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I don't get paid for this, but I love it!Recently I’ve seen a movement towards people trying to become travel writers so that they can travel. Sounds reasonable. They have a dreamy ideal of hitting the road on a company’s dime (or a hundred dollars, if you factor in compound inflation since the term was first coined), rafting down rivers, eating French cuisine in France,  bushwhacking through cultural backwaters, and writing about it all in just a few hours of work.

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When I left home eleven years ago I had my own dream. I wanted to be “That Guy.” You know, that guy who can land anywhere in the world and make a living. That guy who is creative, resourceful and good with his hands (yes, he’s shockingly handsome too). I’m talking about a mix of Macgyver, without the mullet, and Liam Neeson’s character in Taken (such and awesome movie). We’ve met this person so we know he exists. He’s the guy who sold everything, bought a boat and sustained himself for years by working at each port. Or she’s (yes, of course we are being gender sensitive today) the woman you met in Thailand on your two week vacation, who’s writing for the Bangkok Post and will move to a new country when she feels like it. (note: I’ve actually met these people, they do exist).

Todd in the Maldives

No, not THAT Guy!

What do these two amazingly awesome archetypes have in common? THEY DON’T EXIST. Sure there are people who are living these lives. But the idea of becoming these people so that we can travel is backwards. As a new travel writer I doubt you are going to get paid to jaunt off right away. I certainly never would have left my house if I was waiting to be “That Guy” before I felt ready to leave. The truth is you have to strike out first. Somehow, as I look back on the last 11 years I have become “That Guy” without ever realizing it.

I just had a conversation today with a 22 year-old woman from Sweden during which she said, “I hope my life is like yours in 10 years.” We had this conversation in Kosovo, so guess what? Your life already is. We can never become who we want to be without doing it. So just do it (I hope I don’t get sued by Nike). To help give you a nudge here are three things I have found invaluable in my journey to being ‘That Guy” and traits I see in others I meet on the road that have helped them.

Just Go

I know it sounds overly simplistic. But so many travel dreams end up in the trash because they remain just that, dreams. If you don’t go now, you might never. There will always be a reason why you shouldn’t go, money, family, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But the truth is, no one is going to hand you your dream job, or pay for your dream life if your not willing to pay for it yourself.

I’m not saying run out of the house in your underwear and jump on the first plane. But if you do please get pictures of Home Land Security wrestling you to the ground. Instead make a plan. If you want to be a travel writer but are having trouble realizing the getting paid writing part of the plan then just travel and write for free. Pick a country that you are passionate about, a volunteer job you believe in, or whatever and go. You don’t have to do that job forever, but it gets you out the door and hands you something a travel magazine never will…a new life with plenty of inspiration. I didn’t want to be an English teacher for my whole life. But it got me to Japan for 5 years and started me off. It allowed me to travel all over the country, learn Japanese, and travel throughout Asia. It’s also providing me with material for my first book, and endless travel writing ideas.

Take Risks and Look for Opportunities

Malaysian Security Forces in East Timor

These guys weren't afraid to ask for a picture with me. Take a risk!

You can sit around dreaming about your future life all you want, but you’ll be wasting your current one. Look for the opportunities that are present right now and take advantage up them. When I was in Timor-Leste working I had the opportunity to move to Sri Lanka. I didn’t have a job lined up and  I was taking a risk on a 2 month old relationship as well as with my career in development. But my exact thoughts were:

“Well, there’s a war going on in Sri Lanka so its worth going.” Yes, I realize this is not the normal line of thinking.

“I’d rather give the relationship a try and have it fail than wonder what would have happened.”

The end result was that I found an amazing job doing amazing work and I ended up marrying the girl in the story. Happy endings do happen (no, not the kind you pay for sicko).  Everyone has their own risk tolerance, and you don’t have to move to a war zone to reap the rewards. But you DO have to step out of your comfort zone and take advantage of what life offers you. Which in my experience is a tragedy of riches which we fail to see as there is so much on offer.

Being Passionate is the Best Form of Networking

I hate networking. When my career advisers at graduate school talked about it, it seemed so fake. Having a 1 minute elevator pitch or making business cards just to give out wasn’t my cup of tea. I naturally rejected it and found my own version: love what I loved and find people who were like minded to talk about it with. That’s it. If you show true passion for something people pick up on the energy and want to be close to it. Networking is the way to find new jobs, meet great new people, and have a ton of opportunities open.  Just remember to help others out for the sake of helping them out. Once you become settled new people will enter who need help. No one likes someone in it only for themselves…at least I don’t.

That’s it, some simple advice that takes a ton of hard work. If you step out your front door, are open to new opportunities, take the risks necessary to capitalize on them, and love what you do then everything will work out. As I have moved from country to country (usually without a job first) I thought I was just reacting to what I found and who I met. The truth is that I was being “That Guy.” It seemed natural to me, but to the person viewing my life from their cubical it might have seemed unattainable as they weren’t like me. If we switched places they probably would have made it work as well, or even succeeded where I failed. I’m really glad I never waited for someone to pay me to travel, or I might be reading this from my own cubical :)

I would love to hear your stories of breaking free or getting ready to do so. Or if you think I’m full of it I’d love to hear that too, it’s good for the soul.

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32 Responses to “3 Strategies to Help you Succeed and Travel the World”

  1. Hear u with JUST GO… there r always reasons why we shouldnt go but if the cliche ”if we don’t go now, maybe will never go” is so true! We should follow our dreams, cos maybe tomorrow it can be too late already!

  2. JeremyNo Gravatar says:

    I most resonated with the ‘just go’ bit. People have such a hard time just doing things…it’s really as simple as making it happen. I saved up a few bucks, bought a plane ticket and left. Easiest thing I ever did, really. People try to talk to me about how difficult it was but really, it wasn’t at all. Great read, Todd.
    Jeremy´s recent [type] ..Backpacker Etiquette

  3. NellyNo Gravatar says:

    As usual, another great article that every travel should read. My utmost obsession is traveling. I have no big savings because of that obsession. Every year I always set a date for it and it is just fulfilling on my part to do what I love doing. Most of the time I travel alone and it turned me into an independent woman.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Nelly, I totally hear you about traveling using up all savings :) I spend the first 5 years after college spending all my time and money on travel. I’m a bit more balanced now, so I do have savings, but I have figured out how to get my jobs to pay for it :)

  4. Great post! Best line: “Pick a country that you are passionate about, a volunteer job you believe in, or whatever and go.”

    Life should be about living – of course it’s much easier said then just DONE- but here’s to working toward it! Reading posts like this and getting to know the travel community has been such a positive experience, it really helps to keep you energized. I know that planning and talking about the opportunities/risks/trips out there has helped me really think that it can be done! Thanks Todd!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks for the nice words Hollis. This type of life is possible, but like most things it requires a start. I love hearing stories of different and successful lifestyles from the travel community. There are more of us living this way than anyone realizes :) Good luck and I’m happy to offer advice/help as I can.

  5. Tandem WorldNo Gravatar says:

    This is a really smartly written post. As two guys who left the corporate world to build a “no vacation required life” – a life that allows us to do work about which we are truly passionate while traveling the world – we get the “how did you do it?” question a lot. Our advice, “lean into those things that energize you and move away from those things that deplete you.” (We know, we know…it sounds so simple).

    Your advice to “just go” is a really sound. This was a huge revelation for us at one point. We had to decide to just do something. That “something” set us on our current trajectory and propelled us to make the life changing decisions we had only been talking about up ’til then.

    Once again, really sharp post. Thanks!
    Tandem World´s recent [type] ..Traveling for Good

  6. Thanks for this great inspiring post. Just do it is great advice. Sadly its easier to come up with excuses than to actually pursue your dreams

  7. Dave and DebNo Gravatar says:

    An excellent and inspiring post Todd. I hope that more people take that first step and just get out there and do it.
    Dave and Deb´s recent [type] ..Alaska’s Denali National Park- Pioneer in Conservation

  8. SuzyNo Gravatar says:

    Agreed, agreed and agreed. You have to just jump into travel if you want to make that your life. If you say you will in a few years, most likely you won’t as some 9 to 5 job will be tying you down. It is hard to escape security for a life of uncertainly especially if you are deeply entrenched in that life. The best way I have found in being “That Girl” is to skip the security all together and jump into the uncertainly of a traveling life.
    Suzy´s recent [type] ..The Taj Mahal Wishes You Were Here

  9. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Great advice and words of inspiration. My wife and I went on a year long RTW hoping to “cure” our wanderlust. Obviously all we did was fuel the fire, and now that we’ve been home for 9 months, we’re dying to get back out. I loved writing while I was on the road, and that’s what I would love to do, but for some reason we’re finding it difficult to take the leap of faith again, even though the first time we did it it resulted in the highlights of both our lives. We both changed so much as people, and our perspectives on what we wanted out of life have also changed. But now we feel a bit stuck, but it’s just a matter of taking that leap again. Just doing it (sorry Nike) is just what is necessary. They don’t call it a risk for nothing.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. It really does help and inspire us when reading stories from others who are doing what we want to do. Reading posts like these just keep inching us forward, slowly but surely, into throwing caution to the wind, saying “Screw it,” and just taking off.
    Adam´s recent [type] ..Do American Travelers Get a Bad Rap

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Great Adam. By the sound of it you guys will be back on the road in no time. To be fair though, I do have paying work that keeps me going. Of course I almost always found my work once I was “in country” and usually just around the time my bank account was running low :) It was really rough in the beginning and I believe I still own my Mom some money to help keep up with my student loans (thanks Mom, I haven’t forgotten…well maybe the exact amount I owe you).

      The longer I have been out the easier I have found it find work and make due with what I have. But that could just be the natural order of getting older and having more experience. I’m looking forward to hearing about your plans for breaking free.
      Todd Wassel´s recent [type] ..Calm- Stern- and Beautiful- Travel Photo Contest Friday 13

  10. EarlNo Gravatar says:

    An important thing to consider is that until we do ‘go for it’, we simply don’t have any way of knowing what opportunities do exist out there. Almost every job or income-earning opportunity that I’ve stumbled upon during my 11 years of being a nomad, involved something that I previously never even knew was possible. But, like you said, had I stayed at home and never taken that first step, I would still have no idea what can really be achieved.
    Earl´s recent [type] ..Thank You Scented Candles-

  11. Phil NashNo Gravatar says:

    This is the first time I’ve read any of your posts, Todd. As an entrpreneur with a small business, but big ambitions I found this piece really pertinent. Thanks. I’ll be back. Phil
    Phil Nash´s recent [type] ..Cultural London

  12. Nick LabordeNo Gravatar says:

    Great advice, especially number one “just go”. This is good advice for most things, not just travel. Everything is never going to be perfect, the stars aren’t going to align just right.

    Analysis Peristalsis can get you…if you let it.

  13. HerbNo Gravatar says:

    You are inspiring to say the least. So, you like gratuitous violence (Taken)? Had to look up the body count after watching. Now there’s a movie that could use some conflict resolution. Had to laugh. I wonder when reading your site, do you travel with your Wife, believe there is a privacy issue there, understandably. I get my daily email for the Blogsherpa group and you are all doing such a great job. Have to admit, just a little intimidating, where do you find the time. Wow.
    Any how, lots of luck on all your ventures.

    Herb´s recent [type] ..Rocky Mt National Park

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Herb, I travel with my wife all the time. Except on my work trips (she works in the same field as me) we are usually on the road together. But I have decided to put myself out on the internet and she has not so I respect that. I am also trying to build support for the writing aspect of my career, especially for my first book which I am writing.

      But she is really enjoying sharing her passions on the site here through he K’s Kitchen segment. Luckily I get to eat everything before it gets typed up and posted :)

  14. I’m that person you’re trying to put some sense into via this post.. Its inspiring.. n makes me hopeful..again..why am i wasting my time eh..
    But thanks for this.. Wonderful post.

    Tags: goa, sikkim travelogues.

  15. ayngelinaNo Gravatar says:

    I laughed the other day because a 19 year old girl who was traveling solo told me what I was doing was so cool and she was jealous. She didn’t even realize what she was doing at 19 was amazing,
    ayngelina´s recent [type] ..The difference ten years makes

  16. NorbertNo Gravatar says:

    Great post Todd!
    That is so true… many of us look a other travelers saying “oh, I want to travel like you do”, “I want to be like you”. Well, in reality, it is a relative point of view. I have people that say that to me, just like I say that about others. The thing is we just have to go for it and not just sit there wanting it. Like you said, you don’t have to be “That Guy” to travel (and to write, etc), you travel to become “That Guy”. Sometimes, even when you don’t feel it at first… in the process of traveling you become “That Guy” to other people, and even inspire them. :D

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Norbert, I’ve been getting the “I want your life” a lot recently. What people don’t realize is that I am often jealous of what they are doing as well :) The Mongol Rally looks amazing and I would love to do it…just not this year.

  17. Todd,
    This is one of the best posts I’ve seen on this subject. I’ve been writing quite a bit about it myself as I’m that person who has the dreams, is making the necessary steps and now almost ready to make the dive. Formerly a travel editor, I’m not longer really tied down to a place and as my travel writing has picked up, I’m getting close to being able to break free as you call it.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Spencer. I have checked out your blog before and really like it. Good luck getting out the door, I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

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