Tag Archives: Freedom

The Advantages of Wearing Many Hats: Nurse, Writer, and Question Mark

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Antigua, Guatemala

So what happens if you trade in your regular every day job for a digital nomad life and find having a computer or cell phone chained to you at the beach was not exactly what you had in mind?

First of all, you are not the only one. You might think being a digital nomad (in my case, doing freelance writing through oDesk in Honduras) is your ticket to freedom, but once you find yourself sitting in a cafe surrounded by tropical plants, so engrossed in your computer or cell phone you are not spending time with real people or enjoying your setting, you might need a reality check. As a freelance writer, it is difficult to make a livable wage in a western country. Several writers often are expected to do free work for the privilege of being published. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted this issue when author, Philip Hensher, brought to the public’s attention that he was asked to write an introduction to a book for free and refused to do so. This is why I do my writing from Honduras where my budget for living expenses, food, and adventures is $300-$400/month. That way, I do not feel I have to be a slave to my work, and I make enough to get by and have some fun while working only part-time. However, my current financial state doesn’t give me much cushion in case of an emergency or if I want to take a spontaneous trip with friends. While I could sit in front of a computer full time and definitely make enough to continue my travel life style and still live in Honduras, the truth is I do not want to be in front of a computer for more than 20 hours. I love writing, but the computer part is torture especially when you take those jobs you really despise just to make a few extra dollars.

So this is where my solution comes in. Be a digital nomad with many hats. Know that being a digital nomad is only a part of your ticket to freedom and having lots of skills that have nothing to do with computers is the other part. In my case, I have a nurse’s license, and I have recently decided to return to the states to work as a travel nurse for three months and fill up my bank account. I can make in one week as a nurse the money I make as a writer working full time for a month. You do the math.

Being a published writer has always been my dream, but now that I am a writer, I am finding I want to start focusing on my own work not on doing freelance work for others. While all my oDesk and other freelance jobs have given me great experience and put a long list of published items in my portfolio, somewhere along the way I stopped writing what I want to write and for less than what I believe my work is worth. So now I am taking a step back and working as a nurse to put a significant chunk of money in my account allowing me the freedom over the next year to only take freelance jobs I want and focus on taking the time to do my own writing, the kind that is not dictated by word count, money, and deadlines.

You don’t have to get lost in the making money part of your digital nomad lifestyle. You can take breaks and find other skills. Sometimes instead of working all year long, a little here, a little there, and trying to be your own boss (which trust me is complex), it is good to work in the system, live cheap, and save for a few months. This way you can dive back into the freelance world, but on your own terms, and to fund fun adventures as needed instead of to make ends meet.

Keep life interesting while adding to your skills. Learn a language if you are in a foreign country. Volunteer where you are at. In my case, I started volunteering with different organizations in Honduras, and before I knew it, I was learning new skills like fundraising, which helped my application jump out to a foundation in the UK I am currently working for. I love yoga, and the next skill on my list is to become a yoga instructor. The more skills you have, the more options you have. One of the best books I ever read to help me gain perspective and see myself as more than just a nurse was The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. This three month book (in my case, it took a year) helps you to release your creative energy and find new hats to wear so that when you talk with people and they ask you what you do, you can reply, “What don’t I do?”

For the nurses and freelancers, be sure to follow my upcoming Remote Control posts on the 10 Alternative Nurse Careers that Allow You to Travel or Work Remotely and The Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing.

Written by: Beth Ann Nyssen

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Finances and Budgeting, Location Independence, Technology, Work and Business, Working Remotely

The wandering digital nomad challenge: how to achieve a work-travel balance

View from my desk in a campsite on the Albanian Coast. It's a hard life, I know...

View from my desk in a campsite on the Albanian Coast. It’s a hard life, I know…

‘How do you manage to work and travel simultaneously?’ is possibly my most oft-asked question. Whilst some digital nomads are indeed blissfully located somewhere, usually for an extended period of time, I am a member of a small group of challenged individuals who are actually located everywhere, all the time. My partner and I are currently riding our motorbikes from Germany to Australia; we’ve travelled through 15 countries in the last 15 months, lived in a tent most of the time and I’ve managed to write almost 500 travel-related articles along the way.

Challenging enough? You could say that…

Yes it is true that wandering digital nomads face a few more challenges than their more settled (and some would say sane) counterparts, yet finding a way to earn money whilst travelling is by no means an impossible task to accomplish.

If you’d like to know how I manage my own work-travel balance, and get a few ideas on how to tackle this challenge yourself, now would be the time to continue reading.

1)      Establish good working relationships

If you’re planning to become a self-employed digital-nomad, feel free to skip this point altogether. If your income will depend on others however, do take special note.

All digital nomads will spend a serious amount of time setting up a good virtual job before they start packing their bags. Most of the time, they won’t consider making the big move until they’ve secured their needed income. This is, suffice to say, an excellent choice.

Vagabonding digital nomads however, must also establish work contracts with people who understand that they are going to be constantly moving around. This turned out to be easier than I had anticipated, although I admit that the fact I only work within the travel niche may have something to do with it. Travellers dig travellers!

You can start off every month with the best intentions in the world, but let it be known that the life of a long-term traveller is one of complete and utter chaos. Most of the time. Finding a sympathetic ‘boss’ (or three) was my top priority before leaving, and something which I recommend you do as well. No matter who it is you work for, they must realize that whilst you’ll endeavour to deliver/contact/skype/email, sometimes you just won’t be able to, end of story. The internet will be down; you’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken bike-part, you’ll be sick etc. This is why it is just so imperative that you build up a good reputation as a professional and conscientious worker and establishing a trusting relationship with your work provider. Should the inevitable happen, this will ensure the boss is not left disappointed and you are not left unemployed.

The fact that I also held a daytime job and learnt a new language during my pre-departure period is testament to the fact that…

2)     You should learn to be a multi-tasking-master

Juggling several balls simultaneously is what I do best and something with which I have the most experience. Before meeting Chris I’d worked as an overland tour guide for five years and mastered the skills of multi-tasking. After spending years answering 24,000 questions a day whilst making a mental food-shopping list and finding time for email answering, account keeping, problem solving, activities booking, mental-breakdown-preventing, leg shaving and travel itinerary researching… I knew I could do anything simultaneously 😀

Squeezing 27 hours out a 24 hour day is child’s play (once you get the hang of it) and a perfect skill to have when desiring to work and travel concurrently. The most important part of this talent is that teaches you what I call ‘mental multi-tasking’: the ability to switch your working and travelling brain on and off at will. This was by far my most challenging hurdle in the first few months; I needed at least two days to go from sightseeing and bush camping to writing a coherent enough travel article my boss would be willing to pay for! The process is getting easier and easier as the time passes and I have gotten to the point where I can go from spending five days crossing the Caucasus Mountain Range to churning out a decent amount of work, with just a good night’s sleep, a decent shower and a strong cup of coffee.

The good news here is that this is indeed a learned talent and something anyone can actively practice. Manage your work time efficiently and you won’t ‘waste’ a minute of your day.

3)     Find your groove & perfect your work routine

Whilst I may be a mental-ninja, I’m not superhuman, which means I can’t actually visit a historical site and write a travel article at the same time.

The options of work routine are various, so you may have to try out a few scenarios before you know what works best for you.

What I have managed to do is set up a completely imbalanced life balance which seems to work a treat for me: I travel most of the time and only work some of the time. I’ll stay put for a week in one spot with good internet and comfortable living quarters and work (at a campsite with a cosy cafe’, hostel or rental apartment), then travel for 3-4 weeks after that. Sometimes I also play it by ear and fit in a couple of working days when the weather sucks or if I happen to be in a particularly productive mood. This is also the reason I only accept monthly travel article requests; knowing ahead of time what I need to deliver in a month gives me the freedom to rearrange my days as I see fit.

I’ve known of digital nomads who travel and work on a 3 or 6-month-rotation basis and this may well turn out to be your preferred method. In the digital-nomad world, this is called ‘cycling’. It actually sounds perfect to me personally, yet my particular trip is so physically demanding (I’d never even ridden a motorbike before) that I really couldn’t travel non-stop for three months straight without a week-long break somewhere along the way. My work week has also become my rest & recuperation week. See? There’s that multi-tasking thingy again 😉

I plan my work-week about two months in advance and research what seems to be the ideal place to stop. A capital city, for example, will always be a good bet even in the most undeveloped countries; chances that you’ll find a decent place to stay with good Wi-Fi are surprisingly high the world over. This little plan has turned out to be ideal for me, because I don’t particularly like cities. Having to bunker down and work for a week straight in the big smoke is infinitely less painful than trying to do the same in a gloriously small beachside campsite on the southern Mediterranean coast in Greece in July. Now THAT was painful.

4)     Slow is key

When all is said and done, the only thing which will ensure your success as a wandering digital nomad is time. Give yourself lots of it; you’ll need it.

The only way Chris and I can manage to live as we do is because we travel so incredibly slowly. We cover only about 1,000kms a month and usually only visit a few places in each country. We’ll ride just a couple of hours each day and usually camp for a few nights in each spot. We tend to move faster during summer and spring and a little slower during the colder months, when bad weather can see us ‘stuck’ in one place for two weeks at a time, or more. When you’re a digital nomad you’ll never resent a rainy day on the road!

We are actually, for the first time in years, about to settle down for the winter in one single spot. I’ve recently been offered the amazing opportunity to write a long-term traveller’s guide book for a European publishing company and wish to do so from the comfort of a rental apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia. This will not only give me the chance to try ‘cycling’ for the first time ever, but it will also provide me with enough income should our intended crossing of Central Asia next year prove to be a tad work-challenging. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how that pans out. Keep you posted!

You should realize by now that there is no such thing as an ‘ideal work-travel balance’ for nomadic digitalists…different strokes for different folks really is quite the apt adage in this case. Find your own grove, routine and balance and, most importantly, remember to love what you do.

Manage this…and you’ll always find a way to make it work.

Written by Laura Pattara 

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Travel Tips, Working Remotely

Turning Nomad: Motivated by inspiration

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It takes inspiration, but requires motivation. Sounds like something you would hear at a life coaching seminar to change your life, and while it is a bit bumper sticker slogan, it is actually true. To make the move that will change your life both in terms of location and economics it always takes a dream (the inspiration), and throughout my life I have always been well acquainted with dreaming. Motivation has been more of a stranger to me, but more on that later.

Growing up in a small town in South Wales, UK, people are faced with two choices; stay and have a normal and perfectly healthy middle class life, or leave and have a different kind of existence. While most stay, I always dreamt of the “more” and wanted to explore the world that I loved so much when I was younger. I loved exotic locations I would see on TV and was particularly passionate about animals, so it stands to reason I wanted to leave a country where it rains all the time and the most wildlife you´ll see is a sheep or badger.

Ironically I have come to appreciate Wales for the small jewel it is in recent years, but perhaps that´s another story to be told. Anyway… I spent much of my youth and early adulthood deep in the dream of escaping my boring life when actually I was sleepwalking into being an engineer and living in the area I was born, probably one street from my parents.

The normal chain of events for someone becoming an expat and becoming financially free is meeting someone, a girl, a guy, you know how it goes. For me it was slightly different as the profession came first when I realized that I was a very capable writer while studying engineering in university. I left my course and waited a year to enroll in a different degree program for creative and professional writing, which I guess is why I am here now, writing this for you.

Then there was the girl (what? You thought there was not going to be one?). Of course, we fell madly in love and she helped give me something I had never had until then, motivation. She lived in Spain, me in the United Kingdom, and her life meant that if anyone was going to move, it would have to be me. Obviously the idea appealed to this 15 year veteran of dreaming about the big escape to another country.

My degree studies meant that any permanent move was off for about two years, which meant we would have to travel to see each other. My explorer’s heart finally got to do what it craved, and I traveled extensively over the next two years to various locations around the world to see my new girlfriend. The seed had been planted and as they say, I got the bug. I now wanted to travel more, so in-between the times I would see my partner I would travel to other places, and even came up with a few grand adventures (again, another story).

One fact I am mildly proud of is that I have flown on a plane countless times, but have always traveled alone, I have never been with a companion on a flight. I wear that as a sort badge of honor to show off my nomad tendencies, but I doubt anyone actually is that impressed by it.

My now fiancée is from Argentina and just as the move to Spain was shifting into gear she had to move back to her homeland permanently. That was no issue really, I would just move to South America instead, but what would I do for a job?

The truth is, the idea of becoming financially independent did not occur to me at this point. By the way, I do not class financially independent as being rich, if that´s what it means, where´s all my money? Instead I class it as having the freedom of profession to be able to live anywhere and generate the same income. At that time four years ago I sat a number of TEFL teaching courses which allow you to work as an English teacher in foreign countries, this I thought would be my career in Argentina.

This was just a little concerning because on those courses I was a frankly terrible teacher who passed because, well everybody passes. I arrived in Argentina pretty sure I would not be a teacher and by that point not speaking a word of Spanish. What possible career could await me I thought, but then I found the courage to explore my talent.

I decided I would write for a living and through the days and months I built up a portfolio by doing painstaking jobs until I had a reputation in some circles as a good freelance writer. I now work full-time doing that and am developing a publishing business and get a good if unspectacular income here in Argentina. I work from home, I largely work when I want to, and if I was inclined to I could move to a different location tomorrow with ease.

So what´s the moral of my story? Well, I guess it is that the inspiration is fine, without it you will never get the independence of location and finances. However, don´t dream too long and instead find the motivation, find your path to achieve your dreams, because trust me, even though there may be a few stumbles, you do have a path.

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Filed under Expats, Motivation, The Breakaway, The Decision

Rules are for Breaking

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Versailles, France

The biggest mistake you can make is to tell yourself you have to do everything by the rules. Doing things by the rules is more expensive, time consuming, and just damn boring. So learn that rules are for breaking.

I am privileged. I am from the United States. Unlike most people in the world, I can travel pretty much anywhere I want. I can cross borders as easily as I can slice through a stick with a machete. I did not fully understand this until I came to Honduras, which is the size of some states in America. Hondurans need a visa most everywhere in the world, even to take a vacation in countries that are close to them. I understand why so many of them feel trapped within this small country. However, I still think that where there is a will there is a way. I have met several people, especially through Couchsurfing, people from places like China, who do not have a free access pass to the world. They have to apply; they have to pay; they have to beg to go to a different country, but they do it because it is important to them. If these people can travel the world so can you, and if you say otherwise, especially if you are American, then you have created your own doom.

There are many obstacles I overcame to get to the freedom I have now, but mostly they were obstacles I set up for myself. In following all the rules that were supposed to help me get to my end goal of traveling the world, I, in many ways, could not see the many different options available. I could only see the ones that fit within the system of socially acceptable pathways for travel such as set vacation times, study abroad programs, or working for oversees organizations. I could not see options like working for a year in your home country then taking a year off traveling, volunteering abroad so you can travel with free room and board, being a freelance writer online so you can go anywhere but still work, Couchsurfing for cheap travel and cultural exchange, or asking for a leave of absence so you still have a job to come back to.

I could not have broken away from the system of rules if not for the people who inspired me to do so by their own real life examples. I would say I first began to think outside the box when a friend, who was also a nurse, told the hospital she worked for that she wanted a leave of absence to travel for three months, and that they could either let her have it or she would quit. She was the first inspiration, but there were others. A Couchsurfer from the UK had also done something similar but in a different job and had been traveling for months in the USA.

Then I had a Couchsurfer live with me who totally turned my world upside down. I had broken up with my boyfriend, and I needed help with rent, so I put up an add in Couchsurfing for someone to pay to stay on my couch long term as a flat-mate. The girl who came broke every rule in the book. She had never been to college, but she was one of the most intelligent people I had met, choosing to learn through reading instead of paying for an education. She, unlike most people her age, was debt free. She would work and save for a year as a nanny then travel the world until her money ran out. She volunteered at a food shelter which often had too much food, so the shelter would give her the leftovers to take home to eat. She rarely had to pay for food herself. She loved to dance and would go out most nights, but she knew all the times when she could dance for free. If she went out with friends to a restaurant, she would not order anything, or if she did, it was tea or a small drink. When there was a free event in town, she would go. Her eyes were on the prize, traveling, and nothing was going to distract her, but she made sure to have affordable fun while waiting for the end reward. She was my biggest inspiration. Because of her I realized that any dream was possible. It was really only about how much you were willing to give up to fulfill it, and I discovered that I could give up a lot quite happily to find my freedom. Within a year of careful planning and positive thinking, I had my reward.

Written by Beth Ann Nyssen

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Filed under Motivation, The Breakaway

Turning my life upside down

Deck chairs by the beach. Perfect office space.

Southern Thailand, I can’t imagine a more beautiful office space…

A roller coaster. The most adequate description of my life over the last four years. My decision to break free and take control of my destiny came as a result of a series of unexpected events, that led me from Australia, to Thailand, to Denmark, and back again to Thailand.

The first step is to begin at the beginning, and in the beginning there is always a girl. We met in a company training session in Copenhagen, and fell head-over-heels for each other. The flight back to Sydney was terrible, I knew where I wanted to be, and who I wanted to be with. Unfortunately for my parents, this was not in Australia! Two months later, with a freshly signed expatriation contract, I boarded a plane to her hometown of Bangkok. This first shift was painless. As an expat, your hand is held through every difficult moment associated with an international relocation. Visa, work permits, and even your belongings are taken care of, one day you just wake up realizing you are indeed quite far from home.

The second shift reflected another opportunity. To Copenhagen with us both on expatriation; tackling exciting projects, our life was surreal. However crunch time always hits, hitting hardest in the midst of the financial crisis. I found myself alone in Denmark after her contract was terminated, and 30% of our workforce had been made redundant. Looking to my colleagues, I realized that experience, ability, and skills counted for little. People whose life had been this company, counted for naught. My friends who had invested their entire careers in this business were now out of a job, out of options.

It was this point that was critical for me. During yet another round of farewell beers, I decided that I never wanted to be trapped in that position. I never wanted to give another person the ability to influence my life to such a degree. I never wanted to rely on anyone but myself. My financial future, my life, and ultimately my happiness needed to be under my control.

Handing in my resignation sealed my fate. I threw in the towel with the company that had trained me, where I had grown from an entry-level trainee to management, and built my career over the course of six years. It was not a decision made lightly, and my advice for anyone considering a digital nomad lifestyle is twofold. Have a back-up plan in place, and have some money behind you. Your savings will ensure you can put food on the table, and a back-up plan provides peace of mind during the transition. I had savings that could fund my life in Bangkok for 12 months, 18 at a stretch if my earnings were zero. This provided peace of mind to myself, as well as my family, who at this point were thinking that their son had lost the plot. I also talked in detail with my previous managers in Thailand, and had received an open invitation to return to my previous job. This greatly reduced the risk that involved, making it much easier to take my first leap.

Selling 99% of my belongings was a freeing experience, it opened my eyes to the materialism that is mind-numbingly forced down our throats in modern society. The scary part, is that most of us never even realize. My 20 kg baggage allowance on the return flight to Thailand did not leave room for sentiment, and I was brutal. I moved to Copenhagen with a twenty-foot container jammed full of my life, almost a ton of accumulated “stuff” that I had given value to. I returned with a suitcase.  

Touching down in the heat of Bangkok, I had no idea on my next steps. No plan, no 5-step guide.

I was definitely in the deep end, but I had never felt more alive.

Author: Travis Bennett

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Filed under Expats, Motivation, The Decision