Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How I've been able to afford my Life of Travel.

A lot friends back home say they wish they could do what I do, or that they wish they had enough time or money to travel and live the life that I live.  Well, they can, and I've made it easier by doing it first and making all of the mistakes, and paving the way.

Here is my journey, not necessarily the best but it's what I did and it worked for me and it can work for you as well if you want to follow along.


July 2007 - Moved into a $3,000 a month house near all of the bars in Hollywood, put $85 in gas in my black Lexus Sedan so I could drive to Melrose to shop for more clothes that I didn't need.  When clubbing, drove fast cars, and partied up in the hills thinking it was what would make me happy.

October 2008 - Went to Thailand on a 3 week vacation with my cousins Larry and Jacob.  Quickly realized how amazing day to day life is in Thailand.  Thinking I only had 3 weeks before going back to my stressful life and job back in Los Angeles, I spent $1,000 a week on expensive hotels, 3 massages a day and eating at the hotel restaurant.

I also did every tour imaginable, including a Discover Scuba Dive which instantly made me fall in love with being underwater.  I did my Open Water Certification straight away.

Starting bank balance: $8,300
Round Trip Flight: $1,300
Expenses: $3,000
Remaining bank balance $4,000


November 2008 - Decided to move to Thailand.  Back in LA I sold/gave away everything I owned including my furniture, car and clothes yet stupidly kept my now worthless DVD collection.  I booked a one way flight back to Thailand, got a triple entry tourist visa and sold my car.

Bank balance after buying my flight to Thailand: $3,300
Total bank balance after selling my stuff and my car: $10,000

December 2008 - The start of my 5 and a half year life living in Thailand and traveling abroad.  I figured $10k would last me 5 months or so, and then I would have to either figure something out or go home and start working again.  Turns out it would last, much, much longer.  I originally budgeted $800 a month for an apartment on Koh Tao, Thailand aka Turtle Island.  Quickly realized that 25,000 baht for a place wasn't necessary and I ended up moving into a bamboo bungalow in a coconut field just minutes from the beach for 5,500 baht a month. ($180US)



January 2009 - Stated my Dive Master Training Course.  Paid $1,000US.  Did the course with a small shop, Scuba-Junction.

March 2009 - Went back to the U.S. for a month to show my family I was still alive, and to do a pick of work at my old job that was having a busy month.  Saved up $2,000 working.

May 2009 - Did the longest DMT (Dive Master Trainee) course ever as I took my time, took a few months off in between and didn't sign off my paperwork until I was offered a job.



June 2009 - Worked as a Divemaster for 150 baht ($5) per tank and most divers use two tanks, giving me 300 baht per diver, with an average of 3 or 4 divers per day.   The average rate was Loved working on Koh Tao as a DM and looking back it was a fantastic experience.  The pay wasn't great but it was more than enough to live and even save a bit if you were smart on your budget.



November 2009 - Moved to Koh Lanta to start the diving season there.  Heard how amazing the scuba diving was compared to Koh Tao from a German couple, and they were right.  Saw my first turtle, whale shark, manta ray, it was beautiful.  It wasn't easy to find a job as I was an english only speaking divemaster without that much experience but I stuck in there and kept asking around and meeting people until I found some work.  The pay here was 1,000 baht a day flat ($33US) and included breakfast and lunch on the boat.

Best diving in Thailand but a really really quite island to live on.  Great for couples but even then it's still easy to get bored here.



March 2010 - Decided to move to Ultila, Honduras to become a Scuba Diving Instructor.  Read a bunch of reviews of Utila Dive Centre and though it was the best place in the world to do the Instructor Development Course (IDC).  Spent the rest of my savings flying out there only to find out there are no jobs on the island as they train more far more instructors than the island can support.

Lesson learned: The grass isn't greener on the other side of the world.
Ending bank balance: $1,500




July 2010 - Moved back to Koh Tao, hoping to find work as a dive instructor.  Had a really difficult time finding a job as a new instructor with no experience but after hanging around for a month I found a job since I happened to speak Mandarin, Chinese.  If it wasn't for that, I would have been devastated.

Lesson learned: Do your IDC course somewhere in the world that doesn't teach 10+ new instructors every month.  Do it somewhere that you don't have to pay to intern at afterwards as you'll need the experience.

Instructor's Salary:  As a full time dive instructor on Koh Tao I earned a percentage of all the courses I taught.  I can't remember what the actual amount was but it was something around 15% of what the customer spent on the course.  All I remember is that I was making around $2,000 US per month when I was teaching full time, which is a really good wage in SE Asia as my monthly expeneses were between $600-$800 at the time.

My room and motorbike on Koh Tao
 I had saved up a bunch of money from teaching diving on Koh Tao and spending next to nothing.  My room was 4,000 baht a month ($135US) and I bought and sold my motorbike for 10,000 baht ($333US) making it free.

Money Earned: $4,000

November 2010 - I moved back to Phuket to train Muay Thai full time at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA. I lived at the gym in an extremely basic room with a shared bathroom and dedicated my time to training full time.

I started the blog, www.MyFightCamp.com where I documented was it was like living at a Muay Thai gym and training for a fight.



January 2011 - Went back to Koh Tao to teach more scuba diving and save up a bit of money.  All while my heart was focused on doing Muay Thai and getting back to training.

Saved up a few thousand dollars.

July 2011

Phuket Top Team had just opened up so even though I had a great time at Tiger Muay Thai, I decided to try out the all new gym.  I lived at the gym in one of their cheap budget rooms with a shared bathroom, and eventually tried living in the $100 a month bamboo hut.  I really enjoyed my time there but I was torn between my two passions, Muay Thai which I loved and Scuba Diving which I enjoyed doing and actually paid.  




January 2012 - After a few months of doing MMA and Muay Thai, I got offered a great job at a fantastic dive shop in Borneo.  My savings were running low from doing Muay Thai full time so I decided to sign a six month contract with Scuba Junkie and work on their resort in Mabul, Malaysia.

I lived in the staff house at the resort which was an extremely basic, run down room that I had to share with a 50 year old man, but it was free so I didn't complain.  Everything was included including three meals a day, my room and water, so I had no bills.  The pay wasn't very good but since I had no expenses and didn't drink much alcohol, I still managed to save up $600US a month while being there.

I also got to dive at some of the best dive sites in the world.  The fish life there was incredible.  The only downside was the sheer amount of garbage in the ocean from the locals.  But even with that and often working up to 14 days in a row and being a bit burnt out, it was the best dive company and the best diving I've experienced.

Money Earned: $4,000US


July 2012 - I traveled a bit to the Philippines and back to the U.S. for a few months to see friends and family.  I ended up living in San Diego for a few months and was tempted to stay and get a job there.  I started doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu properly and even bought a Gi.  I got myself a second hand beach cruiser and a membership to Car2Go which is a shared electric car membership.  Life was great in Pacific Beach but I realized that I would be settling for being comfortable if I stayed. 

So I booked a one way ticket back to Thailand.



November 2012 - As much as I enjoyed scuba diving and was glad I got to see a bit of the world and get paid to dive in some of the best places on the planet, I realized that becoming a Scuba Instructor made me slowly start to hate diving.  Teaching new students who often come totally unprepared and sometimes unable to even swim was a very frustrating and stressful job.

Lesson learned: I would highly recommend to people that love diving to become a divemaster and work at that level but not become an instructor.  Even though I got paid a lot more, it wasn't worth it in the long run, and if I had never went to Utila to do my IDC, I would have saved $5,000 in the course fees, books, random other fees, and flying across the world.

I also realized I was getting older and that if I were to give Muay Thai a fair shot, it would have to be this year as I was already 31 at the time.  I moved to Chiang Mai and decided to train full time until my money ran out.

My latest fight in Chiang Mai

January 2013 - Life as a Muay Thai fighter wasn't paying the bills.  I had officially ran out of money. I only had a few hundred dollars in my bank, didn't have any source of income, didn't want to go back to teaching scuba diving and didn't even have a return flight back to America.

My options were to borrow money from my family for a flight back to the U.S., move back in with my parents and get a regular 9-5 job again, or to figure out a way to make money from Thailand that didn't involve scuba diving.

Bank Balance: $200

February 2013 - I figured it out, well, at least it was the best I could think of at the time.  I published a book going into detail about the previous 4 years of my life that you all just read the cliff notes on.  The book originally sold for $37 and was aimed towards guys that wanted to quit their jobs back home and move to Thailand to train Muay Thai and MMA full time.

New Income: $600 a month from book sales.

www.12WeeksinThailand.com

April 2013 - I messed it all up.  I decided that the book was more of a "how I lived the 4-hour workweek book/a Guide to Thailand" than a book about Muay Thai, so I rebranded the book and put it on Amazon which forced me to lower the price from $37 to $9.99.  I thought it would be a wise move as it would reach more people, but I still made the same 16 sales a month, but instead of making $585 from those sales, I started making $112 a month.  I made another $50 or so a month from monetizing my blogs with advertising including google adsense and amazon and product affiliate links to things like supplements and whey protein.

I was living on a strict budget in Chiang Mai at the time and was paying 3,500 baht ($116US) a month for my room in an old Thai building.

Total income per month:  $200


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June 2013 - I was broke once again.  I had around 10,000 thai baht ($300US) in cash left after paying my apartment for the month and around bit over $170 in my bank account.  I knew this was it, I had to make something happen or I would have to crawl home and go back to a life that I didn't love, working for a boss that I didn't like, just to get by.

Luckily around that same time, I had started learning about dropshipping and eCommerce.  I had signed up for Anton's Method training course and I wanted to live the drop ship lifestyle.  I had met Anton in Chiang Mai a few months prior to that and saw how successful he was with his online stores.  I spent the next two months working on building up my own online store and becoming an authorized dealer for some name brands.

I started making enough sales in August which was about 2 months after I started to replace my normal 9-5 income and give me between $1,500 to $5,000 in profit per month for every successful store I opened.

Total income per month: A lot more than $200.

My sales from July to December 2013

February 2014 - I decided that I really enjoyed living in Chiang Mai and that it was a fantastic place to meet other entrepreneurs and location dependent business owners.  My eCommerce stores were now optimized and didn't require more than an hour a day of my time as I hired a full time gal to answer my customer service calls for me.

With my newfound free time and financial freedom, I started exploring other hobbies, interests and business ideas.  I started the Travel Like a Boss Podcast as a fun way to sit down with other entrepreneurs and talk about how they manage their online businesses while traveling.  Anton overheard me teaching another one of his students how I optimized my store for sales and conversions and encouraged me to create the info product, Optimize Like a Boss  which teaches eCommerce store owners how to get more sales.

I also started traveling more and took up scuba diving again, but this time as a guest at the resorts instead of as an employee.

New Bank Balance: $30,000

Read the Thai Millionaire Article here:
http://www.johnnyfd.com/2014/02/goldwatch.html

March 2014 - I'm currently on vacation in Koh Lanta after spending a week rock climbing in Krabi with my girlfriend.  I'm still working 1-2 hours a day while i'm out here, but I usually do it before breakfast or late at night instead of watching TV.  I actually really enjoy my "job" as I don't have boss, and whatever sales I make from my eCommerce stores, my book, advertising from my podcast, or sales of my Optimize info product goes straight to me.

Taking that first initial leap of faith and moving to Thailand with little more than what cash I got from selling my car has allowed me to create the ideal life that I previously thought was impossible.  If you aren't 100% happy with your job and don't want to wait until you're 65 to retire and hopefully move to somewhere like Thailand, do something about it now.  Life really is short, and we really can have it all.



Recommended Resources:

Read my book: 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap, if you enjoyed this blog post you'll really love all of the details of how I quit my job, breakdowns of the cost of living and what it was like living in Thailand for four years which includes some wild adventures.





Listen to the Podcast: Travel Like a Boss Podcast for inspiration and ideas from successful entrepreneurs that I've met while traveling.



Sign up for: Anton's Dropshipping training course if you want to learn how to set up your own online store, choose the right niche and get approved by suppliers to become an authorized dealer for your own eCommerce store.



Keep in touch on facebook or twitter and feel free to ask me any questions, I'm happy to help you get started in your own journey.

Warm Regards and best wishes,

Johnny

37 comments:

  1. What a great journey, Johnny! Thanks for the road map so the rest of us don't have to step on the same jagged rocks! Starting Anton Method next week!

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    1. Hey JP, nice buddy, even though I'd love to say I wish I Anton's course existed four years ago, I really had a great time doing Muay Thai while living on a super tight budget, and even making $30 a day which is less than minimum wage working as a divemaster. I'm super glad I don't have to do that now as it's so much better actually having enough money just to pay for it but I wouldn't have traded those jagged rock years for anything.

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  2. amazing...thanks you for the inspiration

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  3. Very inspiring! Do you use free traffic or paid traffic in your first stores?

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    1. Hey Hieu, in Anton's course he explains how to get traffic through three different sources one which includes using paid traffic but my favorite method is the free one =)

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    2. Thanks for your reply, Johnny! After reading your blog, I'm more motivated to do dropshipping. Just signed up one Vietnamese dropshipping course :D Will attend Anton's when my English get better.

      One more question, do you have to register a company (Inc. or LLC) or something like that to do dropship? I'm not a U.S. Citizen, so it's quite difficult to do that.

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    3. Hi Hieu, what's up man. I'm glad you are excited about dropshipping. Hopefully the vietnamese course is good, your English seems good enough to do his course now to be honest as even though he talks fast, he shows everything he is doing on the screen so it's very easy to follow along. You can also re watch the videos as many times as you need. It is much harder to start an ecomm store not being a U.S. Citizen as you'll need to register an LLC. But the upside to it is that if you can make a U.S. income while living in Vietnam then it's a very good life. Let me know how it goes buddy.

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    4. Thanks for your info, I should check whether my course helps non US cizitens build eComm store, it's starting in May.

      Hope we can hang out sometime in Saigon.

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  4. So inspiring! How many stores did you originally open & how many do you have now?

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    1. Hey Derma, I'm glad my post could be inspiring, I stayed up until past midnight even though I had to be up at 7am to go scuba diving just because I really wanted to finish it. I started with just one store, figured out how to optimize it and now run three stores total. I had five at one point but they weren't bringing in enough profit for me to justify my time so I closed them down and am focusing just on the ones that have good margins.

      If I lived in the U.S. and was doing this full time, I would duplicate the method and open a bunch of big stores, but being out here I value my free time a lot more than money.

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  5. How much are you making in profit per day and per week these days Johnny?

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    1. Hey Icarus, it varies day to day depending on what sales come in but on average it's more than $200 a day in profit.

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  6. Johnny, great blog post! Very inspiring and thorough. It's amazing that you can live so well and pull yourself up from nothing in a country like Thailand. In America there are homeless people with $800 month SSI income who can't afford a home.

    Was there ever a temptation to use credit cards to live on? Of course they can make one lazy. You talk about reward points and getting freebies from credit card companies i'm wondering if the new income suddenly gave you great credit or were you always good with money.

    If I did the course i'm not sure I would get those rewards because I don't have any credit cards. -Jason

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    1. Hey Jason, I'm glad you enjoyed this post, I tried to make it as thorough as possible half way through it I realized it was enough info to write another book so I just did a summary. it's crazy that people earning $800 a month from Social Security checks in the U.S. are homeless, when you can live a very decent life in Chiang Mai for that. You wouldn't be rich here with $800 a month but you could have your own place, eat at Thai restaurants every meal and not have to cook and even have enough left over to join a gym or office space. Location arbitrage really is powerful.

      My backup plan was if all else failed I could always buy a plane ticket home with a credit card and pay it off when I got a job, but luckily that never happened. I think my credit has gone up tremendously now that I've been consistently paying $15k-20k in credit card bills every month and paying them on time, but when I started I just had basic credit. I would suggest you get a credit card asap to start building up some credit history and just pay it off every month and use it like cash. You'll need it eventually, start now.

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    2. Hi Johnny.

      1. How do you manage the visa thing in Chinag Mai? Recently the Immigration guys have changed the rules and the procedures are more restrictive.

      2. Do you have a recommended technique as to "How to find my niche"? I find it highly challenging.

      Many thanks,
      Tal

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    3. Tal,

      1. Don't worry about the Visa thing. Just get a double or triple entry tourist visa before coming and take 2 week vacations for your "visa runs"

      2. The first two videos in Anton's course teach you exactly how to find a profitable niche, the info in those two videos alone are worth the cost of the course as you're right, it is the most challenging part. www.AntonMethod.com is the site.

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  7. Great post johnny. I will be getting the anton method here shortly. One question, Do you think you will write more books?

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    1. Hey Robert, nice buddy glad you are on board. Make sure you use my links on my resources page so I can get credit for referring you. As for the books, I didn't think I would ever write another book as I can make a lot more money in the amount of time it takes to write, edit and publish a book opening a new ecommerce store, but I've realized how much I enjoy sharing my story and how many people get a lot out of it, so I've decided to make that my next project. Keep an eye out for it by the end of the summer hopefully.

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  8. Very cool post man. Props on succeeding that fast in online business!
    I'll see you around in Chiang Mai!

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    1. Max thanks buddy, a big part of my fast success is due to meeting the right people and finding things that actually worked. Which is why I'm really trying to pick their brains on the podcast now so I can share their info with everyone else.

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  9. Great post Johnny!
    I've been following your blog since last June.
    This post was a wonderful kick and inspiratiation for me and I wish you the best of everytthing for your upcoming ventures.

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    1. Hey thanks so much mxx, I'm sure my blog was completely different one year ago, last June! I just added the "blog archive" widget to my sidebar so you can jump back a year and see what I was posting. It was all about how to live as cheap as possible for $200 a month. How things have changed!

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  10. Awesome post highlighting not just the highs but the lows too. Did you keep a diary or blog during this? Or do you just have an amazing memory?!

    I look forward to reading more and I added you on Twitter - hope to see you there sometime!

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    1. An Elephant Never Forgets. But since i'm not an elephant, I went through my old facebook photos to see where I was was in each year and logged into my checking account to see my balance. =)

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  11. Awesome ..I enjoy reading your story thank you for sharing.. looking forward to the next post. Quick question, would you suggest someone to just make the move and then develop an eCommerce store in Thailand ? how much would you say to have banked before making the move.. Thanks again

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    1. Hey JC, I'm glad you've enjoyed my story and the blog. I personally didn't have any real savings before I moved here, but I sold my car which gave me around $7,000 when I made my move. If you are smart about it, that $7k will last you at least 7 months while you work on your business. As for me I didn't know anything about eCommerce so I signed up for www.AntonMethod.com which is a ecommerce/dropshipping training course and it taught me everything I needed to know. Let me know how it goes for you, and enjoy life out in Thailand JC!

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  12. Amazing. If there is a will, there is always a way. Happy I've met you here in Chiang Mai! Keep inspiring us!

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    1. Hey Sabrina, thanks for leaving a comment and for sharing this post on your facebook wall! It was awesome meeting you as well in Chiang Mai, thanks for all of the blogging tips.

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  13. Thanks a lot for this inspiring post! I've been looking at options on being location independent and this came just in time. I would love to check out Anton's Method and see how it goes for me. I hope you wouldn't mind if I emailed and asked a few questions as I go through it.

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    1. Hey JaneMa glad you enjoyed this post and that it came with good timing. Always happy to help, feel free to email me or message me on facebook once you sign up.

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  14. Hi Johnny.

    So, all in all, Anton's course is only designed for (or benefit mostly) those who are U.S. citizens?

    Thanks,
    Tal

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    1. Hey Tal, nope there are a bunch of people from other countries on Anton's course that make it work. A few from the UK and a few from Australia and even one from Israel.

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    2. It is a bit more work to get it started through FYI as you either need to A. find suppliers in your country (which usually isn't as widespread as the U.S.) or B. get a U.S. bank account if you want to sell in the U.S.

      It's definitely possible, and personally I think it's a blessing as especially if you do it in your own country it's worth the extra initial work as there is less competition as well.

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  15. Hi Johnny, great post! I have one question though- how were you able to afford the course at the time when you only had $170 left? How did you survive in the meantime before the businesses took off?

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    1. Hey Casey, I was still making around $110 a month from my book at the time and basically just used my credit card and went into survival mode during those months. It wasn't easy but costs of living in Thailand was so cheap that I managed to stretch the last couple hundred dollars I had left for a long time.

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  16. Or you can just download for FREE a comprehensive how-to instructional on dropshipping from eCommerce University.

    just saying......

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  17. They could definitely do that. But then again hardly anyone in eCommerce University forums is actually making money and most of them end up drop shipping $10 items from a middleman with no margins. =)

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