I left a stable office job at 22, traveled a lot and become an Internet entrepreneur in Budapest, Hungary, by 24. Seriously, I did. Want to know how? Here goes:
When I was 22 years old, I had everything I thought I always wanted. I had a good job with a good salary at a successful company, in Budapest of all places. I had a promising career in front of me. Even with that “bright future,” I wasn’t happy. I was fresh out of college, and I was eager to make a lot of money—but I also wanted to travel, to see the world.
I didn’t see the world, though. Instead, I saw the inside of an office, every morning, afternoon and early evening. And by the end of the week I was too drained to go anywhere but home—let alone take a weekend trip. I was losing motivation, and the thought of spending the next 40 or more years working 9-to-5 inside a cubicle scared the crap out of me.
There has to be more than this. So, without a very solid backup plan, I quit.
The seeds of this decision were sown long before I actually quit my job. I’ve always had entrepreneurial aspirations.
As a kid, I used to start summer businesses, and I’d often employ my brothers and sisters as employees. One summer we launched “Bargain Balls,” which was our refurbished golf ball business. My brothers would sneak onto the local course to collect lost balls. We’d hand-wash them for hours and then sell them back to the golfers the following day. Another summer, I operated a pet waste removal service, and I’d go door to door offering to scoop dog poop from my neighbors’ yards. And one year on Thanksgiving, I managed to convince my friends to drive me to a local shopping plaza on Black Friday so I could sell hot chocolate to the people waiting in line—we made more than $300 in less than two hours.
But as I grew up, I lost the courage to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. It took me a while to find that courage again.
“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” —Tony Gaskins Jr.
After quitting my corporate job, I met some cool friends in a bar in Budapest. They were operating an online marketing company in town and offered me a job to come join them. I was in no position to say no, because returning to America empty handed was admitting defeat—and I couldn’t do that.
I joined the company, and for a while I tried to sugarcoat my new situation. But at the end of the day, I was just working another job. I was still helping someone else build their business. Even worse, I despised my new role as a consultant. In a traditional job, you have one boss. As a consultant, you manage accounts and every account means you have another boss. I quickly realized I had traded one boss for 10 bosses. Things went downhill pretty fast from there. And after eight months of sugarcoating, I decided I had had enough. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but I knew I couldn’t spend another minute working for someone else.
I was 23 years old and once again unemployed.
To make ends meet, I knew I had to hustle. I joined LinkedIn and started spamming every business owner who would accept my request to “connect.” I sent 100 emails a day looking for consulting work and for a while I did OK.
I knew I could free up more of my time by further outsourcing the work. I worked with a close friend in Budapest who helped fulfill the freelance work orders, and together we managed to hire a few additional freelancers from the Philippines.
And I slowly realized what I was after. It was more valuable than money—I wanted time. Time to figure out a plan, time to find my passion, time to start a business I believed in… and I wanted to see the world while I was doing it.
So I did what any other 23-year-old would have. I worked hard and I took advantage of my new freedom—I traveled. A lot. After all, I initially moved to Budapest to do just that, but at this point I had only made it as far as Vienna and Prague.
I was hungry to experience new places and new languages and to meet new people.
I ventured off to Greece and the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Ios. I explored Spain and tasted the amazing Tapas in Barcelona and Madrid. I traveled to Rome with some cool people, and I escaped to Paris and Versailles with my girlfriend. I attended the Euro Cup in Lviv, Ukraine, and drank more vodka than I care to admit.
During this time, I stopped consulting through LinkedIn altogether and became an affiliate marketer, selling software through the Internet for a commission. It was a hard grind, but the more I traveled, the more I became addicted to the freedom and the possibility of a life without limits. So I worked harder than ever and kept moving.
I explored the Croatian coast on a boat trip for three days. I lived in Thailand for two months because working on my laptop gave me the freedom to do so. When my little sister came to visit, we embarked on a road trip through Slovenia on our way to Venice, Italy… and then Salzburg and Vienna.
I explored London with some fellow young entrepreneurs, and I ate Haggis in Scotland with a close Scottish friend. And I’ve enjoyed the coffee shops of Amsterdam and Oktoberfest in Munich.
As I continued working hard, I continued traveling hard, any chance I could, using Budapest as my home base.
Through all of my travels, I’ve met incredible people. It dawned on me at a house party I hosted in Budapest just how fortunate I was. As I looked around me I realized that I’ve made friends from all corners of the earth. I counted more than 17 countries represented in that one house.
And it wasn’t long before I met two brilliant guys, a Hungarian and Englishman, who became good friends of mine. I convinced them to join me in starting a software company of our very own, and together we launched Buffered VPN at the end of summer 2014.
Our company is young and we have ambitious goals, so I’ve limited my travel for the time being—but that’s a conscious decision. Every day I get to wake up and do the things I love. I don’t dread work—because, as cliché as it might be, work just doesn’t feel like work when you do what you love.
I’m not a millionaire (yet!), but I’ve designed a life that I’m passionate about, I’ve traveled to some amazing places, and I’ve surrounded myself with some incredible people in the process.
The best part? I’m only 25 years old. I’m just getting started.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.