My name is Mike Neubauer and for as far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to travel the world (Earth Trot, get it?).  I wanted to take amazing photographs and I wanted to have enough passive income to not have to worry about anything if I didn’t want to. Sounds amazing right? Well on October 1, 2021 I achieved that status.  It took me 5 years of hard work to become financially independent, but now I am.  I can travel anywhere, do anything and design the lifestyle I want to live. 

This means I can follow my passion without sacrificing integrity. I don’t shoot weddings or events and I don’t make art to make money. I simply create art because of my love of the process. Having enough financially allows me to pursue my craft with the purest of intentions and the greatest of outcomes. 

Because of my quest to follow my true north, I’ve been graced with numerous awards, distinctions and other tokens of honor that I am truly humbled about. I’ve been in magazines and newspapers, all over the internet and in books in multiple languages. For these things I am eternally grateful, but I bet what you really want to know is how I achieved financial freedom, right?

Let’s back it up…

In December of 1999 I graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado.  In April of 2000, I hopped on a plane with a one way ticket to Italy with a photographer friend of mine to learn all I could from him.  A few months later I got a call from another friend that was thinking of moving to Hawaii.  I told him if he would consider Maui then he’d have a roommate.  Game on.  Moved to Maui in 2001, literally one year to the day that I had left for Italy.

Maui made it easy for me to be a better photographer.  The landscapes were (and are) perfect everywhere. I kept refining and staying true to what I wanted to do. I sold a few prints here and there but eventually my integrity to do what I wanted and the lack of any type of business acumen left me homeless and living on the beach.  I did have my camera though…


Firefighter → Financial Freedom in 5 years.

A series of fortunate events and random jobs got me to taking a firefighter recruitment test. The job advertised working only 10 days a month, having full medical insurance and a pension.  I liked the sound of it but knew I wasn’t really cut out to work for anyone. Well, I guess I did well on the test as doors kept opening and in July of 2011 I was officially hired on as a Maui County Firefighter. 

I bounced around in the department, using my days off to shoot photography and continue to hone my craft.  I even used my down time at the fire station to write and publish two photography books!  During this time, my senior firefighter had invested in some vacation rental properties and making some decent money at it.  I was intrigued.

He shared with me all his data, and I was hooked. I spent the next few years learning as much as I could about real estate investing strategies, and how to get out of my W2. I took an agressive approach and within 5 years built enough passive income to subsidize my W2 at the fire department. I stayed on a few more years until I was vested with a pension before leaving at 10 years of service.  Now I have the income needed to support my lifestyle while having the flexibility to be where I want, when I want and live how I want.


Photographer + Investor = 1 Grateful Man.

It’s a process I’m happy to share. There’s no sales pitch here, I’m not asking for anything. I just feel grateful for those who have helped me get to where I am and want to share some of that knowledge with others seeking the same thing. So if that sounds like you, check out the investing tab and that will get you started on some great resources. 

I even created a website for investing and host monthly investor meetups out here on Maui. Check it out at: And for more, follow me on Instagram: @EarthTrot and @MauiInvestor.  I’d love to connect with you!

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Every month I send out my Aloha Friday Newsletter. I try to keep it pretty light and fun, and often times I give away free art prints to my subscribers. If you like my work, please consider subscribing. I don't sell your information and you won't be spammed. Plus, you can always unsubscribe at any time!

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