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Instagram influencer couple builds island villa with social media money

Ann Schmidt

When Jack Morris and Lauren Bullen started traveling, neither had any idea it would become their full-time jobs, let alone earn them enough money to build a house.

But that’s exactly what’s happened.

Morris, 29, and Bullen, 26, are Instagram influencers. Morris, from England, runs the Instagram account @doyoutravel, which has 2.7 million followers. Bullen, from Australia, runs the account @gypsea_lust, which has 2.1 million followers.

Today, the couple lives in Bali in the villa they completed in August, a little more than a year after they started building it.

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Before they met four years ago, Morris and Bullen had been traveling independently of each other, and they were each just starting to make some money along the way.

“It was never supposed to be a career or anything like that,” Morris told FOX Business. “It was just something I was doing for fun. And I loved it. I fell in love straight away.”

He had started traveling when he was 21 years old after he quit his job and booked a one-way flight to Bangkok “with only a small amount of money.”

“I was going to basically just travel until that ran out,” Morris said. “And at the time, I started to work online. I just kind of fell into it, really, with Instagram.”

He said he created several re-post pages on Instagram that were “almost like an advertising agency for different niches,” he said.

Though the only made about $20 for every re-post, Morris told The Cut that he made enough money to keep backpacking -- about $200 a week.

Morris told FOX Business that it took him about two years to make significant amounts of money -- with his first significant brand deal earning him a paycheck of $32,000 -- a week before he met Bullen.

“That was just like a three-day job in L.A. to do like a little commercial,” he added. “And when I got that deal in, I was like, this is crazy. I could definitely make a living out of this.”

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Similar to Morris, Bullen said she also fell into making a living from Instagram.

“Growing up and as a teenager I was like: "Oh I just want to travel, I don't know what career path I want to take,' ” Bullen told FOX Business. “So I didn't go to university or anything and I just focused on just having a job that paid pretty decent at the time and would save up my money and go traveling for like a month or three months or whatever I could do.”

As she traveled, Bullen took pictures and posted them to Instagram. About a year or year and a half into her traveling and posting, she was offered a free trip where she met people who were there for work and getting paid to do the same things.

“It just started from that, basically,” Bullen said. “Just getting little jobs. And then it got to the stage where I was busy enough with all the little jobs and they were taking me to other countries and all sorts of things that it was a little bit of money that I could live off and I'd get to travel and I was able to quit my job. And one thing led to the other and then it just all took off and travel influencing became like a full-time job.”

It took about six months from the first job she stumbled upon to the point where she quit her previous job, Bullen said.

About four years ago, she and Morris met for the first time in Fiji. He had a job in Bali the week after and invited Bullen to join him.

From that point on, the couple started traveling together — and making a lot more money, Morris said.

“We joined forces and then just blew up,” he said.

“I think just because not many couples were traveling full-time and we were,” he added. “It just kind of caught on a little bit and people resonated with it. That's when we started to make good money and that's when we really realized that we could make a career out of it.”

Today, Morris said, it’s difficult to say how much they make because every job is different and every month they get different kinds of jobs.

But aside from brand deals, the couple also started selling their own presets, or photo filters, online. Those sales make up “basically half our income,” Morris said.

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About three years ago, Bullen said, the couple made a last-minute decision to pick a home base -- and they went with Bali, where they had first visited together.

“We were just traveling non-stop for months on end,” Bullen said. “We were getting a bit exhausted. Our baggage was getting too much. I had brands sending me stuff and we were traveling from one side of the world to the other with jobs or whatever. So we'd need like winter clothes, summer clothes and it was just getting too much.”

At that point, they rented a villa, which cost them about 14,000 Australian dollars ($9,660.69) for the entire year, Bullen said.

“At first we were rarely here — like maybe a week a month or so,” Bullen said. “And then over the course of the last three years — it's been more than three years now — we started being here more and more.”

The longer they lived in Bali, the couple continued to upgrade their homes until about a year and a half ago when they decided to build a home.

Construction started last July and it was completed 13 months later in August, according to an Instagram post from Morris.

But now that they have their own house, they don’t travel as much anymore, Bullen said.

“Maybe only like once a month we might go away for a week,” Bullen said. “Just due to everything changing. We now have a home, we have animals. We love a bit of routine … Traveling burns you out for sure.”

That change in lifestyle has also affected their work, Morris said. Now, they’re a bit more focused on lifestyle influencing than travel-only influencing.

The couple has also changed focus a bit from travel influencing to lifestyle, Morris said.

“Our lifestyle has changed and our line of work has definitely changed because it started off as full-time travel and now it's definitely not,” Morris said. “We've definitely both moved into more of a lifestyle type of brand.”

But it hasn’t hurt their brand. On the contrary, Bullen said, their audience has responded well.

“People, I think, find it very relatable, following someone's life outside of just travel,” she said.

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There has also been an overall change in the travel influencing industry, Morris said, because of oversaturation.

“When we first started doing it, it was amazing, it was new,” he said. “A lot of people were like wow, how are these guys traveling full time? I've never seen these places before. But now, four years later, the whole world has seen the whole world.”

Social media has been able to show people a side of the world that they might never have seen otherwise.

“Like, [on] Instagram, nothing's really that crazy anymore. If you see something online, you might say, 'Oh, that's nice." But it's not like: ‘Woah, show your friends! Look at this crazy place. How does this even exist?’ " he said. "And I think that's the reason that we've definitely pivoted towards lifestyle because lifestyle is always going to be unique to yourself and definitely will resonate with everyone forever, so it's not just the same old.”

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