The idea of a remote life always seemed like a far-fetched dream for Megan and I. From what we understood about becoming “digital nomad,” you either had to be
1) good at computers
2) have a client on retainer or
3) always be hustlin’
The sad truth is that neither of us know code, have deep-pocketed clients or are particularly great at selling our skills. At the end of the day, if it weren’t for a tiny leather backpack, we’d have never thought that remote life was an option for us.
It all started with a classic case of “I-hate-my-job-itis”.
It all started with a classic case of “I-hate-my-job-itis”. We were each feeling mentally drained by our careers, and made it a goal to become our own bosses within the year. The only problem—what would we be the bosses of? We decided to stick with what we knew, which was marketing products. The product we eventually landed on would be a redesign of Megan’s favorite leather daypack, which we playfully dubbed the “Little Baby Backpack” due to its diminutive size. She wore it everywhere, and received no less than 3 compliments a day on it—it seemed as though the backpack had a fan following. We got to thinking that if we produced these bags, and marketed them right, they had some potential.
We set our focus on how to get our idea turned into a real-life thing. But as we began searching for places to get it manufactured, we quickly ran into a few problems:
1) we knew nothing about manufacturing
2) we struggled to find a place willing to make it without an intimidating up-front investment
3) we didn’t want to get involved with large-scale manufacturing.
And this roadblock got us thinking…what if we made it our job to find a skilled artisan to handcraft this bag. Megan had her original bag made in Indonesia —why not go there and find someone willing to partner with us to produce it.
And so Makers Travelers was born. It’s an idea that found us seeking out people who made things for a living, and took us on a 4-month adventure through Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. Our original idea for a single backpack blossomed into multiple handmade goods as we met more and more makers—each one excelling at a mix of modern craft and traditional artistry in a unique and beautiful way.
In Bali we met Sangito, a man who had worked with leather his entire life and eventually taught his wife and family the craft. Each night, they’d happily work from the floor in their living room handcrafting everything from wallets to ruck sacks—and were some of the most giving and hospitable people we’d ever met. In Yangon we befriended Julie, who introduced us to female makers from Chin State who supported their entire families with their creations. These women would dye threads using herbs and bark from their village, and hand weave it into elaborate textiles in designs passed down from their grandparent’s grandparents.
All the people we worked with couldn’t be more proud to make these products. These goods were after all their life’s work, and each one was excited to become a part of our vision. And it was their joy for making that helped us truly see that there was more being made overseas than mass-produced goods. There was an entire world of makers ready to create something special just for you…all you have to do is find them.
We feel like we found a way to create a business that combines our passion with our skill set.
In looking to recreate this backpack we found ourselves halfway around the world, meeting hundreds of amazing people we still consider friends, discovering cultures we had no idea existed, taking part in ancient traditions and experiencing things that changed us forever. And on top of all of that, we feel like we found a way to create a business that combines our passion with our skill set.
Was it scary? Of course it was—we left everything behind to try something we’d never done before. But was it worth it? We’d each call it the best decision we’d made in our entire lives.