The next interview (and probably the last), is with Jason, a young man I met in Medellin. I had to interview him not only because he is making his own money and traveling the world, but because he’s only 22 years old. The true nature of his hustler status is apparent once you read that he gives career advice to older professionals, without ever having a career of his own. Let’s take a look…
Can you give us a little background on your age and the type of environment you grew up in? What are some things that influenced you earlier in life that put you into the position you are in now?
I am a financially independent 22 years old traveling the world full-time while working 22 hours per week running two successful online businesses. I started with $50 running my own web-based businesses since age 16 but currently run a career services business (Resumes/CVs, interview coaching, etc.) and an online retail store selling physical products. I started traveling independently on my own at least 4 months per year on my own dime since age 19.
I grew up comfortably in an east coast suburb as one of five children. All the basics were easily covered from birth: weekly tennis lessons, SAT class, summer camp, and one of the top rated public schools in the nation. I was a complete suburban stereotype. I never felt comfortable given all of these advantages. And since I wasn’t naturally gifted in any school subjects like most of my peers I didn’t buy into the cycle that if I got good grades everything else would take care of itself. But for a while I didn’t know what else to focus on either.
As a privileged teenager, it’s pretty common to go on an international travel/volunteer program. It wasn’t my first time abroad, but at age 15 I jumped at the opportunity to go on my first cultural exchange program to Costa Rica. The highlight of this trip was living with a Costa Rican family in a rural town for three weeks. I ate rice, beans, and eggs every day, shared a wooden plank bed with the host family brother, and showered each day with a bucket of cold water. The experience was uncomfortable and I could barely communicate with the family, but the feeling of independence from back home in the United States was an invaluable emotion that is probably what has motivated me ever since.
Talk about your ideal girl. What does she look like? Where is she from? What’s her personality like?
I am still figuring this out. One of the many consequences of my lifestyle is that I rarely have enough time for a proper relationship. My experiences are limited to the countries I have traveled, and even then I can’t claim to know most of the cultures on any level deeper than your average tourist. There is just not enough time.
But a benefit of travel is that I know what type of girls I do not want a relationship with. As I travel more I find myself traveling a little more closed-minded because I have more experience in knowing what I don’t want. As a result I often put myself in situations where I am less likely to encounter certain types of women. An easy example is that I especially avoid going out to bars or clubs popular with tourists and expats. In these places I have found that the girls want something from me; sometimes for the Western stereotypes I can offer if they are fascinated by my culture. Other times they just might be more attracted to something different because a lot of the countries I visit are so homogenous. Either way, I think that many girls who go to these places have some kind of agenda, whether those examples I gave, or countless other reasons that have more to do with circumstances rather than us actually having any sort of connection.
Describe your travel experiences and strategy.
My style of travel is constantly changing because of an increasing income, language ability, and travel experience, and work obligations. It also depends on what region of the world I go. What I do, spend, and eat in Tokyo is much different than what I do in La Paz.
I first traveled independently after my freshman year of university to Ecuador and Colombia. In Ecuador I lived out of a dorm room in a party hostel for three months and traveled on the weekends. I volunteered during the weekdays and put in a probably less than ten hours a week in my own businesses. I made very few local friends but at this point my Spanish was also very basic. My travel experiences were also very limited so I was eager to go everywhere, from small towns to remote jungles.
Fast forward year after year and my Spanish continues to improve conversationally. I earn more money but I also work more hours. Sightseeing is becoming repetitive after having been to a lot of jungles, small towns, churches, and temples. I have also done most adventure activities from white water rafting and caving to even more adventurous ones like skydiving and bungee jumping. But I also get to know fewer places for longer, making stronger connections to people in fewer places.
What kind of lodgings do you stay in?
Location is most important to me. No matter where I stay, I always try my best to find a place closest to the action. I have always stayed in places below my means because I don’t like the idea of spending much on the place where I will sleep. But this is changing as I spend more and more time at my accommodation mostly because of an increased workload.
I have stayed in countless hostels, occasional budget hotels and boutique hotels, student residence, friend’s apartments, and with a couple CouchSurfing hosts. These typically cost around $4US-$60US per night. I even slept in a park and one time in the corner of a hallway. Those were free! In less than a week I will rent my first apartment abroad with amenities like a gym, pool, doorman, and maid.
How do you approach integrating yourself into a new culture with regard to food, language, local customs, etc.?
The longer amount of time I stay in one place the easier it is for me to feel a closer connection to the local culture. Language is also a key. I didn’t realize how effortless it was to communicate with locals like I did in South America until visiting places like Ukraine or Bangladesh where my hands had to do most of the talking. In terms of actually meeting new locals it has usually been by going out to bars with other backpackers and meeting new local friends there.
What do you fill your days with?
I’ll usually start my day whenever I wake up around 9AM-1PM. I put in around three hours of work every day and then do whatever I please. Often times I then go for a walk around a new part of the city I am in. If there’s something special that I want to do, like the Machu Picchu for instance, I’ll plan an entire day around it. Recently in Thailand I spent a few weeks learning Muay Thai because I wanted to get in shape and what better place to practice? In South America I typically went out for drinks around 3-5 nights a week.
Do you have a basic strategy for meeting women while you travel?
Nope, I’m pretty typical in that I go out to bars/clubs like everyone else. I used to think that being a foreigner really helped make me unique, but I think people care about this less than I used to think. Maybe I have just become comfortable being different so much that the reactions now seem normal?
How do you make a living? How did you get into it? What are some skills you had to learn?
I never received any formal training so a lot of what I have done is just educated research mixed with trial and error. Along the way I have honed my internet research skills and drastically improved my writing ability. These skills together are very useful when it comes to advertising and marketing. They are also skills I take advantage of daily since they directly relate to the services I run.
My career services company specializes in writing resumes, curriculum vitae, cover letters, and coaching clients on interviews to an average of 60 new clients each month, The company has created and revised over 1,000 resumes and curriculum vitae since 2007 for everyone from recent college graduates looking for their first job or professionals with 20 years of experience ready to take the next step in their career.
The second business, an online gift store, provides 15 categories of over 400 products including printed t-shirts, cologne, watches, sunglasses, tactical gear, lighters, and other categories. Since 2005, the store has completed more than 3,000 orders and counting. I am able to manage this business online because I have arranged for manufacturers and wholesale distributors to ship products directly to each of my customers’ only after I make a sale.
There are people twice your age making far less money than you do, and not even close to being independently mobile. What do you attribute your success to?
I have only ever really had 2 passions: travel and business. I was one of the lucky people to find myself in the right circumstances to discover these passions so early in life. These are the kind of interests more suited to older people, but I was too impatient to wait for others to tell me when I could get started on pursuing them. So I started on my own initiative. It was difficult, but I enjoyed the process of building these businesses. While 22 may seem like a young age, it’s only after 7 years that I reached this point where I can live like I am full-time. There is no big secret. I worked really hard and it took a long time.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far in life?
I think my answer changes every few months but a more recent lesson that I am learning is the importance of family and life-long friends. For so long I wanted to travel aimlessly, leaving behind any semblance of a home base. I wanted true independence, traveling from place to place, only visiting old friends and family on occasion. While I have done this many times in the past I never actually gave up my home base of friends until this year.
I can report back that after four months of aimlessly traveling without the comfort of a home base in the back of my mind, this concept just doesn’t work in my reality. The past four months of travel were the same as any other year. The difference is that after all of these amazing experiences I had few people to share them with that I would ever see again.
What are your future goals? How do you see your life playing out in the next 10-20 years?
It’s now been a month since I am back in the U.S. staying with family. This is the first time I have actually chosen to return to the U.S. and I am thoroughly enjoying my time with familiar faces. But most friends now live in other cities and I see there is little for me at home unless I chose to invest the time and effort in getting my own place, making new friends, etc. My passion is travel so I don’t want to just hang out in the U.S. forever either.
What I eventually want is to develop 2-3 of my own bases (friends, apartment, etc.) in foreign cities and split my time in each throughout the year. I’d then take shorter, 1-3 week mini-vacations to new international destinations whenever I please.
In less than one week I will be on a plane leaving the U.S. to another country where I will rent an apartment and get this new goal started.