From newsroom to nomading, one woman’s quest for stories beyond borders

Michelle Checchi in Petra

In a world where the traditional career path is often seen as the best way forward, Michelle Checchi has boldly rewritten her own journey. With a background in television news that honed her storytelling prowess, Michelle has transitioned from crafting daily broadcasts to exploring the globe as a digital nomad, capturing the essence of her travels through videography, photography, production and writing. 

Her adventures and insights can be followed not only on her social media platforms, @michelle_checchi on Instagram and @michellemarietravels on TikTok, but also on her website,, where she shares her experiences and advice for those looking to tread a similar path. From her first love for stories to her current life of travel and content creation, Michelle’s journey is a testament to the power of following your passions and the endless possibilities that come with stepping out of your comfort zone.

Your background is in television news. How did you get into it and how does it lend itself to your life today?

I’ve had a love for stories for as long as I can remember, and I was naturally drawn to journalism. I worked for every school newspaper, had as many news internships as was allowed, and even had my own radio show, all before landing a career in TV news as a producer. In that role, I would make a live TV newscast every day, along with a team of reporters, directors, and managers, and have one hour of the show that was my responsibility. 

While I was growing in my career, I always dreamed of traveling, backpacking, and seeing more of the world on my own. I hadn’t traveled all that much – just a few vacations here and there, and I’d never gone anywhere alone. 

After working for several years, I set a plan for the year to save money and prepare to travel and to learn all I could about budget backpacking. Then I bought a one-way ticket, intending to travel for a few months until my small travel fund ran dry. 

Little did I know that this was the catalyst to a whole new life and career journey. 

As I started to use my savings, I realized I didn’t want to be “forced” to go back to my old life, so I started to get creative. That’s when I got into the world of freelancing: writing, videography, and photography. It was slow at first, but then the pandemic hit, and I was “grounded” from travel, and used that time to take a course in video editing, create content on social media, and work on finding high-quality freelance work. This laid the foundation for my life today, and now, I do that full-time while traveling. My business is a hodge-podge of different things. 

Creating live TV broadcasts daily for years gave me insight into what it takes to create things that people will watch, and how to create them in a way that is true to your vision. Today, I’ve honed those skills to tell my own stories on social media.

Did you have a specific turning point that made you pivot in your career? What would you say to yourself 5 years ago before you even knew being a travel influencer was an option?

I met some friends when I was younger who were doing things differently than me as we got into our 20s. Backpacking and traveling, and figuring out their career after that. I found it very inspiring, and I was very envious. But I felt like I needed to put in the work in my career first before I could step away and see what happened. 

It was a Hail Mary move, to quit my cushy TV career, and I didn’t expect it to be a long-term lifestyle. I planned to return to the U.S., tail between my legs, and find whatever job in a newsroom that would take me. 

Before I started working for myself, running a business as a freelancer and content creator, I didn’t know this was a reality I could achieve. Five years before I started doing this I (truly, 100%) would never have thought this could be my reality. That realization has helped inspire me even further. What else can I do that I don’t think was possible?

It’s clear that both storytelling and full-time travel are your passions. How do they lend to each other? 

When we travel, we see all corners and crevices of life. Ways of living that are completely different from what we know. Incredible history, devastating realities, and all of the nitty-gritty things that make us human. To love traveling is to love the stories of the world, for better or for worse. I see them as one and the same. I love to experience these stories, but also to tell them, and to share my own experiences along the way. It makes me realize, time and time again, that we are all so similar.

What recommendations do you have for people trying to pursue a similar lifestyle?

There are infinite ways to make travel your reality – whether you want to travel more, travel cheaper, travel in luxury, or travel full-time. If you want to travel full-time, you’re in luck: we have incredible access to digital tools and resources today that you can use to make it happen. You can get a remote job to support your lifestyle or start a business. I started doing this in early 2019, just before the pandemic. This was really significant because I saw an incredible evolution of remote work before the pandemic, and after. Now, remote work is even more normalized, there are even more freelancing tools/opportunities, and working and traveling is becoming more and more common.

When did you first fall in love with travel and how has that love evolved? Tell us a love story <3

When I was in high school I had the privilege of participating in a study abroad program in Spain. I was 17, and it was my first time traveling without my family for a two-week trip with a group and a chaperone. I remember sitting on a balcony in Barcelona with a bottle of wine we got for 2 Euros, basking in the sun and soaking in the view. It was simple, but I felt free. The world felt so bright, big, and mysterious, and I couldn’t wait to experience more of it. 

Wanna know what’s wild? I’m actually writing this from Barcelona. I’m here for a few days, for the first time since that trip in 2010. How full circle.

How did you make a living as a digital nomad and how long did it take you to get to a place where you were approached for gigs and could pick and choose?

My career as a digital nomad took shape in a very haphazard fashion. I always recommend people don’t do what I did. But here’s the story: I was traveling, and I wasn’t working at all, so I started to explore ways to make money online using my skills, which were writing, photography, and videography. I tried transcribing audio (made virtually no money, is now obsolete), and was exploring teaching English remotely, when I stumbled onto freelance copywriting. I thought, “Hey, I write, let me check this out.” My first gigs made me $15 bucks a pop, and in my first few months, I made a few hundred dollars. But that gave me something else that was valuable: experience. A friend heard what I was doing and reached out about his company hiring freelance writers, and I was able to get more clients. Soon enough, my income replaced my previous salary. I started pitching videography work while I was traveling and added that to my repertoire. 

When it comes to people being able to come to you with attractive work, I have a piece of advice: there’s value in your network. When people know what you do, they think of you for things. I’m very vocal about my work (particularly because I’m a social media creator), so I come to mind for people. But you don’t have to be a creator for this to be the case. Share what you’re doing, talk to the person next to you in the coffee shop, and have a website so if someone Google’s you, you look legit in your work. And for choosing gigs, I prioritized first creating a stable income. Much of my “salary” is month-to-month copywriting clients. While it’s not the super exciting travel videography work I love to do, it gives me a stable foundation to then have more freedom with the other jobs I take.

What would you say are some misconceptions about being a digital nomad?

I always say it’s not a job in itself, it’s a lifestyle, and each digital nomad really can DIY it their own way. Someone might be a digital nomad who works 9a-5p EST, and they have to be on their computer in the middle of the night while they’re in Thailand. The way you architect this lifestyle is highly individualized, but I’m super happy with the way I’m living right now. I love being my own boss, setting my own schedule, and being able to have complete freedom over what I do in a day. For me, it’s a dream come true. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but I feel very lucky. 

I don’t see it as competitive, even in the travel creator space, although I know some folks definitely do, because I used to. I’ve come to learn there’s plenty of room for all of us at the table, and no shortage of customers, views, or income to be earned. Focus on yourself, and being better than you were yesterday. I also don’t think it gets lonely, most of the time. On the contrary, sometimes it’s hard to find quality alone time! When you’re traveling, it’s far too easy to make friends, especially if you’re staying at hostels or coliving spaces.

What are your top tips for people trying to break through the noise and build a following? 

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to numbers. Everyone on social media once started with 0 followers. Instead, create work that you love and that you’re proud of. With today’s algorithms, your people will find you, eventually. And you need to have a solid body of work on your page for when they do, so they actually know who you are and what you’re creating content about. That being said, it’s important to practice the basics and get great at them. Take time to learn your craft, and don’t expect to be an expert at it overnight. I made a lot of bad videos before I started to make good ones, and I see a lot of creators today making very small mistakes that are costing them big time. And if you feel self-conscious, remember that audiences on social media have a very (very) short memory. If you make something that you ultimately don’t feel like is great, no one will remember. So just make stuff, fearlessly.

What are your top 2 destinations for digital nomading and why? 

1. Florence, Italy, because I’m obsessed with the beauty, history, and culture, in its modern setting. You can start the morning by enjoying Renaissance art, work from a cafe for a few hours, and finish the day with Tuscan wine and fresh pasta. Is anything better? 

2. Any of the islands in Thailand. They’re pristine, the water is gorgeous, food is amazing, and people are friendly.

And top places for female solo travel? 

I think anywhere can be a place for female solo travel, and you always need to take precautions, but certain places might be more “beginner-friendly.” France, Greece, Jordan, Israel, and Cyprus are all great options.

What are your top 5 must-haves for a successful trip? 

  • Portable battery pack. Content creator or not, this will save your life.  
  • Offline maps. Download the Google Map of the areas you’re going to before you get there, so you can find your way around if your phone service isn’t working. 
  • Drone. I don’t go anywhere without it these days. While I don’t always get to fly, I’m developing a love for drone videography. 
  • Multi-country outlet converter. Then you don’t need to make sure you have the “right one,” because they’re all in there. 
  • Kindle. I was a paper book typa gal, but really, nothing beats having a Kindle. If you have a long layover, are bored, or are just sitting in a cafe, it’s the best to have.

You’re running group trips now! What motivated you to do this, what are you hoping that you and fellow travelers get out of these types of trips?

Thanks for noticing, I’m excited to be expanding into this space! I’m really inspired to get people together IRL, and want to cultivate amazing trips for people who want to make new friends, get out of their comfort zone, and travel the world together. Solo travel isn’t for everyone, so these trips are for people who want to see the world, but might not have anyone to go with, or might not be sure about how to plan a trip on their own, or even people who just want to make new travel friends. I only have two goals for these trips: for people to have the travel experience of their dreams, and to come out of these trips with new travel besties.

What do you think sets you apart from other travel influencers?  

One of my goals is to take obscure stories and to make them interesting to anyone. You might not be traveling to the place I’m in anytime soon, but maybe I can still show you something about this place. I think I’m occasionally successful at this, and that it’s different. And I’d say that I have unique content on becoming and being a digital nomad. I started creating content in this space on TikTok shortly after the platform became popular, and I was one of the first to grow in this niche.

What do you appreciate most about your life on the road? 

The freedom. I love being able to do whatever I want with my day, go wherever I want, and choose different experiences. I don’t miss the days when I only had two weeks of vacation a year. I can wake up and buy a plane ticket for the same day – it’s a fun way to live. But I know it’s not for everyone – my routine is always different, and my stability looks different from how it does for most other people. But I’m happy and comfortable not knowing what tomorrow will look like, and I love being able to have diverse, wonderful experiences. 

Read more with Faye