Arran Rice (The state of the travel industry)

In this episode of The Judgment Call Podcast Arran Rice and I talk about:

  • The spoils of being an entrepreneur and digital nomad
  • What drove Arran to become an entrepreneur at the age of 11
  • How Arran used Digital Marketing to scale his businesses
  • Arran’s view on the travel industry and the current crisis
  • What Arran’s current start-up is about
  • How the COVID crisis changed my own travel habits
  • and much more!

View this episode on Youtube in 4K resolution.

Arran Rice is a serial entrepreneur, digital media ‘wonderkind’ and digital nomad.

You can reach Arran via his website.


Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet, risk takers, adventurers, travelers, investors, entrepreneurs and simply mindbogglers. To find all episodes of this show, simply go to Spotify, iTunes or YouTube or go to our website If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or subscribe to us on YouTube. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. We do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the airfare deals that you really want. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% in the airfare. Those include $150 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from many cities in the US or $600 life lead tickets in business class from the US to Asia or $100 business class life lead tickets from Africa roundtrip all the way to Asia. In case you didn’t know, about half the world is open for business again and accepts travelers. Most of those countries are in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium, go to slash MTP or if that’s too many levels for you, simply go to MTP, the number four and the letter to sign up for your 30 day free trial. I’m here today with Aaron Rice and Aaron is a serial entrepreneur from the UK and despite his quite young age, Aaron has more than a decade experience in the publishing industry and Aaron is, so to speak, one of UK’s teenage boy wanders and I’m really glad he’s here today and talks to me. Welcome to the judgment call podcast, Aaron. Thanks for making this happen. Thanks for having me. Yeah. I know it wasn’t easy. It took us a while to schedule this thing and you just spoke about that. You’re in a remote village now in Portugal, right? You’re not in London anymore? Yeah, not in London. I left London back in 2018. Oh, okay. So, almost three years now since I’ve left the UK, but yeah, it’s been a crazy experience so far. What made you go to Portugal? I know you’ve been traveling quite a bit before, but why did you select Portugal? Because it’s close to the UK, it’s sunnier, cheaper. Ultimately yet, yeah, close to the UK, close to the family. I treat Portugal more of like a base. I still try and do a lot of traveling, obviously with the current situation. That’s not the case, but prior to that, yeah, more of a base for me, but the reason I really ended up here is I was doing the digital nomad thing, traveling around. I spent a lot of time in Bali. I then got to rainy season and I was like, okay, I need a change. I went to Portugal, didn’t like it, went back to Bali, didn’t like it even more, and then I went back to Portugal and was like, okay, I’m happy with this. So, it was a kind of yo yoing across the world for a number of months before I was like, okay, well, yeah. Lisbon is the city for me. I met the coronavirus pandemic. I felt being bunged up in a little apartment in the oldest parts of Lisbon with no real outside space. I was like, okay, I’m going to try the remote life in terms of living remotely. So yeah, I’m currently based in a village of 22 people in central Portugal. That’s pretty spectacular. I can imagine, I can’t imagine you’re putting your car away boots on, but that’s kind of how it sounds like. There’s a bunch of farms where you are. It’s not so much farms. It’s more forest. There aren’t that many animals. You literally walk out of my back gate and you’re, well, thousands of acres of eucalyptus forest. So, people harvest that. It’s kind of the main crop around here. Well, you mentioned you’ve been a digital nomad for quite some time and it’s something that I’ve been pondering about with other guests on the podcast. I tried to, so to speak, raise the image of the digital nomads. I think a lot of people subsume different things with the same word, digital nomad. For me, it always was the ability to see the world, why I do what I do, to build my startups and to go out there and still take my family and see the world in a way that I was always curious about. This is what, for me, I don’t think I put this label, a digital nomad too far out there, but I feel it helped because all I needed literally was decent accommodation, some decent food and a lot of coffee shops for me. I’m kind of addicted to caffeine. Fast internet connection and the explorer world. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of people, and we had Neil a couple of episodes ago who was very stark devil’s advocate and said, digital nomads, those are all the drunk Americans who basically just go for four weeks to go to one place to party to another place to party. And Bali is a prime place for this. The Mediterranean is another prime place for this. This is pre COVID, but it might come back, it might not. So a lot of people associate different things. It’s kind of when you say the word tourist, right? People think of tourists and you think of the drunk Brits in Mallorca, or you think of tourists who, I don’t know, go on an adventure trek in Morocco. So there’s different things that people subsume on at the same board, right? You know, they travel industry very well, we’ll get there in just one second. How do you feel about this word digital nomad? Is it still something where you feel like this is something you happily use and you’ve had a good time being a digital nomad? Or do you feel it’s kind of, there is something evil out there and there’s way too many people doing this the wrong way? That’s a very good question. I think, personally speaking to me, I never set out to become a digital nomad, and that’s maybe not the word I would use now to describe myself. They say that Portugal and Lisbon specifically is a place where digital nomads go to die. So in essence, they just end up staying there because it’s such a fun city. A lot of people get really lonely in Portugal. Sorry to interrupt, but a lot of people get really lonely in Portugal. I think that a lot of people leave Portugal despite being in such a good place to live, otherwise. Yeah, yeah. I’ve not heard any stories myself, but yeah, I can imagine that, especially in winter. Lisbon is very rainy, very grey, you don’t go outside that much. So yeah, I get that. But yeah, for me, I left London back in April of 2018 with my partner, and really we just set out to have a big holiday. That’s what it was. I recently sold a business, and yeah, I wanted a break, basically like a mini sabbatical retirement, whatever you want to call it, right for, okay, for six months, I’m just going to go and go to a bunch of places I’ve never gone to before, and I really want to visit. So for me, that was kind of the French Pacific Islands, which are a very long flight from the UK. So I had a stopover in California, which was fun. When we went down to New Zealand in Australia, and I wasn’t meant to be doing any work on that trip. I actually got a bit bored, a bit itchy, so it was in New Zealand where I came up with the idea for Simple Flying, which is my current company. So I almost became a digital nomad without wanting to become a digital nomad. I found myself then working, building this company whilst on the road, and it was the plan to go back to the UK after that six months, but then I kind of got a bit addicted to a nice weather, lower cost of living in certain places, especially in Bali, your lifestyle can be great. And the same with Portugal, if you compare that to central London, where a one bedroom flight is going to cost you at least half a million, you come to central Portugal and you can get a 500,000 house of 50,000. So it’s a polar opposites. And I think if you can have the ability to work online, as long as you’ve got a good internet connection, then why not make the most of the world and experience life to the fullest. So that’s kind of what I’ve done and where I stand. And I think there is a lot of negativity towards the word digital nomad. And it depends on person to person. You do see some crazy people in Bali who are just drinking every day and partying. And that’s certainly, I wasn’t doing that. I had too much work to do, I was more inspired than her outside enjoying the beach and partying. I say parties to the weekend, you know, Friday nights or whatever, but yeah, nothing ever crazy. Yeah, I think for me, digital nomadism really means I can not just choose what I want to do. You know, I never had a job in my life, I basically always work for myself. That might have other reasons, but that was something I always felt that’s a luxury. And the other thing I always felt is I was not just really curious, I felt that’s something I want to do anyway. So I’m trying to find a way to do this, right? You can wait until retirement, I think that was a strategy for our parents. We said, you know, when we are 65, if we go there. But then there’s a lot of other issues, you know, you might have health issues, you can’t just go to a third world country and you can go, but I mean, your doctors and everyone around you will say you’re nuts, so you probably won’t do it. So you restrict the places you go and these places turn out to be more expensive than you thought and you end up staying home because if you’re retired, you also have less money to look at, right? So I always felt like I want to do this now while I still have, you know, all the little screws in my head before it gets too late and you won’t have that problem. So I introduced you very briefly only and that’s what was certainly too short. You started your first company when you were 11, right, and you scaled it up mostly through Facebook from what I remember when I saw another show you did. You have an incredible knowledge in terms of Facebook and the way to scale a business using digital advertising. You seem to be, that’s one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. I thought like you are the hacker of Facebook from a marketing point of view and the way, I think it was your dropshipping business at the time when you were on that show. And there’s very few people who have that amount of knowledge at that young age and can talk about it so eloquently. How did that happen? How did you, when you were, and I remember you were really young, you were only 11, how did that feel to you? You felt like this is just what all the 11 year olds do. You never had any trouble with this or you felt like, well, I want to prove myself and I want to show that I can do better. And that’s why you got into entrepreneurship in the first place. I think when I was really young, prior to the age of 11, I had a very kind of overactive brain. I always needed to be doing something. So I used to love school. I was active. I was always thinking about things and I used to come home and I was very bored, very irritable. So then I got a laptop for Christmas and that was sort of my escape. My avenue to kind of begin creating things, begin doing things and the first business I launched, it had nothing to do with paid advertising. It was an organic gaming website, a lot of Facebook traffic, a lot of Google traffic, but it was effectively a site to help people play certain Facebook games. So those of you who are listening might remember the games like Farmville, Cityville. You probably used to get those annoying invites from friends asking you to water their crops and all of that. So my first website was around that and yeah, it went from there really and over the years I’ve literally launched countless businesses, countless websites and a few of them have succeeded. Yeah, I think the challenge is to A, find the time and B, as a kid, be mature enough to actually be able to be confident enough, and you were talking about hiring employees to be confident enough to actually execute these businesses. A lot of kids get into it, they do a little app and then they do something else. They discover a new sport or they discover their girlfriend or boyfriend and then the whole attractiveness of being in business, so to speak, is over. You seem to be set on entrepreneurship from a very young age. Is that something that’s in your family or you had like a role model, you were looking up, I don’t know, to Elon Musk at the time or maybe there was another role model at the time? Where do you think this comes from? It’s a very good question. No one in my family is an entrepreneur. I trade, my dad is an engineer and my mum works in an optician, so not entrepreneurial, really. They’ve got solid careers, but they’ve never had their own business. In terms of role models, when I was growing up, I didn’t really have anyone in business. It was very much the case that I love that when I was doing the gaming website at the age of 11 and 12, I found it exciting to have a presence online, which was my own. I created this. I think that was a driver and then also the fact that I just sounded stimulating. I got a buzz. I got a kick of doing this and when it began to make money, I did some affiliate marketing on the gaming site. I was selling some guides and it was great and it enabled me to build up savings and ultimately launch the next business, which again was another gaming website. Probably I didn’t even know how old I was then, maybe like 14 when I launched the Minecraft website. From what I heard, you speak about another podcast and hopefully we can resemble a couple of these things. You seem to be in terms of marketing avenues and you know a lot, but I was just reading this on Twitter. A lot of people say the founders here in Silicon Valley who are the ones who double down on marketing in the sense of that they experiment a lot. They go out to the forums and they get initial customer feedback or user feedback so to speak. There’s literally nothing sacred. They go into every avenue until it’s completely explored and then they scale it up. I know you’ve been scaling up a little Facebook marketing campaign from $2 a day to hundreds of dollars a day. That takes a lot of guts and also a lot of persistence. I’ve been doing this myself when I felt like, oh my gosh, this is just so boring. I just can’t come up with ideas anymore. I’m looking at this and it’s the same interface where it’s such a noncreative task that you have to do. You have to keep going. Let’s try different product descriptions, let’s try different ad descriptions, let’s try different ad campaigns, two different targeting, let’s do India, let’s do, I heard you say that, that’s a really, really useful way to go to low income countries, build your social reputation, get enough likes, build up a certain campaign and then move to the targeting around. There’s so many variables and I don’t know how you keep up the energy to do this. Let’s put it this way. A lot of people get frustrated at some point and say, okay, this doesn’t work, let’s go on to the next thing. But do you seem to have that energy to go deeper and deeper until something works? How do you find the time and the energy to do this and the determination? I don’t anymore. Well, no, with simple flying, my current business, I don’t do any paid advertising, but back when I was with previous companies, I get a buzz of, I don’t know, data spreadsheets and a bit of a nerd in that respect. So when you’re presented with, I don’t know, you’re starting a campaign at $5 a day and you can examine the click through rate, the cost per click and all of these different variables and it’s like, okay, if I change the headline for this story, how will it affect the campaign? Yeah, I get a buzz from it, but yeah, it is tiring. It’s a lot of work. And I think the way I’ve always gone about it in paid marketing and organic marketing, whatever it is, I’ve always kind of created stuff that I would be interested in reading. I take kind of the natural approach, certain headline that I would write it in a way that I would be interested for and hope it sticks with the masses and sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But over time, you do this for years and years, you end up kind of figuring out what works and what doesn’t in different kind of marketing strategies with different platforms, Facebook, Google, et cetera. So yeah, it’s kind of building up that knowledge and constant testing, that’s the word and you’re right, it’s very tiring, which is why the business I’ve got now, we don’t do that. It’s very different. When I was doing all of the Facebook marketing and native advertising, yeah, your life is testing. Yeah, you’ll start by looking at data, which is fun, but yeah, I don’t think I would want to do it for 50 years, you know? Yeah, I was hoping you say that. And I think if people have a secret recipe to keep up that energy, that would be amazing. And I think this is kind of, when you think about startups, sometimes it is, you just have to be the last one with enough energy, it’s like a fight, right? So you just have to have enough energy to be left standing, literally the last person left standing is the one who gets all the money. And then startups, I feel, it is often like that and everyone else already tried everything and then you come up with this one thing that was maybe experiment number 1,000 and because we have this incredible leverage now, especially digital marketing paid for is very scalable. If you can find one of those things, you get the whole market, right? So literally you do go through 999 unsuccessful experiments, not just for startups, but also just marketing experiments, paid or non paid, right? So I think it also holds true for what you’re doing now. If you have the stamina to be there, I think that’s kind of what I’ve been observing. Starting businesses and creating a value stack is relatively easy, but marketing them is getting harder and harder because everyone else has the same problem, right? The only real fight left is fighting for that customer attention. And that doesn’t mean you make money with it, but it is the biggest fight out there. And if there’s a trick to kind of prep your mind to say, okay, this is just experiment 997, so don’t worry about it, it didn’t succeed. Just wait two more, right? Or I don’t even know where it ends, it might be 5,000 or it might be 100,000. I was hoping you have like a trick how you trick your mind into this and say, oh, don’t give up. Tomorrow can be the day where you make $100,000 just from one single ad, right? Yeah, to be honest, I don’t really have a trick. When it comes to paid marketing and stuff, I think for me now, my biggest trick is running something I’m truly passionate about. Like with simple flying, I always wanted to become a pilot and figured out I was scared of flying at quite an early age. I’m not now, which is good, but I feel when you have a real passion for something, the energy will be there long term. And in the past, when I was running my gaming sites and marketing agency and all of that, I was passionate, but I don’t think I was passionate enough. So I think I’ve found like the golden egg, if you will, with this latest business. And it’s been the longest business I’ve been running now without getting bored, panicking and kind of selling it. So yeah, I think it’s great. So for me, my magic bullet would be literally being incredibly passionate about something and then you’ll have the drive to do those 997 campaigns that don’t work and then you find the free that work and you end up making good money. Yeah. It’s a tough order. It’s a tall order. I want to talk about the genesis for your current startup. I know you want to get there. So from what I read, and I hope you can illuminate it for us, you wear a new sabbatical, you wear an Australia, and you were scouring the web and trying to find the next business, right? Or also organizing the next places to go and doing a sabbatical, right? To be honest, I wasn’t even scouring the web for my next business. Whilst I was traveling, I was booking a lot of flights, reading a lot of flight reviews. And I didn’t really feel like there was a go to website for me personally, for aviation news, reviews, all in one place. There’s a lot of, in my space now, a lot of competitors out there, which do do it and do it well, but quite, perhaps, credit card orientated or whatever orientation they’ve got. But for me, I just wanted pure aviation content and nothing more. And yeah, that’s what I ended up creating, but it was very much like it just came to me one day whilst traveling, okay, actually, I’m going to give this a shot. I’m rather bored. You can only sit on a beach for so long before you go crazy. So yeah, that’s what I ended up doing. Yeah. You know, that’s taken off. It’s a wonderful site. I like it a lot. I feel the way you analyzed this back in 2018, it certainly is a strange industry on one hand. The mileage blocks who, I don’t know what’s wrong with it, I went to a lot of something called the Frequent Traveler University. So what you do, it was organized by boarding area primarily, but it’s an independent group. And what I’ve noticed, and I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, it’s this relatively strange crowd out there. I was really, that was my first exposure to that crowd, right? It’s a little nerdy in that sense, but it’s also, and there’s a lot of really curious folks out there. So that’s great, right? And I would describe them as the consumer of these news who basically wanted to travel and find an affordable way to travel in style sometimes, but they just want to go places. Sometimes that hobby of generating miles and points is getting a little bit the best of them. But then I found the industry is kind of resembling a little bit the travel industry, and I don’t know if you have the same impression. It’s a very small industry with a bit of a tunnel vision, and it’s always worried about everything’s going to fall apart tomorrow, because right now it did, right? You see this with the travel industry, which lost 95% of their business. And they have billions and billion dollars of debt as for the airlines, right? The hotels are a little better, but still a lot of real estate projects with hotels were maxed out 10 years ago, and there is cyclical downturns in the travel industry. They always happen. This one is worse than ever, but it is a natural occurrence for that industry. It’s very boom and bust. And I always felt, for me coming from, I’ve had exposure to the automotive industry, to the healthcare industry, finance industry, my startups, where I had a prior travel startup that I sold, I always felt this community is a little strange. And then I had a product that I pitched to Ellison, I felt like this is the exact mirror of this. But I don’t know what your gut feeling is about the industry. I always felt it’s quite removed from what’s happening in Silicon Valley, so to speak, from a digital, a very progressive, forward looking approach. It’s kind of very steeped in the past on one hand, and there’s a lot of legacy coding, for instance. It has a lot of legacy management styles, but it is kind of putting some paint on it, like I’m talking about airlines right now, but hotel chains is the same problem. They put some paint on it and say, oh, we are so 2020, and we are so progressive. And I always felt this is hilarious. Do you feel the same or do what’s your gut feeling on the travel industry? I mean, as a whole right now, obviously, it’s been absolutely decimated with the coronavirus. But often, out of these big disasters, these big meltdowns comes innovation and comes new products and exciting opportunities, but you can’t beat around the bush at the moment. All these airlines have billions and billions in debt, which is going to take five, 10, 20 years to pay back. So I think really now it’s the survival of the fittest, and for the new startups coming into play, these all these new airlines, it’s very good. They’re coming in with no debt. So we’re going to see a lot more innovation, but yeah, it’s really crazy. You can’t really put it to words. Yeah, I mean, I think most people are not really aware of the magnitude of the change. When you think of most businesses say, I mean, there’s a lot of tragic examples in the hospitality industry now. Let’s say you run a factory and you make chairs, and you produce 100,000 chairs a day. And in the next day, people say, oh, by the way, we only need your customers. They stop placing orders and say, oh, but we only need 1,000 chairs. So you’re 99% less, and you’re like, OK, I can do this for a while, right? That’s not a big deal. But then no follow up orders appear, and you’re like, hmm, do I still need that factory or not? So the demand changes are, but it isn’t intrinsic to the travel industry. The demand changes on the good and on the negative side, they’re ginormous. And I think most businesses, they’re not really exposed to this kind of volatility, even on Wall Street. So the travel industry is like a game stop, right? So that’s kind of the most volatile thing out there, and they almost took Robinhood down. But I think most people aren’t exposed to this volatility and don’t really, I mean, they hear 90%, and they’re like, I don’t know, I mean, it’s 90%, but they don’t really know what that means. So there’s thousands and hundreds of thousands of flight attendants or pilots who basically sit at home. They might get a partial payment or some unemployment benefits. But it isn’t an industry where the pilots were the most sought after commodity for a decade, if not two. It was almost impossible to find pilots. And I was actually working on an airline venture in 2018. I’m so happy it didn’t go through, right? We never got funding for it. But it already was tough to find planes, but it was even harder to find qualified pilots at the time. That seemed to be a real problem. And I’m like, this really changed a lot. And I mean, it’s taking longer. And as you say, it will take longer to get out of this. It will take a couple more years. And there’s always a phase. I feel there was one in June last year where people were quite positive and started to travel came back. And then it died down again, so it worked over November. And I feel now we see another more optimism rising. So I’m not sure this is the final version of this. It might go through a couple more phases. Yeah. I think there’s going to be a lot of sort of mini bounce backs like we saw last summer. I mean, certainly in Europe right now, it’s looking quite bleak, especially in the UK. They’ve just introduced their mandatory hotel quarantine for their red list countries, which means when you fly into the UK, it’s very similar to Australia. You’re driven to a hotel and you have to spend two weeks there. Hopefully that is not good for air travel, but yeah, it depends on what the vaccine situation goes like and all of these new strains and, you know, who knows, hopefully there will be an end to all of this, but yeah, I mean, interesting for sure. Yeah, what I’ve been finding, and that’s kind of my own personal strategy, I’ve realized a lot of destinations that I kind of dismissed on my quest to see every single place in the world or every single country and also every single region. There’s a lot of places that I dismissed because I didn’t find them as interesting or you were too cumbersome. They’re now accessible, right? And other places like most of Europe are not accessible and a good amount of African countries are also so close. So you can, I feel, or I’ve been going there the last six months, just, you know, to get them off my list and experience them, obviously it’s slightly different, there’s a little less going on, a lot of places are closed inside the country. But for me personally, that actually is something I, it gave me a new perspective, right? You don’t have to choose from 200 countries or from 150 anymore, now you can choose from 80 countries or 60 countries, depending on your passport and depending on your budget. And I hope it stays that way, right? I hope it stays that a certain amount of countries is a bit cyclical, because I felt this time that that’s pretty rare, it’s definitely the first time in my lifetime, that something happened everywhere on the planet pretty much at the same time, it’s a big recession and it’s a lot of restrictions and, you know, the whole digital nomad life has gotten really tricky. It’s still doable if you stay in one spot, but you can’t just bounce around the planet as easily, it needs more planning and more, some places are just off the limits like in Asia now. Yeah, I agree. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever take travel for granted like I did. I mean, right now at the time of recording, I physically cannot leave Portugal unless I have some crazy emergency, travel is banned and it’s the same with the UK right now, so really, a lot of people, especially in Europe and Australia are a little stuck, but you know, come summer, I think things will open up and I will definitely be making the most of that opportunity to see countries a bit more locally, like Spain and France. As you said, like historically, I would have written them off and I would have flown to Singapore or flown to Hong Kong, but you know, somewhere more exotic. So yeah, I’m excited for the summer and yeah, going to places that I wouldn’t normally go to, you know, there wasn’t a pandemic. So yeah, I think overall, it’s interesting and yeah, it leads to different opportunities, doesn’t it? Yeah, you know, I went to Yucatan, the Mexican Caribbean coast, because there’s no interest in Mexico, or I haven’t been in the last six months, I enjoyed this tremendously, I’ve been to Mexico a lot, but mostly to Mexico City and to the west coast, to Baja California before, but never to Yucatan, so I thought that was awesome and most of South America, so there’s Ecuador, I’m planning a trip to Ecuador, Costa Rica, went back to Colombia or countries that are open, finally Chile opened up, Argentina is kind of making up its mind, I’m not sure what’s going to happen if they go ahead with opening up the country, they wanted to do this in 1st of January and now they say it’s going to be middle of February, but you know, it is almost middle of February and nothing really happened. So there’s a lot of places I’ve been, but I haven’t been to, you know, places inside the country that I always wanted to explore that are coming back and I find it really interesting in Africa, things are all over the map, this place is like Uganda where it seems to be easier than ever to get in, they’ve lowered the cost of the visas, but you only need a COVID test five, six days old and then there’s places like Ghana where you have to take a COVID test and arrival and it will be charged for it and irrespective of if you have taken one before, so it’s, plus you have to pay for the visa and arrival, so one thing that happened in the US for instance, and that’s kind of interesting is a lot of places, a lot of airfare from Canada because Canada is in a similar situation as the UK is very difficult to leave because you have a similar hotel quarantine at least planned, it’s not yet happened, but I think it’s going to happen any day now. But so the airfare is from Canada to Europe and to Africa really low, but you can always transit, right? You can come from the US, transit in Canada, that’s not prohibited and just take advantage of those airfares. I thought, well, this isn’t really interesting opportunity, suddenly we have $200 airfares from Canada to Africa, that’s pretty stunning. So there’s always something, it takes more hacking I feel, the whole travel takes more hacking than it was before, and maybe there’s a good thing to this, and you mentioned Bali earlier and I have this with Thailand, I went to Thailand 20 years ago and I was stunned by the beauty, the natural beauty of the island, I was on some small islands, there were a bunch of tourists, but I don’t know, maybe 100 people, but a decent local population. And then I came back 15 years later and was basically all speedboats and hundreds, thousands of tourists and build up resorts on these little islands. I’m like, man, this is really sad. I mean, I understand everyone wants a piece of paradise and I understand this things change, but that’s really sad and a lot of those people, I didn’t have the impression and that’s my personal opinion, I didn’t have the impression they should be there. They haven’t gone through the effort of appreciating travel and gone through the effort of educating themselves and knowing a bit of local customs, they didn’t know anything because it wasn’t required. But now I think this is changing. So if you are still traveling, then you got to get your game together, let’s put it this way. It’s harder, it’s definitely more demanding and it can be more expensive, not necessarily, but it attracts a different type of traveler, so to speak. And I think… Yeah, it takes a lot of planning now. Yeah, this is kind of good. I think these are the people who are… I don’t want to say explorers, but those are the people who put a lot of effort into familiarizing themselves where they go. Say they go to Bangladesh now because it’s open and then they can go to India and do a Jaipur trip and do a tour, but they do two months in Bangladesh. So I think there’s some real good in this and something was offered tourism for the last 10 years anyways. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but there was a strange crowd attracted to it. Yeah, obviously it became very, very accessible with the rise of cheap airline fares and a lot of competition. I think there are definitely positives to the situation now as the tourist and as the traveler, but on the other side of that, you have a lot of businesses struggling, especially in Portugal. On the south coast, we’ve got the Algarve, which is very popular with tourists and it sustains the economy down there effectively with all these hotels and restaurants. With the pandemic, obviously there’s a lot of struggling down there now and yeah, we just hope things open up for the summer, but yeah, there’s always two sides, I think. Yeah. It’s like Nassim Talab said, if you don’t get volatility and the travel market didn’t have any since 2001 basically, then you get an even bigger impact because these volatility happens anyways. You just don’t see it in the market and I think that’s what we just got and I always traced this and that’s leading a little bit away from travel, but I’m always surprised how much people are ready to cloudify themselves. What I mean by this is that they all went virtual. They didn’t protest at all about, I mean, never protest, but they were really sporadic about all the restrictions imposed and irrespective of what we see was the impact of those restrictions, I always felt maybe people felt inside themselves, they’ve overdone it a little, especially also in terms of tourism. They’ve overdone it a little and they felt like, okay, let’s take a break for a couple of years. I mean, initially it seemed like a couple of months, but it was obvious that it might take longer and you’re younger. For you, it’s the base level. You don’t know what was happened the last 15 years, but I always felt there’s a bit of a bad conscience that people have and that’s why they were so ready to go virtual and to say, oh, we actually traveled too much, it was too hectic, why don’t we just chill out for a couple of years? Yeah, to be honest, personally, I found it quite grounding, quite relaxing that prior to coronavirus, I’d be on a plane every, I don’t know, a few weeks, I’d be off somewhere, I’d be doing this, I’d be doing that, it would get hectic is the word, but then when the lockdowns were imposed, it’s just like, okay, I’m going to stop, I’m actually going to think about everything, think about life and yeah, that resulted in me ending up in a village of 22 people, you know, it’s different for everyone else and yeah, time for reflection. Yeah, yeah, that’s definitely what it brought us, there might have been a cheaper way to get there. I know you spent some time in investing in real estate, how do you go about places where you invest, is that something where you consider living, is that something where you attracted to the property price, how do you find these places, I always straight away from real estate because I always felt, man, I don’t know the local area good enough, I haven’t spent enough time here and B, I don’t know if I ever want to come back, like my friend bought a huge property in Argentina and I’m like, do you want to participate and I’m like, I’m not really that interested because I don’t know what’s going on with Argentina, first place, second, I have no clue about this place and I don’t want to settle down their worst case, is that something you take into consideration or you want to make money with those places? So the real estate that I own back in the UK are basically like city center apartments and both in Manchester and Liverpool. I grew up in the area as a child and my parents still live there, so the properties I bought, the northern cities of England have a better return than, let’s say, buying in London. So that was one attraction. Another attraction was I had funds from companies which I’ve sold and I didn’t want that money sat in the bank. So yeah, I put it into property, but with every property I’ve bought in the UK and I now own two and another two which are being built, I’ve always said, I could live in these. So not like I necessarily would because I’m happy where I am now, but if I were to be living in Manchester or were to be living in Liverpool, I would be very happy to be living in the apartments I own. So yeah, ultimately it’s to provide a rental return and an investment if you like. And then here in Portugal, it’s the opposite, I’m not really that bothered about a return on the house I’m living in now. It’s a place I bought to live and to be happy and the money I put into it, I’m probably not going to get back when it gets sold because it’s Portugal and the market’s very different. In the UK, people buy property, they decorate it, they put it in a new kitchen and they’ve added 30 grand. You do that where I am in Portugal and the value is pretty stagnant. So for me, it’s here, buying real estate here, it’s for the lifestyle and for my own enjoyment. With that being said, I do have plans to build some sort of rural tourism units here. So basically sharing what I love about the area, I’m now effectively making an ad for Airbnb or two. There’s so many dilapidated properties here, the population of Portugal is in decline. And then you’ve got a lot of rural to urban migration. So you take my nearest biggest town, I think the population there has gone from 12,000 to 6,000 in 50 years. So there’s all these abandoned buildings, which can be renovated and you can let those out to tourists. And yeah, I think where I am, it’s a very unspoiled part of the world. And people are only just sort of realizing that it’s actually a very cool place to visit. And obviously in the summer, the weather’s great. So yeah, that’s my plan long term with real estate to basically share the way I live with tourists and keep it quite exclusive, never kind of mass. I think for quite some time, I don’t know if it’s still probably not real business anymore, but it was very popular to, especially in Asia, to build apartment buildings and then sell them obviously, but most of the buyers would rent them out of Airbnb pretty much right away. And the idea was, so like Cebu is a prime example for this, you could buy an apartment that was brand new built, standards obviously vary, but it was very decent from what I saw. It was really cheap, $40,000, $50,000, a decent sized apartment like a one bedroom, probably too small to really live in, but it’s great to rent it out and $50 a night. So you would have a healthy margin when you can rent it out in Airbnb, right? And at the time, there was a lot of demand. So that seemed to be for a lot of people their main focus, you know, buy something and it makes a lot of sense in my mind, if you can predict the Airbnb revenue somewhat is to find a place that is relatively cheap, easy mortgage or paying cash, depending on how expensive it is, and then just rent it out in Airbnb and hope for the best. Now, nobody can predict these things 100%, but the margin of safety in certain locations where I went, and Philippines is probably the best example, seemed enormous, right? So the prices for the apartments were kind of similar to say Liverpool, so I mean, they wasn’t like London, but it was not cheap or was like most of Europe. I think Liverpool is one of the cheaper places in Europe, that area, fortunately. And the building costs were extremely low in the Philippines. So I thought, oh, man, this is going to make a lot of sense, do I didn’t know anything about the local markets? I never ventured into it. And I’m sure there’s lots of other examples in Asia where this was, you know, really spawning of a building boom and people had, and I noticed in the US too, Airbnb hosts had 30, 40, 50 properties. I’m like, holy smokes, you’re a real estate magnet, and you have a slight, tiny sliver of equity, right? You’re not required to put in a lot of equity, and you really finance this from Airbnb winnings because I call them winnings because I mean, if you get an 80, 90% usage rate, you made a ton of money above your mortgage payment. So that was a business you couldn’t lose money in until last year. Yeah, yeah, I think for me, the properties I’ve got in the UK there for long term tenants, young professionals, I could have gone down the Airbnb route, but I didn’t really want the hassle. And the primary reason for me buying these properties was not for a crazy Airbnb return, it was just an asset to keep and to hold, and hopefully the value of that would go up over time. But then obviously in Portugal, with these rural tourism cottages or houses, whatever route that goes down, and again, I’m not wanting a crazy return, I’d be happy, I don’t know, with 7% a year, really low for Airbnb, but again, it’s the lifestyle here and these houses and whatever it is I end up doing, it’ll be for you when family want to come and visit as well. And yeah, who knows, but it’s, yeah. Yeah, well, what’s next with you? We spent a little time on simple flying, maybe we can go back for a moment. And I know it’s growing a lot, it has a huge following on YouTube, and also it ranks very well, so it does very well with people coming in. What’s next for you guys? I want to launch something new. And you said that earlier, you’re getting a little tired, do you have a bigger plan for it? Where are you at right now? Well, I’m certainly not tired with simple flying. I think it’s the most exciting, you know, the business has ever been, we’re on a good stable size now, which is enabling us to, you know, venture out and do other things. So obviously, we’ve got the two YouTube channels, which are doing well. On long term, it’s really sort of cementing the site as the go to place for aviation. So we’re going to be bringing in different types of content, you know, more podcasts, more different email lists for different categories on the site. And really just trying to build our authority and trust within the market. Yeah. Yeah, I think you’re pretty far ahead with this. So that sounds like a good continuation. Is there something like outside of simple flying that you have in stores, another startup you’re planning, or you really want to focus on this for now? You know, I really want to focus just on simple flying. I’m very content with the business. I’m very passionate about it. I think now I’m not really wanting to make millions. Like I know I could potentially do with another startup or, you know, whatever business route I want to take. But yeah, this is more sort of I’m passionate about it. I’m able to make a good enough income and I’m enjoying life. You know, it’s very much life first and then, you know, simple flying is there supporting that. And I say the same as well to my employees and the contractors who work for the site as well. I want to be as flexible as possible. Their life comes first and then, you know, there’s work for them as well. It’s very much like a work life integration. And yeah, basically the happier I can be in my employees and contractors can be the better. Sounds like Southwest. Yeah. That’s how they change management and how they really pulled off an airline was something that was already way oversaturated at the time we thought, right? There was so much growth that that happened since. But at the end of time, we felt like they cannot succeed because there’s nothing there. And then they really attracted a different crowd and the way the employees were managed and how they felt about the company. And I think 35 years later, you can still feel that and that’s an incredible. I was talking with Niels about that. There’s a bunch more examples for companies who have done, all they did was basically change their management style. They did everything the same as all the competitors. But it’s an industry that grew or, well, you know, you can think of supermarkets even, like the stuff that has been around for centuries. And by just changing your management style completely or like change your sourcing completely, you can really build a very attractive business, billion dollar businesses over the years. And I’m not sure this is such an advantage in the startup world because A, that’s kind of common already in the startup world and B, the things move so fast, right? You don’t often have enough time to compound it out. Let’s put it this way. So these things need to compound in three, four years and then either the next new thing is showing up or, you know, the spectacular growth you attach yourself to, like this wave, so to speak, stops. But you know, every business is different. There was a Czech business I read about that they were able to bootstrap their business. I think it’s software for Android. It’s a developer kit for Android and they just sold it for 300 million, 400 million. That was pretty spectacular. Like they never raised any money, right? They just literally just build and had happy, happy employees, very bootstrap. I think at 300 people, I don’t know how they pulled that off, but that was a pretty amazing success story. Yeah, that’s amazing. I think now the way I am defining success for simple flying is not the valuation. It’s not the income. As long as my employees, my contractors can be paid and they’re happy and I’m happy as well. That’s sort of where I want to be and, you know, let’s say in, I don’t know, five or ten years, I want to do something else and want to try something else, then I could look at selling it. But for now, it’s kind of contentment and growing something sustainable sort of scale and level and just enjoying the process more than anything. You know, when I first launched the site, I didn’t really think about, okay, this could get 10 million pages in two years. That did not go through my mind. My mind was, okay, I could perhaps get half a million pages a month and sustain a small team and myself and actually do something I’m passionate about, then I’m happy. I’ve got funds from previous businesses I’ve sold. I’ve got property investments that will help me as well. And yeah, it’s really grown beyond my wildest dreams and it’s been nice. It’s been, you know, really fun and I’m very thankful for how it’s gone so far. Yeah. Yeah, that’s an amazing success story. Have you ever looked into crypto? Is that something you’re passionate about or you want to, you know, use your startup juices? I’ve dabbled with a quick play before. Back when I was living in London, gosh, it would have been like 2017 maybe. I put 5,000 pounds into an ICO just really as a bit of a, you know, see how it goes. That ICO ended up going up 20 times when the coin was released. So I turned that 5,000 into 100,000 and then it crashed again. So I ended up with maybe, I don’t know, 8,000 pounds. I converted that back into Bitcoin and ever since then I’ve just held back. I’ve been following the price of Bitcoin recently, but, you know, it’s very volatile. I feel happy that I’ve got a small amount of Bitcoin, but it’s not something I’m really actively kind of looking into day to day in trading. I know a lot of people are doing that right now and they’re successful at it, but for me, I’m just like watching it go up and just being like, oh, cool, this is interesting and you see all the price and yeah, it’d be interesting to see where it goes, but it’s not something I’m a dabbling in now, you know, I was just sat there to be honest. Well, the question seems to be how many more dabblings do we get, right? So it kind of reads like the stories from the 2000s when you look at Yahoo and it exceeded their really bullish sales target or value target that the banks put on it at the sell side and you would say, oh, now we have to come up with like 15 more reasons that it should go up and the same thing seems to be true for Bitcoin right now, right? So first it was like a tool and then it became a currency and now it is like this inflation hedge and now it is the only way you can power the digital economy. So these stories keep changing relatively quickly and I was just reading this this morning. Someone was comparing it to the valuation of gold and said if it is as the same valuation, the same market cap as gold, it would be 700,000, one Bitcoin. So there’s a lot of room left if you if you apply the same metrics. Now, obviously, can it get there? Who knows, right? It is definitely a mania, but with most of these manias is something good usually comes out of it. It’s not what you think and it’s very hard to predict what like we did in 99. But a lot of good things came out of it, right? The only real money was made then by Amazon and Google investors, which were barely around in 99 or Google was around at all, but Amazon was tiny and it was Yahoo. So it’s impossible to predict. And I think the same is true for crypto. Once everyone goes into this crypto mindset, it will really help. But that’s the productivity growth. I’m so worried about that because it hasn’t happened for a long time. But it probably won’t be Bitcoin, you know, it might be dodgecoin or something that layers on top of that and makes something extremely useful. People are kind of struggling finding out that Bitcoin is so slow to actually use in everyday life. And nobody wants to wait 50 minutes at the bakery to figure out if your Bitcoin transaction is clear. That’s ridiculous. But it is the first we had, right? And it’s the one with the biggest market cap so far. So dodge might be the answer. I love the logo. I hope it’s dodgecoin. It doesn’t sound like 1999, then what does, right? So no, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, you never know these things. I think there’s something there, but it’s, it’s probably not what we all think right now. So I don’t have the, the, the view to, to look through this and there’s something strange going on with the way central banks are acting. And this is, this is making, this is making it much easier for Bitcoin. Let’s put it this way. I think a lot of people, you’re in my generation, they are not really, they’re not really too interested in putting all their money into gold and silver, which is the other big inflation hatch. And if they have to choose, they would choose Bitcoin just because the logo is better. No, I don’t, I don’t know what it is, but it’s more an emotional attachment than anything else. Yeah. I think, you know, you invest in gold and stuff. You don’t see it. And it’s the same with Bitcoin, but if you can’t see both, then yeah, I think young people will just be like, okay, let’s try Bitcoin. Yeah. It’s interesting for sure. And, you know, I’m just sat there kind of watching it from the back end. And if I lose all of my money in Bitcoin, I don’t, I don’t care at all. I mean, it’s really just a bit of fun, but there are a lot of people who take it seriously and he hears stories of people like remorging their house and doing all, all these crazy things. And I, yeah, I think it’s rather bullish. Yeah. It does only happen in the UK, those stars. We don’t have them in the US at all, at all. Well, we have our own troubles. Yeah. Well, that was really interesting, Aaron. Thanks for your time. Thanks for doing this. Thanks for being on the podcast. Absolutely. I hope we’re going to, we hope we’re going to see you again. And Simple Flying is having 10 million page views. You said you were at five now. I’m at 12 at the moment. So it’s going to be 20 more. Maybe 20. Okay. 24. Cool. All right. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you. Okay. Thanks. See you soon. Bye.

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