If there is one question I get asked almost every time I’m talking with someone about my job or lifestyle, then it is how I became a digital nomad. Many people find the concept of a location-independent life very fascinating and are naturally curious about how it works.
My story is a bit different as I didn’t consciously decide to become a digital nomad. It literally just happened. A slow development and a series of things that felt right to me.
However, I still want to share my journey with you as maybe it will inspire you to follow your passion, too.
My Life Before Becoming a Digital Nomad
Don’t worry, this is not getting too detailed ;) When doing my bachelor’s and master’s in International Management, traveling was always a huge part for me. My student life in a nutshell: I took all kinds of part-time jobs, spent all the money on traveling, went broke, and started all over again.
No matter what I did, traveling was always in the back of my mind.
After university I got a job in a consultancy, working as a project manager. What can I say: My colleagues were great, the payment was nice, but it didn’t make me happy. Sitting in an office all day, business attire and all, being a tiny part of a big corporation, working for someone else’s ideas and visions – it just wasn’t for me.
Not that there is anything wrong with it. It just didn’t make me happy. Not a bit. I knew that there is no way I could do this for the rest of my life.
Having no backup plan, I quit this secure and well-paid job, sold all my belongings and told my landlord I’m moving out.
No Plan – Am I Crazy?
At this point, I had absolutely no idea what to do with my life, what kind of job I should get or where I wanted to live. I only knew that I wanted to travel again. So I packed the rest of my stuff in a backpack and boarded the plane again, hoping that I would figure it out along the way.
A while into this I saw a girl in a Facebook group looking for a content writer for a radio station. I loved writing so I applied and got the job. I thought it might be at least a little bit of an income until I have figured out what to do with my life.
The job was fun and I was able to do it from anywhere in the world, which was a fairly new concept to me. Needless to say that I loved that!
However, after a few months, I quit. The writing took up a lot of time and the payment just wasn’t worth it.
Next Country – Same Struggle
Since I always wanted to go back to Australia where I studied, I got a work and holiday visa. The plan was to stay there for a while and finally find a “decent” job again.
Browsing through job listings was depressing. There wasn’t a single one where I thought “That’s awesome! That’s exactly what I want to do!”. I applied anyway just because I didn’t have much money left and needed a job again.
I received a call from a lady, inviting me for an interview. We agreed on a date and she started explaining, where I can find them: “There is a huge office building and you have to register when you come in. Take the elevator to the 4th floor, turn left and….”
I saw the building before my inner eye. Big open space offices, bright neon light, people waiting for the clock to hit 5 so they can finally leave. I panicked.
There was no way I could do that. I apologized to the lady on the phone and said that I’ve just changed my mind and that I’m not interested in the position anymore. I’m sure she thought that I was completely out of my mind. Can’t blame her. I kind of was.
Yes, Online Jobs Do Work
Now I regretted that I quit the content writing position. Although the payment was terrible, it was better than nothing and it gave me the freedom to travel.
I have no idea why it took me so long but I finally started to google jobs that I could do online. I ended up on the freelance platform Upwork and soon managed to land some small translation and content writing jobs.
When one of my clients asked me if I wanted to continue the project and write for him in the long-run, I hesitated. In my mind, it was still something temporarily for me.
Anyway, I agreed and a few weeks in I was wondering if I could do that as a full-time job. I managed to get another long-term client and finally made this online work my “main job”.
“What Do You Mean, a Digital Nomad?”
Fast forward about half a year or a year. I was traveling again, met another backpacker somewhere and we had the usual conversation: “Where are you from? Where are you traveling to? What are you doing for work? etc.”
I told my story and suddenly he became all excited saying “Oh wow, so you are one of those digital nomads? That is so cool! I wish I could do that!”.
I looked at him a bit confused. It sounded about right but I had no idea that this lifestyle was a “thing”.
Later that night I looked up the term. What can I say? Turned out I became indeed a digital nomad. Who would’ve thought?
Love This Lifestyle
A few years and more than 80 countries later, I’m still living the location-independent life. However today, I prefer having a home base for at least a few months, better a year, where I can leave my stuff and get a bit more of a daily routine. I still travel, although not as much anymore, and I still work online.
I wouldn’t want it any other way and can’t believe that it took me so long to realize that this is the right thing for me.
This is the kind of working style I feel most comfortable with. I don’t hate getting up in the morning knowing that I have to work now. I don’t care if it’s Monday or Saturday. All days are equally great to me. I’m not waiting all year for vacation.
I’m incredibly happy and thankful that I found this lifestyle and that it works so well for me.
Don’t Be Like Me
In case you want to do the same – quit your job and leave without a plan – please don’t! That’s a huge mistake many aspiring digital nomads make. It was risky and it only worked for me for three reasons:
- I had experience in a few different job areas which increased the chances of finding a new job
- I had enough savings to keep me alive for a couple of months
- I didn’t have any dependencies, e.g. no family members to take care of
I was free to go wherever I wanted and skilled and confident enough to know that I would always find a new job, no matter when or where. But I’m well aware that not everyone is in such a lucky position and definitely not everyone should take such a big risk.
The Safer Way
You are many steps ahead of me when I was starting out. After all, I didn’t even know that you could make a full income with an online job, let alone did I know what a digital nomad was. That gives you a huge advantage!
You can prepare this lifestyle properly. Here are a few tips:
- Do your research! Read all about this lifestyle (also the negative parts!) and know what you are getting yourself into.
- Save enough money so you can live without any income for at least a couple of months.
- Sit down and find out what kind of online job you could do in the future.
- Get a location-independent job before you leave.
- Slowly add the traveling part to your lifestyle. Make sure to take your time and don’t rush from one place to another so you have enough time to get your job done, too.
- Learn more about helpful digital nomad tools or how to keep up your productivity while traveling.
- Have a backup plan in case you find out that the digital nomad life doesn’t work for you. E.g. a job you can go back to, stay at a friend’s place for a while, enough savings to get along.
Every Story Is Unique – What’s Yours?
I hope this little story helped you to see that a lifestyle change doesn’t always have to be straight forward. You can dive right into it without a plan and it can work out. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as it can be very risky, too.
I think that everyone’s story of how and why they want to become a digital nomad is a bit different. If you want to, feel free to share your story, too! I would love to hear how it worked for you!