Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch. These days, she’s still traveling, still in love with Europe, and now joined by her adorable, techy partner, Chad.
Fittingly, I met Gigi in an online writers group. When she recently came to New York, I couldn’t wait to meet her in person and learn more about her amazing life as a location independent writer.
Do you remember when and where you caught the travel bug?
I was twelve years old when I decided I wanted to travel. I saw an advertising video promoting volunteer trips for teens and I was immediately in love with the idea.
It took two years to convince my parents to let me go on one of those volunteer trips, but eventually I wore them down. When I was 14, I spent a month in Australia and I’ve been traveling ever since.
What’s it like to not have a permanent address?
I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but for me it’s freeing. I love being untethered. I love having the freedom to go or to stay at any time.
Where are you heading next?
Rennes, France, and Prague, Czechia! We’re currently in NYC (where we’ve been for almost three months now) and in early June we make our way to France for a month and then Prague for two months.
I chose France because I’m currently writing a novel set mostly in Brittany. I’m aching to visit the castle of the famous female pirate I’m writing about and to see the coastline she fought for and against.
And Prague was our next pick because my partner and I are currently looking for a European home base and Prague has a lot going for it. It’s got more green space than any other city in the world. It’s got a less complex tax and business system than some other European countries (I’m looking at you, France). And I’ve heard the city is gorgeous and the food is amazing. So we’re going to check it out with an eye to the possibility of someday (perhaps) getting residency.
How long do you stay in the same location? How do you decide when it’s time to go?
I’m a big fan of traveling slow and really living in each place that I visit, so we tend to stay 1 – 3 months in each place. By the time we leave, we’ll have been in New York for a little over three months. Before that we were in Colorado for about two. Before that we spent a little over two months in Tulum, Mexico.
We actually usually plan several destinations ahead, so our stays already have a set end date (last-minute planning is just too stressful). Our length of stay mostly depends on visa rules (some countries allow 90 day stays for tourists; others allow 6 months; still others allow only 30 days); the purpose of our visit; and time of year. For example: in May 2017, we went to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar is a cute little fairytale town and one of the most popular destinations in B&H. May definitely had a lively feel, but we knew ahead of time that June – August would be the true high season, packed with tourists and higher prices. That’s why we decided to only stay one month in Mostar and then book the high season months in two lesser-known towns in the mountains.
How do you manage work and travel?
Since we stay 1 – 3 months in each place (which means maybe one travel day per month), it’s actually pretty easy. We travel to a new place, settle in, and work our normal schedules. The only difference is that when we do have free time, we’re spending it somewhere new and different.
Does it take you a long time to adjust to a new place?
It depends what you mean by adjust. Personally, I usually don’t make any plans for my first day in a new city because I know I need time to find the fresh market and local grocery store, unpack my stuff, settle in, and orient myself.
After that first day, I usually feel fairly oriented to the basics of my neighborhood.
Then, about two weeks in (maybe three), I usually hit another milestone point where I start to feel really comfortable. I start to know how to really navigate the city without taking out my map. I know where the good coffee is. I have a favorite restaurant. I’ve met people. And I generally start to feel settled.
What is the place you most like returning to and why?
This is a tough one. I love so many places.
We keep going back to France for the food, the charm, the culture. I love the language (even though I’m terrible at even the basics). I love the diversity within the country. I love the endless cycle paths!
We also keep going back to Italy – again for food, culture, and charm. I lived in Switzerland for two years and have been many times prior to living there – so that’s definitely a favorite. And recently I’ve fallen in love with Slovenia. I’ve been twice now and both times was incredibly impressed by the nature, the food, and the welcoming communities.
Of all the places you’ve been to, what’s your least favorite? Why?
Colombia, hands down! It’s the only place I’ve felt genuinely unsafe as a solo female traveler (I was traveling on my own then, before I met my partner). I had men lean into coffee shop patios to scream in my face, follow me on their motorcycles, and try to block me from getting into my apartment building. I left anxious and terrified and having panic attacks. If you’re a solo lady who wants to travel to Colombia, I’d highly recommend considering a group tour rather than a solo adventure.
What was your most embarrassing travel moment?
Oh god. Getting a terrible stomach bug in Costa Rica and having to poop in an onboard trash can. I was 17, traveling with a group of my peers, and it was the worst ever.
What’s your least favorite airport?
All of them! I hate airports. Whenever possible, we try to take trains, even if it takes twice as long to get somewhere.
What are the top 3 places you’re burning to go to?
The Norwegian fjords, Rennes, and Prague.
Can you share some of your travel secrets and tips?
My biggest tip is to give yourself space and time. Don’t try to squeeze everything into one trip. Don’t force yourself to go sightseeing all day if what you really want to do is laze in the hot tub or on a picnic blanket in the park. I really dislike the frenetic energy that the travel community can have – the go, go, go! – and always try to remind people that it’s okay to be a more relaxed type of traveler if that’s what you want.
How about tips for living as an expat?
Talk to other expats as much as possible before you get there. Sometimes a new country will have a baffling rule or piece of paperwork that it’s good to know about ahead of time. For instance: I got fined $100 for not registering my dog properly in Switzerland. I’d registered her through the vet (which is what you normally do in the States), but had no idea you have to do a second registration with your local government office.
You can find Gigi at gigigriffis.com. I love reading her blog, which covers a wide range of topics, from travel to mental health.