I’m writing this article from a beautiful bungalow that’s situated a stone’s throw away from a beautiful beach in the Caribbean. I woke up this morning when I felt ready to start my day. I brushed my teeth, and then walked to the kitchen in my pyjamas and made a coffee for Dariece and I.
We both headed up to the treetop deck at the property where we’re staying and enjoyed our coffee while looking out as the sun rose over the sea. After that, we came back to our bungalow, still in our pyjamas to sit at our computers (as we do every Monday to Friday here) and work for a few hours.
We choose to work Monday to Friday not because we have to “clock in” on those days, but because weekends are the days when we can meet up with our friends who work traditional jobs. Plus, it’s when most of the companies we work with are online. In reality, we could take any day off we want. We’ve taken entire months off from this blog and didn’t see a dip in our income or traffic to the website.
I check my emails and see that we had earned over $500 in affiliate sales yesterday, meaning that we were earning money while we were out walking the neighbour’s dog and swimming at the beach.
By the end of the work day (at around 1:00pm), we actually have to peel ourselves away from the computers to go out and enjoy this beautiful Caribbean island called Grenada where we’ll be living for the next few months.
So how did this all come to be? Looking back to before we started travelling and blogging, I would’ve never thought this lifestyle was possible.
Rewind to 2007…
I wake up to an alarm at 5:30 am on a dark and cold Monday morning during a Canadian winter. I’ve already hit snooze on the alarm twice because I’m just not ready to wake up yet.
I roll over and throw on some work pants, a work shirt and uncomfortable, smelly steel toe boots. There’s no time for coffee this morning. I walk to the bathroom, eyes still closed and begin brushing my teeth. I throw on about 8 layers of warm clothing before heading out to my car in the -25°C weather.
I scrape a few inches of snow and ice from the windshield and sit inside waiting for the car to warm up, while contemplating the week ahead of me.
Where did the weekend go?
I now have five 12-hour shifts at a plastic packaging plant to complete before another weekend arrives, at which time I’ll be so exhausted that I’ll barely have time to complete some household chores that have been left for too long, before returning to work to repeat the cycle.
For the next 5 days, I’ll wake up in the dark and drive to work in the cold, stuck in traffic, and then after 12 hours of working, I’ll return home in the dark, waiting in traffic only to get home, eat dinner, watch TV and pass out on the couch.
I’m making “good money” at my job at the plastic printing press, but it’s still barely enough. Bills keep piling up, the car needs new winter tires and the condominium fees are going up next month.
No matter how much I earn, it never seems like enough. I’m driving an 8-year-old car and I’m still paying off the TV and living room set that I “purchased” over a year ago.
I’m unsatisfied by my job and I don’t feel fulfilled. I’m unhappy. There’s something missing in my life, but I won’t figure out what it is for another year.
We think of our lives in 5 separate chapters. Working in Canada, The First Trip, The Second Trip, Teaching English in China and Online Business & Blogging. The working in Canada chapter went on for way too long, but it took that long for us to realize what we wanted, and that our dreams were possible.
To some, still in the 9-5 chapter of life, the first paragraph in this article likely came across a bit boastful. It sounds too good to be true and it is almost enough to click away from this post.
I know that if I had read the start of this article on a Monday, while I was sitting in my car waiting to go to work, I would’ve clicked away. Who knows, maybe I would’ve even left a nasty comment, something along the lines of “that would never work for a normal person like me with no online experience”.
It was getting past those self-made barriers that allowed us to move to the next chapter in our lives. I call it an awakening because that’s truly what it feels like now looking back.
In February of 2007, Dariece and I decided to go on our first trip together. We did what most able Canadians do, we booked a 1-week, all-inclusive holiday to a resort in southern Mexico. Dariece had been on a couple of vacations like this before, but I hadn’t left Canada since going to Disneyland when I was 9 years old.
During the holiday, we forgot about work. We forgot about all of the bills that were due, about the assignments and jobs we had to finish, about the winter tires and the condominium fees. We simply lived without a care in the world.
I’m sure many people feel this way on a holiday. That’s what holidays are all about! The only difference is that we wanted that feeling to stick around. Upon returning to Canada, all of the stresses of our normal life flooded back.
We were in debt. Sure, we had assets such as the condominium, but we didn’t own it outright. There were mortgage payments due, property taxes and condominium fees. The furniture in our home was paid for on credit and insurance was due on the car. We felt trapped and overwhelmed. We needed to work extra hours just to pay for all of these things that we now know we didn’t need.
After one particularly bad day at work, I returned home and started Googling long-term travel. At the time, I was thinking that maybe we could ask our bosses for 2 weeks off, or even a month (highly unlikely) for another “vacation”.
I then found some blogs that explained how they took a whole year off from work. Some were even travelling indefinitely! By the time Dariece came home from work, I was fully inspired. I asked her this one question, which completely changed our lives:
“If you could travel anywhere for one year, where would it be?”
Her answer was instant and obvious:
In the following 8 months we both worked as many hours as possible. We sold the condominium, the car and most of our belongings. We rented Lonely Planet guidebooks from the Calgary Library and watched as many travel programs on TV as we could (Departures was our favourite). Our lives had found the spark that was missing.
On November 18th, 2008, we were at the airport. The winter had returned again and the ground was covered in a beautiful blanket of white. This time were weren’t going to be here for the winter. We weren’t going to spend every day at a jobs we didn’t enjoy.
I’ll never forget the feeling we both felt as the wheels of the plane left the runway. Even though we had finished the sale of the house and paid off all of our debts a few weeks earlier, it felt like we hadn’t released that burden until our plane took off.
We left the stress of life, work and debt back in Canada and spent the next 13 months in a euphoric state of adventure and exploration. We had filled the gap that we felt in our lives in Canada and then some. We were so content, so fulfilled, so alive that we felt like we were overflowing with happiness.
But at that time, we still hadn’t figured out how to make that feeling last forever. We hadn’t cracked the formula of financially sustainable travel. We hadn’t started a blog, become English teachers, or discovered house sitting, so we had to return to Canada.
Dariece and I dealt with returning home very differently. We both experienced EXTREME reverse culture shock. We had been travelling on such a budget through Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent that even having a TV seemed like a luxury.
Our friends were all living the same life that we had left behind and nothing much had changed. Dariece was depressed to be home and felt completely out of place. While I was overwhelmed and unhappy, I was excited to start saving for another trip. Leaving again was all that was on our minds.
Luckily, we were able to get our same jobs back. Although we didn’t like the work all that much (we would have rather been on the beach in Indonesia!), they both offered us enough money to save for travel. For that we were (and still are) very grateful.
Within a week of returning to Canada, we were back at work. This time, we worked even longer hours. I spent 6 months where I worked 12 hour shifts with no more than a couple of days off per 30 day period. Dariece took a second job working from home on evenings and weekends and got her first taste of “remote work” in her pyjamas.
While it took Dariece months to get over the fact that we were home, I was happy. Not happy to be home, but happy to be saving for another trip. This time, every hour I spent at work was no longer a dollar value, it was an experience that I would be able to afford while travelling.
If I worked an overtime Sunday shift, I told myself that it was enough to pay for a few days in Asia. If I stayed a couple of hours late, I would tell myself that it was going to pay for a few scuba dives in the Red Sea of Egypt.
Our mindset had completely changed. We now knew what fueled our passion for life. It was travel. All we wanted to talk about was travel. When we weren’t at work, we were sitting in front of our world map adding Post-it notes and pins in the destinations we dreamed of visiting.
We read more blogs, watched more travel shows and slowly we started to piece together the puzzle of indefinite travel. With the amount of money we were saving (we were on a strict budget), we calculated that we could travel for nearly 2 years by the time our second trip would start.
We then decided that we’d teach English in China to earn money and fund more travel. This was our goal.
After 13 months of being home, working ridiculous hours and building the foundation for indefinite travel, we were ready to leave again in February of 2011, but this time was different. As the plane wheels left the tarmac for the last time, we didn’t feel the same relief as the first trip, but we felt something different.
We felt a profound shift in our lives and in our paths. Really. As cheesy as that may sound, we could literally feel our lives moving onto new tracks. Now we were going to live this life indefinitely. We were never going to work at jobs we didn’t enjoy and never again would we make the mistake in believing that life is about material things and security. Life was now about adventure and happiness.
Everything was different.
We spent 16 months travelling all over the world on that second trip. We went from the UK to Spain and Morocco, through the Middle East, down to southern and eastern Africa and over to Asia. But we had put off our idea of making our travel life financially sustainable.
We put it off to the point where we had almost run out of money.
Dariece had a complete breakdown while we were sitting on a beach in Thailand. The very thought of returning home to work again in Canada broke her heart. We had seen and done so much and we were completely free. We had come so far! But this dream was starting to feel like just that… a dream.
As our bank accounts started to empty, it was as if our eyes began to open and we started to wake up. Travellers always talk about returning to “the real world”, but we didn’t believe that we had to. We didn’t see this travel life as a dream. We saw it as how our world should be. But with no money and no way to sustain our passion… it would surely die.
A couple of months prior, we had read a blog all about earning money online. This travel blogger had earned $2,500 per month from his travel blog and we couldn’t believe it. We started our own blog a few weeks after reading the post, but that really seemed like a shot in the dark. The idea of earning enough to pay for travel by simply writing posts, sharing photos and travelling the world seemed too good to be true.
It was Dariece’s breakdown on the beach that lit a fire under our butts. We didn’t want to go back. We were going to make this life happen.
From then on we started looking for English teaching jobs. We were heading to China next, so we figured that would be the perfect place to start. In the meantime, we were working on this little blog we had started.
We didn’t know the first thing about blogging. We had never even heard of WordPress before and we weren’t the best writers or photographers. But we figured, if there’s any possibility that this thing could one day earn some money, even if it was just a bit to supplement our English teaching income, we would give it a shot.
Realizing Our Dream
While we were travelling around China, we found a job teaching English. This was the first real step towards sustaining our life abroad. We were so happy to start teaching and we were lucky to get hired by a great, reputable school.
While working as English teachers (and loving our jobs), we worked hard on the blog. We watched YouTube videos, read other blogs and signed up for email lists trying to learn as much as we could about the business.
We started guest posting and marketing our blogs and we finally started social media accounts. Within 6 months of actually treating the blog as a business, we made our first income. It was just $250, but it meant a lot to us. It gave us proof that this earning money online thing could be real.
After our teaching contract was up, we went travelling around Mongolia, Russia, Central Asia and Iran. We had saved $21,000 from a year of teaching in China and were thrilled! At this point, our blog was earning around $500 per month, which was a nice supplement to our savings.
From Asia, we then went to Mexico, where we took part in our first press trip. We couldn’t believe it! Hotels and tourism boards were actually willing to pay for all of our travels in exchange for exposure on our (very small at the time) travel blog.
The free travel meant the world to us because at that time, we were still only earning around $500 per month, which wasn’t enough to cover our travel expenses.
A few months later, after receiving dozens of free tours, scuba dives, hotels and trips around Mexico and Belize, we headed to our first pet sitting job.
We had signed up for TrustedHouseSitters.com while we were in Uzbekistan and to our surprise, we landed a 6 month pet sit in Grenada just a few weeks after creating our profile. Again, this was great for us because it was another step towards financially sustainable travel and at the time, our income wasn’t enough to pay for our travels.
When we checked into our home in the Caribbean and met our new little furry friend, Spare Dog, who we’d be looking after for the next few months, we both felt another major relief.
From that point on, we knew that we were going to make this work. Despite the fact that everyone said we’d have to return to the “real world” and that our friends and families didn’t see blogging as “a real job”, we were going to succeed at it.
The free travel, the free accommodation and the small earnings from the blog meant that we would be able to continue our life of travel, freedom and adventure.
Building a Business
Even though we felt like kings living in a house on the beach, driving a nice car and earning enough to (barely) cover our living expenses, this type of life wasn’t really sustainable. We knew that while we would never fall back into the mentality of our home country, it was important to have savings and earn enough for the future.
During our time in Grenada, we started taking our blog more seriously. We looked at ways to monetize the website. We found that we were able to earn a decent income from freelance writing and a bit from affiliate marketing.
Over the next few years, the blog grew into something far greater than we ever thought possible. Our initial goal was to earn $1,500 per month. That would’ve been enough to sustain our travels and our lifestyle indefinitely.
But as the blog grew past that number, we started to see its potential. We started reading about other travel bloggers who truly turned their blogs into thriving online empires, some earning over a half a million dollars per year.
This inspired us to learn more about the business. For the next 2 years we researched, took courses and absorbed as much knowledge about online entrepreneurship and passive income as possible.
Suddenly, before we knew it, the blog was earning $10,000 – $20,000 per month. On top of that, more and more tourism boards, hotels and travel companies were offering us free travel and we still had numerous opportunities for house & pet sits.
As the blog grew larger, tourism boards even started to pay us salaries on top of offering all-expenses paid trips.
This all seemed too good to be true. We had not only fulfilled our dream of financially sustainable travel, but we had built a successful online business that affords us a life of luxury, while only working a few hours per week.
Looking back now, I still pinch myself. We started GoatsOnTheRoad without knowing anything about the business and we were able to grow it to be successful. We have no University or college schooling, no previous online experience and no investments in the blog itself, aside from the initial investment in the cost of hosting a website. We simply did our research, absorbed as much knowledge as possible, and made it happen.
Passing On The Knowledge
It took us years to grow our business to be where it is today, but that’s because we were trying to scavenge all of our information from hundreds of different sources online. When we started this blog, the whole idea of earning six figures per year from a travel blog was pretty much unheard of.
Nowadays there are countless travel blogs earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Travel companies now realize that instead of placing ads in newspapers and magazines, they can get far better ROI from publishing articles and stories by travel bloggers.
The market is currently thriving and new bloggers are starting out every day and earning money from this amazing business.
While we love earning money from our business, there’s one thing we love even more: hearing from people who read this blog and followed in our footsteps. We get emails from people all the time who quit their jobs, started house sitting, taught English and started their own blogs.
In many cases, they’ve earned money far sooner than us because of our free Blogging eBook and free email training that we give to new bloggers.
These emails are the most rewarding part of our job by far. To think that this website has had an affect on so many people is truly humbling. If we could help just one more person realize this dream that is indefinite travel, then we feel as though we’ve done our job as bloggers.
Looking back to my days of working in Canada, I struggle to find a reward besides the bi-weekly paycheck. I worked 12 hours per day so that the company I worked for could add another few million dollars to their annual revenue and I could afford a comfortable life in Canada.
Just one email, from one new blogger who managed to turn travel into a lifestyle through our ebook and training courses is worth more than every paycheck that I ever received from that printing press job in Canada. The fact that I’m also able to earn an income from this online business is icing on the cake.
After 10 years of travelling and living this amazing life, I can’t really think of any regrets. Well, maybe just one… not doing it sooner.
It’s time to wrap up this article which has now gone on for nearly 4,500 words. I’m back in my bungalow, sitting in my pyjamas, looking out at the sea with the palms swaying in the wind and all I can think is how I may never have made it here.
I may have never quit my job. I may have thought that starting a blog was too difficult or earning money online was a get-rich-quick scheme. I may have never signed up for Trusted House Sitters and I might never have decided to teach adorable children in China.
The moral of this (rather long) story is that everything fell into place because Dariece and I made the decision to say yes and follow the path that brought us the most happiness.
We didn’t enjoy our jobs and we weren’t fulfilled by our lives in Canada, so we made a change. As soon as we took the first steps towards something better, everything aligned and we made it here, to this place in the Caribbean, to this online job, to me sipping hot coffee in my pyjamas, doing a bit of work on my laptop and looking out at the beach.
If you want to change your life, if travel truly makes you happy, we want to help. We’re not selling anything on this blog. We’re not telling you that you’ll start a blog today and earn 6-figures in 6 months. We’re not even saying that you’ll land your first pet sit in a few weeks like we did.
What we are saying, is that we’ve done it and can show you the way. You’ll have to work at it, but if you are following our guidance and you’re heading on the right path, it won’t feel like work. It will be fun, every step of the way.
I know that we repeat ourselves a lot on this blog. We’re always trying to tell people to start a blog and make a change in their life. We’re trying to spread the word that indefinite, financially sustainable travel is possible. That’s why we chose the tagline “Turn travel into a lifestyle.”
Hopefully this article will give you a bit of insight into our path and why we believe so strongly that blogging, house sitting and teaching English can really change your life.
If you have any questions about our journey, about blogging, house sitting or just about life in general, feel free to send us an email. We answer every email and we’d love to hear from you.
If we can help just one more person move towards the path of happiness and indefinite travel, then this article and this blog has done its job!
Thank you for reading.
The post How Travel Blogging Changed Our Lives: Our Journey to Financial Freedom appeared first on Goats On The Road.