited in this conversation for people to read this blog but also to check out the course too because it's rock solid and amazing.
Laura
Thank you. It was so fun to record it here. Your whole team was incredible and the studio is awesome. People can check out social media too for some behind the scenes.
Dustin
Thanks for being on the show and thanks for being who you are and what you are up to in the world.
Laura
Thank you so much for having me.

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