I Left America 48 Blog Posts Ago
Last January I flew to Europe with my family for some skiing in Austria. Shortly afterwards I was on a plane to Bangkok. I had a few pairs of clothes, about $1,000, and big hopes for the coming year.
During the last 12 months I've lived in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, Hong Kong, and mainland China. I traveled by plane, bus, motorcycle, boat, tuk tuk, and jeepney. I started two businesses, spent long nights cold calling American companies, managed graphic design projects, and sourced products from China. I took shots of rice wine with locals, trekked up mountains, and sailed between islands. It was a very 'full' year, but now I'm heading home to California.
Each week, I wrote something about my time abroad. This blog has been a 'public journal' and I've tried to share my experiences as well as the lessons I've learned since becoming a digital nomad. Here's some of my favorite blog posts from this trip, as well as the perspective I have looking back on them now.
Building An Airplane - January 11th
I wrote this article when I was still in Austria with my family. I going to jump on my flight to Istanbul the following week! The inspiration for this piece came from the quote "Entrepreneurship is jumping off of a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down."
I was 'jumping off a cliff' in a sense, in this article I said that if things got bad, I'd figure it out. In this unknown situation I could trust that I'd make it out alright. Here's a quote from the post:
"If I'm about to miss my rent payment in Chiang Mai I will spend the time to find $300 worth of work. (Even if it takes me over 10 hours)"
Funny, I did almost end up missing my rent in Chiang Mai a few months after I wrote this.
I did 'make it' and I didn't let myself starve, but what I didn't understand when I wrote this was how much stress went along with almost running out of money. I thought that it would just be a few months where I bought less, but it's stressful when you're not sure if you can buy anything at all!
When I wrote this, I equated stress with 'motivation' or 'drive'. I thought stress would make sure I hustled and did what I needed to do. In reality, my worried brain was really bad at focusing on anything. I probably would have gotten much more done if I wasn't worried about money in those first few months!
The Importance Of Faith - February 8th
I wrote this post when I was starting to cold call companies for Graphic Design Experts. My point was that for long-term projects without immediate results, you nee faith in order to keep working on them. Starting to learn a language, building a company, and anything that requires long-term planning requires faith.
After writing this post I worked voraciously for the next 3 months. I stayed up all night, made hundreds of grueling calls to America, built a website, and hired designers. I almost ran out of money and I didn't get to enjoy Thailand very much. If I 'went out' for the evening I would come back at 11PM to start calling. I did this all with the faith that my business was going to pick up.
Maybe if I had stuck with the business longer and changed my strategy I could have made it work. I didn't. I quit the business and stopped trying to find new customers.
Faith is necessary to start a successful company, but faith with a deadline won't always bring results. I had faith that with 3 months of cold calling there was no way I wouldn't have at least 4-5 customers. It didn't happen and I quit. I still have big goals, but I'm more realistic and know that blind faith and 'grind' aren't enough.
Shifting From 'Low Gear' To 'High Gear' - February 22nd
You need to shift the source of your motivation once you start to see results. When you're broke, motivation comes largely from the want to survive. When you're earning $2,000 per month you need motivation to come from elsewhere in order to keep hustling.
I think I was dead on with this post. When I was in Thailand the desire to survive kept me trying to find business. I was thinking of my big goals as well, but my need to get some cash kept me going. Now that my financial situation isn't so dire, I'm focusing exclusively on my big goals as the driver to keep me on track.
What I Learned Living On Less Than $1 Per Day - March 22nd
"If I could just stay happy eating carrots, tomatoes, and peas, I would never need to worry about money again AND I would eat healthier. As soon as I get my financial legs under me, however, my brain demands more, more, more!"
Yup. Now that I'm not in dire need of cash I'm back to buying coffees and other things I don't need. I've got my 2nd Vietnamese coffee on the table next to me right now. I'm in Asia so these purchases are still small, but the part of me that wants to buy more is still winning.
When I arrived in Asia I created a list of 10 things I wanted to do every day. Each item was supposed to help me grow or learn something new. Over the past year I've done a pretty good job of sticking with these tasks! The list has changed and grown over the year (Now I have about 20 items) and I love it so much I wrote another post about it just a few weeks ago.
If I didn't have this list of daily habits I would have a really hard time remembering to do the things that improve the quality of my life. Looking at the list makes sure I do important things like practicing a foreign language, researching my industry, networking, working out, and meditating. Without the list I'd have a hard time building new habits because I'd forget them before they were hardwired in my brain. With a list, I'm able to get back on track even if I miss something for a day.
Today I'm back in Hanoi, the city where I wrote this post 7 months ago. Sports like soccer are still a way I connect with locals. I joined a volleyball game two days ago and lost $0.50...
I try to learn the local language as well, and living with locals is the best way I've found to connect, but sports are a way that any two people can work together towards an objective and have fun. It's great even if someone hasn't practiced in nearly a decade! (Me)
Do Something Unique When You Travel - June 21st
As I expected, the times I got off the beaten path are still my best memories of last year. Memories of working in the rice fields, stealing (borrowing...) a boat to say hello to some fisherman moored 100 meters off shore, motorcycling into the sunset, and staying with friendly locals are what I remember most from this trip!
Staying Fit While Traveling - July 19th
If you're planning on becoming location independent I'd say this article is a must-read. With all the street food you'll be eating and the beer you'll most likely be drinking, you'd better have the willpower to exercise regularly and a plan to stay on track.
The only thing that's changed since I wrote this piece is that I now work out every day, not every other day. Seriously, keep yourself in shape! Carrying that backpack around doesn't burn as many calories as you're hoping.
I Was Wrong (About Steady Paychecks) - September 6th
This one was painful to write. For the previous 6 months I'd been ranting against doing work that didn't have massive growth potential but when I started working for my old employer in Boston my life got so much better. I no longer see a 'job' as a negative thing.
A job can be a launching pad because it gives you stability and it gives you reliable income. You can use this capital to create your own businesses if that's what you want to do. Experiencing this for myself helped me become less judgmental. After being broke for 9 months and then seeing my like improve dramatically, I know that getting a job doesn't need to be 'giving in'. It can be a launching pad to help you reach you reach your goals more quickly.
The Power Of The Mastermind - September 13th
After paying to be a member of an Amazon Business Mastermind for the past few months I have been blown away by the value I've gotten. It's the best business investment I've made on this trip. In my first business I didn't have anybody to go to to ask questions and I put a lot of effort into things that didn't work.
Now, whenever I'm thinking of investing a lot of time or money into a project I shoot a question to 3-4 successful business owners in my mastermind. If 3 of them say it's a bad idea and one is lukewarm about the investment, I don't do it. If all four of them say 'hell yea!' then I dive in.
It's saved me hours of wasted time and (so far) $1,000 that I would have spent on products that probably wouldn't do well. At $20 per month the ROI is huge! If you're a location independent entrepreneur, please join a mastermind in your market niche as soon as possible.
Remind Me, When Was I Supposed To Get Lonely Again? - November 1st
I spent last week living with my Vietnamese 'host family' in Hai Phong. I ate some of the best Vietnamese food I've ever had sitting cross legged on their floor, and I could spend all day playing with the four kids! I've stayed in pretty good contact with everyone at home, and met tons of like-minded travelers.
If you're worried that loneliness will kill your digital nomad dreams, I'd give this post a read. I'm going home tomorrow after nearly a year of travel in Asia and I don't remember ever feeling lonely. There are so many ways to stay connected and make new friends that you probably won't need to worry either.
I can't believe that I'll be on a plane home in less than 24 hours. It's been a year packed with joy and stress, excitement and let downs, faith and fear, and I hope that you've enjoyed following my story through the ups and downs of my first year as a nomad!