If you’ve ever been stuck in a boring academic lecture, then you’ve probably felt it. An emotional pull — likely fueled by all the scrolling through an Instagram feed populated by pictures of exotic locals and sublime travelers — commanding you to dump the books and head out to see the world. They say you need an advanced degree to better compete in today’s job market, but you’d also like to visit Java before you’re 35. And it’s not like you can indulge your passion for travel and earn a degree at the same time, right?
Dave Anderson begs to differ. In 2015, Anderson (AKA “Jones Around the World” to his cadre of followers online) managed to attend and finish grad school as a digital student — attending lectures and doing all of his course work through the internet — while at the same time roaming his way through the likes of Kuala Lumpur, Laos, the Philippines, and more.
“My 12-month long-term backpacking trip in South-East Asia completely changed my life,” Anderson told CheapOair. “I met some of the most incredible people, and really fell in love with the nomadic life.”
Originally from California, Anderson cites a 7-week trip to Europe in 2009 as sparking his initial infatuation with travel. As a college student in 2010, he flirted some more with the budding fervor and spent a semester studying abroad in Rome. Then, after graduation, Anderson’s wanderlust became a full-blown affair when landed a job working as an international guide for a small travel company based in Italy. For what Anderson describes as “two of the craziest years of my life,” he was off every weekend leading trips to the most popular destinations in Europe; getting paid to visit Germany during Oktoberfest, organize nightlife excursions in Prague, and check out the craziness of the French Riviera during the Cannes Film Festival.
So when it came time to figure out his post-grad education, Anderson didn’t want to give up on his new wayfaring style. “I always had the intention of doing a Master’s Degree, but my original plan was to do it in New York,” he explained. “It wasn’t until I studied and worked abroad that helped me realize my love for living overseas…I definitely wouldn’t be the same person I am today, without those initial years abroad.”
Anderson applied, and was accepted, to an online graduate program through Webster University, which is based in Missouri but has campuses all around the world. With a B.A. in Business Administration already under his belt, he wanted to continue his business studies — starting out in the school’s M.B.A. program but then switching to Business Management & Leadership. “It had a stronger emphasis on working with people,” Anderson explained.
While Anderson admits that there were some friends and family members who were skeptical of his plan, the majority of people close to him were supportive. In fact, those who were most critical of his “digital student” lifestyle turned out to be fellow travelers he met in hostels along his journey. “They were on quick vacations and were traveling to escape their normal routines,” Anderson said, “whereas I was a long-term traveler who just combined this lifestyle with my studies.”
Today is my Birthday. 😃🎉🎁🎊 . . . For those of you wondering, I’m now 28 years old, I’ve been to 45+ different countries (or something around there), and have lived in six different countries. I travel the world, take photos, and go to a lot of music festivals. I’m truly the happiest I’ve ever been. 27 was the most challenging and rewarding year of my life. I’ve met some truly loving and incredible people that I know will be a huge part of my future. I’ve got some really exciting plans for this year, and can’t wait to share my adventures with you all!! Thanks so much for following along! ✈️🌏📷🎶😎
While taking classes and turning in homework, Anderson was also able to explore Bali by motor scooter, visit Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, rave in Koh Phangan, and experience a lot more.
It turns out the most annoying challenge for those getting a master’s degree is the same for non-student travelers: finding a decent internet connection. Anderson needed to get online to not only follow lectures and turn in assignments but also read his “digital rental” textbooks. “So when I was in Bali and found a decent hotel or hostel with a fast connection, I would spend hours getting all my reading and assignments done,” he recalled. “It actually forced me to be really time efficient, because I knew I had to get the work done while I could.”
The original plan was to finish grad school in a year, spending the first semester in Asia and then trekking through Europe while completing his studies. But while going over the costs during a break between semesters, Anderson realized the numbers didn’t work. “I forgot how expensive living in Europe was,” he said, “and just realized it would be so much more cost-efficient for me to spend the next year traveling around Asia. So I booked a one-way ticket to Sri Lanka, and the rest is history!”
In between his studies and exploring Asia, Anderson found time to launch a blog about his adventures. He used the random nickname “Jones” used by a best friend in high school. After earning his degree, Anderson realized his unique grad school experience has been perfectly prepared to be a professional travel blogger — baptizing him in the “digital nomad lifestyle,” and making him an expert in long-term travel and working online.
According to Anderson, his blog aims to focus on “real fun, basic and no-nonsense travel advice” and connect with readers by sharing his travels. “My blog has changed so much over the years, but the idea has stayed the same,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to share my international experiences with the world and to inspire people to get out and travel more!”
His advice for those inspired would-be travelers? Pick a date and stick to it. “I feel like people are always making plans and then decide to put it off,” he said. “More people need to just book that ticket and go…the rest will fall into place.”
Oh, and when you get there, don’t try to rush through your trip and experience everything as quick as you can. “I hate when I see people planning two-week vacations and try to squeeze in like four to five countries,” Anderson said. “Slow it down, enjoy each place, and really get a better understanding about where you are visiting.”
Anderson eventually left Asia, spent some time in Australia, and gone on to explore plenty of other destinations. He was in Florida (about an hour north of Miami) when he spoke with CheapOair. He’d recently covered a 4-day cruise music festival to the Bahamas and had decided to spend some time in the Sunshine State.
“I’ve got one my best friends living here, and it’s been great to kick back and relax in the same spot for a couple weeks!