I’m Sick of Being a Traveler, I’m taking on Luxury Lifestyle Overhead


Thanks to all of the ten million new subscribers. That makes me happy.  Do you want to grow a global business from your laptop?  Are you already doing it? If so, you’ve found one person on the planet who does not think you are crazy.

I spent the day visiting an impressively ambitious internet startup here in Manila. I found myself missing my office days– a little. It was tons of fun to see office comraderie, leather couches, power lunches, killer work stations, and big LCD screens. I realized my longing is well-timed with a few other rumblings in my behavior. Let’s call them”entrepreneurial nesting instincts.”

My business partners prefer the serenity and controlled environment offered by an office. They like to travel every 3-4 months. They have long been wondering why I make things so difficult on myself. They are super understanding of my travel-happy lifestyle, but sometimes I pick up on that tone like “when is this guy going to chill out and realize the potential we’ve got to make a big difference.”

After months of living out of a backpack, living in random hotels, and 1 month in Thailand where I hung out with honest-to-goodness backpackers for for the first time in 10 years, I’m pretty confident I’m ready for a change in approach.

From my perspective, backpacking and traveling is not nearly as interesting as setting up shop somewhere for 3 months. Reason: NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU when you are a backpacker because you are leaving. When you talk to backpackers about their experiences traveling the world, they undoubtably bring up a story about one or two times when they reached out to a friendly local who showed them x or y. Those types of experiences are par for the course once you commit to a place.

A lot of my shoestring approach was born out of necessity. To live a mobile lifestyle I had to sacrifice a lot of income. I didn’t wait until I could afford it. I just went for it. I think this was a good move, because now all the growth that I can achieve in my business and all the new sources of cash flow I can create are necessarily contingent on my 100% location and time freedom. I see a lot of people playing dangerous games of chicken with their savings accounts. “Once I reach X via an ‘safe’ and ‘approved’ approach, I’ll do Y.” Jeeze. Talk about staking the deck against Y.

When I first took off to travel the world 2 years ago, my budget was less than a quarter of what it is now. It was necessary for me to break leases when I left town in order to save a couple bucks. It was worth it to miss a half day of work in order to negotiate for a lower rate hotel. I’m hoping the necessity of living like that is behind me. I want to be generating enough  income that the opportunity cost of me fudging around with things like accommodation will always be higher than the immediate expense (a great goal for entrepreneurs and not a bad time management technique to boot!) That’s to say, make your time valuable.

Going forward I’d prefer to keep more permanent jump hubs in the whatever region I’ve set up shop. To me that means when I convince Sean Ogle and all our regional internet biz co-horts to go to Bali to celebrate his graduation from the Tropical MBA, I’m going to keep my place in Manila.

So I guess this is all about commitment. First to my business, and  second to Manila, which is one of the hottest spots on the planet right now for internet business.

Here are some other entrepreneurial nesting habbits that have crept into my days since I’ve returned to Manila.

  1. My backpack is in my closet. Not on my back. I still love it. Its still the best backpack in the world for flashpackers, and I fully intend to continue promising to make a fan appreciation video to the wonderful designers at North Face, thanks folks! It’s resting, for a while. The North Face surge.
  2. More work/output. Sounds perverse, but almost every successful entrepreneur I know gets off on working working working. The key– and this jibes with both Gary Vee and Tim Ferriss’s messages (not that it needs to, but those guys are right about almost everything)– but the key is to be working on work that you love, AND/OR work that is meaningful to you and others (even if that means meaningful in terms of income!) Talk about motivation! Entrepreneurs get happier the more work they are getting done. Lately I’ve been on a consistent creative schedule. Gets me fired up about everything.
  3. More monitors. Working from 1 screen sucks big time compared to working on 2, 3, or even 4 screens. You lose a LOT of speed. If you haven’t yet experienced what a second monitor can do for you, please test it out. You will thank me, without exception. Now that I’ve got a place to stay, I’ve got more monitors. See also: nice chair, nice desk, and consistent internet connection.
  4. Bigger team. If you can’t throw people behind your idea, maybe its not profitable enough. I believe in what we’ve got going, and I really believe in the cost-benefit of being located here in the Philippines (as well as an awesome international team). For my software developers my cost advantage is 10 to 1 over their American counterparts (when considering skill-competence/qualification level, not necessary when considering speed or output). Of course, hiring Filipinos isn’t all smooth sailing and it can be difficult for individuals to be as productive as their Western counterparts, especially when developing products for a western market. That said, this strategy really starts to make sense at scale. I mean that’s what a lot of outsourcing experts are missing. I’ve got some real numbers pulled together on this that I’ll be sharing. Sure its great to have a VA or two, but at that scale I’d rather have a really smart part-time house-mom (or dad) working for me in the states. Overseas you can really achieve scale, and thats my current aim.
  5. Working While Standing Up. Try using the “command center” stance while working one day. Set up your screens just above waist height. You’ll be using tons more muscles and your back will feel good. When you get tired you can take a break and sit down. This is a cool way make your back feel better and get more excercise while you are busy crushing it 8+ hours a day.
  6. No Compromise Digs. Trying to make things cheap when I arrived in Philippines, I’ve lived in some scrappy spots, including steamy hotel rooms with fans and shared bathrooms. When I went traveling, I up and cancelled my lease to save cash. No more, its either worth it, or not. Fast forward: luxury condo, housekeeper, downtown, with a bay view. Its a keeper.
  7. Office? Thinkin’ about it. It would be nice to have an official spot to brainstorm with all the entrepreneurs I expect to be passing through Manila in the coming year! Why will you be passing through? Because for internet business people, there is no developing city in the world with more opportunity than Manila. THERE. I said it.
  8. Shoes. Finally, as those of you who know me have surely noticed the results of an unfortunate incident wherein I tried on a pair of Crocs (um, about 6 months ago) and subsequently never wore another pair of shoes. I’m not saying I’m going to ditch the Crocs, I’m just saying I saw a cool pair of flip flops today.
  9. Playing the Guitar. I hate not playing it. If you play you know what I mean. If you don’t, you can learn in 15 minutes. I’ll show you in a future post. Since there is a huge market for cheap guitars here (TONS of Philippinos play), there isn’t a better place in the world to buy decent quality dirt-cheap guitars. Tweet me encouragements if you want me to expedite this video.
  10. Going on dates. Relationships in general are awesome, and it helps when you are around.
  11. Learning the language. I’m going to use the tips I’m learning over at Fluent in 3 Months, and learn Tagalog this year. Its super fun to interact with the locals in their own language. I’ve got a teacher lined up and I’m stoked.

Hope you’ll follow along on our journey this year and share with us how you are taking steps to grow your business. If you are not on the Tropical MBA email list, dear reader, you will probably get struck by lightening. You can solve that liability with 1 email address and 15 seconds.

Published on 02.08.10
  • I think having a place to really focus can be a huge help. Something familiar, something that you can get used to so you aren’t having think about your surroundings as much. That can take away valuable brain power which can be used elsewhere.

    Thumbs up on the more monitors! I used to have 3 monitors. 2 for one and 1 for my nix machine. Those were the days. Now I’m either on my 15″ laptop or the 10″ netbook.

    I’ve never tried the standing up method before but it makes a lot of sense. I used to have the..box under your desk for your feet and leaned WAY back in your chair seating position.


  • Dan

    Hey Adam, I hadn’t seen your site until this comment. Great domain name, love it! I’m interested to hear more about how you choose between netbook and notebook, I never made the jump because I thought if I was willing to carry a 10″ around I’d be just as willing to carry a 15″ around. Any insight into how a netbook can be useful while traveling?

  • Thanks!
    Currently I’m not traveling which means that I take the 10″ to work and leave the 15″ at home. The difference between a 15″ and a 10″ is insane. It isn’t just the size but also the weight. You also have to take into consideration the power brick. The brick for my netbook is half the size of my 15″ laptop.

    Also think about what kind of work you are doing. One of the major limitations of the netbook (IMO) is the screen resolution. My MSI Wind is running at 1024×600 and can be limiting when doing most web dev stuff. I must say though that you do get used to it. Also, pick up a bluetooth mouse. It’s a life saver.

    Power doesn’t really seem to be an issue. I upgraded the ram to 2gb and the HD to 320gb and 7200rpm vs 5400. Makes a big difference. Also the MSI comes standard with an overclocking feature which allows me to run at about 1.9ghz. I also RARELY miss having a CD drive. Most things can be downloaded or loaded off of a USB drive.

    Hope I have shed some light on the matter! I tend to ramble. Let me know if you have any other questions!


  • Dan

    Yes I can imagine I wouldn’t miss the CD drive or think power is much of an issue (only caring about connection now!)…. so you are using the netbook as a supplementary computer at your office? When you take off traveling, I’m assuming you are rockin’ the 15″ then….

  • Negative Goose. I rock the netbook. I will admit I like the fullsize laptop better but the pros out weigh the cons. My netbook can do about 85% or more of the same stuff my 15″ can do. Major drawbacks are screen size and processing power. The processing power isn’t even really a huge issue.

    As long as I have my BT mouse I’m golden. You get used to 1024×600 and it’s worth the extra room and weight savings (IMHO) =-)

  • Dan

    Haha, I love this stuff I’m such an gadget optimization nerd. I used to go BT mouse but software always seemed to get jumbled up, switched it to Logitech’s mini USB fob mouse and have had tons of success with it. Agree can’t rock the touchpad. Now that I’m working off 1920 x 1080 plus auxiliary, I’m going to shed a tear when I downsize again.

  • I’m a gadget freak! Always have been. I am however trying to curb my addiction as it tends to be a drain on funds.

    Enjoy the large screens! I miss mine but it can be worth the trade off.


  • Guys this is right up my street. I’m using 2 1680×1050 so from there any mobile set up is downhill.

    I’ve got a 15inch laptop that’s insanely heavy, and a netbook that’s underpowered with a tiny screen (only slightly more cumbersome than a book!). Was planning to trade them both in for a 14″ notebook that’s half the weight of my 15″ with a slightly higher resolution which I find invaluable for design work.

    Thanks to this I’m rethinking my strategy…

  • After doing a ton of research the past few days, I’ve come to learn that HP makes 1 10″ and 1 11″ that are affordable, have a higher res, and are able to handle HD playback and heavier graphics. Something I’ve come to crave via my recent purchase of a Flip cam.

    I’m going to hold off for a few months in hopes that the prices drop more or new technology comes out.

  • Hey Dan,

    Whew, this was written on the 8th, so I’m a bit late. It’s always good to have some sort of consistency so you can produce quality work. What is your aim? What type of business are you trying to set up? I know you want it to be location independent and all that.

    Either way, best of luck!

  • Dan

    Hey, drop by anytime. I’m going to set up an office here in Manila that my businesses can use for tasks like web development, research, content generation, possibly inbound sales, etc. Right now all of my employees work from home (+lots of cafes!) and our CA office.

  • Good update, just remember you left the office “lifestyle” for a reason, much like traveling, it gets old, arguably faster.

    That said, ditch the crocs, just do it, never look back.

  • Dan

    True true, my real hope here is to take it to the next level… as our company grows in scale we can afford to keep offices and ‘hubs’ around the world rather than hotel hoping and packing up my backpack with everything anytime I want to move. As my business partner commonly says about all kinds of issues, “this is a revenue issue.”

    I’m going through a mindset change from “Office escapist” to “global business grower” or someting. Ha. Gotta work on that.

    Gotta say it has been really nice to hang out in some super nice semi-permanent digs, although I’m only 15 minutes from the airport and lots of islands!

    On the Crocs– I can’t tell you how many people have told me exactly that. We’ll see the current pair is almost worn out for street wear, we’ll see where the wind blows me next time I’m at the mall. I know I’ll be hearing the voices of many well meaning friends and associates who have my best interests at heart. :)

    Thanks for coming by the blog!

  • DSW

    Dan –

    Hey, I’d love to hear about the costs of your new place, etc.

    Right now I’m working with 5 VA all in the Philippines, and have been thinking about getting out there to set up something bigger.

    Spent a month in Thailand last november, and would dread that 20 hour flight, but I’m interested in what life is like, living over there.



  • Dan

    Wow David that’s great! Give your head start, it probably won’t be too much trouble or cost to scale your operation. You can check out my new blog outsourcetothephilippines.com for random information about this issue, I have a very detailed post that will be published @myeggnoodles within the next few days that will address your questions. I’ll point everyone there once its finished.

  • E from NY

    Keep-up the good work guys; I’m hoping to be back in the Philippines for good in 1-2 years time (I worked there for a year after college; I’m 37 now). I currently have an online side-business that I run PT fro NY; I’m planning on expanding it and getting into a few other things. Sometimes I regret not having made the jump sooner, but realizing how much I was able to save while working in the states, and the closeness of my goal (before age 40), I have zero regrets.


  • Dan

    *Update. Ditched the traditional crocs for a pair of crocs flip flops. I just loove the brand. Also, I think they look sweet! May or may not post photos.

  • Dan

    E, that’s killer to hear. Love to hear about people bootstrapping online stuff while they work a job. Hope to be posting more practicalities about the PH over at outsourcetothephilippines.com in the coming months. Interested to hear more about it.. would love to see some of those old PH photos!

  • E from NY

    Those were the days (93-94), to be young and not have a care in the world–I was doing marketing for a cell phone co. and was making decent $$ ( about 7,500 pesos/month, but the exchange rate was 24 pesos to $1). I visited back-and-forth and crunched some numbers, but I noticed that the older I got, the less likely I was to trim my expenses (back then, taking the jeepney was ok, then I graduated to taxi cabs, now I would probably buy a car and have a PT driver). Anyway, my rock-bottom $$ to make the jump would be $2,000 a month, which I will thankfully have thanks to home equity and a 401k. I guess I’m not a hardcore entrepreneur, but I’m not risk averse either–I’m kinda in the middle.


  • Dan

    E- very cool, on $2,000 you’ll be living like a king + have 500 every month to invest into something cool, like an internet business! Lots of guys here in the PH are making loot from things like books, forums, info products, consulting, etc. Tons of opportunities to have fun and get a little extra cheddar!

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  • kathydobson

    Hi Dan…just getting to this page ;)
    I laughed out loud when I read the paragraph about having “more than one monitor”…I’ve been harping on my new business partner to get a second monitor because it makes things so much easier…and, like you said quicker!

    Maybe she’ll listen to you ;)

    I’ll never go back to one…unless I am traveling of course ;)

  • Dan

    Ha, Kathy I think I’ve been apologized to on more than one occasion when somebody is like “I’m sorry I called your two monitor idea stupid!” hahah You kind of half to work with two monitors for a half day before you can really understand the benefits.

  • I’m going retro here, but did you ever learn Tagalog? Interested to hear…

  • Dan

    300 words or so. it was useful to crack a few jokes but conversations go to english so fast in the Fils

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