The Earth Awaits: Eating the Elephant

So, this happened:

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

Two weeks ago, I released The Earth Awaits publicly, and with no small amount of anxiety. My wife could tell you about all the sleepless nights I spent trying to make it: work properly, be easy to use, look beautiful, search quickly, and otherwise be something that people will want to come back to again and again.

From the start, it was an uphill battle. I’m a software developer, but I had never written a web app before in my life. I hadn’t written a single line of code in Python, the programming language that The Earth Awaits is written in. I just knew that I wanted there to be someplace on the internet that people– no matter how modest their means or uncertain their retirement prospects– could find a place that they could live in relative comfort and happiness.

Someone at my gym recently reminded me of a silly saying that can be applied to the olympic lifting we were doing, to seeking FIRE, and to taking on a huge, risky task like building The Earth Awaits.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

It’s a simple and silly statement that we take for granted, but it’s surely true. Sometimes we set out on a journey, certain only of the destination. We don’t know how we’ll get there. Along the way, you find out just how badly you want it when your resolve is tested in a thousand tiny ways.

The Earth Awaits was shared on Reddit’s /r/financialindependence, where it was upvoted to become one of the top 50 posts of all time for that subreddit! It was also shared on /r/digitalnomad, where the reception was also generous and mostly helpful. I received a ton of awesome feedback which made me totally rethink my priorities in improving the site. That great feedback has already started to bear fruit, and I’ve rolled out a few small features that I’ve listed on the changelog over at TEA.

When I was first working on the concept for TEA, I also solicited and received a ton of useful advice from the Mr. Money Mustache forums. I wanted to call that thread out as the foundation for so many of the initial features at TEA.

So, what comes next? I’m honestly not sure. I’m still wrestling with how to make the site sustain itself, but I’m committed to sharing all of the possibilities with people. Whenever someone shares a city, or the site itself, I see a small bump in new visitors. A few of those visitors will come back every now and again, so the critical thing right now is to continue to add useful features, and hope that people will consider sharing the site on social media. If you find a city you like, please do hit the sharing buttons in the bottom right of the slideshow at the top of the screen. If you happen to know anyone in print or other media who might find the site interesting, and who might like to talk about how we can bring retirement and world travel to everyone, please send them my way!

Thanks to all of you readers, and all of the personal finance bloggers who have enthusiastically shared. Thanks to the folks like Arebelspy and Eric of the MMM forums, Penny, and Steve for having shared early feedback on the site, and for having seen the potential even when it was very, very ugly.

Thank you to you all for continuing to come back, even when my posts are infrequent because I’m busy working or heads-down on a crazy dream of a side project. You’re the best.

15 thoughts on “The Earth Awaits: Eating the Elephant

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks! Developing readership (or visitor…ship?) is not how I expected it to be. In my head I had assumed that if you got one big hit of traffic, that things would just take off one day. I’m finding that it’s more of a “one in one hundred” proposition. You reach 100 new people, and one becomes a regular reader/visitor. I think my ratio might be slightly better with this site, since at least there’s nothing else that does the exact same thing out there. 🙂 I am just happy that people are enjoying it and being so generous with feedback and sharing.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thank *you*, Sarah, and huge congrats to you and your wife! This is absolutely the most gratifying thing I can hear– making people think (and re-think) about just how close the finish line might be is one of the major goals of the site. You paid me the highest compliment just by saying that!

  1. Physician On FIRE

    You’ve garnered some great attention. You’re right though; it’s not like a blog that people will return to again and again. The Earth Awaits serves a specific purpose. Once you’ve satisfied a curiosity, or made an important decision with it, you move on.

    As it becomes more well known, it should continue to grow, but I wouldn’t expect to see a snowball effect as a blog might.

    Keep up the great work, continue to improve and add funcitionality, and it should do well.


    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, Harmony! I’ve been phasing in some small features over the past couple of weeks, and hope to add the first new major feature (currency conversion) in the next week or two. After that, it’s on to user accounts, saving favorites, and storing budgets!

  2. just a thought

    TEA is awesome! Don’t compare it to a blog, compare it to a very useful and specific application (in terms of success metrics). You won’t get the same eyes looking at it every day, but you should expect to see the amount of time that people spend on the site (app) be longer than a typical blog article.

    Furthermore, TEA may become a go to for people looking to travel to new and exciting locations.

    If you keep developing it in a way that adds value and utility to the users, the monetization avenues will come.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks! You’re completely right, of course. I’m making my total focus on continuing to make the site the best place to figure out what it would cost to live elsewhere, and trust that it will be able to support itself at some point. I’m having fun with it anyway, since I love the subject matter so much. I could go on and on with it!

  3. Eric

    Hey buddy! Thanks for the shout out, even if I’m a week late in seeing it. 🙂

    Wow, you got MMM to tweet about this! That’s pretty damn cool. I’m reasonably sure that means you’ve “made it”.

    There should be some new views coming in today from /r/FI. Keep up the good work. Don’t forget to write in this blog once in a while. 😛

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Aww, thanks! It was definitely a huge honor for MMM to tweet the site.

      I need to get a few posts done here! I actually have had more guest posts this month than posts on my own blog, bad Frugal Vagabond! I’m going to try to be better about balancing the two this coming month– I’d like to say I’d get something else out in September, but at this point it seems a little unlikely.

      Thank you so much for the share on /r/FI, I’ll check it out!

  4. Katatonic

    TEA is my new plaything-I fiddle with settings for where I might be able to retire (earlier) and it’s giving me loads of information about where I ought to vacation so I can check things out in person before taking the plunge.

    One thought: maybe add a link to the city’s wiki page? That’s where I often go first once TEA identifies appropriate cities.

    I very much appreciate your efforts with TEA and am recommending it to everyone!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, Katatonic! I’m so happy to hear about all of the people who are enjoying the site- I knew when I wrote it that it was something special for me, but I really hoped it would be special in the same way for others, too. Let me give the wikipedia page thing some thought, it’s not a bad idea.

      In other news (for anyone who is subscribed to these comments), currency conversion to five very common currencies should be live by this evening. So, if you’ve been using the site in USD and converting in your head, it shouldn’t necessary too much longer 🙂

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