We live in the era of travel. The industrial revolution has closed the gaps in travelling by making transportation easier and more affordable. The internet has also brought the world closer and released an unquenchable thirst among the millennials to travel. Exotic places, hidden getaways can easily be explored as well as documented through blogs and pictures. Further, several philosophers, authors, and travellers have expressed how liberating and fulfilling travelling can be. It can broaden your senses and make you realise how magnificent, diverse, wonderful, and awe-inspiring the world is.
We often see our friends, acquaintances, and peers travelling to far and near. Some for work and some for pleasure and some just to upload on social on media (more on that later) but whatever the reason is, you can’t help feeling envious or pity at yourself. You start wondering what are you doing in life; you start craving you had more money or you wish you could travel and make money.
While our whole lot wishes to travel the world, only some can do it. I am not talking about folks born with a silver spoon, I am talking about people who dared to leave the known and venture into the unknown. I am talking about people who risked their safe 9–5 jobs, betted their life savings on their passion to travel and hustled until they could make their dream a reality. One such phenomenal person is David Hoffmann.
A first-generation American, David has been to 74 countries and counting, but what makes him remarkable is that he doesn’t choose places which adorns the pages of travel guide. Rather, he travels to offbeat, unexplored, and least taken roads. “I’ve always been attracted to destinations that aren’t on everyone’s bucket list,” he says.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida by parents of Italian and Hungarian descent, David was immersed in the Latin culture and grew up enjoying the incredible cuisine, thriving customs, and language.
An entrepreneur at heart, David was interested in business ever since he was a kid. He would sell mangoes at the street corners and muffins at school to the students and teachers. After high school, David attended Florida State University in Tallahassee for one year, then transferred to Miami Dade College for one year, before finishing his final two years of college at the University of Miami. He graduated with a degree in Entrepreneurship.
With his entrepreneurial spirit and desire to travel the world, David knew he won’t fit in the box of 9–5. He always had the drive to get up and hustle for what he wanted and he wanted to travel the world for a living and change the way people see the world. This yearning led to the creation of his company David’s Been Here.
What I love about David is how relatable his content is; his posts are not fancy and exuberant nor do they allude the feeling of ‘only rich can travel the world’. David’s style of travelling is experiencing the culture of a place through the eyes of natives, through the taste of the local cuisine, and by wholeheartedly embracing its ethnicity and identity.
It’s our immense good fortune that we could talk to the man himself. Listen to David’s amazeballs story through his own words
What led you to enter the travel industry?
It all started the summer of 2003 when my brother-in-law invited me to his summer home in Asturias, Spain. I had never been to Europe before, so I was excited to go. I also got the chance to visit my Italian family for the first time. I spent a week with them and was completely lost in translation. But the food and the culture blew me away. That summer completely changed my life. They say the first big trip can change your life and that’s exactly what happened. I knew then that I wanted travelling to be a big part of my career.
How do you manage your passion and your family/personal life? Don’t you crave for a stable home or a place where you can come back to and stay, and not always being on the run?
It can be challenging, especially because I am married and have two young daughters. It’s really hard to be away from them for days and sometimes weeks at a time. I’ve recently scaled back the amount of time I spend travelling so I can be at home with them more. These days, I mainly travel for client work, but I also make sure to take two family vacations a year. I travel around 100 days a year, never for more than 18 days at a time. My record is 52 straight days on the road.
It looks fancy when we see you travelling to some of the best places in the world, but let us be real here — tell us about the difficulties you face while travelling or when you are at a new place?
Well, first and foremost, it’s a job. Ninety-nine per cent of travel bloggers and vloggers own a business. You don’t just travel and explore, and then someone hands you a paycheck. It doesn’t work like that. When I travel, I am constantly filming and creating new content. I also work with brands and clients.
One of the downsides of travelling is that I barely sleep when I’m on the road, but I power through it because I’m visiting a new place, so I have to take advantage of every moment. I can go weeks sleeping just 5 hours a night knowing that I will be exploring a new destination the next day. It’s the best adrenaline rush!
Travelling can also be hard on your immune system, and sometimes you can get sick from eating or drinking things your body isn’t used to. Thankfully, I’ve only gotten sick very few times while travelling, but it’s always awful to be ill in another country. Food- and water-related illnesses can sometimes last for days, which can completely mess up my work and filming schedule.
Also, the language barrier can be tough when travelling. I visited China earlier this year, where very few people speak English. When I found myself in situations where I needed help or tried to ask for directions, it didn’t go well. The people were super kind, and I could tell they were trying to do the best they could, which is always nice. So one of the great things about travel is that you can always find kind people in new places!
How has your journey moulded you to the person you are today?
Travelling has completely changed me. When you get out of your comfort zone, you do things and see things you would never have had the opportunity to see and do at home in your bubble. Seeing abject poverty up close, working through the logistics of getting from A to B, flights getting cancelled…these things have taught me patience, how to stay humble, and to treat everyone with respect.
How do you pick your next destination? How do you plan the itinerary? Do you do any research before visiting a new place?
At the moment, I either travel for a specific client or travel to create content purely for my YouTube channel. Client trips are when brands hire me to travel to a particular destination to create a video promoting them. If the job is 1–3 days, like the job I took on my recent trip to China, I usually add 7–10 more days to explore that destination as fully as I can.
For trips that are for purely for content creation, I look for places that are off the beaten path so I can showcase locations that most other travel professionals have not covered. I study maps, research places that pique my interest, as well as things to do and eat. Then I reach out to my fan base for tips and suggestions. Locals always have the best tips — they know all the hidden gems that can’t be found easily doing online research.
Tell us about one experience that was out-of-this-world for you. And one experience that was so scary that you feared for your life.
The most out-of-this-world experience I’ve had travelling was the time I trekked in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas. I have always been an animal lover, and getting within inches of these beautiful, majestic creatures was the ultimate wildlife experience. I was blown away by the entire experience, and I would repeat it in a heartbeat!
The scariest moments during my travels have been during really bad aeroplane turbulence. Usually, when you travel over the equator, the winds are extreme, and there are really bad bumps that sometimes last for over an hour. One time, my wife and I were flying from London to Johannesburg, which is a 15-hour flight. The turbulence was super intense and lasted a few hours. It was so bad. We got off the plane shaking. I dread every flight where I have to cross the equator!
Has this entire journey been rewarding for you — both spiritually and monetarily?
Spiritually, it has changed the way I view the world. It only gets bigger! Monetarily, I now am living my passion and making a living from it. Very few people can say that. I’m always hungry for more, but I am extremely happy with where I am today.
Words of wise to someone who wants to start his journey as a traveller?
Be patient! It’s easy to look at people who are doing well and compare yourself to where they are today. I didn’t have overnight success. It took over a decade of hard work to get to where I am today. You have to humble yourself quickly and realize you don’t have all the answers. Be willing to fail. Fall, make mistakes. Get back up, don’t get down on yourself, and try something different the next time. Don’t listen to any nay-sayers. Put them out of your mind and keep your eye on the prize.
Take the time to get better at your craft, and never be ashamed of learning from the best in your field via the internet. For me, that meant watching travel vloggers who had millions of subscribers and studying how they did things and finding a way to do something similar while still being true to myself. Always have your mind clear on your vision. And always have the mindset to be the hardest working person in the room.
Going forward, where do you see yourself? What’s your future plan?
I have so many long-term goals, but at the moment, my #1 goal is to be the face of independent travel. When someone thinks about taking a solo trip somewhere, I want my name to be the first one they think of. And I want my content to be their guide.
When someone wants to know the best things to see and do in a particular city or country, where to eat, or which hotel to stay at, I want them to turn to my website or YouTube channel and be able to find their answer.
I want to visit every country in my lifetime, so I am always aiming to visit the places I haven’t been to. The one country I am visiting once a year no matter what is India. I find it to be one of the most diverse countries in the world; the food is unreal, the people are friendly and helpful, and everyone speaks English. Every time I visit, I find something new about the country to fall in love with.