Travel is the Business–The Secret to Creating the Time and Money

I made a goal for myself to go to a new country every year, about 8 years ago.  I travelled to over 100 during that time.  When you combine your passion and your career, what is stopping you.  I believe I can do whatever I want to, as long as there is passion to match the desire.

Question: I am curious about how you finance your trips, though that may be too personal a question to expect someone to explain–maybe instead, ways to travel within a budget….I am also curious as to whether you ever saw a “non-optimal” age for your kids to be traveling.

Joel: In the past nearly all of my trips are paid by my employer.  It started back in 2001.  I was invited to speak as a uniquely qualified expert in a new product that would be called SharePoint.  I was the only one who knew the product in Microsoft IT, and the European field was getting together for an event in Paris.  My manager wanted to go, but my director chose me.  He asked me to travel with him and to get a passport.  It was a unique opportunity or so you’d think.  It’s been repeated hundreds of times for me, but in this instance I had something… knowledge.  That was the difference.  So I packed my bags and got a passport.  My first real trip outside the US, Canada, and Mexico.  I was impressed with the crazy driving, and just about how everything was so different, the food, the culture, the people.  I couldn’t get enough.  I was afraid I’d make someone upset, so I only booked the time of the conference.  It wasn’t until I was headed home, and most of my traveling companions were staying for the weekend that I realized I had missed out on a secret thing known as extending.  There was no taboo for staying over and getting the flight on Sunday evening and spending the whole weekend in Paris instead of an evening or something like that.  I would never make that mistake.  I would always learn to incorporate a bit of adventure into every trip.  It’s the research… You can find out how I plan to travel: Top 10 Way to Prepare for Epic Travel

Now I find I don’t even stay in the city, I’m incorporating multiple events and multiple adventures.  The companies incentive is to support that because it costs less, and they get more out of a single trip.  If I hit London, Paris, and Prague, it’s only 200-300 for the side trips and 600-800 across the pond if not more.

When I was at Microsoft in IT I would get the Marketing product team to pay, I became an exception as someone uniquely qualified to share real world best practices from Microsoft for the field.

When working for Quest software there was value in putting together customer events around the locations I was interested in visiting.  With SharePoint (the product I am an influencer in,) it really is everywhere, and the power of community and my experience of networking and blogging has brought the world very close.  The community is extremely global.

One quick experience: I had made a connection in Egypt. I wanted to see the pyramids and speak at the user group.  I was speaking at a conference in London, and was willing to pay out of pocket to go.  The flight from London to Cairo was around $200-300 and I’m sure I could get a cheap hotel.  Instead I sold the value of speaking to the user group and $400 to reach a new community was worth it.  For me there was huge value in making connections all over the world.  Marwan the user group lead has been a great contact, and I’ve had incredible engagements with him.  He’s since moved to the UK.

That isn’t always true though.  I did pay out of pocket to fly my family to Barcelona and drove to Rome and to Pompeii.  That’s just watching flights to London and Barcelona.  It’s often cheaper to fly to London, and then fly on a discount European airline.  We did that to Morocco and Hungary and drove to Prague.

In Asia as well, I priced out flights to Bangkok one of the cheaper Asian hubs, and we spent most of our time in the mountains.  I often look at the main location of the event and see where I can fly for $300 or under per person.  It’s amazing what you can see in any region for just a little bit more.

Question: How do you make time to go on these adventures? Is your job really lenient and do you have to spend a lot to make these trips? I love to travel but I feel like I won’t be able to if I get a job and so I’ve been trying to research jobs that travel but that was a fail. What’s your strategy? (I’m a recent college graduate and I want to travel!!! Start my own adventures!!!)

Let me take this with each of my jobs.  While at MS, I would be working while traveling speaking at the conferences, and when the event is over each night or on the weekends I would be in travel mode.  I would also occasionally use vacation time or work while on the road, that was the more common thing while at Quest.  When I was at Quest software I’d be on the road for weeks at a time going from event to event, and often there would be lunches, or dinners or events and lots of filler time when I’d be doing email, working on strategies, and what things really turned to was anytime I was spending with my friends who were influencers became gray area.  Work and Play became a very thick gray area.  Now I have a hard time speaking to my arrangement because it’s one that I arranged with my boss.  There was more value to MS and Quest, and while now at the LDS Church, I believe the value is in me as an influencer and keeping connected with the community.  It doesn’t matter whether I bring a Book of Mormon with me, as that’s a different department.  I appreciate the flexibility I do have, and try not to abuse it.  Essentially I fit in extreme travel a few times a year, some of it is vacation time, and some of it is “training” or admin time.

Even if money was no object, then it’s time.  I have found that as long as my family has a big trip they are looking forward to, I can get away with some pretty incredible trips.  That’s a secret.  We’re planning on a southern Caribbean cruise, so my trip to Africa doesn’t seem as big of a deal.

Question: I also discovered Joel’s blog on yahoo and i think he is just a millionaire spending his fortune travelling the world…or maybe as he says he has some strategies that i would kindly ask him to share with us so that we can all share his experience of travel around the world or shall i say reading the full length of a book from page one to the last..

Let’s take one of my recent trips.  SLC->Frankfurt->Athens->TelAviv/Ramallah->Cyprus->Thessaloniki->London->Berlin->Tallin (Estonia)->Riga->Lithuania->Minsk->Kiev->Odessa(Ukraine)->Vienna->Bled(Slovenia)->Ljubljana->SLC

That trip happened in less than 2 weeks included 3 events that each helped cover the flights.  I shared hotels in a number of cities with friends, and ultimately spent about as much on food as I would at home. My other secret is I spend my blog sponsor/advertising money on community travel, so that’s hotel rooms, food, and expenses.  It’s all part of my business and offsets the taxes for my business.  My business is travel.  My SharePoint blog has done so well, that the ads do more than $1500 / month, and the reviews I do make more than that.  It’s a nice supplement for my travel budget, and ultimately the family cruise this summer will be paid by blog money. 

Travel tip: If travel becomes part of your business & work… the flights, hotels, and so forth become tax deductible.  Make your blog or writing, or pictures into your business.  Truth is I find that blogging, photos, videos (thanks penguin) and gathering the memories and networking is extremely valuable.  Traveling all over the world is more enjoyable connecting with people before hand through blogs, facebook, twitter and so on provide opportunities that otherwise would not be available.  No reservations is definitely how things happen.  I am a very risk taking kind of guy.  I’ve stayed with friends in Jordan, Israel, and stayed in $6 hostels in Cambodia and Indonesia.  (Not when I’m with my kids.)

Question: I just discovered your blog through yahoo’s post of your penguin vid, and since I’ve always had an interest in traveling, I subscribed via email. My very first question is the same as Sam’s – financing travel. That is the single my dreams of travel haven’t come to fruition. I look forward to reading your blogs, but I especially look forward to reading that particular blog when you write it.

Speaking at conferences as suggested above, it’s not big money, in fact the money will help you cover your main expenses and that’s if you’re a great speaker.  In the beginning I’d negotiate with the speaker manager and sometimes just get the flight covered and then work out sharing a room, or pay that part out of pocket.  To get started you speak for free, and network like crazy.  You find out who the influencers are and get to know them on a personal level.  The speakers in my community are a very tight group, we end up all connected to each other, so reputation and clout are huge.  Don’t burn bridges.  We help each other, including helping out those who run the events.  I am always disappointed when I don’t get invited, but rather than stew… I make sure the event manager knows I am interested for next year, and make sure I’ve got well prepared very early submitted sessions.  A bad reputation for doing a bad job, sticks around a long time.  A lot of that world is about timing, and who you know.  I don’t think that’s much different between industries.  My job is knowing who is doing what, and making sure they know where I stand.  Speaking in Bulgaria or Slovenia, or really anywhere on the planet is the trick.  There was an event in Bangladesh, and I was so upset I wasn’t invited even though there wasn’t anyone outside Bangladesh that was there.  I reached out to the coordinator and said, hey… I would like to speak at your next event.  Even if I can’t make it, I will make an effort.  It’s on my list of places I want to visit, and even though they couldn’t afford my flight, I may be able to find a sponsor that would want me there, and I may be able to work it out with my travel schedule.  My schedule being something that provides balance with family life, my 9-5 world, and my passion for travel that is always there.  I’ve found that my travel junkiness starts wearing off after 2 weeks of constant travel.  3 weeks without my family and I’m spent without some serious stimulation.

If you read my post on frequent flier miles, you’d see that getting the flight in coach doesn’t mean you’ll fly in coach.  There are strategies of getting status and keeping it, and leveraging those miles when you need to.

At this point I do believe I could fly free to anywhere in the world, because I know someone in that area that would have connections to vendors or events in that area.  I have a short list of places I’d like to visit and connect with people on twitter in my community in those areas.  It really is a Win/Win.  I get to visit the area and connect with the community to really understand the culture.

Lesson:  My business is speaking at conferences, money paid for sponsors on my blog/product reviews, social media consulting, I’m hoping to build not just the technical blog, but my travel blog to where I’m working with the National Geographic and Discover, and Travel Channel or vendors like ScottVest and whether it’s videos, pictures, articles or whatever, I’m partnering in that world and doing what I love.  I Love Travel and I love SharePoint which equals enterprise social networking, collaboration and Intranets… it’s awesome, but I like putting eggs in a couple of baskets, and I welcome more engagement in travel and money making ventures with vendors through this blog as the audience grows and is engaged in my trips.

My advice to anyone reading this would be to get involved.  Start a blog, start sharing your photos, videos, and begin networking.  SEO goes up with engagement.  That’s what the Google Penguin is asking for and that’s what the baby penguin delivered.  

This is what I’ve lined up for the rest of 2012:

  • I’m doing the Southern Caribbean in August including nearly a week in Puerto Rico. – Family trip, but I’ll likely be hooking up with a friend in PR.  I’ve been there once before on a speaking engagement (paid travel) that was a giveaway.  Great story for another time… a post on Puerto Rico. 
  • I’ll be doing South Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and that region including a hike up the mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Sponsorships are coming together…
  • I’ll be doing Slovenia, Tunisia and Malta and possibly Gaza – I’ve got a sponsor for the long haul and for Gaza.  Looking for sponsors to help me get to Tunisia and Malta.

4 thoughts on “Travel is the Business–The Secret to Creating the Time and Money

  1. Now all I need is a penguin ; )

    damn… I knew I should’ve filmed myself walking with lions in the wild in Zambia…

    Great article Joel! All amazing points! It does come down to one thing – If travel is your passion, you’ll make it happen..


      1. Elena, we do plan on hitting Zanzibar as part of that trip…we were recommended it by a Dr. Livinstone lookalike when Joel and I were on our trip to Victoria Falls in
        Zambia…another great story. Looking forward to that one greatly!

      2. Really looking forward to Zanzibar. That’s going to be awesome!! Sounds like it’s on the edge of the earth. It’s a name like Timbuktu which I need to hit one of these days as well. A name that conjures up images of animals on the edge of a great wild animal migration and in the thick another world.

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