What It's About
This nomadic designer shares his tips and tricks for living out of a bag.
Words of Wisdom
It was important to Tom that Pack Hacker not be manipulated by companies, so he made a rule that Pack Hacker never accepts money for reviews, and he only writes about a product after two weeks of regular use.
While you always want to make sure that you're doing things to bring in revenue, it's important to maintain a sense of authenticity. Trust me, your customers will appreciate it!
Before Tom had turned 1-years-old, he had already been on 18 flights. In hindsight, he should have known that he would one day create a travel gear website.
Notes from Chris
In some ways, Tom Wahlin’s story is a familiar one. He had a prestigious job at Apple—which might be every designer’s dream job, or at least a dream job for many of them. But he couldn’t suppress the urge deep within to see and experience more. He didn’t want to stay cooped up in an office, even a highly rewarding one. You see, he wanted to travel. Tom left Apple and took a remote job as creative director and designer for The Infatuation, a quickly growing restaurant review platform. This new position allowed him an opportunity to embrace his dream of traveling while still bringing in a steady income. Like many up and coming nomads, Tom spent months planning out his perfect travel setup. He needed a lightweight, yet comfortable backpack. He needed to carefully select his clothing so that he wouldn’t have to check a bag on flights. And he needed to discover what was essential to his dream lifestyle and what wasn’t. It was a long process, but by the time Tom moved out of his NYC apartment and left for a one-way flight out of JFK, he was very confident in his gear selection. After a couple months of nomadic experience, in July of 2016, Tom wrote an article on Medium titled Everything You Need to Travel the World in One Backpack. He added a few affiliate links for Amazon.com in the blog, but he was really just more interested in sharing all the research he’d done in the hopes that it would help aspiring nomads in their purchasing decisions. Before he knew it, his article had been read hundreds of times within just a few days. Tom checked his Amazon Affiliate account, expecting about $5 in income (mainly from his supportive mom), but instead, $25. After a few more weeks, he had made over $100 from the one post, without doing anything else from it—and he knew he was onto something. People wanted to learn more about strategies for the nomadic life. They wanted honest reviews about gear. Tom had been toying with the idea of a new side project, and it occurred to him that he might have found it. Tom, with some help from a programmer friend, built Pack Hacker using Wordpress and Roots.io, which allowed him to approach building the site more like a programmer would. All in all, his startup costs ended up somewhere in the vicinity of $100 and included web hosting, a small lapel mic, and a tripod for his iPhone so that he could record videos for his YouTube channel. These days, Pack Hacker gets over 5,000 visitors per day, has over 20 backpack reviews, and gets around 10 gear review requests from brands per month. The pace has really picked up, especially considering that the site’s just one year old—and those Amazon affiliate links are now bringing in over $1,200 per month in profit after expenses. Tom is now trying to figure out what comes next. More travel, of course, and more work on the site. If he can go from $1,200/month to $4,000/month, something we talked about in the most recent Weekly Recap, he might have more than a side hustle on his hands.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Pack Hacker: Check out Tom's website before you gear up for your next trip!
- Wordpress: Tom used Wordpress to setup Pack Hacker, and here you can learn how to install your own Wordpress site in 5 minutes
- Roots: Open-source tools for WordPress application development
- Intentional Travelers: Your free, online resource for intentional travel from Jedd and Michelle Chang!
- Location Rebel: A resource from Sean Ogle to help you build a small business that gives you the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere in the world
- Working on the Road: Learn how to be a professional hobo with Nora Dunn
- Seismic Explorer Shakes Up Backpacking in Kenya: A former engineer turns a 3-month backpacking trip into three side hustles that make exploring Kenya more accessible for travelers
- Travel Blogger Gets Paid via Pinterest and Guidebooks: A nomadic employee writes a guidebook about Iceland and earns $10,000 after promoting it on Pinterest
- Food and Travel Writer Creates Food Tours in Marrakech, Earns $60k Annually: In the North African city of Marrakech, an American expat starts a project that she hopes will earn $200/month in spending money. It ends up earning more than $5,000 a month
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To infinity and beyond,