I’m a doctor who runs a weekend travel agency – here’s how
- Calvin D. Sun is an attending physician and director of The Monsoon Diaries, a travel agency.
- Over the past decade, he has visited 190 countries and territories and had over 1,000 travel companions.
- This is the story of his balance between work and travel, told to freelance writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.
This essay as told is based on a transcribed conversation with Calvin D. Sun, a 34-year-old emergency doctor from New York City, about his work and his travel agency. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I am present doctor and clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine in numerous emergency rooms and hospital systems in and around New York City. In addition, I am the finish line medical captain and the finish zone medical care coordinator for the New York City Marathon.
I am also the founder and CEO of Monsoon logs, a travel agency that arranges unstructured, adventure-oriented trips around the world.
It started as a simple travel blog for a particular trip to South East Asia and India in the summer when I was to start my medical studies – and during the monsoon season no less.
I had no idea at the time that it would go any further than that.
A month later, I was already exhausted at school and longed for a reprieve. I saved some of my bartending work in college. With the fortuitous arrival of a wedding in San Diego – and for the sake of my fragile sanity – I took a vacation and came back 48 hours later mentally recharged and with the curious thought that spontaneous weekends. could be the answer to burnout. I blogged about this idea, and a month later I left for 48 hours, this time for a day in Hong Kong. I also blogged about it.
I came back, I left; came back, left. I hit North Korea, Guatemala, and Belize for Thanksgiving; Iran for spring break; Ukraine, Poland, Spain and Morocco for the winter holidays; as well as Antarctica, Cuba, Palawan, Route 66, Venezuela, Silk Road, Trans-Siberian Railway, Balkans and Micronations. If I had two consecutive days off from school or work, I wouldn’t see those days as another normal weekend to recharge, but rather as an opportunity to take another international trip.
On each subsequent trip, an acquaintance or even a random reader of my blog would show up at airports and ask if they could sign up after reading my upcoming travel plans on Facebook.
I felt like a modern day Forrest Gump running with no plan other than “I just wanted to run” which inexplicably would lead more people to follow. I made a huge windfall on my trip to the Caribbean in 2014 by bringing almost 40 people, especially when I initially thought only eight people would come.
Soon I was getting to a point where I was doing a little more work to make sure anyone who wanted to join could. Then when they asked to reimburse me for booking their hotels, meals and other group bookings that I had made and I told them the cost, they were shocked at how well I was doing my trips at low price. Many were prepared to pay more. But before I accepted, my best friend from college helped me file statutes (as a birthday present) and I officially started a business.
If you can catch a plane on a Friday night, you can reach almost anywhere in Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, or South America from the east coast on Saturday morning.
You can consider the same for travel on the West Coast to Asia, the Southern United States to Central or South America, or the Midwest to Europe. Then the next 36 hours is enough to explore most of the mid-sized towns and villages before having to return on Sunday evening.
During my travels, my followers started to call themselves “monsoons“, even meeting other self-proclaimed monsoons around the world on their own travels. They sent me a picture of two people and texts that said,” Hi Virginia! We were getting to know each other and we both just found out that we had ridden the monsoon with you on two separate trips! “
I never skipped a day of class or missed a shift during my time in medical school and in residence due to travel. Over the past 10 years, I have visited 190 countries and territories and had over 1,000 travel companions through The Monsoon Diaries. I have visited all seven continents and made countless friends across the world.
The Monsoon Diaries opened doors to opportunities like a book deal
I have an accountant, and I give him my spreadsheets after every trip. He works out the numbers and I make sure he doesn’t tell me about anything unless I’m losing money instead of earning it. Right now, personally, I have no idea how much money I’m making with The Monsoon Diaries other than the occasional thumbs-up I get from him.
Being a doctor has certainly helped me financially, but I don’t think I would have successfully completed my medical school or residency without my travel. The continued success so far really makes me believe it’s only because I stuck to a premise that I don’t and never would do The Monsoon Diaries for the money.
Due to my success, I was offered a free trip to Antarctica, a book deal with HarperCollins, and occasional brand sponsorship offers. Someone I befriended on a recent trip is the recipe manager of Eyeglasses. They loved my story and looped me around to promote Blenders on my site and to my community. A representative of Keen shoes Also contacted me on Instagram during COVID-19 because she felt my values aligned with theirs. Ultimately, G1G travel insurance just contacted me to introduce me on their podcast and partner with me. All are very recent, so we have not yet fleshed it out.
A literary agent named Trinity McFadden contacted me about eight months ago and asked if all of my writing on my father’s death in 2006, my monsoon trips and the pandemic could be made into a book.
Now I have a signed six-figure publishing deal with a lead and bonus offer well above what we expected for a first-time author, as well as an expedited publication date via the imprint of HarperCollins, Harper Horizon. My book is due out in July 2022.
As my groups grew larger, I was initially unaware that I could get incentives to bring my fellow travelers
Then when I had 20 people sign up for my 2013 trip to Antarctica, the travel agency that was going to take us there, Oceanwide Expeditions, offered me two free seats for bringing so many people.
I have since secured a free seat for myself for a specific number of people that I bring to the business, a common practice. Other companies I have worked with, such as Visits by young pioneers and Yacht week, also offered me free places. If I get a free second place, I give it to a co-guide.
Do you have an interesting job and want to share your story with Insider? Email Lauryn Haas at [email protected]