Today we had a chance to talk with ex-Googler who is now running a digital marketing agency and two travel blogs. Let me introduce to you Mar Pages who traveled to more than 100 countries.
“Mar Pages is an ex-Googler, the founder of a digital marketing agency and an experienced luxury travel influencer and blogger with 200,000 followers and over 120,000 monthly views on two blogs Once in a Lifetime Journey and Singapore n Beyond.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in business and MBA from one of the top-3 Universities in Europe and her professional career spans 15-years in the corporate world in digital advertising at Google and in strategy consulting for multibillion-dollar telecommunications companies across 30+ countries. She started her career at Tyco, PwC, and JP Morgan.
Mar has visited more than 100 countries, lived in 8 and is an expat since 2006. When not at home in Singapore, she speaks at and attends digital marketing and entrepreneurship events around the world and explores the countries she has yet to discover. Mar is also a mentor and angel investor in several travel and lifestyle startups and the author of 30 Proven ways to make money online with or without a blog.”
Welcome, Mar! I’m familiar with your amazing story, but for people who don’t know you, could you please tell a few sentences about yourself and your blog?
I started Once in a Lifetime Journey in 2014 as an outlet to share my stories online and as a replacement for a diary. I was embarrassed to tell anyone at the beginning so kept it almost secret for a year. It was not until almost two years after that when I started to consider monetizing the blog a bit with some brand collaborations but I made the change in mindset and approach about a year after. I started Singapore n Beyond to answer the local’s question “where can I go for so and so long weekend”.
At a professional level, I was a management consultant for eight years before deciding that I wanted to focus on the quality of life. I took a year off doing a variety of things, among which opening a cafe, while I started the blog. After a year I started my new job at Google which I left at the beginning of 2018 to devote myself fully to the blog and to developing an influencer marketing consultancy.
Where do you currently live and is there any place in the world you could say for yourself you’re local there?
I currently live in Singapore where I have been since 2011. I am a local both to Singapore, Dubai, where I lived for 10 years and Barcelona, my home city.
You have an amazing journey so far and we wish you great adventures in the future! Could you tell us how many countries you’ve visited and which one was the most special for you?
I have been to 98 countries at the time of writing and about to visit my 99th. I thought I was going to visit my 100th on the same trip but that got postponed so I am just one short of that milestone.
I get asked that question often but I do not have a favorite. There are a few that meant a lot to me and which have a special place in my heart. I loved East Africa and the South Pacific. The former because they were the first trips in my consulting world, I was young and doing some incredible work. The Pacific because I spent two months exploring the area alone and had a great time.
Many people give up the idea of traveling as they don’t believe they can spare enough money or fund their trips on the go. Please tell us how do you manage to fund your trips?
I had jobs which required me to travel for ten years. This meant that I took a plane every week to go somewhere. Often times, this was to a different continent. I then made the most of my trips by spending the weekends exploring the area or tagging holidays along.
Having well-paid jobs obviously helped but it is also true that travel is a priority for me so it is what I spent the most money on. I do not buy expensive clothes and I do not go out drinking so most of my expenses go on travel.
I usually pay for 85% of my travel from my income, but I also work with brands that match my niche and which I believe my audience will enjoy telling their story. In these cases, the brand will invite me and pay for my services.
When and how did you decide that you want to travel around the world and work on the road?
I do not actually have a nomadic life or work on the road, I live in Singapore where I spend around half of the year. I pay rent, have a room with all my clothes and always have. Having a base where my friends, my business contacts and my partner live is essential for me as it provides a sense of stability and it allows me to grow my business more efficiently.
What’s the project you’re currently working on? How did you find it?
Do you mean what brand? I am currently preparing for two conferences where I will be speaking, getting ready and planning a trip to Phuket with The Boathouse Phuket in three days, finishing the review for my stay at Bawah Resort, a luxury resort near Singapore and finalizing the planning for my trip to Rwanda.
What aspect of your job you like the most and what aspect you dislike the most?
I like the freedom it allows me to work when, where and how I like. This freedom is the reason why I enjoy being an entrepreneur. I dislike the fact that my team is based elsewhere and so they are a virtual team. It would be great if we were all in Singapore and could be physically in the same place.
It is not a major issue and I much prefer to have the right team in a different location and the wrong one in Singapore, but it would sometimes be great to discuss things with a board rather than a video call.
We heard a lot of discussion on work-life balance. Some people think it’s crucial to have a balance between work and life, while others believe that if you love what you do, then you don’t need to balance between work and play. What’s your stance on this one and could you share your routine?
I believe that if you do what you love you will not work another day, but it is also true that I can work 16h days or take a Tuesday completely off. This variability and freedom to decide which one of the two days I want to have every day is what I love most.
How’s your regular working day looks like?
I get up early, usually around 7 am when the bird chirping on my window wake me up. I do social media and check all notifications while still in bed then wake up, make breakfast and sit at my desk. I work until lunch, have an early meal and go to the gym with my partner. I then buy dinner and return home to work till late. On the days when I have meetings, I may have calls in between or meet someone for a coffee. When I have social or networking engagements, I will go out in the evening.
We bet you had many amazing stories from the road so far! Could you tell us the most positive and the most negative or scary story you had during your travels?
I do not have many instances when I was scared on the road, I believe in the kindness of strangers. If I had to name one, it would be time when I was working in Kenya in 2008 after the country was the victim of uprisings and conflict following the 2007 elections. We continued to travel every week from Dubai but were evacuated early a couple of times when the security situation deteriorated. The airlines stopped flying and there was a curfew. I was not scared per se, but the situation was tense.
I have had lots of incredible times on the road and have many memories of strangers doing someone amazing for me or being a witness of amazing experiences. Some of them are swimming with humpback whales in the open sea in Tonga, seeing lava exploded from Yasur volcano in Vanuatu, the dive wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon, the aurora borealis from a transparent bubble hotel in Iceland, my encounter with the gorillas in Uganda, two lions mating in the Masai Mara, my summer in Honduras, the pyramids of Sudan, etc I could go on and on.
Have your experiences from the road changed your perspectives on money, opportunities, relationships and the world in general? Let’s talk a bit on this!
Yes, especially with age. I used to be happiest when traveling and never missed home, my friends or my partner. With time, I have learned to grow roots and when I am on the road for longer than 2 weeks I feel ready to go back.
The value put on money or the prices of things are certainly relative. While I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, traveling helps me stay grounded and realize that spending $5 on a latte or having regular dinners for $150 per person are normal in Singapore, this is the monthly salary for many people.
Do you find it hard to form lasting relationships with people as you’re traveling and maybe you will never see the people you meet in some place again?
Social media has been incredibly useful for me to stay in touch and I am lucky to have friends in many places around the world. While it is always sad to see people go and say goodbye, it is also important to live in the moment and focus on the goods so instead of thinking “shame I will never see that person again”, I prefer to feel grateful for having met them.
If you could live anywhere in the world, which place would you choose and why?
Back home in Barcelona. After having lived in 8 countries and visited 100 I can honestly and very clearly say that Barcelona is the best place to live. The quality of life, the lifestyle of people, the culture, the weather, the history, the heritage, the food, the location, the sea, the mountains….everything is perfect and I have never found a place where I would rather live.
Could you give a genuine advice to people who’d like to start with digital nomad lifestyle?
I am not a digital nomad but to anybody wanting to be an online entrepreneur I say: “Do it only if you are passionate about it and love it with every fiber of your being, if you are not fully committed, the lifestyle, the uncertainty in revenues, the loneliness and the lifestyle will make you miserable”.
Last but not least, what are your plans for the future?
In 2018 after having left my job at Google, I want to focus on growing my two blogs and my consulting business and doubling my end of 2017 performance.
I want to thank Mar once again for devoting time and energy for this interview. It’s been a pleasure of mine to talk about your journey and share this inspiration with other people.
Mar, wish you all the best in the future journeys and continue sharing the positive vibes.