View Full Version : I don't have a country. I have been traveling for over two years looking for one.

10-15-2013, 12:15 PM
I don’t have a country.

I have been a silent refugee for two years now, traveling around looking for a home.

As a senior at Texas A&M University, I had to leave the US because of paperwork back home.

I returned to Saudi Arabia, where I was born and raised, only to find out I was not allowed to live there anymore.

I couldn’t go to my father’s country, Eritrea, because it is unsafe.

I would be forced into indefinite military conscription doing harsh slave labor.

I spent the past two years running from one place to another just to get by.

My struggles helped me understand the hardship the less fortunate go through

but at the same time I learned to love and accept people everywhere I traveled.

I realized my purpose.

I want to bring people around the world together, through music, by showing how similar we all are.

I am going to travel the world and make a documentary showing how music connects people and breaks down barriers.

Now, let's talk business:

I want to crowdfund for my project in December. I have 50 days or so until then and to be honest I feel completely lost. I have been blogging for about three months now. I have received a lot of traffic and some supportive comments but I don't have a community or an interactive following. This is understandable considering I'm talking about a project I haven't even started. I have nothing to show people yet.

I would appreciate some advice on things I can do to improve my chances of raising my target goal. I need 15,000 USD to survive the first year on minimal living. It's my goal to become self sufficient and establish myself on Youtube during the first 12 months to where online viewership starts paying for my journey after that.

I cannot take the risk of working illegally in countries I visit because deportation is life threatening in my case. If I get caught I would be deported to Eritrea where I would be sent to military prison. My story is known to pro government writers who are probably informants as well. I'm not Snowden and Eritrea is not USA. I don't think I'm important enough (Thank God) for the Eritrean government to want to spend money hunting me down overseas but if I do something that hands me over to them, I'm sure they would be stoked to test their torture methods on me.

I'm doing my best to find work online (such as translating Arabic - English). I will be able to cover parts of my expenses through that hopefully.

The reason why it's important to have the security of funds before hand is because money is what makes me a "tourist" and not a "refugee". 3,000 dollars is the magic number. It's what stands between me and being deported to Eritrea. That amount can buy me a plane ticket to anywhere, help me score a tourist visa, and prove to any immigration officer that I have cash to spend. So, if I know that I'm good for 12 months then I can focus on music and on my creative goals instead of worrying whether I have money the next day or if I'll be deported. There's a complicated religious conflict that my parents have with my aspirations. The only way for me to embark on this journey is to be finanically independent of them. They've been supporting me for the past two years and money is not an issue for them. By going on this journey I would actually sacrifice a lot of comfort and security that my father provides for me with his money. Music is all I ever wanted to do with my life so I'm willing to take my chances.

I will go through the 10 main points , covered in a sticky thread on here, below. But before I do that, I would like to ask that you kindly focus on the subject of crowdfunding. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding my situation, please google me and you'll find a FAQ page on my blog. Please read it and if you still have questions/suggestions regarding my stateless situation (and not crowdfunding) then I'll gladly listen.

#1 Be Passionate about your project:

I don't think I would do something as crazy as what I'm doing if I weren't passionate about music. I'm putting my relationship with my family on the line for this because music is all I ever wanted to do for the past ten years.

I performed in my school's theatre as a kid and wrote a lot of Arabic poetry. I attempted to executive produce a music album for major tv show at the age of 18. We were talking to a label to back the project financially, had the approval of the tv show host, and started selecting songs, had one song recorded and then **** happened. The label pulled out and the artist ran with the song to the TV network and took all the credit (while we're the ones that put the idea in his head, and it was our song, anyways)..

In the US, I co-organized a lot of cultural official university events in my first two years. I worked as a freelance photographer following local bands and documenting their shows. I organized a Haiti Relief Concert in 2010 that was one of the most memorable events of the year according to the university newspaper. I started heavily organizing concerts after that for the rest of the year with focusing mainly on the student component. The events were made by students for students and featured student talents. I would book an out of state touring act as a way to bring people to attend and showcase the local student artists. In 2011 I co-founded a concert promotion company that is the main company in Bryan/College Station TX now and organizes events all around the state of Texas. I sold my share when I left the US. If I hadn't done that I wouldn't be crowdfunding right now haha.

I am a good songwriter and a decent singer. I sing in both Arabic and English. I've been writing music since 2003 with creative outbursts in 2007, and 2009. I am interested in artist management and discovering talented musicians and showcasing them, and I hope to become an established songwriter someday.

I have been traveling since I was a baby. I lived in New York at a very young age and our family visited the US every other year for vacation to visit relatives there. My family's heritage comes from 4 different countries and our relatives are married to people from many other countries. Our close relatives live in all continents of the world except South America and Antarctica. I have been to 12 countries so far and I have been around people from every where my whole life. Part of being a foreigner and treated as an outsider while growing up in Saudi Arabia, gave me the ability to build easy rapport with anyone. When you study English as a second language in the US you get to meet International students from everywhere. as you can see, I love culture.

I love music. I love travel. Put the two together, there goes magic!

#2 Know exactly how you will spend the money

I will spend the money on travel expenses.
Flights: 3500 USD
Visas: 500 USD (Yes, it's that much to visit 12 countries if you're from an unpopular African country like Eritrea)

Daily spending (lodging, food, and transport = 30 dollars on average.

It totals to 15 thousand dollars.

*I know some backpackers can do it for cheaper. As a holder of a passport subject to several US & UN sanctions, I am only allowed to enter most countries by air and from the main hubs. I must have visa beforehand as well. I don't have the privilege of visa free travel that 1st world passport holders have and I don't have access to saving shortcuts such as travel credit cards because I am stateless.

#3 Pick the right crowdfunding platform

Kickstarter is out of the picture. It's Indiegogo or Gofundme.

Indiegogo has more swagger and since they have reached out to me personally (talked on Skype) I would hope I would get featured and get some support with promoting this.

downside? I don't have a bank account. I'm stateless! I could get a friend to help out. But then, I'd have to leave all the money with them and take bit by bit what I need. There's also that waiting period after you finish funding.

Gofundme: pros: - money goes straight to my Paypal.
cons: - less popular, less likely to get support from strangers/featured?

I'll still have to count on someone to get money from my paypal to theirs and then have them give me cash. There will always be a "leakage" in the form of paypal or bank fees + conversion rate in the countries I visit. I will have to make up for that by skipping meals and trying to do freelance translation work online throughout my travels.

#4 Communicate clearly

This is a point of challenge. Ultimately every person I talk to about my situation has a lot of questions and if you look at my FAQ, it gets pretty confusing. I have to put a lot of work into what I write and how I say things and what I focus on.

There's also the part where I have focus and pin point exactly what my project will do. That's challenging because on Youtube you can't completely predict what goes on or how things develop. The access I have to artists and events will largely depend on how big of an audience I have. To get people excited about meeting with me and doing an interview I'll need momentum online, I'll need to show them that this is worth their while and they'll gain publicity through my show. I can't promise people a VICE type of production when it's just me and an HD point and shoot camera.

I am hoping to get my younger brother, who's a film maker, to join me but he's got one more semester to go before he graduates from TV production school in the UK. He's interested but I can't promise people something that is a variable. Also, counting him in means a completely different budget. The two of us traveling for 365 days is more like 45 thousand US dollars (30,000 travel expenses + 12 grand for professional film and audio equipment). This is not to be looked at until May 2014 though because that's when he graduates.

#5 Use social media for what it does best

Social networking presence is tricky. I think this is one of the two key areas where I need to put the most work. I've been successful in generating a good amount of online traffic especially for someone new at blogging. It's been fleeing though, meaning people come to my blog and just bounce. It's on wordpress so I have no idea how long each person is sticking around for. All I know is I have had over 9000 visitors from exactly 127 countries around the world (61 percent of that is from the US and the rest of the top 10 all together bring about 23 percent, so it's a mostly American readership), all in a period of three months. My mailing list does not have a 100 people in it yet. I have near 2,000 facebook friends who are mostly Texas A&M students or alumni, most of them are people I know personally and some add me through the music concerts I used to organize. Being a concert promoter though you tend to have a lot of acquaintances and not so many real friends. My social network did come through for me with a campaign I did for my birthday as I managed to get 727 supporters out of the goal of 500 on thunderclap and was featured on their home page. (that's how indiegogo found me). It took a lot of grinding though to get that result. I singlehandedly spoke to over 1,000 people about joining the campaign over a period of 1 month. Some friends definitely helped me get some of their friends to join but that does not amount to much (maybe 5 percent of the total support). Being on Thunderclap's homepage provided a lot of support from strangers, a large 20 percent maybe.

I would want to run a thunderclap campaign to support my crowdfunding campaign as hopefully getting on the home page would mean that a lot of random traffic would come and see my crowdfunding campaign. I got a lot of blog traffic last time, but this time it would be more goal oriented.. it would be traffic with a proposition. The tricky part will be getting my facebook friends to AGAIN go and support on thunderclap after they've just done it a month ago.. it's not effective to ask people for help over and over again. They grow tired of you. I need to find another way to harness interest.

#6 Rewards, Equity, a Good Story

Rewards vs. Donations is a tough question. I prefer to do rewards but really, it's moral rewards. I don't want to put rewards that cost a lot of money because that will mean I have to raise more money for it to be useful to me. I'm asking for the bare minimum here. If I'm sending people souvenirs, creating hardcopy DVD or CD products, t-shirts (I like the idea of t-shirts but again.. costs!) then I would need a lot more money for me to net 15 grand after all is said and done.

I need to come up with rewarding rewards that don't cost me a lot.

Here are some ideas I've had on rewards:

- to print their photo on cardboard and take a picture of it next to tourist sights.
- to let them choose destinations
- to let them choose meals I eat and film them
- to let them choose restaurants to review
- life long access to any event I organize or perform at.
- one time access to any event I organize, valid for 10 years.
- I will write their name at a place of their choosing where allowed
- personal thank you phone call/ skype session
- photo with their name on a plate using condiments
- name in the credits
- invite to join me on my journey for a week, and be in vlogs
- talk about your product/services in a vlog
- logo at the beginning of my videos
- This video is dedicated to our friend "so and so"
- online download of a collection of songs I wrote through the years [I would get friends in the states to perform and record the songs since I don't have access to recording equipment here]

Still, I think the biggest factor will be the story because that's what distinguishes me from the next blogger who wants money to pay for his trip. I am someone who HAS to travel.

#7 Promote The Heck Out of it

The 2nd most important thing. A lot to be learned here.

#8 Be Prepared Behind The Scenes

Do I need an LLC for this (a Youtube show)?

IRS is not a concern since I'm not American. I wouldn't owe them money would I?

#9 Over Prepare, and Under Promise

Good note on deadlines!

#10 Learn from Other's Successes and Mistakes

I will do a lot of reading on this forum.

Thank you for reading this far. Please, enlighten me!