Self-confessed wannabe photographer and queen of half-eaten granola bars Larissa Bodniowycz has a knack of stumbling upon interesting experiences, particularly when on the road. Which she is often, as a remote Attorney. Yes, you read that right.
San Diego based Larissa is also the eclectic world traveler behind the popular blog Sort Of Legal. Described as a one-part therapy and one-part passion project, Larissa’s blog provides readers with an honest and genuine account of the ups and downs of running a small business while simultaneously roaming the globe.
We’re always keen to pick the brains of a savvy traveler, and after over 5 years of regular world travel Larissa has some serious wisdom to share.
Tell us about Sort Of Legal, how did you get into travel blogging?
Sort of Legal is an eclectic blog with a health dose of spunkiness! The “sort of” in the name is a nod to the grey nature of law and life as well as the fact that being an attorney is only part of my identity.
On Sort of Legal, I write about travel, remote work, and life from my personal experiences. Some of my posts are guides for travel and outdoor adventure while others are more personal where I share personal stories and musings.
My journey to becoming a travel blogger is pretty typical. When I first bought the domain, I just wanted a non-work related blog where I could express myself honestly. I started writing about what was going on in my life. Turns out – travel and remote work are a huge chunk of my life so overtime, it evolved into what it is today.
What do you love most about having a travel blog?
A platform to share experiences and connect honestly with other people. Sometimes, travel is just one set of happy, serendipitous experiences after another. Other times, it sucks. Same for remote work. I like writing about the good and the bad. It’s therapeutic and helps readers have realistic expectations about travel and remote work. Interestingly, I’ve gotten more messages about my honest posts that address difficulties than the ones that simply provide guidance and advice for trips.
When did you first get the travel bug and how long have you been traveling for?
Visiting Colorado about 8 years ago with a group of three other girls to hike and see Mumford & Sons at a festival. Now, the trip would seem like an easy, basic one, but at the time, it felt like a big deal and it opened something up inside me. I felt happier than normal and like it brought out the best version of myself. I still love Colorado!
My more regular travel started about 5 years ago after I moved to California. Travel and adventure are part of the culture in San Diego, in southern California where I am based. This made more regular travel and travel to places like Thailand suddenly feel accessible, like something I could do.
What motivates and inspires you to travel so often and so far?
I JUST LOVE IT! Even though I’ve been traveling regularly and solo for years now, I still feel like I am my happiest, best self when I am exploring new places.
Traveling is also an incredible ongoing self-development process for me. I’ve gained courage, self-confidence, and honed my ability to problem solve on the fly. I’ve learned about different countries and cultures. I’ve heard history from people whose home countries were on different sides of wars than mine. I’ve learned how to find the best in situations.
And the one that kinda gives me chills to think about: I’ve been awed by the commonalities of the human experience that transcend our superficial differences.
How do you afford to travel to so many amazing places so often?
Top reason: I work while I travel. I own and operate a small law firm, Bold City Legal, which I run remotely. All I need is a laptop, a phone, and willpower. When I was in Asia solo for 3.5 weeks, I was was also hopping into co-working spaces to get work done. When I visit my sister in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, for a week, when she goes to work during the week, so do I. Although, one of my goals is to take more full-days off where I can just relax.
Runner-up reason: I am not a luxury traveler. I don’t make a huge salary, but I don’t spend lavishly when traveling. There’s nothing wrong with luxury travel or spending money when traveling – heck, every once in a while it is really freaking nice to stay in a nice hotel, but I couldn’t afford to travel often if that was how I approached every trip.
I aim for basic accommodations that are safe. This is hardest in the US where lodging is expensive, but pretty easy in well-traveled countries where you can get a private room in a hostel for a reasonable rate. I don’t go to many, if any, expensive dinners, and I don’t take lots of expensive excursions. I get a ton of enjoyment out of just walking around a new city!
Always a tough question, but what are your 5 favorite places that you’ve visited so far?
1 – Cuba
2 – Cambodia
3 – Colorado, USA
4 – Banff, Canada
5 – Baja California, Mexico
What’s your biggest travel fail so far?
Being two days out from a flight to Vietnam to Cambodia and realizing that to get a Visa on arrival, I needed to submit an application and get an approval letter before getting to Vietnam. This was during the TET holiday (Vietnamese New Year) which meant a lot of offices were closed or closing. I got lucky and through a company and additional fee was able to get the letter. Total rookie move that I could have avoided by doing my research.
What place in the world would you recommend everyone should visit at least once and why?
A country that is really different from your own.
Have you ever visited a place that ended up being a total disappointment?
Yes, the place that most readily comes to mind is DaNang, Vietnam. I ended up there for a week because a travel partner picked it as a place to relax. The travel partner dropped out and I ended up there alone, not loving it. But the experience was pivotal in developing my ability to adjust to realities and make the best of the situation. My attitude did not magically turn it into my favorite city but I did have some really enjoyable, memorable experiences there.
What’s the one thing you’d never travel without?
My cellphone. I can almost hear the groans as I type that – but the tools a cellphone provides for its size are incomparable. It’s a computer, map, calling device, and camera that fits in your hand! You can stay disconnected by using airplane mode or by not getting an international plan but still use many of the tools. I travel and hike/trail run alone quite a bit so having my cell phone is also a safety net in case of an emergency.
What’s your backpack of choice?
My Camelbak Helena 22. It’s versatile, durable, and fits a surprising amount of stuff. I’ve used it for its intended purpose, hiking, countless times. I’ve also used it as a laptop bag and weekend travel bag.
Name your 3 carry on essentials that you bring with you on every flight.
- Something TO DO. Even though I fly quite a bit, I can get – ok, DO get nervous – during turbulence. Books, laptop, candy crush area all awesome distractions. When there’s no turbulence, they just keep me from getting bored.
- Something to SNACK ON. When I flew less frequently, I always brought sour patch kids, now I try to bring healthier snacks (but still get candy occasionally).
- Something to LAYER UP. Usually a long sleeve pull-over but I also add in warm socks for longer flights.
What do you love most about coming home after a long trip?
SLEEEEEEEP and not having to be in a constant state of planning like when traveling, particularly solo traveling.
Where are you off to next?
Texas, USA! I’m going to take some engagement photos for my cousin with the Texas Bluebonnets (Texas lupine), these beautiful blue wildflowers that I just learned about. For about six weeks in spring, they blanket fields in Texas. This year is supposed to be a particularly good bloom due to higher than average rain.
After that: New Jersey, Backpacking at Catalina, and a good ‘ole fashioned road trip through part of western United States, Texas again, and Mexico…travel season is heating up!
What advice would you give an apprehensive best friend about solo world travel?
Such a good question! I can still relate to the nerves! It doesn’t feel like that long ago that traveling solo internationally seemed like something impressive people that were braver, richer, or had more travel experience than me did.
First, I’d say that if you’re thinking about traveling the world solo travel, you should do it. Worst case scenario, you can cut your trip short. But even then, you will never have to wonder “what if…”
Second, I’d emphasize that you are not alone the whole time, you meet people along the way. To make meeting people easier, you can choose well-traveled circuits and stay in hostels.
Third, I’d tell them to ignore a lot of people’s opinions. Telling people that you are traveling internationally and/or solo as a female, tends to get a reaction. There will be people that tell you scary stories – about traveling alone as a female or visiting a destination. They usually mean well, but often these stories are based on something they saw on TV. Often these stories are untrue or outliers.
Researching the safety of a destination is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to the opinion of everyone who has one. I rely on official sources and opinions of frequent travelers with styles like mine. There are so many misconceptions about travel that are based on anecdote, not fact. For example, Bangkok, Thailand often gets a bad rap, but in the Thong Lor area I stayed, I felt completely safe walking alone at 11PM at night.
Finally, I’d remind them that it is OK to be a little nervous! I still get nervous about some of my adventures.
I’m deeply inspired by: Stories about overcoming obstacles
My latest obsession is: Outdoor travel
#1 place I love: Anywhere my family is
#1 place I hate: Anywhere I feel unsafe
Easiest place to travel solo: Southeast Asia
Most romantic place in the world is: In bed (even if that bed is a sleeping bag in a tent) with someone I adore.
My favorite travel quote is: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
Keep up to date with Larissa’s latest adventures and get inspiration for working remotely on her rather awesome travel blog Sort Of Legal. You should probably check out Larissa’s highly artistic (and very fun) shots on instagram too @eclecticadventures
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