My plans once I finish school…

Time flies… no pun intended. In just over a week I’ll be done with college (assuming I don’t oversleep for a final), which is a frightening prospect, at least in theory.

Over the past couple of years I’ve asked myself what I want to be when I “grow up.” Throughout college I was a bit unconventional in that I never even thought about getting an internship, which in the eyes of most is utterly stupid. It’s not that I didn’t think it would be a great learning experience, because I’m sure it would’ve been, but I stayed busy doing what I love most — traveling, writing about it, and helping other people travel.

Up until a couple of months ago I started looking for jobs. While as a self-funded mileage runner/traveler I loved the prospect of traveling on someone else’s dime, I couldn’t find a place that was a perfect fit. But then I realized the reason for that — I love what I do now.

I guess I’m pretty fortunate, because I actually have a “full time” job while still in college. Between blogging, other writing gigs, and my travel consulting business, I’m probably “working” 60 hours a week, and that doesn’t include school. But what I do isn’t “work” in any way; it’s a hobby that happens to pay the bills. Sure, some days I want to pull all my hair out, but even the best hobby will do that to you.

So what I’m getting at is that it finally dawned on me a couple of months ago that I don’t have to “grow up.” I’ve been told on this blog dozens of times (with good intentions, mostly) that I should enjoy my hobby while I can, because when I have a full time job I won’t have time for it.

Well, I’m happy to announce that my hobby will be my full time job, and therefore I’ll have time for it. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I love every day, and I have no plans to change that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those motivational “self employed for life” bloggers (and nothing against them, I think they’re fantastic); that’s not my goal. But I’ve always believed, as the quote goes, that if you do something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life. Maybe sometime down the road an opportunity that’s truly compelling will present itself, but in the meantime I’m a happy camper.

I have so many friends that are having a hard time finding jobs given the economy, thinking there’s nothing out there. I keep asking them what they’re truly passionate about, and the response is almost always “I dunno.” When I pester them further about what they’re passionate about, they name their hobby, always adding “but you can’t make any money doing that.” Well, I firmly believe they’re wrong, as long as you don’t approach something with the sole goal of trying to get rich quick. God forbid there’s anyone younger than me reading this (you need a new hobby if you are;-)), but seriously, do what you’re passionate about and don’t second guess yourself.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is to give a huge thanks to all of you — those that read my blog, those that have used my travel consulting service, those that read my column on TravelSort, etc. As of a couple of weeks from now I’ll be able to dedicate all of my time to what I do, without any other distractions, and I can’t wait.

All of this also means I’ll be traveling more than ever before, so you can expect not just a lot of “tips” and “tricks,” but also a lot more “travel.”

In the meantime I better get started on my last cruel college assignment (with a fair dose of procrastination mixed in) — writing a 3,200 word research paper by 10AM tomorrow.

Comments

  1. Mate, I know exactly what you mean.

    Writing about travel — and travelling well has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling things I’ve ever done, and I say that with some “Wow!” jobs under my belt. I’ve rarely bounced out of bed in the morning as enthusiastically as I do now. I was talking to one of my younger cousins, who’s trying to figure out what she wants to do at university, and I’ve really been pointing her in the “follow your dream” direction. I have, and I’m absolutely adoring it.

  2. “God forbid there’s anyone younger than me reading this (you need a new hobby if you are;-) )”

    *Raises hand sheepishly….that would be me.

  3. Awesome! Keep doing what you are doing but capitalize on your notoriety by creating your own site a la The Points Guy and create some type of revenue stream so you can do what you do. There is no readonyiu can’t be the next Arthur Frommer. You are that talented.

    Good luck!

  4. Great post Lucky, I totally agree. If you haven’t already read it, make sure and get “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuck as it talks about exactly what you are doing.

  5. Interesting what you look forward to. I had a father who was a pilot for US Airways so I had racked a million miles before graduating college, all non-rev (I’m sure you far exceeded me.) I didn’t go to the library like everyone else. I flew LAX-PHL-CLT-LAX every other weekend for my day of studying in college. I bet you weren’t all that involved in all that college could offer, but were instead involved in wandering the world. It’s a trade-off that I still debate, but still appreciate.

    I then went to work for United and then US Airways and got to fly another million miles in the last decade on those airlines and their alliance partners. I was a traveler with a working problem. But the more I traveled, the more it cut into a normal social life. It’s a tradeoff all too worth it when you are younger.

    You plan to fly on the outside of the industry (as a real customer) while I flew from the inside (standby.) You won’t have to sit at a gate hoping you make a flight, let alone scoring an upgrade if there was an empty flight in F or J (granted working initially in revenue management I could look up forecasted final load.)

    I then ran a business were I racked up five million frequent flyer miles. Buying inventory on my Starwood Amex was a better value than paying cash for products. Knowing I am seat 2A on Singapore weeks ahead of time sure does beat non-revving.

    Anyways, I wish you the best of luck in making travel your passion. So many people only go to their dream destination when they are 69, retired, and only able to hobble around. We got to wander the world while we were spry.

    Have fun pursuing your passion. So few people get the opportunity to do so when they are young.

  6. Once a Gator, always a Gator. Lucky, will you still be in the Gainesville area or relocating back to Tampa?

  7. Good luck Ben. I know exactly where you are coming from. If I had a dime for every person that told me I was crazy when I packed up and moved to Africa as a twenty-something year old to set up an airline, I could have retired early. Some years later, I’m now on my second start-up airline here and despite all the aggravation, wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    Chase your dream and when you achieve it, chase your next one. You may not wind up the richest guy in the world financially, but you will definitely have the richest life experiences because you appreciate every moment so much more.

  8. Only tip: Don’t take the bump the night before the exam, no matter how good the compensation is 😉

    Enjoy the ride!

  9. Good Luck Ben – it’s great you’ve found your passion and can make a living from it.

    Now, no oversleeping and no taking bumps on your finals eh? 😉

  10. My thoughts exactly. I didn’t feel you would fit the typical job, enjoying so much what you do now. You are detail-oriented and write well. You have a good working-knowledge of airline internals and should take advantage of that helping others “less fortunate”. I wish you the best.

  11. Congratulations Ben on graduation and following your passion. Your writing and dedication to the hobby are evident in your posts.

    There will be great things in your future

    Rick

  12. Congratulations Ben! I hope you will stick around for the commencement activities and celebrate with your friends. My last week at college was the most precious in many ways. 🙂

  13. Good for you Lucky. Follow your heart and the money will follow (and/or not matter so much). Best of luck; I will continue to read your columns!

  14. I too am younger than you Ben. Currently a junior in college and looking for something to do when I graduate. How did you get started with all of this anyways? How did you initially afford it?

  15. While you are a successful business owner, I would warn that “follow your dream” isn’t for everyone. For some it is better left as a hobby or personal style and doesn’t match the need for risk. Better question is: where can I contribute best to advancement of the planet? The answer may not be glamorous but there should be honor and respect for any job well done.

    Anyway, looking forward to your upcoming adventures, as always. Congratulations!

  16. Congrats….totally enjoy all of your posts and happy there will be many more…I’ll be in Tampa later this week on business…will look for you around the United gates…best of luck on your final final!

  17. Congrats Ben on coming to a great conclusion. It is great that you have found your passion, it is not easy for most. You already spend more time on your hobby than most people spend on their jobs, so no risk of it becoming “work”.

    I also want to say thanks. I have always been fascinated with SE Asia, and was googling Singapore to kill some time when I came across your blog. After reading my first trip report, one of your trips that included Singapore, I just thought you were some rich traveler guy, but I started following your blog and oh sh*t, you travel for next to nothing! Two years later, I have been to Singapore twice in business class along with 5 other new countries, went from statusless to AA Executive Platinum, Hyatt Diamond and Fairmont Platinum. Thanks again for opening my eyes to what is possible.

  18. Way to go Ben! As an entrepreneur myself, I applaud your decision! Selfishly, I’ll get to keep enjoying your writing. Congratulations on graduation!

  19. Congrats Ben! I was in your shoes not too long ago and while I went the corporate America route, I applaud your decision to follow your passion.

    I look forward to meeting you at FTU- I have a feeling our paths will cross a lot more in the future.

    Best of luck on finals!

  20. Ben, I’m so impressed with what you’ve accomplished so young & I’m thrilled to hear you’re going with your passion. You are definitely the next generation Randy Petersen. Congratulations & looking forward to following your future.

  21. Ben,

    I think this is your best post to date IMHO!

    I think the greatest factor in a fulfilling life is doing what you love as you will never “work” one day in your life:-) This is what I did when I left the corporate world to start my own financial planning firm and have never looked back since! My only regret is that I did not do it sooner!

    There are MANY people around who absolutely HATE their jobs and suffer until one day they can retire and THEN do what they love to do…Life is too short and instead perhaps they should try to do all those things they love to do NOW. Okay, life commitments (family,etc.) may come into play and impose some limitations so sometimes striking a balance is prudent while working all along to limit and eventually eliminate those limitations which are more mental than financial. Keep that in mind when you want to settle down:-)

    Traveling is clearly my second passion in life. I wish I could do what you do but that will take away from my number one passion (personal finance). So, my compromise is taking the family along to memorable (minimum 1 week) trips and the occasional mileage run. We just returned from Madrid and I would like to take the opportunity to thank Delta (for the $293 RT tickets) and American Express (for the Starwood points from the credit cards) for making more life long traveling memories! Coincidentally, what I missed most working for the man is my business travel:-)

    I think we all want to know what you majored in college.

    See you in Chicago in October.

    George
    FT:gpapadop

  22. Ben,
    Go for it! In 10 to 20 years from now, you will have “seen it, heard it and done it all”. By then a job as a Corporate Travel Buyer for one of the large companies (GE, GM, etc.) might seem interesting to you. No matter what your path, enjoy it to the fullest and NEVER look back. Wishing you the best of luck in all your endeavors ——- Senorric

  23. Keep inspiring generations of travelers. I can’t really see how you can travel more than you already do. Hopefully now you can spend more time in the faraway places since you do not have to get back to Florida for classes.

    Good luck.

  24. Congrats Ben on graduating and deciding to pursue your dream. Anyone that has met you in person will tell you that you are the type of person that whatever you decide to do in life, you will be successful. Best of luck and keep the great posts coming.

  25. Thanks so much for the feedback/encourage/support, folks, it means a lot. It’s great to hear others’ success stories and perspectives, and it’s certainly encouraging.

    Worked through the night on a research paper and now have six hours of class, though figured I’d quickly answer a couple of questions (and I’ll get back to the others later).

    @ worldtraveller2 — I’m majoring in (majored in?) marketing.

    @ Other Ben — I’ll be moving back to Tampa.

    @ AlohaStephen — Frankly I’m not all that much of an academic. I’d rather dedicate all of my time to something I’m passionate about than spending $50K+/year to pursue another degree I probably won’t get a lot of use out of (at least in the short run), while neglecting what really interests me.

    @ Bryce — Here’s the story about how I first got started mileage running:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2010/08/14/how-i-got-started-mileage-running-2/

    Obviously there’s a lot more to it as far as how I got into doing this stuff full time goes, but I’ll save that for later.

  26. @lucky That’s impressive. I guess if I got that kind of promotion I would be all over it too haha

  27. Congratulations, Ben! I think this is a fantastic decision. It is hard (not impossible, just hard) once you enter the “real” world to later pursue your true passion, as I am trying to do right now. Now, maybe you can stay longer than two nights at these places you are visiting!!! Ramit Sethi wrote a blog post not long ago about his decision to turn down a dream job at Google to pursue his own business that you should read.

  28. Congrats Lucky! I have been reading your blog for about a year now and I really like what you do. I wondered if you were going to get a ‘real’ job after graduating, but since you already make money as an award booking consultant and you love to do I was hoping you would go that route full time. Enjoy it and keep up the good work.

  29. I only wish I’d figured out what you just did as early. It took me a few more years to have the same realization: “A job” is what you already have.

    If only you could also write on IT topics. I’m in need of good authors who can, and the pay isn’t all that bad.

    /Greggo

  30. ‘God forbid there’s anyone younger than me reading this (you need a new hobby if you are;-)), but seriously, do what you’re passionate about and don’t second guess yourself.”

    Great quote!

    Congrats on graduating! And deciding to do travel for a living. I work for the man, but love my job. There are a few of us that do, but it’s rare.

    I had a friend who said,”90% of what gets done gets done by people that don’t want to do it.” Glad you are in the 10%.

    And my tip for the young (and old) reading this blog- if you are unemployed, travel.

    I’ve found myself in that position a few times and wanted to travel, but thought it best to conserve money. I never came close to starving and now wish I’d traveled to inexpensive places.

  31. Congrats and good luck. You never know, in another 10-20 years you may be taking more classes, or even teaching some 🙂

    I avoided taking any classes after graduation for 20 yrs before going back a few years ago and will be finishing up my Masters degree later this year.

    Have fun.

  32. checkout “The Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. You should be able to turn this into a profitable business venture and make a good living at it. Good luck!!

  33. Congratulations for almost finishing up school!

    Now its time to get some more advertising revenue from this blog! ;D

  34. Congratulations on your impending graduation and career choice. Now I can continue to enjoy your blog.
    I hope you signed up for the United College Plus program before last December 🙂

  35. Mazel tov, Ben! I figured this post would be forthcoming at some point. 🙂

    Your advice about following your passion and not second-guessing yourself is golden. Haters gonna hate!

  36. Maybe I missed it (or it’s just the elephant in the room), but what exactly will you be doing as your full-time gig? Award redemption service, blogging for TravelSort, etc?

    Congrats on graduating, and go Gators!

  37. My comment is congrats if it pays for its self. From all I’ve read about the economics of blogging, it sounded like it never paid much even with millions of hits and Google ads.

    However if you can get 25-30 award consulting clients a month, than it could be a livable job. If the income turns out to be lucrative from it I would expect cheaper competition though.

  38. Cool!

    Just remember that there are many, many travel experiences to be had outside the world of airlines, hotel chains and points 😉

  39. Congratulations, Ben, you’ve built an amazing business and created something out of nothing, no small feat!! Looking forward to lots of exciting things in the future!!

  40. Congratulations on graduating college and Happy B-Day next week. I stumbled across your blog about 6 months ago and look forward to reading it daily. I’ve gained a few hundred thousand miles and points thanks to your wisdom.

    I’m a doctor in real life so have little time to first find and then spend hours on the phone to redeem miles in premium cabins so look forward to using your consulting service in the near future. You have become my milelage mentor.

    Best of luck in your new full time endeavor. Enjoy!

    -Jeff in S. FL

  41. Congrats on your graduation and career choice. Actually, I should say thank you for your choice, as it will allows us to keep following your (increased) travels, reports and tips. Great use of your immense talent, what you do and especially the way you do it, day in and day out is not for everyone. Best of luck on the finals!

  42. I hadn’t considered actually “paying” for graduate school. Surely there are tons of scholarships for someone as bright and resourceful as yourself. If you play your cards right, it shouldn’t be too hard to get paid to go to school.
    MBA in entrepreneurialism?

    Don’t forget your 10K graduation present from United!!

    http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,3106,00.html

  43. From one Gator to another, congratulations on the upcoming graduation. I’m glad to hear you’re going to keep pursuing your passion- you’re providing something valuable and making an impact in the travel world, so don’t stop now just because someone gives you a fancy piece of paper. Good luck on going full-time!

  44. I’m so happy for you, Ben… you’re definitely making the right choice! Good luck and congrats! (I can’t believe the lack of trolling, negative comments so far… it can’t last, though).

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