Travel Blog Spotlight: Marginal Boundaries

Not everyone travels for vacation. Just ask TW Anderson, a former 9-to-5-er who left his location-dependent life in 2008 to become a literal citizen of the world. Since his move, he’s launched and runs the blog Marginal Boundaries — a travel blog for travel bloggers that goes beyond merely sharing stories. Marginal Boundaries is in the business of blogging, offering tips, real-life accounts, and three full-length book publications that guide folks on how to live the expat life and dive into immersion travel

We asked Anderson about his blog, how to brand yourself as a travel blogger, and some of his favorite reads.

    The Trip Tribe: What was your original motivation to pick up and go?

    Marginal BoundariesA lack of work in my previous occupation and a desire to continue exploring the world. I had already been traveling every chance I got from 1999 until leaving the U.S. behind in January of 2008, often times spending 3 to 6 months abroad in between work contracts. But it wasn’t until the construction industry went belly-up in 2007 that I even considered an actual “move” abroad. However, once I made the transition, it was pretty evident that I was hooked for life. Exploration of cultures, continual adventure, the “Indiana Jones” lifestyle? Hell yes, what’s not to love?

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    TTT: Why the move into the “Blogging for Bloggers” business?

    MB: Because the Internet is already full of enough top 10, top 50, and top 100 lists of “how to make money online”, “how to become a blogger”, “how to make passive income”, and beyond — 99% of which is absolute malarkey and watered-down drivel that doesn’t provide any real value to the reader; it’s merely the gateway to get people to buy eBooks and pay for programs where the real information is offered.

    There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s already plenty of that out there. Which is also why the vast majority of bloggers who are out there doing the travel blog thing aren’t actually professional bloggers; they are hobby bloggers. That is, they have another job which pays for their travels and they use their blog as an outlet to showcase their journeys, but they don’t make a livable income with said blog. We are one of the handful of professional travel bloggers who make a living with our blog. It’s not vanity traffic, and we don’t have jobs outside of Marginal Boundaries. Everything we do is part of the brand. And we want to help more people make that transition. That’s why our Innovators Program is doing so well; for example, we have Bram from Travel – Experience – Live, as well as Lauren and Kenin from The Constant Rambler, and up-and-coming Jon from Immersion Traveling (a guy who sold off all his belongings a few months back, left Chicago and headed to the Virgin Islands to start his adventures), along with other members who haven’t even started their blogs yet.

    These are all people who have either been running hobby blogs for the past year or so, working other jobs to make ends meet and pay for their travels, or people who are ready to make that transition. By connecting successful, for-profit bloggers (our monthly webinar has a variety of other full-time bloggers speaking to our members) with those who are looking for ways to improve, we help bridge the gap and bring more people into the world of actually making a living with their blogs.

    Blogging full-time is a business. That’s why our latest gift-culture book is called Life on the Road – The Business of Travel Blogging. If you want to make blogging work for you, to make an actual livable income, you have to treat it like a business, not a hobby. And that means working 15 hour days, investing actual money into it just like you would a restaurant or any other brick-and-mortar business, and actually learning how to do social media (i.e. paid advertising and Internet marketing) and not just throw a picture up on Facebook for free and hope it goes viral.

    TTT: Passive income – please explain

    Passive income is a myth. At least for the first year or two of your blog. It’s a brilliant marketing gimmick designed to lure in the average 99% sucker who wants instant gratification and first-place medals simply for being born. Newsflash: First place medals only go to those who bust their ass and get out there and work for it, and unless you are willing to do so, passive income will remain a fantasy. Building your brand to the point where it is a profitable business and not just a hobby is something that takes time. Lots and lots of valuable time. And effort. And work. And sacrifice. And investment. Not just of the financial type, but also of yourself.

    There is no part of brand building that is passive. It is 100% active income, because you’ll be working your tail off the first couple of years getting your brand to maintenance mode. Once you are there, you can back off to a few hours per day, but even then it’s still active management. Even Tim Ferris is actively involved in managing his 4 Hour empire. He has to proof drafts, manage his outsourcers, go to meetings, sign off on executive decisions, plan the next books, film video, consult, and manage the day-to-day tasks. That takes time. Far more than 4 hours a week.

    TTT: Where have you lived that you’ve most enjoyed and why?

    MB: Bulgaria, Colombia, Mexico. In all three cases it’s a combination of food, drink, culture and the people. No one worries about time, there’s no such thing as punching a clock, you can throw away your watch, everyone takes life one hour at a time and doesn’t stress about tomorrow, and organic food is there simply by nature and costs pennies in comparison. Cost of living is a huge factor as well. Right now we are three people (Myself, Cristina, and Devlin) and it only costs us about $800 USD per month for 100% of our cost of living; rent + utilities + food/booze.

    I’d have to say Bulgaria was probably my favorite so far. Amazing food, undiscovered wine country that has been there for 6,000+ years, untouched countryside that is pristinely full of nature and beauty, and a very Latin culture in the laid back sense of things. Also 98% of the people own their own homes, so the whole mortgage and credit addiction doesn’t really enter into the picture. Instead, people just take things at a very relaxed pace and actually enjoy life rather than slaving away 80 hours a week until they are 70 years old trying to pay off loans and mortgages and the debts of wage slavery that the modern Westerner has.

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    TTT: What is your favorite travel blog outside of your own?

    MB: Jets Like Taxis, Travel-Experience-Live, The Constant Rambler, Immersion Traveler, Disrupting the Rabblement, the Lotus and the Artichoke top my list.

    TTT: You promote the idea of immersive travel — truly immersing yourself in a culture, language, customs, etc. But not every traveler can live this way. Do you have any advice for folks who travel to get a true sense of a place but only have a few weeks, as opposed to months or years, to spend there?

    MB: Get out of the English-speaking resorts and hostels. Check the Couchsurfing forums. Find locals to stay with. Don’t use guidebooks from big-name publishers who have never actually explored a destination but only send their people on location for 1-2 weeks to investigate the “Western” style hotels, restaurants and beyond. Use travel bloggers and locals to plan your trips.

    Forget TripAdvisor. Go straight to the locals. Almost every major city I’ve visited has its own local directory where you can find the best restaurants, hotels and off-the-beaten-path parks, plazas, ruins and beyond. Barring that, talk to the local people on Facebook, Couchsurfing or Trav Buddy (to name a few).

    Go native. Immerse yourself in culture. Don’t hang out with other English-speaking expats and hostel-junkies. Do more than what everyone else has already done before you. Find something new and make your own mark.

    TTT: Describe yourself in six words.

    MB: Entrepreneur, Adventurer, Leader, Writer, Thinker, Scientist

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T.W. Anderson is the editor-in-chief and founder of Marginal Boundaries. He is a full-time traveler and the author of Life on the Road – The Business of Travel Blogging; Beyond Borders – The Social Revolution; and The Expat Guidebook, along with numerous other publications.