Why I started a travel agency for entrepreneurs and what the future brings

Why I started a travel agency for entrepreneurs and what the future brings

I always wanted to share why and how I started Refuga and my thoughts about the future. It is an exciting time for Refuga and I am absolutely sure that we are on the right track to do something really great.

I am working everyday to grow the community around Refuga and I see that as a crucial thing for achieving the things I am hoping for. To all of you who are already following the project, I want to open the doors and invite you in.

Why I started a travel agency for entrepreneurs and what the future brings. CLICK TO TWEET

Why I started Refuga

In the summer 2012 I quit my last job as a Country Manager for a Swedish e-commerce company. My girlfriend just got accepted to a masters in Beijing and we had been dreaming about living abroad for years. This was our chance to break free, go on adventure and live in a (very) foreign country.

I started doing some freelance consulting (within online marketing), but I quickly realized that going from having an office and colleagues to being on my own and working from home, could be a difficult transition. It can be quite lonely working alone.

I got an idea. What about finding some other guys who could join me in Spain for a week to work and relax? I thought this was a good idea to grow my own network. I just wrote the idea on my private blog and hoped I could get 5 people together for an awesome week. Within 24 hours I had 20 (awesome) people who had signed up and paid for the trip. A big surprise, but I was in a hurry to arrange the camp.

The first trip to Barcelona was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, the feedback was very good and I saw an important thing; This was the most valuable networking I had ever experienced. After a few days, people who eat, live and work together just start to share and help each other a lot. I have never been at a place, where so much valuable knowledge was being shared. I saw that being a smaller group, together for a week was much, much more valuable than attending a conference.

The first event kickstarted something in me, so I kept on doing the events for Danish entrepreneurs the next two years.


Why I didn’t focus on Refuga right away

The last two years I have had some awesome experiences with Refuga, but I always thought to myself that it was just a hobby project, that I couldn’t turn this thing into a real business, that it couldn’t scale, etc.

It’s funny, because the it was the one thing I was most proud of, the project I had most fun doing and the project I had most success with (in small scale), I just didn’t focus on it. I always pictured myself starting a traditional startup with a lot of employees, funding and an office.

It took me about 8 years to realize that the traditional way is just not for me. I get burned out from working the same place every day. I need to travel, I need to go on adventure, I need to break free and do things my way.

Actually, I think this is a big problem for the startup environment. Being an entrepreneur is becoming so popular it has reached a hipster-level. Everybody wants to do something in “tech”, an app, a SaaS company or something with social media. So many entrepreneurs are just thinking about getting funding and selling their company. It took me 8 years to realize that entrepreneurship – for me – is a great chance to actually do something I really love and live the life I dream about. Workway has slowly transformed the way I see working and living and how to combine these things.


What the future brings

I have been focusing more and more on Refuga. The first international event (held here in October 2014) was the last test for me. If that was a success I wanted to focus 100%. Being together with 10 different nationalities in a beautiful house for a week for adventure and work, was one of the absolute best experiences of my life.

After the bus had taken the participants from the house to go to the airport, I was sitting outside the house with my girlfriend, Michelle, and talking about the week. I had a fantastic week, people was giving incredible feedback and when they left they gave me a hug. Sounds like the perfect life and business and I just realized that this might be a once in lifetime chance to work with something that is really, really amazing.

I am sure that the future will bring a lot of good things for the project. I will start doing more trips myself, but I am happy to tell, that I am working hard on making it possible for other entrepreneurs to easily host Refuga trips themselves.

I see more and more people trying to do events like these and I want to help kickstart that movement even more. I want to enable proactive people to host events, to access to my setups and the Refuga community. I really think that every entrepreneur out there should go on a trip like this. It’s difficult to find a better place to learn, go on adventure and have fun for entrepreneurs.

I will tell more about all the new things that are coming in the near future.

Thanks for following the project, I hope to see you somewhere out there!

The future plans for @refugacom, a travel agency for entrepreneurs. CLICK TO TWEET.

Positive thoughts: How I became a happier person

Positive thoughts: How I became a happier person

I have been obsessed with life hacks and working on becoming a better person for a handful of years. I think it started out when I started doing a lot of sports. Feeling better and improving each day motivated me to not only work and the physical side, but also the mind. I guess that’s a pretty big project 🙂

I’ve been experimenting with my self as the guinea pig, I have studied a lot of research, I have read books, watched documentaries and I have listened to podcasts. I also talked to a lot of people: CEOs, entrepreneurs, a management consultant, coaches in differents sports and even an expert in traditional chinese medicine and lifestyle.

All of this give me a lot of different insights. Throughout the last couple of years I have been writing it all down in my note books. I thought I wanted to share some of the hacks, ideas and thought. These thoughts and ideas has been me a lot on becoming a happier person and to get more out of life. Hopefully you can use some of the ideas too.

Positive thoughts: How I became a happier person. CLICK TO TWEET

But why work on becoming more happy?

This is quite obvious and simple. What do you prefer, being negative or postive? Sad og happy? Answering these questions should be more than enough to start working on getting more positive and happy.

If that is not enough, here is some other reasons:

  • Research show that positive people are more creative and willing to take chances. Those are pretty good things, if you are an entrepreneur. One study showed that people were more likely to have a creative breakthrough if they had been happy the day before.
  • Positive people attracts other positive people. The same is happening if you are always negative. A simple example: Who would you prefer following on Twitter: the person who spread good vibes, gives kodus to others and in general are postive, og that guy (that we all know), that complains about the weather all the time? It’s simple.
  • Research also show that there is a link between happiness and health. Positive people tend to do more sports and are more careful about bad habits (like fx smoking)
  • When you communicate with someone, it is never neutral. When you communicate with someone you always leave people a little better or worse, a little more positive or a little more negative. This is true no matter who you and how you communicate. How do you wanna affect people?


You decide if you want to be happy

The first step to becoming more happy and positive starts with recognizing that it starts and ends with your self. You are the one responsible for your happiness and the one that can make things happen. If you think that happiness is something that just comes randomly, you are wrong.

If you are thinking “When I get a little more money (a better job, car, a partner etc.) then I will be happy, then you are doing it wrong.

Don’t tell your self that happiness is something out in the future. A lot of people are doing this, and it is often about money. The funny thing is, that there has been made a lot of studies and the link between money and research and the results surprise most people.

If you go from having noting to having enough (like a place to stay and food), then – of course – there will be a pretty big increase in your happiness. But if you go from having enough to having more (2 cars instead of one, a bigger house etc), then there is no increase in real happiness.

Most people will have a short spike in happiness if something great happens (if you win the Lotto), but you will get back to the level you had before quickly. We are working so hard and making so much sacrifices for something out there in the future, but when is the future here? When do we have enough to be happy? Most people thinking like this will always be chasing the happiness instead of seeing all the great things that are important and are already there.

Stop waiting for happiness. You’re the one person that can control it, so start working on it.

You decide if you want to be happy. CLICK TO TWEET.


A lesson I learned from a chinese doctor

When I lived in Beijing I had a session with a chinese doctor, who was specialized in traditional chinese medicine and lifestyle. It was interesting to see the things they did different. There was one thought in particular, that I took away from the session.

He told me that they have a simple philosophy of focusing more on the positive habbits than the negative. If you wanna lose weight, you should focus on finding some incredible delicious, healthy food instead of focusing on denying yourself a nice, big burger. See the difference?

It is interesting because many people wanting to do some personal change, is focusing on what they can’t do instead of focusing on the positive things.
This is just a small change of how you see things. A change that can make a big difference.

What I learned about happiness from a chinese doctor. CLICK TO TWEET


The 21-day challenge that everyone should do

Small challenges that you do for a short amount of time is great. The are realistic, but challenging and they can make a big difference.

My absolute favourite one is the “21 days without complaining”. This made a huge difference for me, and I can only recommend you to do it. I found this at Tim Ferris’s blog, where the post he wrote about this challenge, has been featured as one of his absolute favourite all-time posts. So don’t listen to me, but Tim Ferris 🙂

The challenge is actually pretty simple, but quite difficult. You have to find a bracelet or something like it (I used my girlfriends hair elastic) and put it on your arm. Everytime you complain, you have to take the bracelet from the arm to the other and you start from zero again.

The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without changing arm. I can tell you this much: It’s pretty difficult to stay positive when you complain after 17 days and have to start over again.

This took me just around 4 months to complete. It was much harder than I thought, but absolutely worth it. For me, it did a few things. It made me aware that I could actually change me way of seeing things my self. The better I got at it, the less negative I got about small things I couldn’t change. I just let it slipped and focused on the things I could change.

This hole challenge didn’t make me perfect. Nobody will ever be 100% positive and that is good, but me level changed. This small challenge simply made me happier.

The story of the guy who got this idea, is quite good too. Check out more links in the bottom.

The 21-day challenge that everyone should do to become happier. CLICK TO TWEET

Fake a smile

This a really simple hack. Some years ago one of the busiest bus lines of Copenhagen, Denmark, got some really bad ratings and the passenger numbers were falling. Instead of changing prices, route or something like that, they gave all the drivers on that route a special course, where they learned to be proactively happy, “faking a smile”. A survey told the company that the passengers thought the service and attitude of the drivers were super bad.

Being a busdriver at Copenhagen’s busiest bus line is stressful. Being proactive and welcoming the passengers with a big hello and smile, did a lot of things for the bus line. The passenger numbers started rising again, because now it was just more nice to ride the bus. But something else also happened. The drivers dropped in days were they were sick. It turned out, that the drivers themselves were getting happier and enjoying their job more, because they kickstarted something by “faking a smile”.

You can do this too!

Fake a smile to become happier. CLICK TO TWEET


Working on the small things

As mentioned earlier happiness is not something out in future with a finish line. It is something that you can get know. Most of us have everything we need right now to be happy.

Often it is the small things that makes us happy. These things are often taken for granted. Being aware of the nice, small situations in everyday life can be enough to change our happiness.

Here are some small and simple ideas to get more out of the small things.

Take a picture each day for 30 days

Take a picture of a situation each day. It can be a moment when you feel happy, relaxed or if you see something interesting. After the 30 days you will be able to look back at the 30 photos and remember the exact atmosphere, feeling and probably also things like how it smelled. This is a great way to be more aware of the small things.

The 365-day note challenge

This challenge is almost the same as the photo idea. Instead of taking a photo this challenge is about writing a note each day. What was the best thing about the day? Doing this for a whole year (a shorter period can also work) will make you reflect on the small things, that are actually making you happy, by yourself.

As we already talked about, these things are there already. You just need to be aware of them and appreciate them more.

Plan a trip

Planning a trip a long time before you are going is also something that can help change our mood. A big part of travelling is just looking forward to it. It will be something that you think about each day with a smile on your face. I know, it’s pretty simple, but in the future book your flight tickets well ahead.

Don’t spend too much time with the news

It is well known that media chose to air things that are pretty negative. They mostly give air time to wars, diseases being spread and nature catastrophes. These things are, sadly, a part of life, but that doesn’t mean we should think about them all the time. Watching the news each day will get you exposed to incredible negative thoughts again and again.

Don’t avoid news totally, but choose carefully what you read, listen to or watch.

The small things can actually make you happier. CLICK TO TWEET 

So, what did we learn?

  • Working with being more positive and happy will bring you other good things (better health and relations to other positive people).
  • Nobody should ever be 100% happy. That is not what we are talking about. But we are talking about improving and just getting better. You change your level. Don’t expect to be perfect, because it will not happen.
  • You decide if you want to be happy or not. You should not expect a future event or something else to make you happy. Take control and make things happen.
  • There is a lot of simple things you can try out really easily, so there is no excuse. There is one or more hacks / ideas that will work for you.


Want to read more?

If you are interested in learning more about the things outlined in this posts, check out some of these links:

Improve your network: Alternative ways to meet new people

Improve your network: Alternative ways to meet new people

“The richest people in the world build networks; everyone else is trained to look for work.”

– Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad (CLICK TO TWEET)

Everybody knows that great relations can be the most valuable thing for you personally, your career and for your company. There is no reason to discuss why you should work on growing and improving your network, so this article will give you some other methods for  networking  and some hands-on tips on how to go out and actually do it.

First of all, it is important to be clear about two parts of networking: growing and improving. Growing is getting more people in your network. Improving is bettering  relations with those people you already are connected to.

Many only focus on one of these things. We all know the guy who introduces himself to everyone at a conference and shares more business cards than asking questions about the other persons. These kind of people normally have a lot of connections on LinkedIn, but few real, valuable connections.

A great network is a combination of growing (meeting new people) and improving (getting to know those in your network better).

Improving your network and how you get to the magic zone

Improving your network and how you get to the magic zone

I made this funnel to describe how I see the different steps and types of relations. Most people are connected to a lot of people and a few great friends. I look at networking like an ecommerce site. You get a lot of people in to the site and then work on getting as many of them as possible to buy something. You do this by improving every step in the funnel.

The same thing applies when talking about networking. It is easy to get connected and just meeting a lot of people. That is the top of the funnel. Now you have to improve every step, to get most people as close to the bottom as you can.

This is a really simple model, but it can help you see networking in a new light. Be aware of the fine line between friendship and networking. That is really the magic zone. When your relation to a person is in this zone, they are more likely to help you, advice you, recommend you and share their knowledge.

I would actually say, that they would be willing to help you more regarding work related issues, than if they were down in the 100% friends category. Why is that? It’s because many people try to seperate things and don’t want to mix business with pleasure. Which is too bad, because that is where the action is.

This model can also help you be aware that network is not just meeting people. Real networking is knowing people, talking with them, helping them etc. All the things that friends do.

Stop throwing business cards around at one day events and start getting to know people.

Some alternative ways to meet new people

We have all been to a lot of one day event, where we want to “network”. The reality being that it’s damn difficult. So many people, so little time. I’ve tried different things to meet new people. In general people really appreciate if you do something that isn’t traditional so that they feel special. You will stand out and be remembered, because 99% network like it’s 1999.

These ideas are not breaking news, but simple and hands on. All of these things you would be able to start today.

Do something for free

The method of doing something for free, is used widely. Mostly known from startups and companies doing software with a premium model. Free is good, and can be used to gain a lot of things, also your network. Doing something for free can give you respect.

A couple of years ago I did a free online marketing course for 15 people. I rented a conference room and invited people via social media. Actually, I just wanted to see if speaking/teaching was something I should do more of, but it turned out to be a great network thing.

I have had contact with these people the last few years; they follow me on social media sites. In total I have sold five spots for Refuga Barcelona and one spot for Refuga Kilimanjaro to these people. So it has been good business, but what I have noticed is that these people are really helpful – more helpful than the average person in my network.

I think this worked well because it’s not normal for one consultant to just book a conference room and invite people to a one time, exclusive seminar about online marketing. You normally only see this done by bigger agencies, where hundreds of people join.

Invite people out for dinner

My friend and I did this once and it was great. We both invited three people that we didn’t know, but wanted in our network. We wrote something like “I am having this casual, networking dinner and would like to invite you. I have been following you on social media and would like to meet you”.

People were really happy to receive the invite and we were 8 people at the dinner. Everybody was working with online marketing / entrepreneurship in some way. An investor, a developer, a communications guy and some entrepreneurs. It was a great evening where we got to meet some great people and it seemed like people were flattered that they got invited.

Compared to a conference, where you get to talk with a person for five minutes, this was a great first meeting with these people. I am sure that these people will remember me better than some random dude, they talked to shortly at a conference.

Again, it really helps to stand out and just show some sincere interest. The dinner wasn’t fancy or anything, so the expenses are small compared to the great network you get.

In the perfect world, this is something you would do each month.

Pay for the big shots time

Busy and important people, get a lot of offers and emails, so it can be difficult to get to know those kind of people. Most entrepreneurs are fighting to become a big shot and getting advice from one who is already there can be game changing.

All of the big profiles I have talked with, tell me that they receive a lot of “offers” for a coffee meetings or for a 10 minute call. Many of these offers don’t have anything for the profile. People are asking for the profiles time and advice, without giving anything back.

When you want to stand out and get the attention of a person that is high profile, just simply email them with an offer to pay for their advice for 30-60 minutes via Skype. These kind of people loves talking and giving advice, but they hate being used and trust me, they know what they are worth.

I have done this several times with specific challenges, where I wanted to learn something. Every time I have done this, it has been received very nicely. Everyone has accepted the offer and several told me, that they would do it for free. People don’t mind helping if you just appreciate them and you do that, when you are willing to pay for their time.

This is a great way to meet someone that is not normally realistic for you to network with. Of course you can get some valuable advice, but this is also just a great way to let the person know about your project.

Do a warm-up event before a big event in your market

This is a fun little “trick” that has worked really well for me. Back home in Denmark there is an annual conference about online marketing. It’s the biggest event on the topic in Denmark and most people are there.

One year I noticed that there was no warm-up event the day before. I know that conferences are hectic and that you normally don’t get time to talk with all the people you hoped so. So the idea was just to arrange a very casual “dinner and drinks” the night before. Many were already in town just sitting at their hotels, so why not meet up and talk business.

I asked the manager of the event if it was okay and he was happy that I wanted to do it. I booked some tables at a café and did a blogpost on my private blog. The manager and lots of the profiles that were at the event to talk shared it, so a big percentage of the people going for to conference had been to my blog before the event, they knew my name and face.

I have done this a couple of times, each time it has been a great night with around 30-35 people. Each time it has been a good opportunity to meet new people and get to know people I only knew from social media.

Again, it was an initiative that stood out, where I didn’t ask for anything but just offered something.

It is really difficult to say what these things have meant for my network, but these things are so extremely simple, don’t cost that much (or are free) and the value is great.

Improve your network: Alternative ways to meet new people. CLICK TO TWEET

What is your best networking advice?

How do you meet new people?

How do you improve the network you already have?