Since we have been calling ourselves “digital nomads,” for almost two years now, I just assume everyone knows what it is…that is, until I use the term somewhere, and I get an influx of “wait, but where do you live? do you still work? how do you travel so much? how can I do that?”
what is digital nomadism?
“Digital nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.”Wikipedia – “Digital Nomad”
Translation: we still work, but are “homeless,” by choice. We travel where we want, generally when we want, and can work from anywhere with a WiFi connection.
why did you become a digital nomad?
I think a lot of people reach a place in their lives where they stop, look around, and just realize they have all the things they wanted, but aren’t feeling happy or fulfilled.
We had the house, we had the cars, we had the jobs, but we just weren’t, well, feeling AWESOME about it all.
For me, my health also became a big factor in realizing the career I had chosen just wasn’t allowing me to live my very best life. Candida, weight gain, high cortisol levels, mononucleosis, sickness at least once a month, chronic fatigue, watching more seasoned lawyers battle heart attacks and death (yes, this really happened)….I knew I needed a change if I wanted to lead a happy, healthy and long life.
In January 2016, Chris (my husband) and I started brain storming some additional streams of revenue that were totally dependent on us (and not a boss), and would make our jobs almost entirely “remote.” I am putting together another blog post that covers this in much more detail, so stay tuned for that! Chris has always been a serial entrepreneur, but for me, this was very un-chartered territory.
In September 2016, these other revenue sources were enough for me to go part time with my law firm. I was also lucky enough that the firm I was with was receptive to this alternative (part time!) working relationship.
In December 2016, my Mom had her first “episode,” was diagnosed with brain cancer in February of 2017, and in May of 2017, passed away. This mortality provided the motivation and inspiration we both needed to stop living so small and in fear things wouldn’t work out, so I quit my lawyer job entirely, we started several other side hustles, and in August 2017, we sold our house, our cars, and majority of our belongings to travel!
how did/do you do it?
We sold everything. Our house. Our cars. Everything. We quit our 9 to 5’s. Set up a few P.O. Boxes, and hit the open road.
It was a process, guys. It didn’t happen overnight. We started small…made a plan, and executed. It took us from January 2016 to August 2017, over 19 months, to make ourselves almost entirely “remote,” and actually pull the trigger on this lifestyle. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
My biggest tip for working towards this type of lifestyle (if you want it) and are not currently self-employed, are as follows:
- Start creating multiple streams of revenue for yourself that are totally remote. These can take some time to build up, and I recommend more than a couple. I’ll do another blog post on this later, but if you GTS (for my non-acronym folks, that stands for “GOOGLE THAT SHIT”) you’ll find LOTS of options for a side hustle.
- Evaluate your current monthly expenses, and how much you realistically need to live each month: rent, transportation, food, entertainment, debt repayment, etc. Anticipate that digital nomading will likely cost you 10-20% more than your monthly expenses.
- If you don’t already make, and stick to a budget, I highly recommend starting this practice before you start nomad-ing…or you and your significant other may be in for more than just “fun” adventures.
- Sign up for a credit card with good travel points as soon as you can – we highly recommend the Chase Sapphire card (and are in no way sponsored by them to give them this shout out)! BONUS LIFE HACK: If you don’t already read thepointsguy.com you are missing out on some awesome financial bonus’.
- Start setting some reasonable goals for yourself in creating/obtaining remote positions. Maybe you start researching today, and make a goal to have one new revenue stream by the end of this quarter…maybe it is a shorter more aggressive goal? Or longer? Maybe you set a goal to earn $50 extra every week? Or $500? Or $5,000? Whatever it is, make a goal, and start working towards it.
- Inquire/research what options you have to go part time or remote with your current full time gig – you might be surprised at how flexible they are. Good employees are tough to find, so if you make yourself indispensable, you might have more flexibility than you think.
- Start purging. Like Marie Kondo your entire life. This is huge. You will start realizing how much shit you really don’t need in your life. Need some motivation to start? Read this.
- If you have kids, start researching what home school options there are, how much time that would take, or if there are international programs you can travel to and enroll your children in.
FAQ’S + tips for digital nomading
do you guys still work and what do you do for work?
YES! Which is generally why when we travel to a location where we know someone, we elect to book our own accommodations anyway (sorry friends and family – we love you, but we gotta have some work time + space). We get up and work as efficiently as we can, so we can have the remainder of the day to explore, adventure + PLAY.
Between Chris and I, we have 7-10 different revenue streams operating at any given time. It didn’t start with this many, but we have found once you start engaging in “outside the box” opportunities, its tough to stop getting involved in more.
Wherever we are at that moment. I know this sounds cheesy, but if you live your life “favoring,” one place over another, you tend to miss the greatness that every location has!
Check out some of our favorite Airbnb’s and Adventures here.
i could never do what you guys do OR you won’t be able to do that once you have kids!
BULLSHIT. Sorry, but if no one has called you on it, let me be the one to do it.
You are not a tree. You can literally get up and move wherever you want. Sure, there may be a few (or a lot) of logistics, but if you want it bad enough, I promise you there is someone just like you who has probably already done it.
While we ourselves do not yet have children, there are LOTS of families who do this type of lifestyle with kids. Here are some accounts for you to check out as examples.
To any naysayers, we would say, stop living so small – you get out of life whatever you’re willing to put into it. 🙂
how do you get mail? or file taxes?
We have several PO Boxes in the United States that we utilize for mail purposes, and a home address that is one of the locations we spend the most amount of time in when we are stateside. This is also how we have health insurance.
how much luggage do you travel with?
Generally, we are each down to one checked suitcase, one backpack, and one carry on item. I would love to say we are the people who can toss everything in a carry on, but NOPE!
The most challenging part of luggage is the different seasons (we opted for a small storage unit in one of our jump off points), and not buying a bunch of crap you don’t need!
If we buy something, it means something has to get tossed from our current belongings. We have opted to spend our money on travel, food, and experiences, not things.
how do you pick your next location?
This is usually somewhat dictated by family/friend/business events we have approaching, then secondarily based on cheap flights/airbnbs.
I would love to have the next five years planned out; Chris feels overcommitted with plans for tomorrow. We have compromised on a three week ahead travel schedule, so we generally don’t book any travel more than three weeks out (unless its a special occasion). This usually means price and availability in certain locations guides our decision making for where is next.
how far in advance do you book your travel?
Three weeks! See above. 🙂
where do you stay? how do you find the best Airbnb?
We have become seasoned Airbnb users (but certainly aren’t strangers to VRBO and hotels.com). Our necessity is a place that (1) has a kitchen; and (2) has two bathrooms (living together, working together, and traveling together has made us realize that two bathrooms is a requirement).
Airbnb tends to have the best options! I’ll put together another post on how to find a good Airbnb; I consider myself somewhat of an expert at this point in time, but check out some of our favorite places here.
how do you allocate time so you can get work done AND see a location?
This can be a challenge, and we don’t master it all the time.
We have “been” to lots of places we have barely seen; and we have had to leave several places where we couldn’t get any work done because there was just too many things to see and do!
Now, we usually pick one or two experiences we do per week in a location (we LOVE Airbnb Experiences, check out our favorite ones here). This guarantees we get out and see some stuff, but also puts some pretty good boundaries on not spending all our time sight-seeing.
We also walk. A LOT. You can see so much of a city by foot (so make sure you stay somewhere you will feel safe walking around), its great exercise, and it is such a good way to close out the day.
Lastly, we also try to set “office hours,” for ourselves, no matter where we are. We try to adapt to the culture a bit (for example, Argentinians eat dinner around 10:00 p.m., which means if you are going out to eat, you aren’t getting to bed until well after midnight), but if you set consistent working hours for yourself, we find we are more efficient/motivated to get everything done in those hours so we can explore afterwards.
how do you maintain your health and wellness while traveling?
We make it a priority. EVERY SINGLE DAY. It isn’t easy…and sometimes we have too much wine. 🙂 But we aim to move every day; eat nutritious local foods that are whole and plant based, and limit our “food experiences,” to only once or twice a week.
If you’re interested in our health + wellness journey, we would love to chat! Fill this out.
how can you make this work on a budget?
- Budget: make one and stick to it.
- Spend your money on experiences, not things.
- Get yourself a credit card with GREAT points.
- Try to stay in a location for more than one week. We find a 3-4 week span of time allows us enough time to work, explore, and not feel perpetually exhausted from traveling all the time. Most airbnb’s also have discounted rates for weekly/monthly stays.
- Eat most of your meals “at home.”
Ask away here, or connect with us! We love to chat digital nomadism.