“It’s not luck, it’s work” is something every nomad thinks when you say “You’re so lucky!” about our lifestyle. Deep in the bowels of Facebook, we location-independent “digital nomads” grumble about the challenges in our lives and the frustration we feel about the preconceptions we’re constantly dealing with. It seems no nomad has gone a month in their life without hearing the “you’re so lucky!” comment.
We choose this life. We work for it. There are sacrifices and struggles. It comes with loneliness and frustration, angst and exasperation.
And, yes, amazingness.
But wait, there’s more. There are a ton of questions I’m asked often. These are some.
What do you want out of your travels?
Why do I have to have a specific goal? Isn’t “see all the places, eat all the things, do all the things” enough? Maybe it’s like love, and I’ll know it when I see it. Maybe it’s intangible, like air, but something I found myself suffocating without. I can’t tell you what I want from my travels. It’s interchangeable with what I want out of my life: To have more boasts than regrets, to be a better writer, to never grow complacent, to always be wanting.
Where’s your favourite place?
It doesn’t work that way. Maybe for some people it does, but for travellers I’ve talked to who’ve gone for a long period of exploration, and myself, it’s all about moments. It’s…
- One special day in Lisbon
- Having a Croatian/Roman arena all to myself
- Looking out over the Aegean Sea for the first time
- Coming around a corner in the Azores to see sunlight streaming down like a message from God
- Walking down an alley in Ponta Delgada to see a wall of graffiti that would become my life motto
- Walking alone on a winter night in an 800-year-old cobblestone street that oozes history
- Falling in love with street art
- Waking before dawn to see the sunrise over a valley full of fog from atop a medieval hilltown
…And so very many more.
Why do you work so much?
Why do YOU work so much? I still have all the same bills I had at home – medical, rent (which includes utilities), travel, food, and cellphone. The only thing I gave up was a fixed address. That’s it. My life is otherwise the same as yours. I just get to be in way cooler places when the weekend rolls around.
How come you don’t go do more touristy things?
Because money, because time, because. I find it rewarding enough just to choose a neighbourhood and explore and live like a local. I feel accomplished anytime I become a familiar face somewhere. Crowds aren’t my thing, nor are tourist surcharges. I get tired of the touristing scene because it’s expensive and ultimately not as rewarding as just stumbling on things and Googling to find out what it is.
What’s a normal day like for you?
Similar to anyone’s who works at home. I get up, make breakfast, get into my email, and it progresses from there. A couple days a week I might go out for lunch, or I save a certain café-friendly work project to day’s end and take the work show on the road. Now and then I have a day off. Sometimes I explore, sometimes I watch Netflix. Even travellers need down days.
Why aren’t you working on a beach?
Because I need to work, not stare at eye candy or listening to the shrill cackle of people frollicking. And because the sun’s too bright and because I don’t like being bitten by mosquitoes. Because power outlets, annoying people, sand.
But what about having a family?
You have one. I’ll do my part to fight overpopulation.
But what about love?
That wasn’t working out for me at home, so why should I lament not having it now? At least I’m experiencing pocket-sized glimpses of life in countries I’ve always wanted to see. Maybe love comes later when I’ve seen 30 countries and 90 cities and feel like opening a writer’s retreat in some remote place, and some guy feels like being on that ride with me. Who knows.
What are you running from?
Um, nothing. I did all the things I was supposed to do. I bought expensive furniture, had a great apartment, owned all the right stuff, cooked, cleaned, entertained, had friends, all that, and I wasn’t happy, something was always missing. For some reason, having less, doing more means I feel like something isn’t missing now.
When will you settle down?
There have been societies throughout history that never settled down. It’s arguably a construct of an agricultural society. As hunter-gatherers, moving around made sense. As a modern-day digital worker in a society that is pricing urban life out of my reach, this life makes sense. I don’t want to breed, so I have different needs than a family might.
How did you get so lucky?
By working six days a week with this goal in mind for three years. Yeah, “lucky.” I was determined, relentless, and willing to sacrifice anything it took. I had no life. That’s not lucky. That’s refusing to settle for anything less than the goal. And even now I work 60+ hours a week, including blogging. If you haven’t achieved your dreams and you’re not working 60 to 70 hours a week, then you have your answer on why you haven’t. It’s never about “luck”.
How much money do you make through your blog?
Diddly-squat. I work too much to have the time to make my blog a financial success like real pro personal bloggers do. It’s a full-time job on its own. By not commercializing my blog, I can write what I like, and there’s a lot of cathartic freedom in that. So, my job makes me money, my blog makes me happy.
More to the point, I’m a writer with a blog, not a blogger. I’m not being condescending, but there’s a difference. I don’t know how to promote it like “bloggers” do. Instead, I write, I post it, and sometimes I remember to promote myself. I wish I were better at being a blogger, but I’m not. Maybe if I had more time, but I don’t. And, so, the “writer” cycle perpetuates.
You must have money to travel like that, though…
I typically pay 25% fewer living expenses than I did living back home in Canada. This month I’m paying something like 50% fewer living expenses. I buy fewer groceries so I can eat out more. It all computes. But, no, I’m not making a lot of money and I don’t live indulgently. I look for cheap wine. I splurge maybe once every week or two on a nice meal, but I do a lot of research to find cheap restaurants. Most of my apartments I rent are for $600-1200 a month.
Why don’t you go back to X, Y, or Z to stay again?
Because it’s a big, gigantic world and every time I think there’s somewhere I want to return to, somewhere else comes along and smiles at me. Because I can go anywhere I like. It’s hard to convince myself to return somewhere when I feel so drawn to see so many places. Sure, I loved Lisbon, but I want to go to Italy, South Africa, Germany, Estonia, Southern Croatia, Bosnia, France, more Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the list goes on. I mean, that list alone is at least one more year of my life, maybe two years, and then there’s Asia, South America, the rest of Africa, and even more Europe. Oh, and Canada and America. Maybe more Mexico. So why don’t I go back? Because time’s a tickin’. If you COULD see the whole world, would you? Exactly.
Aren’t you scared to go by yourself?
I was at the beginning, and sometimes I am again, but somehow it always works out. But it’s like they say, if you’re scared, you’re probably doing something right.
Why don’t you try to meet more people?
Meh. I dunno. I don’t really feel compelled to make buddies and unite with others. It’s not what I expected, I thought I’d reach out more, but… Probably it has a lot to do with the really hard decade I had before this. I still feel like I’m figuring that and life out, and sometimes all we need is space and time. I’ve had a lot of hardship and loss, so maybe I’m regrouping. Maybe I’m just an introvert. Plus, I’m a writer; alone is what we do.
In a week, I’m going to stay in a co-working/co-living space for a month and I bet that’ll do me for the next six months, on the socializing scale. Soon I have a friend coming to Europe that I hope to meet up with. Sometimes I feel like connecting with other nomads and such and then the feeling passes. This doesn’t mean I don’t talk to people. I probably talk to someone every time I have an exploring day. It’s just that it’s a surfacing experience and they’re soon gone forever. It happens.
I wanna be a digital nomad. Got advice?
Yeah. Spend 2.5 years working six days a week and reading everything you can about location independence, travel insurance, costs of living, culture, visas, currency, and more. Make a plan, set goals, then make it bloody happen. What do you want, a decoder ring? (I’ll probably write an article with some tips towards success soon, though.)
If you really want it, you’ll work for it. If you expect it to be easy or that there are shortcuts, then you’re not ready for the lifestyle and I’d be doing you a disservice by handholding for you.
Learn. Study. Research. Plan. Execute. Do it.
There is no easy route to this, and there shouldn’t be, because if you can’t hack what it takes before you leave the country, you sure as hell won’t be able to after the fact, either.
But if you CAN? Do it! Do it! No regrets.