One of the most common questions I get is: “How did you get started with traveling the world for a living?”
In this post, I will break down my life story for you so you can better understand how I got to this point today.
But before I start, please check out my 3 minute Snapchat Story that touches on everything I’m about to say below!
How I Got Started with Traveling & Snapchatting/Blogging For a Living
I was born in Dallas, but grew up in the hot desert of Scottsdale, Arizona from age 6 until I graduated high school. I’ve grew up being a die hard sports fan and athlete. I first played baseball, then competitive hockey for a decade (I won a national championship in ’04), and now I am a single-handicap golfer.
My first time being introduced into traveling was when my parents got me a globe for my 10th birthday present. Every night before I went to bed, I remember laying there, memorizing every country and capital city on earth, and dreaming of traveling the world when I got older.
In my teenage years, I traveled quite a bit around the U.S. for hockey tournaments and the occasional family vacation. I had been to about 20 states before I was 15, but never traveled outside of North America.
When it was time for college, I wanted to get out of Arizona to experience something new and exciting– so I moved 2,000 miles across the country to attend The University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I arrived in Madison without knowing a single person, and I left four years later with a handful of best friends and countless memories to look back on for my lifetime.
I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I attended any other school. To this day, I remain a huge fan and supporter of my University, and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Go Badgers!
During my junior year of college, I decided to study abroad, because I saw it as a great opportunity to travel. So I moved to Prague, Czech Republic, once again, without knowing a single person. It was my first trip overseas, and I was instantly hooked from the moment I stepped off the plane.
My eyes were opened up to the world for the very first time.
During my time in Prague, I made tons of Czech friends and I even taught myself the Czech language. Everything about living in Europe was new and exciting for me, especially at the young age of 20, because I was legally about to drink beer before all my friends!
I visited about 20 countries in Europe during my semester abroad, including a 4-week backpacking trip after my program ended. From Rome to Budapest to Amsterdam, I was partying all over the place and making friends around Europe. I was loving life.
But there was an exact moment on my 4-week backpacking trip, when I was gazing out at the fountains in front of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, when I had an epiphany. I knew I wanted to make a career out of traveling.
Here’s a photo from that very moment, on May 4, 2012.
After I got home from 5 epic months in Europe, I went back to Wisconsin to finish my final year of college. I graduated with a double major in economics and entrepreneurship in May 2013.
Instead of following the “norm” and applying for a corporate job (like society was telling me), I wanted to follow my heart and make a living out of traveling the world.
I was actively looking for opportunities to live and work abroad. My original idea was to start a travel app, which connected travels and locals to meet in various cities. Kind of like Couchsurfing meets Tinder meets Trip Advisor. I had already written a 10 page business plan, and pitched the idea around to try to find investors. Nothing clicked.
Then, my best friend told me about teaching English in Korea, and I knew that could be my gateway to earning money abroad. I applied to be a teacher the very next day (despite not knowing a thing about teaching), and I was accepted a few months later.
So, two months after I graduated college, I moved to a small village in the outskirts of Seoul to teach English for 18 months at a public Middle School. It was my first time in Asia, and I instantly feel in love with culture, food and lifestyle around me.
When I got in the groove of teaching, I noticed how many hours of free time I had at school — sometimes up to 4 hours of free time per day, just sitting at my desk with my Macbook at my hands and extremely fast wifi.
Wanting to make the most of my free time and realizing my travel app idea wasn’t going to work, I decided to start a travel blog called The Hungry Partier. I saw blogging as a low-risk opportunity to start something on my own, and a way for me to share my travel experiences with friends and family.
And then, I figured out strategies for how to grow a global audience from blogging, so I fully committed myself to build an audience from early on. I worked my butt off, spending 8+ hours a day writing, networking, and growing my social media profiles.
I essentially taught myself the entire blogging business from the ground up, and I didn’t earn a penny during the first 12 months.
Meanwhile, as I was immersing myself in Korean culture, I was also traveling around Asia on the regular. My salary from teaching English + the amazing benefits (free rent, etc) enabled me to visit about 20 new Asian Countries – from Sri Lanka to Japan to Myanmar. I also trained to get a black belt in Taekwodo and I nearly became fluent in the Korean language during my 18 months in the country.
I didn’t waste any time in Korea, and all the hard work I put into blogging during those 18 months is what led me to where I am today… In my opinion, this is the difference that sets me apart from most others who “want to be a blogger” but aren’t willing to put in the effort to get there.
So, I finished teaching English in March 2015, and at that time, my blog’s audience and social media channels were picking up steam. I received about $7K in bonuses from teaching when my contract ended, and I was already making enough side cash online to travel full-time, so that’s exactly what I did. Click here to find out how you can teaching English.
Then, I took my first solo trip to India in March last year – a 2 month backpacking adventure covering over 2,500 miles. It was both challenging and enriching, and I learned more about myself during those 8 weeks than I did over the last 2 years.
My office turned into any coffee shop with a wifi signal. I started getting more sponsors from travel brands and companies, which lowered my travel costs and allowed me to travel longer.
However, it wasn’t until I was sitting at this exact table in Jaisalmer, India, when my life took a pivot. It was on that day (April 4, 2015) when I realized I could grow a following on Snapchat and use the app to showcase the world.
I launched this article on April 7, 2015 about how to market yourself on Snapchat – before any travel brand was using the app. That was the birth of a new career for me, as I saw the potential to connect with my followers on Snapchat, so I’ve spent 90% of my time and effort into growing my Snapchat following since then.
It’s funny to look back on that article, 16 months later, and see how outdated the content is!
Here are some of the original Snapchats I took in India:
After India, I returned home for a short visit and then went on a 4-month Eurotrip in the summer of 2015, covering all of the countries that I hadn’t visited in Eastern Europe.
I went Snapchat crazy, figuring out how to monetize my audience and collaborate with brands on Snapchat. My following was growing slowly at first, but I remained persistent and kept trucking along.
Over the last year, since that Eurotrip ended, I went back to Asia (where my heart is) and the Pacific Islands, Australia, NZ and more. Now, I’m on a 3 month backpacking trip around South America, and I am completely funding my travels from Blogging and Snapchatting my journey.
The best part about all of this is I feel like I’m just getting started. I have been to 81 countries as I write this (Aug, 2016), and I am planning to visit 100 countries before turning 26 years old. I am already working on some pretty cool trips for the near future.
My #1 goal is to doing what I do is to inspire people to travel, which is why I spend 2-3 hours everyday answering people’s emails and questions. Therefore, I urge you to keep sending me your questions, because I want to be a resource for you to follow your dreams.
Lastly, if you’re still reading this, I want to say THANK YOU for following along. You guys keep me smiling everyday, and I sincerely enjoy interacting with each of you. I’m so excited for what the future will bring!