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Becoming (More) Financially Bulletproof After Coronavirus

Preparing for when this is over.

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ASTORIA, NYC- “After coronavirus, how are you going to make yourself more financially bulletproof?” Andy asked me in an interview that we did a week or so ago.

I didn’t have a real answer. Instead, I started talking about how financial security is derived from reducing the length of your chain of dependency. By chain of dependency I mean all the various entities that need to be aligned for you to make a living. In journalism, my chain of dependency looks like this:

Me <– Editors <– Audience <– Traffic sources (search / social media, etc.) <– Publication <– Advertising revenue <– People buying products <– Status of broader economy.

This all needs to be chugging along in order for me to make a living. If my editors don’t like when I’m doing or the publication wants to go in a different direction, I’m done. If there isn’t a large enough audience, I’m out of work. If advertisers stop investing in ad placements, then I don’t get paid. If people stop buying products then the advertisers don’t make money off their ads and they stop placing them. If the broader economy descends then less people are going to be buying products.

Many things can get screwed up in this chain that are beyond my control, and this recent environment has made the deficiencies in my model a little glaring. I needed a new model; I needed to cut down the steps, remove the middle men, in between myself and my sources of funding.

I partially started the On the New Silk Road newsletter because of this.

With this new model my chain of dependency looks a little like this:

Me <– Audience <– Status of broader economy.

In the past, this model wouldn’t have been possible. Nobody paid for blogs or newsletters then. There was just an overabundance of media that didn’t have a price tag — people didn’t even pay for reading top-level news sites. Online was synonymous with free.

Today, things are different. The Wild West of the internet has been tamed. Even large publications can’t survive off of ad revenue alone, not to mention independent blogs. We have entered into the era of user-generated funding. Now, sites that don’t charge have become somewhat of an anomaly.

We vote for the content that we like with our patronage rather than our readership. If we don’t pay the publication goes away. Economic fundamentals have returned to the world of media.

Time goes on, things change, adapt and survive.

Life in NYC isn’t extremely bad during the coronavirus lock down. When I talk with people on the phone they seem to thing that I’m in the middle of Wuhan-part-2. Besides none of the bars and restaurants and cafes being open, the streets look somewhat normal. People are walking around, hanging out in the parks — the mania of the pandemic has lulled itself into complacency. The hospitals are not going to be overrun. The doomsday scenarios seems as if they are not even going to come close to happening. We’re used to it.

Erik the Pilot tells me of all the things he’s doing in his backyard in Florida — I just had a barbecue, I just got out of the pool, I’m playing checkers on my patio — and I become a little envious. But then I read about places where people need a permit just to walk out of their front door or some places in Australia where people are being slapped with $1,000 fines for sitting alone on park benches or giving their teenage kids driving lessons or for posting photos on social media of a vacation they took last year, and I have to realize that I don’t have it too bad here.

I sort of needed this time to sit back and stay put. I had so many projects to finish and I wanted to start up that Silk Road site. But I am crouched down at the starting blocks ready to sprint as soon as the borders open again, which I’m estimating to be in June.

I’m probably going to do another run through Central Asia, with a focus on the oil-dependent states whose currencies recently crashed. Crashing currencies = discounted travel. But it’s also a way to inject dollars into economies that need them and support the small businesses that dominate the tourism sectors of these countries. It’s a win-win.

This is a photo of my kids pretending to travel during lockdown:

Traveling kidsWhat’s your plans for when this is over?

Full interview with Andy:


Filed under: Epidemics, New York City

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

9 comments… add one

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  • Trevor April 17, 2020, 12:26 am

    I like the concept of subscription blogs. I wish I had started back in 2000 when I really started travelling.
    Realistically peeps wont pay to read mine. Unless i seriously under estimate my abilities.

    Here other than going nowhere, life is pretty much the same. I am free to go shopping, albeit with a mask. Small lil restaurant is still open. Shelves are stocked. The streets are not empty though quieter. And a curfew at 7pm til 5am.

    We had a bit of a bash. But am wary of posting the photos out of respect for the guys here and i dt want any back-lash. It might look like a piss up and we were done by 4pm but its my new family except they go home at night before the curfew.

    And as soon as we are free to move i will MOVE with a capital M. For the first 3 months just 2 days in each place.

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    • Wade Shepard April 17, 2020, 11:53 am

      Man, you should just write everyday like you did for the post you did for VJ. Do that for a while and build up that regular audience. Talk about long-term travel in a romantic kind of way. Make friends with other travel bloggers — which you seem to have already done, from looking how active your Twitter is. Then open things up for donations, then maybe sell some products.

      The reason why the Silk Road newsletter could work using a subscription model is because it’s built around a topic that there is a lack of quality information about — which is also a topic that a relatively large amount of people are doing research on or investing in and need insider information. I don’t believe this would work so well on VJ — voluntary donations are the way to go here.

      “And as soon as we are free to move i will MOVE with a capital M. For the first 3 months just 2 days in each place.”

      Yes. Definitely.

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  • Lawrence April 17, 2020, 1:55 am

    Glad you are doing well. Some of those stories in Australia are a bit of a beat up. It does seem the Victoria police take a hardline to things (they always have) but the selfie one and the driving lesson have been revoked. The guy sitting on the bench was selling drugs, or that might have a been a different one. It is pretty much like what you have described NYC as, everything seems just slightly less than normal. Actually it is kind of awesome cause there is nothing to spend money on (save more for future adventures) and the weather has been stunning and the fish biting…not all bad to be honest. A great time to drive around Lake Shore Drive.

    A complacency has settled in for sure. I mean I guess the online crowd still blab on and scream about this being the worst thing ever, but I don’t know. They are wrong about everything and never admit fault…how boring. It seems like the average joe on the street is nicer than ever. Australia more or less has instituted a UBI for the next six months, so I don’t know the level of desperation people feel. 750 bucks a week to fish is okay.

    Do you really think it will be open by June, I would love that but that seems a overly optimistic…..hope you are right.

    As for what happens after this..I don’t know. I was thinking Taiwan and a trip to the Outback and just get lost under the stars. Don’t know yet. I have some Air Asia credits from my previous trips that got cancelled. I am in the mood for crazy fun people and great nature….who the hell knows what is going to happen.

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    • Wade Shepard April 17, 2020, 12:01 pm

      Thanks for that clarity. Yes, people like complaining on the internet. It’s one of the two things the technology exists for. Yeah, just enjoy it, I guess.

      “750 bucks a week to fish is okay.”

      That’s a dream!

      It’s kind of the same in the USA. I have no idea what people are screaming about — the government is dispersing free money to people to do nothing. Isn’t this a socialist’s dream?

      What I don’t like is the loss of civil liberties and blah, blah.

      I also strongly feel as if data and information are being misunderstood and manipulated, which is personally bothersome. There are also these jerks, such as Neil Ferguson, making their doomsday predictions that have no basis in reality just to gain relevance and funding. The same guy whose study apparently convinced Trump to take the pandemic seriously was the same guy who said that mad cow was going to kill everyone and led to the needless culling of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cattle. After that we probably should have been like, “maybe this guy is full of shit?” But we weren’t, because he’s an “expert.”

      He has since downgraded his projected death toll in the UK from something like 1.5 million to 80k to, I believe, 8k. Could be wrong on these numbers, but whatever the case that’s a difference so big that it basically says, “Yeah, actually, I was full of shit the first time.”

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      • Jack April 20, 2020, 10:28 am

        The solution to the loss of civil liberties thing is to move with a Capital M. It’s only going to get worse in the future. No politician wants to be the one who says that it’s ok for grandma to die. Add to this that we will likely see multiple waves with the next one starting in the fall.

        The flatten the curve thing is something I supported as it was first designed. The idea was to reduce the number of severe cases to less than the supply of hospital ICU beds. The idea of shutting everything down to reduce the case load to as close to zero as possible is asinine and foolish, but social distancing and limited shutdown was needed because nobody invested in having a surge capacity in the medical system. For all its faults, China had surge capacity. They could bring medical staff and equipment from elsewhere in China to deal with regional flareups.

        They are at 16,000 deaths and climbing in the UK. I modeled my own numbers….somewhere I have them. There are wrinkles in the data though….BCG vaccine is one that reduces the chance of dying from this thing. Taking all of that into account is important. In a place like the US where there is scant BCG vaccinations, my model had the US death toll at about 600k from all the waves between now and 2022. That assumes no vaccination and 115 million US infections (same percentage who were infected by the Spanish Flu pandemic). We are 41k right now. (For fun, extrapolating from that number of deaths, we probably had 7 million infected people 3 to 4 weeks ago). And my numbers could be total bunk so take them with a grain of salt.

        I’ve read enough of the studies to know that I don’t like this thing, but it looks like I already had it and the recovery has turned out to be worse than the actual disease. And that’s the real thing there: Most people are going to get over this with no issue at all.

        It’s ridiculous to try to cut the cases to zero like they are trying to do. It just needs to be reduced to a manageable level.

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        • Wade Shepard April 20, 2020, 12:06 pm

          I agree completely about the lack of civil liberties. We’re not getting some of them back. Lockdown and the revoking of constitutional rights on the whim of a governor is now in our government’s playbook.

          Yes, there is a lot of misunderstanding of what flattening the curve is about. Social distancing, blah, blah, blah doesn’t reduce the number of cases, it spreads them out over a longer span of time. The idea is that if we did this we wouldn’t overburden our hospitals. However, it doesn’t seem as if this has happened. Even in NYC, where the virus spread wild for months, the hospitals were not over-run.

          Now, using social distancing as a tool to allow for adequate preparation, that’s cool. Shut things down for a few weeks until they are ready. But it’s very clear that they are now prepared, but they’re keeping us locked down still.

          Somewhere along the line we got confused as to why we are doing this. People are now acting as if we can hide from the virus and then on some magical day we can step outside and it will be gone and everything will be all better. They don’t seem to get that there is no way out of this until we have a substantial number of “viral shields” out there who have had the infection and developed immunity. We don’t have a vaccine and there is a chance we never will — or at least not anytime within the next year or two. That means healthy people need to be exposed and develop immunity. There is no other way out of this and it’s my take that this should be done as fast as possible. The longer we wait the more harm will be done, both to people’s health and economically.

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  • Sarah April 17, 2020, 3:45 pm

    First thing I need to do when this is over is fly home to Spain and move to Madrid, but I’m not as excited by this plan as I was a few months ago when I signed up for the pad.

    If I don’t need to travel so much for work immediately, highly likely, I’ll probably spend more time traveling for fun, I’m dreaming of some cool wine trips – would love to do a mix of classic regions, origins, emerging markets and New World – and to spend the summer outside wandering around vineyards, researching and studying ahead of my Wine exam this Autumn. Anything but be inside. The whole wine world is on my syllabus and I figure what better way to get my head into it than to travel around, meet the people that make it and drink it in situ with local food.

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    • Wade Shepard April 17, 2020, 7:11 pm

      Take the trip! Couldn’t imagine moving into a big city after this is over. As Trevor put it, “MOVE with a capital M!”

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      • Sarah April 17, 2020, 9:00 pm

        Yeah, I hear you both. I’m going to hit the books this weekend and start researching some wine adventures.

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