For the last 8 months, I have been traveling around Asia while having a (so-called) Digital Nomad life. I do not especially like to use this term, but somehow, we all need words to make others understand who we are and what we do. Some people who met me told me I am like a “hippie” Digital Nomad, so maybe this could be another term to I can use describe my life now.
For me, this Digital Nomad life started when I decided to move out of Istanbul last September, after almost 3 years in that beautiful and chaotic city. As the decision was not taken from one day to the other, I worked hard to save money to fund my travels for a few months. My plan was to visit India and Nepal. I wanted to attend a Yoga Teacher Training course and discover these two countries which fascinate me. Everything changed when I got the opportunity to keep working online offering SEO services to a company. This was allowing me to extend my trip and everything turned to be more confusing.
Was I starting to have a Digital Nomad life? For how long would I want to travel? Will I want to move back home at some point? Will I be able to keep this nomadic lifestyle? Will it be hard to work and travel?
How I got started my Digital Nomad Life
This nomadic lifestyle started without looking for it; it just happened. As I said, I got the opportunity to keep working online so of course, I took it.
When you work remotely, you have to be pretty organized with your schedule and, of course, you will need an Internet connection everywhere you go. For this reason, I couldn’t visit very isolated places of Nepal or India, which is something in my to-do list. On the other hand, I didn’t want to settle or travel to places where a lot of Digital Nomads live as I wanted to travel and explore the culture of those countries.
How to survive as a non-fancy Digital Nomad
I would prefer to believe I am not like most of the Digital Nomads we can see on Social Media or Internet: I don’t go to fancy hotels, I eat in local and cheap restaurants and I travel by public transportation, usually in the lowest class. Finally, now and then I try to volunteer using my “digital skills”.
I know most of the remote workers end up living in co-living and co-working spaces or communities. For now, I am not hoping for this lifestyle as it is not what I look for. Even though I went to a Mastermind in one of these communities in Sri Lanka; I had a good time, but I saw it was not really what I want to experience in my travels.
I love to be a “non-fancy Digital Nomad” as I get to interact with local communities, I learn about the traditions and culture, I enjoy real traditional food and I move around with local transportation such as bus or train which sometimes can be very hard but, mostly, it ends up being a fun experience.
Being able to volunteer was a great experience for me as I see it as a way to use an alternative economy to survive. It is amazing to improve my skills and, help small local business to develop their presence online while designing their websites, creating contents or helping with their Social Media. You can see all the projects I have been collaborating here.
This way of exchange helped me to save money during my trip, even I was in cheap countries. Also, I got to learn about other working cultures from Asia and find volunteers from other parts of the world.
Most of the collaborations I have found have been by word-of-mouth but usually, volunteers use platforms like Workaway o Helpx.
Dealing with stress while traveling and working
Stress has been my biggest struggle during my travels. I am a nervous person, with a restless mind. I had moments with a lot of anxiety for some personal reasons and, especially because of work. While traveling alone I got the time to observe myself and there was a moment, after a few nights of not a good sleep, when I saw I needed to change that. How was I supposed to enjoy my life if I was overthinking, overreacting and becoming stressed so fast? I registered to a 6-day meditation retreat in Sri Lanka, just to try it after meeting many people who were into the practice of Vipassana.
It may sound like a cliche but, meditation changed me. I learned how to observe myself from the outside and to deal better with everyday struggles. When facing a problem, if we can remain calm, observe and understand it as something impermanent, everything becomes easier and all these bad feelings become tiny.
Is it possible to keep this nomadic lifestyle for long time?
Traveling from one place to another every few days or weeks is tiring. Imagine if you also work: it is exhausting! After 8 months of having a Digital Nomad life, I realized I lost the interest of visiting monuments or museums (I was a huge fan of these!) and I just like to stay longer in places and experience the life in there.
I think it is possible to keep this nomadic lifestyle as long as one wants. In my case, I know I want to be on the road much longer, but maybe moving slowly and chose the destinations with other purposes than just visiting places. Also, sometimes it is good to have a break of moving fast and just settle down for a few months to get back some energy to keep with this rhythm.
Not a long time ago, a person told me: “Girl, you are living the dream!”. At that moment, my stay in Sri Lanka was about to finish and I was wondering if it was the time to settle down and go back to a 9 to 5 job. It is crazy how a simple sentence lighted a sparkle on me. I was living the life I always dreamed, why did it have to end? Starting a nomad life hasn’t been easy. And I know it won’t be easy. It is the biggest challenge of my life and I will not give up now.