“Having two weeks of vacation a year is a horrible way to live.”
Meet Andrew Pototschnik. A small-town Texan, who has hit 115 countries (and counting!) with his Tortuga backpack.
His goal: To visit all 193 countries, plus Mars.
But, life hasn’t always looked like this for Andrew.
Wind the clock back a few years before Tortuga and life on the road.
After graduating college and slaving away at 60+ hour work weeks in advertising, Andrew realized that life wasn’t for him. So he quit his job and started his own business.
But to his surprise, being his own boss quickly became just another gilded cage. He found he was stuck in his office even more with even less free time to travel.
How did he go from cubicle life to exploring the world?
I asked Andrew some pointed questions about that:
Describe Your Ideal Life & How You Achieved it
For my next business, I did it right. I started with the simple idea of figuring out exactly what I wanted my daily life to look like and made business and relationship decisions that only took me closer to that vision.
I literally sat down with a pen and a pad and wrote out a very detailed story of what my perfect day would look like.
If you don’t know what you want your life to look like, how can you ever achieve it?
The main details were:
- Wake up without an alarm clock in south of France, with a girlfriend
- Go to a late brunch
- While at brunch, she and I would decide to drive into Italy
- So, I’d have a concierge bring a convertible to the restaurant
- Without packing at all, the plans are made for us and we buy anything we need when we get there
Having that simple clarity suddenly made all of my life decisions black and white.
Now my story dictates certain that things have to happen in my business and personal life in order for this to come true:
- A girlfriend
- No alarm clocks
You do not have to be a millionaire to make this story a reality.
Airbnb has significantly dropped the cost of living internationally. When you travel a lot, maintain airline status for free upgrades and flights. Always using a credit card will accrue tons of points — just auto-pay it off every month.
My absolute favorite perk — that people assume you need to be rich to take advantage of — is having a travel concierge.
My Secret Travel Planning Weapon
I use Kim Jacobson at Seamless Plans. She specializes in extreme and adventure travel planning for busy executives and crazy travelers, like me, who go anywhere no matter how “dangerous” or bad the reputation is.
Kim has been the best investment ever. She is totally worth it.
The amount of time it takes for someone like me to plan a 30-day trip through ten less traveled countries in Africa is immense. But she has done it a gazillion times and knows exactly where to go and the best things to see. I am a local when when she plans my trips.
Just like I don’t have the skills or knowledge to play pro football, I don’t have the skills or knowledge to be a pro travel planner. There is just too much I don’t know.
Less Money = More Adventure
You do not have to be rich to travel a lot — or even to visit every country in the world.
I traveled when I only made $30k a year and now when I have much more. My experiences are not significantly different. In fact, spending less money almost always equals more adventure and a more memorable experience.
Many of my favorite travel memories are those when I was a cash-strapped 20 year old. I still do not travel much differently than I did then.
Frankly, if your goal is to visit all 193 countries — like it is for me — you will not be living the mythical 5-star traveling lifestyle of the top 1%.
You will often be traveling much the same as you would have when you were a broke 20 something.
Having a higher level of income simply makes conveniences, like flying first class, airport lounge access, a cell phone with internet that works in every country, and a 24/7 concierge or travel planner possible.
Those things are nice, but they sure as hell are not required.
Early on, I realized that waiting to have more money to travel was just an excuse not leave my comfort zone. With hostels, cheap international airfare, Skiplagged, Couchsurfer and even Crewseekers International, there has never been an easier or more affordable time to see the world.
Not having much money is a lousy excuse for waiting to travel. The greatest growth comes from the greatest adversity.
My story requires a certain type of woman to be compatible with my life.
- Same sense of adventure
- Desire to travel like me
- To have a non-traditional career
- OR we work together
- OR I fully support her.
The (Lack of) Alarm Clocks
In order to wake up whenever I want, I need a business (or to work for someone) that allows this habit.
Also, this means I must control when and where I have meetings or interact with clients. This fact alone dictates starting a specific type of business.
For me, that means internet-based businesses.
Technology Makes it Possible
For those who really want a permanent life on the road, technology makes it possible.
Once I had that clarity, every business decision was suddenly easy. Either the decision took me closer to this vision or further away. Either this romantic relationship took me closer or further away.
When you know exactly what you want, your decisions become black and white.
It took less than two years of consistent hard work to make my vision possible.
I imagine my story sounds out of reach to some. But the truth is, if you really want something, you can always find a way to do it.
Everything of value is accomplished by consistent, hard work and a willingness to keep searching for answers until you reach your goal.
What Was the Inspiration for Your Journey?
I always liked the idea of being the first to do something in the world.
My original goal was to be one of the first 100 people to travel to all 193 countries. Only 90-95 people have ever accomplished this. The first woman to do it Cassie De Pecol just finished her journey in February.
But then, I realized I was thinking too small.
My current goal is to be the first to visit all 193 countries plus Mars, making me “the universe’s most traveled man.” Check back in 2027.
How Did You Discover Tortuga & Why Did You Choose This Pack?
I wish I had found it sooner. Unfortunately, I went through no less than five other bags. Many of them only lasted 2-3 months before the seams or zippers broke.
I did a lot of research on blogs and YouTube videos before buying a Tortuga. After all the research, there was zero competition.
The bag has been fantastic. I’ve bought two additional ones for friends that have joined me on trips. They love them too.
I have yet managed to destroy one. They are incredibly well-thought out.
It’s the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever worn. As soon as you start to do serious travel with it, you realize the designers are obviously travelers. The pockets on the waist strap are perfect for passports, cash and immediate-access items.
I’ve packed it with 30kgs of stuff and still hike with it all day. I have never had an airline not let me carry it on, even packed to the brim.
I just got the new Outbreaker 45L, so I’ll be doing a full review once I hit the road for a month, but my initial impression is that it might hold slightly less than version one because another internal pocket has been added. The previous version had a cavernous open area in the middle. This is really going to come down to how you pack as an individual traveler. Everyone is a little bit different.
Of course, the bag always looks smaller before you’ve been cramming it full of stuff for months. The zippers and build on the Outbreaker seems stronger.
I feel sorry for the travelers I see lugging around packs made for climbing mountains. That’s ridiculous. There is a much better much more comfortable option. It’s called Tortuga.
How Long Have You Been Traveling?
I’ve been traveling nearly nonstop for three years, hitting up about 90 countries during this time. About 80 of those were first time visits.
I have only occasionally returned to the States for a few months to recharge. It’s great having a homebase to store your stuff and shoes, and sleep in your own bed.
One of my favorite quotes is from Chuck Palahniuk’s book Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
Stuff is just stuff. You find the same thing in every corner of the world meeting people with far less money than you earn in a week.
It takes exceptionally little to be exceptionally happy.
Any Must-See Spots to Share with Our Readers?
Going here to help build a village for Haitians displaced by the earthquake reminded me how absolutely incredibly blessed we are just because we happened to be born in America (or any first world nation).
I believe every American, no matter how rich or poor they are has a responsibility to give back something, whether it is time or money.
We seriously won the lottery just by being born in America and not somewhere else. That is very real to me and I don’t take it for granted.
After that trip, from then on I committed to giving a portion of my income to the right philanthropic organizations every month.
Want to do the same? Research non-profits at Givewell before donating. Not all nonprofits are good nonprofits. Many give less than 40% of your donation to the cause. That is offensive to me and I was shocked to learn that.
Additionally, giving money (instead of your time) to those who need it most may be the best way to help. Check out Give Directly.
Seven Wonders of the World
I really enjoyed Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, the spectacularly gorgeous Taj Mahal, in India, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and the newest 7th Wonder: Burj Khalifa. This ultra-modern skyscraper is one I could stare at all day. In fact, that’s what I did while chain-smoking shisha the last time I was in Dubai.
This island is billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s private island home. It is an absolutely incredible 7-star experience. He rents out many of his own properties as luxury vacation destinations for travelers to share.
Ulusaba, his private wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe, is also incredible.
Additionally, Richard is quite often there. If you invite him, he will often turn up and join you for dinner. I had dinner and breakfast with him last time I went in 2014. In two weeks, I’ll be seeing him again on a return trip.
On the other end of the spectrum are an infinite number of ways to have epic and affordable adventures in the world.
One of my favorite experiences was sleeping on the beach on Koh Pannage and in a treehouse on Koh Tao, Thailand. Eating fish straight out of the ocean cooked on a beach fire by the local fishermen.
It cost 0.0001% what a week on Necker Island costs and was just as memorable as one week in ultra-luxury.
What’s Next On Your Itinerary?
Kim, at Seamless Plans, is helping me get permission to visit North Korea. With the current political climate, I’m afraid that the longer I wait, the more difficult it will be to visit.
What Place Are You Most Excited to See & Why?
Iran — I really want to meet and get to know the locals.
The more you travel, the more you realize how little governments actually represent the people.
We have much more in common with most people than we do differences. We all want to provide for our families, be safe, and live a happy long life.
How Do You Balance Work & Travel On the Road?
I purposely built these businesses to support my lifestyle. Life first. Business second. This means I live and die by my calendar.
Everything is scheduled in advance. The secret to my success is taking business seriously. Working consistently and pushing myself to overcome challenges and achieve ever greater goals.
Also, I always have internet access and mobile phone service with AT&T.
International cell service is not cheap, but I have only come across three countries with no roaming internet access. Which is not a problem – you just make sure you stay at a place with wifi.
When I started traveling, there were no iPhones, no Uber, no translation apps, no Google maps and very little wifi.
What’s Your Core Packing List?
- TripIt: An app that automatically creates a travel itinerary by reading your emails
- Apps: Spotify, Mixcloud, Soundcloud & Audible
- QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones: Battery lasts forever, even on the longest flights possible
- Jogging shoes (versatile enough to be worn out at night): Able to take serious miles, but not look dorky at a nice restaurant
- iPhone: Google Pixel or OnePlus just as good if not better
- Powerbeats for jogging: Very important to exercise on the road
- Macbook Pro
- Battery pack with solar panel: Long day of traveling can drain your phone pretty quickly unless you are always in low power mode
- Philips USB toothbrush: Your teeth will never be as clean as this; not joking, game changer
- 3 old passports: They still contain valid visas
- Melatonin: Glass of wine and 10-15 mg’s and I sleep for 8 hours anytime.
I am big on last-minute trips, there is nothing spur of the moment like deciding you want to have dinner at a restaurant in Florianópolis, Brazil, buying a plane ticket that morning in Bogota, Colombia and arriving on a plane in time for dinner.
I always carry old visas with me even when I have no plans to visit those countries. They are spread across four different passports.
What’s Your Complete Packing List?
- iPhone 7
- QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones
- Powerbeats wireless headphones for jogging
- Nike jogging waist strap: To hold stuff while jogging
- Macbook Pro
- Battery pack with solar panel
- 1 Micro Usb cable
- 1 Lightning cable
- Apple mouse (rechargeable with iPhone cable)
- Philips USB toothbrush
- 4 passports: Keep your old visas & always buy the 48 page passport
- Misc International Currency
- Jogging shorts
- Customized all-grey Nike Roshe Runs: I stick with a mostly grey palette for clothes.
- Black John Varvatos dress shoes: Boots that are both casual and dressy
- 3 pairs long pants: I recommend Bonobos Travel jeans for their comfortable stretch
- 2 pairs Armani Exchange cheapo shorts
- 5 pairs Diesel underwear
- 3 pairs ankle socks & 2 pairs long Stance socks
- 4 t-shirts: I like Armani Exchange v-necks
- 3 long-sleeve button up shirts or henleys
- 1 John Varvatos blazer/casual grey or black jacket (can be worn casual or dressy)
- 1 scarf
- 1 LA Dodger Hat (black)
- Toiletry bag: Toothpaste, disposable contacts, solution, moisturizer
- UE Boom Bluetooth Speaker: The best bass is a small size
- 1 American Flag sunga
Share Your Packing Tips
- Never check luggage
- Take 25% or less of what you think you need
- Travel light & wash clothes
- Always buy the 48-page large passport
What’s Your Advice for Someone Who Wants to Take a Trip Like Yours?
Do it. Go any and every where you have even the slightest interest in going.
If I wasn’t visiting every country, I would have missed some truly awesome places that I’d never have seen, like Ohrid (?????) in Macedonia and Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Lack of money is not an excuse; lack of time is not an excuse.
YOU control what your life looks like and how you live. If you really want something, you can always find a way.
If you don’t, you make excuses. The choice is yours.
Andrew is on a quest to travel to all 193 countries of the world plus Mars. So far, he’s hit 115 countries with his trusty Tortuga travel backpack. We recently upgraded him to an Outbreaker 45L in recognition of his accomplishment so far. Follow along with Andrew’s journey on Instagram.
- “No excuses. We need a lot less than we think to be happy.”
- “Less money equals more adventure and more memorable experiences.”
- “Life first. Business second.”
- “We have much more in common with most people than differences. We all want to provide for our families, be safe and have a happy, long life.”
Image credits: @love life + profit