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My Financial Model

The business side.

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RHODES, Greece- What I do is sort of unusual. I need time — lot’s of time. I don’t really need much money.

I need time to talk to people, to hang out, to get the feel for a place, to make friends, and to really get an impression of what’s going on. I don’t like airdropping myself into a story somewhere in the world, looking around for five minutes with arms flaying, manically trying to snatch up anything they can, and then beaming myself back up again with a “first hand view” of a place firmly clenched between my teeth.

No, what I do is sort of unusual. When I first tell friends in the profession about my financial model they look sort of mortified. They would never dream of financing their own travels — they like their expense accounts — and because of this they rarely ever travel. Even when they are able to escape from Beijing or Shanghai or Jakarta they’re on the clock, on someone else’s dime, which means they are usually not permitted much time to really look around.

However, there is a core difference in how my financing model is structured, which ultimately what makes it beneficial for me. I’m not doing charity here — this is a business … of sorts.

I rarely go out somewhere to do a project exclusively for one source to be published in a single medium. The key here is multiples. I collect multiple forms of content to be published on multiple platforms in multiple mediums. I.e. books, articles, videos, radio, blog posts … At the same time this allows me to take away a deeper view of a place that has its own long-term value. I.e. talks, consulting, webinars, etc. It’s easier to position yourself as an authority on something if you’ve spent years on the ground observing it, touching it, talking about it …

This means there are multiple streams of revenue coming in rather than just one, and, at the end of the day, I’d estimate that I probably make around the same amount of money that I would if I worked exclusively for one publication who paid my travel expenses.

Doing my work my way provides me with discretion — with the discretion to operate on my own timeline and do projects as I feel they should be done. This is my project, I have ownership of it — this isn’t just something someone else commissioned me to do.

In an odd way I run a business. I look at a story, calculate roughly how many platforms may be interested in it, what mediums I want to tell the story in, and estimate how much revenue I can ultimately derive from it. If the end sum is equal to or  greater than the travel expense I go.

There is also another core difference at play here: at root, I am a traveler, I work to travel — not the other way around. I’m always traveling, this is just how I live normally, and my entire financial set up is built around continuous movement from place to place.

If I’m here or if I’m there doesn’t really make that much of a difference …


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Filed under: Journalism, Travel Diary, Work

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 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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