Allow me a moment to pinch myself. As I think back to the fateful Black Friday when I started blogging, 15 years ago in Sao Paulo. Was it luck that the school I had volunteered to teach at for a year was broke and couldn’t afford toilet paper? It only made sense when I found a deal for free toilet paper that I’d share it with my friends and family, and what better way than via a public blog?
But the very fact that I was in Brazil for the year was only thanks to divine providence. But that’s a story for another time.
I suppose it was always in the cards for me. I turned 20 on that Black Friday in Brazil when I started this site. I was born on November 26th, 1984, which as I just learned via a Google search, was the Monday after Thanksgiving. It may not have been back then, but nowadays the Monday after Thanksgiving is better known as Cyber Monday, the holiday of internet deals.
I’d certainly have laughed at you if you told me in 2004 that I’d still be blogging daily at the same site. I’d think you were even crazier if you told me that it would be my living and calling.
But I guess the signs were always there. I was flipping baseball cards as a 10 year old. Selling beanie babies on eBay as a 12 year old. Freezing out in the cold on Black Friday as a 15 year old to flip items on eBay (thank goodness that can be done online now!). By 16, I negotiated a 50% discount with Delta and booked out an entire flight from LAX-JFK for my Yeshiva, saving everyone money while earning a boatload of miles and free tickets for myself in the process. And by 17, I took advantage of a now defunct eBay points program to rack up over 1 million miles with Cathay Pacific. And since then, it’s grown into an obsession to see how many millions of miles I can rack up and burn through each year. There are worse hobbies to have, no?
I’ve been blessed with being in the right place at the right time so many times in my life that I could fill a book. It’s amazing looking back at how all the pieces fall into place. Over the course of 15 years of blogging, every day I gain an incredible appreciation for the world and our part in leaving it better than we found it.
I don’t know when exactly it crossed over from, what I did for kicks to what I do professionally, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t know when exactly the traffic to the site increased from a few hits a month to millions of hits per month. I do what I love and I love what I do.
The fact that my hobby and job enabled me to travel to places I could have never have dreamed of traveling to and do things I could have never dreamed I’d be able to do is something I never take for granted.
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People often ask me what was the coolest place I've been to. Thinking back to my 2015 United island hopper trip to Palau with @ajkaplan, it simply has to be up there with the most amazing places in the world. Kayaking through stunningly blue waters surrounded by beautiful islands and into grottoes full of jellyfish before snorkeling with countless jellyfish. It's tough to beat that!
And so I’m thankful to G-d for allowing me to support my amazing wife and 3 adorable children in the most unique of ways. And for being able to take them on hundreds of flights to see the world thanks to miles.
I’m thankful to my parents for making sure that I was always curious. Always questioning. Always working hard because nothing worthwhile comes easy. And always striving to be humble and appreciative of everything and everyone.
I’m thankful to my brother JJ, 6 years my junior, for helping me run this website for the past 6 years.
I’m thankful to my wife Mimi for putting up with me working all-nighters, for letting me book international travel glitches just hours before departure, and for always being there through life’s ups and downs.
I’m thankful to my kids, Rafi, Talia, and Maya. Aside from being impossibly cute, their wide-eyed wonder at seeing the world, listening to foreign languages, and seeing other cultures is refreshing. Their adorable innocence, hugs, and unconditional love melt away the biggest worries and fears in the world. Sure it’s significantly harder to travel with kids, but there is no greater blessing in the world.
I’m thankful to the amazing DDF Family for being a great source of deal leads and an awesome place to read trip reports, plan trips, and just shmooze. It’s always awesome to have a DDF DO and put a face to a name that you talk to online.
And I’m thankful to you. For reading. For following on Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, SMS, and Facebook. For sharing your deals, experiences, and trip reports on DDF and the DDFB group. For telling your friends and family. For commenting and adding insight. For patronizing our advertisers and shopping through our links. For sending me countless touching emails letting me know how DansDeals made a difference in your life, whether it was being able to take a special trip that otherwise would have been out of reach or even finding your soul mate through DDF! You make it all possible and worthwhile!
It’s hard to believe 15 years are in the books.
I feel like I live and breath DansDeals every moment of the day. But I also feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a job that you’re passionate about.
I went to an emotional Siyum Sefer Torah earlier this week that was dedicated in honor of my friend Shua Polonsky, who went from being in perfect health to passing away within weeks of becoming sick. I always admired his upbeat and positive outlook on life and contagious smile.
I guess the lesson I take is that life’s too short. Be sure to take a minute to count your blessings, thank the people you love, and do what you’re passionate about. Having Shabbos in my life is the ultimate treat, a day I can count on every week when I can spend 24 hours with my family uninterrupted by digital noise.
And take the time to travel. It may not be easy with kids, but the memories made and the family time are certainly priceless.
I still haven’t wrapped my head around turning 35 today, I feel like I blinked and aged 15 years. But I won’t stop as long as I’m having fun. And I hope you won’t either.