Amazing Nomads: Will Hatton – The Broke Backpacker

The Broke Backpacker is one of the world's most successful travel blogs and it allows Will Hatton to live his dream life, earning money while he travels. Here he reveals how you can be a digital nomad too.


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Amazing Nomads: Will Hatton – The Broke Backpacker

Since he was 19, Will Hatton has traveled the world as The Broke Backpacker, writing his first blog on an iPod touch in India. In this episode, Will shares how you can passively earn money while living your dream life.

What’s in the episode

01:07 Earning money online while traveling

02:48 Ways to make money

06:37 What is the future of blogging?

09:24 The way Will works

12:59 Talking Iran

15:50 The digital nomad co-working hostel

Quotes from the episode

“There's a lot of different ways to try and make money online and there's a lot of different strategies out there. My strategy is to answer questions that people are typing into Google, right?

“I've kind of moved into a different stage where I'm earning money online whilst I travel, and I'm building a hostel in Bali.”

“I know people who are making millions of dollars a month for affiliate marketing and those people are not telling anybody.”

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Who is in the episode

Writer and hustler. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand push up. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts, and crusader for cheap escapades. Will Hatton has been on the road for nine years, traveling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs several online ventures.

Will is passionate about teaching others how to ditch their desks, hit the road, and achieve real freedom by earning money online. Will currently splits his time between Thailand, where he lives with his wife, and Pakistan, where he runs adventure tours for backpackers. He has many more epic adventures planned, including opening a chain of game-changing hostels around the world.

Will Hatton living his dream life.

He blogs over at The Broke Backpacker about his adventures on a budget and his forays into online entrepreneurship. 

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Resources & links

Learn how to capture meaningful travel stories and go on global scholarship assignments for World Nomads.

Applications have just closed for our Photography Scholarship and the winner will be announced next year.

World Nomad’s Footprints project has just helped fund the building of bins in the Everest region for the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund . So if you are in the area check them out (and use them!).

Cleaning up Everest

Read Will’s World Nomads Travel Insurance review.

Find out more about Will’s hostel project.

Next Episode: Jordan

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Phil: Do you want to make money and travel at the same time. Then stay right there and we'll show you how to do it.

Speaker 1: The World Nomads podcast bonus episode, hear amazing nomads sharing their knowledge, stories and experience of world travel.

Kim: Hi. Kim and Phil with you and speaking of people sharing their knowledge, our amazing nomad this episode is Will Hatton, better known as The Broke Backpacker.

Phil: The Broke Backpacker is a travel blog about off the beaten path travel destinations and as its founder Will Hatton is living the life of his dreams, earning money while he travels.

Kim: Yeah. In this episode, Will shares with us how he can passively earn money. Thanks in part due to the affiliate partnership he has with World Nomads among other companies, which you'll hear about, but let's kick off and learn more about his amazing journey.

Will Hatton: It has been a pretty amazing journey so far. I first started traveling about 10 years ago, and I was traveling with no money whatsoever. I was hitchhiking everywhere, camping, sleeping rough, working on farms and things like that. It was a great, great experience. But now I'm, I've kind of moved into a different stage where I'm earning money online whilst I travel, and I'm building a hostel in Bali. So, there's a lot of exciting things happening, Kim.

Phil: What was the aha moment when you went, I can't do this on, you know, smell of an oily rag anymore? What changed?

Will Hatton: To be honest, I was personally happy with the way that I was traveling, but I met my wife about three years ago while hitchhiking across Iran and the couple of hundred bucks a month that I was making from my tiny, tiny book blog was not enough to sustain two people. So it just meant I had to change the game and learn how to actually build an online business, which could make a passive income rather than having to sell my time for money, which didn't seem like a sustainable choice.

Kim: What is an affiliate? How does it work?

Will Hatton: So, an affiliate is somebody who effectively helps make the connection between a customer and a company providing a product or service. So the largest affiliate program in the world, the most famous one is the Amazon affiliate program. The way that works is you might be typing into Google, best coffee mug and then you're going to land on my best coffee mugs reviewed sites and I'm going to have broken it all down for you to choose the perfect coffee mug for you. And then I'm going to direct you to Amazon where if you purchase anything from Amazon within the time period of the tracking cookie, which is normally 30 days, but with Amazon it's one day, I will get a commission kickback for facilitating that sale.

Kim: Do you ever get people that say or suggest, boy, why should I be funding your trips?

Will Hatton: Not really. I mean this is a little different. There's a lot of different ways to try and make money online and there's a lot of different strategies out there. My strategy is to answer questions that people are typing into Google, right? So people are putting in these search queries and I'm providing the most informative answer, which is why I'm in the top position on the front page for most of these search queries and I'm fine with that approach versus, for example, Facebook Ads or pop-ups or something that's a lot more obtrusive. Somebody who's on the internet, I think that is when people can quite naturally get a bit pissed that they are being served all of these thousand [inaudible 00:03:29] at all times and we're a lot more subtle than that. We're like, hey, here's a load of information and if you want to buy insurance, if you want to book a hostel bed, if you want to pick up a hammock for your camping trip, these are the ones we recommend.

Phil: There's a skill involved in this in some way or other, I imagine. Do you have to go down that whole SEO keywords rabbit hole or do you think this is something that anybody can pick up and do the same as you?

Will Hatton: So I think it's definitely a lot of different ways to do this. But at the end of the day, if you don't have traffic, so people landing on your web page, you haven't really got anything. I'm a pure SEO, I don't do anything on social media, doesn't really interest me. Don't do anything with Google Ads. Do very, very little with email marketing. SEO can seem like a very intimidating rabbit hole, but it's actually a lot easier than, well it's not easy to do it well but it's fairly easy to understand it and it's a lot easier than a lot of people think. I'm completely self-taught just through reading books, doing experiments, watching YouTube videos.

Phil: Do you think this is something that you could keep doing for a long time? Is this, you know, sustainable?

Will Hatton: That's a very good question. So at the moment we are building a hostel in Bali, have 80 bed and this is where I'm now trying to pivot to creating other businesses and other revenue streams and things I'm really excited about. We're also creating a backpack made out of recycled ocean plastic. We have our own products that we're developing as well, so but the thing is with the site that I've got, it's absolutely massive, but the SEO game does change pretty regularly. If I was to say to you, oh, this site is still going to be running in 20 years' time, I really have no idea. However, I am sure that I can make enough money over the next three, four, five years to be able to run everything else for the foreseeable future.

Kim: That actually, you know Phil, you had a really good question, but that was a really good point there.

Phil: Kim and I have this thing about we both high five each other when somebody says, that's a good question.

Kim: So you get a high five for making-

Phil: I got mine today.

Kim: A really good point. You came into the blogging space at a time when not every man and his dog, as the saying goes, was doing it. What's next for bloggers in the next 10 to 15 years? How do you see this space evolving?

Will Hatton: I think that there'll be a ton of evolution in the next five years. I think 10 to 15 years is too long a period to look at. I couldn't answer that question but in the next three to five years, two things that are going to happen. The first is that Google is going to change its algorithms so that it caters a lot more for voice search and that is going to completely change how information is served to people who are searching for it.

And secondly is, more and more bloggers will continue to move into the video space, which is a good thing to do from a future-proofing your business point of view because Google is also now starting to prioritize video results in search results.

So I don't know. I don't know what the future of blogging looks like, but I think that any blogger who wants to build a big business needs to focus on putting out quality content and really sticking to one or two mediums. You can't do everything. If you're trying to do Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ReadIt, writing blog posts, creating YouTube videos, all you're going to do is create a lot of very weak content. I think it is better to choose your favorite one or two mediums and just to focus on excelling on those.

Phil: You know, I've looked into affiliate marketing schemes from time to time for, you know, related to my job here and one of the things I find about and interested in your take on this, is a lot of affiliate marketing is about teaching other people to do affiliate marketing, which I think is an indication that, that's quite an underdeveloped industry and I think there's potential for there to move beyond eating its own tail, if you know what I mean, in that circular way and sort of affiliate marketing really starting to take off. What do you reckon?

Will Hatton: I think that people who are selling courses or resources on how to make money from affiliate marketing are not qualified to teach how to make money from affiliate marketing because they are simply, I mean, I know people who are making millions of dollars a month for affiliate marketing and those people are not telling anybody. They're keeping their mouth quiet because that is what you would do in that situation, right? The people who are the loudest in this space and the people who are trying to sell the most expensive FARA, up to date resources usually don't know what they're talking about. So there's has been a lot of courses out there. There's a lot of influences out there. There's a lot of high-end bloggers, who shall remain nameless out there who are attempting to sell subpar resources to people who want to learn how to make money online.

Phil: Did you just say millions a month?

Will Hatton: Yes.

Phil: Can we talk it later, offline?

Kim: This is where I'd like to be on in person with you. I used to play this game with my brother where I get him down and sit on him or no, he used to do it to me. He'd get me down and sit on me.

Phil: And then pretend to spit on you.

Kim: Then tried to spit on me until I spilled the answer. It might have been what was in the cupboard for Christmas, or something like that, so we could do that.

Phil: Yeah. We'd keep sitting on top and spitting on it until we got those notes.

Kim: Yeah. So we'll fly over to Bali. Not an issue. Will once you get this-

Will Hatton: That sounds good. Get a couple of drinks on me.

Kim: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Once you get this project up and running, you going to remind hands on if we were to call you and say six months or whatever the timeline is for it to be finished up and established, would you be able to answer questions about it or would you be handling it to somebody else? Are you going to be hands-on?

Will Hatton: Basically, the way that I work is, I'm involved in nine different projects now and the way that I work is I always choose a partner and then I do all of the strategy. I usually provide most funding. I do all the marketing, I do all the branding and the other person is boots on the ground. So I've got a 50-50 partner in this hostel and day out a person who is on-site every day. But I will definitely be available to answer questions and to have a drink there. I'll be doing all the branding, all the marketing, making sure it's full a hundred percent of the time. That's basically my role. So yes, come.

Phil: Well you better tell us the name of the joint then. For your name yet?

Will Hatton: Ah, yeah. Yeah. So the name of the train, because you're planning on doing several of them, is tribal hostels and this one is tribal Pareira Nan, which is the area in Bali where it's being built.

Phil: What we're talking about crystal ball gazing and talking about the future. What do you think the future of travel is going to look like in the next few years as well? I know there's a bit of pressure on at the moment, you know, flight shame and what have you and there's certainly some pressure on the often wastefulness of it. How do you feel about that?

Will Hatton: That's a really good question. I think that especially the new generation of backpackers that are coming up through the ranks now, do care more about climate and the environment and having more of an authentic travel experience. So what that is meaning is that you are getting countries like Iran, Pakistan, Kurgastan places where when I was traveling around these places four or five years ago when I first started to go, there was nobody there at all. But now places like that are becoming more and more popular because there are less people there. There they can get off the beaten track and have these awesome experiences, which you know, 10 years ago it was standard to travel. You could go anywhere and you'd have these genuine interactions with locals and you'd get a chance to soak up part of the culture. But it isn't like that now because a lot of people when they travel, they just stay behind their phones the whole time. They're more interested in Instagramming what's going on than actually diving into it and experiencing it, and I think that's really sad.

But I do think that luckily a lot more people are starting to take an interest in stepping away from that kind of travel and going to places like Pakistan, Iran, rich cultures where you can have these amazing experiences and not be surrounded by thousands of other backpackers. Hopefully that kind of answers the question.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Yeah. It does. In fact, curiously a lady from Iran, LinkedIn with me and checked out a profile and she runs a tool company for females to Iran and I'm now following her on Instagram. That place looks stunning.

Will Hatton: Oh, it's awesome. It's absolutely awesome. I can't recommend it enough. It's also, funnily enough, I think it's probably the safest country I've ever been to. It feels very safe and it is very, very safe. I mean it's very rarely anything that goes wrong in Iran. It's a very safe place, especially when you compare it to the rest of the Middle East, but I mean it's safe like statistically, it's safer than the States. It's safer than Europe. You're more likely to get shot or run over in the States or Europe then you are in Iran and it's just an absolutely beautiful place.

It's incredible hospitality and so much variation in landscapes. I'll be honest, when I went, I was quite naive and was expecting there to be like lots of sand and lots of camels. I didn't see a single camel the entire time I was there. I've never seen a camel in Iran. I've been to Iran five times, but they're in, you know there's jungle, there are mountains, there's epic coastline, epic beach, caves, rock formation. It's a very, very cool, very, very diverse country.

Phil: It's not as strict as it used to be. It's much more relaxed.

Will Hatton: Yes. For the interesting thing about Iran is that the government, which is obviously a dictatorship, is pretty strict, but the people are some of the most liberal I've ever met. And Iranians tend to be very well educated, very open to the stuff that I did and in a lot of ways, pretty westernized. It's just most of the interactions and conversations tend to happen behind closed doors rather than out in the street.

Phil: How did you get into it or what was?

Will Hatton: So my first trip I was 19 and I went out to Central America and then I promptly injured myself and spent three weeks in hospital where I was going to have my leg amputated. Luckily I had travel insurance.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Woooo.

Will Hatton: My hospital bills were covered and then I ended up spending about a year recovering from them, like physically recovering. I was badly injured. So what that meant was I kind of had this whole life being turned on its head experience and I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with my life anymore because I was going to join the army. Instead, once I was able to, I hitchhiked out to India and I spent a couple of years there and I just kind of kept going from there and I started writing. I started writing for the BBC for a bunch of other publications and it just kind of grew from there really.

Kim: How did you end injure yourself?

Will Hatton: Yeah. Well, I was trekking through the jungle in Costa Rica and I ended up with a very small cut in my foot, which I ignored, which was very foolish of me. And two days later because I had continued to ignore it, I had a seriously bad infection, which then moved into my bloodstream and into my lymphatic nodes. My whole leg was a complete mess, but not to put people off traveling because I suppose that could do, but not to put people off traveling that was how I ended up traveling long term because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in my life. And I found that when I was on the road, I had the opportunity to experiment with different, you know, different personalities, different types of traits, how I wanted to live my life, what was important to me, explore different values, meet new people, experience different cultures.

For me, whilst I was traveling, that was the greatest bout of personal development that I ever have. So, I thought it was a really awesome opportunity to get out there and meet new people, see new points of view and I suppose for lack of a cliche term, it's you find oneself. So that was why I was traveling for so long.

Phil: Unlucky Will.

Kim: We look forward to toasting that Bali hostel with you.

Will Hatton: Yes. For sure, definitely swing on down. It's going to be absolutely amazing. It's a digital nomad, coworking hostel. So the whole of the bottom floor is an open plan with loads of nooks and crannies where people can work away. Amazing pool, amazing bar, complete with the Wheel of Destiny, which if you spin it and you may end up using an article of clothing or you may get a free drink.

Kim: That has, that's Friday night drinks sorted. That's great. You're an inspiration on every level, mate.

Phil: Yeah. We're on the way up there right now. We're going to set up the podcast studio for you there, okay?

Will Hatton: Fantastic. I'm here. I'm here. Come on down.

Kim: Well, we may just do that, Will. Seriously. Our link to The Broke Backpacker in show notes with further tips and details on tribal hostels and Will's plan to use recycled plastics as key components in their construction. In fact, if it's not on his site, Phil, I'm going to go so far as to say it's not worth knowing.

Phil: I can't believe how much money some of these guys are making out of it.

Kim: I know.

Phil: I know.

Kim: Kerching, kerching.

Phil: Okay, look, we'll also have a link to our partner program where you can try and do what Will has done as well. And next episode we're going to explore Jordan.

Kim: See you there.

Phil: Good-bye for now.

Speaker 1: Amazing Nomads. Be inspired.


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