Name: Jodi Ettenberg
Blog name and URL: Legal Nomads http://www.legalnomads.com
Where were you born? Montreal, Canada
Where are you living now? No home base at the moment. Travels often take me to Southeast Asia in the winter to eat, and to North America in the summer.
Why did you start your blog? When I quit my job as a lawyer, I thought a blog would be an excellent way to keep my parents and brother apprised of my whereabouts, and let friends and family follow along as much as possible by sharing photos and stories. It was a Blogger blog, easy and free to set up.
How did you decide on your blog name? I started traveling with another lawyer, Jessica, who I met when she was my opposing counsel on one of the last deals I worked on before I quit. We figured that we were both lawyers and going to be nomadic for what we thought was just under a year, so the name made sense, and was fun.
We traveled the first few months together and then she went to Africa and I went up to Siberia and Mongolia, and assumed sole responsibility for the blog. She ended up returning to New York and continued practicing law (and we remain good friends!), and I continued on with the site. But by then I was branded as Legal Nomads with an “s” instead of The Legal Nomad.
What do you blog about? The site started out as a catch-all for the wonderful, quirky stories that unplanned travel can bring. Over the years my interests changed and my new career as a travel writer took off, and the blog shifted perceptibly with those changes. I started focusing more and more on food – why it matters when you travel, and how it can be a wonderful way to learn about a new place. I’ve built out a resource page for food travellers, too – it is fun to house the knowledge I learned and books I’ve enjoyed over the years. And in tandem with that transformation, I also tried to improve my photography. I carried only a point and shoot camera until last October when I upgraded to an EP-3 from Olympus, a mirrorless camera that allows me to use a pancake lens (20mm), great for photos of food.
What post are you most proud of and why? It’s a dual post, actually – the two I put up for my 4th anniversary of travel. Part one was very personal, about long-term travel and homesickness, and living a life of in-betweens. And part two was practical, focusing on the lessons I have learned in my four years on the road, in the hopes of demystifying long-term travel for others.
Which post do you wish received more love and why? My post about my favourite foods from Laos was well-received but I wish more people paid attention to it, because food from that country is unfairly lumped into food from neighbouring Thailand or Cambodia. It has its own distinct flavours, however and is worth exploring on its own.
Which post’s success surprised you and why? The post about why I quit my job to travel the world, which was my 2nd anniversary post. It might seem disingenuous now to have been surprised, but then the site really was still a hobby. I think that post was the turning point for me, where I realized that it could very well turn into the foundation for an unexpected new career. I sat in an Internet café in Chiang Mai writing it for over five hours, and remember staring at the screen before I posted thinking, “Do people really care why I’m doing this? Surely they just want more travel stories?” (The fact that I wasn’t travelling with a laptop shows how it was just a hobby!)
But readers did care, and their enthusiasm completely took me by surprise. They wrote to share their own stories from their travels and from their lives, and I was bowled over by the feedback. If the courage to just go for it and really focus on the things that fascinated me could be traced back to one moment in my short blogging life, this post would be it. And ever since, those readers have been the ones who encouraged me to keep focusing on the things I love, and are a good part of why I wrote The Food Traveler’s Handbook (and Kindle Version). Writing the book was a natural step from their questions about how to eat safely and where to find good food.
What is one (non-kitchen) gadget you can’t live without?
My headlamp. I carry it with me at all times, even when I’m not traveling. My parents thought it was particularly hilarious when we had a brief power outage in Montreal and I was walking around the house wearing it. (My stepdad to me: “I feel like I’m in a mine. A miiiine!”) But it keeps your hands free, lets you read in bed, not fall into potholes on a streetlight-less road and dig up random items from your bag where the lighting is terrible. A headlamp, FBC readers: don’t leave home without it.
What is one kitchen gadget you can’t live without?
Not technically a kitchen gadget but a travel food item: portable chopsticks. They’ve come in handy along the way, from the times where a street stall’s cutlery looks suspiciously filthy, to cutting up food when on a long bus ride, to impromptu picnics on-the-go.
Favourite food, care to share a recipe? So many favourite foods! I have celiac disease, so I’m limited in terms of focus – no breads or pastas or (sadly) beer unless they are specifically gluten-free. But I love rice and quinoa and other grains. A simple but comforting recipe for curry with rice is below, with no exact measurements as I tend to just spice based upon my mood. (More smoked paprika if I want spicy, more cumin if I don’t.) I’ve also swapped out the rice for tea-steeped quinoa (or as I called “Teanoa”), which is delicious too.
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 sweet onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 zucchini or 2 cups of broccoli florets or another green vegetable of your choosing
- 1 can of chickpeas
- Basmati or Jasmine rice
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 tsp of sugar
Spices, in order of their copiousness of use:
- Ground Coriander
- Smoked Hot Paprika
- Salt & Pepper
- 2 tsp of sugar
Topping: Fresh cilantro, chopped and roasted cashews, chopped
- Heat wok with olive oil.
- - Add onion and garlic (chopped) and all of the spices noted above. Go light on the smoked paprika and cayenne if you don’t like spice. As the onion starts to soften, add 1/4 cup of water to keep the spices from drying out. Cook for another 5 minutes and then add the rest of the water, so it forms a paste.
- - Add in zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.
- - Add can of coconut milk and after the contents begin to bubble lightly, add the 2 tsp of sugar. Stir well.
- - Add chickpeas, and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- - Serve over rice, topping the curry with the chopped cilantro and cashews.
Note: If you want to add meat to this dish, I’d suggest lamb or beef. Before chopping into pieces, sear lightly on both sides then set aside. Once the coconut milk has been added with the sugar, cut the meat into squares and add in, pre-chickpeas.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page? I have a small obsession with tarsiers. I never pack without including a Space Pen in my bag. Someone bet me that I couldn’t get into law school, and that was the only reason I became a lawyer.
What makes your blog unique? I think every blog that truly channels the personality of the people who write it is unique. For Legal Nomads, that means highlighting the things I care about while also not being afraid to poke fun at myself. So while I’ve got a 2000 word piece on the inspiration of a recent conference, or close to 3000 words about spices, I also have a “birdcrap counter” for the amount of times that a bird has taken a crap on my head. (By the way, I’m at 12 birds and one bat since 2008, and as of last week a pigeon flew into my face in the UK, so I’m worried about what will come next!)
I love longer-form pieces, so my own writing tends skew in that direction, and thus I post less frequently. But I never, ever put up anything that I don’t 100% believe in. I’ve also kept the site ad-free because I wanted it to resemble a CV of sorts, an homage and loving journal to my many years of eating and travelling around the world. It’s been a lot of work, but very rewarding.
These qualities alone don’t make the site unique, but taken together I think they do. My readers know that if I recommend something it is only because I truly love it. And if I share photos or food and strange travel tales, it is because they were experiences that moved me, and hopefully will push them to explore life on their own terms too.
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/legalnomads
Twitter URL: http://www.twitter.com/legalnomads
The Food Traveler's Handbook available at