I really am thrilled to be able to publish this interview with Paul. Not in the hard to believe way that a daytime TV host might say they’re thrilled to introduce their next guest, but I want to emphasise how much quality insight has landed on this page directly from Paul’s brain.
I’m really happy to publish this, but it’s with a twinge of guilt. In my haste to send off a bunch of questions to Paul, I was asking a bit more than I realised. I’ve seen that there’s almost 3,000 words in the answers and I didn’t realise just how much I was asking of his time. It’s a testament to how kind and helpful that Paul has been to me, as I’ve been working my way up as a blogger. So here it is:
The Wisdom of Paul Drecksler
Where are you now?
I’m currently in my hometown of Asheville NC. I come back here about twice a year to visit my family and friends, and also re-up on things that are easier or less expensive to obtain in the States. This visit, however, has turned into an extended trip to the US because I’m working on getting a new product out and available for sale in time for the holiday season.
In as many words as you would like or less, who is Paul Drecksler? Just to give an intro to the interview.
I like to describe myself as an idea man, entrepreneur, and adventurer. I love talking about new ideas – more often than not related to business, travel, or just creative projects in general – so that should give you an idea of what I’m all about.
When you’re at a party and you get the inevitable question: “What do you do?” How do you answer that?
I’ve read countless experts’ opinions on how to best answer that question. “Tell a story. Speak in benefits. Be unusual and memorable.” And in different chapters of my life or stages of growing various businesses, I’ve experimented with answers. Now I mostly have fun with the question and say things like, “I travel a lot. I walk miles a day every day. I practice Bikram Yoga when I can…” And if the person is really interested in what I do for a living, they often clarify, “Oh, I meant what do you do for work?” and I have no problem explaining because I love to talk about my businesses. But that kind of question is often asked just to get the conversation moving, so I don’t take it too seriously anymore and usually approach it lightly – depending on the circumstance of course and how professional of an atmosphere it is.
I love the name Travel is Life. How did you come up with it?
Thank you. I wanted to name my business after a sentiment or an attitude and so I asked myself, “How does travel make you feel?” – and that’s how I feel. Once I said it out loud, I knew it was the right name and I stopped searching.
Was it something you went with because it sounds awesome or was it carefully selected for its marketing value?
I definitely like the name for what it expresses, but I’ll tell you a few benefits about the name that I can’t even take credit for because I realized them in hindsight. First is that the name starts with the word “travel” so it pops up on social searches for that term and is easy to remember for tagging purposes. The second is that people have told me that the name “Travel is Life” has a familiar ring to it – even if you’ve never heard the name before. And the third is that, like I said earlier, it describes a feeling, and one that I don’t mind talking about every day.
What was the moment that Travel is Life went from being an unintelligible notion in the back of your head to a crystallized idea?
At the time that I created Travel is Life, I was working on another business plan for a project related to breweries, which are super popular in North Carolina where I’m from. It was a brilliant idea for a business that fills a big need in the industry, but after several months, I never moved forward with it, so I asked myself why. What was holding me back? And the reason was that it wasn’t my world. I don’t drink much, and although I think breweries are cool and a better environment than bars, I still don’t find myself in them very often. I appreciate a good draft beer but don’t have a passion for it, and therefore I don’t relate on that level to folks who do. And that lead me to ask myself, “If you were in a room full of people who you relate most to – who are they?” And for me, the answer is “travelers”. So I set out to start a business relating to travel and promised that I would allow myself to pivot as many times as it took until I got it right. What started out as a dropship t-shirt company has evolved into what you see today.
What do you think when you hear the phrase “think realistically”?
A guidance counselor once told me to “think realistically” in high school after I told her my life plans. I’m glad that I did not take her seriously. If I did, I might have spent the last decade of my life in an office. I love going to Toastmaster groups around the world and once did a speech in Santa Barbara on the subject of being told to “think realistically”. Here’s the link if you get a few minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwZ3mr3u6Oo&t=56s
In a nutshell, I feel that thinking realistically is lazy. It has its place in life, but not in the early stages of the creative process. Naysayers drive me crazy!
Were there any moments when you wanted to give up and quit when you were still creating Travel is Life?
I feel that I’m still creating Travel is Life now. It’s a work in progress and I’ve barely tipped the iceberg of its potential. And that being said – yes, there have been plenty of times when I wanted to give up. I’m an entrepreneur at heart so of course I’m drawn to shiny objects – like the next big project. Or there have been times when I’ve put my heart and soul into creating a new resource that got zero likes on social media and no engagement – a swing and a miss – and that’s been demotivating.
There have also been times when I’ve had to ask myself, “Does anyone really want what I’m offering?” But rather than give up, I’ve taken those opportunities to evaluate, reorient, and pivot when needed.
It’s a lifetime goal of mine to be an excellent decision maker because I feel that the ability to make decisions is what separates successful people from everyone else. People often think they need “time to figure things out” – but more often than not, they don’t need more time – they just need to make a decision. And Present You is equally (or more) capable of making that decision now as Future You will be next week. So I’ve tried to bring that philosophy into my business. For example, I had recently just put two months of long hours into something on Travel is Life – realized it wasn’t working and that I hated it – so I shut it down. Better to shut it down today than dawdle on it for a week – which I instead spent moving forward on a different project.
Did you have any childhood experiences that you might credit with sparking your love of travel? If not, were there any later experiences.
My family didn’t actually travel too much when I was growing up. We did our yearly trips to Florida to visit family, and we took plenty of vacations and had a lot of fun together as a family, but we didn’t travel too much. I got my first Passport in college right before a Birthright to Israel trip and have spent chapters of my life since then traveling. What sparked my love of travel as a kid was reading books and watching movies about explorers. If this were the 1500s, I would’ve been first on the boat volunteering to circumnavigate the globe. And when Elon Musk is ready, I’ll be first in line to go to Mars. My love of travel isn’t restricted to this planet.
Would you say you define yourself less or more by what you do now, compared to when you had a “normal” job?
I define myself by my willingness to try new things and my belief that our life stories are comprised of chapters and not one long wall of text. My motto since I was a kid has been, “I can do anything.” Adulthood has certainly done its job of throwing obstacles and limitations at me, but the belief still stands.
Why do you travel? How important is travel to you?
I believe that travel is good for you, good for your soul, and good for the world. Traveling provides perspective, which is greatly needed to live a life of appreciation. I also just think it’s fun!
What do you think is more important than travel?
Relationships and being there for the people you love, even if not geographically speaking. No matter where I am in the world or what I’m working on, I’ll pause to be there for my family and close friends when they need me. My brother’s in politics and I’ve flown halfway across the world to be there with him on Election Day, standing at the polls and handing out fliers. And I’ll be there for every election doing the same. If not for moments like that, what are we doing it all for?
What would you be doing now, if Travel is Life never came to be?
I’ve got other businesses. I’d either be working on those, helping clients with their businesses, or working on a different project all together. I love this project, but if it never came to be, there’d be a different one in its place that I’d be putting my time and energy into.
Do you have any daily practices or routines that you would credit to being able to handle so many of the tasks that being a successful blogger and online business owner at once?
I walk daily – sometimes 5+ miles a day, other times less – but always a walk. Aside from being a healthy activity, walking helps me think, prioritize, and compartmentalize ideas.
Eric Weiner wrote in The Geography of Genius, “I can see why the ancient Greeks liked walking so much. It quiets the mind without silencing it completely. With the volume turned down, we can hear ourselves again.”
I consider you to be one of the masters of social media. You cover a lot of your strategies on WorkFromSomewhere.com so there’s no need to go through the details here but I would love to know what your progression was through different platforms. Which social media platform did you start with first and in what order did the others follow?
LOL – no way! I’m the worst at social media – at least in my opinion. I have a hard time with social media because there are very few things I want to say to everyone at once – which puts me at fundamental odds with social platforms. I communicate best via one-on-one conversations, which is why the telephone is my favorite method of communication and e-mail is my second favorite (aside from in person, which isn’t always possible).
Thank you for the compliment, but I’m still figuring it all out when it comes to social media. I think that social media comes natural to some people, but it doesn’t for me – so I just try to remain authentic and speak in my “regular” voice on social platforms and hope that translates well to my followers. I write about my social media strategies on one of my blogs, but not from the voice of an expert – rather from the position of an experimenter.
What task, related to building your brand, blog, business etc. do you hate the thought of doing, but do anyway because you know it’s important?
Well, speaking of social media… I don’t “hate” it, but posting on social platforms isn’t top of my list of things I want to do relating to my business each day. I respect the importance of communicating with my readers on social media, leveraging it as a tool for broadcasting new posts, and keeping it open as a two-way conversation – but I’m at odds with social platforms dictating HOW and WHEN I do that. I don’t like the state of social media today where algorithms and engagement scores rule the platforms. I miss the days when posts appeared chronologically and we were in control of what we saw and when. That’s why I’m so focused on building my e-mail list. E-mail allows me to communicate to friends of Travel is Life on my own terms without feeling like I have to game an algorithm in order to speak to people who’d like to hear from me.
Was there ever a book that has shaped your approach to life and the mindset that you now have?
One of the first books I ever read about sales was Ziglar on Sales written by the legendary Zig Ziglar. That’s where I learned his classic lesson, “You can have everything you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” That philosophy has helped shape my professional and personal lives.
Do you practice personal development?
I love to read. I once heard a (most likely fake) statistic that “The average CEO reads over 60 books a year.” And whether that statistic is true or not, it inspired me and I read more than 60 books in 2012. Aside from that year though – on average, I read about 2-3 books per month, and more when I find the time. I also love to do 30 day challenges because I feel that people can do anything for 30 days if they set their mind to it. It’s a perfect amount of time to begin to develop a habit or get a jump start on a goal or long term project. I used to document my challenges online, which I don’t do so much anymore, but I still regularly do 30 day challenges. Coming up soon, whenever I make it to Colombia, is a 30 Day Salsa Challenge! Every man should know how to dance.
I see that you have been involved with Toastmasters, was this for fun or do you consider public speaking an important skill?
A little of both – I enjoy public speaking and also think it’s an important skill. I feel that communication in general is an important skill that’s sometimes overlooked. Tony Robbins says, “Knowledge isn’t power; it’s potential power.” And I believe that being able to properly communicate your ideas is the best way to realize the potential of your knowledge.
What is the one question that nobody asks you, that you wish everyone would?
You’ve asked me a lot of great questions! Thank you for the interview. I’ll tell you one question I ask people all the time – “What’s exciting in your life right now?” And for me, I’m excited about the release of an upcoming product I created. I’ve got a few products for Travel is Life coming out next year, but I didn’t want to miss out on this holiday season, so I challenged myself to develop and manufacture a product in 30 days that I could have available for sale on Amazon in time for this holiday season. In the end, I’m late – start to finish it’ll take about 6 weeks to reach market – but I set a goal, hustled, and got it done. Check out TravelisLife.org in the next few weeks and you’ll see it available for sale!
Thank you for the interview, Toby, and good luck with your adventures in Thailand! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you recently through our conversations and reading your blog, and I look forward to our paths crossing in the future during our travels.