Funding A Life On The Road – A Kickstarter Case Study

Preface by Dave


"Wait, so what exactly do you do, and how can I do it?"

​The people I have this conversation with are often surprised when I answer the latter part of this question with: "There are LOTS of ways you can fund a life on the road."

It depends on what you're interested in, your personality, and how your brain works. I want this blog to be a resource for people who want to see the world, and who are looking for ways to do it fitting their lifestyle.

The following guest post is an example of how to make money while traveling, so you can fund a life on the road.

‘Someday’ is a disease that kills your dreams. Just get started and correct course along the way.

In a second you'll meet Chris, and Chris will be talking about "Imperfect Action," and the idea the quote above represents: just get started, even if it's not perfect, you'll figure it out.

Chris saw an opportunity when he stumbled upon my gear list while researching a trip. He took action, and was able to successfully fund a Kickstarter campaign for his Decoy Wallet, a business he will be using to help him pay for his traveling (he's giving away a free Decoy Wallet this week, you can find information at the bottom of the post).

Enter Chris


With advancements in technology it has never been easier to separate yourself from a permanent location and go travel by working remotely or starting a business.

We are here because we want to travel. We want to see the world. I am no different.

The difficulty I (and most) face in doing this is usually money, and the freedom. Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, calls this "time wealth." It's the ability to design the lifestyle you dream of.

In order to create this “time wealth,” I recently ran a Kickstarter campaign to create a product to help fellow travelers, allowing me to have a location independent income.

The theme of this post is: “Imperfect Action."

I'm not claiming to be an expert, just claiming to have taken action and share my process and story. I have read articles day after day about amazing travel locations I wanted to see and adventures I wanted to have. I finally decided to take the leap and go after it.

What Do I Want From Travel?

I decided on my "why" first and then my "how" followed.

My first trip out of the country was to Columbia, and despite the perception of danger most people have, I felt perfectly safe (even though my cab driver got lost and my mom thought my brother and I had been kidnapped).

But I realized something: people are generally the same all over the world. We all have hopes, dreams, and challenges. This experience/revelation planted a seed, and since then I've been hooked on traveling. I want to get out there, meet new people, understand new cultures, and get out of my comfort zone.

I'm a recent grad with an Aerospace Engineering degree, which meant I had a comfortable salary, but also a not-so-comfortable student loan debt, and paying rent in an expensive city. So, I decided to make  some changes in my life to save up more money, because I knew I wanted to travel more after my experience in Columbia.

I’ve read about how important having a clear vision is to achieving a goal, so I wanted to make my vision as real and exciting as possible by seeing it every day. I found amazing pictures of the places I wanted to go, and changed the background on my laptop, computer at work, and on my cell phone (this is a good site to find wallpapers). Seeing something like this every day keeps the vision of my goal clear:

Thailand - Railay Beach

The images kept me motivated and excited about the adventures to come, and kept me working to make it happen.

I sold my nice truck and bought an old Jeep, started taking the bus and my bike to work instead of commuting. These were great choices, I got more exercise, had time to read on the bus, and was saving more money for my travels.

Then I was laid off.

I got a lot of pressure from my family to get another job right away, but I saw this as a great opportunity.

I recognized this as a great chance for a long term trip abroad. So I got to work planning my trip.

While researching, I came across Dave's gear list article, where I first heard about the idea of a mugger's wallet. I looked into it, and found nobody makes them, and I found I could make them safer for people, and at a low cost, so I got to work on learning how to start an online business.

How I Took Action 

Because of the internet, it’s now possible to start a business that can be run from anywhere with a connection.

However, this isn't the only way to get out into the world. Other options include saving money, working abroad, or negotiating time off work. Nomadic Matt has great resources on how to save money, how to travel with kids, how to travel as a solo woman, how to work abroad, and other great stories of people who have done it.

After I came across the idea of the mugger's wallet, I decided starting a side business sounded best for me, so the first thing I did was re-read The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.

The case studies of normal people who have done it always blow my mind. Tim has also published some of the case studies on his blog.

Starting a business sounds intimidating, but when you boil it down, it's basically just finding a way to do more for others than anyone else is doing. This is the process I have been following:

  • Come up with an idea
  • Validate people will pay for it
  • Create the product/service
  • Get in front of the people who want it

So far, I have come up with an idea and validated it through kickstarter. I've designed the wallets, priced them out, and now I'm trying to get in front of people who could be interested in it. 

I'm not going to say going through this process has been a piece of cake, but it's also easier than I had worked it out to be in my head originally. 

Rohan Gilkes is an entrepreneur who has built million dollar businesses, and writes about the process along the way. This is one of my favorite posts of his on reddit. He's not a Stanford MBA with Venture Capitalists as parents, he's simply someone who takes action.

I’ve read just about everything he has ever posted, and it always gets me fired up.

To get even more detailed explanations, with case studies and mentoring from people who have done it I signed up for Noah Kagan's course on how to build a business online and go from a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur. Noah was one of the first employees at Facebook and Mint, and I first discovered him through this post. These resources showed me how to start a business, now I just had to implement it.

The Implementation

The business cost me $4 to start.

I bought a wallet off Amazon, ordered free sample business cards, and put the Kickstarter page together. The kickstarter was successful, hitting 166% of my goal, and validated the idea to pursue further.

Had it failed, no big deal, I'm out $4 and a little time.

Decoy Wallet

$4 wallet I used to start the business

Decoy Wallet - Kickstarter Project Activity

Kickstarter results

After creating the product, I now had to get it in front of the people who wanted it.

I started by reading Mike Del Ponte's article Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days to come up with a strategy on how I was going to get traffic to my Kickstarter page. I decided I would focus most of my time on connecting with travel bloggers, while also posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and travel-related subreddits.

Before launching the Kickstarter, I made a list of my favorite travel blogs and drafted tailored emails to each of them. I was careful not to fall into the trap of writing one email and sending it out to all the bloggers I could find, people can see right through this.

When pitching someone, it’s important to explain why it would benefit them. They are busy people getting tons of requests to promote someone's website, but if it's helpful to both parties by providing value, you will have a much better chance.

Here's the e-mail I sent to Dave to set up this article:

Hey Dave!

First, I just wanted to say I loved your article on how you traveled with just a 20 pound backpack. I'm planning a trip to southeast Asia and I'm definitely using it as a guide to packing light. In your article you also mentioned making a mugger's wallet, which I had not heard of before.

I did some research, and found you can't simply buy one and making your own can be problematic in some ways, so I decided to put something together and launch a kickstarter project! You can check it out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1376941515/decoy-wallet

I'm looking for ways to get the word out, so I'd be happy to send a guest post or if you want to put something together feel free to use any pictures or content from the kickstarter page. I'm sure you're very busy so no response required, but if you are interested let me know!

Chris​

I showed I actually follow his blog, and showed how we can both get something out of a partnership. There are more useful templates for writing a good pitch in Mike Del Ponte's article I linked to above.

For Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the goal is to get people to share your content.

The basic strategy is to post high quality pictures or articles people will want to share with their friends. Foundr Magazine has the ultimate guide to creating great content. I used related hashtags so people browsing my category would see my posts, and I also found people with large followings and followed their feeds. This will get you on their radar and could lead to them sharing your product or story. 

Here are a few photos I posted on Instagram (my friend's Golden Retriever spent too much time in the river and needed to warm up):​

Decoy Wallet - Instagram
Decoy Wallet - Instagram Photo

When coming up with the strategy, I wanted to keep it simple and focus on the most effective channels. It’s easy to get stuck reading articles like "4 Things You Must Do Now Before Launching Your Business" or "5 Business Books Every Entrepreneur Needs To Read Right Away." I never really found this kind of stuff helpful, because it was designed to get clicks on a website instead of providing actionable information.

Instead, I started with the best resources I could find, implemented a strategy, continually tested its effectiveness, and had fun with it.

It’s important to enjoy the process. Even a side business generating $500 a month can make a huge difference in your ability to travel. Sell a $50 product once every three days and you're there. Get one sale a day and you're up to $1,500 a month. Hearing stories in the media about the next 24 year old billionaire makes it seem daunting, but it doesn't need to be. Building a second income is well within your grasp if you take action to start.

Keeping It Going While Abroad

To keep the business growing while I’m traveling, my plan is to connect with more travel bloggers, stay active on social media, and run contests/giveaways to increase awareness.

These are some of the established best practices for growing an ecommerce business, and the best part is they are practically free. Plus, once I create the content, social media and giveaways can be automated so I can have fun traveling while they run in the background. Tools like Hootsuite let me upload my posts and schedule them to go live when I choose.

My brother is helping me out by taking care of order fulfillment and sending out the wallets. Once sales hit a high enough level, I’ll look into transferring fulfillment over to a fulfillment company so I can focus all my energy on growing the business.

I want to be able to work on the business, not in it, which is why I set it up so the business can grow with as little input from me as possible. I don’t want to spend all my travel time working on the business, I want to use it as a tool to enjoy travel to the fullest.


So, what are you going to do today to bring you closer to leaving everything behind, grabbing your backpack, and heading out into the world?

Let me know in the comments, and ask any questions as well! You can check out my project and connect with me on my website: www.decoywallet.com.

I’m also giving away a free wallet this week only, ending Monday night, so make sure you enter soon! You can get in the running to win by clicking here.

I'm off to Thailand next week. If you make it out there send me a message and the first beer is on me 🙂

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