How This Blogger Made $1 Million In 3 Years And Is Visiting Every Country On Earth
Johnny Ward grew up in a single-mother family in Galway, Ireland.
Being from a small town and from an island nation, he was very interested in traveling, but his family couldn’t afford to do much of it. He recalls that he, his mother and his sister only took two vacations outside of Ireland the 18 years he lived there — both camping in France — whereas his friends would often go off to Spain, Italy or the United States for their vacations. “I always wondered what it must have been like to see these different places,” he says. “I loved my childhood, but I always dreamt of the open road.”
He studied finance as an undergrad and had an ambition to become a banker in London.“Growing up with no money, I was always sure I wouldn’t be poor again. I had had enough of it. I wanted to be financially free,” he says. But after graduation in 2006, he taught at a summer camp in the U.S., and then took a gap year teaching English in Thailand. That turned into a gap decade, and, he says, “maybe a gap lifetime.”
Though he started his travels as a budget backpacker, Ward began to get savvy about online business. After hearing about how travel blogger Nomadic Matt made $3,000 a month from his travel blog, he launched a blog called One Step 4 Ward about his travels. His earnings from it began with one $85 ad and within six months, he was making $500 a month, and a few more months after that, he was making more than $1,000 a month. He bought a few more sites, and when those paid off, he bought more. He now owns 100 sites and founded a digital media company called Step 4 Ward Media, earning, on average, about $30,000 a month.
After earning $1 million from his blogging enterprise over the last three years, the 31-year-old is now on a quest to become one of the youngest people to visit every country in the world. Having visited about 160 countries at the time of publication, he expects to reach the last of the 193 countries on his list by the end of next summer. Here’s how he has made a living traveling.
Describe your lifestyle.
My lifestyle has been nomadic since I graduated from university in 2006. I taught English in Thailand, worked at English camps in Korea, got a working holiday visa in Australia where I had an office job — all while traveling for huge chunks in between. So I never really entered the real world. My lifestyle, before my online earnings, was pretty similar to my lifestyle now. The accommodation, wifi connections and food are just much nicer now. I’m not sure if it’s my age — I’m 31 — or the fact that I have a bit more money to spend, but it would be tough to go back to traveling on that hardcore backpacking budget now. Having said that, that way of traveling created some of the best memories of my life.
Things changed financially when I started my blog in 2010, and then my media company in 2012. That gave me the confidence to say, Wow, I can really visit every country in the world, whereas previously it was more of a dream. Realizing that it was now financially viable was an amazing feeling — it still is actually.
I travel full-time for nine or ten months each year — three nights here, two nights there, moving from place to place and country to country as I try to become one of the youngest people ever to visit every country in the world. After I finish traveling around whichever region I’m in, I fly to Thailand for three months to recover from the madness of living out of a backpack. I own an apartment in Bangkok, so it’s nice to have a little routine for a few weeks – healthy eating, gym and Thai language lessons.
When I’m traveling, I wake up and check my emails to make sure I’m on top of everything in my business, then I go out for the day to explore. That could be something crazy like flyboarding, skydiving, cage diving with sharks or simply walking around a small town, visiting local markets and chatting with people. When the evening kicks in, I go back to my hotel and work for a few hours.
When I’m in Thailand, I grow my existing business. I try to start new projects, like this new education start-up in Hong Kong, which we hope to launch in the next few months. Not jumping cities every few days makes focusing much easier, so Thailand is my time for my business.
Tell me more about your business.
I have a popular travel blog which generates a normal Western income through ads and affiliate commissions, in which I get a cut if one of my readers clicks through a link and makes a purchase, and I could live from that if I had to. However, having learned about SEO [search engine optimization], online marketing, corporate blogging, content creation and social media management, as my blog grew more and more popular, I used my new skills to found a digital media company which manages all those aspects of a company’s online presence. Now I have a team of people who manage that for clients around the world.
None of my team have an office. My assistant is from one country, my tech guys from another, sales guys from another still. We all chat via Skype or FacebookFB -1.15% chat. No working hours, no suit and tie, no one over your shoulder – if the work is done, then the client is happy and we continue to grow.