Meet The Traveler is a series where each week we interview one lifestyle traveler from around the world. These travelers range from being digital nomads, location independent entrepreneurs, or simply so passionate about seeing the world that they’ve fully integrated travel into their lifestyle. Our travelers will bring us into their world, sharing their transition story, what they do to support their lifestyle, and giving us insight into their life as a traveler.
If you’re looking for inspiration to transition to this lifestyle, want to meet other people in the community, or are simply curious to know how others live and split their time, then you don’t want to miss this series! A new interview goes live every Wednesday so be sure to set a reminder.
Meet The Traveler: Photographer & Realtor Alina Mendoza
We like to start things off by knowing the behind-the-person story. We love getting intimate and learning about what drives a person to be who they are. Let’s skip the small talk, and head right into some more passionate questions.
Could you tell us a bit about your journey – who were you in a past life, and who are you now?
I am a San Diego-based photographer with the majority of my adult life working in the Real Estate industry here in San Diego. I am still working in the Real Estate industry at the moment but have been a photographer since 2011 and in my more recent years, a traveler.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from San Diego, but I grew up and spent most of my life in a very small Colorado mountain town. I’ve been back in San Diego for 15 years now.
What are the things you’re most passionate about currently?
I’m a person of many passions but photography and travel are my 2 great loves. Stemming from this, I have discovered a love for interior design. I’ve been having a lot of fun with that since having my own home for the past year. Big picture – I’m passionate about creating a more sustainable life for myself that incorporates more of my passions, connecting with people, and living with less.
When did you first get interested in traveling?
My desire to travel has been with me for quite some time, ever since I was a young girl. I dreamt of traveling to Paris, the Greek Islands, the Amalfi Coast, and had my Colorado bedroom plastered with images of all these destinations. I wish I had a photo of it because it was essentially an IRL version of Pinterest with inspirations that are still my inspirations to this day.
When did you realize that you wanted to make travel a lifestyle? Was there a trigger point?
The trigger point was at the end of 2014. I was about 4 years into photography and finally getting to a place where I was proud of my work as a photographer. The first couple of years I was a very moody angsty photographer and was very hard on myself and my creations. For my 30th birthday I booked my first solo trip to Brazil for 2 weeks. I visited the historic city of Salvador and then spent a week in Caraiva, a very remote beach town with no roads or cars. You had to access via plane, followed by a car down bumpy dirt roads and then a canoe ride. I took some of my favorite photos on that trip and for the first time felt true confidence in my skills as a photographer.
While on that trip I stumbled upon what I thought was a bar to order a beer and it ended up being someone’s home. In my defense the home used to be a bar and there were a ton of people there because they were having dinner and a party. They ended up giving me a beer and dinner and I spent the rest of the evening with them.
The group had people from all over the world and some that had left behind corporate jobs to live there and work at the local school. They were a true community and family. This was my first introduction to this lifestyle. After that trip I could think of nothing else and made the decision to travel extensively. I finally made that shift in my life in May of 2016.
How did you go about making the transition to a lifestyle traveler? Was it a seamless transition or a bit difficult?
Well in 2015 I decided to let my boss know that I would be leaving to travel and set a date for May 2016. I quit my job of 10 years, moved out of my apartment and sold most of my belongings. I wanted to create a massive shift in my life and didn’t want there to be a life for me to return to easily so in that sense it was “easy” for me.
The difficult part came from a lack of preparedness and not saving enough money. Looking back at my travel experience, I still don’t think I would change a thing.
Most of us will spend our lives working to save that right amount of money or preparing to leave at the perfect time and while that’s probably the smart thing to do with much less risk involved I knew if I prepared too much that I would get stuck in a loop of preparing forever, wanting to make more money and/or rescheduling forever. There was, of course, some difficulty because of my decision towards the end of my travels and even more so in the years that followed.
Could you elaborate on what you do for work? Do you work remotely for a company, freelance, or have your own location independent business?
I feel like this makes me a bad lifestyle traveler because most of the stories you read like this are “I quit my job, traveled to 30 countries, make this much money every month…” and goes into a massive success story that then makes everyone want to quit their job to travel the world. My story is a little different – I traveled for 4 months in 2016, ran out of money, came back home where I didn’t really have a home or a job so I would bounce around between my mom’s house, dad’s house, friend’s houses, couches and felt like such a failure for not being that “success story”.
Since 2018 I have been working back in the Real Estate industry as a Realtor and traveling as much as possible when I’m able to, creating content around traveling and most recently wrote my first paid print published travel story with my photography for a magazine. So to answer that question I work as a real estate agent and am also a photographer and writer. Right now my primary focus is working on blending my 15 year career in real estate with my love for travel.
In the meantime, most of my offerings are on my website. I have some of my photo prints available for sale and also love the opportunity to travel to create content for brands!
What is your preferred method of traveling/living? Do you move constantly/stay at a few places for a few months/have a base/multiple bases?
I like to have a home base and stay in one place for a few months. That’s the best way for me to find a community and support in the places I travel to. Traveling and moving constantly to new places can get very exhausting after a while and when I have traveled like that I’ve found myself craving the same bed or even something as simple as having the same neighborhood market to visit. There is something beautiful in both though.
What seasons, if any, do you prefer to chase?
My most recent travels have been during the summer, but I actually prefer the off-season and especially the months following summer and heading into fall. There’s a quiet contentment when things start to slow down after having a full summer plus there’s the added bonus of your tan being at its prime.
What destinations do you consider to be the best for digital nomads/location independent lifestyles? Why?
Lisbon! There is a large digital nomad community there and you’ll find a lot of people that have decided to make Lisbon their homebase. You’ll find friends that aren’t just passing through for a few days, and can build long-term relationships and connections with the people there.
How do you go about making new friends/dating while traveling?
Facebook Groups geared towards digital nomads or general travel groups. Instagram has also introduced me to many people that are now friends. I have so many friends that I’ve met through Instagram and it’s always fun to try and recall the photo that was liked that then led to a friendship.
How do you keep your long-distance friendships/relationships alive?
Communicating through Instagram and Facebook. I love how easy these social networks make it to stay in touch with long-distance friends. I also think it’s very important to reach out to friends that are abroad and let them know when you’re traveling. You never know who may be in the same city at the same time or introduce you to new friends in those cities.
What is it that you like most about the traveler lifestyle?
I love connecting with other people from different places and backgrounds whether they be other travelers or locals in a place that I’m traveling to. I’ve experienced so much kindness from complete strangers even when we don’t speak the same language. I find that this kindness is something that transcends borders and I hope other people can travel to experience this for themselves.
Is there anything you dislike about the traveler lifestyle?
When traveling for a long time and especially if you’re moving around a lot I start missing having a “home base.” The feeling of the same bed and pillow every night, and of course, feeling homesick for family and friends back home.
What’s something that’s currently missing from your life? Is there something stopping you from getting it?
Traveling…well, traveling to make a new home base. I would love to live and work in Portugal and/or Morocco and everything I’m working on now is to make that a reality for myself in the not too distant future. 2021?
Is there something you know now about the traveler lifestyle that you wish you knew before making the switch?
There are so many social media groups that have built-in communities for travelers. I wish I would have done more research prior to traveling in this regard. If you plan on traveling to and spending an extended amount of time in a place, find Facebook groups and make connections before you get there!
Do you see yourself living this lifestyle forever? Or will you go back to a more “traditional” life at some point?
I feel like I am living a more “traditional” life at this current moment and have been again for the past 2 years. I will eventually go back to a travel lifestyle but will be more settled in a place than my previous travels.
What’s your best advice for someone wanting to transition to a life of travel?
Be flexible. Most of the magic happens when you release your expectations of what the experience is supposed to be. Let the journey carry and guide you. Go with the flow. The universe has this wonderful way of speaking to you and showing you exactly what you’re meant to see and feel. Having a plan is fine but allow yourself movement and change within that plan.
Where can people connect with you?
Follow me on Instagram @alinamendoza!