I'm 34 Years Old. Here's what I've Learned.

Every year on my birthday I ask myself, what have I done in this past year...where have I been...and is my life, health, bank account, and relationships going forward or back?

It may seem simple and in a lot of ways is a perfect mid year resolution self assessment, but it works. One of my biggest fears is becoming that old guy coming home from a job he hates to a wife who no longer respects him because he no longer respects himself.  Here is a look back on where I was exactly 1 year ago and where I am now to see if I'm aging in the right way or wrong direction.

I'm taking a look back at my calendar as honestly, this past year has been a complete blur. On my birthday last year, Larissa and I went to Pai, a little mountain town just a few hours outside of Chiang Mai to spend the weekend together.

At the Reverie Siam in Pai, Thailand
A few weeks after that, I went on my first trip to Europe ever with my good friend Anton. Neither of us had ever been there before and it was always on our bucket list so we packed a bag and bought a one way ticket. 

The milestone for me was it was the first time I was able to afford to fly business class and decided during that trip to work harder and create more income, so I could have the option to always fly that way especially for long international flights that I was alone on. 

Anton and I having local beer in Prague, Czech Republic 
Our Euro trip started in Berlin, Germany and was supposed to last 1-2 months but I ended up coming back early to surprise Larissa on her birthday. My thoughts were, as much as I enjoyed my time in Europe. I could always go back and the next time I went, hopefully it would be with her.

Places visited in Europe:

The next trip I took was with Larissa over to Borneo which is one of my favorite places in the world for nature and wildlife. I wanted to see Orangutans together and take her scuba diving for the first time. The trip was inspired by a reunion party that was thrown by a resort I used to work for on the island of Mabul which is probably the best diving I've ever experienced till this day still.

We went for almost 3 weeks and Larissa got certified to scuba dive there. Here's the guide to the Jungles of Borneo that I wrote on my blog.

Here's a video from our river and jungle sight seeing where we saw a lot of really strange animals including the proboscis monkey for our first time. 

In just a few years, the amount of wildlife, especially under the sea has decreased dramatically, which is why I want to see as much as I can before it's all gone in the wild. There is a huge change that our future kids will never get to spot wild elephants anywhere in the world by the time they grow up.

Trekking through Borneo

Here's a quick video from Borneo:

After Borneo, we had exactly one month back in Chiang Mai where we started a new store together, it would be Larissa's first attempt at eCommerce and the first time I would start a brand new store from scratch in over a year so I was a bit worried but we posted it during our 30 day challenge here. 

At the end of the month, we headed to South Africa together to spend Christmas with her family. It was my first time meeting her parents so it was a huge deal, but luckily they were super easy to get along with, and I really got along with her father which is a man that is easy to admire.

With the Penguins in Cape Town, South Africa

Watch the highlights of my trip to SA:

What's crazy is after a few weeks in S. Africa we managed to come back with our first sales of our new store, a new step in our relationship, and 10lbs on my waist from eating a ton of great food and having wine for the first time again in years.

We only had 2 months in Chiang Mai before the start of burning season so we made the most of it by working around the clock, but that came with it's downsides as our daily routine became wake up at 7:30 go to the office, six days a week which put a big strain on our mental health and our relationship. I've learned now to keep more of a balance when it comes to both work as well as working together as even though it seemed like it was my dream to be able to work sitting next to the love of my life everyday now that Larissa was making enough money online to have quit her teaching was my dream not hers.

I've learned since then that even though I love not having a set schedule and making up things as I go, not everyone loves the chaos and instability of entrepreneurial life.  

Working together on our online store
Before burning season came to an official start, I somehow got the crazy idea to get 150 people together to share and learn and called it the Nomad Summit.

With the help with my co-organizer Kathrin Folkendt we somehow pulled off an incredible event that people still talk about today. Here's my speech on implementation where my motto  was just commit and figure it out as you go, everything always works itself out one way or another.

Speaking in front of 150 digital nomads at the summit
After the summit, Larissa and I headed down to Koh Lanta (my guide to Koh Lanta) to spend almost a month by the beach to relax, and wait for my parents to arrive for a visit.

It was the first time my parents met Larissa and within the first hour of meeting, she was part of our family. It's hard not to fall in love with a girl who has a genuine soul and is as kind and compassionate as Larissa is and both my parents and my sister saw that within her right away.

This was also the first family vacation I've taken as an adult and it made me so happy that I was able to not only pay my own way for once, but also have enough money to pay for some of my family's transportation as well as book us a nice family villa for the entire 10 days we were in Koh Lanta together which was a really nice way for all of us to bond. 

The villa we rented for my family trip
Here's a video of us snorkeling with sharks in Lanta

After Koh Lanta we all went to Taiwan together, the entire family so we could show Larissa where we came from. Even though I was born and raised in the U.S., a bit part of my culture still has roots in Taiwan where both my parents grew up and where I would often spend summers.

I'm glad that Larissa liked the food there as well as the culture. Here's the guide I wrote about Taiwan.

With my family in Taiwan
Some of the food we are in Taiwan:

Killing the travel bug:

If you haven't noticed already, this has been a hectic year of traveling. Part of being a digital nomad is the idea that you can work from anywhere, but I think we took it a bit too far this year as it really played a big part in the demise of our health both physically as well as mentally.

It was just too tiring to go on an international trip every other month and even though I've really enjoyed seeing so many cool places and knowing that if I wanted to, I could see the entire world while being able to work online...but at what true cost.

Larissa ended up going home to S. Africa for 2.5 months after our trip to Taiwan as she was burnt out and missed the stability of being home and around family. I went back to Chiang Mai which is the place I've considered home for the past few years and engulfed myself into work again.

In those few months I created my new course, Earnest Affiliate which has become an entire new stream of income for me as well as a way for me to teach what I've learned in the past 7 years about affiliate marketing and making money online with blogs, and even my podcast and youtube channel.

With friends for my 34th birthday dinner
Am I better off?

Overall, I'd have to say that this has been the best year in my life in terms of new experiences, seeing cool places in the world and for my financial success.

My relationship has also gone to another level with Larissa and I both meeting each other's parents. Even though it may seem in photos and videos that our lives are nothing but travel, fun and sun, it was a really hard year for both of us starting a new business together and having the stresses that come with being together 24/7, working together as well as her now living in an entire new country where she had no close friends and no family.

But I'm really glad to say, we made it through all of that, and are closer now because of it. It was my first year ever living with my significant other, and the first time I've introduced my family to someone who I intend to have a family of my own with someday. Here's a photo of us back in Chiang Mai together where she treated me to sunday brunch at the Four Seasons and made me feel like a king and the luckiest guy in the world. 

At the Four Seasons for a Birthday Brunch
Things that have slipped:

Even though this year was fantastic for a lot of areas in my life, it came with sacrifice. My fitness has slipped and I've lost any semblance of visible abs by gaining more than 10kg/22lbs since I was at my peak of being in shape last year. My goal for my 33rd birthday was to have a sixpack, and even though I didn't quite get there, I was pretty close and was really happy with the progress.

This year I focused a bit too much on business, and travel, which included trying great food, Czech beer and South African wine. 

I don't regret it for a second, but I have to be honest with myself. I've let myself go this year and need to refocus on cutting out the carbs and exercising consistently again.  I need to follow my own diet advice as I know it works as it worked for me when I was actually doing it. 

Here's a breakdown of what has gotten better (+) and what has declined (-) this past year.



Thing I've learned:

I've been reminded how important balance is in life when it comes to relationships, work, and pretty much everything.  I've also learned that hard work while following the right directions really does pay off and not to listen to people's opinions who haven't done it before. 

In this year I'm going to commit to keeping a positive mentality full of abundance.  I'm committing to getting back down to 90 kg which is just under 200lbs, and to grow my income and networth by 3x. 

Taken just now at a coffee shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand
I sincerely appreciate all of the fantastic, optimistic people I've attracted into my life this year, all of the support and encouragement everyone has given me throughout this journey, and hope everyone who took the time to read this long post the same success in your own lives.

May you crush it in this upcoming year and may all of us succeed together!

P.S. If you wanted to make a donation to Charity: Water it's still open =)  

Big thanks to Tom, Martha, Leonard, Kara, Randy, Krystian, Marta and Dvir!

With Love,

Johnny, now 34 years old.

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Post a Comment

  1. Happy birthday Johnny. Thanks for keeping it real with your updates on your blog. I must say that being physically fit is the best thing you can do, as it increases your focus, alertness and overall well being. I recently decided to get better physically and I have lost 10 kgs (actually the same that you gained) ;) My recommendation: you should work out first thing in the morning, as soon as you wake up. Only 20 min is required: you can youtube High Intensity Interval Training and then drink a glass of water lemon. I know you are busy and stuff but man, just 20 min as you wake up will do wonders for you.

    Anyways, keep up the good work. I'm not yet a digital nomad, however I'm liking my job at Agoda :)

    Take care,


    1. Hey Len, thanks for the birthday wishes and glad you are enjoying the blog! Keep crushing it at Agoda, I use them for hotels all of the time.

      Those 10kgs are going to fly off these next few months, just watch =)


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