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From humble beginnings to international travel entrepreneur – an interview with Andy Hayes

August 15, 2010
by budgettravelsac

From a poor family in a rural community to world traveler, entrepreneur, and speaker, Andy Hayes has soared to new heights with good fortune and hard work.  In this interview, Andy talks about his introduction to travel, how has life has been changed because of it, what tips he has for writing, and his advice on making a career out of travel.

Where did you grow up?  What things interested you as a kid?
Did you travel with your family growing up?  What kinds of places did you go?

I grew up in a small rural community.  There wasn’t much around but corn and soybeans – but forests and a stream too.  So I spent a lot of my youth horsing around outdoors.  (It would explain why today, my favorite thing to do while on the road is to go walk in a park.)  As a relatively poor family, we didn’t travel much, and if we did it was to visit family – definitely no wild overseas trips.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I haven’t decided yet.  I think I might have finally found something (who doesn’t want to be the travel guy?), but please check back in later.

What inspired you to travel?  Was there a defining moment or place for you where you knew you had to travel?

For me, the defining moment was in college.  In college, I had a wonderful network of friends – very similar to the virtual network of awesomeness I have now, but then they were all in person.  Anyway, we were talking about tales of far away places, and decided we would plan a trip somewhere really cool.  (We went to Aruba.  Ok, we were barely 20 and didn’t know any better, give me a break.)

Aruba (Flickr)

We didn’t have much money, but we were some of the first people to use Google as a search engine as we had friends at Stanford.  (Yup, I was one of Google’s first regular users.  Who knew they’d be so important to my future?)  I was the organized one of the group, so I set about researching resorts, flights, and boats.  I managed to get us there and back, stay at an amazing resort, with money leftover for mojitos and 4×4 races across the desert.  And here I am now!

Have you always been in travel in some way?  What other jobs did you have before the travel industry became a career?

No.  My background is in business and technology.  The job I had before doing what I do now was really a toxic environment, so I decided that I’d had enough and was going to make the leap.  And if I was going to leap, I was going to do something I loved.

How did you become a travel writer, speaker, and coach?  How did your travel ideas and business develop?

By accident.  Right place, right time.  I was looking for something, and I found it.  The writing was by chance, as I had heard about this “blogging” stuff and decided to try it.  And people liked what I had to say.  So I kept doing it and spent 10x as much time educating myself on how to do it better.

Same with the speaking.  I had a few people ask me to do some stuff, and I was very reluctant because I did not think I was a good speaker.  Nor did I like it.  But it’s amazing what happens when you get up to talk about the things that you like, that you enjoy, and that you are passionate about.  The fear is stripped away and the inspiration comes to the forefront.

Once those things started to roll, I figured out ways that I could convert my existing knowledge into this new “job” that I had created.  I was a consultant for over a decade, and a lot of those skills have proven very transferable.

How did Sharing Travel Experiences come about?  What was the idea behind that?

It does just what it says on the label.  I wanted a place where people could share their travel experiences.   That seems to be working pretty well as we enter our third year!

Even though travel is a big part of your life, what are you like at home?  What things do you like to do and enjoy?  Where do you like to hang out?

I’m a homebody, without a doubt!  There’s nothing better to me than a warm, home cooked meal, a bottle of wine and watching a DVD while relaxing on the sofa.  On a rainy day, I love to fling open the windows, curl up under a duvet and read while listening to the rain.  Perhaps it is cliché but I think life is about balance.

Being involved in travel writing and business, what is the biggest lesson travel and people have taught you?

That the world is a very diverse place, that most people have good intentions, and that if you’re open to the experiences the Universe sends you, you’ll enjoy yourself.  Life is too short not to enjoy it.

What advice would you give to travel writers or those wanting to start a travel business?

Travel writers should think of their craft as a business.  So many fail to think in these terms.  And with the markets the way they are, if you don’t you will fail.

Otherwise, regardless of what kind of venture you want to launch, how do you think like a business?  If you can’t answer these questions with a simple and straightforward answer, you need to think harder:

-         Who is your Ideal Customer?

-         What is their problem and How does your Ideal Solution fix it?

-         Why is your Ideal Solution better, or different, than everyone else?

(Hint:  solution is a very boxy word for a broad concept.  For example, your solution might be that you make someone laugh.  That’s a solution!)

About Andy Hayes

I’m pretty well known in the travel and tourism world as ‘that travel guy.’  ( I’m the published author my own Edinburgh travel guide, iPhone app and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the National Geographic Traveler.  I run way too many online businesses, including my travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences (, my tourism marketing business, Travel Online Partners (, and a recently launched site to help others find their dream jobs in tourism, Dream Travel Jobs (

Follow him on twitter @andrewghayes

Tweet Me from Budget Travel IntentionsTweet

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