The Big Trip (AKA “One Small Thing Can Change Your Life”)

The Big Trip

In 2006 I was living abroad in my final year on the hospital ship. I’d been moonlighting by building a new business, and later that year I’d move back to the U.S. and relocate to Seattle.

There was a marketing conference being held in Chicago, and it caught my attention. I was all the way in Monrovia, Liberia… but I wanted to go.

In the previous couple of years I’d started to do more independent travel. I had the inklings of a future writing project—something that would tie together travel, entrepreneurship, and service. (Who knew where it would lead? I certainly didn’t.)

I was excited by the idea of spending some time working on my business—something that hadn’t been much of a priority during the past four years I’d been on the ship. I knew that if I went to this conference, I’d probably learn something I didn’t know. I’d probably learn a lot of things, actually, and maybe I’d even meet some interesting people too.

It was a big investment, and at first I hesitated. The conference cost $2,000, in addition to $2,000 in airfare and hotel stay. But after thinking it over, I decided to go for it.

I flew all the way to O’Hare Airport, where the conference was being held, and didn’t even go into downtown Chicago. There was no time for proper sightseeing. One day I ordered a deep-dish pizza and was disappointed with the result, creating a longstanding belief that New York style pizza is much better.

A lot of what was said at the conference didn’t apply to me. I met a few people, but mostly kept to myself in my introverted way.

It was a long trip for two-and-a-half days, and then I got on the plane and began the journey in the other direction: Chicago, Copenhagen, Brussels, Dakar, Monrovia.

Nevertheless, I picked up two small ideas.

I took these small ideas back with me. From Chicago to Copenhagen, I slept three hours and then stayed awake making notes for the rest of the flight. On the way back to Monrovia, I was able to grab a full row of peasant class seats once the seat belt sign was turned off. I spread out and worked from two laptops, making notes.

These ideas helped me make more than $24,000 in additional income over the next year. The money helped me avoid going into debt for graduate school. It made it easier to move back from Africa and then across the country to a new home.

I also felt better. I wouldn’t have starved without that money. But the knowledge that I’d applied myself, that I’d taken action on a new idea and made something happen—that was worth so much to me.

It was a long way to travel and a lot of money to spend. It was also the right decision to go.


Five years later, I found myself in a different situation. I had started this blog and somehow convinced a publisher to print my first book. I wanted to head out on the road and meet readers… as long as I could find them. (These were the early days, so I didn’t really know if anyone was actually paying attention.)

Even though the circumstances were quite different, the decision to create my own book tour felt a lot like that trip to Chicago from Liberia. It was a big investment—no one was paying for it—with an uncertain return. I knew it would be challenging, but I didn’t know if it would be fun or worthwhile.

It turned out to be extremely fun and very worthwhile. Instead of making $24,000, I actually spent more than that schlepping around to all fifty states and every Canadian province. Yet it was a fantastic investment, because everywhere I went I established relationships with people that are still strong several years later.

In the end I even made the money back, through a much better deal for my second book. That wasn’t really the point, though. The point was that I took a risk and it paid off in many important ways. (If you’re curious, here’s more info on putting together your own book tour.)

In each of these cases I had to make a decision: to go or not to go. I chose to go and my life was changed for the better.


Pioneer Nation Begins in 37 Days: Less Than 100 Tickets Remain!

What if you too could come to an event where you make real improvements to your business—and where you learn which small actions will make a big difference over the next year?

Guess what? You can do that next month.

Pioneer Nation- Header

I’m assuming you don’t live in Liberia (well, most of you don’t), so it’s a lot easier than when I packed myself into the back of a Brussels Airways flight from Roberts Field in West Africa.

Oh, it also doesn’t cost $2,000… we’ve resisted a premium pricing model, while still making sure that we have enough funds to put on a good show.

When we debuted Pioneer Nation a couple months back, in some ways we did a good job in telling the story. But in other ways we didn’t.

If I could start over, I’d say that the story is about making real improvements in your business. I’d say it’s about you having some of those “small ideas” that lead to real impact on your small business.

When I sent out emails telling people about the event, I was surprised by the number of people who said things like, “This sounds great, but I’m in Toronto” or “Let me know if you ever do this in Dallas.”

This isn’t just a local event! We have folks from five countries and twenty states coming so far. We have a discount rate for attendees at The Nines, Portland’s nicest hotel. You can take the lightrail direct from the airport and then walk to the art school where we’re meeting for three days—no need to rent a car.

This is the first time we’re producing this gathering, and it’s going to be special. Our full team will be on site the whole time, and you won’t be lost in the crowd.

If you’re on the fence, join us! Don’t wait.

World Domination Summit 2014: Tickets On Sale Next Week


Similarly, next week we’re going to have our second round of ticket sales for the 2014 World Domination Summit. WDS is not an event where you’ll learn to make more money, at least not directly. But it is a worldwide gathering of amazing people that you’ll never forget.

Hosting WDS every year is a great honor for me. It’s a project close to my heart and our whole team invests a great deal of time and energy on producing it. This year will be better than ever, and we’ll be announcing new speakers and several fun surprises soon.

This round of ticket sales is a bit overdue as we were working on the other event, but now it’s almost ready to go. We’ll be offering tickets next week (either Monday or Tuesday—exact timing TBD very soon).

Recap of Current “Big Trip” Opportunities

Pioneer Nation: Registration open now! Less than 100 tickets remain.

WDS: Registration opens next week. We’ll sell no more than 500 tickets in this round, on a first-come, first-served basis.


If you don’t care about these gatherings or the timing doesn’t work for you, I still hope you’ll be open to new ideas. I hope you’ll be willing to schlep somewhere, or do something that seems crazy, just so you have the chance to learn something.

One small thing—or one big trip—can change your life.

Have you ever taken a trip that changed your life? Let us know.

Comments here.


Image: PhinWorld

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  • Anita Chase says:

    At a very confusing, lost time in my life (ending of a 14 year relationship) I went camping by myself in a wilderness area (I wanted something with less amenities than a national park) as soon as my ex and I moved to different apartments. I have always liked the outdoors, but had only camped 3-4 times and always with more experienced campers. It wasn’t a very long trip (5 days) but I figured out how to set up a tent, make a campfire, and cook food by myself – all of which I had never done more than help with. It wasn’t that impressive by “roughing it” standards – I had a car, I brought some food, I followed well marked hiking trails – but it gave me a huge boost of confidence when I needed it most. Now, when I am feeling lost and insecure, I think back to that trip and how by the end of it, I knew that no matter what, I could find a way to take care of myself with or without anyone else.

  • John Spinhirne says:

    The trip to WDS 2013 changed a big part of my life but not until Sunday, when I was finally able to get past the fear of not being accepted for who I was and realized I needed to put myself out there so that people would be interested in talking to me.

    I am now working on making things happen instead of waiting for them to happen.

  • Caroline Frenette says:

    When I heard your interview with Jonathan Fields I was amazed and so inspired by the fact that you arranged your first book tour yourself. I just love that. And I bet publishers would love that too!

    The first trip I’ve ever taken was the most impactful for me. I was 19 and I bought an open ticket to Thailand, stayed for 6 months and came back transformed. It was the beginning of a lifelong love for travelling…

    This year is a big year for travelling but this time it’s a perfect blend of work + play.

    Now that I look back on my first travel (and how it planted the seeds for a freedom-based lifestyle) I look back and I’m pleasantly happy at how it’s all coming together nicely.

    Thank you for your inspiration Chris, always looking forward to hearing what you’re up to and looking forward to meeting you in the future 🙂

  • Jenn Campbell says:

    I enjoyed reading your post, your background story is interesting.

    The trip that changed my life happened 30 years ago on a senior class trip to Grand Bahama. I loved being in the warm weather and so near the ocean. So I moved here.

    Now, all these years later, I’m still on Grand Bahama and I’m so grateful to now have 3 sons, 1 daughter in law and 2 beautiful grandbabies.

    Unfortunately, I’ve lost some of the excitement to the responsibilities of being a single mom. But I’m working on getting it back before I turn 50!

  • Anna Lundberg says:

    I love the idea and absolutely agree that one trip can change your life. For me it’s already happened once, having travelled to South America last year and changing things dramatically since then (definitely for the better!).

    WDS sounds incredibly tempting but having consulted a map I find that Oregon is further away from the UK than Mongolia (which sounds more exotic, no offence!) and the £900 flight price tag plus ticket and hotel is just too much. Come to Europe please! 😉

  • Katie says:

    A few of your readers have lived/are living in Liberia, I assure you! I know it’s not the point of your post, but I found it amusing that I’ve been reading your newsletter for a while and I just left Liberia after spending the last 2 years working in Monrovia. I’m curious now, what did you do there?

  • Chris says:


    I was on a hospital ship deployed mostly to West Africa from 2002-2006. More info here.

  • Maria says:

    Yes, a visit to my native country where I faced my abusers now as an adult. I remember them being so much bigger than I as I was a child then. Seeing them now as a grown up and they were so much fragile than I was a huge mind shift. I was no longer afraid of them. They were puny and I was strong.

    My quality of life drastically improved from there. I haven’t been able to travel much since but I hope to get back on that soon.

  • Marli says:

    Hey Chris – If I am in the process of creating, designing and putting together a business but don’t yet work for myself do you think that Pioneer Nation would be a good place to start? I have so many ideas right now and I am just trying to figure out how to make them a reality. Thanks for all that you do and who you are!

  • Rebecca says:

    great story! Have wanted to go to WDS for years now but the location is pretty far from me. Hopefully in 2015. Australia is just too far from everything!

  • Pat Larsen says:

    Chris! I just left Chicago (and my wife and two young boys) for 45 days abroad meeting up with expats entreps (ala 4HWW), local entresp (ala $100 startup), and digital nomads with families.
    I’m going to write books and solidify the plan for living abroad, traveling, homeschooling, spinning out tech startups from anywhere with wifi.
    I’ll in Manila right now and about to get on a bus for Puerto Galera to take part in a two day workshop with entreps from Dynamite Circle.
    Then 10 days in HCM, Vietnam.
    Then 10 days in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
    Then Pioneer Nation.
    Then cherry blossoms in Tokyo (hopefully, schedule and weather permitting).
    Thank you for everything Chris. Love you, the team, WDS and PN.
    All the best,

  • Nine says:

    The trip that changed my life was Barcelona, 2002. I went there to volunteer at the International AIDS Conference. I started off cynical, not sure if I could fit in with my fellow volunteers, and then wound up making friends and interpreting for people. I was in an abusive relationship and my partner back home caused me a lot of anguish while I was away, but even though it was a struggle, I managed to make the best of things and still find solutions to people’s problems. Plus it was overwhelming to be at a huge international gathering that had brought people together from all over because of this health crisis, and inspiring to encounter so many amazing activists. When I got home, I knew I couldn’t stay on in my admin job: I needed to do something I was passionate about and that required me to think on my feet. The following month I applied to work at a support project for sex workers. And the rest is history.

  • Shayla says:

    Chris! I always enjoy reading your posts. It’s amazing how sometimes posts come out with perfect timing.

    Today, I was offered an opportunity to enter a program that can help me grow personally and professionally, but it costs $2,500. I have been trying to weigh the pros and cons. Then, I read your post which featured almost the exact same opportunity.

    Thank you for inspiring people to take risks!

  • Dave says:

    There have been many trips that changed my life but the first one that started it all was in 2008. I biked across the country with 29 others to raise money and awareness for affordable housing. 2 months, 3,558 miles and many amazing experiences later, I got the adventure bug and have been feeding it ever since.

  • Akinsola says:

    Great things often started from one major decision in the past.

  • Alec Barron says:

    The trip that changed my life was right after graduating college. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do with my life, but I had an opportunity to take a 1 week trip to China. I figured this would be once in a lifetime opportunity so I jumped all over it.

    I saw Beijing and Shanghai, and it totally changed me. I had traveled abroad before, but there was something about the excitement and energy of China that lit a fire in me. Upon returning back to the US, I had to find a way to get back there.

    While I was in Shanghai, I met some people who had studied Chinese locally and then networked their way into getting great jobs there. I decided I wanted to do the same thing so I enrolled at a Chinese language school in Beijing.

    By the end of my program, I was able to get a job in Shanghai that also allowed me to spend a lot of time in Japan. This was a truly unique experience that I’ll remember fondly forever. It even gave me the confidence and independence to eventually start my own business.

    If I hadn’t taken that grad trip, my life would be totally different than it is today.

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  • Kanchipuram sarees says:

    *Hundreds of pages and dozens of interviews

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