WTF happend to 2017
WTF happened to 2017 | Brokemad to Digital Nomad
Big shout out to Kunliang Wu for emailing me. It was his kind words gave me the motivation to start writing again.
Okay, my bad…
It’s been a year since my last post.
My main goal of this blog of documenting my entire journey from digital nobody to “digital nomad” kind of has a big gap but hopefully, this post will keep everyone updated to exactly what happened during this time.
So what’s happened?
I lost motivation to write. I was too focused on building businesses that dedicating any time to writing just seemed like a waste of time.
But this year has been one of the best years of my life.
My online income has gone from £560 in December to making around $5500/£4000 February just passed.
All this is done from just me and my laptop working from wherever I want in the world.
My goal was never about money. It was about having freedom and complete control over my life.
This is pretty much what I have right now and that, to me, is priceless.
I can now live and work wherever I want and spend my time on what I want to do and not what I am forced to do.
The aim of this post and this entire blog is to help and inspire as many people as possible.
Anything is possible if you want it enough and I hope am a small testament to that. Life is better than I could have ever imagined a few years ago and hopefully, you will have the belief that redefining your life is a real possibility if you want it to change.
But here’s a quick overview of what happened this past year and a few lessons I’ve learned along the way of a full year of being a Digital Nomad. It’s a bit of a mess. I just brain dumped everything from my head and tried to clean it up after. I also realised I never take photos so any that I have taken during this time I’ve thrown in.
January – March | Bali
After 5 weeks of spending time and Christmas with family in Australia, I headed back to Bali. It is probably one of my favourite places in the world.
My book was doing pretty well so I took my foot off the gas as I spent more time enjoying life. I met my ex-girlfriend during this time and we spent most days inseparable. Life felt pretty perfect. Highlights included spending weekends traveling around Bali. Chilling in an infinity pool overlooking the sea, staying in a hostel on the side of a mountain – chilling in an outdoor hot spring bath overlooking a lake and volcano and drinking underneath the starts until the early hours. Then having someone to share all these experiences with made it even more special.
Work wise I was trying to build an affiliate store site on the back of my book. I put a lot of effort into this creating a really nice looking website and store that had affiliate links to great products that were relatable to my topic.
Lesson: The best business advice you find is from other people.
Find these people in coworking spaces, social media groups or just spark up a conversation with a stranger you never know what connection you will have. If it wasn’t for meeting other people working online I would have never known about all the different possibilities there is to make money online. Trying selling books and also affiliate sites was directly related to me meeting people who were already doing well with these businesses which then sparked my interest to try and do something related to these business models.
Lesson: Food Matters. Eat more plants
After being pretty much Vegan for 4 months for health reasons (it seemed to cure my gout attacks entirely). I started eating meat again and stopped exercising while in Australia. The good news was that I wasn’t getting any pain anymore from eating meat but by the time I made it back to Bali I had put on some extra weight that I worked hard to get rid of. I’m not a doctor but I do believe that it is better to take your health seriously and take responsibility for it and it is better to prevent and manage health issues than to compensate it with drugs. A doctor in Ireland told me that I would have to take pills to manage gout every day for the rest of my life. I didn’t believe this was the best approach to solve this issue. In the end, I changed my shitty diet and found a way to manage this health issue myself. So more fruits + veggies, less meat (I’m pretty much vegetarian), less sugar and processed foods. Easy.
March – May | Vietnam
I headed to Vietnam to meet my good DN friend Harold.
After a few days in chaotic HCM city, we headed to Hoi An. One of the most magical little towns I’ve ever been to. It feels like something out of an anime movie. The food is incredibly fresh and healthy, beers are ridiculously cheap (like 9p a glass), little tradition ancient buildings then in evenings the town really comes into life with lanterns light the streets and alleyways and wee fairy lights that float along the river.
My girlfriend then came over to Vietnam and we lived together in a brand new apartment on a tiny island just outside the town.
We also became the 1st monthly members of the brand new coworking space in Hoi An and were nicknamed the power couple in the space.
My 2 best friends from Ireland came over. We bought motorbikes and drove up Vietnam.
We were driving 5+ hours per day through rain, night and nearly getting run off the road by big lorries. But there was also some incredible moments were we driving through winding roads through mountains, swimming in blue lakes, exploring some of the worlds biggest caves.
I crashed my motorbike into a dog in the middle of nowhere. I had a bone sticking out of my shoulder by the side of the road when luckily the most helpful Vietnamese guy comes to save the day. He was probably the only person who spoke English in a 50-mile radius. This saint of a man drove me to 3 hospitals, let us stay in his families hotel and then proceeded to take us for dinners and sightseeing around his town. (The dog was fine btw)
After a lot of pain and some sketchy visits to Vietnamese hospitals, I found out that I had damaged my shoulder pretty bad with what’s called an AC joint separation. It was grade 5 which is pretty severe. But with my arm in a small sling, I continued the rest of the journey by bus. It was an intense couple of days but it was also a once in a lifetime experience that I’m happy to have spent with my childhood friends. This video pretty much sums up the adventure.
After the trip, I spent another 2 months living in Hoi An with my girlfriend.
We worked really hard. We built a solid structure and routine together. (much to my delight and to her despise) I function on a strict routine and she works on spontaneity. But this created a great balance. I helped her focus on working and she made sure I actually took time to enjoy life and not be in front of the computer all day.
But in the end, eBay and my books were on a steady downward curve. So things were starting to get stressful. While trying to keep these going I was still building an affiliate website based on my book. Overall I felt like I treading water in the middle of the ocean just trying to stay afloat and to make enough money to get by.
Lesson: Surround yourself with like-minded people to multiply your potential and knowledge base
You are the sum of the 5 closest people. I’ve read/heard this statement a few times but never really gave it much thought. It’s hard to change, create or end relationships with close friends and family but when traveling and working you get to meet really inspiring people from all over the world and in different walks of life. Through this past year, I’ve met some great people who I regularly keep in contact with. With similar interest and values, you tend to bring the best out of each other. You share experiences, motivate each other, keep each other accountable and can share similar stories and experiences.
Lesson: Be adaptable to the market and learn every day.
The online world is an extremely fast-paced environment. Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and be open to possibilities to try new ideas. Blogs, podcasts, Facebook groups these are the places to hang out to find the latest information. Just don’t get shiny object syndrome and bounce between the next big thing.
Lesson: Travel insurance is important
Although I didn’t claim any expenses on my travel insurance I can definitely see the value. If my accident was more severe I could have had to have emergency surgery. Not only would this have cost me thousands.
Lesson: Faith in humanity
Without the random act of kindness from an amazing Vietnamese man named Tung I would have been stuck in the middle of nowhere in need of medical attention. Without knowing me or my friends this guy took care of me for 4 days. He drove me to a hospital, translated to English what the doctors were saying, let us stay in his family hotel, sold our bikes, took us around his village, took us to non-tourist ridden temples and waterfalls. This man was a real hero and I will be forever grateful for his random act of kindness.
June – July | Chiang Mai, Thailand
I had already lived there for 3 months but it was great to share this city with my girlfriend.
Food is delicious, a big veggie curry would only cost £2 or a tasty pad thai for £1. There are tonnes of cafes which have fast internet and people it is really common the work from them and you will find other nomads and Thai students working in these 24/7 coffee shops.
On the other hand, I don’t really enjoy the social aspect to Chiang Mai and found it hard to find a good community vibe there. Although this may be a place which has the highest amount of nomads there isn’t really a place to meet people easily. I feel that Dojo in Bali has really set the bar in how to build a great community and a place where you can work and meet new friends. With Chiang Mai, I often felt isolated. The coworking space often felt like a library with no one really socializing or chatting. If you had a conversation with someone you felt like you needed to talk outside as it was so silent. On this trip, it definitely helped to be with my girlfriend. I feel if you travel with someone you’re dating it will always be an enjoyable experience no matter where you go.
If I was staying afloat in Vietnam, in Thailand I spent most of this time drowning. With eBay and books doing badly. I was focused on building Merch as I saw it had great potential. But I was barely making enough money to live and I was creeping into credit card debt.
This put a lot of stress on the relationship. Lucky for me my girlfriend was amazing and was really supportive during this time. For me, this period was a big challenge. Doubt started to creep into my mind. I started to question my life decision to quit my job and start this journey. Every day seemed like a mental battle with fear and anxiety. I had a few panic attacks during this time as well. I still had faith that this was the life I wanted to live and I was determined to do everything I could to make this work. But to overcome this tough period there are a few techniques I try to use when I get into change this mentality which could be helpful for you if you’re ever in the same situation.
- Worse Case Scenario – Practicing a Stoic mentality. This is something I picked up from Tim Ferris where he was talking about mentally going through the worst case scenario. For me, the worst case scenario was that I would totally run out of money to the point where I couldn’t sustain myself at all. At which point I would have to get a flight home, live at home, spend some time to get another full-time job, within a few months I would be out of debt and be back in the same situation as before I left. Once I think like this. I realize that things aren’t as bad as my mind tends to go towards too. Once I have this mental clarity I feel as if I can tackle the situation better without the fear of failing.
- Meditation – For me, meditation really helps ground my mental health. Annoyingly when things get stressful this is normally the first habit that seems to get forgotten. Once I start forcing myself to meditate for around 10min a day it really helps process my emotions and feelings
- Gratitude – It’s easy to dwell on the negatives in life. I get stuck in these loops all the time. In order to try to break these negative loops, I say out 5 things I’m grateful for out loud (eg. grateful it’s sunny today, grateful for being able to afford this lunch et etc). This helps me break away from negative thoughts and stresses of life to refocus my mind on the positives.
Lesson: Building a “successful” business takes a lot of time and effort.
Success is self-determined and truthfully it’s hard to ever be happily satisfied if you are entrepreneurial as the goal posts always shift. Finding time to appreciate where you are currently and reflecting on how far you have come has really helped ground me. It’s good to be ambitious and to want more from life. Just try to not let that ambitious overwhelm you so that you can’t enjoy the now.
August | Malaysia + Thailand
In August we decided to head to Malaysia as our Thai visa ran out and this would be a good opportunity to explore a new country and take a well-deserved break. We spent a few days Kuala Lumpur which is a city that strikes a good balance between being pretty modern like Western cities but still has the kind of rawness of big Asian cities like Bangkok/Ho Chi Minh but isn’t as overwhelming. After KL we headed to Malacca which was a cute almost Dutch looking town in Malaysia and stayed for a few days. Relaxing, exploring, eating great food and just generally feeling like a tourist which was a nice place instead of always being in work mode.
One the highlights were dining in the dark in the restaurant Dining In The Dark KL. It was such a fun experience where you eat from a set menu in complete darkness so you have no idea what you are eating. But this only heightens your senses as you become more aware of flavors and textures. You also eat much slower and discuss the taste with one another.
From Malaysia, we headed back to Thailand this time to one of the Southern islands Koh Lanta. This would be the final part of this trip as we both had flights home at the end of the month. I was going back to get my shoulder fixed and she had to get back to America for some family events. Koh Lanta was a nice romantic chill place to spend the last few weeks together.
It had great beaches, more great Thai restaurants, and cafes. Although the island felt pretty small and there didn’t seem to be much happening.
Business wise things finally started to feel like it was on the up with selling on Amazon. Within a couple of months, I was already hitting $1k profit and I knew I was just getting started. I really felt like this business was more in line with my strengths and background in design and I was seeing consistent grow weekly.
Lesson: Traveling is at times more about the people than the place.
Lesson: Consist daily work towards your goal is essential.
I work pretty much every day. Sometimes a lot and sometimes very little. But every day I’m taking another step further. This is the only way to get anywhere. Stop thinking about where you are now but where you want to be.
Lesson: Mentality and motivation is the biggest limiter to business growth.
If you can master these two things you can write your own salary
September – December | Ireland + UK
After officially over a year having lived abroad I headed back to the UK. On the way back I flew business class from Hong Kong to for only £20. One of the perks of owning a drop shipping business and having an air miles credit card. The one I recommend for anyone in the UK is the Virgin Black Card.
It was great surprising family and catching up with old friends. Although I really enjoyed the experience the charm soon rubbed off and I soon realized life and people move on and that my life felt more fulfilled living abroad than it did being at home.
Making the most of this time I took a trip around the UK to visit more friends and family. During this time it was Q4 and the online business on Merch took off and this is where I was averaging $4k-$5k per month over this period.
So for the first time in this whole time in this whole journey, I started making a good income after just over 1 year of starting my own online business.
I was now earning more than I did in my previous 9-5 job. All ran from just me and my laptop while traveling around the UK. It was my own business that I am in complete control of.
Outsourcing work is amazing if you want to build and expand but… managing becomes a big job in itself.
It’s really cool to think that over the past year I’ve hired around 15 people as either freelance, part-time or full-time. Although it’s great to get extra help on your business it also takes up more time than I expected. There are times where I find myself spending more time managing people than doing productive work myself
Niche-specific Facebook groups are invaluable to finding information about online businesses
In these groups, you’ll find the most useful up to date information that you will not find anywhere else
January – February | UK + Poland + Bali
With Christmas over, I started to think about setting up an Airbnb in Belfast. It is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and now that I had some capital I could actually rent a place, furnish it then rent it out on Airbnb. The plan was to set up the place in a way that I could manage it anywhere in the world.
But the more I looked into the work the more I felt uncomfortable with the idea of staying in Ireland longer setting this up. If I wanted to do this it would take a few months to find and furnish a place. Then possibly another couple of months to make sure everything would go smoothly. But I reallyyyy didn’t want to stay in Ireland any longer.
Just before my 26th birthday in January I decided that I wanted to be happy with where I am with life over making more money. Although it would have been a “smart” business move I really didn’t care. I valued my personal well-being over this. So I booked a 1-way ticket to Bali for February.
I wanted to either travel to South America for a while or head back to Bali. The reason I choose Bali was that I knew what I was going to expect. A great tropical island, amazing coworking space and I had friends still there. If I went to Colombia, for example, it would all be pretty unknown and I didn’t want to feel as if I was starting from scratch again. Trying to find good places to work, eat, cafes, gyms and finding a good community etc.
February was a crazy month business wise. It was my best month on Amazon to date. I had 2 Valentines shirt designs that went pretty viral. I managed to get 2 shirts ranked on page one of Amazon for the holiday. This turned out to be a massive success as I was one of the top selling designs for Valentine’s day and those 2 shirts made me $2500 in profit over a couple of weeks.
This felt totally crazy. I was making more money in a couple of weeks that I did working a month at my old job. What made it even more mind blowing was the fact I wasn’t even working these couple of weeks.
First I was in Krakow Poland with one of my best friends and then I was doing a road trip around Ireland with a girl I had met in Poland during this period. I would check in every day to see how the sales were doing and seeing I was making $400/$500 a day completely passive.
To be honest, at the time it didn’t really sink in. But now reflecting back I can just see how amazing having an online business is. Instead of trading my time for money I have spent the last year and a half create a business that can earn money for me while I’m not working or even while I sleep (I mainly sell to the American market).
After this crazy period, I jetted off to Bali which is where I am now writing this. I am currently sitting in an Organic Vegan cafe drinking a detox juice and life feels incredible.
Lesson: You don’t have to be a millionaire to live like a millionaire
I live in a big ass 5 bedroom villa with an amazing bunch of friends. I work from the villa, healthy cafes and the coworking space Dojo in evenings. I play football a couple of times a week. I go out (probably a bit too much) to villa parties, beach bars, outdoor club nights on the beach.
2017 Year in Review: Final Thoughts 🤔
I’m not sure if I’ll write another post or if I do it will be whenever I feel the passion or need too. To be honest these posts take me far too long to write. I blame dyslexia. But I wanted to come to some sort of conclusion to this journey.
Firstly for myself. Looking back it’s been an incredibly testing year and a half and I have changed so much. I set out to create a better life for myself in 3 areas. Improve my physical health, mental health and to take control of my life by starting my own online business that allowed me to have complete control of how I live my life.
Although these areas are by far from perfect (I don’t believe things can ever be perfect). I do definitely feel I am in the exact place I want to be right now and I am incredibly grateful and appreciate how lucky I am to be in a position like this. Physically I am in a good place due to exercising and eating a mainly vegetarian plant-based diet. Mentally I am in a better place which is definitely helped by being in a really positive environment and surrounded by a lot of similar minded people and friends. Business is doing great and I’ve even built a small team of 3 people to help me grow more.
This leads me to the second reason I wanted to document this journey. I want to inspire and help more people design their own life. To come to a place where you can be completely happy with where you are, in all aspects of life. Like I said there is no end goal but there is definitely a path you can follow that will feel right for you. My hope is that by writing openly and honestly throughout this journey there might be something of value to any who have read or followed it.
We have one life so you might as well live the best life you can. What I’ve learned is that the world is full of possibilities and opportunities. The only thing holding most of us back is our mentality and belief that things can be different. If you conquer this you can redefine your life. I’m not saying it’s easy but it is possible.
Thanks for reading if you have got this far.
If anyone feels in anyway connected to what I have talked about feel free to reach out to me I’ll be more than happy to help in any way I can.
Create a stable income
Although the business is doing well. At any time something could happen that could kill the business. For example, if Amazon terminated my account I would be stuck with very little income from Etsy and book sales. So I want to create a few different streams of income that will provide some sort of stability over this year and then going forward into the future.
Find a better work-life balance
This is really important for me. I’ve spent so much time and energy just trying to build this life. I was working 12 hour days for such a long time that I neglected a lot of other aspects of life. This is why I am now spending less time working in Bali and doing things that actually make me feel happy and more alive. It’s strange but at times I don’t really know what to do with myself when I’m not working. But I am trying to fill this time now with things that I enjoy. Playing football, gaming, going out for drinks, taking weekend trips and time off just living and exploring. Although these might seem like pretty normal activities. Although these are not crazy activities, they are things that I didn’t really get to do too much last year.
Start a business that has a purpose and gives back to the world
One thing I am really passionate about at the moment is trying to give back to the world somehow. I am not so much interested in creating more businesses that will just make me more money. For me, I don’t need anything more than I have right now. I already make enough to pretty much live my dream life. I can work and live and pretty much any country in the world. So what now.
My idea is to create my own kickass brand and products that are sustainable, eco-friendly, pay fair wages and also gives a portion of profits to mental health causes as this is something I am interested and passionate in. I don’t really know how exactly I will go about doing this but I have this inner confidence I can make it happen. If this journey has taught me anything is that if you are persistent and passionate enough that crazy ideas can happen.