Chase Your Dreams: One Drummer’s Journey to Follow His Passions & Travel the World


Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

I’ve written a lot about our own journey to redefine freedom over the last few years. But this community is so powerful because it’s made up of thousands of stories of people chasing their own dreams.

We’ve shared some of these stories before – and I’m always ecstatic to shine the spotlight. I’ve got another great story for you today.

Dustin Koester (in the picture above) has been a long-time member of the Man Vs. Debt community. In fact, he’s been around longer than any of you!

You see, he was part of the community before it even started. Dustin’s a life-long friend of mine – and responsible for almost every graphic (including the very first logo) and design you see on Man Vs. Debt or our guides/courses.

Dustin’s great at graphic design and helping as a creative consultant on projects, but that’s not what he was born to do.

Dustin was born to play the drums.

In elementary and middle school, that’s an acceptable dream. All of us encourage it, foster it, and support it. You want to play drums? Great… go for it… do it!

So throughout this time, Dustin played in a band with his friends from middle school. Their parents helped fund the gear. They played after school all evening. They even recorded and burnt CDs of their first “album”. Dustin was widely known for his talent as a drummer amongst his peers and fellow students.

But as we get older, high school rolls around. In high school, playing drums in a band can be “cool,” but we’re slowly taught that it’s not realistic to try and play drums to make a living. There’s still a fading glimmer of hope left… the possibility of trying to get into a specialized college or program still exits.

Dustin continued to play in a band throughout high school and played drums in the marching band, jazz band, and show choir competitions. His talent was obvious for anyone to see, yet there was still an underlying force pushing Dustin away from drumming.

Society’s real message was clear: Keep playing drums for fun, but it’s time to find a career or job that’ll pay the bills.

As we graduate high school and move onto college, that message is pounded over and over to us. The dreams that were acceptable and encouraged as kids are now shoved to the back burner. “It’s the responsible thing to do,” we tell ourselves.

Dustin went along with everyone else to college (Indiana University to be exact). At college, Dustin struggled to find that “responsible career” he was suppose to be working towards. As he was pushed and pulled from one focus to another, there was one consistent factor in the chaos…


Dustin joined the respected “Big Red Basketball Band” and continued to play in a college rock band at the bars and clubs on the weekends. When life got hectic, scattered, or confusing… drumming was Dustin’s constant.

After college, Dustin did what everyone else does – tried to find a job. He worked several, from barista to graphic designer, from security system installer to substitute teacher. He got an apartment, bought some things, and tried to “settle” in.

But something wasn’t right.

This life path he was on didn’t feel like his own. He was trying to do everything he was suppose to. Get decent grades. Go to college. Find a career. Get a steady job. He was doing his best, but none of this was what he really wanted to do.

He really wanted to drum.

It was a simple realization, but one that changed the course of his life.

Not too long after, a friend of a band he was playing in mentioned his brother was a talent agent who booked musicians for cruise ships. With a spark of interest, Dustin asked for more information – and two weeks later he was auditioning for his first gig.

Over the next few years, Dustin would travel the world doing what he loved… playing the drums. He lived and played on cruise ships with destinations all over the map:

  • Italy
  • France
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Sicily
  • Monaco
  • Ukraine
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Malta
  • Alaska
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Bahamas

All along the way he was housed (more on this later), fed, and paid to travel the world and perform.

It’s not an opportunity for everyone – Dustin’s the first to admit that. He had to get rid of a lot of his stuff and start focusing on his finances to make the shift possible. For him, he welcomed the added flexibility to chase his dreams.

In between cruise ships, Dustin also was given the opportunity to travel the US and fill in on the Jesus Christ Superstar National Tour. He’s met hundreds of fellow professional entertainers, musicians, and industry professionals along his travels.

His journey to chase his dreams and follow his passion for drumming is just getting started. But his mindset about what’s possible has completely changed.

More from Dustin’s Point of View…

How long have you been drumming?

I started playing drums in 5th grade when my dad bought himself a drum set. Although I played guitar at the time, drums quickly stole all my attention.

When did you realize drumming was your biggest passion?

Honestly, not until recently. It’s always been an interest of mine, but it’s taken a while to realize the severity of my involuntary dedication. There’s an indescribable feeling – It’s the only place in the world where I feel completely confident, and the notion of time just disappears. At the risk of sounding like a hippie…it’s like I’m in another dimension.

How did you get started with the Cruise Ship opportunity?

I was sitting in with a friend’s cover band and after the gig we were all hanging out & talking. A friend of the band mentioned that his brother was a talent agent who booked musicians for cruise ships. About 2 weeks later I got in touch with him, he got in touch with his brother, and I had an over-the-phone audition scheduled for the next week to join my first ship later that month.

What’s your favorite part of the process (traveling and drumming)?

I really enjoy the traveling aspect of the cruise gigs. It makes me feel on top of my game when I’ve got a company flying me from place to place and staying in hotels all around the world before joining the ships. It’s also part of that surreal period where I’m realizing ‘I’m about to live on a ship for X months…again.”

What’s your least favorite part of life on a Cruise Ship?

My least favorite part of the cruise life is the housing. The rooms are quite small, but that’s to be expected, I guess. In general, what goes on behind the scenes on a cruise ship would turn a lot of people off to the cruise industry. It’s like any of your large Vegas hotels – it’s all glitz and glamour on the floor, but behind the scenes it’s business as usual.

Would you recommend it to another entertainer/musician/crew member?

I would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for traveling…and not everyone does. It’s certainly a different lifestyle for a musician onboard a ship and some don’t prefer it, but if you want to see the world and get paid while doing so, cruise ships are a great introductory way to do that.

How would you suggest someone getting started… do you have any tips for someone wanting to do this?

The best way to get started is to audition with an agency. Mine is Landau Music, Inc. which operates out of Pasadena, California. Larger group auditions are usually held at Universities and sometimes auditions can be held over the phone. The best way to be prepared for an audition is to have your sight-reading skills to a point where you’re very confident going in, and to also be familiar with a lot different styles.

We’re proud to say that Dustin is now drumming full-time in California. That means it’s possible – and you can do what you love too.

What dream have you been pushing to the back of your mind?

What passion have you been sacrificing?

What dream do you want to chase?


Leave a comment below!

75 thoughts on “Chase Your Dreams: One Drummer’s Journey to Follow His Passions & Travel the World”

  1. Great post – especially love Dustin’s phrase “the severity of my involuntary dedication.” I always wanted to be a writer. For many years I put it first, with that same “severity” – and I was pretty successful. But there were disappointments, and little by little that dedication slipped away somehow. I’m working on getting it back. Anyway, thanks for the post, and yes, please enter me in the book giveaway.

  2. Katherine Yater-Henek

    I want to finish my degree, newly single with three kiddos and I’m chasing time, but 2012 is looking like a good year.

    Dustin is really good, Queen is an awesome band and I hope he wins.

  3. I voted 🙂 I also enjoyed Dustin’s story you posted. I too hope to follow my dreams… going back home to Hawaii & teaching there 🙂

  4. I always thought about being a massage therapist. I didn’t want to do it full time but in the back of my mind knew I wanted to do it just to have another skill and another way to make money. I kept putting that thought aside because I knew with my job at the time it would be impossible to go to work and school at the same time, and I couldn’t quit my job just to go to school. Years later I changed jobs to something more flexible and was trying to find ways to fill my free time since I wasn’t working 12+hrs a day. A date for an info session at a local massage school fit my schedule so I went to check it out and knew at that moment it was for me. I also had some money on hand after an aunt passed away and put that toward the first semester of tuition. I worked out a budget to I would save each month for the next semester’s tuition so I never had to take out a loan. It was a tough 18 months financially and mentally but it was the best decision I ever made. After I graduated I, again, needed to find a way to fill my free time since I wasn’t doing something school related 20+hrs/week, so I decided to go to bartending school. Why not? Another way to make money on the side. I’m still at my full time job and doing some massages part time, but in January I plan on going to school – again – this time for a degree as a physical therapist assistant.
    I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but I’m on some path – albeit, a crazy one – that will eventually get me there.

    -I also voted for Dustin…best of luck to him.

  5. I voted for Dustin because he rocks! Wishing him the best of luck!

    As far as chasing dreams, it’s time I get my butt in gear and get our family out of the country for a spell!

    No worries about the book – I’ve got one that sits on my desk and serves as a resource for me often.

  6. I would love to have a crafts business. As an at home mom I haven’t been able to put in the time to really find out which direction to take it. I know many people are able to work a business around their family but it just hasn’t worked that way for us. I would love to be able to make that shift over the next couple of years as the kids will all be in school all day.

    I did vote for Dustin. I appreciate the quick voting procedure. If I have to sign in or give up my first born, I won’t vote. I hope he at least gets to do the in person audition. Sounds awesome.

  7. Thanks for your blog…Dustin’s story was inspiring.
    I’ve put off returning to dancing…I would love to be a competitive dancer…there have been many excuses and now, I realize, there always will be plenty of excuses…so, it time to make it important enough and then it will happen (despite the circumstances).

    I’d love to read that book. Thank you!

  8. Cartoonist. I taught myself to draw by copying Peanuts and Garfield characters off of my folders as a third grader. Lately I have been drawing more, and posting regularly, but that is all. I want to get my act in gear and get a web comic up and running…one that I could hopefully monetize. I’ve always created, now I need to figure out how to live off of it!

    I voted for Dustin, too. He is an inspiration and a great drummer!

  9. All the best to Dustin (he got my vote)! My husband is a drummer/guitarist who would have liked to pursue those dreams too. It’s inspiring to see someone be able to do what they love. I’ll make sure to pass along this post to him so he can check out Dustin’s drumming!

    I’d love to be entered in the drawing for the book. We are mid-career/mid-life, and examining our priorities, especially since we have a 4-yr-old daughter who we’d like to inspire to live the life she wants instead of what’s expected.

  10. I’m in a stage of life where I’m trying to figure out what my passion is and what I want to do. My husband and I just moved across the country for his job, and I havent found a job in my field (engineering) yet, and I don’t know if that’s what I want to do…it’s good money, and it would give me something to do because I don’t know anybody here, but I enjoy having more flexibility and free time, and we’ve also been trying to get pregnant for about a year and a half with no luck, so my plan to be a stay at home mom hasnt worked out yet, so I don’t know what I want to do for now. Thanks for the giveaway! btw, I voted! He sounds great! 🙂

  11. I love to travel. That said, I also love my husband (who is a student) and my 3 kids (aged 0,1, and 5) and want to provide a stable lifestyle for them. I am a teacher and know that there are opportunities out there to teach English abroad. I’m hoping to take one of those opportunities in the not-too-far future and share my love of travel with my family, despite it being against many social norms.

  12. Somehow over the last twenty plus years, since moving from England to Canada, I had lost myself to work, family etc. A lot of my dreams had been shelved for later, but later has been a long time..

    My dream is to get back into sculpting, painting and motorcycling. Getting back to those things make me… ME.

    Later is NOW.

    PS. Dustin deserves the chance to audition, especially for Queen. Good Luck.

  13. I want to make a living helping people with their financial well being, in a way I am already, as a banker, however I have other ideas about how to do more in different ways. I guess I keep putting it off because in some ways I don’t know how or where to start and in other ways I fear both failing and or using resources for a failing project.

  14. My biggest dream is to be debt free, and maybe to find some spot of land to build a small house on (less than 900 sq.ft.) and then garden like crazy.
    I think it is awesome that Dustin is living out his dream whether he makes it with Queen or not. If he does that would be so very cool.

  15. Inspiring story of what can happen when you follow your dreams. I’m sure this guy will go far as a drummer and live his lifelong legacy.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot Com

  16. it took me five years to get around to finishing my novel. It took 4 years to write the first four chapters and two months to write the last twenty! Once I embraced the dream it flowed. But just finishing a book does not a writing career make! Now I need to keep up the momentum to keep writing and promoting and believing that all good things are coming my way.

    Dreams rock – thanks for helping a few more dreams up and over the edge.

  17. my dream is to not worry about money, and to be able to return to the things I use to love. Drumming, books, comic books while still being a great Dad

  18. Awesome post! It’s great you are sharing in the joy of other’s following their dreams. I’ve recently read a book called 8 to Great. I highly recommend it. Dustin’s journey reminds me of a few things I read in that book. Life changing!

  19. I’ve been pushing back my dreams of becoming a full-time fiction writer. It just never sounds practical, and so much depends upon the stars aligning.

    BUT… 🙂

    I took a big step this year, exhibited at the Long Beach Comic and Horror Con for the first time, and released my novella, “Bespoke.”

    I’ve always wanted to write and travel, and now it seems like it’s the perfect time to get back on the horse and keep on trodding along.

    Thank you for this most inspiring post!


  20. I voted, it feels great to encourage him and it’s a great video. And it’s very nice of you of doing this too!

    I loved your post. It’s my life purpose too to reach for my dreams, right now I’m writing a book on a method to do what you love 🙂 + blogging parts of it, and help people do that. It has always been on the back of my mind to do both, and I’m grateful to be in the middle of it. Like your friend I’ve had trouble finding my own path, followed the traditional path, went to university, had a degree in sociology, but at least it serves me in writing.

    I don’t need the 4-hour book, you can give it to someone else who needs it, I’ve already devoured it.

  21. I’ve always wanted to paint but told myself I don’t have the talent/time/money/passion/focus etc. to pursue it. Two weeks ago my 16 year old son told me that whenever his friends ask him what I do he tells them I’m a painter. I loved it AND I realized he’s right. I bought a canvas, broke out the paints and brushes, and had at it. I’m not doing it for anyone but me.

    I voted for Dustin and will post him on twitter and fb. Maybe we can garner a few more votes for him.

  22. Ditto on the vote, good on you Dustin!

    I’m still dreaming of persuing my passion of photography, specifically nature photography. I have to get past my limiting belief that “there’s no $ in it” and “everyone is doing it” and “I’ll only be able to start once I buy some expensive equipment”. I have gotten some very positive comments on photos I’ve posted online, so just need to take the next step!


  23. That is encouraging to see others follow there dreams. It’s even greater when you can enrich others with your dream. I voted for Dustin. Hope he wins.
    I am at a stage where I don’t have a clue what my dreams are anymore. For several years I have been raising 8 kids and helping my husband grow his business. I’m following my husband’s and kids dream, being the cheerleader for them. So, I’m hoping to take some time and find my old dreams.

  24. I was stuck in a corporate job. My three year old son had a lot of medical issues and I was letting Life drag me down. Alex was a fighter and taught me to never give up! He passed away from his heart problem on November 9, 2011. I am going to live out his legecy

  25. Still figuring some of this out. I would love to be able to travel and work on the road. So many places would like to go but never had the money and also had learned not to dream. Doing some unlearning now. Also going to Israel in April 2012. It’s a start!

    I voted for ’em too.

  26. It’s really a sad thing in our society that we are pushed into doing things that we really don’t have the passion for. I’ve gone through similar situations. I even managed to nudge myself into being a music major in college.

    Even though I was doing well in the subject, and it was a great school, people’s reactions would be along the lines of “oh, well at least you could teach with it if nothing else.”

    Thanks for the support.

    I wish I truly had the courage to follow what I should have been doing from the beginning and not listen to the Naysayers.

  27. 1) writing
    2) writing
    3) writing
    In other words, write! So I’m in NaNoWriMo and I’m almost finished with my first WRITTEN novel. All of the others just rattle around in my head. This one is written. 45K words so far, but when I revise it beginning in December, it’ll be longer and meatier and better and I have a support group that will, well, support me!

  28. Honestly? I feel like I’m living a bit of my dream, focusing on my family and now homeschooling my children, supporting my husband and his career that allows us to move around the U.S. and other countries. But I read these blogs because they inspire me to remember to focus on the trees when I sometimes get wrapped up with the forest. And to put relationships before stuff, to put it simply.

    A future goal we have is to bike across France, as a family, in a few years when my husband “retires” from the military and is “in between” jobs. Between you and me? I don’t want to settle into a 9-5 lifestyle job after that… I’m hoping the biking across France is just the beginning of new adventures. If it were up to me I’d be planning it all out, but I know my husband and he’s a One Thing At a Time kind of guy, so we’ll see. Time will tell!

  29. You are always such an inspiration, thank you! I love this post!

    My dream now? finding something that I feel passionate about to do for work! I have a lot of fantasies–bowling alley, coffee shop, internet wizard, doula, childcare provider, road tripper—I need to pick one and pursue. I’m dying in my 8-5 M-F chained to my desk soul crushing doesn’t pay enough job. I’ve experienced enough contrast, I’m ready to take the leap!

  30. Welcome back Baker! I’ve duly voted for Dustin, great drumming!

    I did photography at university, but have never pursued it properly, I’ve let myself get sidetracked over the years and am now in the process of paying off a stack of debt.

    I want to create the best possible future for my wife and daughter, but I want to be an inspiration for them rather than living through them.

  31. Great post! I have wanted to act since I was 12. I was in a few plays in high school and took couple of acting classes in college (at Indiana University) before my father said “Find something more stable.” I floundered around before dropping out because I never found anything else that made me feel so alive.

    I have recently rediscovered my passion for acting. I have auditioned for a few plays at my local civic theater. I am paying off debt and saving up money so that I can move out to LA in two years.

  32. I voted 🙂 and enjoyed Dustin’s video.

    One of my dreams that I talk myself out of is being a fulltime RVer. I have a house that I love but it’s WAY to full of “stuff”. I’ve been purging (slowly but surely) the last year while I’ve been hunting for a job, but I definitely need to pick up my purging pace, so that I may realize some of my other dreams.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  33. Sang D (@Sangtastic)

    Love it! Very inspiring….I have been writing and writing and hopefully my official blog will launch in early 2012!

    I voted too and hopefully I can win the Book too! Would be grand day to a grand week!

  34. Baker, I love your site and what’s amazing is the first current post I read. My son who is in college studying music and specifically drumming, wants to try the cruise ship route! He’s been talking about it for a year. He too knows a drummer who is already doing this; now he’ll know two of them! Thanks for telling Dustin’s story and since I voted for him I’ll be anxiously waiting to hear about his performance in LA! You guys are inspirational even to us guys twice your age! Of course I forwarded him the link to this post and told him to vote for Dustin.


  35. Voted. Good on you Dustin for following your life’s passion. Asheville at sunrise sure is pretty.

    I am returning full circle to music, having started playing the violin at the age of 4. Several of my orchestra mates were going on to pursue careers in music, but not me…that’s just not the way things are done, it’s not a good-paying, secure job, etc. etc. etc. Well, I am definitely trying to work more of my musical ambitions and talents into the life I have now.

    Perhaps not actively touring and gigging on a cruise ship…too bad I didn’t realize this 10+ years ago! That sounds awesome.

  36. Hi Baker,
    What a great story! So inspiring to see Dustin going for it!
    I’m a big fan of yours and appreciate how candidly you share your journey and its chapters.
    I’m a Tim Ferris fan, and have spent the past year leaving on the road and going for my dreams…writing, my paintings, and travel. Thanks so much!

  37. I just got back from a two week cruise in the Mediterranean and being a musician must rock! Cruise ship work is HARD WORK and long hours, but the ability to see the world and get paid is so worth it. I recommend everybody does it!

    Which ships you working on Dustin?


  38. For years I’ve been dreaming of selling my house and moving my family onto a sailboat.
    This year I finally took the first baby step of talking about the idea with the wife and kids. Also did some small boat sailing with them over the summer to get a taste of moving over the water.

    Still a long way to go before doing anything so radical, but it’s a start.

  39. Songwriting. I wrote my first song when I was nine. I’m now 49 and have boxes filled with lyrics, some entire songs some just a few lines. It used to be all my notes for college and work had song lyrics on them somewhere. I noticed that somewhere along the way I stopped doing that. I need to start writing again because I have songs running around in my head that need to get on paper and get finished. I’ve flirted with the idea of selling some of my songs but first need to get them written down with music and then explore how the industry works. Susan

  40. I want to bike ride across Europe with my wife and our 160 lb dog. this will take lots of training and money and time but it is a dream we want to do.

  41. Voted!
    Working for a month or more on every continent is on my bucket list. After finding out I am pregnant I have had to reevaluate the logistics of it, but I know the dream is still within reach!

  42. Voted for Dustin! It is a beautiful thing to see someone working so hard to pursue a dream and to be able to help in some small way!

    Right now, my dream is get back on my feet after having been knocked down pretty hard!

  43. Dear friends,

    I´m Ana from Berlin, Germany. And I would love to leave my profession as lawyer and mediator behind and stay at home writig children´s books + make a living out of it ! That would allow me to stay with my oh so sweet and lovely 4 year old daughter. And I would do something that I really like doing.

    Thank you for your blog. It is a true inspiration !
    I voted for your friend and I hope he will make it !

  44. You’ve always given great advice, thank you. Your friend Dustin is really good, so go him.

    I recently went to hawai’i on vacation, and actively thought about not coming back. Everybody thinks that, but what if we could all just “do it”? MMT

  45. What I love about blogging is that it’s so powerful o hear personal stories like Dustin’s which would not otherwise be shared through traditional media. Love the pictures too! Always great to hear how people can work towards their dreams

  46. Congratulations to Dustin!
    I’m also a drummer, it would be awesome if I’ll ever get to make my living out of that.
    I’m not a traveling person, but playing for a well known band is definitely one of my dreams.

  47. That is an awesome video.

    It’s always great to see people pursue their dreams and find a vocation. It’s too common in this country to follow the status quo and get a normal “job.” People lose the majority of their lives, passions, and skills to this standard way of thinking.

    Congrats Dustin! Great Story. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

  48. This is such an amazing and influential/inspiring story. I’ve wanted to travel and visit the world as well as want to make a living doing my passion. Thanks to I found this site. Stoked.

  49. I’d have to listen to all the auditions to determine which I thought the best and then vote. Who’s to say the other contestants aren’t every bit as passionate? If this gig is their dream, then a vote for any one is a vote against the dreams of many others. It’s nice that he has a good friend to promote him, but I think it’s unfortunate when what should be a talent competition becomes a popularity contest of who can convince the most friends to vote – rather than a matter of who is truly the best.

  50. Love your blog and this post. I’ve always wanted to start a business helping people redecorate/simply their homes by re-arranging what they already have so it feels “right” and inviting to them and guests. I don’t even know where to begin!!

  51. I’d like to say a quick, huge THANK YOU to everyone who viewed and voted for my video. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it through to the 3rd round, but it was such an honor knowing that such a large community was viewing and voting for me! Big ups to Baker & the MvD community! Onward and upward!

    1. That’s the spirit! And congrats to you on your next endeavor, because with that kind of vibe working in you it will be nothing but a step forward in this great journey we all walk! I am curious, though: who WILL get the gig, if yours didn’t even get to the 3rd round???

  52. For me chasing my dreams is about marrying the love of my life next year. To do that I’m hopping to earn some reasonable revenue from my various blogs to pay for the key wedding costs

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  54. Ooh, pick me, pick me!! 😀

    I am chasing my dream of…chasing my dream! 🙂 Really, I want to live a life that is fulfilling and makes me a happier, better person, while providing the income our family needs. I’ve been slogging away in the corporate world for 6 years, and I just know there has to be MORE! It took a while, but I’ve finally started taking small but very real actions, which is thrilling! I’ve been blogging, taking voice lessons, reading a ton of books (including those from the Only72 deal!), working on developing a mobile app, and more.

    Ultimately, I am trying to find a side hustle that will not only help cover our living expenses but also fund my dream of becoming a professional singer.

    Funnily enough – I literally have Tim’s book in my lap as I type this! I got it from the library, but love it so much that I was just going to hop on Amazon to look at buying a copy. So maybe I don’t have to now?? 🙂

    1. Jenn, apologies! I should’ve edited this post earlier (it was from a few months ago) – but we already did the giveaway! I’m going to try to get that updated now – and I’m so sorry – but I’m so glad to hear you’re taking action! 🙂

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