When on some night of June 2011 I lay awake in my little student dorm room and decided to go over to my desk and register the off-the-path.com domain at 1 am I had no idea where that would take me.
I only knew that in a few years after completing my studies I would want to go on a trip around the world and was thinking that maybe a blog could help finance that trip. I draemt of wild adventures, of nature, of pure freedom and close contact to foreign people and cultures.
With all these images and a wonderfull feeling of happiness I went back to bed shorty after 2. When I woke up the next morning nothing had really changed. Last night’s euphoria was more reserved now because the world around me looked just the same, my Mini was in front of the door as always, I drove my regular commute to university and met the same people as every day. All the same – I thought.
But in reality, this was the morning leading into my new life. A life I could never have even dreamed about. On that morning, on that day, a whole new world opened up to me.
But I was only to figure that out later. Much, much later.
How Off The Path turned my life around: My last four years as a travel blogger
What happened between that night, that very special morning, that day and now can only be described as one big almost unreal adventure.
I moved to Bulgaria and started writing the first posts
Shortly after registering the domain I moved to Bulgaria for a semester abroad and during that time started travelling through Eastern Europe and writing the first posts for the blog. They were all in English because I felt a little uncomfortable writing in German as a half Spaniard. Having grown up on Mallorca I had never formally learned German in school and had no clue how to punctuate correctly or when to capitalize a word and when not to.
What I did know was that Facebook was gaining momentum and so I created a facebook page for Off The Path. Of course it was only friends, some fellow students and the people I met on the road following me in the beginning.
But that would change over time. I didn’t realize that at this point either.
I educated myself
I was not sure if what I was doing had any point to it. Because really, I knew nothing about blogging or social media, not to mention online marketing. I just did it and started teaching myself. I read other blogs, followed successfull bloggers and online companies in the US, took online courses and downloaded several ebooks on those topics.
I wanted to know more and more, wanted to master everything. I didn’t want to just resign and say ‘I can’t to this, I won’t do it’. Quite the opposite: if I didn’t know something I didn’t hesitate but taught myself. All of a sudden I was so eager to learn – a new feeling that I had not experienced like that during school or university.
I turned down my first job offer in Bangkok
After my first attemts at writing and my semester in Bulgaria I went even further away: early 2012 I moved to Bangkok for an internship at a marketing firm.
Bangkok, a crazy city that never sleeps. And so I too did not sleap much. I worked like a madman for my boss and my clients, pulled all-nighters and had less and less time to tend to my blog or even myself.
After a few months of hard work I was be rewarded: my boss wanted to hire me. This was the first real long term position I had ever been offered up to then. I felt on top of the world. I liked the idea of working for a well-known company with cool clients and living and working in the heart of Bangkok.
But something in me started to stirr, there was some part of me that didn’t just not love the idea, it really disliked it. And so I decided to fly to the South of Thailand, to Krabi to spend a few days at my then favourite place, the Tonsai beach.
I had to go inside myself, follow this strange feeling and clear my head.
Did I want this job? What did I want in life? What did I want to experience and achieve? These questions plagued me the first days and nights until I sat down at a bar by the beach on evening and met a Thai fisherman.
We tried to make conversation, I with my few pieces of Thai, he with his virtually non-existant English. With a lot of patience and hands and feet me managed to understand one another.
I told him what was happening in my life and that I didn’t really know what I wanted. That I had been offered this job in Bangkok but much rather wanted to see the world and go on adventures. That I was writing a blog if I had my way would just travel and blog about it. That it was my greatest dream to life off blogging.
He looked at me, grinned, and in suddenly pretty decent English said:
‘If you are really passionate about something, success will come along.’
I was speechless, all of a sudden I had my answer. I flew back to Bangkok, declined the job offer and got on the next plane to Germany.
I will never forget this encounter and even now I can picture it like it happened yesterday.
I founded a business in Germany
So I flew back to Germany without really knowing what to expect. My play was to found my own company without really having a plan. I wanted to be a professional travel blogger, wanted to live off blogging and was willing to work hard for that.
Yes – I knew it would not be easy but I would rather put all my time and energy into my own dream rather than the dreams of other future bosses or corporations.
Off The Path grew and I started earning money
There I was in September 2012, officially freelance. I rented my first own flat in Berlin Kreuzberg and invested a lot of tiem in Off The Path. I met other travel bloggers and finally came around to writing in German.
And for real: my blog grew, I attracted more and more readers and my fans and followers on Facebook and now Instagram and Twitter grew steadily. It wasn’t just friends, family and accquaintances reading my posts any more but real readers!
First companies started to notice me as well, they invited me for PR trips or paid me to speak about them. I was thrilled! I had done it! I was actually earning money with my blog and could travel!
It went so well, that I teamed up with Conni of Planet Backpack to teach other aspiring bloggers professional blogging. In 2013 we held our first workshops at the world’s largest travel fair in Berlin, the ITB, where I even gave a talk. Everything was going well, it could not have been better…
Highs and lows
… so I thought. Shortly after that things flipped and in May of 2013 I was broke. Yes, broke. Not only that: I was making losses. My bank statement showed a big red number. I was crushed and did not know what to do.
I gave myself a week otherwise I would have to drive to Hannover to ask my mother for help. I already saw myself knocking on her door. I saw myself as a looser.
But then it all came differntly: two days later I received an email that would once again turn my life around. I got my first request as a freelance consultant. I was asked to help the blogger relations section of a Finnish travel fair and create a new concept for them. The lady who organized the fair had been to my talk at the ITB, she thought I was great and really wanted to work with me.
And this email, this one job pushed my bank account from a big fat minus to a big fat plus. I was super happy and grateful. I knew I would never give up. I would to anything to live my dream!
I met the love of my life in Berlin
This job was not the only thing that would be turning my life upside down. Again, this had something to do with the ITB. That is where I first met her – the love of my life. She was a PR manager and responsible for social media and blogger relations at her company. So no wonder she sat accross me at this little smokey bar on the last night of the ITB.
I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started. It would last several hours and become the best first conversation of my life. That night I got to know Line.
It would take another half year until we saw each other again, Line still lived in Frankfurt at the time. Since she covered social media and I was a blogger we did have certain crossing points during that time until she, Conni and I organized the Bembel Blog Camp in Frankfurt in August of 2013 together which Tim of Earth City, Carina of Pink Compass and 180 Degrees, Feli of Travelicia and Carina of Travel Run Play attended.
We were spellbound. This was the start of our adventure together which is also the greatest adventure of my life.
She moved to Scottland for university and we went back and forth between Berlin and Scottland. In the beginning of 2014 she then moved to Sweden for the second and third semester and we rented a flat there together while I sublet my place in Berlin.
And in November of 2014 the two of us set out on our first big trip together: we flew to Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore and in January of 2015 moved to Bali for a few months. From there we went to Australia and New Zealand and in the summer of this year back to Berlin.
I published my very own first book
Something incredible happened on this trip: I wrote my first book in German! While travelling I compiled all my knowledge and tips for the Ullstein publishing house. And in August, back in Berlin my book ‘Off The Path – a travel guide to happiness’ was published.
4 Years ago I would have never dreamed of writing a book for a well-known publisher one day, least of all in German! I, the half Spaniard, who didn’t even know where to place a comma a couple of years ago.
Now I can call myself not only blogger, but author. It still sounds unbelievable to me.
I dropped out of college in the Netherlands
A few other things happened this summer: I decided to finally drop out of college. Yes, in the last years I had still been officially registered as a student and had yet to turn in my final thesis. But since I had been focusing on Off The Path I simply could and in the future will not be able to, or maybe I should say don’t want to find the time to write that thesis.
Off The Path has grown to be a real company which provides steady good income for me and has become so big now that Line even works with me at Off The Path.
Line and I found a company in Hong Kong
Not only that: Line and I also decided to found a company together which will run Off The Path as well as her blog and several other projects that I had started alongside Off The Path in the last years.
Again, I would have never dreamt that I would one day found and run a company together with my girlfriend.
The reason we opted for Hong Kong is simple:
We gave up residency in Germany and live minimalistically now!
Yes, we are not registered in Germany any more. We spent so little time in Germany in the last years and don’t plan on spending more than a few weaks a year in Germany in the future that we decided to give up residency there.
We have so many plans for the next years, want to see so much, travel to so many places and go on so many adventures that a permanent address in Germany would just hold us back.
So over the summer we sold all our things, terminated the contract for our flat as of October 1st, and on the 7th of October flew from Hamburg to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi and a few days later on to Bali.
Everything we own amounts to two boxes which we put in storage in Berlin and the carry ons we will be travelling with from now on.
What a contrast to back then when I had a Mini, endless amounts of clothes and other stuff that had been piling up over the years. There is nothing more liberating than geting rid of all your possessions and keeping only what you really need.
Today I am simply happy. My dream has come true and not only that: my life now is so much better than I could have imagined. I am sitting at a cafe in Chiang Mai and am writing this post after giving Off The Path a new chic design. I really owed that to the blog after all this time and for everything it has enabled me to do and even moreso, I owed it to the readers, to you.
In two weeks Line and I will head on to South Africa where we will be staying until early March 2016.
There are still so many adventures ahead of us, I would have never guessed that my life would develop the way it did back in that night in June of 2011 when I registered the off-the-path.com domain. I could not have imagined that I would found my own company to be independent, that I would knock my studies, write a book and live off my blog and that I would go explore the world together with the love of my life.
The great irony is that Off The Path really did take me off my original path in life but only to put me onto the right one. Not only my life and my path have totally changed thanks to Off The Path, Line’s has too.
And your life could change as well, you can live your dream as welll, if you only believe in it and in yourself, if you bring passion to the task. Remember what the Thai fisherman told me back then:
‘If you are really passionate about something, success will come along.’
He was right.