Travel & Your Entrepreneurial Side

It was over 4 years in the making, but my girlfriend and I had done it. We had saved $50,000, quit our jobs, sold all of our stuff and bought a 1-way ticket to Hong Kong. It was time for a career break to spend a year in Asia just traveling and enjoying life.

Why was I traveling?

Many people travel to “find themselves” or “figure out what they want with life”. This was never my intention. I thought I had it figured out already. I liked my job (enough), I liked the area that I lived in and I liked the career path I was heading down. I had worked for a large company for over 4-years. I had steadily gained responsibility and earned promotions. When I was finished traveling, I assumed I would join another company and continue down my path. How wrong I was.

The Entrepreneurial Bug

My entrepreneurial bug started as I researched long-term travel. The research led me to people who showed there was a different way to live life. There was Chris Guilleabeau, Brian Armstrong, Kirsty Henderson, Nora Dunn and this was just the beginning. I started exploring what it meant to be an entrepreneur and became fascinated with Andrew Warner’s Mixergy interviews, 37 Signals, Jason Cohen, Dharmesh Shah & This Week in Startups. I was hooked.

My girlfriend and I were seeing new cities, meeting new people and doing a lot of fun things. I was trying to enjoy my time off, but it’s funny – when you no longer have a job, a commute, chores, and obligations, you end up with a lot of free time to think. I couldn’t shut my brain off.

Within a couple months I had an itchy mind (yup, I just made that term up…think itchy feet) and I started looking for problems that I could solve. I realized one of the biggest problems I could solve was one that I was experiencing every day. Figuring out what to do and how to get around in the new cities I was visiting was a huge pain!

Wikitravel gives a nice overview, but after that it was pretty much downhill. I wanted someone to tell me what the best things in the city were and how to specifically get around. I wanted something cheap. I wanted to see the city like a local and I still wanted to do it on my own. Thus spawned Unanchor.

Building Unanchor

The idea was simple. Local experts from around the world would be able to write travel guides and sell them on our site. What I particularly loved about this idea was that if it took off, the writers and the community would keep most of the money. I’d be helping the community of writers while making travelers’ lives easier and more enjoyable. The only question was ‘how do I build it’?

In high school I had built websites and in college I had taken some programming classes. Things had changed a lot since then – that was quite a few years ago. From the interviews I was listening to and the blogs I was reading, I knew the best way to start was to build it myself. So I decided to teach myself to code. I downloaded and read every page of “Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites“. At this point we were settled down in South Korea, giving me more time to learn. Within a couple months I had built the first version. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the trick. I started getting some interest and eventually found a partner who could help me improve it.

What Happened?

Fast forward almost a year and a half. We now have almost 100 itineraries for 75 different cities around the world. Travelers are using the itineraries and saying great things about them.

While I wish I could say that Unanchor took off and it now makes enough money to support me and my wife, that is unfortunately not the case. No matter what anyone says, starting a business is hard and takes a lot of time. Unanchor has grown and I’m proud of how far we’ve come, but it hasn’t grown fast enough. Once again I’ve found myself at a cross-roads trying to figure out what’s next. We’ve decided to move back to the Bay Area and I’m looking for a job now. I now know I want to work for a small company with a big goal. I won’t give up on Unanchor, though, and I’ll continue to work on it during nights and weekends.

It’s funny how things worked out. I never thought I’d be the type of person to “find themselves while traveling”, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.

Unanchor Contest Giveaway!

I’ve worked with the MPG team to create an Unanchor contest giveaway. Just leave a comment below, stating which Unanchor itinerary you’d be interested in having. And at the end of the day February 22nd, we’ll randomly select 2 people and give the itinerary away. Good luck!

Jason Demant finds Will Ferrell to be hilarious, hates the feeling of velvet and has a strange phobia of touching his own belly button. He grew up in Northern California and didn’t really leave. At 23 he got his first passport stamps and has been hooked on travel ever since. Jason and his wife were able to save for 2 years and in October 2009, they quit their Silicon Valley jobs to travel around Asia for a year. It was during that year abroad that he discovered the need for, and launched, Unanchor.

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