‘You do what?’ is a question we get asked A LOT. I remember very clearly people’s expressions when I told them I was quitting my career to go traveling and work remotely. Surprise, confusion, ‘wow’ and a bit of ‘you’re bonkers’ thrown in for good measure. Even now, after we have tried to explain it and several months into the journey, I think people get the ‘why’ but we are still regularly asked ‘how?’ I’m writing this blog post from my perspective to try and clear up any confusion but if you still have any questions at the end of it, just ask.
Let’s start with the ‘why’
We have met lots of people on this journey so far and they all have their own reasons for leaving their home country. Whether it’s for a month, a year or a lifetime. Sometimes they’re searching for something, sometimes they’re running away from something but in the end it all boils down to the pursuit of happiness. Of course, wise people know that happiness is a choice, not a destination – but I find that choice easier to make on a warm beach with a margarita in my hand.
For me it was always more about the ‘why not’.’ When I first met Steve in Valencia and he told me about his plans to travel around Central and South America it was like a light bulb turning on in my brain and it set me on the path that would ultimately lead us to fulfilling this dream together. Once I started to research the possibilities I quickly realised two things.
Firstly that my perceptions of the world (especially those countries) was vastly out of kilter with reality. My mental images were of coffee, drugs and llama’s and that to visit such countries would require either backpacking in hostels or being restricted to the expensive tourist hotel zones. What I discovered is that there is a diverse range of safe, cosmopolitan towns and cities as well as well trodden tourist routes.
Secondly, I discovered that it’s not only totally possible to live a digital nomad lifestyle but that many people are already doing it! It’s nothing new. My dominant logic truths blown to pieces, I came to realise that whilst it seems impossible to make such a drastic lifestyle change, it all comes down to mindset. You only have to make a decision to do something, the rest is just details.
Digital Nomad, remote worker, call it what you like. Basically it’s just a term for someone that works online, independently of location. It doesn’t matter what the work is or how much you earn, just that you can make money from anywhere (with internet connection – hence the ‘digital’ bit).
For some people it’s about being able to work from home so they can spend more time with the kids, for others the ability to combine travel and work. Balancing life and work is a goal most people want to do better. Even at home in the UK we are seeing the remote working trend increase as the desire to balance work with life becomes ever more important. Why sit in traffic to get to an office desk to work 9-5 when modern technology facilities the ability to work from any suitable location? Having had a field based sales job most of my career, the concept of remote working is nothing new to me. I’ve just stretched out my horizons a bit.
Cheap airfares, the low cost of living plus access to decent WiFi have opened up a world of opportunity for combining travel with work. If you don’t believe me, try searching on Airbnb for a place to rent in Medellín (Columbia) or Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. You can rent an entire apartment (sometimes with a pool/gym etc) for £10-£15 per night and there are often discounts for weekly or monthly stays. Of course, your budget is only restricted by how much income you have coming in. The point is that you can choose how luxurious you want to go depending on your earnings. Travelling is no longer restricted to holidays, sabbaticals or gap years.
There are loads of reasons becoming a DN is desirable. For me it’s become about wanting to combine and achieve three things; spending quality time with Steve, getting out and seeing the world and learning new skills to grow a business. Three very different reasons! But how fantastic that we live in a world where it’s possible to do them. I’m humbled whenever I think about how lucky we are that we live in an era and own the right passport that we can make our dreams a reality.
And the ‘How?’
So hopefully that gives you a bit of a background and idea on the why, so on to the crux of it and the ‘how.’ There are some well established ways that DNs make money online. The first is what I did in Valencia and what Steve does primarily and that’s teaching English.
I had no idea until I started researching just how high the demand for English teachers is globally. For much of the world, the ability to speak English opens up opportunities to better jobs and higher incomes and is therefore highly desirable. The demand in China, for example, is so high that there are schools that will pay you a good salary (by their standards,) cover your airfare and include a large bonus if you stay the academic year. But if China isn’t on your list of places to visit, another popular alternative is teaching online using video platforms similar to Skype.
Steve does this for a company in Vietnam. He chooses his own hours, logs into his computer and can have up to six adult business students per 45 minute lesson. The lesson is scripted so there’s no lesson prep, he guides them through it and there is opportunity for the students to both listen and speak doing role plays and questions. And there are many companies that offer a similar service. Basically, if you are a native English speaker you can get a job anywhere in the world. Pay is dependent on experience and qualifications (you don’t need either but it helps!) and typically averages 10-15 $US per hour/lesson. While that won’t make you rich in the UK or US by any stretch, it goes a long way in parts of SE Asia and S America!
My preferred method to earn an online income stems from my previous job as a business consultant. I found that my clients were all facing similar challenges when it came to digital marketing. As a consultant I felt limited in that while I could advise on areas like planning and strategy, I didn’t know enough about the actual nitty gritty of running things like Facebook Ads or understanding Google Analytics. Because these are things that ALL businesses need and most struggle with, I decided to focus on up-skilling myself and set up my own digital marketing agency. All of my services are online and I can have web meetings with clients so it fits perfectly with the remote work lifestyle.
It’s still early days for me with this but I already have clients who pay me to manage their social media accounts. That means I create and schedule content (content just means the ‘stuff’ you see on Facebook, Instagram etc) create and manage paid ad campaigns as well as offering marketing consultancy. I can also design and build websites. This is the area that excites me the most because I love the design side of it and I get to put my consultancy advice into action. I’ve still got tons to learn and the nature of this business means that it’s constantly changing too. It’s a challenge, but that’s part of what draws me to it and the valuable skills I’m learning will help me whether I scale my own business or go back into the corporate world in the future.
So those are the ways we make money whilst traveling but there are a load of other ways people do it. Anything from setting up e comms businesses like drop shipping, freelance writing to the more traditional travel blogging. There genuinely are people making large incomes sitting next to a pool in Bali. I’m not saying it’s easy! But it is possible for the entrepreneurially minded. What you choose to do and how much time you want to spend doing it comes down to your personal objectives, no different than any job.
There are some other useful tips for maximising your budget when it comes to being a DN. If you’re flexible on your travel dates, or destinations, there are some great deals on flights using websites like SkyScanner. For example, when we flew to Mexico we just searched ‘Mexico’ for the month of March. We were astonished to find a direct flight (12 hours) London Gatwick to Puerto Vallarta, on the TUI Dreamliner, for just £190 each. Tickets for the same flight a week later were £1000.
For accomodation we generally use Booking.com for hotels, ask in local Facebook groups for recomendations or our preferred method, Airbnb. We love Airbnb because of the huge range of options, from having a entire place to ourselves to sharing in someones home, it’s a great way to meet local people and quickly learn about an area. It helps remove some of the safety concerns if you’re someone’s guest and we love to practice our spanish if we can too.
When it comes to working, if you don’t want to stay in your accomodation and work, DNs often migrate to places with decent WiFi like cafe’s, Starbucks or Coworking spaces. We’ve really enjoyed using the coworking space in Puerto Vallarta. It gives you all the benefits of being in an office but with the added advantages of hammocks for when you want a break, an ocean view and like minded people around to network or socialise with. You pay by the day or week and there’s access 24/7 (helpful when you’re in different time zones to your customers) with an electronic lock on the door controlled by an app.
Another option that we will be doing in a few weeks and are very excited about is Workaway. In a nutshell, workaway is a volunteer program where you exchange a few hours of work for accomodation and (sometimes) food. Whether it’s helping build an eco-retreat in Belize, caring for huskies in Finland or building clay houses in Lithuania the options are mind bogglingly varied. I strongly urge you to have a look at the site and prepare to be amazed! Steve has already done a workaway in Spain and loved it so we have high expectations about our upcoming adventure. More to follow on this though as I feel like I’ve rambled on long enough for one blog post.
So there you go. Hopefully this blog post has shed some light on what we are doing and how we are doing it. Like I said at the start, if you have any questions feel free to comment or send us a message. Carpe Diem.