Living a life of adventure, traveling the world and earning a living from it has been my dream for a very long time and I’m very happy that I can do every single day of the year exactly what I like most. However, it’s not the usual career path that you study at university and then progress a rather constant path. For me it was a path with many turnings, ups and downs, and it is still evolving. So here comes a short story of the things that led up to where I am now:
I studied international business at university and was bound for a management career. I thought that once I’m out of university, exploring the world and doing very long travels would be much more difficult. So I took extra courses, studied 150% in the first year and then started an around the world tour by bike that I continued in my semester vacations (I had up to five months of vacation since I always studied abroad).
Two years into university I had the probably biggest turning point in my life. I went on an exchange semester to Singapore. Already on my first day I hated the city. It was crowded, expensive and no nature anywhere around. I thought that I really don’t want to live there and figured out that I don’t have to go to all the lectures but instead can study from a distance and return for the examinations. Two days later I was living on a paradise Island in Malaysia where I rented a beach bungalow for a quarter of the price of a shared room in Singapore. I went running on the beach, diving and studied very efficiently from my hammock because I was happy with my life. The result was that I had a fantastic time, saved a lot of money and was still one of the best at university because I was much more efficient. A success from whatever angle you look at it.
Interestingly, I had asked fellow exchange students to join but everyone just said that it will be a failure, no one had ever done it, it won’t work. Yes, you need self-discipline but otherwise there was no reason why it shouldn’t work.
I had learned and proven to myself that I don’t have to follow the path of everyone else but instead can follow my own and achieve my dreams.
Back in Europe I went to Copenhagen for a master’s degree in business. I arrived in late summer when Copenhagen is a beautiful place but two weeks later it started to rain and well, the weather was unlikely to improve until April. One week later I was living on Teneriffe island and professionalized the concept I had pioneered in Singapore.
During the two years of my Master’s degree I lived in Spain, Brazil and India, cycled around 20 countries and spent in total just 4 weeks in Copenhagen. I graduated in the top 10% at an elite university, learned new languages, explored the world and left university with zero debt due to the low living cost in those countries.
After another big cycling tour I went back to Germany to work for an IT startup. It wasn’t what I wanted to do but I wanted to get experience and save money. My plan was to keep my university life expenses, save 80% of my salary and than 2-3 years later build my own business that should be location independent. I did all of this and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the life I have now if I wouldn’t have worked those two years in Munich. Apart from skills and savings it’s the network that helped me in the beginning and still some of my sponsors and motivational talks come from that time in Munich.
Already for a few years I had the dream of setting a long distance world record that combines adventure and endurance. It wasn’t necessarily cycling but it had to be something wild. I have never been interested in doing sth. with a support crew or riding in circles.
So I told everyone about my dream and one day at a company party, I talked with my former boss and he immediately offered sponsorship and time off from work. Yes, I got very lucky but I also pursued my luck to increase the chances.
During Eurasia Challenge I barely got any additional sponsors and was far from making a living from it. No one apart from personal contacts will give you any money if you don’t have an audience and a proven track record. You first have to do sth. big and then when you repeat you can start looking for sponsors. So when I set off for my first world record attempt I had many ideas off how I could possibly build a business out of it and anyway a world record won’t look bad on my CV.
I had never done anything similar but other cyclists had ridden similar distances in such times before. So hell, it must be possible. I can do it, too.
I promted the record as much as I could without a fixed plan how I would commercialize it afterwards but I was sure there would be some possibility. A week after setting the world record I got the first companies writing me about sponsorship which was a big difference from me calling them up with very limited success. I started giving speeches about it and while the first ones were free, I quickly started to charge for it and some companies were willing to pay.
My income was barely enough to live from it but it was going in the right direction, so I quickly decided to pursue my dream, left my corporate job and started to put all my energy into Panamerica Solo and the preparation for it. I also had savings to survive some time, so what was the worst thing that could happen to me? I always had the opportunity to go back into a similar job and still have.
Since then I have grown my audience, got bigger sponsors, had more motivational talks and found additional ways to earn an income from adventures.
There are still so many adventures I want to do and additional opportunities to make a living from it. I’m unlikely to earn as much as I would in my prior career but I’m doing every day of my life exactly what I like to do.
I don’t know what comes in the future, but right now I won’t change my life for anything.