Will Hatton’s Path to Success: From Adventurer to Innovative Hostel Creator

Fellow adventurers, gather ye round as I share a tale of exploration, entrepreneurship, and the pursuit of lifelong dreams…

I first hit the road at the age of nineteen. I had very little money and so I opted for India… I was able to get a two year visa and figured this would save me a load of money as I could just stay in India, and figure life out, whilst travelling on a budget of just $10 a day. 

I found myself utterly overwhelmed and constantly pushed out of my comfort zone. I sometimes slept in guesthouses, but often I would Couchsurf and just as often I would camp in my trusty tent or sleep rough in train stations.

Travelling around India in style on a much later trip in 2016

I learnt so much during this period of my life. I was utterly blown away by the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the sensations, the connections I was making with others and with myself. I was determined to find a way to stay on the road forever, for this was where I belonged, clearly. Before heading to India I had always worked, as many hours as I could get and wherever I could get them. I was desperate to break free from what society and my family expected me to do, I wanted a grand adventure into the unknown and I didn’t care how much discomfort I had to endure to make it happen. 

My passion for this style of raw, adventure travel led me to create The Broke Backpacker, an online chronicle of my adventures. Things actually started as a small email list (of about 40 people) who encouraged me to take the plunge and in 2013, my humble travel blog, The Broke Backpacker stumbled forwards, blinking in the harsh glare of the internet.

Over the next ten years, I travelled all over the world, slowly but surely growing my travel blog in the background. I branched out into other spaces; starting a different business dropshipping outdoor gear to backpackers, solo-founding a tour company leading travellers on backpacking trips to Pakistan and Iran, and acquiring or starting from scratch several other small sites – mostly in the travel space, though one was in fitness. 

Smashing some work at my home in Bali.

Over the past ten years, in total, I have founded nine different businesses, learning invaluable lessons from both successes and failures both before and during the Covid pandemic.

And all the while, an idea was growing in the back of my mind. I loved hostelling, yet I had been unable to find the kind of hostel I was looking for; somewhere where an aspiring entrepreneur could enjoy the best of the backpacker lifestyle but still have access to a high quality, flexible, working environment. Slowly but surely, the dream of opening my own hostel aimed specifically at digital nomads and remote workers started to come to life. 

From Iran, Pakistan and India to Venezuela, Myanmar and Bali, I continued to explore the globe before finally settling on Bali as my home. And it’s here, upon the magical Island of the Gods, that Tribal first truly came to life! Tribal is Bali’s first custom-built co-working hostel, catering to aspiring entrepreneurs embarking on their own journeys to forge an online income and travel the world… but more on that in a moment 😉

I’ve had a pretty crazy journey to grow my travel blog to one million monthly users, and to use the travel blog to support the launch of Tribal Bali. Through the highs and lows, I’ve gained invaluable insights that can inspire others to transform their love for travel into something truly extraordinary. My story demonstrates the power of passion and perseverance in turning dreams into reality. 

So, join me as we delve into the adventures and lessons of my journey as the founder of The Broke Backpacker and Co-Founder of Tribal Bali.

The Broke Backpacker: From Passion to Platform

As I documented my experiences, I realised the incredible rewards of living on just $10 a day and felt inspired to share my journey with others.

At the time, there were hardly any travel blogs, especially those focusing on extreme budget travel. When I was doing my own research, I really couldn’t find anybody blogging about travel on anything close to the budget I was doing. This gap in the market sparked my desire to create a platform where I could share my unique perspective to hopefully inspire folks like me, folks who don’t come from money, to hit the road in search of adventure., 

On January 30th, 2013, The Broke Backpacker was officially launched with a mission to show my audience that travel is possible, regardless of financial constraints, as long as you are willing to embrace discomfort and step out of your comfort zones.

The blog quickly became a place for like-minded adventurers to gather, share stories, and learn from each other. The Broke Backpacker has fostered a strong community of travellers who believe in the transformative power of exploring the world on a budget.

Exploring Pakistan by motorbike

Growing The Broke Backpacker

Over the past decade, I’ve explored offbeat destinations and turned The Broke Backpacker into a truly thriving travel blog. One of the keys to our success was developing a robust content and SEO strategy, as well as hiring an awesome team. 

From visiting Venezuela when nobody else was covering this part of the world, to travelling without flights from England to India, I shared my adventures and made headlines on the BBC and Daily Mail, scoring my first ever powerful backlinks.

I covered much of these early adventures on my snapchat channel and used this to grow awareness of my overlanding journey. As the audience on the blog itself grew thanks to SEO, I was able to start generating some income which I invested into hiring some kick ass writers to help me scale content. 

We focused on creating in-depth backpacking guides as well as lots of backpacker advice lifestyle guides on hitchhiking, dumpster diving, trekking, picking up work, how to be a responsible traveller etc. Our passion as a team for teaching folks how to travel cheaper, further and rawer resonated with our readers as we were covering parts of the world that were rarely covered and truly living the lifestyle we were covering.

Understanding our readers and their needs was crucial. Our audience appreciated our honest, reliable advice, leading to an increased affiliate revenue and steady growth. 

Staying true to our mission and leveraging SEO expertise has been pivotal in growing The Broke Backpacker. With a team of like-minded adventurers, we’ve built a powerhouse platform that continues to inspire and inform travellers around the world.

A quick graph showing our insane growth over time. Note we had just 17 users in September 2013, our all time high is 1.5 million in a month.

Tribal Bali: From Idea to Reality

After scaling up The Broke Backpacker’s success and investing in several other online business ideas, I was finally in a financial position where I could open the very best goddamn hostel the world had ever seen. And so, Tribal was born.

In the year of 2019, a spark of an idea led me and my buddy Mark to finally make the move on establishing Tribal.

We both share a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of travel, and the ability to sustain one’s life on the road through our very own entrepreneurial pursuits. 

This shared passion helped bring our vision into reality.

Some of our first guests getting some work done in paradise.

Our journey began with a rigorous hunt for the perfect spot – we really wanted to nail this one down. Breaking ground on this first location was a moment of mixed emotions, excitement and nervous anticipation, but after a long and challenging journey, we were finally able to open our doors in September, 2021.

Tribal was born out of a belief in a growing market need. We noticed an increasing number of explorers like us, and perhaps like you too, seeking to build an online income, or working remotely to financially support their obsession for the road.

Although this trend is rapidly expanding, there’s still a notable lack of dedicated co-working spaces offering something like us – this unique blend of work and play. A space where one can get a lot done, fueled by delicious coffee and mouthwatering food, and still indulge in some pretty epic poolside relaxation.

The Essence of Tribal Bali

Tribal is basically a digital nomad wonderland. The hustle is strong here, and the community spirit too. People come to get stuff done, they come to relax, and they come to enjoy the best that this lifestyle allows them to live.

Stepping into the realm of remote work and building an online income is often a solitary journey. I’ve experienced the struggle of connecting with others on this unique path first-hand and have at times been cripplingly lonely as an entrepreneur. 

But, when those connections do happen, they’re nothing short of magical. Bouncing ideas off like-minded individuals, all on their unique journeys, is incredibly inspiring and it’s simply easier to work hard when you are in an environment filled with others working hard. 

And that’s exactly where Tribal steps in. Our aim is to create a hub where digital nomads can connect, build a community, inspire and be inspired, while also having access to the backpacker lifestyle and all the essentials to go hard on their entrepreneurial dreams.

Laser-focused in our personal work booths – complete with white boards 😉

Don’t get me wrong, hostels are fantastic, and the backpacker lifestyle is exhilarating. But it’s often not the ideal environment for work.

The lively and sometimes chaotic atmosphere of backpacker hostels is beautiful, but not really conducive to productivity. They typically lack things like rock solid WiFi, quiet spaces, standing desks, ample outlets, personal working booths…

At Tribal, we’ve worked hard to strike the perfect balance, a place where you can work, rest, and play in harmony.

For those budding entrepreneurs and digital nomads seeking to forge their own destiny in paradise, Tribal Bali is your go-to spot.

We’ve recently been awarded with Hostelworld’s HOSCAR for the best digital nomad hostel in the world, which is pretty damn exciting! 

But we’re far from done – in fact, we’re just getting started. We’ve already set our sights on opening a second Tribal in Bali, and we want to make it bigger, better, and even more epic. 

We’re excited to go above and beyond, and to expand to other dream destinations such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, and eventually my dearest love, Pakistan…

Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Over ten years of working online has taught me a LOT and there’s a few knowledge bombs I want to drop here… 

Focus on You: If you want to be successful, you will need to be able to put in some mad hours. In order to be properly focussed and effective, you need to have a foundational routine. Getting enough sleep, time off devices, time exercising, journaling, cold exposure… these are all really important hacks which will make you feel better, enable you to do more and should be somewhere in your routine. I achieve the most when I am living a disciplined, routine-based, life. When you are mostly happy, mostly positive and optimistic, you can push yourself through basically anything. 

Get off your phone: Be sure to build in digital-detox times. I now have a two phone system, my secondary phone has just music, podcasts, audibles on it. I am on this phone from 8pm – 8am, it means I spend way less time on my phone in general and creates a separation in my evening between me and work. This is important. If you are working online, it’s even easier for already addictive social media to get its hooks into you as you can kid yourself you are ‘working’ when checking your work related socials… 

Use the tools: Static whiteboards have changed my life – buy a roll.  I use these for plotting out strategies, habit tracking and coding myself with affirmations and goals being up on the walls around me all the time. Trello is an amazing free online tool for task management. Google Calendar, if used properly, is incredibly powerful. A journal, and a pen, are your best friends. 

Discipline and optimism: I truly believe that being disciplined and optimistic are the two most valuable traits you can try to foster within yourself. 

Learning vs. outsourcing: When building an online business, you will at many times face this fork in the road: Do I learn how to do this or should I outsource it? Choosing the right path is important, because if you try to outsource things you shouldn’t, then you may be encouraging yourself to be lazy, or missing out on learning something you need to know to fully understand your business. Learn to build your confidence as an entrepreneur. Choose wisely. Whilst it is useful to outsource, you can’t outsource everything, so be very aware of that. For me, I don’t, for example, think it’s possible to fully outsource either SEO or branding; I mean, sure, you can, but will you ever really understand what your business stands for and how it generates traffic if you don’t understand these two pivotal pieces?

Embracing failure and fostering patience: You will fail. Do it cheap, young and fast. Take risks. Know when to cut your losses. Learn, don’t forget what you have learned (put it up on a whiteboard!), push forwards, adapt, adjust, conquer… but be patient, it DOES take time. 

Just. Get. It. Fucking. Done: And that time starts now. What is the one big thing you need to do this week that will have an enormous impact on your business? Get it done. Don’t procrastinate, topple that big daily domino whenever you can – make it a habit to move fast and with purpose. 

Chase Your Dreams and Join Tribal Bali

No matter what your dream – to travel the world, to run a successful business, to stand upon the podium – it doesn’t matter. It all has a cost. And the question is: are you willing to pay the price?

If you are willing to step beyond your comfort zone, to be brave, to learn, to push forwards with focus and consistency, then you can have anything you want. I truly believe that hard work, discipline and enthusiasm are the keys to almost every door. 

Keep pushing forward, keep working hard for your goals, and come join me and get shit done over at Tribal Bali.

I might just challenge you to a game of pool. 😉