This modern world of ours offers opportunities to live like few before us have had the chance to do so. Since capitalism and industrialisation have transformed our world the norm for travelling has become a mere week or two per year for those who can afford it and the time. The other extreme is to go off on the extended backpacking adventures.
However another option is becoming more of a reality. The idea of being a ‘digital nomad’, someone who can work from anywhere in the world. I think this is a concept that should be embraced by millennials because it results in bringing the world closer together rather than maintaining a nationalist focus.
This is something I have been working towards since I heard about the idea when I was 19 years old. It’s not an easy path to get there because it requires certain skills and systems to be put in place before you head out. Primarily you need either a skill or a business that will sustain you whilst you move from place to place.
I recently got around to finally reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts which does a fantastic job of introducing the idea of extended travelling to the reader. I highly recommend it to anyone who has often wandered what it would be like to travel for more than a few months. But for me the book lacked something, this idea of being able to work on your project in tandem with your travelling.
I call it travelling with purpose.
To go on an extended trip but you work on your project with a specific purpose at the same time. For me that project is JobHack. Our mission is to design the most scalable and accessible free online education to address youth unemployment around the world. Because we have a global mission it makes sense for me to try and build partnerships with different NGO’s, foundations & corporates around the world whom also care about this issue.
I have only most recently embarked on this kind of trip myself. It’s an experiment at this stage, if it doesn’t work out I can return home to Australia and continue to work from there at any time.
I’ve been inspired by stories such as Toptal, which reached a billion dollar valuation with a purely remote team. My friend Melissa who runs Melewi, a travelling design studio with a remote team across 6 countries. And of course my life inspiration Frankie Ratford who has run TheDesignKids from the road for quite a few years now. All of these people and companies prove that you don’t need to be in one specific location all the time to build a good business.
Why would you want to do this? There are a few good reasons.
1. Travelling when you are in your prime is better than saving it all for retirement
2. The cost of living is often cheaper than where your home is
3. You can focus on your project without the distractions of daily life at home, plus doing this in a new environment can inspire more creative ideas.
4. By operating from multiple countries you are naturally gearing your business/project to have an international focus and building a wider network
There are however some challenges. I think the most important requirement of undertaking this kind of lifestyle is establishing and maintaining a routine. When you first arrive to a new exciting place it can be hard to get into the swing of things. It took me a week before I got into one myself. But once you find that local cafe or coworking space with good wifi, you are pretty good to go. Then you can spend your evenings or mornings exploring the local life.
I still have a team back home with whom I communicate daily to ensure everything is going along smoothly. This actually works out in my favour because it requires waking up early to have Skype calls, meaning I start my day off with a good bout of productivity and then I can stop working a bit earlier in the afternoon if I so wish.
If you want to give this a go and try being an international citizen for a while here are some tips to get started:
– One of your favourite resources will be NomadList, it ranks all the worlds cities for remote working friendliness. Everything from cost of living to safety to coworking spots.
– Learn to practise minimalism. Carrying a gigantic suitcase with you all the time will be a nightmare. Less is much much more.
– If you have no idea where to start with designing a job or a business that you can travel with then read The Four Hour Work Week or try out JobHack. This post by Nate Elisason on building a lifestyle business is also a great guide.
My main motivation for writing this post was my distaste for the term digital nomad, it just sounds kinda wanky. Also because I’ve been very slack in updating this blog, let’s see if that changes 😉