Beyond indulging myself in nostalgic ramblings in this post, my hope is that it will help anyone thinking about taking the plunge into full-time blogging or freelancing, and that it will give a perspective that this time last year, I did not see.
Disclaimer: The aim of this post is to give a no-nonsense, non rose-tinted look at my experiences. This is my experience and mine alone; everyone has a different perspective…
Reviewing one year of “digital nomad life”.
I’m writing this post from my parents’ house in the UK, where I’ve been “squatting” for the last couple of months. It doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of dreams, does it?!
Just over a year ago, I packed up my things from my desk,
tipsily sadly said goodbye to colleagues over leaving drinks and left 11 years of office-based work for travel companies behind.
I didn’t know then that I’d be heading out on the road again. I didn’t know then that I’d be becoming a full-time blogger or “digital nomad”. I had decided to leave my job because I knew I had to do “something” related to responsible/sustainable travel. I even wrote a post about how I’d quit my job to not-travel. How wrong I was!
The Digital Nomad lifestyle receives quite some sugar coating. So here is my more honest – albeit less glamorous – version of it.
Within a few weeks of my new found freedom, I realised I had a clear choice to make, and a choice that many find themselves faced with. To either burn through my savings quickly by just paying my Amsterdam mortgage month by month; or to rent out my apartment and hit the road for pastures cheaper.
So from June to July 2016 I’d quit my job, said goodbye to my apartment, and there I was, standing at Amsterdam Central Train Station, about to travel to Italy by train.
Eight months of incredible travel experiences across Europe and Asia followed.
One year later my life doesn’t exactly look how I imagined it would. I’m not writing from a beach for one thing (sand and laptops? not so good a combo). But I have learned one hell of a lot about blogging, freelancing, sustainable (and unsustainable) travel, and most of all about myself and my priorities.
The last few months have been some of the hardest I have been through – dealing with uncertainty, doubts and lack of confidence. There have been hours, and even days where I have thought about begging for an office job with a fixed salary and paid holiday days. But those moments have been continually overcome by opportunities I have found, work that has come my way, and the fact that I now find myself in a place where I have a travel blog that I am proud of, and some level of dependable income. Most of all, by the most inspiring people I come into contact with on a daily basis.
After one year I am finally at the point of being able to make a living by doing a combination of what I love with freelance work on the side.
I won’t be quitting that just yet.
Looking back at the last year, here are some of the biggest mistakes I have made, and my greatest learnings, one year in to “nomad life”. (For the record I really dislike the term nomad. It feels very over-used!)
Digital Nomad Life: My Biggest Mistakes.
- Not making time to sort my worldly belongings out before I left. When I boxed my things up to go into storage I wasn’t really thinking about trying to reduce the amount of
shoesvery important things I have, or about what I might need to access in the future. Instead it all went into a storage lockup. BIG mistake. I should have dedicated at least a month to sorting through things, working out what I would really need in the future and selling / donating the rest. Cancelling memberships. The sort of life admin that no one talks about but turns out is really essential. The result? I’ve been overpaying for a storage unit that is bigger than I would have needed and I now need to go and sort out at some point.
- Living from Savings for as long as I did. The first six months of my travels were entirely funded by savings from my previous job. Instead of focusing immediately on trying to build a sustainable income stream, I waited until I needed to – rather believing that opportunities would find me or a revenue stream would magically appear. Well guess what, they didn’t. Or not paying ones at least. On a similar note I took on far too many “unpaid opportunities” for companies which meant well but could not afford to pay, thinking that it would “turn out fine”. It didn’t.
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- Travelling too quickly to work. You know the concept of Slow Travel? The one that sounds oh-so-appealing and one day I want to do that: switch my phone and laptop off, get on a very long train ride, and just stare out of the window and read my book? Well, that doesn’t happen while trying to write a travel blog and build a “digital nomad lifestyle”. I nearly ran myself into the ground by running around the Philippines for a month with flu, around Slovenia, back to the UK and back out to Asia. It was all for great opportunities and worthwhile events, but I did not allow myself any breathing space. I didn’t stay still for long enough to get work done. Working and travelling requires a very different pace and style of travel than ‘regular’ travel.
- Underestimating the personal impact on me. Something that’s not often talked about is the effect on us: on our characters, wellbeing and the amount of energy/motivation we have when deciding to leave a “stable” job / living environment to become a freelancer or take on nomad life. Travel can also be draining. For me the last year has been exhausting as well as exhilarating at times. We don’t know how we will react to not really having a ‘home’ until we don’t have one. Some people love the constant change, others don’t. Personally, I’m a worrier: and worry is not your friend when deciding to venture out on the path unknown!
Digital Nomad Life: What I’ve Learned.
- Like anything, living the “digital nomad lifestyle” has its highs and lows. There are moments I thought I’d made a big mistake. There are times when I have thought “why am I working 7 days a week so i don’t have to work 5 in an office.” But those have been outweighed by the good moments. The ones where you read comments from readers on blog posts. The ones where people reach out to you, the ones where you realise it’s all worth it. It’s not the “nomad life” that does that for me though, it’s writing about sustainable travel.
- I got sucked in to the “Nomad Life Dream”. I hate to admit it…You know the adverts we all see online, the posts we see on instagram? You can work from anywhere – cue beautiful person sitting on the beach with their macbook. It’s easy to think “that looks wonderful”. Part of it is wonderful – the freedom of being able to base oneself outside an office and work what hours you choose. The thing is though, work remains work. And unless you’ve built up a high enough level of passive income, to make a living means that you’ll need to work and be connected a substantial amount of the time. Rather than sitting on the beach. Where there really isn’t wifi ;-).
- You have to believe in yourself. It sounds terribly obvious. But it’s SO important. To begin with, especially, people are not going to find you for work or blogging opportunities. You have to go and find them. Naturally i’m someone that does not like to self-promote (i’m an introvert) but blogging requires that. Like any business. What has helped me beyond anything is truly believing in my mission – to make sustainable travel easy for people – and finding some very supportive bloggers, friends and travel industry connections along the way.
- Living the nomad life is not for everyone. And that is just fine. I do not see myself as being permanently on the road for the future, I have realised I need to have a base. Somewhere. I need that stability. Even if that’s just somewhere i stay in for 3 months of the year. Others will thrive on constantly being on the move. Some of it depends on age, a lot of it on personality. Ultimately, we all have to find our own balance.
So what is next for me & Soul Travel Blog?
I’m grateful for all that I have learned in the last year, and most of all how much I’ve grown through the experiences I’ve had. I wouldn’t change that for anything!
I’m excited to have some great trips coming up this summer – I’ll be heading to Iran in July and to India in August for a month. After that I’ll be catching up on blog posts back in the UK. What the rest of 2017 has in store we’ll have to see – but one thing is for sure. The travels and the blogging will continue!
Have you considered becoming, or are you a Digital Nomad? How was your first year? What did you learn? As always I love to hear your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below.