“I’d dreamed of a trip like this for over a decade”

This is a travel hacking case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Many people dream of extended periods of travel. Tristan King turned that dream into his reality. Here’s his story.

Introduce yourself.

I’m Tristan. My wife and I are (usually) based in Melbourne, Australia. I love travel, learning languages, and running my business from the road while having adventures.

Languages are the reason I started my business: I wanted to free up time and become less location dependent so I could improve my communication skills in different tongues. I’ve visited 35 countries and can defend myself fairly well in 5 languages (Japanese, Spanish, German, French and English).


What inspired you to travel?

I’ve been fascinated with traveling since I took my first trip to Japan at age 19. Since then, individual trips have never satiated my desire to discover new places – they only increase my want to meet more people and have more experiences.

After working on location in Japan, I knew I wanted to be able to take longer trips while continuing to work. Last year, my wife and I did it: we traveled for nine months across 13 countries, spending at least a month in Germany, Thailand, Malaysia, France and Japan.

I’d dreamed of a trip like it for over a decade.

Tell us a story from that dream trip!

We were in Laos, and had just boarded an 8-hour bus ride. Quickly, we got the sense it wasn’t going to be what we’d consider an ordinary ride. Winding roads up mountain sides (without a decrease in speed), two noisy babies, lots of locals, and the two of us.

Every couple hours, we stopped at roadside markets, where the passengers disembarked to buy humongous cucumbers, raw goat legs in plastic bags, and fruit, all under the sounds of techno music and crying babies. A punctured tire caused a three-hour delay, but with an ice-cream stand nearby, it was easy to think “all is well.”

At first, we were frustrated. But we realized we were in no particular hurry. And the other passengers were incredibly generous, sharing their cucumbers with us, giving us directions and oozing with go-with-the-flow attitudes.

After 11 hours, we arrived at our destination feeling like locals.


How did you pay for your trip?

Frequent flyer points were huge for us (we got 100% free flights from Melbourne to Phuket, Thailand, and from Vietnam to Europe!). All our short-haul trips were booked on the cheap with Air Asia or Europe’s trains using income from working on the road.

For accommodations, we stayed almost entirely in Airbnb rentals, which were usually 25% of the price of a hotel. Since we stayed a month or more a lot of the time, the cost was equal to about five nights at a local hotel.

Paying for lodging, along with all our spending money, came from a combination of savings and of course income from our business—we build websites and sell digital products.

What are your favorite points cards?

We accrued frequent flyer points using American Express Velocity and Visa Velocity Cards while in Australia. I pay for almost everything using those cards – bills,  business expenses, car rental, groceries – anything that can be paid with a card is paid with a points-earning card.

All points are funneled into Virgin Australia’s Velocity program, which can also be used with their luxurious partner, Etihad. I’d gotten close to 200,000 points total, and right now have 70,000 waiting to be used.


Do you have another story from your trip?

In Kuala Lumpur, we stayed in an apartment with a Danish friend, who was a little sad to be missing Eurovision festivities with her family. Since we were pining for a reason to hold a party, we figured this was as good a reason as any.

So, an Australian (me), Colombian (my wife), a Dane, and a Malaysian friend had a Eurovision party, complete with lots of red and white decorations, in a Kuala Lumpur apartment. It was a somewhat bizarre setting that turned into a hilarious, opinion-filled and fun night, starting at 10pm and finishing at 6am.


What surprised you while traveling?

By far, I felt most settled, energized, and ‘at home’ when staying somewhere for more than two weeks.

Finding a favorite café or frozen yogurt shop, no longer having to think about how to get everywhere, and sleeping in the same place for more than a few nights really made a difference to my well being. Especially when it came to productivity, I found it much less stressful (and much more enjoyable) to stay in a place a bit longer, even if there were no specific sights to see, than to rush to the next one based on some vague sense of ‘I must see the next thing.’

The comfort and satisfaction of staying in one place for a longer period of time far outweighed the excitement (and fatigue) that came with being somewhere new every few days.

The great debate: aisle or window?

Aisle. Tall boys need the legroom!

Best travel tips…go!

Staying put saves you money.

The rental savings are astounding. Often, even if you only stay 3 weeks but pay for 4, you’ll usually end up ahead.

Pay for everything using points-accruing credit cards.

Setting up the systems will pay off in the long run, even if getting started seems daunting.

Whereto next?

Shortly, we’re heading to Sydney for a concert (using points). Mid-year, we’re planning a 3-week journey to Indonesia to visit the beaches, experience Bali and perhaps climb some mountains.

Stay up to date with Tristan at Shopify Ninjas or via Twitter @TristanKing65.


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