Why I Quit My Job to Travel Around the World 20 Years Ago.

20 years ago last month, I boarded Varig Flight 855 from Washington Dulles to Sao Paulo on a trip that would change my life forever.  It was the beginning of an epic 11-month adventure around the world, the dream trip of a lifetime that inspired the creation of TripTuner and reinforced a desire to live life on my own terms.  Yet as I boarded that flight, I thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life.

This is the first in a series of #RTW98 posts looking back on that trip: the mechanics and logistics as well as the inner journey, with reflections on how life may have changed in the exotic lands I visited.  Like many journeys it is admittedly #allaboutme – very personal. But if you’ve ever considered traveling around the world or taking a sabbatical, you’ll find inspiration and tips for your own jaunt. If you’ve done it, I welcome you to relive that unique magic with me.

RTW r20 grootfontein

Sometimes life presents you with a choice between two diametrically opposed options, both of which are right.  Like staying in a lucrative job or quitting to travel the world.  Or choosing the best route to Grootfontein, Namibia!


Since childhood, I’ve loved to travel.  But the thought of traveling around the world – and quitting my job to do it – never crossed my mind until I experienced the corporate world.  After 6 years in an intense sales job, I was ready for a change. It wasn’t a dream job, but I loved the independence, social aspect and challenge of sales.  Not to mention it was lucrative – it helped me pay off student loans, buy professional DJ gear and visit Europe and the Caribbean every year. The feeling of being debt-free was empowering, sparking thoughts of jumping off the cutthroat corporate treadmill.

While many of my colleagues bought homes or luxury cars – something our managers explicitly encouraged – I saw it as a trap.  I was young, single and not ready to settle down. The thought of a 30 year mortgage was unfathomable for me. I mean, I couldn’t even figure out what I wanted to do in the next 2 years of my life.  But I knew it wasn’t about getting tied down by debt or a materialistic lifestyle.  So after a particularly good year, instead of buying a Porsche I bought a 10 year old Saab, maxed out my 401K and saved the rest.  For what, I wasn’t sure.

What I did know is that I wanted a change and some time off.  Time to figure out on a deeper level what I really wanted out of my life.  Time to see what life was like outside of an all-consuming U.S. corporate culture that occupied not only most of my waking days, but also my mind when I wasn’t working.

Once I was open to the possibility, inspiration flooded in from everywhere: magazine articles, conversations with strangers (like DC taxi drivers) and tips from friends.  My college buddy David was on his own meandering mini-sabbatical at the time.  His legendary email descriptions of the ochre walls of Petra and sunsets on the Bosporus were welcome distractions to my day — rays of light in my grey-walled, grey carpeted cubicle.  His example begged the question: why couldn’t I do the same?


In retrospect, the decision to go was a natural evolution of changes that were already in motion: a yearning to do something different, more creative and more meaningful beyond making money.  Before going anywhere my mind was already traveling, exploring a richer world of culture and creativity that was previously unseen through my 9 to 5 lens.

A travel-writing course helped me see the world differently, by noticing details and using sensory descriptions to tell a story.  It was a far cry from the logical position papers I’d written as a political science major in college.  It also sparked an interest in writing poetry and in Pablo Neruda, whose memoir further heightened my wanderlust and provided a theme for my travels through South America and his native Chile.

On weekends I DJ’d at Felix, a James Bond themed bar and restaurant in Washington, DC with an international staff.  Rohit, a London mixologist (before that was even a thing) was my supremely positive spiritual guide.  Sidi, a waiter from Mauritania who would sneak away to dance joyously whenever I played Khaled (no, not DJ Khaled); and Tree the entertainingly eccentric Vietnamese sous chef.  Mixing with this international crew conjured heady visions of faraway lands, fueling my wanderlust.


Everywhere I turned there were signs encouraging me to go.  On the flip side, there was little reason not to go. I’d saved enough money, had zero debt and had the brash, youthful confidence that I could do anything. Nothing held me back.

Then I met Ingrid.

An accomplished modern dancer, she broadened my artistic interests and drew me in with a calm demeanor that tamed my “always on” corporate mindset in a direction I wanted to go.  It perfectly mimicked the personal transformation I was experiencing. But as we grew closer I didn’t dare mention my grand travel plan for fear of losing her. Why would she waste her time with someone who was about to leave for a year?

After trying to avoid the subject for awhile, the plans for my trip came up over dinner one night. No longer able to contain my enthusiasm, I shared my desire to explore the wonders of the world, solo, for an entire year.  But I also shared my concerns about burning through savings and halting the professional momentum I’d gained.  “But you’ll be a psychological millionaire!” Ingrid exclaimed.  Wow.  Wasn’t expecting that.  Instead of cutting her losses, she actually encouraged me to do it.  She understood its intrinsic value.  “Keeper!” I thought, as in the old Foster’s Beer ad.

Ingrid’s support accelerated my planning and pushed me even closer to taking the plunge.  It lifted a huge emotional weight off my shoulders, and alleviated my concern that it would damage my career.  In the end, one year wasn’t such a big deal.  As a college graduate with 7 years of successful sales experience, I’d be OK.  Right?


On November 15, 1997, Islamic militants seeking to overthrow the Egyptian government killed 70 people (including 60 tourists) outside a temple in Luxor, Egypt.  It occurred just as my plans were taking shape, and brought to the forefront a fear that I hadn’t confronted yet.  The Pyramids of Egypt were on my list, but this was about more than just one destination and unfortunately was not an isolated incident.  I had to face the fact that I would be alone, traveling in remote parts of the world where anything could happen.

The attack prompted friends of mine to share their own cautionary tales. A co-worker recounted the story of his friend who was murdered while traveling to a developing country.  My friend Tom told me about a fellow hotel guest who ignored the front desk’s advice not to go out for a run after dark.  He returned naked.  Even his clothes were taken from him!

Any one of these stories was enough to make me reconsider my plans.  But as noted travel expert Wendy Perrin reminds us, one is statistically more likely to perish from a car crash or drowning in a bathtub than from terrorism.  Such data provides a rational antidote to doubts, but can’t by itself overcome that primal emotion of fear.  In the end, it was a deeply held spiritual belief in positive outcomes that propelled me forward and sustained me on the road.

I decided to go.  With the world as my canvas, I was free to dream up an epic itinerary.  With so many options though, how could I choose where to go?

Next up in the #RTW98 series: crafting the itinerary.

Stay tuned.

INFOGRAPHIC Traveler Tastes for 2018: To Chill or seek Thrills?

TT Taste Lab - relaxing

As 2017 winds down we’re sharing some fresh traveler preference data to help marketers target the world’s top 10 markets next year. It’s not your typical list of up-and-coming destinations (you can always find those here). Nor is it a list of popular activities or themes. Those have been covered thoroughly.

Our goal is to capture traveler sentiment on a broader scale: to go beyond the what, how or where to understand the why. We’re looking for what truly motivates travelers — the intangible result they want from a vacation — beyond any specific event or criteria.

For many, it means a chance to rest and relax. For others it may be an opportunity to recharge through active exploration. To capture these seemingly opposite objectives, there is a Relaxing vs Active preference slider on TripTuner.com and throughout much of our partner network.

This infographic is based on 1st party data (anonymized and aggregated) from 1 million inputs on that slider across the TripTuner network through December 26, 2017. It shows how travelers in the world’s top 10 outbound countries (as defined by the UNWTO) rank in their desire to relax or be active when on holiday or vacation.

This data is unique in three respects:

  • Actions, not words: it’s based on what users do, not what they say in a survey or review.
  • Qualitative sentiment: by focusing on intangible criteria (e.g. relaxing or active) it offers deeper insight than a model based on quantitative booking data.
  • Captures nuance: preferences are indicated on a sliding scale (what blend of relaxation and activity is desired) instead of a binary preference (do you want to relax OR be active?).

It’s the first of a series of reports we’ll share in the coming year from the TripTuner Taste Lab. So stay tuned for more as we continue to mine an ever-increasing trove of first-party preference data.


Celebrating 6 Years of TripTuner

We are your source for travel #inspiration.

We’re passionate about travel, with broader ambitions.

We are your self-curation tool, in a world of overwhelming choice.

We’re Tedd, Pierre, Freddy, Jen, Laurie, Huu Da and a virtual army of supporters.

We are TripTuner: a self-funded, profitable #startup celebrating 6 years of fine-tuned #travel.

We’re inviting you to join us on this journey of discovery. You down?

TripTuner 6 Year Anniversary

What’s behind our smile on #WorldEmojiDay2017?

UPDATE: Donation made! Thanks to all of you who participated in your promotion and helped us bring smiles to children in need around the world.

Today our summer interns Madeline and Philip launched a social promotion with a cause, called #MyEmojiSmile.  It’s a simple request to like or share our social posts.  For each such action we make a donation to Operation Smile, which offers free surgeries (and other services) to disadvantaged children with cleft-lip around the world.  We did it because helping people in far-flung corners of the globe while bringing smiles to faces everywhere is core to what TripTuner is about.

The concept for TripTuner evolved out of a year spent traveling through developing nations around the world some 20 years ago.  To cope with language barriers, I often resorted to hand signals, pointing to signs or even making animal noises (to find out what meat lurked beneath an innocuous mound of curry on a roadside stand near Mount Kelimutu, Indonesia).  But the surefire way to smooth things out anywhere was always a simple, genuine smile.  In many places, it was also a modest way to bridge very sharp class differences.

My trip created a strong desire to somehow help less fortunate souls in distant lands through my business.  The demands of launching a bootstrapped startup however, provided a convenient excuse for neglecting that part of our mission…until a letter arrived that struck a nerve and compelled me to act.

At first it didn’t seem any different than the ask letters I received from Operation Smile before, or from other charities.  The text looked better than much of the computer-generated “authentic” handwriting you see these days.  It even had what looked like a hand-drawn flower on it.  But a phrase from Philipine of Madagascar caught my eye:  “My life before my operation was very sad and worst because some of my friends were always laughing at me” (because of her cleft lip).

I was eating lunch, so perhaps my mind was more open to appeals at that time but as a father, I imagined my daughter being in that situation.  It even brought back my own memories of being an awkward, buck-toothed kid in a new town.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s no comparison of my privileged childhood with this girl’s plight.  But that universal feeling of not being accepted resonated with me.  The fact that there’s zero chance Philipine or others like her could dream of having such a surgery made it an easy decision.  We were going to do something as a company.

Over that same lunch I learned about #WorldEmojiDay2017 – which is today (but you knew that, right?)  The image of a smiling emoji and the Operation Smile letter sparked an idea to help in a way that fits exactly with the type of company we want to be: one that makes people smile whether they travel or not.

So there’s still time for you to like or share our Facebook post.  Each time that happens we’ll add more to our donation…and any selfies acting as your fave emoji will get a bonus.  Thanks in advance for your thoughtful participation.   Well let you know how it turns out on our FB page.

Stay tuned,





Feeling Right at Home on a Minneapolis Business Trip

It was good to be squinting.  The rising August sun beamed off Lake Minnewashta, fragmenting into millions of diamonds around my paddle as a gentle breeze offset the rising temperature.  It’s a business trip, and I’m on a paddleboard.  Sweet, right?

Minnesota, paddleboard, SUP, lake, travel

Experiencing a place like a local resident is a desire for many travelers these days.  Lately, it’s increasingly a key ingredient for business trips as well.  Just look at airbnb’s business travel tagline: “Travel for work, feel at home.” 

On a recent trip to a Minneapolis conference, I rode this trend like Paul Bunyan on Babe the Blue Ox. Here’s how I rolled (in an intentionally non-numeric list, because the world has reached listicle peak):

No Hotels for Homies.  Like most business travelers, I usually stay at hotels.  But for this trip I pulled an “airbnBRO”, staying at my brother’s house about 25 minutes southwest of the Minneapple.  No big deal, right?  We’ve all stayed with family.  But the traditional conference strategy is to stay close to the event so you can gorge on the precious face time (the real, in person kind) that paradoxically eludes us in today’s hyper-connected world.  A growing number of business travelers however, want to a more feel at home.  Nowadays it’s not rare for a team of colleagues to rent a house for a business trip.  Staying at an airbnb – or a bed in my brother’s pinball arcade basement – is increasingly a viable business stay option for those who want to feel at home.  Feel me, Homie?

Early bird get that worm.  This isn’t a new trend but if The Wire’s Marlo Stansfield says it, you better listen up.  Conferences often beget late-night benders, but keeping a disciplined at home routine is key to bringing your A game on the road.  This means carving out time by getting up early to meditate, plan the day, hang upside down – whatever gets you going.  If you’re not a morning person (or binged the night before) it may be tough.  But you’ll feel better afterwards, and will have the rest of your day to maximize your chances for serendipitous meetings like Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh does.

Work Work Work Work Work (out).  Keeping a home routine on the road often means exercising, even if only to help clear your mind.  As an entrepreneur my mornings are often chock full of ideas that gestate overnight.  Multiply that by 10x on a business trip.  I was lucky to be staying where I could get out on the lake by paddleboard or canoe for 20 minutes each morning.  It set the tone for the day and let me reflect on a previous day’s meeting that sparked a new go-to-market strategy.  No lake, you say? Poor soul. Try this 15 minute high intensity routine in your room.  Any time, any place.

Get some culture.  Wherever you go, there’s a local culture to explore.  For me, it was the Minneapolis music scene.  For those who aren’t fans of Prince (BTW what’s wrong with you?) Minneapolis is where he got his start.  The week Prince died, my brother planned to go to one of his many public, come-as-you-are house parties at his home/studio complex in Chanhassen.  I missed out on those but made the pilgrimage to share in the outpouring of love and support shown by the mass of mementos placed in tribute to the Purple One.  It had special significance for me as a fan but also as a former DJ on the station credited with “breaking” Prince, KMOJ-FM (shout out to Q-Bear, Chazz and the crew).  For more culture in Minneapolis, try the Walker Art Center, and if the elevator tries to bring you down…go concert crazy at legendary First Ave, where Prince filmed Purple Rain’s concert scenes.

MInnesota, Paisley Park, Prince, travel

Eat Local Fare.  This is definitely one area where you’ll need to be flexible about breaking from routine.  At home I usually don’t consume much dairy, and have recently explored gluten-free options (even though I’m not celiac – another trend).  Traveling to the milk and grain midwest heartlands forced me to suck it up and eat local fare: bring on the deep-fried salty cheese curds and local walleye fish tacos from Lake Minnetonka!

Take Care of Business.  Oh yeah, that.  The main reason for my trip.  No trend here – your bottom line should always remain first.  Even though I stayed outside of the city and it required more effort, my “feel at home on business travel” approach yielded insightful meetings, creative inspiration and a chance to dip my toes in the local culture.  Plus quality time with my brother and his family.  A win on all fronts! #StayTTuned




State of the ‘Tuner 2015

Most TV stations here in the US will be broadcasting the Presidential State of the Union Address tonight, but we’d like to offer a much briefer alternative. Ladies & Gentlemen, I submit to you our State of the ‘Tuner Address, with last year’s highlights and what we’ll bring in 2015.

Check out a preview of our sleek new TripTuner 2.0 design.  It’s fully optimized for mobile and tablet, for instant travel inspiration on the go – whether you’re in line at the supermarket, at the doctor’s office or stuck in a boring meeting.  Same addictive sliders, plus a rich tapestry of photos that wrap across your screen to help you find the right place for your next escape.

Click for a preview of TripTuner 2.0!

Whether or not you’ll be listening to O, you should know about our “MO” – the MOmentum gained from 3x growth last year.  We’re using it as a springboard to innovate even more than we did in 2014.  Some high points:

• CNN picks TripTuner #1 of “12 websites that’ll make you a smarter traveller.”

DressTuner 2.0 goes live on Zappos (yeah, we do that too!)

Bahamas’ Wedding Tuner debuts at the posh Per Se restaurant in NYC.

Visit Florida’s Beach Finder launches featuring Google Street …er, Beach View

• Brazil’s TAM Viagens arrives as our first airline partner, with “Inspire Me.” Belleza!

Soccer Tuner helps agnostic World Cup fans pick which team to back. Gooooool!!!

• Kempinski Hotels announces their “Tune in to Summer” promotion.

• Utah launches our latest project with Brand USA: Alpine or Red Rocks, anyone?

• France’s Havas Voyages unveils a rebranded “Inspirez-Moi” in our 3rd year together.

• October 15, 2014 marked our 3rd anniversary.

We’ve got much more in store and we’ll continue to listen to you, our loyal fans on how we may improve.  So enjoy TripTuner 2.0 on your phone, keep the suggestions coming and thanks for all your support. We wish you all the best for a fantastic 2015! #StayTTuned

Celebrating Three Years of TripTuner

Three years ago tonight, my lead developer Pablo and I were pecking out messages on Skype, knocking out a seemingly never-ending checklist of tasks.  It was a Friday night and we’d been working nonstop all day until around 8pm, when we flipped the virtual switch and pushed a web app called TripTuner live.

There was no launch party.  No throng of users enticed with sneak previews, or bloggers given special codes in a cleverly crafted pre-launch marketing plan.  We didn’t have time to build hype.  We wanted what we built to BE hype.  So our launch went completely unnoticed.  But man was it a great feeling to see an idea come to life.

Three years later, with equally little fanfare we – and by “we” I mean a virtual team spread across three continents — celebrate the sucessful culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.  A rollercoaster of ups and downs, sometimes on an hourly basis.  Quick reactions, changing priorities and rapid iterations are the norm, but the vision of discovering ideal options — for nearly anything — remains unchanged.  We’re executing on that vision and are well on our way with a growing, profitable company.  And a kick-ass product.

TripTuner began as a great way to find personalized destination ideas.  But we had no idea if it would work.  There wasn’t a test that could prove whether or not it was viable.  We had to build it to see if users thought it was as cool as we did.  Of course, everyone we showed it to said they liked it.  But everyone will tell you that.  There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to put it out there.  Fortunately, users responded with enthusiasm.  “It’s like it knows me”, tweeted one.  “So freaking obsessed” twote another.

Now, in addition to TripTuner.com, we create custom “discovery engines” for a growing array of partner sites that help users find their ideal destination, beach, island wedding, hotel…or dress.  As a result, we’ve focused more on our partner’s needs than our own over the past few years.  But we’ll be updating TripTuner.com soon to give you, our fans, an even better way to discover great places to go.

I thank you deeply for your support during these first three years and look forward to many more years with you as we move into the next chapter.  #StayTuned  – Tedd