“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.
Good post! I like the “digital nomad” reference… it’s relatable to me as a digital marketer that works remotely.
Looking forward to the next update!
Right on the money! A lot of what you’ve written also applies to solo writers working from a permanent home. Yes, I sometimes have to “get out more.” Sometimes the only person I talk to in several days is the checkout clerk. Then there are days I feel peopled to death. Writing is labour-intensive and has immutable deadlines wherever you are, home or away. Related to this post in many ways, so thanks.
Exemplary, Steffani. The nail has been hit firmly on the head. I particularly related to the ‘I’m a writer who blogs, not a blogger’ comment and the ‘having less, doing more’ philosophy. As an Australian who copywrites for a living to pay for remote river expeditions (www.remoteriverman.com), I actually would rather be nowhere else on earth in the month of August than BC, Canada (your homeland)! Hope you get to South America soon – you’ll love it.
The Jet-setting Copywriter
We retired early, and are now traveling full time. I get the “you guys are so lucky ” comments all.the.time. It’s easy for others to see the rewards of the hard work, while the sacrifices are more private. For years on end we drove jalopies, cut our own hair, and wore second-hand clothes. However, a great deal of our luck is also invisible. We call it the Litany of Luck, the whole privilege of class, being born without handicap, decent educations, and so on. Amd then, just as important was discovering that another life was possible, and that if you kept that goal (firmly and unwaveringly) in mind, you just might make it. You are telling people that and I salute you.
Your blog is one of my favorites to read, because you’re writing about your life, the good and the bad. I appreciate that you are not trying to monetize it like other travel cheerleaders. That said, please fix your store link. I can’t buy any physical thing because I have no fixed address, but I would like to buy you dinner!
Mary! Thank you! I never saw this comment until today somehow! I’ll get a PayPal donation thing up on my “store” this weekend! 🙂 How kind of you!
Yeah, I didn’t buy anything but Value Village for 2.5 years leading up to travel. People need to realize hard choices need to be made for dreams to come true.
NIce to meet your blog! We met some of our readers last night here in Split and I asked them what other blogs they follow…turns out that among all the other blogs out there they mentioned you 😉 .
Enjoyed the post. We’re been full-time travellers for the last 3 years (also Canadian) and have just set up a base in Split. We don’t face all the questions you do (partly because we’re a couple – so much less social pressure) but I identify with the “so lucky” thing (planned for it for 20 years. no frigin luck involved) and how we, despite all our travels live pretty normal lives which include work, cooking, cleaning, watching Netflix…even sleeping in. The difference, as you say, is doing that in different surroundings (breaking the routine) and having tons of special moments in between.
“What are you running from”. Those people shouldn’t be reading travel blogs because I think they just don’t get it…
Totally agree with everything you say about costs, lifestyle, etc. We basically live the same way. Life has been so much less complicated since leaving Canada.
And congratulations for not being one of the breeders.
HEY, Frank! You must have commented here before (I remember your name) because I didn’t have to approve your comment, so nice to re-meet you. 🙂
That’s AWESOME that you just randomly happened on people in Split who read me. So cool. I’ve been around blogging for 13 or so years now and once had a “big shot” blog where people would recognize me on the street, but this blog doesn’t get much traction and I get so happy to hear about encounters like this. Hahah. I’m just too busy living life and working in a real job to bother promoting it. I write to write.
I still don’t understand the “why do you travel” question — as I even get it from other travelers — because it’s really “because I can” and “because the opposite seems like a waste of possibility”.
I haven’t been to Split yet but really want to check it out. What’s the weather like there in December/January/February? Do as many businesses close for the season as in places like Rovinj? I like to avoid the fanny-packing high-season tourists. Haha!
I find myself smitten with the Balkans in general. I’m in Albania now and off to Bosnia in 3 weeks, back to Canada for some summer fun, and I’m thinking Bulgaria in October/November, maybe Christmas in Georgia. I don’t know. So much possibility! Where else do you guys love?
What part of Canada do you hail from?
Maybe we’ll all have a drink in Split one day. Thanks for the note. 😀
Actually you are right – I had come across your blog previously, a post about travelling with depression. Was a while back. But I hadn’t subscribed and guess I forgot…until Mark and Mary mentioned your blog (actually it might be the same Mary who commented further up).
Split weather great, probably much like where you are right now. When we arrived from Zagreb on boxing day it was 18C and everyone was having coffee or beer on the Riva in the sunshine. We had a spell of 10 cold days in January (about -5C, the coldest winter in 50 years said locals) but generally its been a beautiful 12-15C with sunshine. Last little while we are in high teens, low twenties. Great weather. We lived in Montreal for 20 years. So you can imagine.
Yes, many places in the old town close off season. But this weekend we noticed everything seems to be open. Summer is coming and we’ve even seen tourists in shorts and flip flops.
Where else we’ve loved – Prague, Budapest, Cape Town and region, Sevilla and region. We’ve spent at least 3 months in each of those places and love them all.
If you’re ever in Split let me know!
I’m glad I found your blog! A fellow Vancouver Islander recommended that I take a look at your blog as we are in similar locations for the next while. I really appreciate your honest, down-to-earth, no BS writing style here! I resonate completely! Especially– I was working 60+ per week for years as well, and that was just to pay down a tiny amount of debt and to make ends meet. Now, I work online whereever, I still only make what I need to survive and life is going good. I source extra work when I need to and I make a LOT of sacrifices in order to continue the lifestyle. It’s been 5.5 months now and counting, still going strong! I look forward to continuing to read your posts!
PS- I’ll be in Albania as of next weekend, currently in Montenegro. Cheers!
Hey, thank you, Michelle! And congrats on taking the plunge. Hard life but with great reward, right? I’m only in Albania until the 13th, I’m in Durres, now, so if you’re passing through let me know and I’ll have a drink or something with you! (I prefer Tirana to here, personally, lack of beach and all.) I’m off to Sarajevo next. Enjoying Montenegro? 🙂
y the way, Michelle, while you’re in this part of the world, there’s a 6-part BBC doc from ’95 about the Balkan war between Croatia/Serbia/Bosnia called The Death of Yugoslavia. The Bosnian I’m renting from strongly recommeded I watch it before I get there, so I better understand their past and present.
This is episode five but you’ll find the rest there with it on Youtube. https://youtu.be/URZA6r5LLtk
I’m a introvert, writer and identify myself as more of a writer than a blogger. I am definitely not an influencer though like most people who start initially I thought I could be one. But nope. I love this piece because I can really relate. I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for writing this!
Cheers, Natasha. I relate to you, you relate to me, so we’re not alone in our struggles. 🙂