Spinning the lockdown tragedy positive.
ASTORIA, NYC- I was wiped out too — just one of the gang (of 50 million Americans) left unemployed by the pandemic. I travel for work, my web properties are focused on travel, the raw materials of what I produce come from travel, and what makes me valuable is that I travel. Before March I could not have imagined a day when travel was not possible. No business ever has a contingency plan for zero customers. My business had no contingency plan for zero travel.
Publicly, I’ve lamented my position — an entire year of speaking engagements, big media projects, and the usual array of freelance gigs, completely gone — but privately I did not bemoan my fate. The opportunity in the crises was easy to find: the global overreaction to the Covid-19 pandemic has gifted me the time and space to put my head down and finish big projects and start new projects and businesses from the ground up.
At some point during the lockdown in NYC I remembered my days of living out of a backpack, where I’d say things like, “If I only had a US address I would do …” I had to laugh at myself: here I was whining about how I lost my work while I had the raw ingredient that my broader business strategy was always missing.
There were so many ventures that I planned to start over my years of travel that were hampered or vacated due to my lack of a constant — and preferably American — address. I would consider starting up a drop shipping operation, producing my own branded products, and flipping everything that could be flipped just to watch as my itinerantcy buggered it all away. The 365-day a year style of travel provides many ways to make money … on one hand … while making many business opportunities far more difficult on the other. Ideally, you would travel freely while maintaining a business base — or multiple bases — in key locations. In most cases, you at least need a point person on the ground in the market you want to be most active in.
But I tried to do that once, and it didn’t work out so well:
Remember when I used to sell Vagabond Journey t-shirts around ten years ago? I had one of the best woodblock printers in NYC design and carve out a Vagabond Journey logo and print up some shirts with it. The results were incredible and they sold well, but … I relied on my sister to send them out, and … well, I’ll put it like this: I’ve had to “Sorry, dude” people way too many times when they asked what happened to that t-shirt they ordered but never received.
So I forgot about selling things, flipping shit, and the plethora of other ways to hustle a living. I just wrote, shot video, and made a living in media. I told myself — falsely — that there was no other way for me, and I put all of my focus on that singular objective. It was what I like doing anyway, and I became successful at it. I made a living traveling the world and writing about it. It was a dream … and like all dreams you eventually wake up and ask yourself if it was real.
Like many others through the course of the lockdown, being prohibited from carrying out my usual routine yanked me outside of it. I was able to peer inside my life and be like, “Hey!!! What’s going on in there!?!”
Or, more pressingly, why am I still so happy being so poor?
The seeds of this sentiment were actually planted back in February when I was in Austin, Texas shooting a documentary about digital nomads. I interviewed Ian Schoen, the co-host of Tropical MBA podcast and co-founder of the Dynamite Circle business collective, for the film. As I sat in his garage that was full of expensive race cars and motorcycles that sat next to his big, beautiful house I got to thinking about how this dude was the same age as me, travels the world like me, but has a lot more of everything than me. Where I spent my time writing about what I’m interested in, he was starting companies and building generational wealth for himself and his family. Why haven’t I ever bothered to do this?
It may sound funny but that was the first time I’ve ever asked myself that question. Even while interviewing multi-millionaire CEOs or big time entrepreneurs for Forbes I always maintained this odd disconnect between them and myself. They seemed to be from another world and I would peer into their lives inquisitively, feeling as much akin to them as I would a pygmy in the Congo. But this dude, Ian Schoen, seemed to be a “one of me” — a peer, someone who came from the same place and started walking the same road as I did but took a sharp left where I just kept going.
I need to make up for lost time.
“Everybody is hustling now, man. It’s crazy,” my real estate broker told me the other day when we were hanging out in front of a restaurant.
We have been severed from the office. We have been cast aside by our employers. We’ve had our pay cut or have been furloughed. We’ve been abused. Now, do they really think we’re going to walk back into the fold as if nothing happened? I don’t believe so. We’ve had too much time to think, and we’ve realized a few things.
“People get up and go to work to make other people richer. All of your bills are someone’s passive income.” –Chris Johnson
Revisit the Independent Travel Business series.