About Me

I’m Kevin and this is my story!

Growing up and university

I’ve had the lucky opportunity to travel during the summers with my parents growing up, though it wasn’t exotic places (mostly in North America), it was something I looked forward to as it was a change of pace from school and summer vacation.

In 2010 when I was deciding what universities and programs to register for, I stumbled across a Hospitality Management program offering at Ryerson University (in Toronto, where I grew up). The idea of travel and working at the same time seemed awesome to me at the time and resulted in my registration and eventual acceptance! The program, to be honest, was not very interesting, which resulted in my eventual drop-out by year 2 and switching my majors to my original plan: economics. By fourth year, I had an itch to travel and unfortunately, I learned it was too late for me to participate in our schools’ exchange program overseas. Like most graduates, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, so I ended participating in an internship program provided by AIESEC, a student-run organization, that focuses on landing internships overseas.

Onward to the east – new experiences

I eventually ended up in Beijing, China for my internship. I couldn’t speak or understand a speck of Mandarin. You could imagine the culture shock! Through this experience, working with many engineers at the marketing company I was at, encouraged me to get in “Big Data” and “Data Analysis” as that was the next big thing. This was back in October 2014. During my time I got to explore parts of China, as well as a side trip to Seoul. It was my first opportunity to solo travel and my first real taste of travel.

Taking the risk to do an internship in a foreign country provided me the experiences that led to my thirst of adventure, as well as my career direction toward analytics. I came back from that experience, landed my first real “career” job and started learning everything analytics. SQL, Python, R, Jupyter Notebooks, doing statistical analysis, A/B testing – all that fun stuff.

Kevin Nguyen standing at the Great Wall of China on November 2014
Me at the Great Wall of China, November 2014

Building a career, and having a taste of the travel hobby

After landing my first career “job”, I was looking for a new credit card on a popular Canadian forum called “RedFlagDeals” which resulted in me applying for the AMEX Gold Card. Initially, I was only interested in cashing out the 25k points for $250 cash but a rabbit hole of research (and too much free time now that I had a desk job) led me astray into the world of frequent flier points and credit card churning. I started signing up for over 6 credit cards, something my parents were wary about. You’re taught to not play around with your credit score.

During this time (approx. October 2015 – September 2017), I dived head in into this hobby and joined the community, learning everything there is about credit cards, frequent flier points, hotel loyalty programs, and how to “upgrade” my travels. I remember booking my first business class flight (Toronto to Edmonton) just to go to a points convention to learn even more. My first international business class flight was a trip to Taipei (Toronto to Taipei) on EVA Air. I will never forget this experience as I’ve never been pampered on plane this much before. I paid less than $100 for these flights with cash values reaching well over $5000!

Kevin Nguyen in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2017.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Autumn 2017

Starting the flame: advice seeking

During this time, I noticed friends, family members, and coworkers approaching me for advice and tips/strategies on the things I was doing. I held lectures, gave specialized guidelines/tips hoping others could experience what I experienced.

Kevin Nguyen giving a travel hacking presentation.
One of the many presentations I did with an audience of about 25 people!

A setback: The United States of America

Summer 2017. At this point I had already a few years of work experience under my belt. My work colleagues from my China experience were correct: data was the hot industry to be in. Data Scientist was the next sexy job title of the 21st century.

I was getting bored of home (Toronto) and really wanted to move elsewhere. From my China experience, I learned I would be more comfortable in a place that is English speaking. What better to choose than the US? It was only a short flight away. Moving to a new country would provide a much better perspective on life, but as well as many learning opportunities and new experiences.

I applied to a few jobs in the US and did some interviews and had a huge setback. It boiled down to this: most US employers wouldn’t even bother hiring me because I was a Canadian with “relatively” little experience. Why bother going through the whole visa process when they can hire an American at this low of a job level?

This was extremely discouraging and thinking it over the summer, I decided I wanted to try out long-term travel. My resume was strong enough to find a job in the hot market of data analytics, at least in Canada – so I could return home no problem in that sense. I started researching in August 2017 and by October 2017, I had a draft ready of where I wanted to go.

Taking a risk and dropping it all: 2018 and backpacking

I booked my trip in November, leaving on March 2018. I announced it to my family and friends in December. You could imagine the feedback I received:

  • People in 20’s: Holy that’s crazy! You’re going to have an awesome time. Make an Instagram so we can see what you’re up to!
  • People in 30’s: We’re proud of you of taking this risk and thought it was the best time to do something like this before I had “commitments”. Many told me they regret not doing something like this when they were younger
  • People 40+: Were against it (this includes my parents haha). Topics such as career, saving money for a house, buying a car, getting a girlfriend and marriage were all topics brought up

Isn’t it interesting to see the mindset of different life stages? What I found extremely interesting is that people in their 30’s actually had regret to not do something like this. I didn’t want to live my life full of regrets.

My 2 backpacks that I had for 10 months.
My bags for the 10 months I was backpacking

The trip of a lifetime: March 2018 – December 2018

I left on March 3, 2018 at the ripe age of 26. I remember crying as I left my parents through airport security with just a 40L backpack. So many “what if” questions went through my head. Of course, these questions also popped up during my planning stages.

  • What if I get hurt on my trip?
  • What if I can never come home ever again due to unforeseen events?
  • What if my trip is a bust and I hate it? If I come back early, people will be disappointed in me.
  • What if I can’t find a job when I get back?

These kind of questions and commitments to the daily life grind is what I believe most of society don’t take risks. For the first time I felt like I was stepping out of societal norms and having control of what I wanted to do in my life.

Kevin Nguyen at the sand dunes in Namibia.
Desert sand dunes in Namibia
Kevin Nguyen near Milford Sound in New Zealand.
Nearby Milford Sound, New Zealand

The trip

I started my trip with two whole day layovers in Istanbul, Cairo with my first real destination being Cape Town, South Africa. I toured around southern Africa, made my way over to Oceania, and up to Asia. At one point I flew back to the US. I got to redeem all the points I had saved up. Dozens of 4+ star hotel rooms free, business/first class flights at the fraction of their cost. Of course, most of my trip were in hostel dorms.

This was a trip I would never forget. I got to experience what so many people experience in their lifetime within a 10-month span.

  • Met so many people from the around the world, many who I call my friends today
  • Saw so many different cultures, majestic scenery, and environments
  • A ton of self-development: how I handle myself on the road, my personal limits, street smarts, my career and what I wanted to do in the future, being out there and approaching random people, and relationship building
  • Had an idea of where I would want to move in the US after speaking with many Americans

Of course, my trip wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, there were low parts as well. I got hurt in hiking accident in New Zealand where I limped for days, fell off a moped in Vietnam and had a huge scar across my whole leg, got roped into scams in many places, dropped my phone in water losing all communication/travel info I saved (and did not back up my stuff!).

Biggest of all: I fell in love during my trip. Due to my lack of relationship experience, it blew up in my face by the end of my trip. I witnessed an ugly side of me I never knew I had. My epic trip ended and started the scariest part of my life.

Kevin Nguyen flying Japan Airlines First Class using frequent flier points.
Flying first class on Japan Airlines using points!

2019: Healing, reflecting, maturing

January 2019 to March 2019 was the scariest part of my life. My mental health was in decline, I was unemployed, recovering from the “high” of travelling everyday day (PTSD-like), blaming myself for everything that happened in my past relationship, and it was deep winter in Canada (cold and dark).

My friends and family saved me during this time; being a place of vocal support when I needed it most but as well as helping me reflect on my past decisions and learning from the mistakes I’ve done.

I’m confident I’ve matured as a person. I cringed at some of my actions that I did not too long ago. This would’ve never happened if I didn’t take the risk to drop it all and just travel. This experience made me understand why life experiences are so important. Self-development comes in times of challenge.

I managed to pull myself out of a rut and landed a job in March. I got back into it: travel, experiences, and career. This time, I knew what I wanted to do with more confidence than ever. I was going to quit my job in January 2021, backpack for 6 months then find a new job in the US.

The La Nocturn des Coteaux festival in Liège, Belgium.
La Nocturne des Coteaux festival in Liège, Belgium – September 2019

The flame continues to build: becoming the resident expert of travel

During my backpacking trip, as well as during 2019, I had more and more people approach me on giving advice on everything related to travel. It was no longer focused on frequent flier points or credit card strategies. Topics started becoming more broad: hostels, sites/resources I used, places to check out, food to try. Helping others was something I enjoyed doing and would make time for. This is where the flame sparked that would lead to the eventual creation of this blog.

Little did we all know a global pandemic was going to start…

COVID and a new life in the US – and today!

I could’ve not had predicted COVID to be still going on even to 2021 and beyond. With the world shut down, and my initial plans in disarray – I had to make a choice. Do I move down to the US now? I decided to follow through with my plans and take the risk of moving down to the US – global pandemic or not. After a few months of gruesome job interviews (why are there so many stages!?), I managed to land multiple offers and eventually found myself in my new home down in Austin, Texas!

A lot has happened in 2021:

  • Moved to a new country for the first time (China was temporarily)
  • Signed my first apartment lease ever
  • Started 2 new jobs
  • Purchased my first car
  • Purchased my first home and subsequently dealing with a mortgage for the first time
  • Working purely remotely for the first time

All these experiences I’ve had to learn on my own; through friends, family, looking on the internet and so on.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading about my story! I’ve started this blog coming from my past experiences. Whether you’re someone who is just looking for travel information, moving to a different country, remote work, or just having fun in your own backyard, I’m here to help provide you all the necessary information, strategies, tools, and tactics for you to have the most epic experiences ever!

Let my experiences help you.