How to Run a Small Business While Traveling the World

Betsy and Warren Talbot (pictured) wanted to travel the world for five years. In order to live their dream, they got rid of most of their possessions, including their house, and saved more than $50,000 over two years. They left Seattle in October 2010, after packing everything they still owned into two 65-pound backpacks. They took Warren’s small business, a newly created website-development firm called MWL Development, with them, too.

Fifteen months later, the Talbots have decided to stay on the road indefinitely. Here’s how they are making money and running their small businesses while traveling overseas.

Sharing Their Journey

Before they started their adventure, Betsy and Warren both worked full-time jobs. After 20 years in the medical transcription industry, Betsy had launched a consulting firm, Delegate Now, and Warren worked for Microsoft analyzing potential investments and developing strategic business plans. In 2008, the Talbots figured out that they wanted to travel the world. The couple launched a website called Married with Luggage, so that friends, family, former co-workers, and others could see how they prepared for the trip and then travel with them vicariously. Warren also started his web-development company as part of the transition.

On the blog, the Talbots share tips about how to reduce debt, save money, overcome fear, and plan for the life of one’s dreams. The Talbots also offer a running tally of the money they’ve spent — and the lessons they’ve learned — on a website called RTW Expenses. Warren says that working on the road is pretty easy, thanks to a laptop and PayPal, which gives him online access to invoicing and payment-tracking. The Talbots also maintain an account at a major bank, in case they need emergency operating funds.

Betsy working on the shipGetting Online

Running virtually any operation remotely requires internet access and, fortunately, the Talbots haven’t had trouble staying connected. “Whether we were in an Andean village with just 86 residents or sailing across the Atlantic, we always found available — though not always fast — internet,” he says. “It hasn’t really been an issue.”

Initially, Warren took on one or two web-development projects a month, communicating primarily via email while the duo traveled. In addition, he built websites for clients on the road in exchange for free lodging and tours. Meanwhile, Betsy wrote the Married with Luggage blog and helped clients with content or marketing help. In June 2011, the Talbots shifted focus, based on conversations with Married with Luggage’s 12,500 monthly visitors.

Trying Something New

“We began writing our first book, and in August 2011, we developed the concept of ‘Live the Good Life,’” Warren says. “Now our business focuses on the creation of books, webinars, and speaking engagements to promote our message ‘Life is short. Live your Dream.’” The Talbots launched the book, Dream Save Do, a week after landing in Thailand. They market it through their website, Twitter, Facebook, and word of mouth.

“We were overwhelmed by the response,” Warren says. “The sales have shown we have a message that is interesting and one people are willing to pay to hear. And it is proof we can turn this into a profitable business.”

The bulk of their revenue now comes from book sales, but their strategy also includes advertising sales from their websites. In 2012, they plan to grow their newsletter Try Something New into a product line, Warren says. They also plan to release a new book, When Fear Blinks, which will address the fears people have when trying to live their dreams.

“At this point, this does not seem like work, but pursuing a passion that fits with our dream life of traveling the world,” Warren says.

Thinking of taking your business on the road? The Talbots offer these tips:

  • Start building your business and contacts before you leave the U.S. It is far easier to establish yourself through a network of people you know and then transition the business overseas.
  • Gather testimonials and have existing clients spread the word about you, which becomes even more important after you leave town.
  • From day one, build the business to be remote. Do not take face-to-face meetings, if possible. Treat your business as if you were living in Buenos Aires or Rome, because that is the ultimate goal.
  • Remember, the same rules of owning a business apply when you leave U.S. borders. You still have to put in the time, effort, and planning — and pay the tax man. You just get to do it while wearing flip-flops in paradise instead of a suit in an office.

Have you every thought about taking your business on the road? What’s holding you back? Share your comments or tips below.

About M. Sharon Baker

Veteran freelance business writer M. Sharon Baker creates compelling content that helps companies connect with customers. She's also a freelance journalist and blogs at Every Word Counts.
This entry was posted in Business Profiles, Trends and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
7 comments
san blas panama
san blas panama

Automate… Automate… Automate! No matter your what your online business is, there are several automation tools at your disposal. Not only does it free up your time, your customers appreciate instant responses and delivery of digital goods. For example, let’s say you sell eBooks.

Markus Boc
Markus Boc

"...in August 2011, we developed the concept of ''Live the Good Life''..."

 

I'm pretty sure the concept of "Living the Good Life" has been around for quite awhile ;-)

Chris c
Chris c

Lovely story everyone needs to follow there dreams I'm on the same path as you and wouldn't have it any other way. May god continue to bless you all on ur journey and maybe one day we will also cross paths.

David Porter (AKA The Roaming Boomers®)
David Porter (AKA The Roaming Boomers®)

Sharon,Wonderful story, thanks for sharing!Warren/Betsy - we are on a similar path after selling our successful business in 2006, entering a blood-bath for our portfolio in 2008, and now in 2010 starting The Roaming Boomers.We're following your RSS Feed & Twitter and look forward to following your adventures.

Adam Claydon-Platt
Adam Claydon-Platt

I love this! Betsy / Warren, I hope we can share a Tiger beer someday soon over there - I'm on a very similar path as you two are, living the dream and trying to help others do the same - so great to read about such wonderful people as yourselves! Really hope we can connect sometime soon - until then, thanks for making the world a better place by helping people pursue their dreams :)

Phil and Yin Johnson J J Associates International
Phil and Yin Johnson J J Associates International

CongratulationsWe did the same over 5 years ago, we are still travelling and operating our Company J J Associates International we are Worldwide Investigators, we are very well known Worldwide and retain our bases in the UK, Portugal and Spain, we have shared your story on our Facebook,, Twitter and Linkedin AccountsWe should share our experiences for the benefit of others who may wish to do the same we always say to everyone who asks with Technology as it is there are no barriers, for more Information just Google Phil and Yin Johnson J J Associates InternationalGood Luck and Best for 2012Phil and Yin Johnson

M. Sharon Baker
M. Sharon Baker

Warren,You are very welcome. I wish you and Betsy the best of luck with your new company direction - Living the Good Life after Dreaming, Saving and Doing.I hope people understand that your message really isn't about traveling the world (your dream) but taking the necessary steps to do whatever they dream of doing. And that there's lots of help and guidance available.

Warren Talbot
Warren Talbot

Sharon, Thank you for sharing our story with all the small business owners here. We are so happy we have been able to share our business around our personal life and hope that our story will help to show others that you can live the life of your dreams yet still earn money. It costs a lot less than you would think to live this way and we have never been happier than I am typing away on the balcony as the sun rises here in Thailand.

san blas panama
san blas panama

Learn How to Easily Maintain Internet Access

Yes, you’re free to jet-set around the world… but… there is one cruel mistress all “digital nomads” abide by: internet access. It hurts to admit this, but we’ve left beautiful villages early due to limited or no Internet connection. Therefore, it’s important to either adapt a flexible work schedule or plan your travels around available internet connections. Wireless internet is certainly ideal, though internet cafes work in a pinch.

Insider tip: Before departure, use Google Maps

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Small Business News & Resources var topsy_style = 'small'; var topsy_nick = ''; var topsy_order = 'count,badge,retweet'; var topsy_theme = 'blue'; var topsy_tweet_text = 'tweet'; var topsy_retweet_text = 'retweet'; [...]

  2. [...] How to Run a Business While Traveling the World — I travel a lot, and it takes modifications and prep work to make everything work seamlessly. I’d add to this article that you never can anticipate a crisis, so be prepared for your worst nightmare. It might happen when you are in another country without internet. Make sure you have internet. [...]

  3. [...] and Warren Talbot, a couple that runs their business online while traveling, recommend establishing contacts before hitting the road, noting it is “far easier” to create a [...]