I first saw the term “Digital Nomad” while I was sitting in my office cubicle. I was perusing travel blogs while multi-tasking on a conference call. It wasn’t until my grandmother fell ill and she started sharing her crazy travel stories that I decided I needed a lifestyle change. I figured if my grandmother could travel the world without a smartphone, GPS, or Google in the 1940’s, then I could certainly do it, perhaps as a Digital Nomad.
How It All Started:
For those of you who haven’t heard the term Digital Nomad before, it’s someone that completes their daily work through the internet, but typically lives a nomadic lifestyle. Instead of being tied to a building from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, you have the freedom to work anywhere in the world.
Once I set my mind on becoming a digital nomad, the first thing I did was Google – jobs that allow you to work anywhere. What I got was a long list of overwhelming results that may, or may not, be feasible with my skill sets. This was a bit off-putting, but I was still determined.
What really helped me find direction was joining Digital Nomad communities online. I would befriend people, ask them about their lives, and how they got to where they are. I learned so much about the lifestyle of these adventurous people and it helped me determine whether or not it was something I could accomplish.
Things started to change when I made a friend, named Eric, in an online community. This may sound weird, but Eric is my best friend and I’ve never actually met him in person. Eric took me under his wing (virtually) and taught me how to do Search Engine Optimization (also known as SEO).
Saying Goodbye to it All
After building a couple websites and seeing a few bucks trickle in, I knew this wasn’t enough to quit my job, but it was a step in the right direction. While building my websites, I kept working my corporate job and picked up a few odd gigs on the side to save money. I became an Uber driver and laid hardwood floor in houses just to line my pockets for my upcoming adventure.
When I boarded a plane out of the United States, I knew my life had changed. I had quit my job, sold everything I owned, except what I could fit in my 40L backpack. Of course, I’d still have my friends and family who support me, but the life I had been living would no longer exist. There was no looking back, only forward.
Working on the Road
The first couple weeks were the best! It was like I was on a never-ending holiday. I would work a couple of hours in a coffee shop, but then would be easily persuaded by new friends that going to a pub with live music would be much more entertaining.
After being on the road for about a month, I came to the realization that I wasn’t making any money. While I had been having an amazing time, swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland or drinking wine at Italian Villas, I wasn’t focusing on work.
Finding a Good Balance
I realized I needed to put myself in more productive environments. I signed up for TrustedHousesitters.com to take care of people’s pets while they were on vacation. This was great – a free place to stay, a quiet place to work, plus a cat warming my lap.
Unfortunately, cats aren’t the best conversationalists. I was lonely. Secluding myself in this productive environment also meant that I wasn’t meeting people.
What I found is that you have to have a balance of fun and productivity in your life. To help create a healthier lifestyle, I constructed a monthly and weekly schedule for myself that I had to stay accountable to. I made my virtual best friend, Eric, hold me to it.
To overcome this, I would plan one month in a city. The first week, I would spend my time exploring and trying to build friendships, while doing enough work to get by. The remaining three weeks would be focused on work, but with trips and sights peppered into my schedule. Fortunately, I’ve found a better balance keeping to this one month plan.
Reaping the Rewards
Life isn’t easy being a digital nomad. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a good, stable Wi-Fi connection, and I don’t make a regular paycheck. But, I plan for that by saving documents offline, letting my clients know when I’m traveling, and sticking to a strict budget.
Since I’ve been a digital nomad, I’ve been able to discover more about who I am as a person and what makes me happy. More than I would have staring at the same four walls every day. I like to think that my grandmother is smiling down on me and relishing the fire of inspiration she ignited within me.
About the Author:
Colleen is a digital nomad who said goodbye to her corporate job in pursuit of traveling the world. She works wherever she has Wi-Fi and is determined to collect experiences instead of things. You can follow her adventures at Travel Meets Happy, or like her Facebook page to stay up on her latest travels.