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.