Where do I begin? With stories of the mysterious serendipity of traveling or the hardships of building a business online? With the thrilling highs and intense friendships or the struggles and the inevitable goodbyes?
Let’s start at the beginning, two years before I left, I never would have imagined traveling the world for more than a week’s vacation. I thought travel meant expensive resorts and relaxing beachside at the end of the year. True travel was for tv personalities and hitchhikers.
That all changed about fifteen months before I became a digital nomad. Back then, the rest of my life seemed laid out before me. I had followed the traditional life plan and graduated college. The rest of the plan meant spending the next couple years paying off student loans followed by more debt to get married and buy a house. My last window of irresponsibility was closing fast, so I decided to seize that single moment of post-collegiate freedom before starting my new job to travel solo. I spent all I had (and $130 more) on one last adventure before settling down into the daily grind.
That trip changed my life. I fell in love with the travel lifestyle; the serendipity, the excitement, the joys, and the sorrows. For me there was an indescribable bliss to being on the road and watching the world fly by. I was amazed at how adaptable I became. Making new friends daily, cobbling together bits of a new language to communicate, never having the same meal twice, and falling asleep in one country and waking up in another all became second-nature.
Specifically, there was one small moment on that trip that would really change my life. I met someone who was working online for four hours a day and traveling around the world the other twenty-two. At that time, I thought that guy was the luckiest guy in the world and it would be impossible to replicate his success in my own life. Nevertheless, a nagging thought had been planted in the back of my mind: what if it was possible?
I had had a revelatory experience… just days before starting work at my desk job. I couldn’t bear staying in one place, but I still thought I had to. I felt as if I had been a dog bound in a cage, when one day the door was left open. I had seen, felt, tasted, and done things I had never even imagined possible. I had lived in a constant state of discovery, but returning to the cage was inevitable. The masters of fiscal responsibility and chains of debt would come for me eventually.
I chose to work in a job I hated not knowing if I was choosing to embrace my chains or forcing myself to accept them. I told myself I was finding some happiness in consistency and the lack of stress that comes from no longer needing to worry about my next source of food and shelter, but under the surface I missed those same things. While the memories were fresh, I would day dream of returning to life on the road, but as the days went on, the memories and the dreams faded away. I spent a year picking up a routine. I found security in the monotony I had always feared.
Nine months before I left, I decided I would work for two years, quit, and go on another trip before finding another job. This still more or less lined up with the traditional plan. All the literature said, switching jobs approximately every two years was key to moving up the corporate ladder. A long trip between jobs was maybe divergent from the norm, but not unheard of.
Still the nagging thought of working while traveling kept cropped up more and more. I began researching a new term: digital nomads. I found that there were all sorts of people who made money on their own schedule, online, and from anywhere in the world. Maybe I could have my cake and eat it too! I started reading all I could about the subject, but still wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge.
Six months before I left, I found a blog article that mentioned a book called The 4-Hour Workweek. That book finally addressed the practicality of becoming a digital nomad. It turns out it is not only possible, but eminently practical! In the book, Tim Ferriss outlines how making money in a strong currency and spending in a weak currency can multiply your savings while increasing your standard of living, how to increase your productivity levels while working less, and individual tasks to perform to get started building your online income while continuing work at your current job.
Three months before I left, I made the decision. I bought a ticket and started selling my stuff. The timing was right. I didn’t want to spend another year where I was. Many of my best friends were moving away and I was not advancing my skills at my current job. The worst case scenario of running out of money after years of personal development, failed business ventures, and travel was still better than any other I could imagine.
One month before I left, I bought clothes and a few essentials, I set up bank accounts and credit cards that would be ideal for travel, I renewed my passport early, and got a 6-month (including extensions) Thai visa.
Now, I’m one month into living (and working) on the road permanently. Currently, I’m living off savings, but working toward starting my own business. It isn’t the same as traveling. I don’t rush through the city trying to see all the sights. I don’t party everyday. I wouldn’t even say I have new experiences everyday. Working while traveling is work, but the benefits are innumerable. Flexible hours allow me to work at my peak, lower costs of living allow me to eat out for every meal and get exercise in my pool or a local gym, and I have met many other entrepreneurs with different skills that challenge my ideas and give me fresh perspectives. I learn something new everyday.
There’s great risk in leaving a steady job and traveling the world working, but there is also great reward. Trying something new will always involve risk, but all great achievement requires risk. After all, the only way to guarantee failure is not to try.
This article contains an affiliate marketing link which means at no additional cost to you I earn a commission on any products sold through the link provided. I only affiliate market items I have personally used and recommend.