I go to a party, to a work meeting, or simply to have a chai latte in a cafe and at one point right after I meet someone for the first time here comes the question: “What do you do for a living?” I love chit-chatting with strangers, but I have to admit that specific question freaks me out a little bit because it leads to a bit of a contorted and confused answer.
What I normally do is a quick mental scan of the person I have in front of me before opening my mouth. So, for instance, when I’m talking to an 80 years old woman the answer sounds pretty much like this “I studied Marketing and public relations, and I work for yoga studios, eco-resorts and food companies.” I already know most of those words are impossible for that generation to understand but I try anyway to leave the whole digital nomad/freelancer concept behind. I mean I struggled a lot when I had to explain to my parents what I do, and they are brilliant people in their sixties, why should I confuse an old lady?
Obviously, when my interlocutor is younger and educated, I could theoretically be in the position of mentioning the remote work idea, but for whatever reason, I don’t always do. When I do it opens up a Pandora’s box filled with a never ending number of questions, the first one normally being “What exactly is a digital nomad”?
According to Wikipedia “Digital nomads are people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers typically work remotely—generally from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces and even recreational vehicles—to accomplish tasks and goals that traditionally took place in a single, stationary workplace.
Digital nomads tend to travel, while they continue to work with clients or employers. This sort of lifestyle presents challenges such as maintaining international health insurance with coverage globally, abiding by different local laws and sometimes obtaining work visas, and maintaining long-distance relationships with friends and family back home. Other challenges may also include time zone differences, the difficulty of finding a reliable connection to the internet, and the absence of delineation between work and leisure time.”
That is all true, but it’s an aseptic description that I don’t really like, so now I’m going to tell you what is my personal experience as a digital nomad and how I became one.
Everything started at the end of 2015 when I decided that it was way too complicated to find a job every time I decided to travel from one place to another one.
You see – I move a lot; in the past four years, I have lived in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, England, India, Germany, Spain and England again.
To find a job in each destination was not just nerve breaking but sometimes extremely complicated. Furthermore, I wanted to be passionate about my job, and I figured to do that I needed it to follow me around the world. So after days and nights spent asking myself “how do I do that?” finally I had the enlightenment, just needed to become a freelancer and provide marketing and Pr services to entrepreneurs and companies I was excited about, people in the yoga, healthy vegan/vegetarian food and travel sectors.
The blogging part came along quite naturally as I’m a devoted writer since an early age and cannot imagine to travel the world and make new experiences without writing down everything that goes in my head.
And so in January 2016 I officially began this new adventure, set up my website, spent hours dealing with bureaucratic details and got ready to through myself out there. I started with two clients: a yoga studio and a wellness/travel related business that thanks to word of mouth became quite fast four customers.
As soon as I started growing, I wanted to understand if my plan could take off and travelling was for real a plausible option. That’s why I did what I can do best; I packed my backpack and bought a flight ticket.
Because I had just a few weeks available, I decided to stay in Europe and chose Spain as a destination.
In that happy place, I had everything I needed: the sun, stunning beaches, new friends, free accommodation (in exchange for 4 hours per day of work), good food and time for my business.
Those four weeks regenerated my mood, made me realise something in my personal life was not quite right but most importantly taught me that my dream could turn into reality and all I had to do was keep dreaming/living the life I wanted.
In Tenerife, I learned that I wasn’t “simply” a freelancer/blogger, but I was, first of all, a digital nomad.
To me, those two words mean that I am a person who can take her job with her anywhere with a decent WiFi connection, someone who doesn’t have roots and is happy to adapt to new situations, new climates, new cultures, new languages every few months.
Depending on where I’m based I might need to take on extra part time job to assure I’m not draining my savings away, which is what I’m doing right now while I live in expensive Uk.
What I normally do is work as much as I can while in Europe (let’s say at least six moths per year) and then rely on my freelancer’s income, when I’m based in countries like India, Thailand or Indonesia where the cost of life is lower. It doesn’t mean that I’m at the beach drinking Daiquiri all day long, simply that I rather spend more time travelling around and practicing yoga while I’m in sunny and inexpensive Asia rather than when I’m in familiar Europe.
I typically work at home, but I adore coworking spaces, even though I’m aware I’m less productive and way more chatty when I’m in one of those. Ops.
Every time I enter a coworking space I know I’ll end up spending hours talking to people I’ve just met but to me the point of being a digital nomad is not only to have a job that allows me to work from anywhere, is mostly a chance to keep travelling the world and meet like-minded people. And that’s why coworking spaces are my favorite environments, I know I’ll meet people with my same crazy lifestyle and that I’ll have the time of my life exploring a brand new location with some of them.
And by the way – no, I don’t work at the beach: it’s messy, sandy, windy and my Macbook Air doesn’t like it. I’d rather bust my ass in a cold and dull room where I can fully concentrate for four hours and go the beach once I’m done.
I’ve met quite a few digital nomads so far, and obviously, each one of them has a different background and a different lifestyle. Some of them are constantly on the move, even if it means changing location every few weeks, most of them prefer to familiarize with one place and spend at least 3-4 months in each destination. Nearly all of the digital nomads I’ve met are programmers and web developers, but I’ve also met quite a few writers and translators.
The truth is that nearly everyone with little computer skills and a huge passion for travelling could potentially be a digital nomad, but even if it sounds like the ideal experience most of the people wouldn’t be happy living such a life.
As for me, sometimes I think I’ll never be able to quit this lifestyle, and I have this unrealistic image of me travelling the world with a hot hubby and a couple of little kids. Probably deep down I know at one point I’ll have to give up on this idea, but I’m not quite sure I’m ready yet. So I’ll keep walking with my head held high thinking that I’m pursuing my dream and I’m enjoying every single step of the way.