By Kach Medina Umandap on November 11, 2015
Getting paid to travel the world…
It sounds like everyone’s ultimate dream, and it had been mine ever since I was a child. To see a different country every week, eat bun cha in Hanoi on Monday, Paella in Spain on a Wednesday, and gaze up at Christ the Redeemer on Friday! I thought it was impossible, nothing more than a dream.
True, there are jobs that give you the opportunity to travel, but I’m too short to be a flight attendant, and too lazy to work on a cruise ship, so I knew I had to find another way.
The Beginnings of Building My Business Empire
Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, to create something for myself and grow it into my own success. When I wasn’t in school, I used to help my aunt sell groceries in her store. My grandmother also had a small store in her house where I grew up, which is in front of a school, so every day I would help her and I would get paid a small salary for the effort. Even then, my relatives saw that I was a born salesperson and that they wouldn’t be surprised if one day I became a millionaire.
At the age of nine, I started my own barbecue (isaw isaw) business outside our house. I hired my little sister for help, and asked my mom to marinate the food for me — or delegation and outsourcing as I like to call it! I was the one who went to the public market to buy the raw ingredients, where I learned how to close deals by bargaining and compromising — supply chain management and quality control. I absolutely loved it!
However, an unfortunate turn of events happened during this time. My parents separated and we kept moving from one house and one school to another, which was pretty disruptive at that age especially when you’re trying to run a successful "business empire." But I persevered. By the time I was a teenager, I had various businesses and sideline jobs — selling ice-candy, a color betting game on our veranda, even collecting my mom’s Pampanga’s Best tocino sales to get commission!
I was nine, now I’m twenty seven, traveling the world, living in exciting, exotic places, and earning a great living at the same time. I’m still working on the millionaire part, but everything in good time! (This was how my mom made me a world traveler, if you want to read about it.)
My parents kept telling me that to be successful in life, I had to have good grades so that I could get into a good university. At first it all seemed like a big distraction from my grand business plans, but eventually I came around to the idea and got involved in school life. I was admitted to the University of the Philippines, I was active in class, worked hard and graduated with honors in High School, even becoming President of the student council. While pursuing a degree in Economics in UPLB, I joined organizations and a sorority, and enhancing my public relations skills, anything to help me become a better entrepreneur.
I think my experience in sales when I was younger helped me with my interest in public speaking and organizing events. Back then, I wanted to become a Lawyer and Entrepreneur, which seemed like the perfect combination to be successful, wealthy, and run my own business. The entrepreneur inside me was taking shape.
The Radical Change
When I graduated, I moved to Kuwait and worked in an internship with the Philippine Embassy for a few months before finding a position in a private healthcare company. As these things often go, weeks turned to months, then to years, and suddenly, I realized that I had lost four years of my life doing exactly the opposite of what I had dreamt of for so many years. I had let myself become distracted by my office dress suit, work politics, and the short-lived thrills of buying the latest gadgets and clothes with my monthly salary. It was time for a radical change.
I packed my things, made secret plans, and to avoid any disagreements or obstruction, I waited for my father to take a trip back to the Philippines while I flew straight to Erbil, Northern Iraq. I arrived jobless, and with only the name of a friend of a friend who would help me arrange my working visa. Within a week I found a job with a security subcontractor for an oil company — the money was great, but more importantly, I had given myself some breathing space to figure out my plans while I was in a very exciting, stunningly beautiful country surrounded by amazing new people and cultures.
The sudden and risky move to Iraq seemed to ignite something inside of me, something that had lay dormant for the past four years — the thrill and excitement of the unknown, the challenge of whatever lies around the corner. All at once I knew what I wanted from my life, I wanted to feel that same feeling of amazement every day for the rest of my life. I started making plans to travel, not knowing at the time exactly how I could turn it into a business, but certain that one way or another, I would. Four months later I made my move — I flew back to the Philippines to deal with some paperwork, then booked a one-way flight to Bangkok. I traveled freely and without care, jumped from ancient temples, to tropical beaches, to distant mountains.
It Takes Two to Tango
Along the way I met a guy, a fellow traveler who had quit his job and left his life behind looking for the same things that I was — not just a quick jaunt around the world before going back to work, but a truly sustainable travel lifestyle. Although we separated ways for a few months, we kept in touch, and after I had finished a one-month yoga retreat in Thailand, I decided to visit him in Hanoi where he had started working as a teacher.
Two weeks came and went and we’ve been together ever since. Working together to find new ways to travel the world, we trained as yoga teachers and massage therapists in India, volunteered in a hostels, and even started our own successful yoga and massage business in Peru. After a year and a half on the road, we weren’t just traveling and surviving: we were thriving.
People would always ask us question after question about how we managed to keep traveling without running out of money and having to go home to save up all over again. We were already equipped with the right amount of knowledge and experience of traveling, so we decided to start our own travel website, Two Monkeys Travel Group, to help other people to do the same, and to offer others a chance to tell their own inspiring life and travel stories. Now, with twenty writers around the globe, we’re living our dream of traveling the world and realizing our own definition of success, while helping other people to do the same.