It has now been one month since Mike Swigunksi sat down for an AMA session on Reddit. Mike is the best selling travel author for the book Global Career: How to Work Anywhere and Travel Forever and the CEO of the Global Career remote job board.
Swigunksi started his life as a full-time traveler over 10 years ago from humble beginnings as a student with no online business or income. Since then, he has built a nice portfolio of online income streams that have even received attention from outlets like Forbes and Entrepreneur.com.
Below, we will take a glance into the mind of this successful entrepreneur. These are all questions personally answered by Mike himself in his AMA session with a little bit of extra commentary and clarifications for each answer from his editor.
Mike Swigunksi: I think sometimes the most difficult or frustrating parts with travel can often be the simplest things. For example, trying to print documents, do laundry, get a sim card working…these things that might be very simple in your home country, but come with an added layer in foreign countries. Maybe you don’t have the local documents to get a sim card or the particular country doesn’t offer many options for doing laundry.
Overall though, travel teaches you to kind of just go with the flow in any situation and try not to get annoyed even when things don’t go to plan.
Author Follow Up: As Mike explains here, traveling abroad full-time isn’t necessarily a nonstop vacation. You still have responsibilities and commitments. There is still bureaucracy to deal with. Most importantly, you need to remain productive and able to support yourself.
Many things which are easy in your home country. Especially relating to benefits and services only available to citizens. When you are in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, even the most simple tasks can quickly turn time-consuming. Like finding a place for printing documents.
Mike Swigunksi: Right now Spanish is the 2nd language I speak the best, but English goes really far when you travel. I do know a bit of Korean, Czech and Italian. Even just knowing the 10-15 most common expressions/phrases can go a really long way, but one of the most important things is to polish up your “body language” since it’s international. A smile, laugh and good demeanor can help you through almost any situation! 🙂
Author Follow Up: Learning new languages is always very difficult. For short-term travelers to a particular destination, it is usually only practical to learn a handful of words and phrases. Phrases like “hello,” “how much,” “thank you,” and the numbers 1 – 10 are a good place to start.
If you intend to stay for a long period of time in a place like Mike has in Latin America, you should consider taking courses on the language and/or taking it more seriously as a whole.
In the Forbes article, you mentioned your biggest challenges are SEO, driving traffic, and creating brand awareness. At that time your email list was around 40K. How exactly did you get to that number in the first place and what is your strategy going forward?
Mike Swigunksi: Thanks for checking out the article! We have primarily grown the list with viral giveaways. This is done by strategically partnering with brands in the travel niche that meet a similar demographic to ours. We have given away a lot of free trips to Bali, South Africa, etc and this has worked really well for pushing us forward to where we are now.
Moving forward, the plan is to continue providing valuable/education content surrounding remote/international work, sourcing press on relatable topics and trying to provide core services for our audience to make working remote as easy as possible.
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Mike Swigunksi: There are a ton of great ways to get started with remote work, we actually have a great source of Non-Technical Remote jobs at https://globalcareer.io and post new jobs every day.
Getting started might seem difficult, but I recommend a few things that can really help.
- Assessing your skills and seeing if you can provide value with freelancing. Writing or teaching are two great ways to build a remote freelance portfolio and UpWork is a great platform to get started.
- I highly suggest taking free courses like Hubspot for Marketing, Google Analytics/Ads, Facebook Ads, etc. There are a ton of good free online courses in almost any industry and a lot of great resources on YouTube
- Once you have some skills and know what path you would like to pursue, look at current job postings in the industry you want to work in and start working towards building up those skillsets and applying for jobs even if they seem a tad out of your reach. Most employers will be looking at soft skills in addition to your experience, drive, motivation, etc.
Author Follow Up: This is all really great advice for somebody new to the industry of remote work. Even if you are sitting at home with nothing in your bank account and a dream of working and traveling full-time, taking action is the first step.
You might need to work a job that you aren’t particularly interested in or skilled at from the get-go. However, this job will give you the portfolio and experience necessary for launching your own successful online business, increasing how much money you make, and so on.
Mike Swigunksi: Yes – I did get a chance to visit Rio, Brazil for the Carnival festival. The highlight for me was the Beatles festival that had songs set to Brazilian samba! Overall, the atmosphere and landscape in Rio were really beautiful and we had a great hike to the Two Brothers Mountain Lookout. Also, was a huge fan of the overall atmosphere and loved eating Acai every day!
Author Follow Up: Brazil is a wonderful country. It should be on everybody’s bucket list! It is a bit of an oddball in Latin America, though, since they speak Portuguese as opposed to Spanish. Brazil is home to one of the new 7 Wonders of the World!
Have you developed a feeling of homesickness? Like when you’re traveling from one place to another is there a place that you miss?
Mike Swigunksi: Yeah – there are definitely moments where I miss family/friends, but luckily technology like video chatting and texting makes it extremely easy to stay connected. Overall though, I try to spend 3-4 weeks with family and friends either in the USA or at some destination overseas. I am a very active/social person, so creating a community wherever I am living is extremely important for me and I have made some really amazing friends while living overseas. It’s relatively easy since most other expats are in the same situation and have a lot of the same interests/passions.
Author Follow Up: Full-time traveling for a long period of time can quickly become very lonely. As Mike describes here, this can be alleviated by staying connected with your family and friends. You should try to see your family once a year, make new friends, go on dates with your significant other, and so on to get rid of the feeling of being homesick. The world is your home. Keeping good company will keep you feeling this way.
Mike Swigunksi: I would say these 3 are my favorite places to work remotely around the world, in no specific order:
- Prague, CZ – I love Prague since it’s so centrally located/easy to travel from, has a great group of remote workers, has good value and is one of the most beautiful cities I have been to.
- Medellin, Colombia – I have been based in Medellin for around 2 years and I love the city since it’s pretty much 75 degrees year-round (eternal spring), the city is great for accomplishing a lot of work and has a great group of established expat entrepreneurs that have built very successful remote businesses.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand – This is the sort of “digital nomad” hub in the world and a lot of people start their journey here since it’s full of other people with similar interests and is also extremely affordable to get started. There are events on a daily basis surrounding almost any topic like SEO, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, etc.
Author Follow Up: Mike is a great example of somebody who has spent enough time abroad to determine what his favorite places are. It’s important to remember that this opinion isn’t necessarily echoed across all corners of the remote working community. Although these are all wonderful destinations, you can find remote workers in all corners of the globe!
Mike Swigunksi: That’s a great question and I don’t really see any time of slowing down in the near future. The more I travel the longer my list of places to visit gets and I learn about so many cool experiences and places I really want to see. For me, I prefer to slow travel and spend a few months in a “hub” and do weekend trips from that location, I think this is a much more sustainable way to work/travel and plan on continuing to do this for as long as possible!
Author Follow Up: Traveling around the world is an endless rabbit hole. Once you get to a new desitination you will hear of 10 new places that you can visit nearby. This is an endless cycle, which is probably why Mike still has the same passion for being nomadic as he had when he began.
Many people have dedicated their entire lives to traveling around the world. You could also easily spend the rest of your life traveling from place to place.
Isn’t the secret to this type of lifestyle, writing a book about this type of lifestyle to maintain the lifestyle? I don’t mean this negatively. It just seems everyone who has a secret way to live. Also has a book.
Mike Swigunksi: I wouldn’t say there are really any “secrets” to travel, it boils down to making travel one of your top priorities and nothing else can get in the way after you truly make it that important in your life.
The primary reason I created the book was to help give people access to what has worked well for me and position it in a way that can be applicable to anyone. No secret formula, just proof of concepts with a lot of resources and a blueprint to work/travel long-term! A book is just one of the best formats to distribute this to a widespread audience.
Author Follow Up: It can be easy to categorize all nomadic travelers into one category. Unless you are out on the road and constantly meeting new nomadic people, the ones you will come across are probably on the internet marketing their lifestyle to people sitting at home dreaming of traveling abroad. Their marketing plan can often include a book.
Although there is definitely a lot of nomads who write books, create travel blogs, and so on, it doesn’t mean that they are all like this. Many nomads keep a low profile and work behind the scenes in completely other types of work.
As Mike states here, there is no single path towards living a sustainable life abroad. Writing books is definitely one of the ways people try to generate income, though!
People always say traveling broadens your horizons and it changes you as a person. Do you believe this? And if so, how have you changed specifically from traveling?
Mike Swigunksi: I 100% agree with this statement about “broadening your horizons” and I would say it’s not necessarily “changed me” but really solidified a lot of my thoughts and outlook on life. For example, I have always been an active/outgoing/social person, but things like solo-traveling, hitch-hiking, couch-surfing have even pushed me beyond some areas where I was a bit out of my comfort zone and I think that’s an extremely important thing in travel, to expand on things you love and try to grow in areas and directions that you want, even if they are unfamiliar.
Author Follow Up: If you are able to travel around the world without encountering at least one new idea, way of thinking, interesting point, and so on, you might not be a human! This world is full of mysteries and excitement.
As we can see from Mike’s answer, you may not be able to gain all of the ‘secrets of life’ from travel. This isn’t to say, though, that you won’t encounter people and circumstances which have an effect on you in some shape or form. You will inevitably learn things.