When people hear I am a digital nomad, you can literally hear necks snap as they turn to listen to what my life is like. For the past three years, this lifestyle has become so incredibly normal to me. I sometimes forget it seems outlandish to others that are living the 9 to 5.
When they hear that this month I am in Australia, next month Indonesia, followed up with summer in Europe (and who knows where after that), you can see their minds boggle as to how this is possible. As you can imagine, I’ve had every ‘laptop lifestyle’ related question under the sun, pointed at me.
What better way to address these questions than to compile a list of the most frequently asked ones? Here we go…
The 11 most common questions I get about being a digital nomad:
What Exactly Do You DO As A Digital Nomad?
I’ve met hundreds of digital nomads on my travels and each one has a different definition of what it means. It all comes down to: someone who has location independence through working online. From bloggers to programmers, web designers to language teachers, video creators to writers and developers to yogis. They all wear a completely different hat. There is no one size fits all when it comes to being a digital nomad, but the opportunities are endless.
My personal online career evolves entirely around travel. I have been a Personal Travel Manager for ten years, launching my own business in the last three.
Essentially, I curate and book travel experiences for my clients. I am constantly meeting with hotels, airlines and tour operators to educate myself on their products and strengthen relationships.
Alongside my agency, I created my travel blog, Wild Hearted World.
With WHW, I document and share all of my best travel tips for my amazing readers. I create content for my own blog and social media channels, as well as freelancing for magazines and small businesses.
What Does Your Day As A Digital Nomad Look Like?
No two days as a digital nomad look the same. My schedule changes as often as my surroundings.
One day could be filled with researching, writing and shooting content for my blog and socials. The next day may be a planned travel day with lots of exploring on the schedule. Some days I even find myself frantically cramming in work to meet deadlines in between travel plans.
I’ve found that the key to managing my days, weeks and months is being organized. I have learned to allow space for unexpected changes, and more importantly, time blocking! This hack is crucial to maximizing my productivity and discipline.
“If you are going to work for yourself, You need to be above all, self motivated.”
Each day I begin with two to three hours of non negotiable ‘me time’! When I serve myself first, I can fill up others with my positive energy and focus.
My idea of ‘me time’ includes things like exercise, meditation, mantras and learning. That could be in the form of a podcast, a few chapters in a book or a Youtube clip. After that, I allow myself to touch my phone, check social media and begin my work day.
Finding the balance between time in my agency, blog, social media and experiencing a destination is an art I am constantly redefining. Sometimes I go too fast between places and feel overwhelmed with my workload, other times I dedicate too long and am ready to move on earlier than I anticipated. I’ve found my ideal schedule is a couple of weeks in large cities and five or six nights in smaller towns.
That gives me space to work and play, as well as a time buffer, for when demands are high and I need to reprioritize my workload, or take a rest day.
How Do You Make Money As A Digital Nomad?
The methods of making money are as varied as the list of roles digital nomads have.
Essentially you can:
- work as a freelancer by offering your skills to clients
- start your own business
- work remotely for an existing company
My digital nomad income comes from various streams:
Firstly, I work on commission within my travel agency. I am paid a percentage from tour companies, hotels, transfers, travel insurance and airlines (although margins on flights are minuscule at best).
Secondly, I make an income with my blog from advertising, affiliate marketing and collaborations with brands or tourism boards.
Freelancing is another form of income for me and a huge passion of mine. Small businesses and brands hire me to advise them on their social media strategies and write content for their sites.
As you can see, the possibilities for multiple income streams are only limited by your imagination. One piece of advice: commit wholeheartedly to anything you do, under promise and over deliver.
As much as social media helps my business, repeat and referral clients are gold. You always want to be delivering at an exceptional level and providing value.
How Can I Become A Digital Nomad?
Before you can take the leap into the digital nomad lifestyle, you need to establish what your true passion is.
Find Your Passion– Take time in a quiet space with a piece of paper and a pen. Now, write down any words that pop to mind that inspire and interest you. Once you let all your thoughts spill onto paper, there will be a recurring theme of what ignites your spirit.
Monetize Your Idea- Now you have an idea of what inspires you, you can start researching how you can make money while working remotely with it. Google jobs related to your passion. Read blogs. Reach out to people that are already doing what you love and build relationships with them, most will be happy to help you.
Invest in Yourself -Start a course in that field or hire a coach. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on my own personal development over the past three years. I am always looking for someone to mentor me, keep me accountable and ensure I am being my word and upping my game.
Start Slowly – Start freelancing or growing your business on the side of your main work so you can set yourself up before you take the leap. If you are going to be staying with your company and making the move to remote work, start testing the process with short trips to make sure you have a handle on it.
What Is Your Favorite Part Of The Digital Nomad Lifestyle?
I LOVE the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere in the world, at any time. Seriously, how lucky are we… what a time to be alive!
Learning is one of my highest values and I’ve yet to find anything else that accelerates personal growth like travel does. On any given day I’ll be faced with new challenges, more so than in the familiarity of ‘home’. I am constantly forced to find solutions, often in a country that doesn’t speak my native tongue, and the growth I experience is priceless.
“Travel is my world, my purpose, my passion and working remotely allows me to maximize my exposure to celebrating new experiences.”
Also, the people I meet along the way are what makes these moments even richer. I find the more I travel, it becomes less about the places and more about the connection with locals and fellow travellers that lights me up.
What Is Your Biggest Struggle of The Digital Nomad Lifestyle?
Every job and lifestyle choice, remote or not, comes with it’s own share of struggles. How we choose to react to these struggles is what shapes us as humans. You can sit there in victim mode and dwell on whatever perceived battle you are facing, or choose to acknowledge it and commit to making a change.
Struggle 1 – Loneliness
Missing friends, family and events back home comes up a lot for me.
Whenever that lonely feeling creeps in, it’s important that I first allow myself to feel those emotions of sadness, guilt or emptiness.
After letting that out (instead of shoving it back inside and not dealing with it), I get to choose how I want to feel. When I tune into my body I always know what I need to refuel it. It could be some time out to Netflix and chill, meditate, exercise, read a book, listen to music or book a massage. Or, maybe I just need some human connection. I’ll Facetime the people I’m missing and continue to nurture those long-distance relationships.
Struggle 2 – Comparison
I admit, I get caught up in comparing myself to others and societies standards of what life ‘should look like’. Each of us is on a completely different path and no two timelines look the same. I’ve learned to ditch the negative comparison by finding people that inspire me. I want to celebrate (not compare!) those that are doing what I want to be doing. At the end of the day, learning to go easy on myself has made a big difference.
If your happy and leading from a place of love, what else matters?
How Do You Choose Where To Go/Live? How Do You Find Housing?
This is the fun part! Where do you want to go? Create yourself a list of dream destinations and go for it. As cliché as it is… the world is your oyster.
I usually have a vague idea of what my year is going to look like, but I’ll leave space for pop-up opportunities. For 2019 I know I will be travelling to:
Bali in March, Turkey in late May, Portugal in June and the UK in July. More places will pop up as the year moves forward, but I have a general idea of the next six months.
From my destination list, I play around on Skyscanner and Google Flights to find the best flights.
If I discover a good flight that has a layover, I see if I can maximize my time there by extending the stop-over to explore. If the route is shorter, I prefer to travel by land between places. I swear by the site Rome2Rio to get my bearings, check out distances and different methods of transportation.
For example, I found out during my research of flights from Turkey to Portugal that I could stop in Italy for a few days. I found a flight with a layover in Milan and realized I could extend it for 3 days and it won’t cost me any extra. What a great way to add a place I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to the itinerary. It’s the ultimate example of how flexible the digital nomad lifestyle can really be.
As for accommodation, I love to mix it up between boutique hotels, resorts and AirBnB’s.
I love hunting for new boutique properties for my clients, and it’s even better when I get to try them out firsthand! On shorter trips I prefer to stay in smaller and more unique hotels.
If I am staying somewhere longer term, I lean more towards Air Bnb for a more ‘apartment’ lifestyle. It’s nice to be able to live like a local and immerse myself in the local neighbourhood.I also have a new-found love for co living / working spaces as a way to connect with other digital nomads. One of my favourites being Outsite.
How Do You Meet People When You Travel?
Hands down, this is one of the most commonly asked questions I see about the digital nomad lifestyle. I get asked this a lot in person, but I also see it all over forums. So much so, I wrote a post to help other travellers connect, called: 15 easy ways to meet people when you travel solo.
A survey done in Britain showed that the average person has 27 conversations daily. I then came to my own conclusion that if you are travelling, you can most likely, at minimum, double that opportunity in the number of people you cross paths with. (My own data… not scientifically proven) Not sure about you, but to me, that seems like an incredibly large number of opportunities for you to strike up a conversation with another human.
I meet people at co-working spaces, through travel groups on Facebook, meetups, at hostels, on tours, and just by saying saying ‘hello’!
What Problems Do You Face While Working Remotely?
These are going to sound like first world problems, because they are.
But I’m going to let you in on the big one: reliable internet! It can be insanely frustrating trying to find stable and affordable internet, especially when my work relies on it! Ironically, the places you expect it not to work very well, often have the fastest and cheapest wifi on the planet. I’ve seen as cheap at $3 for a month of unlimited data!
Another battle can be scheduling meetings across multiple time zones. Not only do I have to factor in my current time-zone, but at any moment I might fly to a country in a completely different time zone. This makes setting up future meetings very tricky. I’m always calculating the time difference between that ‘mystery time zone’ and the time zone of the other person I’m meeting with. I’m also thinking “will my internet be stable enough to support the call in this limbo land?”
If those two challenges aren’t enough for you, lets throw in over-working while we’re at it. When remote working merges with travel and personal life, it is all too easy to blur the lines and find yourself working, all the time! Setting clear boundaries for yourself and scheduling in time off is an absolute must to avoid burnout.
On the other hand, motivating yourself to get work done when you have just arrived somewhere new is equally challenging. Sometimes you want to ditch all that work and go off grid forever while you get lost in exotic locales.
How Often Do You Travel As A Digital Nomad?
The past three years have been completely nomadic. I sold or gave away everything I owned (sans my car and a few bags of essentials), and bid farewell to my home of eight years, Bondi Beach. Doing this, freed up my time and finances. I redirected what I would have paid in rent, to travel the world full time, and haven’t looked back.
On average, I am travelling 9 months of the year.
When I am home in Australia, I’m grateful to be able to split my time between my parent’s house, staying with friends, housesitting for clients and travelling more of my own beautiful country.
When Will You Settle Down?
Surprisingly, this question pops up a lot. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Society has painted a picture of what life should look like by a certain age. You know, married by this age, kids by that age, buy a house, work hard for retirement… blah blah blah. Luckily, I’ve never been one to follow rules and love to challenge the norm where ever I can. While I do value all those things, I’ve let go of attachment to how and when they will pan out for me.
Over the years, I have developed my perfect retort to this question. When someone asks me: “So, When will you settle down?”
I quip back with… “It’s a surprise 😉”
I urge you to try that out, and enjoy the look on their faces.
That my friends, sums it up, the 11 most common questions people ask about being a digital nomad. What do you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts and let me know if you have any other questions about being a digital nomad. I’d be happy to answer them!