Travel the World without Flying – Interview with Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty

My favourite new blog to read is Disrupting the Rabblement by Niall Doherty. Niall offers comprehensive, well-thought-out posts with a level of transparency and honesty that are definitely rare in this age of mass-market consumerism and news sound bites. Niall also happens to be the first person that I have discovered that is travelling the world without flying. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to interview him.

Side Note: I highly recommend Niall’s blog for anyone interested in living a better life. It is also a great example of how to blog successfully on any subject. Niall is definitely a rising star in the lifestyle design niche. Here are some ideas to copy for your own site:

Success online takes a lot of hard work and Niall Doherty is definitely willing to put in the effort.

Here is the interview.

Please tell us about yourself.

I’m 30 years old, born and raised in Ireland. Before quitting my day job in 2010, I was working professionally as a web designer for almost five years. I studied IT and Multimedia in Ireland, got a degree in that. In 2007, I moved to New Orleans in the US because my favorite pro basketball team played there. Yes, I was a wee bit obsessed!

I got to live my teenage dream by scoring a press credential for the team, allowing me to interview players and coaches and sit court-side each night (not for pay, just a hobby). That was great for a while but I soon started dreaming of travel and becoming more autonomous in my work, so I left the US and my 9-to-5 web design gig. I’ve been trying to figure out this self-employment thing while moving around quite a bit. Last September, I set out from Ireland on what I expect to be a 4-year trip around the world without flying.

Where are you now?

I’m writing this from my cabin on a cruise ship across the Indian Ocean. We just set sail from Dubai, headed towards India. Dubai wasn’t really my scene (a bit too car-centric and wealth-oriented for my liking), but before that I spent ten days in Iran and really enjoyed the experience. The hospitality and generosity of the people there was remarkable. Definitely a place I’d like to return to and explore some more. Just a pity dancing is forbidden there.

What was the impetus to quit your job and start travelling in November 2010?

The job I had was good enough. But I’m of the opinion that good enough isn’t good enough when it comes to something like work. If I’m going to spend 2000+ hours per year doing it, I’d better love it. So there was that, plus the urge to travel. I felt that travel and self-employment would present massive growth opportunities for me, and I’m a very growth-oriented person. I don’t like letting myself get too comfortable.

Please tell us about your blog?

The blog is called Disrupting the Rabblement, and it’s all about thinking for yourself, living your dreams and pissing off zombies. I started it originally as a way to share some of the growth experiences I was going through and lessons I was learning. It’s since developed into something of a legacy project. I try to encourage readers to test their assumptions, face their fears, and live life on their own terms. I also like to write about things we’re not supposed to talk about.

Why did you choose to travel without flying?

I knew I wanted to take off on an extended trip around the world and spend time actually living in different countries, not just dropping in and doing the typical tourist stuff. One day the idea popped into my head that I could try do it without flying. I figured it would be a cool challenge, would lead to more random adventures, and would make for a captivating story. Sometimes I question the wisdom of that decision, like when I can’t get a visa to travel through Pakistan and the only boat that will take me to India costs as much as I usually spend in a month. But hey, it’s all part of the adventure 🙂

Is there a purpose to not flying, or are you really about “the journey”?

I’m actually enjoying the “getting there” more than I thought I would. I figured I’d quickly grow old of spending large chunks of time on buses, boats and trains (this cruise I’m on spans four nights, and a month ago I spent three days on a train between Turkey and Iran), but these trips are good in that they force me offline for a while and give me some down time to read, write and think. I find that if I constantly have Internet access, I often get caught up in the never-ending stream of bits and forget to step back every now and then to consider the big picture.

Are your travels richer because of the slower transportation?

Tough for me to say. I hadn’t traveled all that much before this trip, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I think it’s probably richer in some areas and poorer in others. There are pros and cons to all the different ways of traveling. I’m pretty happy so far though with how this is going for me. As I said, the challenge of it is a big appeal, so even when shit goes sour (like when I find myself on the wrong train in Germany, or running out of cash in Iran), I tend to value the experience.

How do you earn an income now?

Mostly freelance web design. I tried generating some passive income streams last year and created an online course to help people build their courage muscles, but I didn’t receive much financial reward for those efforts. So back to web design I went before my savings ran too low. I’m lucky in that I have such a skill that lends itself to working remotely, and I’ve built a nice size audience through my blog so getting the word out about my services hasn’t been too difficult. I rarely have to go chasing clients. Mostly they come to me. I don’t earn a ton of money but I’m now able to cover my expenses quite comfortably each month.

If anyone’s curious as to how exactly I earn and spend my money, I keep track of all my income and expenditure and post a detailed report each month for my email subscribers.

I love the idea of your $50 blogs, how many sites do you typically create a month?

Thanks! I create about three or four a month at the moment, which equates to just a small portion of my income. The service is my attempt to put together a straight-forward site-setup package instead of always taking on unique projects with unique challenges. It’s still a long way away from the type of business I envision it becoming, but it has the potential to help a lot of people and earn good money while requiring little of my time and attention.

Is that a good opportunity for other aspiring world travellers?

Web development is good in that respect. You can do it from pretty much anywhere with a reliable Internet connection. And even though my college studies were somewhat related to what I’m doing now, most of my applicable skills have been self-taught. Anyone with an interest and some initiative can learn the basics in just a few months and start freelancing. The great thing about web design is that the Internet is full of how-tos on the subject. It’s rare that I encounter a problem that can’t be at least partially solved with a quick Google search. You don’t need to know all the answers. You just need to ask the right questions.

Do you make much money from your blog?

Indirectly, yes. As mentioned, most of my web design clients come through my blog. It’s not uncommon now that I’ll get an email from a reader saying they’d like to hire me for a web design project because they dig my writing and want to help fund my travels. I often get work from other bloggers, too.

But with regards to making money from affiliate marketing and that sort of thing, no, I don’t make much. I could try launching a product or two that’s more related to the topics I write about, but after the disappointment of A Course In Courage I’m hesitant to invest time and effort in something unless I feel confident that there’s a market there for it.

Eventually I would like to be doing less freelance web design and earning more income from my writing and business projects. The thing about the way I currently earn income is that I can’t just take a week off and expect the money to keep rolling in. If I don’t put in the hours, I don’t get paid. This isn’t ideal when I have the urge to visit countries with poor Internet access or drop offline for a week to go explore the Indian countryside. I aim to eventually have some systems set up so a business like $50 Blogs can run effectively without me, and possibly I could write some helpful premium material that would generate income even while I’m off hiking through Nepal.

What is next for you?

Travel-wise, I’ll spend three weeks in India once I get off this boat, then two months in Nepal, then three months back in India before hitting up SE Asia for a while. As regards work and such, I’ll be focusing a lot on my writing and on $50 Blogs, hoping to generate much more income and influence from both.

Disrupting the Rabblement – Niall Doherty’s Blog
$50 blogs
– Get a $50 Blog from Niall Doherty
Follow Niall on Twitter
Disrupting the Rabblement on Facebook

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

4 Responses to Travel the World without Flying – Interview with Niall Doherty

  1. Florian says:

    “Niall also happens to be the first person that I have discovered that is travelling the world without flying.”

    I’m actually trying the same thing, but it’s not easy:
    Last Minute Cruise Mate

  2. Rich Polanco says:

    Hi John! Thanks for all the interesting interviews you manage to find.

    Like Niall, I’ve also decided to skip planes. I’m currently making my way driving via “slow travel” as I call it, down to Patagonia. Currently in Antigua Guatemala.

    I’ve found that slow travel gives me an opportunity to explore and see thing that I would’ve missed otherwise. There’s a whole lot more to countries than popular attractions.

    I’ll keep an eye on Niall, it really is an interesting blog.


    • John says:

      Hi Rich!

      You are most welcome.

      For me, the travel part gets really tiresome. I just want to get there as fast as possible and then stay in one place for a long time. My wife and I tend not to see many attractions when we go to a new place, but I don’t really feel like I am missing out either.

  3. […] development, travel and all the challenges he sets for himself. Great reading, all around. Here is Niall Doherty’s interview on this […]

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