Living a Nomadic Lifestyle
In this interview, I chat with John Bardos about how he has taken his passion for traveling and life-long learning and turned them into multiple online ventures while living a nomadic lifestyle. John made a choice 13 years ago to by-pass the standard 9-5 lifestyle and instead ventured off to Japan where he started and ran a successful English school. Since discovering blogging and social media, John has seen his world completely change and now travels around the world sharing his experiences and connecting with like-minded people along the way.
His refreshing approach to social media focuses around building relationships online through blogging, guest posts and commenting on other blogs. Anyone interested in leaving their boring day job in search of a better life can learn a lot from how John has approaches social media in his daily routine.
Meet John Bardos
John Bardos has been living abroad for more than 13 years. He has been traveling regularly through Asia, Europe and North America. He and his wife got rid of their business, house and all possessions to begin a nomadic lifestyle. These changes have happened largely due to advances in technology and relationships built through social media. His two passions are exploring new ways of living and working on his JetSetCitizen.com and IdeaEconomy.net blogs.
Social Media Interview
1. Tell everyone a little bit about your background and what’s brought you to living a nomadic lifestyle?
After finishing University, I didn’t want to get into the 9-5 and work my way up into a big corporation. So, I moved to Japan. At that time, backpacking was very low-tech. People just brought a backpack and sandals and travelling was much simpler time. We went to internet cafes and had big clunky IBM computers and sent email back when Hotmail was popular in the good old days. Now, the world has changed a lot, anyone that travels now knows that it’s a completely different world. We are so connected, there is wi-fi access everywhere and we can get so much information. It really is a different world now.
So, I went to Japan 13 years ago. I got married a year and a half later. My wife and I started an English school and ran it for 10 years. And, we built up a good business, were making good money and had decent vacations, but our life kind of stagnated. We weren’t’ moving ahead, so about 5 years ago we said “Let’s do something different”. We’re not happy, we are not growing and we are not developing as people, what can we do in the next stage of our lives? So, we thought it would be nice to travel more, and lead a more nomadic life. But, it was difficult to get started because it’s scary to think that you are going to give up all of your possessions, give up a secure income and travel around the world.
So, we sat on the idea for a few years while continuing to talk about it, but had no motivation to actually do it. And then about 1.5 – 2 years ago, I started blogging and started connecting online on Twitter and started meeting people and talking to people that are actually doing it. Social media, blogging and commenting on other blogs allowed me to connect with 1000’s of people living this lifestyle. Any kind of idea you have, there is going to be hundreds of people that share similar interests. So, you can connect with a tribe online, find like minded people, share ideas and you build a support group. I think social media for me is about finding that support network where you can share ideas and get the confidence to do what you love.
So, about a year and a half ago I decided that in 1 year, we are going to get rid of everything and we are going to travel, we are just going to do it. You can spend your whole life waiting for the perfect moment, but it never comes. There is always a reason to postpone your plans. So, we just said, we have a 1 year deadline. I wrote a blog post saying that in 1 year we are going to do it, no matter what happens and we beat it by a couple of months. And a big part of my success is because other trailblazers online showed me the way and showed that it was possible to make money freelancing or building niche websites. We really live in a world of amazing opportunities.
One of my main websites, JetSetCitizen.com, talks about getting away from consumerism and buying things to more about experiences and living as a global citizen. My other passion, IdeaEconomy.net is business ideas, trends, opportunities and business models and I blog about that as well because those are the two things I have been passionate about for many years. And, I have a few other English oriented website for teaching children English, but I don’t spend as much time blogging on those. They are more focused on selling products, so hopefully those will be the income source, but the other stuff is the fun stuff I do because of my passion for travelling and business.
2. When you first started out, were you using your own personal brand or did you launch the JetSetCitizen accounts and use that as the face of your personal and business presence online?
I started with JetSetCitizen. A lot of people start with their name, but I didn’t want to go down that path because no one knows my name. So, I didn’t want to brand myself with JohnBardos.com. My personal and business life are one in the same. I didn’t really want to talk about what I ate for dinner and stuff like that online. Everything I do revolves around the business side of things and the global citizen side of things. That’s what I do in my free time, that is who I am personally and professionally.
Trevor: Ya, I hear that a lot from people that they combine their personal and business brands online. Even from a branding perspective with JetSetCitizen, you use a caricature of your own face on your Twitter account as well, correct?
Ya, I just wanted to create something a little different and unique. But, basically, I think a lot of people are inauthentic, they are not true to themselves when they do their online business. They put on a business perspective that labels them as a “Guru” but when they go home, they say how much they hate their job. But, I really do love what I am doing, I do this stuff for free. I am not trying to make money directly from my blogs, I am trying to connect with people. I have other things that make me money. The reason for blogging and social media is really to connect with like minded people.
Trevor: Which, of course, will spin off into other opportunities that could be monetized. But, as you say, making money is not necessarily the number 1 priority in why you blog.
Exactly, I think a lot of people put the money first and that screws up all of your relationships. I think if you put the relationships first, then opportunities come. It’s building social capital. You can’t just say “My name is John, buy my stuff”, you have to say “My name is John, how can I help you, I love what you do, is there any way we can work together, let me help you promote”. I think if you are generous and you give a lot, you will build your network and start creating value for other people and those people will be willing to support you and give you assistance when necessary.
Trevor: Absolutely, the whole idea of reciprocity, right? You do something without asking for anything in return and it will come back to you.
I often say, the “social” in social media is about relationships. A lot of people think it’s a cheap way to promote their business or services. You don’t see people acting in a pushy, salesy way in real life, so why do so many people do it online? Many people think social media is another advertising medium. It’s not an advertising medium, it’s a way to connect with people. And, eventually, those connections will lead to business opportunities, many new jobs or sales just like real life relationships do. If you make the right connections you get ideas, you get job opportunities and partnership opportunities. But the relationships come first.
Trevor: I think you bring up a good point there too John. I think that’s the reason so many people get frustrated with social media is that there is not necessarily that instant impact that some people might be looking for, it has to be something that becomes a part of your daily life, your communication strategy as an individual and a business. And, naturally, it will grow over time, just like meeting people in person at a luncheon. You don’t try to sell someone at a luncheon the first time you meet them. You get a business card and you stay in touch and you build that relationship which could lead to business.
I think a lot of people, even when you meet them in real life, they try to qualify people. “Is this person going to invest in my startup?” “Is this person going to buy from me someday?” And, if they don’t, you automatically shift to the next person. I think people that are lousy at networking in real life are going to be even worse online because they think they can get away with more. So, people that are good at building relationships and understand that good relationships require generosity and the more you give the more you get.
I often say that we live in a time of abundance. So, the old “keep as much as you can and horde everything for yourself” mentality doesn’t work anymore. The more you share, the more you give, the more social capital you build and the more you will connect with other people.
3. What social tools do you use for your own online ventures?
Twitter is my main tool because it is simple and gives you access to people that you normally wouldn’t have access to. You can’t just send an email to the CEO of a large company and expect to get a response. But, on Twitter, you can mention someones name, promote their blog posts and talk to them. People are accessible on Twitter.
So, basically, I promote other people on Twitter and through those connections I can contact them and they know who I am by that interaction because I’ve built up some social capital with them.
Facebook is just fed from my Twitter account, so I don’t use it much. And, Linkedin, I have an account, but don’t really do much of anything on there.
But, another one that people don’t see much as social media is blogging. Blogging for me is the ultimate social media tool because you are connecting with like minded bloggers. If you can connect with the right group of people, comment on each others blogs and write guest posts on each others blogs, that is the real way to build those connections in that network. For example, if you wanted to start a blog on “Making Money Online”, you can’t just go out there and market it yourself because there is so much competition. But, if you get in on the network with all the “Make Money Online” bloggers and everyone starts promoting each others affiliate programs, you can become a part of that group and they will market for you and help you sell your products, because they make money off of it. So, blogging is a great way to get involved because other bloggers can see that you are actively engage with their content, in their comments, you are promoting their topics, you can link back to them.
I would say that if you are in business and you don’t have a blog, you are missing out on a great opportunity. You can spend all day on Twitter and not accomplish anything. Some people are putting the cart before the horse by communicating a lot, but are not communicating about what they want to sell. They have no strategy or purpose behind what they are doing. I think, if you do it the other way around by building a central hub (blog), then use social media to promote it. First, you need your thing that you want to talk about and I think blogging is the first step for most people. Don’t get your Twitter account before you have a good blog.
Trevor: And, I think what you are referencing is “find out what you love”. Figure out what you love and what you want to talk about and then build a communication platform around it. You have to be able to get up and really want to talk about something in order to do it every day, to put in the time to make it work.
Not only something you love, I love playing the guitar and running, but I know I’m never going to make money with that stuff. It has to be something you love and also has the potential to lead into some business opportunity. A lot of people say “Follow your passion”. But, if your passion is watching TV, chances are you are not going to get rich off of it. You have to have a passion that has potential to lead to something in the future. And, most things do, you can be the expert runner and running training or coaching.
4. Are there any particular online information resources that you use to keep up to date on social media trends?
I would say the number 1 site is Hubspot.com. That is the one that consistently delivers good, quality information. That’s basically the only one that I will consistently read all of their posts. There are so many others that say the same thing in a slightly different way, but Hubspot.com is top quality. They have a lot of research papers and case studies. Their is a lot of deep information, it’s not just the superficial info like “How to setup your Twitter account”, it’s more business oriented.
I subscribe to dozens of blogs, I can’t even remember the names of most of them. I just skip over them frequently in my RSS reader. In terms of authors, there are many that I follow. The Heath Brothers are fantastic. Both of their books are fantastic and, of course, Seth Godin is huge.
5. I find a lot of people have that one story or “WOW” moment with social media that makes them realize that it is a game changer. Do you have a moment like this that you can share?
I think there are a few smaller moments. I mentioned to you before, when I started blogging and connecting with these people online about living a nomadic lifestyle, living location independent and traveling around the world. I found out there are hundreds of people, thousands of people, with the same ideas. I’m not alone in the world. You get that immediate support network that shows, yes, we are part of a community, I found my tribe.
In Canada, I always felt kind of out of place because I didn’t want to get the house in the suburbs, the SUV and work my way up into a big oil company in Calgary, my home city. I didn’t want that, it wasn’t interesting to me at all, so I always felt out of place. Moving to Japan made me an outsider, but it was good because I wanted to be an outsider. So, when I started getting online, blogging and connecting with other people on Twitter, I just found out how receptive people are.
I always thought “This person is not going to talk to me or that person is not going to talk to me”, but I always give the example of Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin. Those guys are extremely approachable. Send them an email on a legitimate question or topic and they will respond back. You can connect with anybody in the world. We are people and we want to connect. I think we’ve lost a lot in our industrialization and our movement to cities. We have kind of locked ourselves up in our houses and watch our TV all day and we try to avoid other people. But, I think a long time ago we grew up in towns where everybody knew each other and helped each other. Before we were much more social. As we developed, we kind of lost our social instincts.
But, I think we are developing as a culture, as a society, getting back to connecting again and I think that’s hugely powerful. Meeting people in real life that you met online is just fantastic.
Another major group for me for social media is CouchSurfing.org. Maybe some people are not familiar with it, but basically, people give you a room or a couch in their house for free. You connect with people online and when you are travelling to a different city, they will let you stay in their house for free. There is no expectation of a transaction, you are not supposed to bring them a gift or money, people actually want to connect. We are developing as a society. We are looking for meaning and purpose in our life and to me, it is about those connections and relationships and it’s amazingly powerful. I can’t wait for another 5 years from now to see what’s going to happen.
Trevor: Ya, it’s almost hard to imagine what it’s going to be like in 5 years considering how much the world has changed in the last year, let alone the next 5 years. Couchsurfing.org is a great reference. I know I did a webinar recently with a couple that have a Linkedin training business and they’ve couch surfed across North America for the last few years and swear by it. They always meet amazing people.
And, not to get into too long of a story, but I was on a sports trip last September and I ended up meeting a couple that went to all 30 baseball parks last year and we met them at their 30th game. They had spent 90 days on the road and only spent 17 days in a hotel because they were put up by other people just using social media on Twitter and Facebook. People were opening up their homes for them to be able to stay because they were on a limited budget and, of course, it made for an amazing experience. But, that’s what it really all comes back to is connecting with people. And, I think we can both agree that when you meet with other people that think the same way as you do and you can talk for hours.
And, you can connect anywhere on the globe. A related idea is that social media makes us nicer because we have our reputations to uphold. If you get bad reviews on Couchsurfing.org, you are not going to get any place to stay, right. So, it forces us to be nicer. People don’t say mean things on Twitter because people are going to unfollow you, right. So, we have to be better people. If you are making anonymous comments on a blog you can be a jerk and say this guys an idiot and doesn’t know anything. And, you can get away with it cause you can give a fake email address. But, if you are actually using the social media sites and using CouchSurfing.com, you can go and stay at someones house and steal their silverware because they are going to say “Hey, John stole all my silverware”. So, you are forced to be nice, in a good way! We are developing as people and maturing as a society. We are becoming nicer and it’s good, we need nicer people in this world.
Trevor: It almost forces transparency in order to be accepted into that world. I know for a lot of people that is somewhat intimidating. Even for myself, putting myself on video for the first time, well, maybe not the first time. But, actively as of last September. There was that initial fear of “What are people going to say?” “Is my hair going to be messed up?” “People are going to laugh”. But, I found for me, once i got over that hump of just being who I am and showing the world who I am, it was a really uplifting and inspiring feeling because you get to be who you really are on a daily basis and connect with people that see you for who you truly are. It’s a pretty empowering thing.
That’s a great insight as well. I think schooling and corporations train us to be fake. We are taught to sit straight in desks and pay attention and get good grades and follow what the teacher says and regurgitate facts and dates and numbers. When we go to a job interview we say we are going to work really hard and we’re going to learn everything we can and we are going to be dedicated employees. And then a month later you don’t even show up to work on time anymore. And, I think a lot of people are like that, they put that fake face on all the time.
But, on social media you can’t be fake so much. You have to be authentic. If you are putting your word onto a blog or your face onto a video or doing podcasts, your true self will show up eventually. You can hide it for a little while, but you can’t do it forever. So, finding your voice and finding something you believe in and are willing to put in the time and effort takes work. But, we are becoming more authentic and we are connecting more socially and developing as humans.
People start saying “How can I make money on Twitter” and “How can I make money with Facebook“. And, that seems to be the focus initially. But, I think the more you get into it, the more you see that it’s not just about the money, it’s not just about a transaction. We are all connecting, we all have our own fears and insecurities, problems and opportunities and we all are dealing with many things and it’s great that we can actually connect around some of those things.
For example, if you have a cancer support network for a family member that might be dying of cancer or if you have a mountain biking tribe where you can get together, meet up in Colorado and go mountain biking or something. People are connecting around their different passions and interests and you are meeting people that are serious about those things.
To me, again, that is my “WOW” moment. Just being able to connect with those people that just love a band so much or just love a sport so much or love a topic so much that they are willing to donate hundreds of hours of their own time talking about it, blogging about it, commenting about it. People that are really passionate about ideas. And that’s why my IdeaEconomy.net blog was created. Managing ideas and working with those ideas is the future. Goods and services are free. We can get food cheaper than imaginable. We can harvest shrimp in Thailand, ship it across the world and still eat a meal for $5 in Canada. So, food and physical goods are becoming cheaper than ever. What matters is those connections and those ideas, that’s how you stand out now.
Trevor: Ya, and John, it’s pretty obvious that you have a passion for the things that you’ve set up platforms around to share your ideas and connect with people with both JetSetCitizen.com and IdeaEconomy.net. Like I mentioned, I had only met you about a month and a half ago, but I’m a regular reader on both of your blogs now and of course, it’s led to me discovering other blogs that you’ve recommended. Especially around the travel lifestyle. I find there are quite a few people out there that are all very uplifting. They almost kind of motivate each other to keep going, share ideas and solve problems.
6. I know you are about to embark on your next adventure. Maybe share with everyone what you have planned for the next little bit and what they can find on JetSetCitizen.com as you continue on with your travels?
Well, next week we are leaving to Montreal for 5 days and then we are going to go to Europe for around 6 months. Basically, we are going to travel around and meet people. We are going to stay in places longer so we can actually work and have a decent internet connection. So, maybe rent an apartment. So, basically, we are going to live our life in different countries. We don’t need a house, we don’t need the SUV, we don’t need a big plasma TV. We can live pretty simply and inexpensively and we can do it from everywhere. So, it’s great to have that opportunity to change and move to different cities and meet different people and connect with different ideas. So, for the next few years it’s going to be jumping around from country to country and city to city and travelling.
Connect With John Bardos
Currently travelling but starting to do animated videos for websites, books and businesses to visually explain complex ideas. Also, runs several niche websites.
Skype Name: JohnBardos
Personal Website/Blog: JetSetCitizen.com
Business Website/Blog: IdeaEconomy.net
Facebook (Personal): http://www.facebook.com/jetsetcitizen
Twitter (Personal): http://twitter.com/jetsetcitizen
Twitter (Business): http://twitter.com/ideaeconomy
YouTube (Personal): http://www.youtube.com/jetsetcitizen
YouTube (Business): http://www.youtube.com/ideaeconomy