On 9th June, 2011, only a few days ago, we had our one-year anniversary of being on the road. For a full 12 months we’ve travelled the globe, living city to city, building the Globetrooper website, and experiencing life with no fixed address.
Do we miss home? Are we sick of travel? Will we settle somewhere soon? Where would we settle? What would we do differently? What did we do right? Can this continue forever?
I’ll answer all of these questions, and more, in this post.
Lauren and I both left great jobs in Australia. Not just average jobs, but jobs that would lead to the pinnacle of our respective industries. We were set. There was nothing left to do, other than keep working hard, of course.
We had travelled a little, but mostly on rushed jaunts within the timeframes of allotted vacation leave. Our trips always seemed surreal when we got home, as if we’d never left. So we wanted to travel more seriously, to more places, and for longer. Yes, the same dream as 95% of Australians.
The Real Goal
More than travel though, we wanted to build a business. (It’s true, we are entrepreneurs first and travellers second.) So long-term travel hadn’t yet entered our minds.
Then one day I saw an interview on the web with a guy who talked about being a ‘digital nomad’. He travelled the world, usually 3 months in each city, building his business on the road. I knew in an instant that this was for us.
Some people talk about the trials and tribs of deciding to leave 9-to-5 employment and about the worries and risks and uncertainty of leaving home or starting a business. Lauren and I don’t work like that; we act first and think second. It gets us into some trouble, but otherwise we have no inhibitions when it comes to making big changes.
Over the next six months, we laid the foundations for Globetrooper. This involved market testing, researching, designing, planning, and developing the business. Then, on the 9th of June, 2010, we boarded a plane to Montreal, embarking on a working holiday of a very different kind.
We’ve so far lived in Montreal (Canada), Cusco (Peru), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Toronto (Canada) and Bangalore (India). We’ve travelled extensively through each corresponding country and Bolivia too.
Although we travel with backpacks, we’re not really backpacking. We rent long-term apartments, cook for ourselves, learn to live like locals, try to do business in each country, and take advantage of sporadic Holiday Deals. I really like this type of travel, much more than the usual sightseeing and hostel-hopping.
In most places, our priority is settling down and getting to work. Sounds boring hey? Well, not so boring for entrepreneurs, but not so fun for traditional backpackers who ask what we’re up to. Building a viable business is tough enough at home, let alone in foreign countries with different languages. But for us, it’s the ultimate challenge and the ultimate learning experience too.
Of course, if you’ve followed our progress even sporadically, you’d know that we’ve gotten up to way more mischief than the average backpacker. We’ve searched for untouched civilisations in the Peruvian jungle; we’ve solicited an illegal tour of a Bolivian prison; and Lauren is now trekking 1000 miles across a Mongolian desert. These are real expeditions; they aren’t packaged coach tours. When it comes to adventure, that’s the sort of travel we love.
But when we’re not doing something that crazy, we generally have our heads down working many hours per day. We work more than our previous jobs, which required at least 12 hours a day. Now we regularly work 12-16 hours a day, and we’ve even worked non-stop for two and half days straight. This was when we received a lot of press for Globetrooper and our server crashed. On that occasion, I remember us taking a 30 minute break to walk 3km to buy bagels at 4:30am. Yep, in Montreal, the bagel shops are open 24 hours.
Global travel is already like a roller-coaster. But add building a viable business into the mix, and this roller-coaster doesn’t just go up and down, it regularly derails. We’ve had the highest highs, but also the lowest lows.
For example, there’s nothing like commercialising your own idea and seeing people use it and actually paying for it. As an entrepreneur, it’s the best feeling. But on the other hand, when you spend what seems an eternity of effort on something you believe in, and it crashes to the ground totally missing its mark, well, let’s just say it’s not pretty.
With that said, no matter how tough things have become, we’ve never ever, not even once, wished we had stayed at home in our ‘highly promising’ jobs. This worldwide, and somewhat whirlwind, adventure was a pivotal moment for us in so many ways; we often talk about finally feeling alive, like we’re making the most of the opportunity that’s always sat right in front us.
Do we miss home?
Not really. We miss our families, and some of them are planning to meet-up with us, but otherwise we’re happy to be away even after 12 months. I think when times get tough, such as being lost in the Peruvian jungle in the dark with no one who speaks English, well, I think we missed home then. My goodness did I miss home then!
Are we sick of travel?
Yes and no. We are sick of sightseeing and hostel-hopping, that’s for sure. And personally, I can’t think of anything worse than visiting temples, museums, beaches, etc, with hoards of other tourists. That’s not the way we like to travel. We love adventures and expeditions. We love to sit down with a group of close people and plot some mission that will challenge us beyond belief. Sometimes the thought and discussion is just as adventurous as the expedition itself.
Will we settle somewhere soon?
Not in the usual definition of the word ‘settle’, but we plan to travel more slowly. Say at least 6 months in each place. I’ve found that 2-3 months is too little time to do business properly in one place. And it’s often too little time for us to really know a place and how it works.
In an odd way, all of this travel is just scouting for places we’d like to spend more time in. But I can’t imagine us spending ‘forever’ in one place.
Where would we settle?
If anywhere, Montreal, maybe. We loved Montreal in summer. And we loved Toronto in winter. And although I could easily settle in Eastern Europe, South-East Asia or other cheaper places, Montreal is much better in terms of resources for startups. We’ll see; no decisions made yet. But we may spend a year or so in Montreal sometime soon.
What would we do differently?
We would be a little more structured in our work vs travels. I would work like a lunatic most of the time, then take regular time off, say once every three months, for an insane adventure. I get renewed spurts of creativity and drive when I challenge myself and doing something completely nuts.
I love the trips that The Adventurists do and think I’ll gear my travels more towards that style of exploration. As for Lauren, she’s currently in Mongolia on one of the toughest expeditions of her life. I just know she’ll come back with so much drive and energy that she’ll be bouncing off walls.
What did we do right?
Travel lightly. We travel with 32 litre packs. Most people think we’re nuts. But we have everything we need, including the gear to build a business. I’ve thought about even downsizing, but realised I need the space for warm clothes when we head to colder places.
Travelling lightly isn’t just about the agility of a smaller pack. For me, it’s more about minimalism and not having too much crap to think about. I like living simply at home and getting out into the big wide world and taking in as much of it as possible.
Can this continue forever?
Absolutely. Not sure if we’ll want it to, but at this stage we still want to see the world, experience other ways of life, and live completely untethered. There is no doubt in my mind this is a great way to enjoy life, learn a lot and be more productive too.