26 Sep Sharon Tseung, Digital Nomad Expert, How Multiple Passive Income Streams Allowed Her to Travel the World
Sharon Tseung, a digital nomad expert who built her multiple passive income streams while traveling around the world for 2 years. What’s even more impressive was her ability to build up her passive income allowing her to save money while she traveled. Take a listen on this podcast episode about her journey with traveling and why she focused on the pursuit of a digital nomad lifestyle, traveling, and aspiring for more. She’s settled back down in the bay area to help others build passive income streams and live the life they want. You can find her information below and a lot of great resources on the site she runs, Digital Nomad Quest.
Eric: hey everybody. This is Eric Y Chen for the Y Factor Podcast.
Today, I have my good friend and guest Sharon Tseung. Don’t be shy you can say hey say hello louder super excited to have you on board because I’ve actually I don’t know if you know, but I’ve been following your journey for the longest time, right? So you pretty much consider yourself as a digital Nomad in a sense, right?
So I’d love to have you kind of explain your background who you are and what you do.
Sharon: Yeah, so, basically May of 2016, I quit my job and I traveled for about two years as a digital Nomad and during that time I was working on building passive income streams online was able to basically average around $4,000 a month in passive income. I think the great thing was that despite the travel expenses was able to like save money after that whole two years and during my journey I blogged about my progress and kind of like tried to teach people how to make money online as well. So that’s kind of what I do on digital Nomad Quest I try to teach people how to live a financially free and location independent life.
Eric: Yeah, is that what you’re referring to or a lot of people refer to as fire now right?
Sharon: I feel like the fire movement kind of emphasizes being Frugal. I feel like for me I tried to emphasize increasing the income side of things. But it’s still kind of the same thing right like you’re trying to retire early so that you can kind of like live kind of freely design your life.
Eric: The fire cons is just more of a modest lifestyle.
Sharon: Maybe I mean, I guess like people have different takes on it. Maybe my take is just like a little different but the concepts the same like retire early be financially free.
Eric: So yeah, basically building up all of this stuff like income streams for for yourself.
Sharon: Yeah, that’s what I’m doing, and the other people they are trying to save money and then they trying to like basically save like seventy percent of their income or more and then retire that way so I don’t know if they’re as focused on building of other income streams, but that’s kind of what my focus is.
Eric: You have a name for this concept that you’re doing?
Sharon: Oh a name (laughter)
Eric: come up with your own movement.
Sharon: Oh my gosh. I’m not sure but I just call it the being financially free being location independent. I started off with the idea of Digital Nomad Quest as like I was thinking I would just travel forever.
But , I mean I ended up coming back to the Bay Area after the two years of travel. I’m like working full-time now, so I’m doing the the passive income stuff on the side. Maybe in the future. I will like go back out again, but it’s more about having the freedom to do what you want.
Like if I want to take that day job I can or if I want to leave I can.
Eric: So what the beauty of it is that over the course of two years of you traveling you’re able to build up all these income streams passively and then now that you are back in the Bay Area you have a full-time job, but you’re also just consistently collecting four thousand dollars of passive income.
Sharon: Yeah, I mean I think like it has gone down slightly, but I’m trying to work on building up my brand more and increase that amount again, but it’s kind of nice that I have like the full-time job as well as the side income so I don’t have to worry like I have stable income and then I can work on the thing on the side and then when I’m ready when I’ve built up that passive income to maybe like ten twenty k a month or something. I can maybe like leave again in the future and do what I want.
Eric: And that would be enough for you to be comfortable and just be able to travel around.
Eric: So going back to the two years before you took off. What were you doing?
Sharon: I was working as a marketing manager at another startup, but I wasn’t really passionate about what I was doing. I was kind of working nine to five being in an office every single day and I’ve been doing that since I graduated so I just felt like I needed to change as well and then before that I did a solo Europe trip for a month in 2014, and I think that sparked a lot of motivation for me to learn about Financial Freedom and stuff like that. And that’s kind of why I left and because a lot of people when I was abroad I would see them kind of living their lives like trying to pursue their dreams like really passionate about being present, you know, so.
I just felt like there’s a lot more to life and I wanted to see that and if I kind of started traveling and saw that it wasn’t the life for me, at least I would know.
Eric: Was there someone that was already traveling around the world making passive income that you look to or was like a shining star or just to pretty much see that this was even possible or you just went on your own?
Sharon: Yeah, so I used to watch like these YouTube videos and like they don’t Nomads I think like the six months leading to quitting and traveling I would just watch them and they would be chilling in Bali and Chiang Mai and stuff like that like Chris The Freelancer or I don’t even remember who else but there’s a bunch of Nomads right that blog about it or YouTube about it and stuff like that and I would just be so inspired watching them because they’re just like, you know, if they felt like it, they could just walk around and like do whatever go to the beach.
Eric: In the videos, they’re just walking around with their laptop and video recording themselves on the beach right its like work from anywhere. So I think I think back then when you did it, It was still I would say earlier in the whole Nomad phase right and now you have a lot of these companies like Remote Year for instance that are really pushing this agenda on like you can work from anywhere.
You can work from the beach if you have a full-time job we’ll try to teach you how to convince your boss to let you work remotely and all these things right but you still have to pay into that program, right? And and then the other component in this whole movement is that like people are trying to convince other people that it is doable.
It’s a lifestyle that you can achieve but then because of all the guru’s the quote-unquote gurus out there. You can’t really tell what is real and what’s not right? So maybe you got in early. I don’t know that’s you know based on your experience, but I think in terms of like 2019, is that something people, you know should still go and pursue or this is something that they should be worried about?
Is it achievable is it not? Like what are the precautions you know people would have to take if they want to go into this lifestyle?
Sharon: I don’t think there’s such a thing of like, oh, it’s too saturated or something. I think everyone has the capability of doing it especially because we have all these tools now and we can make money online.
We you know, we can seize this opportunity if we wanted to in terms of like what to do in order to prepare for me. I would recommend saving at least like two years of expenses and to find out how much the expenses would cost it would kind of require you to research where you’re going to travel to and then kind of look on blogs to see like how much people end up spending in those countries.
So that’s what I did a lot and it’s actually very cheap to travel in a lot of places. I think I ended up spending like 11,000 something for like nine months. So it was like cheaper than renting in like, you know in San Francisco or something like that.
Eric: Yeah, because you’re saying it was eleven thousand dollars in expenses basically living and food assuming fun and activity.
Sharon: Yeah, even flights like everything.
Eric: So 11,000 can get you really far. based on where you are and in terms of a different country, right? and that’s I mean for people in the Bay Area that’s that’s not going to cover rent, really at all. So just being able to maybe it’ll cover rent but then you still have to pay for food and if you want to go out with your friends that’s already a lot of money.
And so it’s quite amazing to see like that you were actually able to do it and you mentioned earlier that you actually made enough money while traveling and save up enough money while you were traveling to I think a lot of people they’re thinking. Okay. Well, let me just make enough money to cover the expenses and that’s it.
And so they don’t think it’s a sustainable model because you know people work so they can save money so they can eventually, you know, buy a house or support their family or you know, put their kids to school, but , you’re able to prove that you can live this lifestyle and save money, you know, put it into your savings, right?
Sharon: Yeah, I ended up saving more than I spent. And for example, like Chiang Mai cost me around 600 a month for everything. Yeah. Yeah, so I was there for maybe four months or so and you know, I was making way more than that. So all that just like goes into saving and investments and stuff like that.
Also, I would say for me I took like two two or three freelance positions remotely before I quit, so I kind of knew I had the safety net but I’m pretty risk averse so like I’m different from other people. Like I know some other people who have traveled to Chiang Mai with like five hundred dollars in their pocket and a dream and they’re just winging it so.
I’m not like that. I’m very like meticulous and I’m trying to like make sure I’m safe. So I actually booked six months of accommodations and flights before I even left, so like I had everything planned out very well and then I already started working on passive income streams like Etsy and I dabbled with like Kindle and stuff like that, but Etsy became a main source as like my first passive income stream. I feel like being a digital Nomad you can actually leverage like the low expenses by you know, like you travel to all these places and then you can like work in cafes and like actually, you know, focus on your business and then not have to worry too much about finances actually like you can save a lot of money.
Eric: Just going back to what you brought up just now about you being risk averse right a lot of people would think that if they were to quit their job and go travel around the world that is the riskiest thing. You can even do right and just going there without a plan and not knowing what your future lies ahead that in itself is really scary and what they would think is as risky, right?
So what are some of the ways that you are able to prevent that? I mean, you mentioned you kind of plan everything ahead. But like what were some other things that helped you in your own mindset to say like me doing this isn’t going to be as risky as people might think it would be?
Sharon: Finance is like the number one first.
Make sure you’re covered with savings. Make sure you have some cash flow coming in maybe if you’re very risk-averse. Again, some people don’t even care about that. They just go and then let’s see.
Eric: How much would you say it would be enough just to even get started.
Sharon: I think it really depends where you’re going.
So some countries are pretty expensive. Right? So I went to places like Greece, Romania, Portugal, Korea like Taipei and stuff like that and Southeast Asia. A lot of new digital Nomads recommend Chiang Mai, Bali, and like isn’t Midian or something like that in Colombia.?
Yeah, but you know, those are like good starting places because there’s a lot of expats there and it’s known as like digital Nomad capitals. So I would say next besides like finances is kind of like safety. So safety and like friends kind of thing. So for me, I use sites like Nomad List and like Facebook groups to kind of get some information about these countries how much it would cost.
They have like these charts on each country. That’s a like how safe it is and how much things cost so they also have like a slack Channel a nomad list for I use that a lot to make friends while I was abroad so. That’s a good resource. And I also made a lot of friends through Facebook groups. So once you settle in there, you kind of want to like get a schedule going and like friends that are in similar situations as you that’s kind of how I went about it. I would go on Facebook groups be like, hey, like anyone in Romania or Bucharest or whatever like wants to meet up
Eric: You just meet at a public Cafe. So, you’re not gonna get like catfished and kidnapped or anything? Right?
Sharon: Well, usually I meet up with a group of people and people will be like I’m down I’m down whatever and I still talk to some of the Nomad friends I have like to this day like I’m very close to some of them. So it’s actually really cool because I feel like you kind of meet a lot of similar minded people that want to be financially free and location independent while you’re journeying.
I’m very grateful that I took the journey.
Eric: So you yeah, so you were talking about part of the preparation was if you can or if it’s possible to get some type of income in as well before you go out right to have a little bit of that safety net and you mentioned Etsy right as a platform that helped you, you know, pretty much fuel this journey.
What or what are some of the things that people could explore, selling on Etsy
Sharon: so in terms of like passive income that you can do remotely there’s sort of the digital download side as well as print on demand. So digital downloads is what I started doing. I started selling like Photoshop templates and Microsoft Word templates, so I would like kind of design these different templates and whenever people purchased like I basically make that profit and they would buy these templates and they put in their information or whatever so that like they just use the design of my templates
Eric: And when you say templates because I was completely blown away when you told me that you were selling digital products. you’re talking about like a template as in if it’s like a resume template.
Sharon: Yeah that too. Yeah, you can do that. So there’s so many different ones like you do wedding cards, wedding invitations, like photographers need like different designs for marketing for them. So like they call it like mini sessions and marketing boards and stuff like that.
So I would create these different templates and then you know, these people would buy it and it would help their business or whatever and there’s just like a very easy way to make money and also is very enjoyable making these templates because I really like doing design type of work. So yeah, I’m actually coming out with like a course later on Etsy teaching people how to make passive income through digital downloads. Also there is a print on demand side where people let’s say they partner with companies like printful where they fulfill and print their orders for like custom apparel and stuff like that. So people would put up a design and then they can print it on like shirts and mugs or whatever and when someone purchases it, they don’t need to own the inventory like Printful will just.
The products to them so that’s another avenue worth exploring my course will be focused on the digital download side. Etsy was such a great like first passive income stream for me and kind of gave me that motivation that this is possible.
Eric: Yeah amazing. So you mentioned that , in order to travel around you want to make friends and have kind of a community around you.
Even when I took off and traveled around Europe for a few months, it’s always a scary, you know thought to like be on your own, to travel solo, right? And so I can only imagine it’s a lot scarier and tougher for a female to go off on their own right because you’re kind of trainer condition that the world is not safe.
and so for a lot of girls who may be listening to this . Was there something that in your mind that you were scared of or the you had to overcome to even go on this journey to like go solo.
Sharon: I did it like in 2014 before I think people are very like scared of traveling solo as a girl but I find that if you kind of just travel safely like how you normally would with daily life, right? You’re not going to go out alone at night
Eric: getting wasted and…
Sharon: Yeah stuff like that yeah. I feel like you just need to be careful like how you normally would, but I feel like I didn’t go to places like South America and like India or something by myself as a girl because I just hear that like, people have bad experiences with that.
I would want to go with like a group or something like that there, so I still think there are places that you would need to be cautious of and sites like Nomad list will kind of help with that. You can go on like forms and things like that and ask like what it’s like in those places.
So I think it’s totally doable now like for anyone to go travel wherever and because you can access people online, right? You can just find friends easily find information easily so it’s not as like scary as people think .
Eric: when you were traveling, you know before you even came back I would read your blogs too. I think I started when I began my travels as well right just to get a better understanding of you know, what the opportunities are out there and I found it really cool that ,you discuss even the mental preparation and things that you go through ,while you’re traveling or even ,building out these incomes right because it’s not easy, right?
And I think I’ve been following you since the very beginning when you’re only making a few hundred bucks a month, right and to see how far you’ve come over the past two years. It’s amazing to see your progress, right?
so basically I mean you’ve spent all this time, you know to build out your passive income and then to come back.
I mean, it’s been really really awesome to see that right and I know you came back to kind of go back into a routine. You already had an income and you’re saving money while you’re traveling like what was the decision for you to also come back?
Sharon: , so I found that because I was trying to build passive income while I was traveling. It was like I wasn’t focusing on like one or the other of live life or hustle, right? So I felt like I wasn’t doing enough on either side. It was kind of weird. I also when I was in Chiang Mai, I felt like a lot of expats we’re kind of just trying to chill they’re so like they just wanted enough to cover their expenses and like just chill on the beach or whatever and I just felt like the Bay Area has this energy of ambitious entrepreneurial people like trying to make impact. So I felt like at this age I kind of want to still be in that hustle mode.
I don’t want to like give that up. coming back here, It was really nice to be around that energy of a lot of like entrepreneurial people and it just kind of Inspires me to do more as well. So I find that in myself right now that I’m hustling pretty hard because even though I’m taking a full-time job right now.
I can still kind of hustle on the side and being around everyone inspires me as well as like they give me different tidbits like tips and you know advice and stuff like that and it it helps being around here actually.
Eric: I definitely feel the exact same way because when I took off to travel I saved up enough money where I was like, I can just travel around for an indefinite period of time and the plan was to do it for over a year right just travel around but after two and a half to three months, I was like, yeah, I’m building out, you know my Amazon business and I was like, well, I want to be able to do more and so I decided to come back and it’s like, okay well now I want to focus on actually building something so much bigger that would allow me to have like a true true freedom to be able to travel in the way that I want to travel versus just like, you know relaxing everyday on a beach.
Eric: I think that in itself will get tired eventually and people still need to find a purpose or something to really drive them or fuel their creativity.
And so that’s why I ended up coming back to try to build out a you know, a bigger business to sustain that so definitely feel that right with you and then like you said earlier once you work on this business and continue building on your passive channels and then by all means then you’ll be able to go and continue traveling whenever you want.
Sharon: It’s like I don’t get to like another level right now and I feel like it’s best for me to do it here hustle really hard and then if I feel like going out again, I would so I mean I actually have this friend who he’s been traveling for three or four years with his girlfriend and he was a like the founder of Caviar.
So it’s kind of like he hustled super hard on this project and now he has a freedom to do that. But also have some passion projects on the side and I think that’s kind of my ideal life in the future hustle really hard and focus on creating impact as well as like pursue my own passions and then you know have the freedom to be wherever.
Eric: Would you say that the people who you know, they think in their head like well if I just make you know, $2000 a month or five thousand dollars a month and if I was doing that passively then I would be happy and I would be able to just travel around the world and do that lifestyle.
Right? Like what is the difference between people who have that thought process versus say you now at this point you’re like no I want to do more. I want to push myself. I want to create bigger goals. You know for go that lifestyle to be able to go and achieve that?
Sharon: I feel like both are different ways of living and they’re both great because I wish I were a little bit more like content, you know where I like, I don’t need to strive for more sometimes but at the same time there’s a part of me wants to like live to my full potential and things like that and be useful and impactful, so I think there’s benefits to both sides, so I can’t be like one is better than the other.
Eric: why do you choose to pursue the bigger goals ?
Sharon: I feel like I’ve always been wired that way, but I think it’s kind of like we’ve given this privilege of life like we should use it to our full advantage. We shouldn’t just like not do anything. Actually when I was traveling in 2014 I remember I stayed at this area and V and this host was not doing anything just smoking and drinking and collecting the Airbnb and unemployment checks and not doing anything with his life kind of thing or it kind of was alarming for me of I want to be more of a person who can help other people really make change. I don’t want to just like just waste my life.
Eric: I mean some people see that as a cush lifestyle, right you get to relax and just collect paychecks and sit around.
Sharon: Yeah, that’s true. I guess I don’t want to be on that total extreme of not doing anything, but I can appreciate the side of being you know, grateful and content with life and not needing more.
So, yeah, it’s kind of like a balance I think you need with the two, so I hope that I can achieve that balance in the future.
Eric: Yeah, no amazing. So for listeners out there, you know Sharon mentioned that she has a course that will be coming out very soon if not already by the time you’re listening to this and what we’re going to be is it Digital Nomad Quest?
Sharon: Yeah, you’re going to be able to find it on Digital Nomad Quest. I’m going to have like a course section in the blog, so you’ll be able to see it.
Eric: Amazing. So if you guys are listening up into this point, you guys will know that for guests of the Y-Factor podcast, we typically will try to help with promotions and discounts for you know, the courses or products that these awesome entrepreneur sell so definitely go to the website to check it out see what the discount and pretty much the perk is going to be once it’s released and we’ll go from there. Is there anything else you want to you want to say to the audience?
Sharon: should I think of something like motto real quick?
Eric: No, that’s just like most people just say. Thank you. Awesome.
Sharon: Yeah. Thank you for having me on the Y Factor podcast it was really fun speaking here. So, thanks Eric.
Eric: Awesome. Thanks. Thank you guys for listening and we’ll see you guys on the next episode.