Nomadic Interviews: Kirsty the Nerdy Nomad

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Kirsty the Nerdy Nomad is one of our favourite bloggers, and the latest permanent traveller that we have interviewed for our Nomadic Interviews series. Kirsty’s blog is unique because as well as recounting travel tales she gives details of her income and the methods she uses to make money online by running travel websites. This location independent income allows her to focus her time on her passion for international volunteering: so far she has volunteered in Haiti, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nicaragua.

1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?

I went on my first trip in 1999 with a friend to the UK and I was hooked after that. I left Canada in 2001 immediately after graduating university and headed one-way to Australia. I haven’t lived in Canada since then although I’ve visited lots. Since then I’ve lived in Australia, Glasgow, London, Beijing, and New Zealand, volunteering long-term in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Haiti and Nicaragua and have travelled a lot of Europe and Asia. I’m currently living in Rwanda after some time travelling in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya with more African travels in my future if I can ever leave the grips of Kigali, Rwanda.

2) Did you plan to travel for so long? What made you stay on the road?

I’m pretty sure that when I left for Australia in 2001 my plan was to come back after the year and look for a job. But I have a British passport and as my time in Australia came to an end I started to consider looking for work in the UK. An EU passport is a terrible thing to waste! I loved it in London and by then my addiction to travel was completely incurable.

3) How do you fund your travels?

I run a bunch of travel websites, about 20 at the moment, on various topics. I generate income through advertising, product sales (like insurance), ebook sales and Google Adsense.

4) What advice would you give someone wanting to make money from blogging/ travel websites?

Do it now! I think that there’s still room for people but it’s getting harder and harder to get a foothold. Pick your area wisely, stick with it and work hard. You could be putting in thousands of hours of work before you make your first dollar which is daunting, but the payoff of passive income is (or for me, at least) a great one.

5) You do a lot of international volunteering. What are some of the benefits of volunteering rather than just travelling around a country?

Volunteering lets you weasel your way into a community in a way I’ve never been able to as a traveller. It lets you work alongside locals and other volunteers and, if you stick around awhile, you get to form some truly unique and lasting relationships with both. You get to help, learn some new skills and feel a sense of purpose that I’ve never really had as a backpacker.

Kirsty volunteering in Haiti
Kirsty volunteering in Haiti

6) How do you find free volunteering opportunities?

I’d buy The Underground Guide to Volunteering and follow the advice in there! :-) It’s tricky because all of the big name pay-to-volunteer companies have Google sewn up for all of the usual keywords. Word of mouth is king and, while daunting, if you want to help then showing up in a place and asking around is the way to go. Or try to make contact with someone already in the country you want to go to (or even a hostel owner as they often have bulletin boards full of opportunities). Be more specific with Google both with the type of work you want to do and the place you want to go to. ‘Volunteering in Rwanda’ will probably give you a list of pay-to-volunteer sites but ‘teach English in Kigali’ might give better results.

7) How are you doing with your 99 Things to Do list?

Slowly! I rode an ostrich in South Africa which was one ticked off the list. I’m working on learning guitar now which is daunting but also a lot of fun.

8 ) What are some of your favourite off the beaten track destinations?

Since it’s in the news at the moment I’ll mention Hungary. Hopefully you can get there before it’s covered in toxic sludge! Eger is a nice city with a castle and, more importantly, a street with a bunch of wine cellars where you do a ‘pub crawl’ of sorts, stopping into each cellar for a look. The red wine there is very yummy.

Nicaragua is another great place with lots to offer on the tourist trail on the Pacific side or for the more adventurous, the Atlantic coast and everything in between is still pretty untouched. I stayed on an island called Ometepe which isn’t too far off the path, but I think the farm I was living on was. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

In Australia near Noosa there are canoe trips that can be done to a place called the Everglades. The trip is nowhere near as popular as the usual Whitsunday Islands/Fraser Island trips but it’s amazing. At one point you find yourself in a narrow river with perfectly still water. The water is black because of the tea tree oil and this gives a perfect reflection. If you head out at night with a starry sky, it’s like you’re floating in space.

9) What is the best food you have eaten on your travels?

I’m going to admit that I’m not much of a foodie. But I love Thai food and I’m a sucker for a good green curry which I found plenty of in Thailand. I loved the food in China as well… some of it was scary but, for the most part, it was amazing. One thing I’m certainly sick of is rice and beans!

Kirsty visiting the DR Congo.
Kirsty visiting the DR Congo.

10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?

Aah! The ‘settle down’ question! I have no idea. I think I’ll eventually have somewhere as a base, I just don’t know where yet. I’m growing less and less fond of travelling around and more and more fond of actually living in places for extended periods with shorter trips. Right now my base is Kigali, Rwanda and I’m really loving having a place to dump my stuff. I’ve got vague plans to head to Uganda in November for three or so weeks of volunteering on a farm. Then back to Kigali to do more web work.

In the New Year I want to travel back down to South Africa (I’m working on an Africa-related travel site and need to do research) before heading home to Canada for my dad’s 60th in April. Then probably back to Haiti for the summer. Then finally South America? But I’ve been saying that for years. I’m also really loving Rwanda and Africa in general and could see myself heading back here after Haiti.

You can read more about Kirsty’s travels and money-making on her blog Nerdy Nomad or follow her on Twitter. If you are interested in international volunteering without paying huge fees you should definitely check out her Underground Guide to International Volunteering (50% of the proceeds go to the charity All Hands Volunteers, previously known as Hands on Disaster Response).

If you enjoyed this interview then read about other long term nomads Audrey & Dan, Benny, and Earl.


  1. Kirsty is one of the bloggers I knew who is very transparent on what she does. I admire that she loves to volunteer and help those who are in need.. Hope there will be more people who can do what she does

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  2. Nice interview. I will definitely check out her Volunteer e-book. I always found that the pay-to volunteer opportunities a little… dodgy? Just because of the cost involved the short period of volunteering time offered (2 weeks?!) always makes me wonder how much good you can actually do.

    Very nice site design too if I may add.

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    • We agree that there is something dodgy about paid volunteering. I did it myself when I first finished university, and although I had an amazing experience there were some serious issues and I wouldn’t pay to volunteer again.

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  3. Thanks for doing the interview with me, guys! It was fun. I’m glad to hear people are getting something out of me sharing my travels and online earnings stuff.

    @globetrottergirls If you do end up volunteering, can you let me know about how it goes? I’m always looking for new additions for my volunteering ebook… and for myself to check out.

    @henway What are you waiting for? Empires don’t build themselves! ;-)

    @adventurerob I’m actually an asshole. haha

    @earl All roads always seem to lead to Haiti but I’m really loving Africa so I’ll be back here and I can see myself spending a lot of time here as well.

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  4. I’m another big fan of Kirsty’s site and of her traveling lifestyle! And I’ve been closely following her time in Kigali as the more I read her posts, the more fascinated I am by Rwanda and the thought of heading down there in the not-too-distant future.

    It will be interesting to see where you end up after your trip home to Canada!

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  5. Kirsty is one of my favourite bloggers too. Very honest in how she does things and a genuinely nice person which comes across in her writing.

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  6. It’s always inspiring to read about someone doing what they dream – traveling around the world, and even more inspiring when they’re funding it entirely from their residual online income. Makes me wanna go out and start an Adsense empire myself!

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  7. Awesome interview! We’ve been following Kirsty for quite a while and are impressed how the earnings with her websites grew and grew… We’re big fans of all her volunteering projects, and we hope we’ll be able to do some volunteering ourselves in Honduras or Nicaragua.

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