Words cannot describe.Brent & MichaelDN Interviews #1
Brent Hartinger & Michael Jensen
Oct 17, 2019
They are both authors, make their living online, married, gay, lovers of good food & good company.
Brent Hartinger is the author of the gay teen classic Geography Club, which was adapted as a feature film, and Michael Jensen is the former editor of AfterElton.com. Visit them at BrentAndMichaelAreGoingPlaces.com,
or on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
Had an amazing video chat with Brent & Michael early on this week.
I have been following them on social media for a while now,
and it’s been great being able to hear more about how they got to what they’re doing today.
I’m in Haifa, they’re in Tbilisi,
& we’re talking on their digital nomad journey.
Like every good story- it starts with food.
We are going to go back about 10 years. Michael & Brent, living in Seattle, Washington, already being digital-online-makers, selling online books and screenwriting services.
And this story starts… With Tapas. (Yes, the Spanish appetizer dishes..)
(Brent) 10 years ago in the States, tapas were expensive.
It started to be this big trend, and people were paying a lot of money for it.
And then we went to Spain.
Seeing the prices there, and the qualities…Honestly, I really feel like Americans have a lot of misconceptions about food…
I mean- is that dinner in Seattle really worth 5 times this one?
From that point on we pretty much talked about food for 15 minutes, but it is a major influence in a lot of Digital Nomads’ journeys.
The fact that you could get cheaper rates for ethnic and unique dishes- when you leave the US.
It also applies, in many digital nomad destinations- to the prices you pay on rent, on transportation, on internet, on anything, really.
"we left with no regrets"
(Brent) We started working online when we were in Seattle. We were already digital, it doesn’t matter where we lived or how much we spent- our income remained the same.
And then it started.
USA… We have such a busy and stressed society. Everyone is over scheduling, and you can make money, yes, but it’s hard to be happy.
At the end of 2016, with December being “check-out” month, Michael & Brent left Seattle. They got rid of their house, possessions, placed some stuff in storage, got their goodbyes and last errands- and left Seattle. To me, having an online money making option and being unhappy= immediate leaving, so I was curious- what took them so long?
(Michael) I’m glad we stayed till the end of 2016. I feel like staying there that long was the best way to go, cause we left with no regrets. I love Seattle, but I didn’t look back.
The reality behind the term "Digital Nomad"
View this post on Instagram
As a digital nomad, you spend a lot of time on the outside of a place looking in. The longer you stay, though, the more you'll come to understand the people and the culture. But it could take years, if not a lifetime, to understand another country. I don't mind looking in most of the time. The view is almost always interesting and you learn a hell of a lot.
(Michael) A lot of people want to be digital nomads cause it’s cool. We sold our house before we even heard of this term.
We had calculated our annual expenses to be $85K.
We were thinking- we could leave here and just live in AirBNB apartments in cheaper countries- we’ll be making the same income anyway.
And then, all of a sudden- we see this term- digital nomads.
And they’re not alone.
A lot of people didn’t know this term when they started their digital nomad journey… They just ran the numbers and opened their minds to the fact that- it’s OK to have a different lifestyle than other people.
(Brent) I remember having this panic attack- won’t we be alone? won’t this be expensive? this is so weird!! Will we be happy?
But having that term- changed that. We started Googling and read about co-living and coworking, and a lot of information on the fact that you’re not spending like a tourist.
(Michael) We were worried. We had a small group of friends in Seattle, and we were afraid of leaving it behind and going to a place where we’d be alone.
I think, looking back and looking at where we are now- we have a richer social life now than before.
We have made these amazing strong bonds with people we met in Bulgaria, Miami, Italy, everywhere.
Life is good this way, Michael says, and immediately starts talking about the difficulties of living this lifestyle.
But we try to talk about the real life, and the difficulties that we face.
Like the reality of going to a dentist in a foreign country.
For a lot of people that might seem weird, to say how good life is- and straight up talk about wanting to share difficulties. But that’s the real nomadic life. And what I like here is that these 2 are all about displaying difficulties and overcoming them.
(Brent) I didn’t like the idea of going to a place where we don’t speak the language. Going to places like Vietnam, Bulgaria, Georgia…
But I found it was actually super-easy to get by if you learn basic words in that language and use Google Translate with people. And also- in a lot of these places the locals would be happy to practice their English with you.
(Michael) When you go to a country that doesn’t speak English- it’s your responsibility to learn how to say Thank you, Please, and Hello, the BASICS in their language. It shows that you’re into their culture. If you don’t plan on doing that, don’t leave the US/Canada.
And really, English is not such an issue.
I loved going to local food markets in Vietnam, and the people selling there speak NO English. But you just say hello, smile, and buy. And if there’s a problem, there is always someone there that speaks both languages and offers to help out.
I second that motion completely! And add- ask a local to tell you how to say the address you need to go to + “turn on the meter”- in their local language and accent! (Cab drivers might think you’re local:))
Back to the money talk.
Remember the annual expenses number from before? $85K a year, living a pretty modest life.
Now, traveling and working from anywhere, the year 2019 for Michael & Brent has a very different number…
Including a 47 day cruise, and a month living in Switzerland (which is way more expensive than Eastern Europe or SEA) added up to only $43K.
Interested in learning the details on that expense report?
Check out Brent and Michael’s Blog post on cutting their annual expense in basically HALF!
change in lifestyle- leads to to a change in income
Brent & Michael are both book authors.
Brent works mostly as a writer- for books and screenplays. You could find a list of Brent’s book, mostly for Gay teenagers, HERE. Michael, also a published book author, has also worked as an entertainment journalist, and write curriculums for students.
But, as it happens to a lot of digital nomads, that change in lifestyle leads to a change in the way you want to make your living. A lot of people think being a travel blogger is something people just decide to do to make money while traveling, but the truth is- that sometimes you just want 1 place to share it all, to keep it forever, to help others with it.
(Brent) We have so many topics to write about… Traveling as a gay couple, we are also quite older than most travelers (Yes, this dynamic-duo is in their 50s…), we are also long term travelers.
While Brent is sticking to his business modul, Michael is making a shift- operating their Instagram as well as planning a blog that will be a huge source for long term travelers, couple who travel together, and any traveler from the LGBT community.
(Michael) Social media changed so many things.
I love it, I love sharing our day to day experiences on Instagram posts, and even making some very entertaining and informative Story videos.
But we wanted a place that will STAY. Having a website would provide people who are interested in traveling a more accessible way to learn from our experience. For as long as that information is relevant, anyway.
I hear a lot of people say that there are already ENOUGH travel bloggers, and that it’s a flooded niche. But this is a changing market!
Prices change, places you stay in close down, and people will always need the most updated data on a destination they want to visit.
(Brent) There’s also the topic of taking care of yourself and living healthy. A lot of nomads choose to live healthier cause it’s easier to travel when you’re healthy!
Yes, they have gorgeous travel photos, but in their posts, if you look beyond the photos, you’ll see them talk about the day to day, the food, the habits, going to the gym, working a lot!
However, switching from one income method to another- isn’t easy just cause you know what you want to write about.
(Brent) in our recent destinations, through friends of friends, we’ve met a lot of successful travel bloggers who were willing to share their knowledge with us.
We’ve been researching this a lot, and we knew a lot of what they told us already,
but when they really opened up to us with tools, statistics and money – we were surprised you could actually make a living this way.
People today feel discouraged when so many others have “cracked the system”, fooling search engines with their SEO tactics.
But this is changing. New media and the internet- they are self-correcting.
the culture of sharing
One of the BEST things you can say about the true nomads at heart is that they are so inclusive, so sharing, and really, as Brent said it- There’s no cool kids table.
Being a part of the blogging community in Israel 6-7 year ago, I remember everyone being super secretive on how they make money… As if my success would cause their failure.
The truth is that when you go out there- you discover how big the world really is- and how much we are all able to get to success at the same time!
(Brent) It was this feeling we got that was so different from, let’s say, hanging out in New York.
The community is so CUT THROAT. Everybody’s always looking and judging. And while traveling we met so many people! Bloggers, locals, LGBT, couples, singles…
We find ourselves having dinner with 4 other locals, people from different online communities, and coworking spaces.
When you live close to coworking areas- the nomad you meet will often be more than your coworkers.
(Michael) We actually have more friends now.
We live fuller social lives, sharing everyday activities with other travelers and locals as well.
I can write about this couple for hours, and there was so much more that was said…
But I’d like to re-point certain facts that came up during this random video call with people I’ve been Insta-stalking….
Don’t become a digital nomad cause it’s cool. Become a digital nomad if you want to experience the world- while working online.
It’s all in your head. Not finding friends, not understanding the language.
Open your mind, try to understand, go that 5% towards the local culture and find that it embraces you!
Change happens. You need to learn to stay true to who you are, and if you want to become something else, make money in a different way- do it!
Share. Share what you know with people, help them out, give them pointers. It has no ill effect on you, and only helps your karma 🙂
Judge not- age, gender, sexual orientation, occupation or number of followers on Instagram.
Show love and respect to anyone as your default. The world will be better for it.
A huge thanks to you two from me,
It was honestly- the perfect interview to start this category in my blog with!