Interview With Travel Blogger Jema Patterson of Half the Clothes @halftheclothes

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This travel blogger interview features Jema Patterson of Half The Clothes, a permanent traveller for the last 6 years!

Jema Patterson of Half The Clothes

Jema Patterson of Half The Clothes

What is your name?

Jema Patterson.


Which country do you come from/call home?

I’m from the United States but have called many places home: Mexico, New Zealand, Indonesia, Croatia, and Australia.


Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?

I started off as a backpacker hoping I could make it “at least a year.” Six years later I’ve lived and worked abroad and now consider myself a permanent traveler.


How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?

The most important component to my travel funding: decreasing my wants and needs. I spend less than $10,000 USD a year traveling permanently. I do lots of work exchanges to decrease my costs and enrich my experiences. It’s much easier to afford monthly travel costs of a few hundred dollars than monthly costs of a few thousand.

So where do I get my few hundred? I’ve worked while traveling, invested, and earned money selling an online product in a small niche.


Jema Patterson milking sheep while work-trading in Italy

Jema milking sheep while work-trading in Italy


How do you deal with dating on the road?

I’ve traveled twice in a long-term relationship, so I didn’t have to worry about dating! I’m single now, but dating sites don’t interest me. As an introvert and a Capricorn, I value the types of friendships and relationships that take more than a week or two to form.

As a permanent wanderer traveling slowly and mostly meeting locals, it’s tough to connect with other people who could imagine living my lifestyle – a non-negotiable for me. A relationship has never been high on my priority list – another introvert feature, I suppose.

So I guess I don’t deal with dating on the road! As crazy as it sounds, I’ve considered writing a relationship manifesto and publishing it on my site to see if a future partner in crime might reach out.


What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?

When I was ten, I went to the Canadian parks of Banff and Jasper with my family. While my parents talked to the border officials, I decided to go stand on the other side of the Welcome to Canada sign so I could say I’d been in a foreign country all by myself. My parents stopped me short. That longing to cross borders burned all through my childhood until I studied abroad in Mexico a decade later!


Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

After ticking off the top places on my bucket list, I decided to see why everyone thought SE Asia was so amazing.

I suppose I expected Thailand wouldn’t be that interesting or that I wouldn’t be able to relate. Quite the opposite on both counts! I found SE Asia fascinating. As an American, I felt at home among the wild patriotism, general lack of interest in learning other languages, loose-fitting clothing, and friendliness of the people.


Jema Patterson of Half The Clothes in her favorite Thai city – Udon Thani

Jema in her favorite Thai city – Udon Thani


Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?

I’ve taken too many chances as a woman on the street alone at 4 a.m. I’ve also been robbed. I’ve blown my eardrum. I’ve climbed an almost-erupting volcano. I’ve had a rough time coming back home.


Do you have any funny travel stories?

Budget traveling in New Zealand led to the most ridiculous and hilarious money-saving challenge I’ve ever attempted.


Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?

The first time I went to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I’ve been back since and enjoyed it, however.

I think Kuta in Bali might be a close second. I’m always sad to see partying tourists co-opt gorgeous places and turn them into their personal playgrounds.


Where is your favourite place in the world?

The Rocky Mountains where I grew up will always be my Shangri-La. But I love Argentina, Thailand, Croatia, Bali, and Italy.


The view from Mt. Sopris in the Rockies

The view from Mt. Sopris in the Rockies


Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?

A long one! I love learning. 26 of the items are about picking up new skills – like learning to breakdance or build solar-powered systems. I also love the outdoors, so 12 are adventures under the sun like doing an open-water sailing passage or a charity rally. The rest are personal development goals.


Can you imagine life without travel?

Absolutely not.


If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?

I like organizing things and helping people. Probably working for a non-profit whose cause was close to my heart.


What is the name of your travel blog and the url?

Half the Clothes at


Why does your website name imply you’ll be taking your clothes off?

I didn’t have a dirty-enough mind to notice that my long-researched domain name was a double-entendre. Susan Heller is credited with the now famous quote, “When you prepare to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

As a minimalist, that quote really resonated with me. I also think it sets the traveler up with the ideal mindset. If you can bear taking the essentials and trusting everything else will work out, it’s likely that attitude will extend to the rest of your travels. I’ve experienced that outlook leading to incredibly rich adventures.


When did you begin your website Half The Clothes?

I started travel blogging when I took my first solo trip to South America in 2005. Twice I’ve had to rescue my content from blogging platforms. After the second time in 2010, I finally bought my domain name, started paying for hosting, and moved all my stories.


Jema Patterson in New Zealand (where she first launched Half the Clothes) learning about the good old sheep shearing days from a bar owner

Jema in New Zealand (where she first launched Half the Clothes) learning about the good old sheep shearing days from a bar owner


Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?

I’ve always loved writing and telling stories. I’ve discovered that sharing experiences also means processing them, which is a great bonus.


What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?

I’ve been told my writing is entertaining and refreshing, because I’m not willing to sugar coat things. I care about the personal development of fellow travelers and helping people make the most of what can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My sidebar isn’t stuffed with money-motivated links, which I think makes my content trustworthy.


Do you have any products or services to offer?

Nope! Maybe someday. I’ve considered offering travel coaching because I like helping novice travelers so much.


What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?

My round-the-world packing list is viewed thousands of times a month. In a recent email to Half the Clothes readers, I speculated that it’s so popular because:

1. I didn’t write it out of self-interest hoping to make a buck.

2. It’s as ridiculous as I am: it explains in detail why or why not to pack something. For hundreds of items.

3. I wrote it at a time when the internet hosted very few RTW packing lists.


What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?

I love writing stories, especially when I’m a victim of my own ridiculousness. E.g.My Amsterdam departure oopsie.

I care lots about helping people escape the 9 to 5 lifestyle, so I really liked putting together 12+ Tools to Become Fearless & Unstoppable.


What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)

I love being in motion! I don’t mind doing the driving, but I treasure time spent staring out a window at the countryside flying by and just thinking.

I really like walking and running, too.


Jema Patterson of Half The Clothes finding a rare flower – a black kangaroo paw – on a sunset run in an Australian National Park

Jema finding a rare flower – a black kangaroo paw – on a sunset run in an Australian National Park


Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?

To my novice travel tips, I would add:

  1. Get a travel credit card right-now-today. Don’t be me – the world’s most epic procrastinator. Now that I finally got on the free-flights bandwagon, I’ve earned a flight a month for the past year.
  2. Don’t forget your fortune. When abroad, it’s easy to get frustrated with systems and cultural things that make no sense to you. It’s easy to think about your financial situation in terms of your homeland and feel indignant when a tout who could never dream of crossing a border thinks of you as “rich.”


What has travel taught you?

Patience. Compassion. Humility.


What are you most looking forward to writing about?

I have a giant list of un-written articles. Most of them center on travel advice – saving money to go traveling, saving money while traveling, how to connect with locals, etc. To prioritize, I ask Half the Clothes subscribers what they most want to hear about.

I also have several unwritten personal stories that I am always telling aloud – from getting struck by lightning to racing a train on my bicycle and ripping a knee ligament in half. I’ll get them in print someday.

So many words, so little time!

Quick fire questions:-

Favourite airline? Lufthansa

Favourite country? Argentina, Thailand, Croatia, Bali, and Italy

Favourite city? Prefer outdoors & small towns.
I guess Bangkok, Zagreb, Amsterdam, and Rome.

Favourite beach? Mountains!
The sand and surf at Ningaloo in Australia, Coron in the Philippines, and Ilha Grande in Brazil were pretty great.

Favourite food? Avocados.

Favourite language? Spanish, Thai, Italian & Croatian

Please provide the following:-

Website url?

Twitter handle? @halftheclothes

Facebook page?




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  1. What a great interview! I feel like Jema is a kindred spirit and the questions you asked (like about dating and the name of her blog) were fun insights. Best of all, I’ve found another great blog to follow now. 🙂

  2. Great insight about SE Asia – I was also expecting Thailand to be a bit “blah”, but I really enjoyed it, for many of the same reasons that you mentioned!

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