1 – So let me get this straight: you’re an artist, you travelled the world for two years and released an illustrated book at the end of it all?
I’m gonna have to plead ‘guilty’ here: and quite the adventure it was too. Only last month I was laying on the sun-basked cobbles that spiral from the gloriously named Fountain of Lions, my very own pride of digital nomads, red wine oozing from every bodily orifice after a long day on the lash, roaring all sorts into the-
2 – A little context would help here, Dale…
You’re right, where are my manners? São João is an annual festival in Porto, Portugal, dating back centuries, where the people of the city pour onto the streets to pay tribute to Saint John the Baptist. I don’t think said Baptist had bopping each other on the head with plastic hammers, grilling sardines on the street and partying until the sun comes up on the inked scrolls of his original plans but, nonetheless, it’s quite the spectacle.
3 – And why Porto?
Two years prior I was on that very square, celebrating this remarkable festival. Only a couple of days earlier I’d arrived in Portugal, oblivious to the fact that summer in the sun would be the first stop of a two-year worldwide adventure, taking me to 15 countries across 5 continents, introducing me to hundreds of wonderful people and generating countless memories along the way.
4 – So where did you go altogether, and why?
After Portugal, the rest of 2016 was spent in Asia visiting Jeju and Seoul in South Korea, Chiang Mai in Thailand and famous nomad hotspot Bali in Indonesia. Southeast Asia is a great place to travel due to the cheap cost of living, and a good way to dip my toe (well, maybe more than a toe) in the water.
I spent the spring of 2017 in South America, staying in Buenos Aires and Lima with visits to Montevideo, Santiago and wonder-hunting at Machu Picchu. That summer I graced Sicily after a stint in New York and spent the rest of the year in Cape Town, before revisiting Southeast Asia for the first half of 2018 in Vietnam and Bali, with stop offs at Kuala Lumpar and Singapore.
Generally I was following the summer, but a more cost-effective way to travel is to follow the off-summer season (Europe in May-June, Southeast Asia in October-December) as accommodation is much cheaper.
5 – And how on earth could you afford to do that?
In a nutshell, I worked the entire time. I started as a freelance graphic designer, finding specialist gigs visualising information through content distribution websites Visual.ly, Contently and a price comparison website: never be afraid to ask a previous employer if you can help out.
Then, I got a job contracting for a remote work program as a trip leader, a bunch of which you can check out here. Hit them up and offer your services in return for free accommodation: you never know what they’re looking for.
6 – So what you’re saying is don’t quit your job, instead find a job that lets you travel?
Absolutely. I’d highly recommend asking your boss to let you work remotely but, if that avenue leads to a dead end, you can spruce up your CV and start looking for remote work. There are plenty of sites out there, such as We Work Remotely, and common nomad-friendly careers include coding, writing and tech support.
7 – Isn’t it exhausting, travelling that much?
It is, yes, and I learned this the hard way. The sweet spot for me was two months. Anything from a few days to a month is too short, and you often feel overwhelmed trying to cram in all the touristy stuff, then jumping on yet another plane. Once you hit three months plus, you’re better off committing long term as 3-12 month rentals are much cheaper than AirBnB.
Two months gives you enough time to find your routine (workout at a gym, cook instead of eating out, learn the basics of the local lingo) and also have enough time to take weekend trips to visit points of interest with breathing space. Often AirBnB hosts give discounts for a month onwards, and never be afraid to message them and negotiate something within your budget: it’s much better for them to have a bum in the bed every night at a lower rate than sporadically at full rate.
8 – And how on earth do you plan all that on top of working a job?
Many websites have made a remote work lifestyle easier to sustain. I use AirBnB to find accommodation, Workfrom and Coworker to find a place to work, Skyscanner and Kiwi to find my flights and Foursquare for places to eat.
If that’s still too much to wrap your head around, you can always hire a VA on Fivver or Upwork to help with research.
The biggest part of all of this is staying organised. I use Wunderlist to collate and tick off daily to-dos, whilst Monday organises my work schedule.
9 – Okay, this book of yours. It’s a collection of illustrations, right?
Picasso had his bulls, Monet his watercolours and, I, my travel problems!
I did my best to draw every day and, even though I didn’t quite keep it up, I built the habit of drawing every 2-3 days, meaning after two years I had over 150 unique content pieces.
To the artists out there, I bought brush pens and sketchbooks as I went in different countries, then used a tripod, iPhone 6 and Hyperlapse to record my drawings. Flip/Rotate and iMovie allowed me to create under a minute videos for Instagram, which accompanied my posted drawings.
10 – And this was your way of being a ‘travel blogger’?
There are millions of people out there blogging about food, sunsets and how amazing travel is, but few have tapped into meme culture and the hilarious side of travelling. This was my in.
People today expect content to be free as the barrier to entry is so low (apps like Canva let anyone feel like they’re a graphic designer) and the market is more saturated than a bird of paradise at the Pride parade. My alternative spin highlights a different side of travelling and build my IG following.
TJ Lee, a vlogger I met on the road, expertly talks about taking an unoriginal idea but putting your own spin on it. The ‘wen u’ memes have been done to death, but not with original illustrations based around things going wrong when you travel. A few months in, and Travel Problems became a thing.
11 – So this helped you amass a following on Instagram?
Indeed. I went from 2k to 10k in 2 years. Not stratospheric growth, but getting in the 10k club is a pretty groovy achievement.
Consistency of posting helps wrangle the algorithms in your favour and show up in your followers’ feeds. I definitely noticed when going through patches of non-posting. Tagblender is good for finding tags that work for you, and be sure to aim for ones with around 3 million posts (less is not worth it, more is too saturated). Also switch them up, as Instagram flags you for appearing bot-like.
Speaking of bots, the ‘performance enhancing drugs’ of social, I did experiment. Avoid the whole follow/unfollow, ‘cool, f4f’ automatic settings, and instead use them to like and comment effectively on posts in tags you relate to: it will bring more people into your circle.
From there, actually engage with your audience by replying to your DMs and comments, and never be afraid to tag and DM influencers to get featured on their accounts. Use someone on Fivver to find you a list of influencers if, like me, you’re pushed for time. Buffer can now also post directly to Instagram (if you’re a business account), which is a big breakthrough, so be sure to get their monthly plan.
12 – Tell me more about this book, and where I can buy it.
Travel Problems is going to be a series, starting with Southeast Asia. You can buy it as paperback, hardback and for Kindle on Amazon, and other titles will include South America, Italy and Airports & Planes. I plan to keep Travel Problems ongoing so that, if I travel in the future, I can continue to draw and add to the series.
13 – And this site of yours: looks fancy!
Why thank you. I’m a big believer in creating universes, rather than singular products. Hence the Daley Doodle encompasses books, merch and, in the future, how-tos and courses. I’m also planning to partake in a 12-in-12 because, well, I’m terrible at finishing projects. That should keep me busy into next year and beyond.
14 – Before I leave you to it, no more planes?
Less so, yes. Travelling for two years has been incredible, but it really took its toll on me. I’d highly advise doing it in 2-3 month blocks, so that you can actually come home and process everything.
For now, it’s time to take my foot off the accelerator. Enjoy the site, and best of luck!