Around 6 months ago, I stumbled upon Foster Huntington’s stylishly minimalist blog A Restless Transplant, which shoved me into a journey of discovery and procrastination, scouring the web for other individuals who’ve set out on their own path, and who were recording their personal journey online.
Out of that online journey, I’ve chosen my Top 10 to share with you here, and where better to start than with the inspiration behind this post, Foster Huntington, himself.
Back in the Summer of 2010, Foster left his comfortable New York City job (he was working as a designer for Ralph Lauren) and moved into his very own camper to start a fresh life on the road. Since the beginning of that chapter, he’s clocked over 100,000 miles (meaning his van now has over 350k), burning rubber around the West, while stopping off for bouts of surfing, camping, photography, writing, treehouse-building and recording videos for his clients.
Between all of this, Foster has amassed a hefty social media following (30,000 likes on Facebook and 925,000 followers on Instagram, for instance), who’re all vicariously living his popularised #vanlife lifestyle. It’s difficult to explain the strong pull of Foster’s lifestyle until you sift through the photos on his blog. The romanticised hue, and impressive storytelling ability transplant you from the glow of your screen to a life almost entirely removed from our own. A life that many think was left behind with the demise of Thoreau, Kerouac, and Burroughs. A very 21st century Beatnik, who’s followable. In real-time.
The romanticised hue, and impressive storytelling ability transplant you from the glow of your screen to a life almost entirely removed from our own. A life that many think was left behind with the demise of Thoreau, Kerouac, and Burroughs. A very 21st century Beatnik, who’s followable. In real-time.
For the past 10 years, Chris Guillebeau has been on a quest. A quest to visit every single country in the world. Not too long ago, he reached his goal, which is well worthy of a round of applause from us here at MakeUseOf. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Chris’s hugely personal blog — The Art of Non-Conformity — offers a glimpse into the myriad pies this entrepreneur has his fingers buried in.
He’s currently working on his third book. He organises (with the help of his team) not one, but two hugely successful and rapidly growing annual conferences for those who’re looking to carve their own path through life. He runs the popular Travel Hacking Cartel, helping others to travel in luxury, on the cheap. He speaks at top conferences around the globe. And he regularly launches new books/guides with other well-known online personalities via his Unconventional Guides publishing company.
To glimpse into the life of someone who seems to be able to do (and have) it all, yet who still has the modesty to share the trials and tribulations, is a breath of fresh air. Especially in a world where the high-lights are often extolled, while the low-lights are deeply hidden.
Pieter Levels’ blog, Levels.io may have been going for some time, but the reason he’s on this list, is due to the project(s) he worked on this past year, setting up 12 startups in 12 months while living as a digital nomad.
Although some of Pieter’s startups didn’t quite take off, some did remarkably well. These include NomadList (a crowdsourced list of the best places to live as a digital nomad), HashtagNomads (a highly active community of nomads), and GIFBook (enabling any GIF to be printed as a real life flip book).
It’s worth noting that Pieter is no business guru (as admitted by himself), and being included in this list may well do nothing to help his bout of Impostor Syndrome. Yet the openness and frankness of his blog makes us excited to see what’s coming next, though we assume it’ll be something to do with expanding on the success stories of past last year!
Even before birth, doctors asked Sean Stephenson’s parents to prepare for the worst. The rare bone disorder that Sean was suffering from resulted in extremely brittle bones that would presumably make even surviving birth highly difficult. Yet despite the odds, Sean is still with us, going strong.
Since then, Sean (a certified therapist) has inspired millions to make the most of their lives, and to ooze positivity no matter what the situation. He’s appeared on The Oprah Show. He’s had a 60-minute documentary produced about his life by The Biography Channel. His message touched people such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Not only this, but Sean is also an accomplished author, public speaker, blogger and social media legend.
An example to us all and a miraculous story considering Sean’s early prognosis and physical battles. Following Sean’s fantastic work through his blog and social media channels will be inspirational for us all.
In 2009, Jay and Net set up One Trip Pass, which they describe as — “a series of projects and collaborations that look back at American goods in new ways”. It all started off as what was supposed to simply be a vintage story for a magazine, where the duo would scour the country looking for vintage clothing and objects. But from there, more and more opportunities arose to work with high profile clients such as Levi’s, enabling them to enjoy plenty more road trips in the future.
Through the mediums of “blog posts, twit pics, store installations, flea-market collaborations, concept boards, and above all, road trips”, the site offers — in the words of CourduroyMag — a sort of “road trip time capsule” that captures and showcases some of the country’s most interesting products and ideas, often found in the most unassuming locations”.
Although their blog is far from active, the videos they’ve created give a fascinating look not just at an alternative lifestyle, but also at various aspects of American culture that are rarely ever examined in detail.
The Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, Cal Newport is a well known online figure (largely thanks to his blog StudyHacks, where he aims to ‘decode patterns of success’) in the self-education corner of the web. The reason he’s included in this list is due to the fascinating window into scholarly life that he provides. This window offers us glimpses into how Newport tackles not just some of the toughest problems in his field, but also into his rational, deconstructive approach to improving his craft, and sharing his lessons/failures along the way.
Parallel to this, Newport has also released several successful books which focus on “contrarian, evidence-based advice for building a successful and fulfilling life in school and after graduation,” along with delivering well received talks at universities such as Princeton and MIT.
Shantanu Starick is now 2 years into his photography project (The Pixel Trade) that’s taking him to each of the world’s seven continents without spending a dime. With no cash in his pocket, and not allowed to resort to a handy ARM, Shantanu relies on exchanging his photography skills for everything he needs — food, transport, accommodation, clothes. Everything.
“In exchange for my skills as a professional photographer, all I’m asking from each of my subjects is a roof to sleep under, food to keep the stomach happy and a ticket or ride to the next trade. Shelter, food and transport traded for whatever photography work you need snapped. It’s that simple.”
With no end date in mind, the project will continue until “the well of human compassion and curiosity dries up and [he] reaches all seven continents”.
You can see a map of where these photographic trades have led to on his website.
Scottish-born rock climber, Dave MacLeod spends much of his life on the rock, training to be on the rock, talking about being on the rock, or writing about being on the rock. His blog not only links to other inspirational and death-defying climbs, but also talks readers through his own daunting and exciting training trips and incredibly hard climbs.
One of which includes his route Rhapsody, which was the first ever E11 graded route in the world.
Back in October 2013, Torbjørn C. Pedersen took on an epic, arduous, lengthy journey to visit every country in the world, in one trip, without flying. At the time of writing, he’s visited a total of 70 countries, all with the aim of “bringing some attention toward the well-meaning people of the planet of which there are most.” And just in case that wasn’t enough of a challenge, Pedersen has introduced a few of other rules “just for fun”.
The 193 countries that the United Nations counts doesn’t include several areas of land that are claimed to be sovereign states. An additional 10 of these are also on the list of 203 total countries that are part of this quest (supported by Ross Offshore). In each of these countries, Pedersen must spend at least 24 hours. Plus, he cannot purchase or rent a vehicle of his own — meaning he has to travel with locals and other travelers all the way.
To say this is a daunting undertaking is a gargantuan understatement. It’s trip likely to span many years, and a mission that’s definitely worthy of a place on this list.
When Patt Flynn was laid off from his job as an architect in 2008, he immediately decided to “go it alone”. Since then, he’s been relentlessly publishing some of the best blog posts, videos and podcast relating to how he’s setting up passive income streams. Be warned though. Patt’s isn’t some “get rich quick” site. It’s pretty much a complete log book of everything he’s working on, with almost complete transparency about his expenses, income (last month, over $70,000), failures and successes.
In his own words: “I feel like I’m the crash test dummy of online business.”
Although the bulk of Patt’s income does indeed come from his blog (via affiliate commissions), he also has his fingers in tons of other pies, from authorship, public speaking, a (massively) popular podcast, app development, and more. Along with this, he also runs occasional challenges with the aim being to set up a niche web-site and draw a sustainable profit from it, all while showing visitors exactly how it’s done. Often, hundreds of people join the challenge.
Being able to follow a master at online business (though Patt would not self-identify as such), while not becoming flustered by their arrogance, is something that Patt offers in abundance.
Learning From The Inspirators
There are a huge number of people who are recording their inspiring lives online for all of us to learn from, drool over, or simply envy. These ten are just a tiny portion who are opening our eyes to new ways of living and to fresh approaches to life.
Who else have you come across online who should be added to this list?