Interview with Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads: Lucky 13 Questions

I think I am correct in saying this… Jodi’s was the first travel blog I ever read. Early on in my RTW trip, I did some sort of google search trying to find my blog (at the time, it was The Mobile Lawyer) and ran into her blog, Legal Nomads. Lucky for me, the first blog I ever found was one of the very best.

Back then, I really had no idea that anyone else was travel blogging.  I thought it was funny she had a similarly titled blog and roughly similar story and background, and therefore I emailed her.

From such beginnings, a mostly (though unfortunately) long-distance friendship was struck and now I talk to her pretty much every week. She is one of the most popular travel bloggers out there – it is literally amazing how many people comment on her posts, Facebook page and the like. She’s also incredible self-effacing, so I’ll say it on her behalf – someday soon she’s going to be big, really BIG, because her talent jumps from the page.

She is one of my favorite people on the planet — a great writer — sharp as a tack — and the embodiment of the phrase, “good things come in small packages.” So go check out her blog, Legal Nomads, follow her on Twitter, and enjoy her well-crafted answers to the Lucky 13.

Jodi Ettenberg in Roman Toga
Jodi as an ancient Roman… dude.

1. If you could be transported to one day/place in time, what would it be and why?

Fun question. There are so many places and times, though! Just before the big bang? Ancient Rome or Ancient Egypt? In any case, I’d like to do so as a guy and not a woman because there’s no way I’d be allowed to rabble-rouse if I was transported in my current state!

2. Best single piece of technical advice (other than “provide good content”) you have received about travel blogging?

Not to listen to other people about how to run a good travel blog and instead focus on passionate writing, be it positive or negative in spin.

3. Game that entertains you for hours on end?

The Settlers of Catan

4. Most annoying nationality of any travelers that you have run across?

I’m not taking the bait, Hodson! 🙂

There’s no set nationality that’s more annoying than others, just occasionally annoying people from different places.  After 3 years of travel, it’s hard not to play “guess the nationality” when you spot a new traveler, but rarely do I speculate on their level of annoyingness – until they open their mouths.

5. What is your favorite article of clothing?

Sarong. More uses than I ever knew.

6.  You famously, or infamously, have been crapped on by about a dozen birds.  And I know you are a believer in travel karma.  So, let’s cut to the chase — what did you do to anger the travel gods?

I wish I knew. The crappings seem to get more elaborate, too. It started with just one crap, and then I had a twofer in Burma (with witnesses for each) and then while telling a couple about my bird crap problem, a bird took a shit on my head. Of course, with the bat that crapped on me in the Dominican Republic, I’m now worried that I’ve started down a terrifyingly slippery slope. Mammals? I can’t handle this.

emma watson black dress hand in air
“Stop!! I am getting the wand out for the next person who says I remind them of this Jodi person…”

7. Who plays you in the movie of your life?

I don’t think my face resembles any movie star, but my brother swears that Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter movies) has the same mannerisms I do. Given that she’s in her early 20s, I’ll take this as a big compliment. (Yes, I know this is a Lucky 13 theme at this point….)

8. Fill in the blank: If I were Queen for a day, I would make __________ illegal and punishable by _________.

I would make whistling punishable by being pelted with durian fruit. I don’t know why, but whistling drives me crazy. My younger brother figured this out by the time he was 12 and spent the next 5 years whistling into my ears. Sigh.

9. Whose brain would you like to swap yours with for a month?

My friend Jacomo.  Not only is he one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but he has a huge skull – his brain must be large too, no? I figure I might as well maximize my results. I have a very tiny head, so any adult-sized brain would be an improvement.

Jodi Ettenberg grandfather
“these kids today… no respect for a quality bowling effort”

10. What is your high score bowling?

The last time I went bowling I was seven years old and I believe it was almost a negative number. But my grandfather – who is now 92 – still bowls and almost perfect game. If anyone’s looking for a bowling guru, I have your man.

11. Tell us something interesting about one of your ancestors. (farther back than parents, in this case)

While each promised to other people, my maternal grandparents got engaged the day they met during the Second World War. My grandfather was in the Air Force and stationed in England and the second he saw my grandmother it was love. He is such a shy man but couldn’t help but ask her where she was headed as she walked by. And they stayed up on the beach and talked until the sun came up, when he proposed on the spot. And she accepted! Married until she passed away in 1998, they were a beautiful, symbiotic couple.

12. Travel book you most wish you have “lived through.”

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

13.  Give us your one paragraph obituary, a long time down the road.

Jodi lived a full life of travel, food and exploration, thirsty to learn about everything she could to the very last day.

58 thoughts on “Interview with Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads: Lucky 13 Questions

  1. Love Jodi and would love to meet her one day!

    Okay fine, just kidding, we’ve met 🙂 The answer to number 12 – hilarious! Love the synchronicity of your grandparents’ meeting, what a beautiful story 🙂

    1. Ha! Funny. Speaking of synchronicity, you were the first person who wasn’t family or friends to start commenting on my blog, so thank you for being a reader from the very beginning!

  2. Awesome interview with one of my all time favourite bloggers! I’m looking very forward to meeting Jodi this summer when she returns to our mutual home town of Montreal. Not only is she an amazing writer, smart, and funny, but she is also a big Habs fan! What a gal! :^D

    1. Thanks Ken! I’m looking forward to meeting you too, and of course sharing some poutine. (Mmmm….poutine). Let’s hope we eliminate the Bruins like we did all those other times, even if it means forcing them into a Game 7.

      1. Poutine… Awesome! Game 7 is a reality! Let’s hope we meet for a Habs cup final, poutine and a few Molsons. Wooot!

  3. Mike, thank you for having me and for the very kind words in your introduction. ‘Twas a treat to meet you in person in Colombia this fall, and looking forward to catching up at TBEX.

    The photoshop job on the “me as a Roman dude” pic is so good that I won’t even put Hop & Jaunt on my shit list – and kudos to you for digging through Facebook photos to grab one of me with short hair!

  4. Fantastic interview with one of my favorites!! I love that she reads Bill Bryson too, he’s such a wonderful storyteller. Also, what a wonderful story about her grandparents.

    1. Thanks Kirsten! Bryson is great on so many levels and a compelling read no matter how boring the topic. If only I could make history sound as fascinating as he does!

  5. Great interview, we love reading your posts Jodi. And we are huge Settlers of Catan fans too (although now just iPod and online version b/c carrying around the board would be just silly). Too funny about the bird shit, but Dalene was told that if you get shit on my a bird it’s two years of good luck. She’s been shit on a few times, and we’ve had pretty good luck since 😉

    1. Thank you Pete! And I really enjoyed your Housesitting 101 post as well. Settlers is the best though the mobile version (they do make a small version) just doesn’t cut it. Will check out the online version – hadn’t thought of doing that instead!

      If it’s 2 years per shit, I’m golden for awhile! Let’s keep Dalene and me away from the trees or power wires if ever we cross paths in person 😉

  6. I can’t stand whistling either Jodi! Drives me crazy. We’ll have to make sure there is no whistling at our next twitaoke. Can’t wait to catch up in Portland and Vancouver!

    1. YES! A moratorium on all whistling during any twitaoke is an excellent idea. Can’t wait to see you too – is Michael coming as well?

    1. Coconut FTW! Hope you two are doing well on the first leg of your adventures. Safe travels!

  7. A lovely interview with one of my favorite people on the internet. I especially enjoyed the story about her grandparents! And, as Kirsten said earlier, Bill Bryson’s travel writing still casts a spell over us all…

    1. Thank you Roxanne. As you already know, I really enjoy your unique perspective and beautiful writing so the admiration is mutual. One of these days we’ll actually have to meet up in person!

    1. Thanks Akila! Congrats on your new site launch – looking forward to seeing it grow.

  8. In Latin culture, getting pooped on by birds is a symbol of good luck. Personally, I think it’s just a shitty situation. Either way you look at it great interview Jodi!

    1. See, this is what I say too. In most cultures it’s good luck or coming fortune but it seems to me just a way to make you feel better about the fact that a winged creature just defecated on you. And even if it WAS good luck ….. 11 times?! That’s a vendetta.

  9. Ha ha I was laughing from the moment I got an email from Michael asking me to turn Jodi into a Roman…Dude! So glad we’re not on your shit-list 😉

    Another great interview!

    1. Yes, you two are off the hook but I think Michael needs the photoshop treatment himself. What say you? (Mwahahah…)

  10. Another great interview! Jodi is also one of my favorite people to read and the first blog I ever subscribed to! Great getting to know more about her. I will make sure to keep my distance in outdoor spaces if we meet for fear of the birds! 🙂

    1. Wow, Jer – I didn’t know that. Though judging by your comments I’m going to lose you as a subscriber if I keep posting about food and making you hungry! 😉 Fear not- today’s post is a Thrillable Hours interview.

  11. I’ve met Jodi and she’s not kidding. She really does have a small head.

    Good job you two. Keep it up. There are people who don’t, or simply can’t, go for a walkabout.

    PS- You’ve both been tagged in a photo of merely words, but they were said by one of the great travel writers of all time.

    1. Hah, thanks Chance. While many people have very valid reasons for being unable to travel, some create obstacles because the fear of starting over at something they don’t know well (as opposed to whatever skill they’ve honed or industry they’ve worked in) takes over. This, too, I understand, but it’s different from being unable to go. At least there are lots of travel bloggers out there to either inspire or provide some armchair traveling! Thanks for the tag – great quote.

  12. Really enjoyed this interview – Jodi’s blog is great & it’s always fun to find out more about the person behind it. Can totally see Emma Watson playing her in a movie 😉

  13. Jodi!!!! How have we not talked about Settlers!! I’m bringing it with me to Mali! I was secretly hoping that on our walk down 5th ave in park slope you were going to fall victim to a pigeon crap, but it was not to be. Maybe I am good luck?

    1. Ahhhh! We covered so much ground but missed Settlers! Bessie & Kyle from Our Own Path are obsessed too. We’re in good company. Discovered the game when I read the long Wired mag profile about it several years back and it’s terrific. Awesome that you’re bringing it with you to Mali! (And yes, you are clearly my get-out-of-birdcrap free card).

  14. OK when I saw that first picture of Jodi as a warrior, I totally thought she might have gone to Rome to do one of those gladiator courses! Nice editing skills =) She looks a lot like Princess Leia!

  15. I remember when your blog was on Blogger and I thought you had a humorous, easygoing and intelligent way of seeing travel.

    That philosophy still holds true today and I look forward to getting to know you more and more!

    Based on that Photoshop job by Michael, maybe you should have a themed Roman party, togas & all?

    1. It took me forever to get off blogger, much to the consternation of David and Gary, who bothered me consistently until I got my act together and made the move! Thank you for the kind words and looking forward to seeing you in June in your hometown – perhaps we should make preBEX into a toga party? 😉

  16. Great interview! I’m totally loving the series, and Jodi seems to have been a great and fun interviewee! Though someone’s got an obsession with being petite! 😉 Awesome nonetheless!

    1. Oh Mona, it’s not an obsession – it’s a lifetime of people making jokes about my size 🙂 My best friends refer to me as Bite Size or Half Pint (the latter referring more to my ability to tolerate alcohol than merely my size), but on my travels it’s been even more fun. In Bangkok during the protests, the Thai soldiers would take photos with their cell phones, exclaiming that I was a “Thai-sized Farang” and in Burma the captain of my night ferry thought it was so funny that I was sized “like a Burmese girl” and paraded me to the whole crew, who nicknamed me piysee (meaning small Burmese girl). But the kicker came in Hpa-An, when the owner of my hotel (Mr. Soe) took me aside on my 3rd day to ask in all seriousness why I was so small when the other tourists were so big, asking “did your mother feed you properly as a child?”. HA! I’m actually 5 feet tall, which isn’t a midget by any means, but the thread throughout has been my size in comparison to other travelers, and while constant it’s become a fun connection to have with the local people.

  17. “Mammals? I can’t handle this!”

    Ahhh, Jodi, you’re a superstar!

    I’m in the camp that’s been reading Legal Nomads for, like, ever, and it’s really gone from strength to strength. It’s one of the very few blogs I’ll read from start to finish no matter what.

    Great interview 🙂 And I love the toga pic!

    1. Thanks Megan! And thank you also for being a long-time reader. I’m very glad you’ve enjoyed the blog over the years.

  18. Hmm I havent been crapped on by a bird for like 15 years or so, I wonder what you did to make that happen 🙂 Couldnt agree more the whistling should be punishable, it can be so annoying if someone keeps doing that. Good to hear its not just me. Great interview

    1. Not just you, and apparently Michaela agrees too! Perhaps we need to start a new no whistling club?

  19. That picture of Jodi was worth all the anticipation 🙂 Great interview with a traveller that without a doubt has a heart of gold.

    1. Aw, thanks Chris. You’re too kind. The same goes for you, and I know everyone else will back me up on this. No one is more helpful with site questions, random technical issues and “whoops I deleted my entire site by mistake HELP!” problems than you.

      1. Thx Jodi, next time your over this way i’ll have to pin you down for a catch up.

        1. Ummmm, pin you down must have a different meaning Down Under…

        2. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll need to give you language lessons when I hit you up for my bar tab Michael 🙂

  20. I remember finding Jodi’s blog while I was researching where to visit on a holiday I was taking to the Philippines. After reading her blog, we were off to Palawan. I’ve been reading every since.

    Excellent interview…and I’m so glad to have found your blog, too!


    1. I miss Palawan! Glad that my love of the place came across in my writing, at least sufficiently enough for you to head over there yourself. Thanks for reading!

    1. Thanks Jessie! Great to Skype with you and chat a bit longer than the usual 140 characters too. 🙂 Good luck w/ your project!

  21. Fun fun fun interview! I haven’t read any Bryson but will be picking some up soon. Had to laugh at your brother whistling to antagonize you. Having 2 brothers myself, I know how that goes.

    1. Thanks Debbie! I also really love Tahir Shah’s travel books. If you have a chance to pick up The Caliph’s House or In Arabian Nights, they’re both great reads.

  22. I cannot believe it took you this long to interview Jodi. It was great to finally meet her in person in Colombia as she was every bit as nice as she seems online.

    1. It’s actually my fault that it took so long – Hodson sent me the questions to time with my departure to Thailand in January, but I was delinquent and only got back to him recently 🙂 Thank you for the kind words and see you in June!

  23. Thanks Kirsten! And even if it WAS good luck ….. In Bangkok during the protests, the Thai soldiers would take photos with their cell phones, exclaiming that I was a “Thai-sized Farang” and in Burma the captain of my night ferry thought it was so funny that I was sized “like a Burmese girl” and paraded me to the whole crew, who nicknamed me piysee (meaning small Burmese girl).

  24. And we are huge Settlers of Catan fans too (although now just iPod and online version b/c carrying around the board would be just silly). Thanks for the tag – great quote. Though judging by your comments I’m going to lose you as a subscriber if I keep posting about food and making you hungry! Great interview!

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