How to Work Abroad and Travel the World ForeverThere are so many ways to make money while traveling and each week I try to bring you new inspiration by interviewing others who are also working on the road. This week I'm talking to Troy who is a bit of a traveling entrepreneur!
An Interview with Troy Erstling Global Entrepreneur and Founder of BrainGainTroy Erstling has been living and working abroad for the last 7 years, and is the Founder of BrainGain.co. He is currently living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia connecting people to international work opportunities. He has lived in Argentina (6 months), Korea (1 year), India (3 years), and has visited 20 different countries. Troy can be found on Twitter @troyerstling and Instagram @troyerstling. He also runs a facebook group called “The Philosophy of Travel”, aimed at connecting people from all around the world for all things travel related Hi Troy! So how you make money while also being able to travel? What made you decide to follow this path and how did you make it happen? I’ve always wanted to live and work abroad. When I graduated from school I took a job teaching English in South Korea, and that really opened the door to international work. Shortly after my stint in Korea I found a research fellowship in Bangalore, India and moved there for six months. While on the research assignment I met the two founders of a company called Zoomcar, and they offered me an internship doing digital marketing. From there they hired me on board full time. After about 6 months of working with them full time, friends started asking me “How do you keep working abroad? I want to work overseas but all I can find is teaching English and volunteer work, can you help me find a job?”. With that, I started BrainGain.co to help people find international work opportunities. Our business model in one sentence – when someone successfully lands a job, the company pays me a commission. I only need to make about 1 placement/month to support myself, and now that I have a team of 3 people, about 3-5 placements/month. The company is in it’s early stages so while I don’t make a ton of money, I make enough to break even and spend whatever money I do save traveling around Asia. Luckily the costs of living in places like India and Malaysia are around $500-1000/month, so I don’t need to make much to be able to live a great lifestyle. Luckily, we’re expanding quickly and adding new opportunities all the time, so things are beginning to trend in a very positive direction, but it took me about 2 years to get to this point. What a great idea! So do you like the best about this lifestyle? Location independence. I personally think that the US is overpriced for the quality of life that you get. My lifestyle in the US would cost me $5000 USD/month, but in Asia only $1000. Why pay 5x the costs for a life that isn’t 5x as good? I can eat better, do more exciting things with my free time like hiking and visiting some of the world’s best beaches, and it doesn’t take nearly as much money as it would elsewhere in the world. Running an online business allows me to live anywhere I want to for a fraction of the cost of what it would take to live a similar lifestyle in the US and Europe. Having freedom of where I want to live, and not being restricted to any one specific geography, is the greatest form of freedom one can ask for. But nothings perfect right? Are there any downsides to being location independent? Intimate relationships are hard to maintain. My life over the last 5 years has been a series of 3-6 month relationships with an expiration date tied to them. It’s really hard because you develop strong feelings for someone and then realize that the logistics of making it work are eventually going to rear their ugly head. On one side you want to get close to someone, but having to constantly evaluate if something has a future becomes tiring and prevents you from living in the moment and enjoying the present with the person you care about. Do you have one standout highlight, favourite destination or biggest achievement? Starting my business is definitely my biggest accomplishment. Some standout funny incidents though? Voice acting for an Indian cartoon, freestyle rapping on stage at Infosys and Akamai. Dressing up as Santa. Personally, the best moments aren’t the places I’ve been to and the things I’ve seen, it’s the people I’ve met and the conversations I have. That’s what makes travel special; anyone can go see what you have seen, but they can’t mimic the relationships you’ve built and how conversations resonated on you as an individual. Sounds like an interesting lifestyle! So what has been the greatest challenge? Running the business. And negotiating with Indian rickshaw drivers. Several cases of food poisoning. Dengue fever. You know, the usual challenges. Ha ha yes, I can relate to that. What do you wish you had known before you started working remotely? How to code. Building a website is really tough, and trying to build a product from scratch (that’s not wordpress), has been very difficult. If you can learn how to code it will help tremendously whether you want to find a job or start an online business. WordPress has a lot of limitations and It’s expensive to build something on your own. So, what are your plans and ambitions for the future? BrainGain will be the world’s largest platform for finding an international job, and I will help 1 million people find jobs around the world. Wow, sounds amazing! Best of luck with that. So finally, and perhaps most importantly, what tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps? Get outside of your comfort zone and do things that scare the shit out of you. I see so many people who travel within a bubble of comfort and never challenge themselves. Traveling is about pushing your mental limits to see where your threshold of comfort lies, and then learn to be comfortable with the inevitable discomforts that will arise. Ride rickshaws, take risks, and learn what makes you uncomfortable, that is how you truly grow and become a better version of yourself. Oh and do some Vipassana meditation. It’s one thing to travel the world, but to spend 10 days traveling the depths of yourself Is an entirely different journey. There’s no google maps for what lies within 😉 Thanks so much Troy! What an interesting journey you have had and all the best for the future - looks like you have some really exciting plans! If you are working abroad and want to be interviewed contact me here 🙂 and don't forget to check out the other working abroad interviews.
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