Imagine a lifestyle that allowed you to travel endlessly around your favourite parts of the world. A lifestyle that filled your pockets with notes and coins, while spoiling you with the riches of the freedom to roam.
Imagine a lifestyle that shunned a daily commute, and that gave you ultimate control over how much you earned that week, or next. Hammocks and balconies replace your desk and chair; workmates become your inspiration, and that aching yearn for a much-needed-break, is quenched in an instant.
Is the lifestyle of a 'digital nomad' for you?
Behold, the lifestyle of ‘digital nomads’; a new wave of entrepreneurs and freelancers who have begun booting up along back-streets and boulevards right around the world.
Their global mantra is “just do it”. I should know, I used to drift with them on the thin thread of a freelancer’s salary. I’ve dropped my backpack in dozens of towns and cities around the world, to stop a while and fulfil writing contracts, and all the paper trails that buzz around them.
Before you pick up your passport and laptop, be warned, the lifestyle of the digital nomad certainly doesn’t suit everyone. Your salary is often at the mercy of an internet connection, and while I made some great business connections (which continue to serve me well) on the road, there’s a stark reality that nothing is ever guaranteed, which can bring you back to earth with a bump.
However the spoils are there, and if, like me, you find yourself at a crossroads in life where you have nothing to lose — and skills that can be transferred to a nomadic way of life — then why not? Throw yourself at the mercy of the planet and its ethernet cables.
To give you some more insight into the life and times of modern day digital nomads, I recently got talking with seven British travellers, to tackle them about their personal experience of eking out a living from their chosen hills and hollows.
If you’re looking for a few clues about how you can make this lifestyle your own, you’ve come to the right place.
How to be a Digital Nomad
You’re about to get a light-hearted run-through of the ways these seven people have approached transferring their lifestyles onto the road.
If you have any questions after reading today’s post, throw them in the comments below. I’m sure these experts can help clear up any questions you have, about following in their footsteps.
Victoria & Steve, currently in Ecuador
Before leaving London, I (Victoria) worked full-time as a writer, and Steve was setting up a film company and freelance editing.
We’ve now taken those careers on the road. Steve’s working on the company’s first feature-length documentary, and I’m freelance writing and setting up a Vegetarian Travel Guide. We both write about our travels and lives as digital nomads on our blog, Bridges and Balloons.
Victoria and Steve of Bridges and Balloons
We chose this lifestyle because we felt claustrophobic in our lives in London. We’re not suited to an office lifestyle and have huge amounts of wanderlust.
One of the misconceptions about our life is that we’re on a permanent vacation, when in reality we work longer hours than we ever did in London. The up-shot of this is that, during our time off, we get to explore incredible parts of the world.
We wouldn’t change this lifestyle for anything, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. The income is uncertain, the hours are long, and it lacks security. But it’s also liberating and enormous fun. Just don’t do it thinking it’s a route to an endless holiday!
Chris, currently in Thailand
I run www.BackpackerBanter.com — a travel blog documenting my RTW trip, as well as reviewing trips/accommodation, and passing on advice I pick up along the way. I also freelance as a photographer and writer for a few print and online magazines.
Chris of Backpacker Banter
I’m currently kicking back in the Thai islands on Phi Phi (possibly the most beautiful place I’ve visited so far) but this trip has taken me to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Peru, Laos, Thailand and Bali so far.
I’m going onwards to Australia, NZ and Fiji… no idea where after that! I’ve also travelled parts of Europe, Morocco and the USA, and of course my year long working holiday visa in Australia.
I was always planning to hit the road ASAP after my return from Australia, luckily I scored an epic job at STA Travel, made some good money and, more importantly, gained loads of info on places I wanted to travel to, while making some great contacts in the travel industry. But I got offered my dream job surf coaching in South America, which I couldn’t turn down.
Blog wise, the whole thing started as a personal diary and I saw the opportunity for it to fund my life on the road. It hasn’t been an easy process, and it’s hard work, but definitely worth the effort in the end.
Becki, currently in China
I’m Becki from www.backpackerbecki.com. I left my home town of London in July to travel the world indefinitely.
In short, I want to make a full-time living from my main passion in life – travel. My website is about solo female travel, but ultimately about seeking out the interesting, quirky and off-the-beaten-track adventures and also where I can travel differently and with purpose, so volunteering is a huge part of my travels.
Becki of Backpacker Becki
My blog is only 7 months young and essentially I’m constantly working, except that it’s work that I absolutely love.
Combining travel with a passion for writing is what I love the most, although the ‘work’ side of things is actually the networking and trying to build an income source more than the writing itself.
My main aim is to build solid relationships with travel companies and tourism boards, to work with them on promoting specific regions, excursions and new developments. Of course, these have to fit with the backpacking theme and ethical standards on my blog – I’m not keen on being a blogger who takes just anything and everything. Editorial integrity for my readers always remains a priority.
Other than that I work with advertisers who want to link or place something of value on my site. Again, this has to be a good fit — for example, I won’t place articles about places I have never been to.
Building my Facebook fan page and Twitter is key, ensuring I have regular content and updates for my readers. In between blog posts I upload images and throughout my travels Instagram is my next best friend after my SLR camera. The only downside for me is countries with limited internet access. I started my round the world adventures in Mongolia, where I had no internet access.
In between my time in China, where I am currently living with restricted and very slow internet, I was in North Korea for a week. My phone was confiscated and the internet doesn’t exist. For a blogger, internet is like oxygen. Without it you are nothing. But overall, when you can tell others about something amazing, and inspire people to fulfil their travel dreams, those little frustrations are totally worth it.
Erin & Simon, currently in Italy
We spent 2008 travelling around the world and experienced more in a year than we had in the previous ten. On our return to the UK, we found it very difficult to adjust — having experienced the vastness of the world and all of the opportunity out there, we struggled to fit back into the routine that we’d left behind. So we decided to sell everything we owned, and in March 2010 we left the UK to travel forever.
Erin and Simon of Never Ending Voyage
We had savings to keep us going while we built up an income from Simon’s web design business, and our travel website neverendingvoyage.com. Two and a half years later we are addicted to the freedom that this lifestyle gives us — we can work when we want, anywhere we want.
One of the biggest problems of life as a digital nomad is balancing work and travel. We’ve found the best way is to travel slowly — we love to rent an apartment in a city for a month or two, which allows us to have time for work and exploring. Some of our favourite places to do this so far are Chiang Mai, Buenos Aires, Lisbon and the Thai island, Koh Lanta.
Victoria, currently in Portugal
I’m Victoria, a British girl travelling solo around the world. In 2008 I graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and wasn’t sure what to do next.
Victoria of Pommie Travels
I saved up some money to go travelling, but on returning home I knew I just couldn’t do the 9 to 5. I decided to move to Bali and figure out a way to make an income online, which is when I set up my travel blog Pommie Travels. Everything just grew from there.
I’m now a full time travel blogger and I make most of my income from my travel websites through advertising. I also do some freelance writing for online publications, and I handle the media and PR for individual clients.
I love the fact that I’m my own boss and I have the freedom to travel. My advice for any would-be digital nomads is to promote yourself as much as you can; be consistent and you will see the rewards. My next goal is to visit South America — I feel like there is less written about this part of the world. The hardest part about being a digital nomad is the reliance on technology — even in this day and age, finding Wi-Fi can be a pain!