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What the First Day of My RTW Trip was Like

It was May 12th, 2009 and I was about to embark on a round-the-world trip with my first stop being Beijing, China. As I was going through security I turned around to wave good bye one last time to my family. I noticed my brother in the distance crying and at that point I broke down inside. For a minute, I thought I was making a huge mistake. I was nervous and scared. I wanted to turn around and not go. I had been planning this trip for so long time and here I was. I stayed on the line and held in my emotions the best that I could.


I was an ambitious backpacker ready to take on any challenge, but I quickly realize I was really unprepared. I had directions printed out to the hostel to take public transportation out of the airport. It was around 4am in Beijing and buses were not running yet because it was too early. I had to wait a few hours for the buses to start, but the directions I printed were unclear which bus to take. There were a couple buses I thought that maybe would take me where I ended to go but even if I knew the bus, I didn’t know when to stop.A man came up to me and asked if I wanted a taxi. I pretended to act cool and said no thanks. I realized though I had no idea what I was doing. He goes on to say 500 RMB to take me downtown. I learned from my research to bargain down so I thought I’d try 200 RMB. He says 300RMB and then I said yes. Being the idiot that I was, I had not bothered to convert that before entering the taxi. I later realized it was a $50 taxi ride which is a huge markup simply because I’m a stupid tourist that didn’t do enough research.


I got into the black taxi and gave him the address. He had no idea where it was but he was familiar with the temple that it was close by. I was calm during the ride confident that I’d find my way somehow, but my calmness didn’t last long once I arrived. The taxi driver had no idea where the hostel was and decides to drop me off at the temple to figure out where the hostel was on my own. There was an issue where he didn’t have enough change so I lost even more money, but I didn’t want to deal with it so I walked out.

I walked around the block a few times trying to figure out where I was according the map I had printed out. Nothing made sense. I began thinking I may have to sleep out in the streets that night (it was only 6am). I was exhausted, tired, and jet-lagged which mean I was not in the right state of mind. I had just arrived and I was already lost.

A few hours later stores finally began to open and I asked for directions. While no one spoke English anymore, I eventually found someone that was able to point me in the right direction by pointing to the street I needed to be on. The hostel was down a short narrow road that I would never found on my own. I checked in and immediately slept for a few hours before starting my day. Once I woke up, I felt relaxed once again and quickly got use to my new life out on the road. I’ll never forget saying goodbye to my family for the first time and how unprepared I was for my trip.

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Everything led me to this point

Want to know a secret? After coming home from one-year around the world in 2010, I applied for jobs at retail stores. My blog wasn’t making any money yet and I completely ran out of cash. I was about to walk into BestBuy with my application and thought to myself “what the fuck am I doing?” I turned around and decided that I needed to keep traveling, have freedom, and do things that I love to do. I am so glad I did that.

I started this blog in December 2008 with the intention of writing about my travels. I loved writing but part of what kept me going was creating the site itself. I taught myself everything that had to do with WordPress. Sometimes I would break this site just to see what would happen. I got into the code and experimented while teaching myself everything, all of which I did while traveling.

It grew into an obsession to learn everything there was to know about the technical side of the blog. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about WordPress, programming languages, and the tech scene. I created my own plugins and had always designed and coded my own themes (such as this one). Eventually I found myself helping other travel bloggers throughout Facebook, Twitter, and Email.

For awhile I volunteered to helped anyone that needed assistance with fixing their site, advice on plugins, or code snippets. As more people started travel blogs, so did the demand. Most often I was recommended by other travel bloggers. Demand continued to increase and at some point people were asking how much and started to PAY me to work on their sites. It eventually became part of my regular source of income.

It was 2011 when I started Art of Travel Blogging. Initially it started as a community forum for travel bloggers and technical services. The technical services quickly became popular and the focus of the site.

In January 2013 Art of Travel Blogging merged with Travel Blog Success! This was huge for Dave and I and the start of something really good that we continue today. I took the lead in offering technical services and revamping the website. I’ve learned a lot at TBS. Collaborating as a co-founder in a successful business is no easy task along with having many contractors, making schedules, tasks, supporting our products, building a community, business partners, sponsoring events, and managing our expenses. No other project or business I have ever run taught me as much as being a co-founder of TBS.

When I started traveling around the world writing this blog, I had no idea it would lead me to become a WordPress wizard. I created a path to do things I love.

In April 2014 I took a full-time position at WooThemes to help support a very popular WordPress plugin called WooCommerce. I love my job and the people I work with. The money coming in from the new job has given us the opportunity  to save money and make a home in Seattle.

Would any of this had happened if I didn’t follow my dreams? It’s hard to know but I’m pretty darn happy where everything has lead me.

WooThemes Team
My friends and co-workers. The entire WooThemes crew in San Francisco. Photo credit TheRoamingPint
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It’s Okay To Not Know What You’re Doing

I taught English in Xi’an, China and I had no idea what I was doing. I walked into the university in China with almost nothing prepared. I just learned as I went along and got better at teaching as time went on.

I went to university for Computer Science for one year then continued school elsewhere for Computer Animation which only lasted half a year. One of the major reasons why I didn’t finish is because of money. I couldn’t go back unless I paid off the previous semester. None of my classes had anything to do with teaching.

When I was applying for teaching positions in China, I was worried that they would want a bachelors degree and/or TEFL or ESL certifications. I started with a simple Google search for positions in China which resulted in dozens of positions. I emailed all of them and included my resumé. Many of them claimed they required a degree but I sent them an email anyway.  A day or so later most of them got back to me with open positions and were interested in hiring me. Here I was worrying about not being able to find anything because of my qualifications but to my surprise I actually had a large selection to choose from. After careful consideration, I chose Siyuan University and I was leaving in less than three months.


I could have studied teaching material but instead I felt lazy about it. I was too occupied getting things sorted out at home after coming back from a year round-the-world. I walked into the school not knowing a single thing about teaching.

The school provided material that we were supposed to use in all of our classes. I had about a week to study them and get use to my new life. I went over all of my material and could not help but laugh how horrible the textbooks were. I planned out the first day and what we would go over. I thought to myself this would be easy.


I walked into my first class to forty freshman girls clapping and wooing.

I was suddenly nervous and I didn’t know why. I was still early so I thought I would put my things down and go to the restroom to get fresh air (there’s a joke somewhere there). I thought to myself what the hell am I doing.

I went back to the classroom and introduced myself. Everyone in the room was quiet and just gave me a blank stare. We went around the room and did some basic introductions. After that we went right into the textbook. This lasted for about 10 minutes when I realized I was screwed. This textbook wasn’t going to help me at all.  I had to toss the whole idea of ever using the textbook and improvise. I later got a call from my boss that the students complained they couldn’t understand me and I had to slow down.

After a few months of improvising and planning better, I started to get better at teaching and the students started to learn better. Some of the other English teachers also had no experience teaching so we started to trade lesson plans, ideas, and collaborated on lessons.  Things were getting easier and I felt more confident about teaching as time went on. The students were actually starting to learn and when you realize that as a teacher it’s kind of amazing and rewarding.


When the second semester started, I knew exactly what I had to do to prepare. I planned out several lessons sometimes for weeks ahead of time. Since most of my classes were once a week and I had several classes a week, I would use the same lesson throughout the entire week then change plans for the following week. I walked into class rooms with confidence and I started to feel like a real teacher. In the first semester students were sleeping and texting during class but by the second semester I was kicking students out of the room and taking their cell phones away. That got their attention and their respect of who I was as a teacher.

This was an important life lesson for me. I did something I never thought I could do and never thought was in my reach. By the end of the year, I felt like a better person. I might have been the teacher but I felt like I was the one learning the most. I was in a far away land with totally different culture than how I grew up, taking a job I had zero experience in, took the risk, and owned it.

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How I Make Money to Travel The World



I wish I could say that I had won the lottery to travel the world but the reality is I work pretty darn hard for my money. I work incredibly long shifts that can sometimes mean I’d earn more money working at McDonalds than what I do now. But I have this incredible freedom to live and work anywhere in the world. I set my own hours and attempt to balance work and life which is more difficult than you think when you work for yourself. So what do I do?

I’m a web developer.

Everything you see on this website here I’ve created using WordPress. It’s an incredible piece of software that is often used for blogging. It’s easy to use on its basic form but can be difficult when you start to want more of the advanced features.

I’ve been using WordPress for 6+ years and have learned quite a bit. In the last two years, I’ve been creating custom WordPress plugins, themes, and managing other clients sites. PHP (the programming language used by WordPress) is as fluent to me as English.

I started Art of Travel Blogging in 2011 to help others start their own travel blog. By January 2013, I combined forces with Travel Blog Success thus merging both of our contents and technical support. This helped me focus full-time on the technical side by offering Managed WordPress, Website Optimization, and other custom work for WordPress users.

Since the merger, our technical services have became so popular that I had to stop offering all advertising on this site. I didn’t have time to negotiate advertising rates and placements anymore. I had to focus solely on my programming and server administration. The technical services I offer are not exclusive to travel blogs either. I found that more than half of our revenue had been from referrals from others and many of them are not related to travel blogging.

I’ve helped maintain and code a variety of different projects and sites outside of TBS too. I’ve been coding for over 10 years and earned a reputation.

In the last couple months I’ve been learning Ruby on Rails (another programming language) intensively. On a daily basis you’ll find me reading documentation, watching programming videos, and taking online classes. I’m always studying so I can improve my skills and offer better quality services to my clients and create better products. I love learning and being creative.

If you want to make money online, sell something useful. Money won’t come to you, you have to seek it out.

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I Realized Why I Quit My Job

I’ve had a lot of time to think about why I quit my job in 2009. One of the main reasons was so that I could travel the world but what events ultimately led to me thinking that I needed something new in my life?

I worked there for two years and I can’t think of many things that I learned there that I helped me in the long-run. I got better at writing emails and learned about corporate culture. I usually tossed around the same papers and learned things that were all internal to the company. The skills I learned there were not very useful long-term and it didn’t allow room for learning new things.

So I realized recently what was really missing from my old job. It wasn’t that it was an office job or even that it was in a cubicle. It was that it didn’t allow for enough creativity or learning. I like to build, learn, and be social. None of those three things were in my previous job.

The nice thing about having a blog and working as a freelance programmer is that it allows for a lot of creativity and learning. I also get to meet many interesting and fun people from all over the world.

I realized that it wasn’t because I was in a corporate office that made it horrible. It was because the position itself didn’t fit my personalty. There was nothing interesting about the job so I found a way out and then I traveled the world.

I could be happy in an office again but at least now I know what to look for. I’ve learned that when the day does come when I’m back in an office,  I need to choose a job that will make me happy, inspire creativity, be social, and helps me grow and learn. I know that’s definitely in programming.

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Quitting My Job to Hitchhike Europe

In 2012, I was teaching English in a private language school in South Korea. Compared to the cost of living, I was making good money. Even after going out for dinner and drinks several times a week, I could still afford to go away on the weekends and transfer a bit of money into my UK bank account at the end of each month. It wasn’t a lot of money by UK standards, but it was something. When so many graduates in the UK were struggling to get by, I realised that my life was very comfortable. But I didn’t want to be comfortable.

Teaching English in Korea
Although I mostly taught teenagers and adults, this is one day I volunteered at a kindergarten for fun.

As a teacher’s one year contract draws to an end, they work hard to arrange an improved contract for the following year. Instead of doing that, I decided that I would quit my job, leave my home in Korea, and hitchhike Europe. It was a whimsical idea that popped into my head when I missed an early morning bus in Japan. By missing the bus, I learnt that Japanese trains are incredibly expensive, hitchhiking is lots of fun, and drinking sake inhibits one’s abilities to find bus stations.

To my family’s great surprise, I hit the road with nothing but my backpack nearly two years after completing a Masters in Mathematics. ‘Is this what all maths graduates do?’ they wondered. When I started my hitchhiking journey, I didn’t know Europe well. I figured that by travelling from A to B for free, I could make my money last for over a month and have a great time. My friends told me that I would be robbed and tied up or maybe even worse; in short, they told me not to go on this journey. Hitchhiking alone to Eastern Europe is not considered the ‘done thing.’ If I was unfortunate enough to encounter my death on this journey, I thought it would be nice to leave some pictures behind so I bought a nice camera and took far too many photos of my face. Having survived the ‘ordeal,’ I made them into a video to show that I was actually enjoying myself and meeting some pretty wonderful people. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below!

I wasn’t tied up, robbed, or molested. Not one single time. And best of all, my month long journey didn’t last a month. It continued for over five months during which time I met friends and made memories that will last forever. On my first night on the road, I was dropped on the outskirts of Brussels at around four in the morning. I pitched my tent by an abandoned building and from that point on, realised that I didn’t need to pay for accommodation. I slept under bridges, next to the Eiffel Tower, on beaches, in vehicles, and most of all, in the homes of lovely people in over twenty different countries. Most of these people were strangers I met through Couchsurfing but others were people I already knew, friends of friends, or people I met on the road.

Camping Under the Eiffel Tower
The cheapest hotel with the best view of The Eiffel Tower in all of Paris

Almost everyday of my journey became a story in itself. Except for four weeks of volunteering between Poland and Hungary, I didn’t stay in the same place for more than three consecutive nights. Most often, I stayed in a place for two nights in order to give myself time to explore and then left before I had time to get bored. Over two hundred people drove me in their cars and each week, I was interacting with individuals from all over Europe. For the one week I made a list, I wrote down over forty individuals that I had interacted with at length. Some weeks my list of people would have been much longer. Occasionally, it was shorter.

If I was pressed to find a highlight of the journey, I’d have to say that that it was the freedom I experienced. The freedom to not have to do anything or to not have to be anywhere. Because I had my tent, I didn’t even have to be in a particular place to sleep at night. To do only what you want to do, is true freedom. By being free, I was in a way, busier than I could have been if I wasn’t free. I was busy doing things that I wanted to do.

One thing that I found during my journey was that I was never bored. I never had ‘nothing to do.’ But I could choose to do nothing if I felt like it. I could do exactly what I wanted to do. I herded cows under midnight, made bonfires on beaches with strangers, washed myself in ponds, and said yes to everything.

I do not regret quitting my job. I do not regret leaving my home. If I had to regret something, it would be that I am not still hitchhiking now. I learnt to live with very little money and in the end, what caught up with me and stopped my journey was the cold weather. Hitchhiking in winter is not fun when you have packed for a one month summer jaunt.

Whatever your fears and preconceptions about the world, let them go. People are wonderful and so is the world. Do what you want to do, not what anyone else wants you to do because life is a great adventure that you must live on your own terms. All you have to do is jump.