What It's About
A remote worker discovers a lucrative side hustle at the intersection of passion and knowledge.
Words of Wisdom
Dustin started giving the group two “free days” throughout the tour that they could go out and do something on their own with. Dustin is an introvert, and those two days to recharge by himself has helped him enjoy the un-tours much more. It's important to take care of yourself too!
Until 2011, Myanmar was under a military dictatorship and closed off from most of the world. Tourists have been able to visit for only a few years, causing the country to have an "off-the-beaten-path" vibe.
Notes from Chris
Episode 747Dustin Main was, in many ways, living the dream. He had a successful travel gear blog called Too Many Adapters and was working remotely out of Thailand. As his visa time ran out, he took the usual trip to the border to get his passport re-stamped. Except, he did something unusual this time—he decided to stay a few days in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) instead of going straight back to Chiang Mai. It was a very different country, exotic in a new way. In just a couple of days of hanging out across the border, Dustin fell in love. He had to get back to work in Thailand, but he knew where he was going to move next. Over the next few years, Dustin visited Myanmar over a dozen times, getting to know it well. He even produced a photo exhibition for a gallery in the US titled “This Myanmar Life” that told the story of the country’s shift from oppressive military rule to blossoming open nation. And before long, people started asking Dustin to take them with him. By this point, he knew a much deeper side of Myanmar than most tourists, had many local friends, knew quite a bit of the language, and understood how to navigate the often unpredictable country. But he wanted to try an exotic, unusual tour for himself before he made his own, so went to a country that most Americans or Canadians can only visit with a guide: Iran. A friend of his was Iranian, and he was able to take the tour of a lifetime—but it was so different than the big tour bus groups. They ate at local restaurants, went to food festivals, and walked around abandoned mud villages. It was a beautiful, humbling experience. And Dustin knew he could do it for people in Myanmar. It was time to start planning. Dustin wanted to keep the tours small—eight people max. This meant his earning potential was limited, but it also meant he could make the intimate in a way that’s usually impossible. In fact, he didn’t call it a tour… he called it an "un-tour". Dustin’s taken six tours since 2016, each a little different than the next—all of them pretty stressful. But he’s found some ways to reduce the burden over the years. First, he hired one of his guides in Myanmar as an assistant. She could help plan travel, pre-order food for the group to save lots of time and have alternative plans thought up so that the group could pivot for when Myanmar threw them curveballs. Dustin still runs two un-tours to Myanmar each year. All of his previous guests have turned into word-of-mouth evangelists, so he’s not really having too tough of a time selling out anymore. After expenses, these tours generate roughly $14,000 per year in profit for Dustin—but he’s still looking to grow. Later this year he’ll release a book about Myanmar. He’s also planning to introduce the country of Jordan as his next un-tour destination. Interested in going along? Maybe you should check out his site and book an unpredictable adventure.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Dustin Main | Tour to Myanmar: Interested in seeing Myanmar? Head on over to Dustin's website and get a unique experience from an expert!
- Too Many Adapters: If you're frequently on the road yourself, check out Dustin's "tech for travelers" blog
- Harvard Med School Program Manager Gets Paid to Travel to Italy: After yearning to spend more time back in her homeland, a med school program manager creates a side hustle centered around Italian food and culture
- 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
- Bucket List Becomes Swashbuckling Adventure Tour Company: A small-town Oregonian grows a travel blog into a multiple six-figure business
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