AirTreks Customers That Have Become Entrepreneurs – Part 1, Dave Lee

MicrophoneI don’t mean to toot our own horn, but we do something pretty special here at AirTreks, and it’s not just cooking a mean frittata (or selling plane tickets): we get people started along their paths to personal fulfillment, whether it be realizing a longstanding dream of world travel or starting a business. That’s right, some of our clients start businesses as a direct result of their traveling!

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be spotlighting some of the people who used AirTreks to take their big trip and later went on to start an online business.

To ring in the series I contacted former AirTreks customer David Lee, ex-pat and editor-in-chief at GoBackpacking.com, a widely subscribed-to and respected travel blog. He also operates MedellinLiving.com, a lifestyle and culture blog focused on the city of Medellin, Colombia, and finally, maintains Travel Blog Success, an online resource for helping other would-be travel bloggers get up and running on their own paths to blogging success.

AirTreks: What made you decide to take a big trip?

David Lee: In March 2002, I lost my job in a company-wide layoff. After the shock and anger wore off, I realized that even though I had a nice severance package, the financial commitments (car loan, credit card debt, lease) I had wouldn’t allow me to do any traveling. I reflected back on how little travel I’d done since my first backpacking trip to Europe after college, and decided I’d make travel the priority going forward.

Specifically, my goal was to pay off my debts, and save about $30,000 so I could afford to spend a minimum of one year traveling around the world.

How did you come across AirTreks and why did you decide to purchase your ticket with us?

I can’t remember exactly, as it was so long ago, however I was asking most of my pre-trip questions in forums. Someone there who’d used AirTreks may have recommended it, otherwise I would’ve found it through my own devices while searching the web.

Ultimately I decided not to buy a RTW ticket, however, because the first few countries on my itinerary required proof of onward travel, I enlisted the help of AirTreks. Having someone else take care of finding the lowest rates, and booking the first 3 or 4 tickets made my life a little easier as I prepared to leave home.

How was the trip? Where did you go?

The trip was amazing, and life-changing in ways I never expected. My first stop was Tahiti and French Polynesia in the South Pacific, followed my New Zealand, Australia, and 9 months in Asia. I really fell in love with Nepal, and specifically the Himalayan region.

From Asia, I made the leap to South Africa, where I spent 2 months traveling overland from Cape Town to Jo’burg, before flying up to Egypt, and then spending a month in Western Europe. My last stop was Colombia, where I ended up spending 6 months living in Medellin.

Of those, which one do you think made the biggest impression on you?

That’s a tough question. Nepal left a lasting impression, not only for the beauty of the Himalayan mountains, but for the kindness of the people, and rich culture, which included both Buddhist and Hindu religions.

But it was in Colombia that I found a place where I could live long term. While that was also due to the friendly people, it had as much if not more to do with the enjoyment I got from discovering Latin music (salsa, vallenato, reggaeton) and learning to dance.

How did you parlay your experience on the RTW into a travel blogging career?

I was blogging regularly at Go Backpacking throughout the trip, and wondering how I could turn that lifestyle of traveling freely and writing about it into a job. Specifically the idea of being my own boss, and writing for my own website, held the most appeal. That vision of where I wanted to be acted as a guide for the decisions I’d make going forward.

Being able to turn my hobby into a business was a slow process, as the idea of a professional blogger, let alone a full time travel blogger, at that time (2007-2008) was almost unheard of. It has required patience (for the niche to mature), persistence (the belief that what I do has value), and a lot of hard work (educating myself, experimenting) over the long run.

Any more big trips on the horizon?

In August, I left Colombia to begin traveling the rest of South America. I spent 2 months in Ecuador, including a last minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands, and am currently exploring Peru. I hope to reach Brazil for Carnival in 2012.

Read all the posts in this series.

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