How to Help Nepal’s Earthquake Victims

Hey Rebel Nation –

Last night, a horrific earthquake shook Kathmandu, Nepal, killing at least 8,019 people (UPDATE: official count as of 4 pm Eastern on May 11, 2015). The death toll continues to rise.

Nepal Earthquake

As many of my longtime readers know, I was born in Kathmandu, Nepal and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. Many of my family members still live there; fortunately they’re safe.

Unfortunately, many others can’t say the same. Thousands of children are new orphans today. Thousands of survivors are permanently disabled or homeless. Ancient temples are destroyed. The earthquake triggered avalanches in the Himalayas, killing at least 10 climbers on Mt. Everest, with many more missing or injured.
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Meet Me in Ecuador to Reflect on Freedom, Happiness and Life

Join us in Ecuador

The most memorable experiences come from combining everything you love:

  • Friends and family
  • Inspiring conversation
  • Beautiful settings
  • Amazing food
  • Freedom

This February, a small group of us intend to create this space at a 17th-century resort in the lush mountains of Otavalo, Ecuador.

One dozen amazing people, plus four hosts, will spend a week discussing financial freedom, happiness, life passions, investing, real estate, sustainability, generosity and service, philosophy, and living your personal legend.

The purpose? To create “an extended period of time for reflection in a beautiful country to define and design the next phase of your life,” writes happiness guru Cheryl Reed, the organizer of this retreat.

Wow. I couldn’t have phrased that any better.

As Cheryl says on the retreat website:

  • You will define your top five Life Passions and learn how to make them a priority in your life.
  • Learn valuable techniques for increasing your Happiness Levels.
  • Be inspired to live a life in alignment with your dreams.

If you’re in the habit of reading financial blogs, you’ve probably already read rave reviews about this Ecuador retreat. In the past two years, hosts of this trip have included:

  • Mr. Money Mustache, who famously retired at age 32 so he and his wife could both be stay-at-home parents.
  • Jim Collins, who quit his job at age 25 to travel the globe and developed a “driving ambition to have F-You money.”
  • J.D. Roth, who pulled himself out of $35,000 in debt, dropped 50 pounds, launched (and sold) his own business, and learned how to speak fluent Spanish.

Those links above will connect you with the stories that MMM, Jim and J.D. wrote about the Ecuadorian retreat. If you’re hungry for more, check out these photos.

This year’s crowd promises to be immensely engaging. My fellow hosts include:

  • Tyler Lewke, a rebel who blogs at the crossroads between capitalism and spirituality. He’s a corporate CEO who believes that “loving kindness … creates profit.” He’s the offspring between a genius scientist and a hippie (literally and symbolically), he hasn’t had an employer since age 17, and he blogs daily about the intersection between “hard core capitalism” and “contemplative service to others.” Tyler will speak about finding sustainable happiness in work and life.
  • Jim Collins, a world traveler who ditched his last full-time job in 2011 and lives on passive income. He’s a key contributor in the Ecuador annual retreat series and he’ll speak on how to harness the world’s most powerful wealth-building tool. 
  • Cheryl Reed, who enjoyed a cushy middle-class career until 2002. But after volunteering with disabled children, she make the life-altering decision to re-imagine her life. She quit her job, moved to Ecuador, bought a small farm, launched this retreat series and started a nonprofit. These days she splits her time 50/50 between the U.S. and Ecuador. She’ll speak about following your bliss.

Come join us.

Where: Otavalo is an indigenous town in the Andes Mountains, surrounded by volcanos, mountains, hiking trails, and lush greenery.

The town sits at 8,300 feet (2,500 ft) above sea level in a spring-like valley, nestled between two volcanos that reach 15,000 ft. to 16,000 ft. (If you’re not familiar with altitude, that means they’re massive. To put it into perspective: the highest peak in the mainland U.S. is California’s Mt. Whitney, at 14,500 ft.)

The retreat is held on the grounds of Hacienda Cusin, a gorgeous-and-authentic resort featuring cobblestone paths, wood beams, bountiful gardens, log-burning fireplaces and a pristine lake that reflects the volcanos. Here’s an abundance of breathtaking photos.

When: February, of course. Because why on earth would you sit through the blustering cold when you could escape to 70 degree temperatures? We’ll get together from February 7 through 14.

Why: To create lifelong friendships, both old and new. To reflect on life, find purpose, and proceed boldly in a new direction. To master the intersection between passive income (through investments and real estate) and living your ultimate dream.

We’ll assist the local Ecuadorian community through a one-day service project, and experience the local indigenous culture through music, food and dance. Ten percent of the profits from this retreat will be donated directly back to the local community through Project One Corner, which provides members of the local community with everything from backpacks to school computers, from providing scholarships to rebuilding houses after natural disasters.

Cost: The retreat costs $1,895, which includes resort lodging for a week, three amazing meals each day, all ground transportation, and all retreat activities for a week. Please do not join this retreat if you have credit card debt. 

You should come if:

  • You’re interested in deep conversations about financial freedom, investing, happiness and life.
  • You want a period of reflection, introspection, and inspiration, with a like-minded community.
  • You’d love to visit Ecuador in the company of friends-you-haven’t-met-yet.
  • You’re free from high-interest debt. (Having a mortgage or low-interest student loan is okay.)

You should NOT come if:

  • You dislike travel.
  • You have 5-star, Ritz Carlton-level expectations.
  • You’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.
  • You’re not saving for retirement.
  • You’re burdened with high-interest debt. (Anything above 8 percent APR.)
  • You have zero or insufficient emergency savings.

Register here to join us in Ecuador from February 7 – 14, 2015.

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P.S. Check out Jim’s announcement of this February’s Ecuador retreat.

Image courtesy Flickr / Hacienda Cusin

I Stepped Away from My Business for a Month. Here’s What Happened.

step away from your business for one month
A few days ago, I slept in my own bed for the first time in more than a month.

I’ve been on the road nearly nonstop for the past few months — including trips to Costa Rica and Ireland — and the last 30 days really took the cake: from San Diego to New Orleans to Austin, I traipsed all across the U.S.

These trips were half-work, half-play.

I made speeches and presentations at a couple of conferences, met with a various bloggers, and participated in a few face-to-face mastermind groups. But I also went camping with friends, read loads of books, hiked, kayaked, paddleboarded, and generally soaked up each new location with gusto.

I’m now home for a solid two-and-a-half weeks. Then I fly to San Diego again (third trip this year!) to hit up a 4-day arts and music festival in the mountains.

Ay caramba.

The two obvious questions at this juncture are:

  • How can you afford this? (Answered many times on this blog, including here, here and here).
  • How do you balance this with your day-to-day workload?

Let’s tackle the second question.

I’m a digital nomad, which means I can work from my laptop from anywhere on the planet (as long as I have internet). But this doesn’t necessarily mean I WANT to be working 40-hour weeks while I travel.

On the contrary: I want to work As. Little. As. Possible. while I’m traveling. And for the past month, that’s exactly what I did.

(This is also why there’s been radio silence from this blog for a month. I needed a break from staring at a computer screen. I hope you understand. You can always find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where I whittle away far too much of my misspent youth.)

At any rate —

How did this one-month absence impact my income? Is my business ready for this level of passivity? And — most importantly — what lessons can I share that might benefit you?

Read on.

The Back Story

First, a bit of background:

As longtime Afford Anything Rebels already know, I quit my 9-to-5 job in 2008 and traveled for a couple of years, living on savings. When I came back to the U.S. in 2010, I began building an online business as a freelance writer and — later — as a content marketing consultant. (I also started investing in real estate, but that’s a different story for a different day).

Over the past four years, the digital business has grown from barely-eeking-out-an-existance to a healthy income. Like many stereotypical overworked solopreneurs, I initially handled everything myself. From operations to tech support to marketing to bookkeeping to design, I was a one-person machine.

I later woke up to the realization that if I want to build a lifestyle-centered enterprise, I needed to throw away the shackles of a “DIY” mentality. My goal is to have a business that works harder for me than I do for it. The most critical skill I can develop is hiring, training, promoting, and firing.

I started assembling a four-person, part-time team a little less than a year ago, with loads of trial, error, and mixed results. While I’m still a complete amateur at team leadership (seriously — I’m deep in the “still learning” phase), I’m light-years beyond my skill level from a mere 6 months ago.

(Moral of the story: Always be learning. “I don’t know how …” is never an excuse.)

This past month represented my first true test. Can I step away from my business for a month and leave it running as smoothly as it does when I’m behind-the-wheel?

The Experience

The test results are in. Here’s how it shook out:

Daily Operations:

This turned out to be 90 percent fine. My team was already in the habit of taking care of routine tasks, so my departure didn’t ruffle feathers in the least.

What about the problematic 10 percent? The core issue involved slow communication. When someone on my team emailed me a question, I would take about 3-4 days to respond — which would delay projects.

What triggered this problem? Their emails got buried in a sea of other unopened, unanswered email.

The solution? I began using a free Gmail feature called “Priority Inbox” that fixes this issue by automatically sending certain emails to the “priority” chain. (Note: This is different from Gmail’s “Primary” Inbox, which is automatically applied to all accounts.)

However, “Priority Inbox” wasn’t a complete cure. Some of their emails would still get swallowed by the general Inbox Monster. As a backup, I also instructed them to write the word “URGENT” (all-caps) in the subject line if they needed a response from me within the next 48 hours.


As a rule, I like to keep my calendar as clear as possible. Too many meetings are a waste of time. That said, on the rare occasions (maybe 1-2x/week) that I’d schedule a phone meeting, I found myself in ConfusionLand.

What triggered this problem? At home, I input everything into my calendar in Eastern Time. When I’m on the road, I’ll input it into my calendar in the local time of where ever I currently happen to be — which may or may not correspond to the time zone in which I’ll be located when I have the meeting. (Sometimes I don’t know have this information yet, since I’m not sure how long I’ll stay somewhere before moving onto the next spot.) And finally, sometimes the Google Calendar would automatically convert the meeting to the local time zone, but on occasion it wouldn’t, or something would get messed up, or perhaps I’d just get confused about the whole mess.

The solution? I began inputting every meeting in Eastern Time, so I would have a consistent “benchmark” for conversion. I also began manually writing the time — “4 p.m. Eastern” — in the event description. This way, if the scheduling auto-shifted on the calendar, I can still read the original benchmark. In the future, I’m contemplating using a more robust calendar program like ScheduleOnce, though I haven’t tried it yet. (That’s NOT an affiliate link; I don’t affiliate with anything unless I use it myself.)

New Business:

I’ll keep this one short: You can maintain your business while you step away … but you can’t grow it.

In one of my favorite books, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey outlines the difference between “urgent” and “important” in your work life —

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When you’re on cruise-control, you tend what’s “urgent” … not what’s “important.” That’s fine for a month or two. Just don’t make a habit of it (if you want to grow). :-)

One unexpected benefit: Removing yourself clarifies what’s actually important vs. what’s just busy-work. (It also clarifies the areas in which you’re the bottleneck). You know the cliche: “Necessity is the mother of invention?” Turns out, necessity is also the mother of clarity.


Unchanged! No upset clients. No missed projects or deadlines. Everything ran as it did when I was back at home, despite working significantly fewer hours. (This makes me realize how — ahem — “unnecessary” I truly am). :-)

We maintained the status quo quite nicely. We just didn’t make any growth progress, or chase any long-term prospects. That’s totally fine by me. I’m in this for the lifestyle.

Real Estate:

Having throughly tested a variety of real estate management tactics, I’m more convinced than ever that traditional rental properties are one of the BEST sources of truly passive income. (The initial phase is a pain-in-the-rear, but the aftermath is awesomesauce-with-a-side-of-hell-yeah.)

Meanwhile, vacation rentals (like being an AirBnb host) and active businesses (like my laptop-based operation) are more lucrative but require MUCH more time, energy and attention. One is a passive business, while the others are ultra-active.

Take-Away Lessons:

If you’re wondering how to apply this to your own life — even if you just want a 1-week getaway without needing to stay tethered to your email — here are some chief takeaways:

  • Preparation is key. Start getting your systems in place months ahead of time.
  • Eliminate, then automate, then delegate. It’s cliche because it’s true.
  • Don’t over-optimize. Understand when “good enough” is good enough.
  • Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. And taller and better-looking. :-) Your team should pull you up, not tear you down. You’re a leader, not a babysitter.
  • Make decisions based on simplicity. And let go of the details.
  • Don’t live in your Inbox. Accept that sometimes, you’ll take weeks to answer non-critical emails. Your time and your mental bandwidth is limited, and you shouldn’t waste it wallowing in your Inbox. Finish your most critical work first, and indulge in email for dessert.
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The Secret Truth about the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

digital nomad location independent lifestyle

I’m about to tell you something that most travel and lifestyle bloggers are afraid to say.

I’m going to reveal the truth about the “digital nomad” lifestyle.

The term “digital nomad” (or the phrase “location independent”) refers to people (like me) who have the freedom to work from anywhere on the planet with an internet connection. Bali, Barcelona, Belize — the world is wide open. We can roam the globe freely.

Most articles about location independence only highlight the awesomeness. (And to be fair, it’s absolutely awesome.) But most bloggers gloss over the rough edges.

Fortunately for you, I’m not “most bloggers.”

What’s a Digital Nomad?

First — (for the sake of readers who are new to this idea) — the benefits to location independence are obvious.

  • Want to live in Italy or Argentina or Thailand? Go for it.
  • Want to lounge at home-sweet-home? Sweet. You’re 100% free to choose that.

Nothing ties you down. The benefit isn’t the travel itself … it’s the freedom, the choice.

I don’t need to elaborate on these points. You get it.

Wealth + Travel? Enjoy Both.

There’s an extra benefit, actually, that most people don’t think about.

I’ve met a ton of travelers who don’t run their own businesses. Instead, they float from country to country, picking up whatever odd jobs they can find.

They harvest grapes in Tasmania. They wait tables in Sweden. They work the front desk of hostels in Luxembourg.

They’re having an epic adventure. And they’re living a rich life. I admire their lifestyle.

But they’re scraping by.

They’re stressed about qualifying for a work visa (or they’re working under-the-table while on a tourist visa). They’re stuck in one location (one village, one farm) where their job is based. They toil for a low hourly wage. And after years of labor — sometimes hard physical labor — they often have no savings, no retirement plan, no long-term escape plan.


Conversely, I’ve met plenty of people back at home who earn fantastic money, but they’re chained to their desk. They sacrifice their dreams to sit in a cubicle.

Eventually they hit a midlife crisis, feel pangs of regret, and self-medicate by leasing a BMW. The next day, they’re back in the cubicle.

Double ouch.

Those of us who run (successful) businesses from our laptops, however, enjoy the best of both worlds. We travel the globe PLUS earn awesome money.

What could be better?

The Crappy Side of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the drawbacks, as well.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining — (I’m not) — but I want to share an honest insight into “a day in the life.”

Here we go, no-holds-barred.

#1: You’re Obsessed with Internet Connectivity

You’re always concerned about internet connectivity. Always. If someone says, “let’s go here!,” your first thought is: “How’s the bandwidth?”

Antidote? Limit your working hours/days. Plan days when you’re buckling down, and days when you’re wild and free.

#2: You Stay in Civilization

I just returned from my first trip to Ireland. (Pics on Instagram). Before I left, I thought: “It’s a First-World nation. Internet connectivity will be easy!”

But it wasn’t. Ireland is filled with gorgeous but remote locations — cliffs, forests, seascapes — that have next-to-nonexistent wifi connectivity. If you can pick up a signal, it’s slow as snails.

Antidote? Head to a major city for one or two mega-work-days of harnessing high-speed internet. Limit this to just one or two days a week, though. Remember: Work expands to fill the time you give it.

#3: You Can’t Unplug

You CAN work from anywhere, which means that you DO. It’s hard to unplug. Work travels with you, everywhere you go.

Antidote? Remove temptation. Set up an “away” message on your email, then voyage into the wilderness or any other area with a terrible wifi signal.

#4: You’re Inefficient

Here’s the biggest truth: You might be able to maintain your business while you travel, but it’s tough to grow.

You’re less efficient than you would be if you were grounded in one spot. Your internet speeds might be slower. You don’t have access to physical tools like a scanner or printer.

Antidote? Acceptance. Don’t try to grow your business. Instead, focus on spending as little time at a computer screen as possible.

#5: You’re Hurting Your Body

You’re working on a laptop, which is less ergonomically healthy than working on a “real” keyboard with a “real” mouse. I know this sounds like a minor detail, but after a few hours on a laptop, your neck/shoulders/wrists feel the effects.

Antidote? Yoga and cardio. Love it, live it, practice it every damn day.

#6: You Don’t Meet People

One benefit to picking grapes in Tasmania or working at a ski resort in New Zealand is that you’ll meet other travelers. Working solo removes the opportunity to make friends in new places.

Antidote? Sleep in hostels from time-to-time, even if you have the budget to stay somewhere nicer. They’re an amazing place to meet people. Tap into the local Couchsurfing or AirBnb community. Head to and find a social outing that jives with your style. Chat with strangers at parks, restaurants, bars.

More Tips for an Awesomesauce Experience

  • Ruthlessly prioritize. This applies to your time, not just your money. Act fierce and ferocious about how you prioritize your time, money and life. Don’t answer that email, no matter how tempting. Ignore that GChat or Facebook message. Your time is your most valuable asset. Protect it.
  • Commit to a “limited mental bandwidth” lifestyle. Clutter is a killer — and that applies to mental clutter, as well. Your brain is like a wireless router — it can only process limited data. Don’t let it download junk. I quit clipping coupons, for example, not (just) because of the time involved, but because of the mental bandwidth that it occupied.
  • Just say no. Delete emails. Don’t take on extra projects. Put your ideas into a folder … and leave them there. Bonus tip: Don’t organize your files into a zillion folders and sub-folders, thinking you’ll get to them later. Stick everything in the trash can, or at least into an “unimportant” folder.
  • Remember the jugglers. You can juggle five balls. But when you try to add a sixth ball, they’ll ALL fall down. Steer clear of Ball #6.
  • Travel slowly. Slowing your pace presents a bazillion benefits, including lowering your costs, improving your language acquisition, allowing you to make new friends, giving you a deeper understanding of the culture, and making it easier to balance life-work.
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Why “Get Paid to Travel” is a Myth (And What You Should Pursue, Instead)

Why 'get paid to travel' is a myth

I’ve been in Costa Rica for a week now; a few more days until I fly out.

Believe it or not, I came here for work. I spoke at a blogging workshop for the first five days, at the invitation of a publishing company. About a dozen attendees came to learn about blog writing and tour this beautiful country.

(True to my “one day of freedom for each day of work” philosophy, I decided that 5 days of speaking should be followed by 5 days of beach time. So here I am, literally writing this blog post from the beach.)

In speaking at this workshop, I fulfilled a decade-old ambition: I’m “getting paid to travel” for the first time.

My younger self would flip out if she could see me now.

When I was in college, I daydreamed about finding a job that would allow me to travel to exotic locales, spotting wildlife and sampling tropical cuisine.

Fast-forward a decade, and — voila! — that dream is now a reality. My 20-year-old self would be floored if she knew.

And I’m so grateful, so happy, so blessed.

And yet —

This experience confirms an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for years: “Get paid to travel” is the wrong dream.

In fact, “get paid to travel” doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. An illusion.

(But don’t worry — there’s a stronger, better dream that you can embrace, if you want to. One that’s more honest, more authentic. Read on.)

An Important Lesson I Had to Learn The Hard Way …

Let’s rewind for a moment.

During college, I was constantly scheming ways to travel.

I wanted to go overseas. The context didn’t matter. I was young and inexperienced, and had no grasp of “context.”

Like many students, I looked into study abroad. But those semester-long programs bore steep 5-figure price tags. Gulp!

Then I realized I didn’t want the “study” — I just wanted the “abroad.” It would be a LOT cheaper to just save enough to buy a plane ticket after graduation, live somewhere for six months, and find some odd jobs to support myself.

I told my parents, who asked a logical follow-up: “What would you do there?”

I shrugged. “Maybe bartend?”

As you can imagine, that answer didn’t blow over too well.

My dad said that if I really wanted to travel, I should look for a “professional” career that would allow me to live overseas.

So my senior year, I started browsing those opportunities: The State Department. International nonprofit work. News reporting.

The State Department seemed too bureaucratic, and the global nonprofit sector seemed too competitive, so I decided to foray into journalism, figuring I’d one day become an international correspondent. To break into the field, I accepted a job as a reporter at the local newspaper, figuring that it was the first stepping stone in what would become a long and illustrious career in print media. (Ha!)

But my timing was terrible. The newspaper industry was drying up. Jobs were scarce; my possibility of landing a staff position at a major-market daily seemed slim.

After a few years, I recognized the folly in waiting around for a White Knight (your boss) to make your dreams come true. I had placed fate into the hands of gatekeepers.

If I really wanted a freedom-soaked lifestyle filled with travel and adventure, I needed to knock down the gate.

So I quit my job in 2008, and the rest is history. I haven’t been employed since, yet my income has quadrupled. I make six-figures from my laptop and I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries, spending as much time in each locale as I want.

(Like I said, my 20-year-old self would totally. flip. out. if she could look into a crystal ball and see the future me. Life has turned out far better than I’d imagined possible.)

In the process of creating all of that, though, I forgot about my original scheme, the trigger which started it all — which was that College-Senior-Paula was plotting ways she could to “get paid to travel.”

I forgot that’s what I’d wanted — until it happened. This current trip to Costa Rica is the first time I’ve ever traveled overseas for work.

And it makes me realize: That whole idea is an illusion.

Nobody gets paid to travel. We get paid for the value we bring to the trip.

And that’s where our focus needs to be.

I’m not literally getting paid to receive a passport stamp. I’m here because — (hopefully) — I can impact others and change lives through writing, speaking and teaching.

There’s a famous quote by business leader Jim Rohn — “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value that you bring to the hour.”

The same applies here. You don’t “get paid to travel.” You get paid for the value that you bring to the trip. (If you like that, Tweet it.)

Look for Freedom, Not Commands

But hold on!

There’s more.

If we’re getting paid for creating value — and if our work transfers across boundaries — then it doesn’t matter where we are when we create that value.


Okay, hear me out:

On a day-to-day basis, I work from my laptop. I could be in Kuala Lumpur or Kansas City; my location is irrelevant.

And that flexibility — combined with a good income (and strong savings) — creates far, far more freedom than any other work arrangement.

In other words –

The goal shouldn’t necessarily be “get paid to travel.” Because that — by itself — doesn’t create optimal freedom.

If I had a boss telling me to fly to Egypt for a news assignment, he’d also tell me what to do when I get there. And when to fly home. And where to fly next.

I’d be living on his terms.

But if you change the goal to “earn money from anywhere,” the game changes. Now you have the freedom to call the shots.

Context matters.

I didn’t understand this when I was 20. I thought “travel” was the same, regardless of whether it was studying abroad, working odd jobs to support myself while backpacking Europe, or representing the State Department.

Now I understand how different each of those experiences would be.

Context matters.

The old notion of “getting paid to travel” is premised on the assumption that someone else issues the command.

Don’t make that your sole goal.

Command yourself.

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Fire Your Boss, Travel Slowly & Reach Escape Velocity

escape velocity

If I’ve been conspicuously quiet on this blog lately, there’s a solid reason: I’ve been traveling nearly nonstop.

One of the benefits of no longer Working for the Man is the ability to do whatever the heck I want, and “what I want” usually involves airfare.

Life hasn’t always been this way. There are three phases in a person’s quest for financial freedom: Start, Accelerate, and Escape.

Four years ago, when I first moved to Atlanta, I focused on building both my online business and my investment portfolio. I traveled very little. Those were the “Acceleration Years,” when I sacrificed all else for the sake of hitting Escape Velocity.

[Read more…]

10 Inspiring Travel Quotes (My Favorite Is #5)

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

travel quotes

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How Forest Travels the Globe … While Running a Business from His Laptop

Travel the world while running a business from your laptop

At first glance, Forest doesn’t seem to fit the profile of a successful entrepreneur and world traveler.

He grew up in a working-class neighborhood. He dropped out of school at age 16. He endured a tragedy in his early 20’s.

But our early life doesn’t determine our future. Forest is living proof.

He’s been traveling the world nonstop since 2007, and he runs an independent graphic design business from his laptop.

How did he succeed? And what advice can he offer to aspiring location-independent entrepreneurs and world travelers?

In this interview, Forest shares his story with the Afford Anything tribe.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity, but otherwise the story is told in Forests’ own words.

#1: Tell us about your early life.

I grew up in Plumstead, a very working-class part of South East London. Back then, budget airlines and such things were not around. Taking the whole family abroad was well out of the financial reach. We did go on vacation, though, but mostly to the beaches within a few hours drive of London. I was lucky to see Wales on a few occasions.

As a young child, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I knew all the names of my toy dinosaurs and the names of sites around the world where a they had been dug up. My earliest memories include wanting to travel to far-off deserts and join the dusty dig sites, looking for a glimpse into our world’s past.

Then along came Jurassic Park. I HAD to see it, and my mother took my best friend and I to our local cinema for my 12th birthday. We had to queue around the block early to get our tickets.
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As soon as the dinosaurs came onto the screen — I wanted to know how on earth they created that effect! From then onwards, I decided to get into movie special effects.

Four years later —

I left school at 16. I did very well up to that level … but I honestly wouldn’t be able to pay for higher education without going into serious debt.

However, I had other ideas.

I found a 6-month apprenticeship in Graphic Design. The pay barely covered my weekly travel card, but it would give me a foot into the industry. I planned to work in graphic design for a few years and then hop over to “moving images.”

I never made that hop! As it turned out, I enjoyed graphic design. My career and pay were doing reasonably well by the time I turned 18. My best friend and I would talk about traveling the world together.

But in late 2002, everything changed.

On my way to work one morning, my phone rang. I remember staring at the phone for a few seconds before answering. For some reason, I had a strong sense of foreboding.

The caller was my best friend’s brother. He told me that my best friend had passed away in his sleep. My best friend had terrible asthma. At least once a year, he would get carted off to the hospital due to an asthma attack. This time, his luck had run out.

My best friend was almost 21. I was 22.

We never got to travel the world together, but I carry his memory with me each and every place I go. I miss him dearly.

For about 6 months, I sat around feeling sorry for myself. But I slowly started to kick myself back into shape. The idea I could just – “not wake up” — played on my mind.

I couldn’t mess around anymore. I needed to embrace each day.

Shortly after that, I flew on an airplane for the first time.

#2: How did you decide to quit your job and travel the world?

My first flight was to Guernsey, an island off the coast of the UK. Even though I hadn’t even left the UK, it felt foreign! I loved every minute of it. I knew more than ever I had to travel the world.

Over the next few years I took trips to France, Andorra and around the UK. In 2005, I traveled to Banff, Canada. I had never felt so far away from home, never felt such cold temperatures, never seen such high mountains. It was exhilarating.
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I knew that “one day” I wanted to live somewhere foreign.

But “one day” still seemed far off. I had a very high paying job and I felt pressure to buy a house and “settle down.”

So in 2006, I purchased a flat in London. I spent the maximum I could afford. I laid down a tiny deposit and started to settle into the life of being stuck with an overblown mortgage for an undersized living space.

Just a few months later, I started to get itchy. My mortgage payments were huge, and I wasn’t happy within my high-stress job. I felt like I was being squeezed by a Boa Constrictor.

I realized I wasn’t enjoying London as much as I used to. And I did not enjoy home ownership one bit!

A good friend of mine was living in Montreal at the time. I decided I was going to do something crazy and just move there. In 2007, I quit my job, left the UK, and spent the next two years living in Montreal and Vermont.

#3: How much money did you save before you took the leap?

Unfortunately, I left without preparing financially — This is NOT a model I want anyone else to follow.

I struggled for the first two years. I had no savings.

I worked at an Irish pub in Montreal, washing dishes. (I was later promoted to a sandwich cook.) I rented a small basement apartment, which I shared with a few other people.

During this time, my mindset changed dramatically. I learned to relish being frugal.

Back in London, when I had a well-paying job, I spent too much money and lived beyond my means. Traveling changed my mentality about money.

These days — even when I have money — I still tend to live modestly. I have a basic level of comfort, but nothing extravagant.

#4: After Canada, you went to … Egypt? How?

I thought Canada might become my new, permanent home. But my partner (whom I met in Montreal) decided to enroll in graduate school in Cairo, Egypt, and she asked if I wanted to move there with her.

I said yes without hesitation.

Living in Egypt was so mind-blowing that I realized I’d probably never want to stay anywhere permanently. We had to evacuate from Egypt during the Arab Spring revolution in 2011.

Since then, we’ve lived all over the world – we spent a year in New Zealand. We’re currently in Budapest, Hungary.

#5: How did you start a business from your laptop?

I wasn’t sure how to make money. In London, I’d worked as a print designer – not an online designer. So I didn’t think I could work in online design.

I started a small blog and learned web design and WordPress basics – just to get myself set up. People started asking me who designed my graphics. When they learned that I created my own designs, they asked me if I could do the same for them. I started accepting small graphic design jobs.

As time went on, word-of-mouth spread and my client list grew. I learned new skills as-needed (and I continue to teach myself new skills, to this day)!

I have never advertised my services. I’ve always gotten word-of-mouth clients. On occasion, I’ve asked my current clients if they know anyone who needs design work — that’s the most “marketing” I’ve ever done.

#6: You call yourself a “slow nomad.” Why?

Living in a place for a while enables you to soak up the zeitgeist. You get a kind of feeling that you ‘get it,’ you understand this new setting, culture and people. You make friends that often stick for life (I hope).

You find out things you never would have understood in tourist mode, and you get an insight into the aspects of life help you more deeply understand the world.

#7: You say entrepreneurship and travel requires “Multiple Leaps of Faith.” Elaborate?

One of the reasons I didn’t travel for so long is that I seem to have inherited “the worry gene.” I worry things won’t work out, worry that I won’t have enough money, won’t that I won’t be happy, blah, blah, blah.

It’s taken me years of battling to pin this little devil down. Of course, the worry rears its ugly head at times. It’s a constant fight!

No matter how much preparation you do, its always different than you expected. That means you’ll always experience a tiny bit of doubt … but you have to promise yourself that no matter what, you will make it the right move. With this mindset, everywhere is a good place to go!

#8: Tell us about your message, “Anyone can travel.”

I think most people have the ability to rearrange their life so they can save enough money and get out into the world. Once you start talking with travelers, you meet people from every corner of the world, from all kinds of backgrounds, all political leanings, all religions. Literally anyone with any background or mindset can benefit from travel.

Traveling away from home has taught me a lot about the place I grew up. I now approach London as a destination, like any other. I can experience people, cuisines and music within the city, and feel like I am traveling without moving far at all.

Travel can happen by walking down a street, attending a cultural event or reading a magazine or website. Anyone can open their mind to transcend their own bubble and see the world around them.

You can read Forest’s story at

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