There is often a quite visceral reaction to describing yourself as a ‘digital nomad’. People sell it as a quit your job and make millions of lifestyle, but it’s not all glamour and luxury travel.
Maybe for a lucky few this is the case, but for most people working online is limited to your skillset and experience. We can teach and write online which means we can take it on the road, but even that took years of training and working in different fields to achieve.
Our own personal goal is to experience the world, learn from different communities and start an eco-home and sustainable business at home one day. After volunteering and living in remote places, this is what we have a passion for, but everyone has different motivations in life and that’s what makes this world so interesting. Wouldn’t it be terribly dull if everyone wanted the same out of life?!
No matter your goals, if being a digital nomad works for you then absolutely go for it but go in prepared and manage those pesky expectations.
1. Slow travel with full cultural immersion is our style of travel!
The one certainty that either of us had, even before meeting, was travel. Working in other countries has allowed us to be immersed in other cultures in a way we couldn’t have if we had only passed through. That realization combined with a want to learn about the world and to help communities along the way lead us to a peculiar combination of jobs to achieve this lifestyle.
We volunteer to live in a local’s house and look after pets, gardens and take this as an opportunity to learn new skills related to permaculture, self-sustainable living, exploring a new place and learning from locals about the culture and history of where they live. We also love animals and looking after someone’s pet is helping them to not worry that their fur babies!
Slow travel also allows for a more sustainable travel experience, which is something we write about professionally to try and endorse. Longer stays have also resulted in volunteering with local community projects and in between house sits we can volunteer too while keeping on top of online work – teaching languages, writing commissions and our own blog.
2. Staying motivated is achievable
With so much going on it can be a hard job staying motivated. When we’re tucked away in the countryside with a few animals to keep us company, it suddenly becomes easier to say we’re going to use this time to work hard on our various online jobs.
Motivation is often fleeting, and if like us you suffer from anxiety or other mental health issues it can be that much harder. In our pre-travel lives, we worked jobs that sometimes meant we did 50-60 or more hours a week. This really wasn’t helping and it’s only since making the transition that we’ve both had a clearer idea of the life we want.
We are big believers in writing down your thoughts, ideas and keeping logs. A to-do list is simple but effective and taking a break when needed is just as important. Without sounding preachy, another thing that’s helped is mindfulness meditation and keeping healthy by walking, yoga, eating well and being outside are all things that keep our brains active too.
3. If we need a day off that’s totally acceptable.
When you’re in between sits or city-based there are distractions, people, enticing coffee shops and exploration to be done. What we say is don’t deny yourselves these experiences. This is what travel and living on the road is all about! It’s important to work to make money, but if you have a schedule and finish projects then for your own sanity, get out and enjoy your surroundings!
There are days where getting out of bed is impossible, and these are the times we need support. This happens at home, and on the road, unfortunately, you can’t escape your own thoughts and sometimes you get sick. We’ve had bouts of flu or food poisoning and it’s at these times you have to listen to your body and recover. As common sense as all this sounds, if this happened at home, we were much more likely to still go to work and not deal with what was happening to us.
Just being able to say, this a day for nothing whether it’s Sunday or Wednesday has been a revelation. There are times when work is all-consuming and deadlines mean you work more than you would in a 9-5 job, but there are other periods where there’s less work and it’s acceptable to have some more ‘me time’.
4. We can enjoy each other’s company without killing each other.
Being in a relationship, however you frame and shape what you have together, is much more than curated moments on Instagram. It’s big fights, petty arguments and giving one another the silent treatment. Sometimes we spend whole days doing our own thing, which we think is healthy!
What we have found is that we are a fantastic team, who make each other see things from different perspectives and encourage and support each other when needed. Whoever says they don’t argue, even just a little bit while living 24/7 with someone must be a miracle worker!
We love finding time for one another, date nights and planning together and when we make something together like an article or a trip, we’ve both dreamed about happening it’s the best feeling in the world. Yes, we throw insults at times, but in all honesty, we couldn’t imagine a life without each other.
5. We are constantly learning and smashing stereotypes.
Traveling is really all about smashing stereotypes and gaining a more in-depth understanding of cultures and communities. As we live for a month or a year in various countries, we have had our own preconceived ideas of other cultures challenged and had to re-think and explain our culture to others.
No matter your upbringing, you are susceptible to certain stereotypes and while at times there are elements of truth, it’s often not right. You begin to learn a new worldview, it becomes less scary or alien, you see the power of human kindness and notice similarities between different cultures and common problems within society.
We have been able to write about sustainable travel and living in our time as digital nomads and it’s always exciting to see what communities are achieving and how they preserve their culture or become more open to outside influences as we seek to understand the world a bit better.
6. Wi-Fi does dictate where we can settle for prolonged periods but it’s manageable.
A frequent problem digital nomads face is that wi-fi dictates where you can go and where you can work from. Often if you’re accommodation is ill-equipped then you need a café to work from. While this seems limiting, as house sitters we have found we can plan sits for longer periods in houses who have strong internet connections.
It means sometimes we turn down dream sits, but we have still secured house sits in remote places in eco-friendly homes with good connections, usually because the homeowner works from home themselves.
Our plan is to save in places with a good connection and take time to travel to countries where it’s harder to work online. Living this lifestyle allows for chunks of travel and we can plan accordingly as we go. Yes, it is a nuisance, but this is where planning becomes a more useful tool!
7. Money is vital to travel, but we keep finding ways to make travel happen.
When we initially left home we had no money, we just left and worked music festivals as bar managers and builders for three months. Then took on remote seasonal jobs and got into management positions at a hotel in the French Alps, before working on a farm in Italy and teaching in Slovakia.
While we worked these jobs, we worked on our blog and got the incentive to switch to house sitting and working online as digital nomads using the skills we had accumulated over the years. This wasn’t a quick process. We didn’t just quit our jobs and go for it. This was a long, thought out process that took time and perseverance to achieve because you need money and security to continue with this lifestyle.
We have been so close to giving up, but we seem to always find little jobs or volunteer projects to bridge gaps and this has led to a more consistent online career we can both do. By having time to work online we can spread ourselves around a bit more!
8. Combining our skills makes for a formidable team!
This brings us to the skills section of the article. Being late twenties and mid-thirties, it won’t be a surprise that we have had various careers and jobs. Combined we have worked in journalism, accounting, hospitality, management, support work, communications and even a local market job!
We both had a similar work ethic drummed into us from an early age, and we’ve always been taught to be self-sufficient and open to anything to keep ourselves afloat. We’ve taken this ethos and our combined skills to provide us with the tools to make this digital nomad life viable.
We have teaching qualifications so we teach, we have hotel management experience so we can look after estates and houses, one of us is a published journalist so we write and one of us loves photography so they take the photos for our blog, even support work lends itself to having first aid skills which puts homeowners at ease!
9. Budgeting and planning are essential.
We’ve talked about making schedules, to-do lists and allowing time to recover or have a day off but being able to budget and plan are two essential things to stay on top of. A digital nomad will most likely be freelance and have to think about tax returns and while you travel you need enough money to buy that bus ticket or your accommodation.
With house sitting we have to match dates and places, for example, we know next year we are in the German Alps but our next sit is three weeks later in Norway so our goal is to travel and find a week or two house sit in north Germany or Denmark.
There are all kinds of things we use to make this easier. Spreadsheets and invoices for our taxes, apps for car sharing and cheap travel comparison alerts, we are signed up to volunteer work websites, house and pet sitting websites with our sits on a calendar and you can make a budgeting plan too with your weekly allowance or what you want to save.
There are so many tools for travelers and digital nomads, that are all there to make it easier to navigate or provide stop gaps and cheaper travel options. Travel isn’t an easy lifestyle, but it allows us to do the things that make us happy even if not everyone agrees. It would be tragic if we didn’t allow ourselves to at least try even if sometimes that means adulting is required.
10. Living out of our rucksacks is liberating!
The adage of ‘less is more’ applies to the digital nomad lifestyle. We can be incredibly happy without 40 pairs of shoes and a walk-in wardrobe. We sold our stuff and stored sentimental things at Jen’s mum’s house. We have two big rucksacks, two small rucksacks and a small cabin bag that is mostly for the tech we need to carry (laptop, headphones etc).
Carrying your life on your back or in a conventional suitcase, whatever your jam, is liberating! We pre-warn homeowners on house sits though, as the sight of two people with their whole life in toll can seem strange at first. This isn’t a conventional lifestyle and you will have times where people will be taken aback or maybe have pre-conceived notions of what a “backpacker” is like.
Last year Jen worked at an English immersion camp and was told her backpack meant she would be a troublemaker! While we would love to live up to that preconception, the truth is we’re not that exciting nowadays, and we are somewhat responsible people.
One day we’ll find a place we love and settle down into a new adventure of hopefully building an eco-home, but right now we love our minimalistic life and the opportunities it gives us.
A little Bit About Us.
We are Jenni and Henry, after leaving our home in Edinburgh we have spent the last three years working various jobs on the road from festival bar managers, hotel managers to teachers!
Recently we decided to start house and pet sitting full time, working online as teachers and writers to travel a bit more freely and to expand our own website.
Traveling in a sustainable way is something we explore in our writing, and we are big believers in real talk, and sharing our alternative lifestyle to hopefully inspire others to do things a wee bit differently!
Check them out at: https://hooplaadventures.com/