In 2008, Daniel Baylis knew he wanted to travel the world, but he would never be able to afford it on his salary without some extreme saving.
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Baylis had a job blogging for Montreal’s tourism bureau, but he only earned a $37,000 or so per year.
“At that point I decided that I’d work as hard as I possibly could and start saving $500 per month,” he told Business Insider. “That money slowly grew and grew. There were really no magic tricks to it.”
For the next two years, Baylis kept it simple in a low-rent, minimally-furnished apartment and avoided splurging on clothes and happy hour. He also came up with a creative plan to subsidise his bohemian lifestyle: he’d “volunteer” on projects, like teaching English in Laos, in exchange for food and accomodation. A Visa Dividend card would cover the rest.
“The idea was to turn myself into a more complex and textured human being,” he said. “I got the Elizabeth Gilbert ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ jokes from my friends, but I really wanted to speak to the realities of different corners of the world.”
When Baylis left work in December 2010, he’d saved about $10,000 and launched his new blog, DanielBaylis.ca. He’d use it to religiously document everything in video, photos, podcasts and traveller profiles. Then he’d parlay the project into the next phase of his career as travel writer and social media guru.
After surrendering his cell phone and apartment in December, Baylis boarded his first flight from Montreal to New Orleans. He felt his stomach sink with fear. Was he really prepared to do this? Financially, yes. Emotionally, not quite. Here’s how he dealt with the first part and landed a stellar new job a year later.
Unpacking the costs Money was tight, but never the main focus for Baylis.
“I was wise, but not burdened with the idea of budget travel,” he said. “You can travel well cheaply, but the idea wasn’t to get consumed by the bottom dollar.”
On his blog, Baylis broke down (in USD) where his money went:
Flight costs: $7399
Reciprocity Donations: $904
Entry/Exit fees (Visas, etc.): $264
Health Insurance: $471
Membership fees: $112
Subtotal: $11,281 USD
He spent about $2,350 on food, local transport and cultural activities (museums, tours).
“I didn’t buy an around-the-world ticket because many of my destinations and work projects were unconfirmed/undecided before my departure,” he wrote. “I opted to maintain greater flexibility, and ended up visiting countries and participating in projects based on the recommendations of people I met on the road.”
That flexibility didn’t come cheap. Booking flights 3-4 weeks in advance as opposed to six weeks prior made airfare his biggest expense. But when plans fell through—”Morocco kicked me in the b—s”and volunteering at a playhouse in Edinburg was so gruelling he quit—he learned to take things in stride. With enough cash reserves to fall back on, it was OK if he needed a hotel for the night, or to grab some food on the fly.
“I wanted to be the guy who spent a year living out of a backpack, visiting continents,” he wrote. “I had a hope/faith that this experience will launch me into something that I couldn’t yet define.”
Worth every cent
“Some of the work projects requested administrative fees, or had other types of costs to be involved,” he wrote. Which meant shelling out $904 to join organisations like the Israel farm, “Goats with the Wind,” or Big Brother Mouse’s English centre in Laos.
However, in blogging the ups and downs—like the time he was mugged for his wallet and iPod in South Africa—Baylis grew a thick, worldly skin. And developed an online following. Soon he was hosting monthly Q&A sessions and writing weekly letters home to curious fans who wanted to hear about his latest adventure in Gao or Morocco.
“Why are you going on this year-long trip?” they asked. “What are the people like in Laos?” (To “author my change” and “incredibly friendly.”)
By the time he returned home to Montreal in December, Baylis had an online portfolio that was testament to his social media savvy. Now he was ready to find work.
“The job of my dreams”
“There was a fear of professional suicide when I left because I stepped away from a really great job,” said Baylis. “But for me, it all really went smoothly.”
While his newfound skills of tile-laying and goat farming weren’t exactly strong sells, his “continued development” in video, writing and photography were.
After travelling east to network and “put out the word that I’d be returning to the workforce,” Baylis bumped into friends who just so happened to have a job offer. A few meetings later, he landed the role as director of content for an ad & communications agency, N/A.
“Leaving to travel was a bit of a sacrfice, but looking back it was definitely worth it,” he said. “I think they were interested because I did a bit of good on the side by volunteering, and I wasn’t drifting around and getting drunk with other travellers, which seems to be the norm.”
And all that travel translated perfectly to what he does now, “connecting brands with more meaning,” he said.
“I really approached my journey in a different way.” And it all paid off in the end.