2017 in Review: Lessons Learned and Life as a Digital Nomad (Plus Income Report)

It's now the end of the year and this 2017 in review post is as much for me as it is for you. As honestly, without sitting down to physically go through my inbox for plane tickets, airbnb bookings, and paper trail, I would have honestly forgotten half of the things I've done and places I've visited this past year. So even though I write monthly travel, life, goal, and income reports, for this December 2017 edition consider this a special end of the year wrap up. For some of you, it may sound like it's awesome to be able to visit so many countries and have so many passport stamps that you can't even count, all while building businesses online and living off of passive income, and it is. But honestly, there are a ton of lessons learned every year, both ups and downs, that would have made this year even better, less stressful, more productive, and more joyful. 

I'll be breaking down the past year month by month, wrapping it up with December 2017's travel and income report, as well as share not only the highlights of travel, business, and lifestyle, but also more importantly, what I would have done differently so hopefully both you and I can learn from it going forth in 2018 to make that the best year possible. This post contains everything I did, saw, accomplished and failed at in 2017, including exactly how much money I made online while traveling the world through eight countries while working online as a digital nomad from my laptop, reading and listening to books in attempts to learn and grow, and attending conferences and seminars to try to become an even better version of myself so I can have more to give back to the world. Here is my year in review, thanks for following along in the journey.

The Previous Years

I know by the time you're reading this, it's already 2018, but before we even look back at last year, let's first rewind all the way back to 2016 which now seems forever ago, but in reality it was really just 13 months from the time of writing. That year I traveled to 17 countries and wrote down 17 lessons that I learned so read that post first if you want to know the foundation what the past 2 years have been like.

If you're new to this blog, you might even want to go back even further all the way back to 2008 when I first came to Thailand to become a scuba divemaster and train Muay Thai professionally. I wrote about those 4 years in detail in my first book, 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap.  Or if you want to fast forward a bit to 2013, it's when I started my first online business and learned how to properly set and achieve goals physically, financially, and with the rest of my life, as go into detail in my 2nd book, Life Changes Quick which was about how I went from having almost nothing to having my first $30,000 saved up in the bank and laying the foundation for everything to come.

Last year 2016 however was a time of rebuilding, physically, emotionally, and with my goals in general. It was a year of exploration, travel, and learning lessons along the way.

January 2017

This month was seeing old friends in Bangkok and flying to Taiwan for to meetup with my parents to attend my cousin's wedding. Since it was also the start of a new year, I also took the time to write down my goals for the year starting with the ideal version of myself.

Lesson #1 - This was also the month where two people who I cared about cut me out of their lives. At first I was deeply hurt as I had nothing but good intentions towards them and wanted the best for them, but I've now realized that they did me a huge favor.

"If you spend time with those who refuse to take responsibility for their life, always find excuses and blame others for the situation they are in, your average will go down, and with it your opportunity to succeed.

However, if you spend time with people who are trying to increase their standard of living, and grow personally and professionally, your average will go up, and you will become more successful.

Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes."

Places Visited in January: Bangkok, Taiwan, Chiang Mai
Countries Visited in January: Taiwan and Thailand
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in January: $17,442.19

My New Year's Resolutions and Personal Goals

February 2017

I spent this month in Chiang Mai and hosted the 3rd annual Nomad Summit conference. It was amazing seeing 370+ people attend from all around the world and seeing it grow from a small local meetup that I had thought up just a few years ago, to what it has become today.

Lesson #2: What we create becomes so much more than us. It's amazing seeing that something we put together can become so much more than just us.

"If you never try and take great opportunities or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved."

Places Visited in February: Chiang Mai and Canggu
Countries Visited in February: Thailand and Bali, Indonesia
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in February$22,060.10

March 2017

This is the month I headed to Bali, sold my second dropshipping store, and realized that I could retire at 35 years old. Honestly, I had no desire to retire young as I've always really loved building businesses and sharing openly what I've learned, but that month I decided to take a break and realized I could. 

Lesson #3 - You can't please everyone, and everyone has their own battles they are fighting. The best thing we do is just focus on our own journey, and strive to be the best versions of ourselves as possible regardless of what others think or say.

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus

"Detach from the things you cannot control, focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something."

Places Visited in March: Chiang Mai and Canggu
Countries Visited in March: Thailand and Bali, Indonesia
Largest Income Source: Dropshipping Income
Income Earned in March$39,642.99

Retired Life hobbies included iPhone Photography

April 2017

During my second month of trying out the early retirement life, I boarded a plane to Flores and decided to explore the wildlife of Komodo National Park. It's the only place in the world where they have Komodo dragons living in the wild, and under water, they have heavy currents which bring dozens of Manta Rays which you can see scuba diving.

Lesson #4 - Get off online for a complete reset, seek adventures, and learn new skills, you've earned it.

"Successful people invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Who you are today is not who you have to be tomorrow."

Places Visited in April: Ubud, Canggu, and Komodo
Countries Visited in April: Indonesia
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in April$8,865.84

May 2017

Even though Bali and Indonesia was great for a few weeks, and looks amazing in photos, I realized that I prefer places with good infrastructure, and rational. That's why I decided to leave early, fly to Spain and explore Barcelona for a change of pace. Having real roads, a selection of coworking spaces, and things that actually worked the way they're supposed to, felt like I was back in the real world and I was really excited to get out of SE Asia and be back in the west. 

Here's everything I learned living in Barcelona, it's a great city that's a good combination of 1st world infrastructure and the laid back life. 

Lesson #5 - The best thing about being location independent is being able to go where you are happy and suits you best. 

 It may change, but go where you are happy right now, and where you'll be happy tomorrow.

Places Visited in May: Bali, Barcelona, Catalonia, and Dublin
Countries Visited in May: Indonesia, Spain and Ireland
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in May$6,683.83

In Northern Spain with Coworking Friends

June 2017

Every year I set to do some physically challenging adventure, this year was joining my buddy Sam Marks on his walk across Ireland. Starting in Dublin, I walked with Sam for 8 days through the Wicklow mountains, staying in tiny villages and drinking pints Guinness at every pub.

This was probably one of the coolest videos I've ever made as it takes place over an entire week, filming just two minutes a day to give you a taste of what it looks and feels like to walk through Ireland in the summer. After the hike, I spent a few days recovering and relaxing in Dublin, went back to Barcelona to pick up my luggage, then headed to Hamburg, Germany to see what it was like.

Lesson #6 - One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to set a physically challenging goal at least once a year, especially if it's one that forces us to be offline and live in the moment.

Places Visited in June:
 Ireland, Barcelona, and Hamburg
Countries Visited in June: Ireland, Germany, Spain
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in June$8,396.96

July 2017

This was the month of living it up in Eastern Europe starting with Lviv, Ukraine which was probably one of my favorite places in the world. It was unique, interesting, filled with culture, still a bit unexplored and best of all for us at least, not really for them, due to the current exchange rate which is about 4x better in our favor compared to what it before the conflicts with Russia,  everything was super cheap.

It was my second summer in Ukraine as last year, having just a few weeks here, I realized that this is one of the last few places in Europe that is still off the beaten path, I just had to come back. Read my blog guide post to Ukraine for more details or for a deeper understanding of their culture and what my overall thoughts are on their country, situation, and economy, read my thoughts on Ukraine post.  Either way, start with watching the video I made in Lviv to see for yourself what the food, culture, street music, and prices are like.

Lesson #7 - The best places on Earth won't be found in a "Top Destinations" article in a travel magazine as generally by the time places like that become famous enough to make it there, it loses a bit of it's charm, and is almost always overcrowded and overpriced.

Places Visited in July: Lviv and Kiev
Countries Visited in June: Ukraine
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in June: $7,221.36

August 2017

The best thing about being location independent is the fact that instead of having to go home after a vacation, just to get back to work, save up for another long flight the next year, you can just work from wherever you are. So even though I was quite happy with the $7,000-$8,000 in passive income I was making every month even after officially taking an early retirement back in March and not working really at all since then, I also realized two things. First, I wanted to be able to better share how I finally figured out how to make money online with affiliate commissions so that others could follow my footsteps and do the same, and second, to be honest, I was just a bit tired and bored from all that traveling. In the six months of early retirement I pretty much did everything I wanted to do including going on a liveaboard scuba diving trip, visiting the Komodo islands to see the dragons, walking the Wicklow Way in Ireland, and I had enough eating and drinking in both Barcelona and Lviv to last me a while.

So this was the month I decided to sit down and focus 100% of my energy to refilming my old Earnest Affiliate course, to update it with new videos, better content, and really be able to help as many people as possible while creating another stream of income for myself to be able to better help others. When I was making $20,000+ a month working online full time, not only was I using that money for myself, but I also started supporting my parents. I realized that having more money meant that I could help more people. And that's exactly why I created my new course called Income Boss (save 50% using this link!) which shows others how to create an monetize an online brand to receive passive income through affiliate commissions. The launch of the new course was a huge success and it was all done from a random coworking space in Ukraine out of all places in the world.

Lesson #8 - Being a digital nomad doesn't mean you just travel full time as a tourist, it means simply means that you have the freedom to you choose where and when you work.

Places Visited in August: Kiev and Odessa
Countries Visited in August: Ukraine
Largest Income Source: Course Sales
Income Earned in August: $19,077.59

September 2017

After completing and launching the course, it was time to take a break again and relax a bit with a change of scenery. Since winter was slowly approaching and knew it would start getting cold in Ukraine soon, I started heading West, and stopped on the Canary Islands after a day in Dusseldorf just to break up the trip. The best thing about living on the Canary Islands is the fact that even though it's technically part of Spain, it's actually located on the west coast of Africa which means the weather is warm year round! 

The best thing about being location independent is being able to follow the summer warmth wherever it may take you in the world. A lot of people asked why I went to Las Palmas, and the truth is, I went just because I had heard it was great! Here's a guide post on Gran Canaria the costs of living, things to do, and why it's quickly become the new digital nomad hotspot of Europe. 

Lesson #9 - Having two distinct modes, one being work/hustle mode, and the other being maintenance/passive mode allows you to create new streams of income by working hard for just a set period of time while you build, then automate.

Places Visited in September: Odessa, Düsseldorf and Las Palmas.
Countries Visited in September: Ukraine, Germany, and Gran Canaria, Spain.
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in September: $11,674.83

On Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

October 2017

One of my goals for this year was to travel less and stay in each place longer instead of moving around so much. Even though it's fun to bounce around from hotel to hotel and country to country, to be able to live this nomad lifestyle long term without burning out requires either a home base to go back to once in a while, or the ability to make any place your home. That's why I chose Las Palmas, it was a place I could see myself living in for 2-3 months and renting an Airbnb long term to base out of. It also helped that my buddy Chris was traveling with me and that I had a few friends on the island that I had previously met in Chiang Mai that were now living there long term.

The best thing about Gran Canaria is the fact that the island has a variety of beaches, mountains, sand dunes, deserts, hiking, snorkeling, city, and scuba diving which makes it so you can stay in one place and never get bored. Life in Las Palmas itself was great, I lived a block from the beach, my morning commute to work was a nice walk on the sand, and at night there was always tapas and wine or restaurants to go to. Check out the "Day in the Life on Las Palmas" video below to see what it's like for digital nomads and remote workers on the island.

Lesson #10 - Moving fast and seeing too much will eventually lead to burn out which many digital nomads have experienced. The trick is having a home base to go back to, or creating one by renting out nice airbnb apartments to call home for a few months at a time.

Places Visited in October: Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Countries Visited in October: Spain
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in October: $13,277.55

On Top of the Mountains of Gran Canaria Island

November 2017

It was a well needed break staying in one place for a few months, but by the end of November, I was ready to start exploring the world again and was excited to fly to Miami. One of my goals for the past year ever since watching the Documentary of Tony Robbins, "I am not your Guru" on Netflix was to be able to attend his week long Date With Destiny Event. The problem was both time and money constraints as even though I knew I would benefit a lot from attending his event as it would be an investment in personal growth, it would be a huge commitment on my part. The cost of the event itself is $5,000 which is already a ton of money, but on top of that I'd have to fly from the Canary Islands to Florida instead of just going straight to Thailand, and I'd have to get hotel rooms for almost two weeks. All together going to DWD would cost me over $8,000 and I'd be busy for 7 days straight as the seminar lasts from morning until after midnight.

My goal was to be able to be completely offline for the entire week without needing to check or respond to email, facebook messages, or even my whatsapp. This is why I'm so happy that all of my online businesses are completely location independent, and either fully or at least semi-passive in earnings. I didn't work that much while I was in Gran Canaria and instead focused on swimming everyday, snorkeling, and enjoying time on the beach to prep my mind and body for the event. It's amazing to see that even without much work, my passive income keeps coming in both through the affiliate commissions I've set up to keep receiving, as well as the new course sales where I teach others how to do it themselves in Income Boss.

Lesson #11 - Always have a goal you want to achieve or something you want to attend 6-12 months away, especially if it's something you think you can't do. You'll have that time to prepare your life to be able to do it and often you'll be better off even after it's over since you would have set your life to have more financial, physical and/or time freedom.

Places Visited in November: Las Palmas, Gran Canaria and Miami
Countries Visited in November: Spain and USA
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions
Income Earned in November: $12,379.97

December 2017

It was an awesome month starting with going to Miami where I went scuba diving and took a helicopter for the first time ever. Followed by an epic Date With Destiny in Florida, then filled with great friends and all of my family! Instead of flying to San Francisco to spend the holidays there, I bought my parents round trip tickets to visit me in LA instead so we could have a family vacation. My sister heard the plans and drove down with her husband and my niece and nephew which made it complete. I also got to spend time with my cousin's Jacob and Johnson as well as some of my best friends who all live in Southern California. For Christmas I took my family to the Magic Castle and had a big family dinner which was exactly what I needed before flying back to Thailand.

Even though it was awesome being in OC/LA with friends, I had to get back to Chiang Mai to prepare for the upcoming Nomad Summit happening on January 20th, 2018. The best part of the trip was being able to fly business class with the last remaining points from running my dropshipping stores all of those years. Even better, I'm staying in my dream condo here in Thailand. It's a place that I looked at 3 years ago and even though I couldn't afford it at the time, I always knew it was my goal to be able to do so. Sitting here now looking out my floor to ceiling windows, overlooking the pool, palm and banana trees, I can't help but feel that I've finally achieved my dreams, and that everything I wrote in my book Life Changes Quick is now preparing me for another chapter of life, wherever that may take me.

Lesson #12 - Even though it's sometimes inconvenient to fly home to see old friends and family, it's important to do so. Make it a priority to go home at least once a year to catch up and see everyone, or schedule a trip for them to come to wherever you are.

Places Visited in December: California and Chiang Mai
Countries Visited in December: USA and Thailand
Largest Income Source: Affiliate Commissions 
Income Earned in December: $11,653.28

2017 Total Income

This was a strange year for me. I went from focusing 100% on building businesses and making money the last couple of years since I first learned how to do it in 2013 to taking an early retirement for half of this year and living just off of passive income. After college working a corporate job, I was making $48,000 a year but in 2008 after quitting my job and moving to Thailand to pursue Scuba Diving and Muay Thai as written about in detail in 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap, I started making less than $10,000 a year for 4 years.

In mid 2013, I figured out how to make money while working online as a digital nomad and for the next 3 years I increased my income every year. This is the first time my income has actually dropped, but it's a reminder that what we focus on, is what we achieve. I'm lucky that I setup most of my income to be passive, which meant that even though I haven't been focusing on work or business this year, I was still able to earn a total of $178,376.49 through my existing income streams. To some, that may sound like a ton of money, as even for me, growing up poor it really is. But compared to what I made the year before in 2016 when I was running, flipping, and starting new dropshipping stores, this year's income was actually a huge amount less. By far, my biggest income stream for 2017 was making passive income from affiliate commissions, which is what I teach others how to do inside my course Income Boss.

My goal for 2018 is to focus more on building up the course by adding even more content and ways to help my students have the same success, and eventually have my primary source of income switch from being an affiliate myself, to being a teacher, organizer, and creator which is what I really enjoy. I'm also going to focus a lot more on growing both the Travel Like a Boss and Invest Like a Boss Podcasts as they really are my passion and are super helpful to people starting out and wanting to learn and grow in this journey themselves. One thing I didn't even include in my income for the year is actually the unrealized market gains I've made from some of my investments that I'm still holding onto and haven't sold yet. In total I've made $23,376.12 just from my Vanguard account, and a bit from cryptocurrencies, and individual stocks. That means that at least on paper until I cash out, I've actually increased my networth and technically made over $200,000 this year. But for my income reports, I only count money I've actually earned so let's settle at $178,376.49 for the year which isn't too bad for taking half the year off, and living off of passive income while traveling through 8 countries and over the course of this past year.

digital nomad

2017 Lessons Learned and Wrap Up

I think the biggest lessons I learned this year is that life happens for us, not to us. I've learned that we can't control what others do, think, or say to or about us, but we can control how we react and take it. One of the big reasons why I took an early retirement besides just to see how I would like it, was because honestly I needed a break from a lot of the negativity out there in the digital nomad scene. From 2014-2017 I was one of the few people publicly talking about dropshipping, sharing income reports, and being open about how much money I was making. It's actually funny how seeing that there are tens of thousands of people who are successful at it and that the proof that it works is now undeniable. But even though I literally made $0 this past month from referring people to Anton's course as I've now sold my stores and aren't actively involved in the dropshipping scene anymore, I'm still grateful and thankful for him being my teacher and helping me learn the skills needed to run an online business. It was also the first $100,000 or so I made from running my stores that allowed me to get into investing both financially and into self development.

My goals for 2018 are going to be focus on becoming the best version of myself as possible through healthy eating, exercise, self love, good relationships, setting challenging goals, and living a stress free life without worrying too much about what others do, say, or think. I've realized that life really is about abundance, but in balance and in all things. I'm grateful and glad that I hustled hard to build businesses and wealth these past 4 years, and I'll always want to have enough money to be able to not only help myself, but also to be able to give back to my parents, and loved ones. But this year going forward, it's going to be less about me, and even more about how I can help others as I really believe that is my true calling and what makes me truly happy.

Here's a video breakdown with more detail about everything I've mentioned in this post above:

Listen to our 2018 Goal Planning Episode on Travel Like a Boss

Listen to the New Year's Update on Invest Like a Boss

Now it's your turn. Scroll down to the comments below and let me know what you did in 2017, where your favorite place was you traveled and what your goals and travel plans are for 2018! Go!

With Love, Happy 2018!

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

Like This Post? Share It!

Income Report 6757601125208666660

Post a Comment

  1. Always enjoyed your stuff.tried to meet at last year's dig.nomad hope 20 18 will meet up as I live only 10 min.walk to le Maridian*greg

    1. Hey Greg, hope you enjoyed the Nomad Summit! Hope to see you at the next one in January 2019!

  2. As always, feel free to ask anything here! I'm happy to help. =)


Please take a second to log in before you comment. I've turned off the anonymous commenting option. I'm open and respectful with you, please be the same back. Stay positive, trolls and spam comments will be automatically deleted.


Home item

Blog Archive

Are you an Insider yet?

Search this Blog

Keep in touch


Any product or service I recommend on this blog I personally use and would recommend to both friends and family. All links on this site are affiliate links so please use them in the resources page or anywhere on the blog if you want to give me credit for referring you.

If you want to learn more about how to start your own blog and make money as an affiliate by earnestly recommending products, check out my course Income Boss.

Featured Post: Read Me!

2020 Travel Plans and 2019 Recap: 11 Countries Traveled!

Want to start an online business?

Want to start an online business?
A post written for friends and family - Step by Step instructions on How to start your own online store.