How I started my online Travel Business while living abroad - How to Guide

how to guide

I get several emails everyday from my readers asking about the steps I've taken to get where I am now: living abroad in Mexico full-time and running two businesses while still affording the time to travel.

I'd like to say it was really difficult, took me years to achieve, tons of money & was just as complex as any other start-up business in the first year, but that simply isn't true.

I started this business with less than $2,000 USD in my pocket and as you read on, you'll be able to learn how to do it, too.

No click bait, no purchase necessary, no sign-up for this and I'll explain it over a string of spam-like emails; no. I'll spell it out in the steps of this post because they're just that simple

So, let me be completely clear - I have two businesses, both of which are semi-integrated into each other, or at least share the same idea: travel. 

My first business is still in the "start-up" process, beginning over 2 years ago & costing more in establishment by margin than my second business ever has. It's taken more time, energy & research & has produced little in comparison to my second business. 

The initial business is this blog -, the place where my passions lie in traveling, volunteering abroad & inspiring others to take that incredible step in their lives, too.

The learning curve is big & the amount of established bloggers is bigger, but I still set out to achieve my goal to travel the world & give back while doing it, documenting my experiences along the way.


And now in my second year of blogging, I've averaged around ~$1,000 USD per month in income through several sources, spending the majority of my "working" time perfecting these posts for a pretty minimal return. But I keep chugging away at it because of my love for traveling, writing & volunteering with causes I believe in, and I know that as my readers like you continue to grow, so will the income. (See: How to start a blog in 10 easy steps)

My second and newest business is this vacation rentals business, and for the lack of titles I'll call it My Deztination Vacations. But it's even simpler than the title sounds, so read on below to see the real steps I took to achieve this full-time vacation lifestyle. 

Liquidate & Move to Mexico

"What?! How the $%^&!# am I gonna be able to do that?"

This will be the hardest part for most, but the truth is, you don't need your stuff. You don't need your car. You don't need all that crap you put in all those suitcases. You just need enough clothes for 2 weeks in a sunny climate & your beloved pet if you have one. Leave the rest behind! It's all replaceable, and I promise you wont miss it once you arrive.

Once you can overcome the attachment to all of your items, you can start to free yourself from the strings that are holding you to the place you're currently in.

Most won't do it.

But the difference between those who achieve a life living abroad and those who don't is the choice to attach or detach from the material things you've acquired and trusting in yourself to rebuild again.

Those major things include your home and your job, and letting go of them with the uncertainty that a life abroad is risky but achievable

I fell into an ironic yet easy way out as being fired from my job pushed me out of my comfort zone, changing my life whether I was ready for it or not. 

Luckily I had an idea of a business in place, but no real securities established to make the move so unexpectedly. 

Yet, I did it; I jumped. 

And took that risk to liquidate the rest of my belongings, putting sentiments in storage, and with all of my things in a carry on bag, I purchased a plane ticket and moved to Mexico to start my business and new life abroad with my dog.

This was the hardest part of my journey. 

Now lets move on to where it gets easy...

Snorkeling Las Marietas Islands, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Snorkeling Las Marietas Islands, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Subleasing & Choosing the Right Property

My properties are located in Puerto Vallarta, but all over Mexico you have people around to help you with real estate. 

The trick is finding a realtor who is willing to help you find a place that allows subleasing and has the inventory to support it. (See: How to Rent an Apartment or Condo in Mexico)

Once you've found that person, tell your realtor you're looking for places that have these general guidelines: 

  • Monthly rent less than $900 USD

  • Fully Furnished including dishes (this is common in Mexico)

  • Phone & Internet accessible: Note: Set up phone/wifi service immediately - This can greatly delay your business as your vacationers will not often book a home with no wifi.

  • Ensure there is air conditioning, TV and appliances inside the unit

  • Understand the electric usage history

  • 6 month or 1 year lease

  • Consider high season (Nov-April) vs. low season (April-Oct) when investing

  • Find property that is within a block or two from the beach

  • Location! Location! Location! In Puerto Vallarta, I've been very successful with rentals between the Marina and the Romantic Zone.

  • Everybody loves a pool

  • Make sure it is written in your contract that it is OK to sublease the unit

  • Ideally 2+ bedrooms so you can ask for higher rates

  • Go for more modern for your buck

Investing in Mexico

Most people feel that talking about money makes them uncomfortable, but it doesn't bother me. I want to give you real-life perspective of what it took to do what I did and I think transparency is key.

Here's a little secret: You don't have to buy

5 months into my business and I have two condos, both of which I leased then sub-leased to vacationers from all over the world. 

And as long as it's written in your contract, you have every legal right to do so in Mexico. 

I came with $2,000 USD in my pocket, invested $1,800 into my first condo, and within a week had bookings. 

The second condo I rented cost me a little over $1,500 USD that I mostly live in it full time and don't make money on.

After a few months of generating cash, the first condo has continuously been able to support the monthly expenses of both condos plus my cost of living and entertainment. 

After all the bills are paid for both including cost of living, I'm averaging about $1,500 USD in profit. 

Here's a few more tips:

  • Consider high season (Nov-April) vs. low season (April-Oct) when investing - How fast do you need to make your ROI?

  • Negotiate the monthly rent and your initial down payment

  • Be very clear of your intent to sublease

  • Express your willingness to take excellent care of their property

  • Know what other expenses you're responsible for (repairs, utilities, furniture, etc).

  • Decide if you want a 6 month or 1 year lease (most owners offer 1 year leases to ensure the condo is paid for in low season).

  • Request everything in writing

Create an Annual Projection

After doing a lot of market research, I found that there are over 8,000 listings on Airbnb in the Puerto Vallarta area.

That's a lot of competition. 

I wasn't willing to risk all of my savings investing in something that wasn't going to succeed, so I compared and contrasted the properties I was looking at with others on apps like Airbnb, VRBO, Craigslist, etc. 

Here's an example of an annual projection I did for a property I chose NOT to invest in:

It was a great property and had a lot of potential. But that was just it, it needed some pretty major repairs before it was ready for my guests and a pool I was responsible for maintaining, so I chose to pass.

Note: The over head cost for initial plus monthly maintenance was not reflected in the projections above. 

After the Contract is Signed

  • Treat the property for pests (sometimes you can get the initial treatment to be included upon move in)

  • Have beds, carpets & couches shampooed

  • Fully stock the house with kitchen & bathroom supplies that are needed to run a home

  • Decorate the place inexpensively, making it bright, cheerful and welcoming. Extra points for going with the themes of the culture.

  • Stage the perfect photos

  • Create a compelling ad on Airbnb

  • Be responsive & offer competitive prices in your first month

  • Don't be afraid of guests in your home! It's an individually rated process & my experiences of people have been very good.

Deep cleaning

Deep cleaning

Check your host check-in prep list

  1. Deep clean the entire property (I hired cleaning ladies through

  2. Clean all linens

  3. Remove any pet supplies

  4. Take out all trash

  5. Lock valuables away

  6. Empty refrigerator, microwave & cupboards of perishables

  7. Remove all personal items

  8. Create a complete welcome letter & check in guide for the home

    • Location information & directions

    • 2 sets of keys with condo number

    • Parking information

    • Trash disposal site

    • Wifi passwords & condo phone number

    • Pool/Gym hours

    • Allot 7kwh of AC usage per day. Explain to your guests politely that they are responsible for any additional usage.

    • Explain Cable TV

    • Designate smoking areas

    • Give them a business card for any other questions

  9. Remove any medications

  10. Water all plants as needed

That's it!

That's everything it took for me to get this business off and running! 

I hope this post helps give you the courage to go for your dreams, crush your goals & enlightens you to all of the opportunities you are & will be facing in your future.

Recently I posted a little Instagram story & came up with this sweet little quote:

"Blessed; Not only for this life, but for the courage to live it". 

Sunset May 16th, 2017, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Sunset May 16th, 2017, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

If you have any questions or additions to this article, send me an email here

Thank you for reading!

Living Abroad: Mexico