When I turned 28, I had to make a change. I was tired of sleeping on the street and eating leftovers from the dumpster. Most of all, I hated the stress of having to borrow money from friends, constantly check my account, and pay countless overdraft fees. I could not live on the edge anymore.
So I did what anyone in my position would do for some fast cash…I sold both my kidneys, started smuggling drugs, and became a pimp in Southern France. Just kidding, no.
I decided I was worthy of success, & I worked harder than I ever had before. I stepped up my blogging game, started an online store called Backpack Buddha, and took advantage of travel credit cards.
Although part of me misses surviving on scraps (after all, it is what defined me and this blog for over 12 years), the freedom to go from Kathmandu to Timbuktu whenever I want, treat my family on a tour of Japan, and eat as much sushi as I want is, though cliche, a dream come true.
If you want to run away and take your travel game to the next level, below is exactly how I did it, and one way you can do so too.
How I Monetized The Runaway Guide
For a long time I made money through this blog by selling sponsored posts. In short, travel companies would pay between 300$ – 400$/year to host their link on my site. While these links allowed me to survive for years, I never had a constant flow of cash coming in.
So I decided I needed to monetize through a few new strategies.
First, I became an affiliate for two companies offering remarkably high commissions. World Nomads, a travel insurance company & Bluehost, a website hosting company. Since I’ve been using both companies for years, it was easy to create compelling and informative content around them. The result, a steady flow of affiliate commissions every month.
Second, I decided to write my own eBook, “Run Away Now.” I featured it on my homepage and also created a Facebook advertising campaign for it, which now generates between 10-15 sales a month.
Thanks to affiliate commissions and the publishing of my own eBook, The Runaway Guide brings in a relatively steady income of around 2,000$/month.
If you’re interested in starting a travel blog or any kind of blog, check out my guide, How To Start A Travel Blog & Make Real Money.
The Online Store That Changed Everything
Although 2,000$/month was definitely enough to travel on, I wanted to take things to the next level.
So I decided to network with fellow travel bloggers and ask them what else they did to make money abroad. One blogger told me they offered translation services, and another freelance website design. While these were both endeavors I could potentially embark on, I wanted something bigger.
That’s when Tom, from TuneUpAndTravel.com, introduced me to Shopify.com. Tom, like me, was an ultra budget travel blogger. In fact, he told me that it was The Runaway Guide that inspired him to create his own blog. So in the fall of 2016, when I told him I was struggling with finances, he was happy to guide me into the lucrative realm of e-commerce.
When Tom first sent me a screen shot with sales of $16,000 in one week, I was extremely skeptical. But as broke as I was, I decided to give it a shot. I created an online store called Backpack Buddha, and within the first 5 minutes of Facebook advertising, I sold 2 Buddhist meditation Malas.
Today, BackpackBuddha.com has generated over 1.5 million in sales in the past year and a half, and is quickly becoming one of the leading brands for Buddhist meditation tools.
Needless to say, this changed everything. (I can’t thank you enough Tom. You’re a brilliant writer, musician, and entrepreneur my friend. Let’s brainstorm at my place on Lake Atitlan soon!)
For more info about how I created Backpack Buddha through the Shopify platform, check out, “How Shopify Changed My Life: The First Million In Sales.” (Coming soon!)
(By the way, if anyone wants to purchase something from Backpack Buddha, use “Runaway25” for 25% Off everything)
The Credit Cards That Put Me In First Class
“Credit cards are evil, schemes developed by rich bankers designed to leech money from the poor. Why spend money I don’t have. I don’t need credit. I don’t want a mortgage. I’m not going to enslave myself to the banks. I’m going to make enough money to buy everything in full,” I often thought to myself.
However, once I started Backpack Buddha, and had more than the usual average of $100 in my checking account, I began researching cards. The more I researched and crunched the numbers, the more I realized that it was my turn to get even with the banks.
The first card I got was the Chase Sapphire Reserve. 100,000 points as a sign up bonus,3x points on all travel related expenses, access to hundreds of airport lounges, and a free Global Re-entry Pass. Although the price was 400$ / year, the 300$ travel credit, essentially made the card just 100$ annually.
The second card I applied for was the Chase Business Ink Preferred. 80,000 points sign up bonus & 3x points on all business related expenses, including shipping and online advertising.
Between my life of travels and tours, and daily advertising spent on Backpack Buddha, these cards have earned me enough points to fly from LA to Tokyo in Singapore Air’s first class many times over.
Credit cards are an excellent means to experience luxury travel. But just be sure not to spend money you don’t have, and to pay them off daily to avoid incurring 24% interest rates.
Although I sometimes miss the confidence and pride earned while surviving on the smallest of budgets, drinking champagne in first class en route to Tokyo is just too damn good.
I realize now that I needed to spend 12 years traveling the way I did. I needed to suffer and survive. It taught me to trust myself and the universe. It gave me the confidence to take chances without fear of failure. Ultimately, it has allowed me to truly appreciate and be grateful for everything I have today.