The name is Jeremy Noronha! I’m a polymath, to say the least…
I was born in Goa, India to an average middle-class household. I grew up in a tiny village called Assolna to the south of Goa which was a few minutes from the beach. My mom was a Physics professor and my dad was a software engineer. I came from a family of academic wherein I had uncles with PhDs, aunts as teachers etc and from the moment I could speak, my narrative was that I was going to be either an engineer or a doctor.
Childhood wasn’t really a fun time for me as I was bullied for most of it. There were many reasons for that; until the age of 16 I couldn’t say the letter “R” for example I used to call a friend named “Ryan”, “Lion” (it got worse when I couldn’t pronounce my own name ‘Jelemy’) well… kids can be tough. I was also the weakest and shortest kid in class and spent half my childhood in and out of hospitals due to severe asthma. That crushed my self-esteem and confidence into my teens which took a toll on my friendships and relationships growing up.
After a breakup at the age of 16 and as you know teenage relationships especially break ups get so overdramatic and you feel like the world is ending. I ended up getting into fitness (cliché haha) and a little over a year since the day I entered the gym for the first time when I was 17, I won a state powerlifting title lifting over 4 times my body weight! The highest I ever deadlifted was 200kg when I weighed 47kg. I also got ripped asf with a 6 pack. Side Note: If I didn’t get into travel I would’ve probably had one of those big fitness accounts filled with me shirtless lol! That was actually what @thinktravelliftgrow was before I started traveling.
However, my endeavors into fitness weren’t really supported, as “success” for my parents was me getting into India’s top engineering colleges, the infamous IIT’s. I wasn’t born into riches, we weren’t poor but we weren’t incredibly well off either. Coming from a middle-class Indian family, the “way out” was to get into an IIT or one of Indian’s top engineering colleges and then become an engineer in a big tech company. My entire high school years consisted of classes from 8 am to 3 pm and then coaching classes till 8 pm.
However, I always believed that “your priorities become your reality” and I used to wake at 4 am, drink a f*ckload of coffee and go for a run or hit the gym. #riseandgrind
I didn’t want to grow up to be someone complaining about why my life turned out a certain way. I didn’t let my circumstance be an excuse and the day I competed in my competition and won … my parents and friends didn’t even know about it until I came home with the medal …
The celebration was short-lived, as a few weeks later when my results came and I didn’t get into an IIT, the gym and my obsession for fitness were blamed as the reason for that. I did get into the top state engineering college and ended up enrolling in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t belong in my college, I remember once I asked my professor
“Why do I have to learn this?”
‘Because it will come in the exam’
“But will I ever use it in real life?”
I turned into a very rebellious student after that and questioned the practicality of what I was learning. I didn’t see the value in having to learn stuff that I could get with a simple Google search. Every time I questioned my professors, the answers I got were along the lines “you need to know this for your exam” “you need to get good marks in your exams so you can get a good job”
I looked at the path ahead of me and knew I didn’t want a “job”, it just wasn’t me. I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur or disruptor I just did what was right, logically and unemotionally. When I was 17 I lost one of my best friends to an accident and when I looked at life, I understood that it’s a fragile thing and that I could die anytime. The idea of working for years doing something I didn’t like didn’t seem appealing to me.
Many books I read in my teens along with my experiences influenced that idea. From Rich Dad Poor Dad which made me realize that I didn’t want to work for money my whole life to books like The Grand Design by Stephen Hawkings that made me question my place in this vast universe.
Lying to My Parents
I was brought up in an extremely strict conservative household and using the lie that “I was going on a college tour” I went for a backpacking trip around India in January 2016 alone for 2 weeks. My classmates called me crazy, “Why would you want to travel alone” but by then I was slowly starting to give less of a f*** about what other people thought about me.
I was exposed to the sharing economy and the kindness of strangers during these 2 short weeks. When I came back, I had that feeling most travelers do, that the road was calling me … On returning to college everyone around me were having crappy conversations on “who is dating whom” or whatever irrelevant crap and I said a big *nope* and started skipping all my classes and going to the library to read.
During that time I started taking courses on Edx and Coursera and learning new things by myself and Googling stuff like “How to make money traveling” etc … queries which I’m now on the first page of google for, haha!
I did attend only one lecture, Sociology, I was always fascinated by understanding humans, what they do and WHY. I always believe that business is about people at the end of the day. That was actually the lecture everyone else would skip and I was one of the few students there. I didn’t see the value of the technical subjects for me personally.
It didn’t take long for me to hit the road again. This time I told my parents that I was going to stay in the hostel in college. I made my way to Hampi where I spent a week, it was incredibly fun, from sleeping under the stars to campfires in the mountain! I met a lot of people, did a lot of exciting new things like bouldering and it just planted the that ‘yes I want this to be my life’ deeper in my heart.
Choices and Fear
On the way back I remember that before taking the last bus back, I almost didn’t grab it. I asked myself, what would happen if I didn’t go back? What would happen if I just vanished? Maybe I might have to do odd jobs but if I work hard I could travel the world.
The one thing I understood in that moment is that we all have the power to choose. If your friend is full of negativity, you have the choice to just cut him off. If you are tired of your parents telling you what to do all the time, you have the choice just move out, get a job and be independent. With everything in life, every single moment we have choices and the reality is we have the power to do whatever we want but we have to live with our decisions and the consequences.
I don’t believe that complaining ever achieves anything and complaining is one quick way to get an instant *unfriend* from me 😉
Whether it’s the decision to eat a cake instead of a salad or it’s the decision to quit your job to travel the world. Every single moment of your life you are making decisions and it’s your responsibility to live with them.
I did take the bus back, at that time the narrative I told myself was that my passport was with my parents but the truth is that was just an excuse and in reality, I was afraid. I was afraid of the unknown. Afraid to be by myself and having to find odd work to feed myself.
It felt nicer to be able to tell people “the only reason I didn’t go Jason Bourne is because I didn’t have my passport” than it is to say that “I was afraid”.
My fear made me go back and I attended class, I was broke so I couldn’t hit the road so I told myself that if over the next year I can save a little money by the next year in 2017 I’ll be able to go on another backpacking trip. I don’t know the reason behind it but I picked Vietnam and in college, in February 2016 I remember telling my classmates that if I save enough I’ll be able to visit Vietnam for a week next year (Vietnam becomes relevant later in this story)
The entire fiasco of college and irrelevant conversations made me very angry and I took my anger out in the gym and my classmates, for a short while (a few weeks) I ended up doing something I wasn’t proud of, I ended up being the bully… The truth was that I wasn’t angry at them, I was angry at myself for not having the courage to do what I wanted to do.
Finally, as February 2016 ended, it was the midterms (IT’s) and I remember as I was answering my second paper, I paused for a quick moment, looked around, whispered to myself a sad, ‘I don’t belong here’ and left the exam hall never to enter class again.
My biggest fear wasn’t dropping out, it was telling my parents. It might sound weird to many people, but the reality was that just a month before I began traveling full time I actually had to ask permission from my parents to go out during the weekend. No bullshit, ask my mom lol!
But I knew I had to stand up to them because the way I saw it, If I didn’t do it now when I grow up I would end up resenting them. I didn’t want to be 40 and to hate my parents when the reality was that I was hating myself for not being brave enough.
I told my parents everything, about how I lied to them and went on the trips, about how I was skipping class, about how I wanted to travel the world. It was hard but the one thing I made clear was that I was going to do this with or without their support. It was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life so far, I don’t know much but I do know that it’s never fun making your parents cry ….
The next month I sat at home, spending most of my time in my bedroom. Every time I left it, it ended with a screaming match with my mom with her calling me a disgrace, to her and the family name. Sitting in my room I started this website, spending over-caffeinated nights googling How To Start A Travel Blog And Make Money, and watching tons of YouTube videos and applying the information learned.
I didn’t have much and in April 2016 I left Goa, India with 200$ in savings and a 15 kg backpack. I made my way to Kathmandu, Nepal. There and in Pokhara is where I started building websites. I knew how to build basic websites from starting this blog and then more YouTube videos taught me enough to be able to build websites for a cafe.
I got my first clients by going cafe to cafe and pitching. The same way as I didn’t let college and coaching classes stop me from going to the gym, I wasn’t going to let not having a portfolio or being unqualified stop me. People like to complain about why they can’t get clients but the reality is that they are just not ready to put in the world and push themselves out of their comfort zone.
Building websites paid the bills and put food on the plate. I networked and got more clients from hotels or small businesses. Every time I didn’t know something I would just Google it. I got a hotel as a client before I knew how to build hotel websites.
With my portfolio growing, I then started networking and building more websites. In the background, I worked on this blog. I worked a lot but also had a lot of adventures, in May I climbed the world’s 3rd highest mountain pass. At the top at 5416m above sea level when I was struggling to breathe I remember thinking to myself “I can do this! If I do this maybe everything everyone said about me my entire life was wrong! It had to be wrong!”
Climbing the mountain pass over 2 weeks gave me the confidence that yes this idea of traveling the world is definitely going to work. Is it going to be a lot of hard work? Yes! Most amazing things in life are but I knew I could do it!
Traveling The World
I spent 3 months in Nepal, visited Bhutan and then ended up camping in northern India. I then went to Dharamsala where I lived for 2 months. I was still building websites to make ends meet but the blog was slowly gaining traction in the background and starting to slowly make an income through affiliate marketing.
During one of my last days in Dharamsala, I ended up attending the teaching of the Dalai Lama.
On thinking back, I realized that all these amazing things would not have happened if I stayed in college. I don’t have a bucket list to life but if I did, having the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama would definitely have been on it.
I grew my blog quickly because I decided to put in the effort to learn and then actually apply. Also as some people tell me, I’m an “SEO Rockstar” ;). This blog is barely a little over a year old but is on the first page of Google for most of the travel related queries from “how to make money traveling” to queries like, “Airbnb Coupon Code“, “Cheap GoPro Alternative” and “Best Travel Backpack“. My advice to everyone who asks me how to be successful with blogging (or even the gym) is the same, hard work and patience.
I now work with a few businesses like Foundr as an SEO consultant.
South East Asia
My parents came for a few days to visit me in North India, after leaving them I ended up meeting people in a hostel in Manali and we went to a valley and I ended up visiting the world’s highest village and spent a couple days in a monastery.
I then made my way to Sri Lanka where I spent an entire month surfing lol! I learned it there and actually got pretty good in a month. I had a flight out to Vietnam which I almost didn’t catch as Sri Lanka was so beautiful but I’m glad I did.
I landed in Vietnam at the end of October 2016 and spent the next 2 months traveling the south of the country, spending most of my time in Dalat, a tiny town in the mountains.
Later went to Cambodia and celebrated Christmas and New Years there with trekking pals who I met in Nepal and surfing friends from my time in Sri Lanka. Also visited the Angkor Wat before making my way back to Vietnam!
This time I ended up going to the north where I ended up getting an apartment in Hanoi where I spent a month before hitting the road again traveling the north and central regions of the country, my last stop was in Danang where I spent a while before heading off to Laos.
I traveled Laos for a month, I even met 2 fans of this blog there! I met a girl and we end up traveling for 2 weeks in Laos together. After Laos instead of traveling onwards to Thailand I ended up coming back to Vietnam for the 3rd time (told you Vietnam would become relevant) and I and that Girl actually moved in together and spent a month living by the beach in Danang
As summer got around I decided to move to Dalat where I just turned 20 years old a little over 2 weeks ago. The cool weather of Dalat made it seem like a perfect place to live for a while, so I got a place here! And overlooking a lake I sit here drinking a coffee writing my “About”. It’s insane for me to think about how my life turned out.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, the only thing that’s constant is change
Written: 13 July 2017