The concept of the American dream is changing. Rather than fantasizing about a white picket fence and a snazzy automobile, an increasing number of people now dream about ditching the 9-5 job in search of a more flexible, more meaningful nomadic lifestyle.
Technology makes it easier than ever to work and make money from anywhere on the globe. These five people have taken full advantage of this fact by building location-independent businesses that have made them a fortune, all while traveling and exploring our wonderful planet.
Photo by Jovana Rikalo/Stocksy. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel.
The Serial Entrepreneur, Johnny Ward, Annual Income: One Million +
Johnny Ward is a 31-year-old economics graduate turned tech entrepreneur who has often been referred to as the “nomadic millionaire.”
Ward has been to 177 of the world’s 193 officially registered countries, and in the past three years has made more than a million dollars, all while working from a laptop.
Ward visiting Namibia (Photo: Johnny Ward)
After teaching English in Asia for a few years in his early 20s, Johnny booked a one-way ticket to Zimbabwe, inspired by a travel blogger he stumbled across online.
“I thought if they can do that, I can do that. But better,” he told Yahoo Travel.
He spent a year documenting his travels round Africa before heading back to Thailand in hopes of taking his online business to the next level.
“I managed to get the site to where I was earning about GBP 5000 - 6000 a month (US$7,800 - $9,300),” he explained. “I realized that if I was earning this amount of money from one website, why don’t I start a second and a third site. When they started making money, I just went so aggressive with it and built out a big network of 200-300 sites.”
After working hard to increase his income, Johnny then set himself the challenge of visiting 100 countries by the time he turned 30. He spent his 100th country-versary in the Maldives earlier this year.
Now up to 177 countries, 15 of which he has completed in just the past four months, Johnny is currently in Morocco and hopes to complete his world list sometime early next year.
The Professional Poker Player, Faraz Jaka, Annual Income: One Million +
Faraz Jaka has earned millions of dollars while traveling the world, yet he owns only enough to fit in a single carry-on bag.
The 30-year-old professional poker player, originally from San Jose, Calif., has spent the past five years circumnavigating the globe and playing in international tournaments, which have generated him close to $10 million in revenue. In one year alone he can take home as much as a million dollars in prize money.
Jaka in Thailand. (Photo: Faraz Jaka)
He has also built a real estate portfolio with his winnings that creates passive rental income, which he uses to pay his travel and living expenses. Yet he has no home base, referring to himself as homeless, and lives with minimal physical belongings — just enough to fit in a suitcase.
In 2012 alone, he traveled to 45 cities in 12 countries and took 57 flights. He is currently in Prague with plans to travel to Florida, the Bahamas, Australia, and California in the next couple of months.
“The best part is the flexibility to work when you want, where you want, and how much you want,” he told Yahoo Travel, via email. “I don’t HAVE to travel to work. I could play at a local casino or just stay put and play online from home but I’ve always been passionate about traveling. I decided to get rid of my home and just explore in between poker tour events and just go see the world and find a way to be productive earning an income on the road.”
Faraz also began writing about the interesting experiences he has along the way, including 10 days he spent at a silent meditation retreat at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand where he had all his personal belongings taken from him, slept on a wooden frame, and was not allowed to speak for the duration of his stay.
“I write about things I find interesting that I think will benefit people,” he explained. “Travel tips, meditation, health, working on the road, dealing with jet lag, sleep schedule, and the like. I also began writing city guides for all the cities I’ve been to around the world.”
Growing up in Temecula in Southern California, Kiersten Rich spent her summers camping in U.S. national parks or hitting the beach.
But after moving in with a well-traveled Australian couple several years ago, the 27-year-old was inspired to take some time off from her career in corporate finance to travel and explore the world.
She set off for Australia and then headed to Thailand, where she backpacked solo around Southeast Asia for three months.
Rich isn’t afraid to take a risk. (Photo: Kiersten Rich)
“I started blogging four years ago, for fun and as a way for my mum to know I was still alive while I was traveling,” she told Yahoo Travel. “It was not originally a business decision. More of a diary and scrapbook of my travels.”
During her backpacking trip she posted on the blog every day, sometimes just short status updates, and other times more detailed journal entries about her adventures.
“I realized that I loved the process of storytelling and obviously I love traveling, so when I came back from that trip I started to explore the idea of running it as a business,” she said.
She quit her full-time job in 2011 and spent a year taking various freelance and temporary jobs while working on the blog and building out her site, the Blonde Abroad. Then in 2012 she started traveling and blogging full-time.
Four years later, and she is on the road nine months of the year, has a six-member team helping run the site and is pulling in annual revenue in the multiple six figures from various revenue streams including affiliate programs, sponsored content, and a mentorship program.
The Nomad Capitalist, Andrew Henderson, Annual Income: One Million +
Andrew Henderson describes himself as “a lifelong entrepreneur who left the United States to become a perpetual traveler.” He also made his first million when he was still a teenager.
After launching and then selling a multimillion-dollar broadcasting business at just 19 years old, Andrew decided to pack up and experience the world in the hope of finding other countries in which he could invest in business.
“The more I traveled, the more addictive it became and I believed that there were greater opportunities outside the United States, and the Western world, than in,” he said in a recent interview with Eventual Millionaire.
“So now I’m devoted to finding those opportunities, finding the most freedom, finding the best places to put money and start a business.”
Hoping to help others do the same, he launched Nomad Capitalist, a Web-based business that advises other people on how to live a financially and geographically free life.
As a part of this business, Andrew travels to at least 15 to 20 countries each year, researching, meeting people, and exploring culture and industry, generating over a million air miles in the process.
“My mission is simple,” he says. “Find the best place to live, start a business, and invest. No one place has a monopoly on freedom, opportunity, or happiness, and I make the world my oyster in search of the perfect balance.”
The Adventure Photographer, Matthew Karsten, Annual Income: $100,000 +
In the fall of 2010, Matthew Karsten quit his job as a nightlife photographer in Miami, dumped his girlfriend, sold everything he owned, and bought a one-way ticket to Guatemala.
“My family and friends didn’t understand what I was doing,” he said. “They thought I was losing it — and I wasn’t sure either.”
Karsten in Zion Canyon. (Photo: Matthew Karsten)
But the business graduate had always dreamed of a life full of adventure and planned to spend a year exploring Central and South America. “Following my dreams at all costs was my new goal,” he explained. “Becoming wealthy with new experiences was my mission.”
Five years later and he is still on the road, with the plan to continue indefinitely. But in those five years he has managed to turn his adventure into a highly profitable business.
Through his blog, the Expert Vagabond, sponsorship opportunities, affiliate marketing, advertising, and selling his photographs, Matthew now generates an impressive high six-figure income.
“Long-term travel provides me with unexpected challenges to conquer while I continue to learn about the world, meet interesting people, and have life-changing experiences along the way,” he shared on his website.
“I love what I do, and will continue to learn new skills and work towards making this travel lifestyle sustainable, or at least until I no longer enjoy it.”