It is not so often that you have a chance to see a future star before they are famous. I once saw Bon Jovi open for Judas Priest and I also had the chance to see and meet the amazing Australian rockers, Airbourne. This interview is with Adam Baker of ManVsDebt, he is one of those future blogging stars. Baker is working his ass off and accomplishing big things even as he relocated his family to New Zealand and is living the anywhere lifestyle. If Adam Baker were a stock, I would be investing heavily because this one is going up.
Please tell us a little about your background
Usually with my background, it’s hard to only tell a little. 🙂 But it basically goes, I’m 25 years old and was born and raised in Indiana. I’m married to Courtney, and we have a 21 month old daughter named Milligan!
Since failing out of engineering in college (not going to class will do that), I’ve worked in the poker, gambling, and real estate industries. Before decided to sell everything (including the business), I ran a small property management company, which I had built from the ground up!
Since that time, I’ve been a full-time stay at home dad, freelance writer, and blogger! 🙂
Your family left to Australia without work visas or a clear plan, why?
First, we love the U.S.! If I could pick any country to be born, raised, and live in… it would still be the U.S.
That being said, our ‘horizons’ were fairly limited. We were starting a family and had a real estate business (not very mobile of course) and basically were designing ourselves to stay ‘rooted’ the rest of our lives. We just weren’t quite ready to pick Indiana for the next 30 years. We hadn’t even seen much of the world to know what else was available!
We chose Australia, because it was relatively familiar (English speaking, westernized) as a place to start. Our original intent was to live minimally, obtain tourist industry jobs (scuba instructor, bartender, etc.) and live in Queensland for a while.
As it turns out, though, we later found out we weren’t eligible for the Working-Holiday visa (a popular option to work one year) because we had a dependent. Having already booked the ticket, we did look for a sponsored opportunity, but found it difficult to correspond with schools and other jobs without being on the ground and in the country.
Australia seems to not have a huge need for elementary teachers (the only marketed skill between the two of us belonging to Courtney), so after several weeks we hopped over to Auckland to test the waters in New Zealand. Sure enough (through hard work), Courtney found a school to sponsor her visa and the rest is (recent) history.
Please tell us about your travels since you left Australia?
We ended up staying in Auckland, New Zealand for around 6 months. This was for Courtney to finish out the school year (her term she was hired for) and I continued to build my freelance work and Man Vs. Debt up (in addition to taking care of Milligan during the day).
This was a more ‘normal’ period for us, as we lived in a downtown one bedroom apartment and explored what city life would be like and to see if we liked it or not.
In mid-December we decided to do a two week driving tour of the South Island of New Zealand (an absolute must for everyone at least once). It was a blast, although we wished we had more time to spend.
We made a quick stop over in Melbourne, Australia for a week around New Years, before heading to Thailand.
Since early January, we’ve been here in Thailand. We wanted to stop over for two months to stretch our horizons even further. Thailand is the first non-English speaking country we’ve visited (even though most do speak at least broken English, too). We also would benefit from the relatively low cost of living before returning back to the States for a small break (and to see grandparents). 🙂
How difficult is it to travel with a baby?
Traveling with a baby is both very rewarding and challenging. The children themselves don’t add much more cost, especially if under two years old. Most travel situations; plane, bus, or ferries either don’t charge or only charge a very small fee. However, accommodation is much more tricky.
If it was just Courtney and I, we could save a lot by getting dorm room accommodation, shared living situations, and other forms of cheaper-than-dirt places to sleep. With Milligan we have to stick to private-double rooms and this of course does add cost. We’ve had a great time Couchsurfing with other families, though. Which is a great way to experience the culture, save money, and have fun.
As far as limiting us? Yes, definitely. For example, we have to switch off on any ‘adventurous’ excursions. While in New Zealand, I decided to do a glacier trek as an expedition, while Courtney later Bungy Jumped in Queenstown. Same with Scuba Diving; we have to trade off.
This is a little frustrating, but there are also of plenty of experiences we’ve had with Milligan that we normally wouldn’t. And much more distinct memories of her growth and development on the trip. Her talking to the Thai women here like she is speaking Thai (very tonally), or camping with her at the base of Mount Cook in New Zealand, etc… These ‘family’ moments usually exceed the small high of an adventure excursion. 🙂
How do you earn an income?
First, we saved (and paid down debt) vigorously for 18 months leading up to the trip. We had around $15,000 saved up, part of that being an emergency fund and part knowing we’d go through it as we searched for employment.
Second, we knew we’d need to work. Courtney worked her tail off to market herself and her teaching degree to get a job in New Zealand. The job paid a teacher’s salary (not great, but still good) for several months as we built some money back up.
Third, I began doing freelance writing for sites like GetRichSlowly and WiseBread. I don’t make a ton, but every little bit helps. My freelancing easily covers our student loans back home.
Fourth, I began to minimally monetize Man Vs. Debt. The website really only paid for itself in 2009, but that was by intentional design. In 2010, we plan to fully rely on income from my blogging and freelancing. I am working on releasing a guide right now, and will be also doing blogging workshops and consulting in coming months.
One of the biggest things, though, is we really do try to live minimally. There are lifestyle sacrifices to what we choose to do. By far we spend the largest chunk of money on airfare. We stay in simple rooms, and try to eat in or cheaply (Subway!) as much as we can. We have to pick and choose our excursions sparingly and make them count. It’s not one big party, it’s real life… just in cool places! 🙂
Your main website is ManVsDebt, why the ‘debt’ focus?
The website started as just a personal account of Courtney and I’s journey to pay off our debt. Around the time we started it we were also starting to save for our trip. I soon found out that my travel posts (first in anticipation and secondly as recaps) got just as good as responses as my personal finance content.
Over time, I just allowed my blog to include into whatever I felt like. It’s found a home somewhere between Personal Finance and Lifestyle Design. I discuss attacking your finances, travel, following your passions, living minimally, and all sorts of categories in between.
Most importantly, it’s just about our life. Whatever we are going through or doing is what comes out. We try to keep it transparent and passionate. And people seem to enjoy following along!
I love the page where your list all the things your family owns, does that help you minimize your purchases?
Yeah definitely. I find that we work in phases. We’ll get really hardcore about minimizing things as we become mobile (or get burned out with stuff) and then slowly we’ll start to accumulate more and more. Creating the list and keeping it up to date, helps us stay on our toes.
I also found that the more I talked about it the better people responded! So I made it a permanent feature of the site.
I am reading about you everywhere now, please tell us about the projects you are working on.
- My baby and true passion is: Man Vs. Debt
- I’m a paid staff writer for Get Rich Slowly and WiseBread.
- I’m also a ‘founding member’ of Untemplater.
- And I continue to support Courtney’s new photo blog: Nomad Baby
- I regularly try to target large, passionate sites with guest posts. I have some big ones in store for 2010! 😉
How many hours a week do you put into writing, social media, marketing etc.?
Are you making much money from your Internet projects?
I make around $1000 on various freelance writing/consulting arrangements.
Man Vs. Debt makes between $200-$500 depending on the month. However, I’ve intentionally kept advertising off the main page. I’ll be monetizing this more with my own products in the coming months.
What are your plans with all your online endeavors?
1. A Guide to Simple Finances (with Leo Babauta). A lower price point eBook, released late January/Early February
2. A blogging workshop (MvD Case Study) and consulting options in March (1 year anniversary blogging).
3. A multimedia guide to ‘Selling Your Crap Online’. Ebay, Paypal, Amazon, Craiglist, etc… What to sell where, how to pare down possessions for all levels. Tips, Case Studies, Stories, Videos, Interviews galore. 🙂
By the end of 2010, I’d like to be in a position to take on some light speaking opportunities and have my community to the point where I can launch a print book in 2011 if there is a market.
I’d like to make at least $48,000 online in 2010. I’d like the Man Vs. Debt community to have 5,000 regular, passionate readers (which will means 3-4 times that many subscribers at least).
You are quickly building a brand for yourself, can you give advice for other aspiring blogger entrepreneurs?
It’s really easier than you think. There is no silver bullet, though. A ton of hard work and commitment:
- Find something you are undeniably passionate about.
- Stop screwing with your site design
- Start finding ways to help other bloggers genuinely
- Be transparent as much as possible
- Respond to every reader, every non-spam e-mail, and every passionate comment.
- The answer is always NO, if you don’t ask. Be proactive.
- Don’t settle for average content. Take however much time it takes to produce the absolute best you can.
I’m not expert, but that’s what I’d suggest to my best friend if he were starting a blog tomorrow! 🙂
Do you plan to have a more nomadic lifestyle or will you try to be more stationary?
We’ll be in Thailand through early March. At that point, we’ll be visiting home (and grandparents) for at least a month or so.
We are unsure about what we will do, but are considering touring all 50 states, possibly South America, and even taking a longer break. It’s all on the table, we’ll see what we feel like in April!
Do you have any advice for people considering moving abroad?
Buy your plane ticket. Board the plane. Step off the plane. Figure out the rest.
In other words… just do it. You can plot and plan your way into insanity. For us, it lasted less than 48 hours, before we had to rely on our flexibility and wit. We survived and you will, too. You just may never get on the plane, if you wait for perfection. 🙂