Woman of the Week: Jess

I had the pleasure of being connected to our Woman of the Week: Jess through one of the Suitcase Six ladies who met this entrepreneur through her Remote Year adventure. Of course, I was eager to interview Jess and thrilled that she agreed. She’s recently started her own business that allows her to work remotely, living the dream of many of us as she explores the globe in between attending work for her clients! I know you’ll be inspired by Jess’s travel tales, her business savvy experience, and her advice for those of us who want to join her in wandering while we work.






I’ve been working in tech for more than five years and recently founded my own company, DevelopHer Designs. As a full-service web development agency geared towards helping female entrepreneurs and leaders bring their businesses online, I’ve worked with bloggers, journalists, film producers, publicists, bakers and many more talented women. I tend to blend work and travel together these days—currently on month 13 of country-hopping. But when I’m not meeting deadlines or taking city tours, I love to read, sip on coffee, tea and plenty of wine, volunteer with animals, FaceTime with my family and when my schedule allows, there’s nothing like a great spa day to unwind from the chaos. Originally I wanted to become a veterinarian, but ended up building my career in web development. Even so, I’ve been a vegetarian for many years and continue to share my passion for conservation and animal rights.




I was born in South Africa, but raised just outside of Seattle in Washington state. I have my parents to blame for my travel bug, first with trips back to South Africa when we were kids, then eventually with Christmas snowmobiling through Iceland and summers walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. I’ve been very lucky to have a family that supports my crazy travel addiction. It is because of how I was raised that’s made travel so accessible to me. I’ve never been afraid of packing a bag and going on an adventure—even if it took me hitchhiking in Albania or stranded thanks to a tropical storm in the Philippines. To me, there’s nothing quite like the experience of landing in a new place—I actually always film the wing!—and setting out to see what it has in store. As I’ve aged, my travel habits have changed, but I think the love will always be there.


Jess overlooking the views in Haucaccina, Peru while sitting on the sand.
Jess overlooking the views in Haucaccina, Peru while sitting on the sand.



I’m not sure I do—ha! While I sort of cringe at the word, I would consider myself part of the digital nomad hub of professionals. This means that life, work and travel are always intertwined. Though I have definitely pulled some all-nighters to meet deadlines or woken up at 4 a.m. for a call on the other side of the world, I do try my best to disconnect. This might mean having drinks with friends, taking a long bath, working out or giving myself a full day off from checking email. It isn’t always plausible with many clients or during a busy month, but since digital nomads are known for ‘always being on’—it’s important for me to prioritize my health with mini breaks.




I tend to be more of an introvert, so it can be sometimes difficult for me to bust out of my shell to talk to strangers. That being said, every time I do meet a local or another traveler and connect with them, I never regret it. Traveling has a way of pushing you out of your comfort zone in many ways, and for me, the more passport stamps I collect, the more open I become to my surroundings. I recently traveled for a year through Remote Year with 57 other professionals and the experience was immeasurable, as it gave me lifelong friendships, travel buddies and a new sense of self toward work and traveling. It’s a choice I’ll always be glad I made.


Woman of the Week: Jess took this amazing photo of a house in the water in Cartagena, Colombia.
Woman of the Week: Jess took this amazing photo of a house in the water in Cartagena, Colombia.



This past January, I was lucky enough to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a month. While there, my two best friends surprised me with a visit to the Elephant Nature Park an hour outside of the city as an early birthday gift.


While I grew up seeing plenty of elephants in Kruger National Park in South Africa, I had never had the experience of being so close to these creatures. While at this sanctuary, we were able to walk with the elephants, feed them, bathe them and even cuddle them. My mom happened to be in town at the time and they treated her to the park, too, so it was amazing to have nearly all of my favorite people and my favorite animal all in the same place at the same time. It’s a memory that I hope more travelers choose over riding elephants.




I’d share so many things with women—like, you don’t need to pack 18 pairs of shoes to travel (though I wish I had the KGs to do so). And it’s okay if your hair is out of control in 100-degree heat in Croatia, no one will notice. But the greatest advice is to trust your gut and your instincts, and if you feel like you can handle going to a place—go! So many people warn against female solo travel but I’ve been to some “dangerous places for women” like Turkey or Albania, and I had wonderful experiences. While it’s important to be smart, nothing should keep you from following your wanderlust.



Woman of the Week: Jess jumping on the beach in Cape Town, South Africa.
Woman of the Week: Jess jumping on the beach in Cape Town, South Africa.


Looking for more interviews? Head to our Woman of the Week archives for the full library.

I’ve also created three freebies to help you plan your next adventure:

  • 50 Practical Travel Tips from Solo Lady Backpackers (a 6-page PDF)
  • 20 Tips for Sustainable Travel (a checklist)
  • and 30 Jobs to See the World.

After you join the mailing list up, you’ll have access to all the freebies, AND get the password to theGlobal Directory! The directory will connect you to my recommended resources for each country and tons of travel topics. All blog posts I recommend are written by traveling ladies. From logistics to inspiration, the Global Directory will help you find the info you need no matter where you’re going.