The Ultimate Travel Challenge: How To Afford 12 Trips in 12 Months with Jen Ruiz

How to afford frequent travel with Jen Ruiz author of "12 Trips In 12 Months" travel memoir and travel challenge.
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Practical advice on saving money, finding cheap flights, and making travel dreams come true with a year-long travel challenge. If you have the desire to travel more in the upcoming year, what is holding you back? Perhaps time? Money? Or a companion? Traveling can be a life-changing experience, but affording frequent travel may seem daunting. However, with the right strategies and mindset, it is possible to make this dream a reality.

In 2017, Jen Ruiz decided to go on an epic adventure before her 30th birthday. The goal: go on 12 trips in 12 months. She went on twenty trips that year, almost doubling her original goal. Jen shares how you, too, can plan your own similar travel challenge. She offers practical advice on saving money for travel, finding affordable flights, and managing your time while pursuing frequent travel with a demanding job.

Continue reading or listen to the podcast episode below.

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In this episode, we cover:

  • 3:40 – Jen’s life before the travel challenge
  • 5:06 – Choosing travel over societal pressure
  • 17:00 – Saving money on flights
  • 19:05 – Travel hacking with credit cards
  • 30:27 – No Excuses: Staying committed to the challenge
  • 38:32 – From lawyer to travel writer
  • 42:24 – Starting your own 12 Trips Challenge

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Jen Ruiz transitioned from being a lawyer to a full-time travel blogger, award-winning travel journalist, and bestselling author. In her travel memoir, 12 Trips in 12 Months, she takes readers on a year-long trip around the globe, defying societal expectations of what a woman is supposed to be and empowering others to discover their own solo travel magic.

What is a travel challenge?

A travel challenge is a personal goal or commitment to travel a certain number of times within a specific timeframe. The “12 trips in 12 months” travel challenge entails going on 12 trips in the span of 12 months, which means taking a trip each month for a year.

This travel challenge encourages individuals to explore new destinations, experience different cultures, and step out of their comfort zones by committing to regular travel throughout the year. It can also serve as a way to prioritize travel and foster personal growth.

Jen Ruiz completed this epic travel challenge and shares tips for planning and completing it successfully.

Why take the “12 Trips In 12 Months” challenge?

Jen Ruiz decided to take a 12 trips in 12 months challenge because she felt like she had sacrificed her personal life in her 20s and wanted to do something meaningful and memorable before turning 30.

She wanted to break free from societal expectations and celebrate her last year in her 20s by doing something that made her feel empowered and in control.

Traveling was something that made her feel good about herself, and she wanted to spend her time doing something that she could look back on fondly without any regrets.

Some reasons why you might want to take this challenge include:

  • Personal Growth: Push yourself out of your comfort zone and experience new things.
  • Building Confidence: Completing the challenge can boost your confidence by showing you can set and achieve goals.
  • Creating Memorable Experiences: Create unforgettable memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.
  • Exploring New Destinations: Discover new cultures and experiences.
  • Overcoming Excuses: By committing to the challenge, overcome excuses and obstacles that may have prevented you from traveling more frequently.
  • Career Change: It may lead to career changes or shifts in focus, as seen in Jen’s transition from law to travel writing.

Travel Challenge Misconceptions

One common misconception about the 12 Trips in 12 Months challenge is that it requires international travel. Jen Ruiz emphasizes that the challenge can be completed with trips to nearby destinations or even day trips within your own state.

Related: What To Pack For Road Trips

The key is to break out of your routine and experience something different, regardless of the distance traveled.

This challenge is about personal growth and exploration, not just international travel.

The Transformative Power of Travel

Jen’s experience of taking on the 12 trips in 12 months challenge not only allowed her to explore the world but also led to a career transformation. Following her passion for travel and storytelling, she transitioned from a career in law to becoming a full-time travel blogger, author, and award-winning travel journalist.

In the comments below, let me know what you hope to accomplish with this challenge.

Saving Money For Frequent Travel

One key aspect of affording 12 trips in 12 months is effective money management. Here are some tips to help you save for your travel adventures.

1. Start a side hustle and earn meaningful money

Consider taking on a side hustle to supplement your income. Jen Ruiz, the author of “12 Trips in 12 Months,” taught English online to earn extra money for her travels.

With a goal of earning meaningful income, she sacrificed sleep, worked early in the morning and through the night, including weekends.

When considering side hustles, look for ones that can be done remotely without commuting.

And so my first month I made about $1,800 and now we’re talking meaningful money. I can plan a trip somewhere. I can make this stretch for me.

Jen Ruiz

2. Establish a travel fund and regularly save

Create a travel fund by opening a separate savings account and setting aside a portion of your monthly income specifically for travel expenses. Track your spending and cut back on non-essential expenses to save more for travel.

Discover why you need a travel fund by listening to this podcast episode below.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Pandora | Amazon Music

3. Maximize credit card travel rewards

Utilizing credit card rewards and loyalty programs to earn points and miles that can be redeemed for flights and accommodations is another way to save money on travel.

Jen initially had objections about using credit cards due to her family’s beliefs about credit, but she overcame them by realizing the benefits of earning points and miles for travel and how to use credit cards responsibly.

She started by taking out her first credit card, a JetBlue Card, and using it to book flights at significantly reduced costs. For example, she booked a round-trip flight to Aruba from Fort Lauderdale for under $70.

Jen Ruiz: “JetBlue operated out of Fort Lauderdale, where I was based. I knew they had a low minimum spend threshold. They only required spending $1,000 within the first three months, which didn’t seem scary. I thought I could handle this. I can pay it off. I won’t get into debt over this.”

Going to Aruba was a great example of how travel hacking can occur without bankrupting you or putting you in a precarious financial position. This demonstrates how changing your mindset and being open to new financial strategies can lead to opportunities for saving money and achieving travel goals.

Other travel rewards credit cards worth checking out include:

Finding Affordable Flights

Flights are often one of the most significant expenses when traveling. Here are some tips for finding affordable flights.

1. Sign up for Flight Alerts

Subscribe to flight alert services like Thrifty Traveler to receive daily email alerts about discounted airfare, points, and miles deals. Jen booked round-trip flights to Argentina for $330 through a flight deal alert.

Related: How Thrifty Traveler Premium Works: Get Flight Deals Sent To Your Inbox

2. Fly with Budget Airlines

To save money on airfare, consider flying with budget airlines.

Budget airlines offer lower fares by providing no-frills services and charging extra for amenities like checked baggage, seat selection, and in-flight meals.

Unlike traditional airlines, budget airlines offer the opportunity to pace out payments for additional services, making them more affordable for travelers.

Jen compares budget airlines to layaway programs for flights because you initially put money down to secure your seat. Come back later with more money to designate a window or aisle seat. Before checking in, pay to check in your luggage – all optional.

Flying with budget airlines allows you to pace out payments and select what’s necessary.

3. Book Early

Plan and book flights in advance to secure lower prices, especially for peak-season travel. Track flight prices using Google Flights and search for deals and promotions to save on airfare and lodging.

Taking the First Step

If you’re inspired by Jen’s story and are considering taking your own travel challenge while balancing a demanding job, remember that the first step is often the hardest but most crucial.

Start by setting clear goals, collaborating with coworkers, and prioritizing self-care and travel. By following Jen’s practical tips and staying committed to your travel goals, you can experience the transformative power of travel and create lasting memories along the way.

Tired of reading? Listen to this podcast episode on Spotify below.

Taking a travel challenge and affording frequent travel is achievable with careful planning and smart financial decisions. By implementing these practical tips, you can make your travel dreams a reality and kick off a year of exciting adventures without going broke. With dedication and smart money management, the world is yours to explore!

Take Your Own 12 Trips In 12 Months Challenge!  

Sign up for a 30-minute training on planning your year of adventure.

About Jen Ruiz

Jen Ruiz is a lawyer turned full-time travel blogger, award-winning travel journalist, and bestselling author. She believes in booking flights first and figuring out the details later.

Website: jenonajetplane.com

Instagram: @jenonajetplane

Other Books by Jen Ruiz:

Other Episodes You’ll Enjoy

Read the full podcast episode transcript.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Travel can change your life. Throughout this podcast, we've seen lots of examples of this. Most recently, Lisa Janssen shared how she quit her job to pursue van life in New Zealand, which you can hear all about in episode 162. Nosheen Farishta opted to travel solo and started loving it in her 30s after previously hating it. And you could hear all about that in episode 165. From all of these inspiring stories, I've noticed a recurring theme. People worldwide are breaking free from societal expectations of what they're supposed to do or who they are supposed to be and exploring the world on their terms. Today's guest is no different. In 2017, Jen Ruiz set out to take an epic challenge. Go on 12 trips in 12 months before her 30th birthday while employed full time as an attorney. Over the course of the year, Jen descended into a volcano in Iceland, volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, called in sick to fly in a hot air balloon, and went scuba diving at an underwater museum in Mexico. She ended up taking 20 trips that year, almost doubling her original goal. Well, today, Jen joins us to share how you too can plan your own similar travel challenge, including practical tips for planning frequent travel with a demanding job, ways she saved money for travel and while traveling, and also how to stay committed to your travel challenge and make no excuses. Jen Ruiz from the travel blog, jenonajetplane.com is a lawyer turned full-time travel blogger, award-winning travel journalist and author. Connect with Jen Ruiz on Instagram and x.com at jenonajetplane. I encourage you to pick up Jen's new book, 12 Trips in 12 Months, make your own solo travel magic wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. Links will be in the accompanying episode description. For a little bit more about 12 Trips in 12 Months, this is a memoir about defying societal expectations of what a woman should be by the age of 30, as told through a year-long travel challenge. This book will show you what's possible when you decide to stop waiting for others and start living for yourself. Welcome to the thought card, a podcast about traveling money, we're planning, saving and creativity leads to affording travel, building wealth and paying off debt. We are the financially savvy travelers.

Jen Ruiz: 12 trips in 12 months is for any woman that is going through a point of transition in her life and needs a little nudge and encouragement to choose herself.

Danielle Desir Corbett: So Jen, take us back to what life was like before you planned this big adventure. What were you doing? How were you feeling? Bring us back to that time.

Jen Ruiz: Sure. So right before I went on my 12 Trips in 12 Months challenge, I was working full time as an attorney at a nonprofit, you know, at legal aid, helping With contracts and doing work that I found really meaningful. I was defending people that needed me But at the same time while I felt like I had this calling and I was doing important work That I had sacrificed my personal life in the process and that I had gone through my 20s really giving back to others and not necessarily getting to where I wanted to be myself and So as I approached the end of my 20s, I realized that I had two choices. I could either spend that year Endlessly swiping just trying to manufacture an outcome trying to find someone Which is I think what a lot of people do when they get to 30, right? I compare it to musical chairs where the song is up and you have to sit down or you may end up on the floor and you definitely don't want that so I saw that happening a lot. And I knew that that was something I could do if I wanted to search from this place of being frantic and not sure, or I could take that time and really time that I was never going to get back, right? Time that is, that's it. This is the last of my youth, the last of my twenties, which, you know, I'm still young, but I'm never going to be in my 20s again. I've come to terms with the fact that that time has passed. And in the moment, I thought I have this little sliver left of this kind of decade where you're supposed to be young and wild and do something crazy. And you're supposed to really live. And this was my last chance to do that. And I didn't want to spend that time on someone else. I wanted to spend it doing something that I could control, something that I would always look back on fondly. And when I took my first, my birthday trip, I realized that travel was that thing for me. It was something that made me feel empowered. I felt really good about myself when I transported myself around the world and I could see these wonders in real life. And so I thought, if I can do one of these trips every month, what a great way to send out my 20s. What a way to celebrate from someone who had always followed the rules. I'd always celebrated my birthday for 24 hours. I'd never burdened my friends with a month-long celebration and a whole series of events. And so I thought, why don't I do that for me? There's no one monitoring me. There's no one saying I can only celebrate in January when my birthday is. I have this year left. And this is something that I can do to send this year out in a way that's memorable, that's meaningful, and that makes me feel like that was time well spent. And I have no regrets.

Danielle Desir Corbett: you know, as I was reading your book, what resonated with me in your book, you talk about you feeling that there was this immense pressure for you to find your partner, for you to get married and have kids all before your thirties and time was ticking. So that to me was very, it resonated with me because I remember when I was in the process of buying my own home, my grandparents were like, no, wait for your husband. And I'm like, I'm not even dating anybody. Like there's nobody in sight. So I love that you took initiative and this challenge was a great way to like build that consistency in your life as well. So in your book, you say, quote, it wasn't the men or the dating apps that needed to change. It was me. When did you realize that you had to do something drastically different for your own self-happiness?

Jen Ruiz: I think that I was seeing the same pattern repeat itself with dating that I think a lot of women can empathize with, particularly now in 2024. It's why we have so many TV shows about this and what it is to date online in a world of social media. I know you had really good luck with it and you are, you know, kind of the poster girl of success for what it means to find someone. And that's all to say that I don't think the apps, you know, I think they work. That's why I said it's not that I think the apps are the problem. I think there's a lot of people that have had success and found their partners through these methods. But it was that I was coming from a place of really feeling the pressure to manufacture that outcome such that I couldn't really connect with someone in any meaningful way that wasn't tied with that expectation and that timeline, right? Because there was that external goal that I needed somebody to be able to reach. And so it was like working on a group project, but you don't even have your group members yet. And you know, like time's running out and you're an A student and you always get an A. And so you're like, are you going to be on this project? Are you going to pull your weight as part of the team? We need an answer. And so. like that's not really the right way to go about things. And it wasn't the most fruitful, but it was really hard to not come at it from that space, because of all of that external pressure and all of those expectations. And I don't think that it's something that's universally, I do think that romance and that pressure is definitely a universal theme. But I think in the US, it's definitely enhanced that if you're not Married by 30 and some countries have it much less right some countries. It could be if you're not married by 20 You've reached this spinster quote-unquote status, but there are other countries who are like 30. You're just getting started so it really depends on where you are and for me it was wanting to find a way that I could gracefully enter that next decade and without that sense of need, without that sense of, like, desperation, without that sense of wanting to force something, and being in the energy to allow things to happen for me organically as they're meant to.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Absolutely. You know, I would love for listeners of the show to be able to think about how they can plan their own 12 trips in 12 months, or just get out, explore more often, and have that transformation for themselves. So with that being said, I know that you talked about being an attorney at the time, having a demanding job. So I'm super curious, how did you actually make that happen? Did your boss ever get suspicious of you? The time factor is a huge, I think, deterrence for a lot of people. So how did you overcome that?

Jen Ruiz: Absolutely. And for me too, because I was in a position where sometimes I had emergency clients come in, I think first and foremost, it does help to have some semblance of help with coworkers. It helps to be kind to others. It helps to share favors in hopes that they'll cover for you when you're gone. So I definitely had at least two coworkers who, if anything did happen and an emergency client came in. were available and made themselves available to cover for me. So that was something that, and you know, I tried to reciprocate that as much as I could while I was there as well. So having that sense of camaraderie, I know sometimes in work fields, it could be every man for themselves or you want to see people less, but it really does help to socialize and be nice to people and make friends. You spend a lot of your time with these people and then also planning ahead. So for me, I wasn't necessarily Booking out a holiday the month before once everybody else started booking out that holiday. I put in my requests for time Right away as soon as I knew the calendar and I had these days marked on my calendar And I tried as much as possible to take three-day weekends around those days Understanding that those days were going to be in demand knowing I had to put those requests in early And that I might, again, have to trade favors with people for me to be able to have those days and then to have others. So really working from that collaborative sense and giving a lot of planning and strategic thinking to this. And then last, not making apologies, like really having it of the mindset that this is time that I have earned. This is time that has been given to me. This is time that's part of my benefits. And then not making excuses. I think so many people get nervous about calling out. And I did have those moments where I called out sick to do once-in-a-lifetime things. I went to go watch a taping of The Chew at Disney at Epcot. during the Food and Wine Festival. And I also pulled out to go on a hot air balloon in Albuquerque during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta at a time when 300 other hot air balloons were going up at the same time. So it was really a marvelous like both of those experiences were once in a lifetime things that I wasn't going to pass up. And I personally believe that it's unfortunate if somebody is sick and has to use those days for medical reason. And I don't believe that all ailments are Visible, I think that mental health is just as valid I think you can be burned out and I don't think you need to be Physically hugging a toilet during your sick day to be able to take that sick day That is again still your day and there's no qualification on what does or doesn't account for a sick day So I think as long as you're taking them sporadically responsibly not taking out, you know a whole week at a time but you're allowed to take a sick day here and there and You don't need to make up crazy excuses. You don't need to say, I have pink eye. You don't have to say, my kid got lice. All you have to say is, I'm taking a sick day today, period. Don't give excuses. Don't ask. Just notify. Yeah, I'm taking a sick day, not may I, but this is to let you know that I am. And that's it. And do it without guilt. Because honestly, in the grand scheme of things, if you're doing good work, if you know that things are taken care of, if you know that there's somebody to cover you, if you know that your email is not overflowing, that you monitor it, that you made sure that you didn't have meetings there. I think there's ways to do this responsibly. And again, that's something where in the US, We have that emphasis on overworking yourself to the point that even when you get sick, you still feel you have to come to work. And I think that there's so many things you can do to prevent that, including taking days meant to nurture and really foster your mental health and well-being.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Empowerment. Empowerment because I remember like this is not even before remote work was a thing. Like this is when you literally have to come to the office and the flight like got canceled and it was Monday morning and I'm like, I don't know how I'm going to get to work. And I felt this immense pressure and this immense like I literally can't come in, but I knew again that I was a good worker. I was on top of my game and I just told them, hey, I can't come in. So I love that frame of empowerment and that allows you again to go and book those trips and plan this epic adventure. So I love all those things. I also think it's important that we talk about the finances. We're half travel and half personal finance here. So affordability? How did you do it? Did you have a side hustle? Were you able to comfortably pursue all of these trips at one time? What was your financial systems behind the scenes of what did that look like?

Jen Ruiz: Absolutely. So it was twofold. First, it was making more money every month in a meaningful way. And I did this through teaching English online with VIP kid. At the moment, they're not accepting teachers outside of China due to different legislation. However, there's many different programs. I tutor Cambly magic years that still work with teachers around the world. And so basically this was something that I was doing, let's say from 5 AM, 6 AM. So it was an additional way that I could earn revenue on hours where I was already at home. I could do it remotely. So nobody saw me, you know, I didn't have to go anywhere. I didn't have to commute. And it was a way to make meaningful money because I realized early on that even with asking for a raise at my attorney job, when I was given a $5,000 raise after working up the courage to ask for one, having my voice cracking and betraying me the whole time, it was really embarrassing. And they agreed to it. I remember thinking like I sound so unsure of myself, but really it's just so much emotion that I'm so sure that I deserve this raise and I really want to sway you. And so after all of that, I got it and I was so excited to see that payout and it came out to like maybe an extra hundred or so dollars every pay period. Definitely not anything meaningful where I'm going to be able to pay for trips. And so this other job that I had taken on my first month, even though I did overwork myself, To a point that wasn't sustainable and that I wouldn't be able to do now as i'm much older I need more sleep, but I was working, you know all through the night like I would work from 9 p.m Until 6 a.m. Like saturdays and sundays and I would just be nocturnal and I'd knock out bulk classes And so my first month I made about eighteen hundred dollars and now we're talking meaningful money Now we're talking with $1,800, I can plan a trip somewhere. I can make this stretch for me. So that was the first aspect. And then the second aspect was saving money on travel. But specifically, the biggest place that I focused was on the flight, because I found that to be the most cost prohibitive for people. You could find budget accommodations, you can find street food in most places, but the flight was still difficult. And so I went to the library. I took out every book I could about finding affordable flights. That's how I came across Scott Keys, the founder of Going. And so I first subscribed to his newsletter, and I learned about flight alerts. I took out my very first credit card. I am Puerto Rican, and so my family does not believe in credit cards. It has taken me this long just to convince my parents, who are entrepreneurs, that they should be using you know, their business cards to get these points and miles, because they have all these big business expenses. And even then you have no idea the uphill battle, because we don't trust credit, we look at it as living beyond your means. And it doesn't have to be that way. And so once I got over that mindset, once I was able to take out my first credit card, and just have everything work out without incident, which that was it, it was a JetBlue co branded card, I knew that JetBlue operated out of Fort Lauderdale, where I was based, and I knew that they had a low minimum spend threshold. They only required me to spend $1,000 within the first three months to get a full award of points, and that didn't seem scary to me. I thought I can handle this, I can pay it off, I won't get into debt over this, let's just see what happens. And then simultaneously JetBlue had launched a new route at that time to Aruba. So they were having sales on that route and I was able to get my round trip flight With points total, I got one flight for 560 and the other one for a little bit more. So total, I got it for under $70 round trip to Aruba. And then Aruba hadn't been on my radar, but because there was a deal that was really hard to pass up, I ended up going. I swam with sea turtles. I learned they have a desert on the middle of the island that was unexpected. You know, I wrote a segue for the first time. I tried Dutch pancakes. It was really lovely and I believe every place has something to explore for the traveler that's willing to discover it So for me aruba was just a great way to see that travel hacking can occur without bankrupting you without putting you in a precarious financial position and that it's really something that This is where being in the u.s. Finally, we have the perk because other places just really do not offer points and miles and that kind of redemption in the same way that we have here. So just by virtue of being geographically located in the US, I would take advantage and redirect all my existing expenses onto something where I can get travel benefits back from it.

Danielle Desir Corbett: I love that. You're speaking my language 100 percent. Hey, Financi Savvy Travelers, I hope you're enjoying this conversation with Jen Ruiz. When you subscribe to my free newsletter, I'll send you three of my top savings strategies to save money to travel. These strategies have helped me to travel to over 27 countries, guilt free and also debt free. All you have to do is visit thoughtcard.com slash savings. Again, that's thoughtcard.com slash savings to sign up. The link will also be in the episode description. Were you following the flight deals as you were planning out your year of trips, or did you have an approach where you definitely had these bucket list destinations that you wanted to hit as well?

Jen Ruiz: It was a mix of both. So I definitely was on the list. So formerly Scott's cheap flights now going, I was getting those alerts all the time. I was just kind of tracking and seeing what's out there. And there were certain trips like I was able to get my trip to Argentina for $330 round trip through a flight alert. And so that was great. But at the same time, I had places I knew I wanted to go. So I knew I wanted to be in France and see the lavender fields of France in summer. And that's a peak season trip. It's tough to find deals. So I knew that the earlier, the better in terms of booking that July flight to France. So I booked that flight, I think around February, the minute I found a deal. And I looked at budget airlines, which are another great way to save money, because even if it's no frills, and even if you have to add a lot of things, you can add them at your leisure. And so it felt like a layaway program for a flight, like I put this money down now, I got my seat. I come back with $40 later and I can designate that it's not a middle seat. And then before I check in, I can pay X money for the luggage, right? So it felt like I have this ability to pace out those payments and select what of that I really thought was necessary. I know I definitely took one route where I was like, let's just gamble and just see what seat they give me. And on the way back, I was like, it's worth the $30 to select the seat.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Absolutely. Oh my gosh. We've all been there. There's airlines where you don't even recline and you just up the whole time, which is awful, awful, awful. You gave so many great tips and suggestions there when it comes to keeping costs low and also managing your time when you have a demanding full-time job. What I love about solo travel, but I think it's a common misconception, is that solo travel, you're alone. Solo is alone, you're going to be lonely, and that's not always the case. So what's the reality of solo travel and what's the magic that lies with solo travel, which is a part of the title of your book as well?

Jen Ruiz: Yeah, I think that is a great question because it is what women think and fear and what holds them back from taking that Step and I have found that actually when you're alone, you're much more approachable You're much more open to things when you're with Somebody and every way to travel is valid. There's no one amazing way. There's no one better way but I found the difference in traveling with a friend is that I was being immersed with that friend and experiencing things through that friend. And so they were sort of a buffer between me and the rest of the world. If I was in a cab, I didn't have to speak the language. I can speak to my friend. If I lose my wallet, I don't have to interact with locals. My friends can spot me money. So there's a buffer. It's like a safety blanket of sorts. And there's nothing wrong with that. And I love traveling with friends, family, when appropriate. not my preferred method per se, but there's definitely value to every way of traveling with people. And I found that when you travel alone, there's no buffer. So really you have no choice but to speak to the people that you're in the taxi with, right? Unless you're going to be on your phone the whole time, which I hope that your roaming charges or the ECM that you've paid for is all really handled. Good luck. So but you're talking to the person in the car, you're talking to the bellman, you're talking to the front desk clerk, you're talking to the waiter at the restaurant, you know, a waiter sees you're alone, male or female, and they're kind of going to ask questions, they're going to want to make sure you're okay, they linger longer, when you're with somebody, they take your order and they leave. And so it just gives opportunity for people to be able to interact with you more because you're by yourself, just by nature of being by yourself. And then because of that, I think that you have the opportunity to experience what I call solo travel magic when these amazing things happen, right? When somebody gives you a free gift, when you get invited somewhere, because it's easier to give a free gift or invite you somewhere when you're just one person than when it's four of you, right? And so for me, one instance of this was in Florence, which I talk about in the February chapter of the book, where we go to an opera, and I sit in the front row, and I have the entire opera dedicated to me during the intermission. where they stop and they go, you know, we want to dedicate this to a special lady in the front row. And I have no idea. And I'm looking around trying to figure out who are they talking about. And then this man in Italy serenades me and, you know, just sings this beautiful song in the middle of this opera setting in a small church. And it's just so wonderful. And it felt like that was a gift Special for me that was something that the universe sent to me to tell me you know bravo For going on your own for being here for taking that risk and we're gonna keep sending these little treats along the way To let you know that you're in the right place, and that's that's all travel magic

Danielle Desir Corbett: I love that because in January, in that section of the book, you talk about how you're in Greece and there's this amazing restaurant that everyone is recommending and you, you know, have no reservation. You just walk in and they're like, yes, here, you know, come sit and you have this amazing dish. So do you have any other examples of that solo travel magic that you're like, this is like amazing and more people should definitely be tapping into this?

Jen Ruiz: Yes, so many times times where I've been invited to people's houses, not necessarily in the book, but shortly thereafter, I was in Bali, and I spent three weeks at a homestay. And I saw a lot of people to homestay because they all had private rooms and like on suites, it was part of why I picked it. And I just saw the difference in how they interacted. When they came for breakfast, because there was breakfast every morning, they talked with each other. They were making their plans with each other, sharing food with each other. When I came for breakfast, again, because I'm by myself, I don't have anyone here else to talk to, I'm talking to the woman who's making the breakfast. I'm talking to the owner of the homestay. And so just by virtue of being there alone throughout the course of those three weeks, I learned a lot about this family. And then by the end of those three weeks, they actually invited me with them to a Balinese ceremony at a temple where I was the only non-Balinese person in attendance. The mother dressed me up in all of her ceremonial attire. She put the flower in my hair. They, you know, had me with them. She held me like arm in arm. I sat down with them. I'm not knowing what is happening. And as she's kind of just helping showing me, you know, this is what's going to happen next. I was the only person there who was not Balinese. And to feel that I was privy to that just by virtue of having shown curiosity, of having been open to getting to know these people further. And because of that, they rewarded me by bringing me in and by really saying, hey, we see that you're alone and we want you to experience this sense of family here while you're here. And they still cheer me on, they still keep in contact with me. We're friends on Facebook. And so those are the really beautiful, meaningful, wonderful experiences that I think you can have that so many people are scared about, because they think that the only way that they'll be able to be safe, or that they'll be able to really enjoy a destination without that sense of self doubt or worry is in the company of others. when really, if you go by yourself, you will find company, unless you're going completely to the middle of nowhere, like deserted mountain hike for your own walkabout purposes, you will find people, you will find connection, you will find company, it's impossible not to. And that's the shift that I think you realize that it's really difficult to actually be alone, as long as you're open to the people that you meet along the way.

Danielle Desir Corbett: So powerful. So powerful. The word that came to me is self-reliance. Because when you're home, you're doing your same routine. You're not being put outside of your comfort zone. So it becomes normal to do your routine. But when you're outside of that, you have to rely on self. And sometimes you have to rely on others. In your book, you talk about how you're at a bus stop. In January, you're in Greece as well, and you're doing these sign languages with this elderly woman who is telling you how beautiful you looked. And again, these are the things that you may not capture if you're with others. So again, these are all just amazing things. I love solo travel, even through life changes. Because I think also as women, if you get married, you find a partner, you start having kids, the solo travel starts to dim down. And then you kind of default into, I only travel with my family. But I do encourage, even if you're at different stages in your life, to definitely consider solo travel. Definitely. Absolutely. You talk about 12 trips in 12 months, no excuses, no excuses. And you didn't capitalize it in the book, but I felt the energy you were trying to, like you were trying to give off. No excuses was emphasized. And also I know you well. So I felt like I was hearing your voice speaking to me when you're saying no excuses. So for those who want to join 12 trips in 12 months, the challenge, how do you stay dedicated to completing and seeing it through? I think that is like, sometimes you get excited about traveling and you're like, I'm going to do it. But then maybe money's running out or time or the challenges that come up. So let's talk about commitment. How do you stay intact in there?

Jen Ruiz: And that's why I think the aspect of the challenge is so important, because it puts that added level of pressure on you. And it's so easy to not do something. It's so easy to stop. Same thing with going to the gym. Once you start, if nobody's watching you, if there's no accountability, it's just easy to just stop after 15 minutes. It's just easy to not see things through. But the way that we build self-esteem, the way we build confidence, is by keeping promises that we make to ourselves. So every time you set out on something like that, any kind of personal goal that you want to accomplish, and you don't follow it through, a little part of you dies because a little part of you is disappointed yourself. And that's really what this is all about. It's not about showing anything to anybody else. It's not about It's not about proving anything. It's about really feeling like you set out to do something and you did that thing. And so I think public accountability comes into play here. I know a lot of people talk about moving in silence. I don't like moving in silence because I think it means you're not going to end up moving. It means when things go wrong, you stop doing things. I think a lot about Nas daily, who had his take 1000, you know, videos in 1000 days. And he had a moment where he was like, this is just so discouraging. Nobody's watching it. And I could just not make a video today. Because why does it matter? Five people saw it anyway, look at this other content that's doing so much better than mine. Why bother? Nobody cares that I'm on this challenge, right? And if he hadn't made that video that day, It would have been a domino effect and he wouldn't be where he is today, right? Affecting millions of people around the world. And it was because of that consistency to stick to the challenge, even through the tough parts. And that's why I think silence is difficult because when you're suffering in silence, when you're doing everything in silence, you don't have people cheering you on. You don't have other people invested in your journey. You don't have other people saying, hey, where are you going to next month? And that just adds a level. There's a reason why marathon runners have people that come and see them through. I just ran my first half marathon, and I can't tell you how many times I was like, oh, I'm ready to call it Uber. So it's tough. It's really hard to finish something that you start. And with a challenge, it just adds that level of accountability, that level of there's a start time and there's an end time. There's a goal here. You clearly know when you meet it. And all you have to do is just keep going to meet that goal. How it comes out, the quality of the things that you're doing, The trips, I know a lot of people have asked me, I don't have that time to go internationally. Do you not have to go internationally? The point of this is you've taken yourself out of your routine. You've gone somewhere different. I recently moved back to Florida and I went swimming with manatees, which is something that I've been wanting to do for years. And I didn't want to waste another season and think, oh, I could do this later just because it's nearby. I want to go and do this right now. This is an experience I want to log under my belt. So I think having that challenge gives you that motivation of I'm doing this right now. I'm doing this even if it doesn't look pretty I'm doing this even if other people don't understand it don't get it I'm gonna share it and the people that are meant to see it will see it and You'll be surprised who ends up cheering you on you'll be surprised how much you motivate others Just by virtue of sticking to what you say you're gonna do and it can be small You know, it doesn't there's no rule book to this. And I think that's the other thing. Nobody's watching. Nobody's monitoring. Nobody has a measuring stick. Nobody's comparing you to others. It's amazing when you accomplish something that you set out to do, whatever that is. And so if you decide to take a travel challenge, really give yourself grace and think to yourself, how can I make this feasible for me? If it's a month where I can't fly anywhere, What's a cool road trip destination or something I can see in my own state? That's gonna be really fun for me Even if it's just a day trip if you can't get a day off, you know But really make it a point to stick to this and to publicize and celebrate your wins because too many times the things we do in silence or on our own are not seen and they should be you should be celebrating yourself more you should be sharing more because again, I feel like being social and being a community is where you really get that push to keep going in the moments where you want to give up.

Danielle Desir Corbett: So inspiring. And I love that you reiterated that you do not have to go internationally. That is huge. Right. And again, when you read the book, you're going to feel that what I felt, it was like no excuses. That was like, yes. No excuses, no excuses, Danielle. And I no longer have a full-time job, meaning nine to five, but as a mom, I could be making excuses, right? With a toddler, I could be making excuses. There's just so many excuses that we have, but I love the visibility. I love that public accountability and how detrimental moving in silence can be. So I love that. I also love the transformation piece that you cover as well in the book. After the challenge, you found your true purpose as a storyteller. So, how did this challenge lead you to change your career? And were there any other transformations? I mean, you're an author. You're a multi, multi-published author. So, I feel like the transformations are ongoing, so I'd love to touch on that as well.

Jen Ruiz: Absolutely. So a lot of people think law and travel writing are two unrelated professions, but I actually think there's a lot in common. I used to be a public speaker in a courtroom where I would persuade the jury, you know, by the time we're done, this is the story I'm going to tell you. And you're going to see that my story is a better story than this guy's story. And that's similar to what I'm doing now. I'm still doing public speaking. I'm still sharing stories of people from around the world, trying to convey them in a way that's interesting to others, that makes others feel engaged. And so there's a lot of the same skill sets. And for me, I didn't necessarily see myself making the switch, but I knew that in litigation, I was happy that I was helping people and I was happy that I was doing the work I was doing, but I wasn't happy with the day to day and what that entailed, which was a lot of fighting, a lot of stress, a lot of games, you know, that you have to play with opposing counsel that just felt really high stress for me. There's an episode of friends. I don't know if you ever watched friends, but there's an episode of friends where they show like an alternative universe of what they might've been like. And so Phoebe becomes this high stakes attorney and she like loses a ton of money and she ends up in the hospital over a heart attack. And she's still like, you know, trying to be on the phone, managing everything. And I saw that being kind of where that career was leading and that you're putting the results of professional gain above your own well-being. And even when I switched to a nonprofit firm, because I was at a private firm before where I was working Thanksgiving, you know, Christmas day. And now with a nonprofit firm, there was much more of a semblance of a work-life balance, much more of a supportive community, all federal holidays. I mean, I was all home president's day. I mean, so it was really as good as it could get. And even then I felt like it didn't really feel like this was it for me I just had an inner sense of knowing that this is great. This is a great setup. This is a great office These are great co-workers. This is a beautiful city. I live in I have everything And it doesn't feel like the puzzle piece has clicked yet Even though for maybe for most other people this would be the final landing spot and that's why I was pursuing this on the side And that's why I had the energy to work through the night, to do all these things on the off hours, because I was so passionate about this other thing that it didn't matter that it didn't have my primary energy. I gave it everything I had extra without even thinking about it. I just liked it. And so writing, creative work, traveling, I felt energized doing that work. And it was my first time. One of my trips in April of that year was actually to a travel blogger conference. I attended my first TBEX and I knew immediately the difference because I had been to many law conferences. I had come in late. I had sat in the back. I had hoped they didn't call on me. I was browsing the internet while pretending to take notes. I was so disengaged and just ready to go for dinner, to the pool, to do everything except actually be in this session learning from this session. And then when I went to TBEX and I'm in a travel conference, it's different. Now I'm trying to make as many sessions as possible. I'm sitting in the front row. I'm taking notes. I'm talking to them afterwards. There's not enough time. This day is going so fast. I'm meeting so many fascinating people. And so that was my first sign that I'm doing the wrong thing. My energy is not alive in this way as it is when I'm in this setting. And so that's why I was pursuing that. And then at the end of the year, I wrote my first book. Not 12 trips in 12 months, which is the book that's being published now. And what I wanted to write at the time, the memoir about the experience, but rather a nonfiction book on how to find affordable flights, because that's what everybody had been asking me. And I had been listening to podcasts on self publishing. I've been learning about self publishing on the side, and I've learned that you need to kind of vet the market before you write a book. And I realized that unintentionally, I had been marketing this book all along by sharing my $330 deal to Argentina, things like that. So I already have an audience that's trying to receive a book about affordable flights. And so I'm going to give the audience what they want. And in doing so, I'm going to test for myself if I am able to make money, not Jen as a teacher for VIP kid, you know, not Jen as an attorney, but Jen from Jen on the jet plane with her own product as an entrepreneur from my own resources. And so just seeing that income stream trickle in, which was maybe about $200 a month at first, ultimately that I would get in royalties. It still showed me I'm capable of doing this and I can scale this. So originally the plan was just, okay, that's one book. If I write 20, we're good. So that was the goal. And then the pandemic came around and that's when I switched to getting my book deal and really attempting to get this story told in a way that was different, in a way that maybe led to film and TV rights, and just different opportunities that I hadn't pursued as a self-published author. But see, that first step in the journey, that seeing myself and betting on myself and putting something out there that showed that I could make money online just by virtue of being me, my own business, that was all the encouragement I needed. And I haven't looked back. It's been six years full-time now.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Oh my goodness. So inspiring and so incredible. And what speaks to me is that first step, right? Taking that first step and seeing what happens, I think is so transformative in all aspects. Finances, travel, personal life, like all of the things. So if someone wants to take their first step and take the challenge and do the 12 trips in 12 months, where do they start?

Jen Ruiz: You can start on my website, 12tripsin12months.com. I have actually put together a webinar to help you start where we'll just quickly review what you need to know to do your own travel challenge and hopefully set you up for success.

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