How $10 and a Vacation Stopped my Pursuit of a Doctorate

How $10 and a Vacation Stopped my Pursuit of a Doctoral Degree

Recently I took a trip to Spain and Italy for two reasons.  First, it was my 31st birthday and second, because I was burnt out from everything that I’ve been doing related to work. I think it’s important for you to understand exactly what I have been doing that caused this burnout.

First, I have a full-time job as a digital marketing manager at an awesome company named Meritas.

Second, I teach at three different colleges which are Sanford Brown, New England College of Business , and Kendall College.

Third, I have been pursuing my doctorate at Colorado Technical University, which has a great doctoral program.

Lastly, I have been focusing on creating the website. For those of you that follow the website, you know that I’ve been trying to launch the website redesign for some time and I was finally able to do that, but because of my other obligations I kept having to push off working on this website.

Well, things have changed and this post is here to explain how $10 and a trip across the world has convinced me to stop pursuing my doctorate to focus on this website instead.

In this blog post we will cover:

  • My trip to Spain and Italy (with pictures, of course)
  • The allure of the online entrepreneur lifestyle
  • Why I quit pursuing my doctorate

My trip to Spain and Italy

I’m the first to acknowledge that many people will never have the ability to go to Spain and Italy in their lifetime. For this opportunity, I feel truly blessed because I have an employer who is willing to give me time off, as well as a salary which allows me to afford these types of trips.

Here is the back story about how this trip came to fruition.

Last year, a good friend of mine, whose birthday just so happens to be four days after my own, convinced me on my 30th birthday to go across the world and visit Poland and Germany. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made because I was able to ingrain myself in two different countries cultural settings for five days and see many things that many people will never be able to.

This year, it was about a month before my birthday and I spoke to that same friend and asked him if he wanted to travel again.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do so for a few different reasons and had explained he was just going to stay local and go to a concert.

Concerts really aren’t my thing and I thought that I could figure something else out. After canvassing my address book in my phone and texting or calling all of my friends to see what they had going on, I realized that the concert was my best option.

However, like I said earlier, concerts really aren’t my thing so I needed to figure something else out. Lucky for me, I have a friend that lives in Barcelona who had previously offered to have me come visit her if I ever wanted. Of course when she made the initial offer I declined and said I didn’t want to intrude, but then I remembered that last year I had in my head that I was going to travel out of the country each year moving forward on my birthday. I gave a call to my friend over in Barcelona and to my surprise, she explained that she was willing to put up with me for 10 whole days while we explored both Spain and Italy.

Once I got the go-ahead from my boss, I booked the tickets and off I went. It really was the trip of a lifetime and I have absolutely no regrets from my trip. I was able to see so many amazing things in  Spain including; Las Ramblas, the Sagrada Familia Church, La Boqueria, Parc Güell, the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Tibidabo, Montjuic, and a host of random bars and restaurants.

Even though I loved Spain, Italy really blew me away because I was able to see the Vatican, the leaning Tower of Pisa, and something that was on my bucket list to see before I died, the Colosseum.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip to give you an idea of what life was like for those 10 days.

Barcelona, Spain

Las Ramblas: This is a long stretch of road in Barcelona full of shops, restaurants, bars, and any other type of tourist attraction that you can think of.

Las Ramblas - Barcelona Spain

Sagrada Familia Church: If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know that churches are some of the most extravagant structures that the countries have to offer. This particular church was designed by a Catalan architect named Antoni Gaudi and was nothing short of amazing.

Sagrada Familia Church - Barcelona Spain

La Boqueria: If you’re looking for fresh food, this is the place to find it. This is a very large market which has an enormous selection for fruits, vegetables, seafood, pork, and many other exotic types of meat. This market doesn’t offer fully cooked meals though, instead it gives visitors an opportunity to buy the items fresh and ready to cook.

La Bogueria - Barcelona Spain

Parc Güell: This is a public park that was also designed by Antoni Gaudi and has a truly unique layout and structures throughout its grounds.

Parc Güell - Barcelona Spain

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: This is a temple located on the top of a mountain which allows you to get all the way to the roof to check out the views.  If you are wondering, yes, I was able to make it all the way to it’s highest point which is at the feet of the giant Jesus monument.  Also if you’re wondering, no, I am not scared of heights.

Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - Barcelona Spain

Tibidabo: Hands down, this place provided me with the best view that I’ve ever seen from anywhere I’ve ever been. To describe this particular area is a little difficult, but it’s kind of like a mini amusement park on top of a mountain. And no, that “thinking man” pose wasn’t on purpose.

Tibidabo - Barcelona Spain

Montjuic:   This was probably the coolest part of Barcelona, with Tibidabo coming in a very close second. This is a building on a small hill that is overlooking a harbor in the city center. But that isn’t what was cool about it, the coolest part about this location is the fountain which is synced up to music.

If you’ve ever been to Vegas and seen the fountain show at the Bellagio, it’s similar to that but a lot more people and much longer.

Montjuic - Barcelona Spain

Rome, Italy

The Colosseum: As I stated earlier, the Colosseum has been one of those things that I’ve always wanted to see before I die. Lucky for me, I’m now able to add new things onto the bucket list. The amount of history at this particular structure is mind boggling and the audio tour is definitely worth purchasing.

The Colosseum - Rome Italy

The Vatican: Truth be told, I wasn’t even excited to see this historical landmark but it was by far the most amazing thing I saw on the trip. The amount of time and materials put into building the structure is astonishing and they even allow you to go to the absolute top and check out the view in the dome.

The Vatican - Rome Italy

Pisa, Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa: I’m happy to say that I was able to actually go to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa and looked down at the view from one of the most historical landmarks in the entire world. Surprisingly, the structure itself is a little underwhelming in that it isn’t very large, but it’s definitely something that’s worth visiting in my opinion.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa - Pisa Italy

Overall, this trip was an amazing experience and definitely one of the more memorable ones that I’ll ever take in my lifetime. I want to take a second to thank someone who I know is going to read this post which  is my extremely kind, beautiful, and gracious host for the trip, Victoria. She opened up her home to me and was my only means of communicating with the locals while there.

Victoria Picture

The allure of the online entrepreneur lifestyle

While on this trip, a funny thing happened.  I realized that I was getting a taste of the online entrepreneurship lifestyle.  The reality behind this type of lifestyle is that it’s possible, but it takes an extremely large amount of work to get there. Think about it for a moment, as long as you have an Internet connection and a computer, you can run a website from anywhere in the world.

As I mention in the about me area, I am a bonafide college professor outside of this website and my full time job.  Lucky for me, I am signed up to teach many of my courses in an online environment which allows me to teach from anywhere.  This has some benefits and downfalls, but the main benefit is that it allows me to understand what it’s like to travel and still get work done even while on vacation.

For me, this trip was truly a taste of the online entrepreneur lifestyle. In total, I probably worked around an hour to an hour and a half each day and then was able to walk away from my computer and enjoy my vacation. Most of my time at the computer consisted of checking emails and participating in discussion boards, and on the heavy days I had some grading to do, but overall I never put in a significant amount of time on any given day.

In retrospect, that’s what the online entrepreneur lifestyle is all about. It’s the whole premise of having a online business that, after a lot of hard work, allows you to work a limited amount of hours while your online business continues to produce even when you aren’t there.  Although an online business can never be completely automated, it’s very possible that you can travel the world and create an online business that is able to support you while you do so.

Consider the fact that the cost of living is pretty high in the United States and there are plenty of places in the world where $1,000 a month is a substantial amount of money.  This number isn’t that far fetched to achieve on a monthly basis and although it is going to take some work, I am confident that many people reading this post can do it if they tried.

For example, someone that I follow who probably has no idea that I follow them is Travel Tish. The thing I like about Tish is that she does a really good job of clearly articulating her lessons learned each month. In addition to that, her writing is great and she focuses on explaining all of the different places that she’s been with great detail.

According to her website, her total income for September of 2014 was $1,439.26 and I think that it’s going to continue to climb as she explained she is now taking on her website as a full-time solopreneuer.  But to me, this is a proof of concept.  If Tish is able to travel the world and make almost $1,500 a month blogging about her travels, why can’t you?

Why I quit pursuing my doctorate

As you can imagine, pursuing a doctorate is no easy task. There is an obscene amount of paper writing to be done and most of the time you are doing research on various topics relevant to your dissertation. The latest course I took was extremely time-consuming and stressed me out beyond my own limit. This isn’t necessarily the reason why I quit though, there’s something else that happened while I was in Spain which truly changed my outlook on the website.

Pictures say a lot more than words, so below is a screenshot of what happened.

Shutterstock Commission

Holy cow, the website made some money.

I know that the amount of money is practically insignificant, at a measly $9.80 I’m not about to go and pay off my mortgage but it did something to me which wasn’t done previously. It validated my idea and gave me proof of concept after completing my website redesign.  Truth be told, this whole website was designed as a to help people and making a profit was more secondary, but hey, $10 is $10!

So, how did I actually make the money?

Many of the links I have on my website are disclosed as affiliate links. This means that if you click on the affiliate links of a product that I recommend and end up purchasing it, I get a small commission for referring you. It’s important to note that it doesn’t cost you any extra money to buy these products and sometimes I can even hook you up with a discount.  For example, this video quicktip explains how you can create your own WordPress website in under 5 minutes for $15.  I can get you that offer simply because I’m an affiliate of Hostgator, which is the hosting company that runs this website and I recommend to everyone.

I think the reason why people trust my recommendations is because I refuse to promote products or services that I’ve never used or don’t have a stellar reputation in the industry.  This entire website redesign was inspired by Pat Flynn, who is an immensely successful affiliate blogger and I wanted to see if I could do the same thing too.

Well, this money was the proof that I did it. Granted it’s only $9.80, but I have nowhere to go but up. The thing that made this so cool was that I was in the middle of Spain on top of a mountain when this actual transaction occurred. In fact, I didn’t even know that this happened until the next day. It was my first true experience with passive income because I wasn’t doing any work and I earned $9.80 without even thinking about.  By the way, if you’re wondering who paid me the $9.80 it was Shutterstock.  I have a few blog posts related to getting website images that bring in a lot of traffic and someone purchased a photo which led to my commission.

After being in awe about what had occurred and truly believing that I can make this happen, I began to look at my priorities and questioned why I was still working on my doctorate. I’m extremely passionate about the website and want to do amazing things with it, but I don’t necessarily need a doctoral degree to do that.

After looking at the amount of time I spent researching and writing papers, I decided that it was time to put that part of my life on hold and focus more intently on creating a website that can change people’s lives. Many people say that the most important thing in your life is to follow your passion and with that advice in mind, this website is what I need to focus on.

Do you think it was smart of me to stop my doctoral degree for this?  Let me know in the comments below!

Leave a Comment:

Aleksandra says October 4, 2014

I think you have made the right decision! 😉 OHP is a great project, don’t give up!

    Ron says October 4, 2014

    Thank you so much, Aleksandra. I love it so far!

Steven Arthur says October 11, 2014

Hey Ron, I know you made the best decision and I predict you will never regret it. I’ve been in similar situations more than once and always took the path least traveled. It’s always been the right choice for me.
Your niche is great. I can also relate as I’m from Chicago, been to Italy x 2 and still miss Barcelona since 1998! Wishing you continued success & happiness!

    Ron says October 11, 2014


    Thank you so much! It’s been a bit of a tough road but I am already starting to see some awesome momentum. It’s tough to stop a doctorate when I am about halfway through, but so far I don’t regret it!

Gertrude Nonterah says October 27, 2014

Hi Ron, I think you had commented on John Lee Dumas’s website which is what led me here. I’m a PhD student myself and completely identify ! I have thought of quitting MANY times but never had the courage to actually quit. I am almost done though so quitting now makes no sense.

I dream of traveling and spending my life doing missions and ever since I discovered that such a life is possible with an internet business if you are willing to WORK for it, I’ve not looked back. I only wish I had learned about it sooner.

Your story is an inspiration and I am looking forward to the day you tell it on some big conference stage !

    Ron Stefanski says October 28, 2014

    Hey Gertrude!

    Yes, I am a fan of EOF so that makes sense. Quitting was a VERY hard decision for me because I was just about to start my dissertation and was halfway through the program, but this website is really starting to take off and I figured I had to choose one or the other.

    Have you already been pretty successful with your own online business? I would love to check out what you have going on if you have.

    Thank you for the kinds words 🙂 My goal is to eventually get into public speaking, but for now I will let my words do the talking. haha.

      Gertrude Nonterah says October 28, 2014

      Coolness. Thanks for replying !

      I have no doubt the quitting must have been hard. Kudos on the choice though. Many people live their lives never doing what they really want to do. You’re well on your way though. 😀

      Well, I just started with my website actually and so I am just starting to gain some traction. My background is in science and so the whole business thing is a little bit of Greek to me…but there is great content to fill that gap like EOF and Pat Flynn. So I’ve been learning for the last 2 years or so.

      Just about 3 months ago, I started a website called My Online Biz Journey that is targeted at younger moms (like me) who are busy with life and careers & yet would like to start a profitable side gig. I’m especially focussing on writing eBooks and creating online courses on websites such as Udemy as a way to start making money online. It is part me chronicling my journey in online business and part helping others who are just getting their feet wet.

      The website is Anyway, I am in the lab as I type this ; working on a paper for publication (as you can see, FUN TIMES !)

      Have a great day, Ron. I’ll be visiting often.

        Ron Stefanski says October 28, 2014


        I LOVE your blog! Very well done, great content, and even comments from those at EOF, Flipped Lifestyle, and IBM! I was really surprised when I saw that haha.

        How far along are you on creating a course on Udemy? Actually, maybe we can take this offline? You and I seem to have very similar backgrounds so maybe we could hold each other accountable?

        I’m going to hit you up on your contact form.

          Gertrude Nonterah says October 28, 2014

          Ron, you discovered my 5 seconds of fame. LOL.

          I did end up creating Udemy course that has been live for about 3 months. I need to update it actually with more content.

          Contact me and let’s see how we can help each other.

          I look forward to it.

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