This post is a follow up to the post I shared a few months ago about some of the changes I’ve been making in order to cut my carbon footprint, you can read it here. I want to show that, yes, a digital nomad can be a climate activist, an no, we’re not all hypocrites.
Also, this post is going to be a bit rough around the edges as I’m writing this the evening of the 6th October 2019, before heading down to London in the morning (by train 😉 to join the International Rebellion by the global climate justice movement, Extinction Rebellion. And I still need to pack → see classic nomad problems. 🤷♀️
This morning I woke up super excited, super nervous and also a little scared, I’m not gonna lie.
Am I a hypocrite?
See, for the past 6 years (nearly to the day) I’ve been travelling around the world with my boyfriend, first as backpackers, then as working-holiday-ers and for the past 4+ years as digital nomads. So I’m not going to beat around the bush: my carbon footprint has been huge. Those planes burn a lot of fossil fuels. ✈️
And don’t get me wrong, since waking up to this reality, I’ve felt both guilty and like a hypocrite. Because I’ve always seen myself as a bit of an environmentalist, not only because I used to volunteer for Greenpeace.
But you don’t have to worry, this post is not about guilt-tripping any of my fellow digital nomads into changing your ways, stopping to fly or giving up this lifestyle. Not at all. We’ve all worked hard to create a life we love and we should be proud of that. 🤩
But I do want to talk about the responsibility I’ve personally been feeling to take a closer look at my lifestyle, how it has evolved over the past 6 years and whether it’ll be sustainable (both environmentally, physically and mentally) to keep it up this way. And what exciting ways there are to adjust it (this is for a future blog post).
You see, I love travelling. I still do and I probably always will. It’s one of the greatest pleasures and privileges of my life to be able to travel and see this amazing planet. 🌍
And that’s also why I feel so strongly that I need to play a role in trying to save it. There’s simply too much at risk not to step up now.
We only have around 8.5 years of carbon budget to burn as a society, after that we’re heading straight for at least a 2°C warming (and that’s a conservative estimate) at which point feedback loops and tipping points will kick off leading to runaway climate change which we won’t be able to stop anymore.
Now, my natural digital nomad approach to a problem of this scale would usually be to book a plane ticket for as far away as possible. I’m not kidding. It would be much easier and much more fun to simply run away and try to ignore this.
But once you see the scale of the crisis, it’s impossible to unsee. So here I am.
In Wiltshire, UK. At my in-laws home packing up to spend the next week in London, joining the International Rebellion through non-violent direct action.
The perks of being a nomad
And after the rollercoaster of emotions had worn off a little bit, I realised how grateful I am that I created a business and lifestyle that allows me to spend a week away from my laptop (almost a whole week, we’ll be running a live event from the Rebellion together with my brilliant friend Sophia Cheng, read her Titanic-themed blog post about becoming an activist here) and join this movement.
And it’s my digital nomad lifestyle that allowed me to do this. So yes, a digital nomad can be a climate activist. 👩💻✊
So if any fellow digital nomads are reading this who wondered if you can take part in any of the actions, marches, and protests happening around the world or whether you are hypocrites, I want to let you know that we’re no more hypocrites than everyone else living in this broken system. Yes, individual action matters, a LOT. But without the systemic change needed, it won’t be enough. So let’s start there as time is running out. (watch my friend Sophia’s Stand Up for the Planet comedy routine, she touches upon this topic in a hilarious way 🎙).
As the saying goes, we don’t need 1 climate activist doing everything perfectly, we need millions of climate activists doing things imperfectly.
So wherever you are in the world, get involved. Give a talk at a coworking space. Join a protest. Volunteer to admin a local Facebook Group for XR or any other movement. I believe there’s a role for each of us and yes, a digital nomad can be a climate activist.
There are so many things we can do together imperfectly. Now’s the time.
I will write again after my time in London to keep you posted about what’s going on.
In our brand new Member’s Spotlight series we feature interviews with our lovely DNG Inner Circle members! This month we talked to Heidi a wellness coach who lives on a sailboat.
Hi Heidi! Please tell us a bit about yourself
After 25+ years as a graphic designer and web designer in Seattle, I was losing my creative spark and needed a change. I didn’t feel like graphic design was fulfilling my Dharma (life’s purpose.) LOL, I’m still searching! 🙂 My mom instilled in me an interest in holistic health and wellness. So six years ago I earned a certificate in Holistic Health & Nutrition.
I was shocked to learn how many toxins are in our food, environment, and health and beauty products, and how sick they are making us. Why don’t people know this?! I had to share what I was learning. So I started blogging and using social media to help educate others. And I’ve been blogging at happywelllifestyle.com, and health coaching since then.
My husband “Captain Kirk” and I have lived aboard our sailboat for 16-years planning our “world cruise.” Three years ago we sailed south from Seattle to get WARM, and I’ve been working location independent ever since. We are currently living in Mexico with our two cats, Tosh & Tikka, and hope to continue sailing south to Panama and beyond next winter.
What is your location independent job?
I wear a few different hats. I still do a bit of graphic design for long-term clients. I am also a US sales consultant for Neal’s Yard Remedies, organic health and beauty products from the UK. I can run that business entirely online, customers order via my website, the company ships directly to them, and I spend my time online marketing, and following up with customers.
Although I’ve been blogging about holistic health and wellness for six years now, that has yet to pay the bills. As a graphic designer, the brand and look of my blog is critical to me, and don’t want it littered up with Google ads everywhere…even if that would bring more income. Sustainability is important to me, and I personally vet and share a few affiliate products. I also have personal integrity, so I won’t ever advertise anything on my blog that I don’t use myself or can’t stand behind.
And I’m currently working on creating my own online course in Holistic Health & Wellness (and possibly creating a member-site, which is one reason I was intrigued to join DNG’s Inner Circle, and see what it’s like on the inside!)
How did you get into this line of work? How can others do the same?
Blogging: In my passion to help people get toxins OUT of their lives, I originally posted on Facebook. But that soon turned into blog writing as my posts were getting very long. There are several free blog platforms out there to help you get started. But don’t expect to get rich from blogging, it’s a lot of hard work and paying it forward. I pay attention to SEO, Google Analytics, etc. Lots to learn, know, and keep up on.
Independent Consultant: When I ditched my main-stream, toxic health and beauty products, I had to find something else. I discovered Neal’s Yard Remedies and immediately fell in love with this amazing UK-based company and their products. Being an independent consultant is a great way to create a location independent income.
Online Courses: In an effort to create my own online wellness course, I’ve taken many other online courses to learn what I need to know. My background in graphic design and technology has definitely helped. These days there are online courses available for just about anything you want to learn. And creating your own course is a great way to share your knowledge with others while creating a passive income stream.
What motivated you to pursue a life as a digital nomad?
SAILING… I LOVE Sailing. I met my husband sailboat racing 28 years ago. And we’ve always had the dream to sail the Seven Seas. We bought our sailboat 2-years later and got married aboard a year after that. We raced her from Seattle to Maui a few years later and worked and saved for many years to head out cruising. My husband is a few years older than I am and has retired, but I need to keep working and saving for my retirement. So I knew I had to have a mobile career.
I also knew that trying to send large graphic design files using third-world-internet would never work. So I looked for a new career I could easily take on the road (or the high-seas!) I initially got certified as an ESL instructor. Then with my passion for holistic health and wellness, I earned a holistic health coaching certificate from IIN and started blogging and health coaching. I’m certified Reiki Level III and am also a 200 RYT certified yoga teacher. So I have several tools in my back pocket for the nomadic lifestyle we live. And I’m always looking to add more modalities in the holistic-wellness realm.
Did your friends/family/colleagues think you’ve gone crazy? Were they supportive?
Sailing has always been a big part of our lives. And our sailing friends “get” our lifestyle. Our close sailing friends were instrumental in helping us cast off the lines, and sail away. A few of them have sailed passages with us or visited us. And most of our family is supportive.
But some of our friends think we’re crazy for living in 250 square feet of space, on the water. And many assume we’re just “living the dream” drinking margaritas all day long. (Aside from being a digital nomad, there is a lot of WORK to living aboard.) Some may be jealous that we managed to escape the cold, rat-race and for the warm tropics, for many, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” If we’re not there doing things with them, they forget about us.
However, our sailing blog has a good readership. Our blog post e-news has a 50% open rate which is amazing for any mailing list. So some people are living vicariously through us and don’t think we’re completely nuts. My parents were sailors, so I think they somewhat understand. But missing family and friends is the hardest part of this lifestyle for us.
What challenges have you faced as a digital nomad and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge by far has been finding reliable, high-speed Internet. Mexico has pretty slow wifi, and it’s expensive. I currently have three different data plans with different companies because you can only get about 10GB of data a month on plans here. And that’s just not enough for me.
I’m taking a lot of online courses to learn how to create my own online course, which eats a ton of data. So I end up spending a lot of my time in Starbucks using their free wifi. It’s pretty fast (NOT T3!), but you still see a noticeable drop in speed when everyone gets home from work, or on the weekends. Luckily this summer, we’re condo-sitting with high-speed wifi and I plan to work 24-7 and take advantage! 🙂
We’ve been stationary in Puerto Vallarta for the past 18-months due to some health issues my husband had. But the 18-months before that we were always on the move, and there would be 3-5 days at sea with no wifi. So I’d plan my work around our passages and when we’d have wifi. I’d work a lot for a few days before we’d sail off again.
You’re a member of the DNG Inner Circle, yay! Why did you decide to join?
I really love people and connecting with people wherever I go. I have a minor in anthropology, so people have always fascinated me. And it’s one of the things I miss most being a digital nomad. So connecting online with others in a similar lifestyle is a huge plus for me.
As I mentioned, I’m also working on creating my own course, and there is a lot I don’t know! So it’s great to connect with people who have different business backgrounds, to share ideas with. I will likely need a VA soon, and I think this group will have good recommendations for that. And because I’m thinking about creating my own membership site for holistic health and wellness, I also wanted to see the inner workings of how a membership site could work.
What is your favourite part of the Inner Circle? What makes it special?
So far the 30-day challenge has been one of my favourite things, making me draw and colour every day! YAY!! Already looking forward to the next one. Having that accountability to do something on a daily basis is great.
And I LOVED the social mixer that I attended, looking forward to another one soon. I can’t wait to get into the Expert Pack courses. I need to make time for those as I’m sure there is a lot of great info there that could help me with my online course creation. And having a place to ask questions and get answers is also fantastic.
Who do you think would benefit from joining the DNG Inner Circle?
Any digital nomad GURL who wants to meet people online (or in person!); anyone who needs accountability, or a little extra nudge to move their business along or boost their own self-care. I think Inner Circle has a LOT to offer those of us who are location independent.
How do you connect with and meet people when travelling?
Taking daily yoga and Pilates classes is a great way to meet people. My husband is very outgoing and chatty, so he’s always meeting people and getting us invited to events and dinners too. I occasionally host organic skincare workshops or holistic health workshops on my boat, or elsewhere if I can find someone or a location to host them. These are free, and a way to give back and pay it forward. Sometimes I ask for a donation and donate it to a local charity like an animal shelter or kids club. I always have Neal’s Yard Remedies products available to purchase if people want to. So it’s a good way to help supplement my income and meet people at the same time while giving back locally. As travellers, we really enjoy meeting and making friends with locals where ever we are. We shop locally, buy what and where locals do, eat where locals eat and meet many locals chatting that way. We are a part of a large sailing community, but many of them are retired (including my husband) so I’m often the odd one out going to work while they are all playing!
What advice would you give a girlfriend who wanted to start out as a digital nomad?
As a freelance graphic designer for 15+ years before I became a digital nomad, I was used to the roller-coaster ride of a freelancer. You need to be comfortable with the “feast-or-famine” of freelancing if that’s what you’re doing, and not panic every time you don’t have a job lined up. Tide comes in, tide goes out. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re not comfortable with the roller-coaster ride of freelancing, then consider a more permanent gig that lets you work from afar or set your own hours. Getting paid in US dollars or Euros and living in a developing country is also a bonus as your money goes much further.
And make time for self-care. This can be hard when you have deadlines or are on a tight budget. But I firmly believe you either pay for your health now or later. I’m a big proponent of regular massages, acupuncture or other bodywork, as well as treating yourself to things like pedicures that make you FEEL good. I also practice daily yoga and meditation. You have to put on your own oxygen mask first so that you have the health and energy to get your work done and play!
Quick Fire Round:
The coolest thing I’ve been able to do thanks to being location-independent is….
Live on my sailboat and sail from Seattle to Mexico, explore the Sea of Cortez, Baja, and northern Pacific Mexico. Swim with whale sharks, hear humpback whale songs through the hull of my boat and see those humpback whales up CLOSE. Snorkel, kayak, swim in the ocean, hike, and play with my cats. Meet amazing people and experience new cultures, food, and languages. I have to set a WORK schedule otherwise I would just play the days away!
When I feel lonely, I … Text or call my friends and family back home.
My favourite digital nomad location is … Mexico… for now.
The one item I always pack is … Organic Defence Hand Spray!
My favourite digital nomad tool/app/resource is … Hubspot CRM
In 5 years tim,e I want to be … Living in the Caribbean, on passive income.
My all-time favourite quote is … “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
I can’t even believe it’s been three years since I started Digital Nomad Girls and the Facebook Group. What started as a fun way to meet new people and ask some questions has turned into a full-time passion project, business and movement of girls from around the world. I get so many lovely emails and messages every day and one of the questions I get asked all the time is “How can I get involved in the DNG Community”. Well, I thought it’s about time that I put some ideas together for all of you who want to get stuck in!
Of course, you can decide how involved you want to be. Maybe you love organising meetups, or you’re more of a quiet person who prefers to hang out in our Facebook Group. Maybe you want more in-depth connections and accountability in our DNG Inner Circle. There’s no right or wrong way, so pick and choose whatever works best for you!
10 Fun ways to get involved in the DNG Community:
1. Join our FREE Facebook Group!
That’s definitely the starting point and also how it all began. I created the DNG Facebook Group in August 2015 as a way to connect with like-minded girls who also wanted to become digital nomads and to ask them lots of questions and hear their stories. Fast-forward three years and we’re a bustling community with over 17k girls from literally all corners of the planet.
Every day there are interesting conversations about all aspects of the nomad lifestyle, important feminist topics, or travelling in general. We have pretty strict rules (read them here before you join) and our admins make sure everyone plays by them. That way we make sure the FB group stays a fun, safe and supportive place for new and established nomad girls alike.
2. Download our free motivational desktop wallpaper for 24/7 inspiration
Feeling like you could do with a little inspiration while working at your laptop? Download one of our 5 free motivational desktop wallpapers with pretty photos and cute quotes. My favourite is the flamingo wallpaper…or maybe the one with the palm trees…not sure! Which do you like?
3. Keep in touch by email and receive our awesome weekly newsletter every Friday
“Another newsletter?” I hear you yawn, but don’t worry, this is a fun one! I started the newsletter as a way to keep everyone up to date on our events inside the FB group and local meetups, and now I also share inspiration, blog posts and my own journey of running a location independent business. If you want the rundown on what’s going on, but don’t have time to check in to Facebook every day, sign up here to stay in the loop.
4. Check out our interview series
I think there’s no better way to get inspired and learn about the digital nomad lifestyle than reading real-life stories from real-life digital nomad girls who are already living their dream. A great starting point is our 3-part blog post “50 DNGs share their Online Jobs”, where we show you more than 50 jobs of real girls in our community that you can do from anywhere in the world.
5. Join the DNG Inner Circle for more support & accountability
Whenever I ask other Digital Nomad Girls what their biggest struggle is, it’s usually loneliness and a lack of accountability. I totally get it, it’s hard to stay productive and motivated when you’re your own boss and move around a lot. That was the main reason I created the DNG Inner Circle, I wanted to create a special place for those of you who want to get more out of DNG, like accountability, learning, and working together. I call it the Virtual Coworking Community that travels with you!
We run virtual coworking sessions together, a guest expert creates a mini-course on a different topic every month, we have monthly goal setting, travel talks, live Q&As, monthly habit challenges, and much more! If you’re ready to join us, the doors will open soon. Sign up to the waitlist here.
6. Tag us in your nomad photos on Instagram
Are you more of a ‘grammer than a Facebooker? Then tag us in all your wonderful nomadic and adventurous pics on Instagram (#digitalnomadgirls). You can find us @digitalnomadgirls and we love re-posting our favourite shots from all around the world. I especially like the #viewfrommyoffice kinda pics and showing the reality of the DN lifestyle, not just droolworthy Insta shots (although we love to share those once in a while too!).
7. Organise a meetup in your city
Online friends are awesome, but nothing beats meeting them in real life! That’s what our local DNG meetups are for. If you’d love to meet girls in a new city, why not host one yourself? We help you setup a Facebook event, so you can share it easily and make awesome new DNG friends locally! Let us know where you’d like to host your meetup here.
8. Join us at one of our retreats
The DNG retreats were born as an idea in our Facebook Group in 2016 and just a few months later the idea turned into reality at our first ever retreat in Javea, Spain. For one week, 14 DNGs from 10 countries masterminded, coworked, explored and, most importantly, made friends for life. It was probably my favourite week ever! We’ve run 3 retreats (check out our past retreats here) in total and are planning more events starting in early 2019.
We love finding out about awesome destinations for digital nomad girls around the world. And what’s the best way to do that? Well, ask people who’ve been there of course! We have awesome mini destination guides on favourite nomad cities around the world, if you’d like to share your top destination with us, fill in the guest blogger form here.
10. Show you’re a DNG with our new Swag
After soooo many of you asked me where to get a DNG t-shirt like the ones we wear at our retreats, I finally set up a DNG Swag Shop on our website. You can now get your hands on our awesome DNG tank tops, tote bags or t-shirts, which are perfect for travel days and airport wear and identify you to other DNGs wherever you travel.
There you go! These are 10 fun ways to get involved in the DNG Community, and I’m sure there’s something for everyone! If you have other awesome ideas for DNG, why not jump into the Facebook Group and share them with me!
This is a guest post bu DNG Nadia who travels in her VW bus with her boyfriend while working as an equestrian and canine writer (yep, that’s a thing!). Nadia shared how she lives her life, stays productive and lives the tiny Vanlife for Digital Nomad Girls.
Hey Girls, I’m Nadia, but you can call me Narnia – everyone else does! And much like many of you, I’m a digital nomad – but, with a bit of a vintage twist.
You see, I travel full-time, but not in the conventional sense, instead; my preferred form of transport is a 1969 VW Adventurewagen named Red.
As well as being my wheels (of the raddest variety!), Red also happens to be my home!
Yup, that’s right, I live, work, travel, and throw tea parties out of my 7.5 sq meter home, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
The official term for my lifestyle is “Vanlife” so that would make me a “Vanlifer”, this lifestyle is pretty big, and growing fast (Unsurprising when you consider the fact that I can be anywhere in the world and not pay rent – boom!).
Today, I’m going to be talking to you guys about how it’s possible to live, work, and travel from the road.
What’s Your Day Job?
I am a specialist equestrian and canine writer, so I can be writing anything from reporting on an international horse show to helping readers choose the perfect dog breed for their family. It’s incredibly varied, and I love what I do so it rarely feels like work!
I grew up on a farm in the Yorkshire countryside, and we had quite the menagerie of animals, from horses and dogs to the not so common meerkats and llamas.
I starting writing for equestrian magazines when I was only ten-years-old, so I’ve been doing this for quite some time!
But, writing wasn’t always my full-time job, I started out in the fashion industry, then switched to the tech industry before deciding to write full-time for the complete flexibility that it offered.
What’s It Like Living Tiny?
Other than when I was eighteen years old and wanted a grand equestrian estate, I’ve always been interested in tiny living!
For some reason, it took me years to work up the courage to jump in and go for it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have started living tiny years ago.
Many of you may be thinking “Wow, 7.5 sq meters – I could never live in that”. But for the majority of you DN ladies who live out of hand luggage, let me tell you; having space to store things again like paddle boards and mountain bikes (plus three times the amount of clothing – jackpot!) is such a luxury.
How is Your Day To Day Life Different?
My daily life is pretty similar to when I lived in apartments; In the bus, we have all the comforts of home – a kitchen with sink, gas burner, fridge/freezer, a dining area with fold-out table, a living area with three-seater couch, and a bedroom area with memory foam bed!
The main difference is the fact that being in such a small space encourages you to get out more, which is one of the things that I love most about vanlife.
I used to have days where I would sit inside of my apartment working for two days straight without leaving once – crazy right?!
But now, we’re in a new town or city every few days; I wake up wanting to explore – wanting to make the most of my time in a spectacular Spanish city, or tiny French town!
How Do You Work From The Road?
The two most challenging things about working on the road are finding power and internet, but there is an easy solution for both!
We have a TP-Link Mifi with a sim card from EE that gives us 30 GB of data for £30 per month, and also a Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Battery for charging devices.
The Goal Zero takes around six hours to charge when plugged into an outlet — we charge it at coffee shops — and then gives enough power to charge a MacBook Air fully up to seven times; that means we can be wholly off-grid but still be able to work.
We do always go over the 30 GB allowance (don’t tell the fella but I think it’s from watching cute puppy videos!), but we can top-up for £15 for every additional 10 GB.
The coverage has been incredible, and in the past year there have only been three spots that we didn’t have any service, and they were all right out in the sticks.
How Do You Stay Productive?
Having been a digital nomad for most of my working life, I’m pretty good at just getting my stuff done when I need to. I love my lifestyle, so every time I have a deadline, I work towards it as though, if I miss it – the lifestyle goes away and I have to get a “normal job” because realistically if I don’t keep my clients happy, one day – I will. That keeps me hella focused.
For me, staying productive is all about having a good work/life balance. I used to work all hours of the day and night; you know what I’m talking about ladies – the hustle is real!
But now that I’ve worked my way to the top and considered an expert in my field, I can be much more picky about the projects I take on, and the hours I work. I now work three days per week, Monday through Wednesday and I’m far more productive because of it!
Every week, we have a four day weekend, because life should be filled with memories of actually living, shouldn’t it?
I want to reminisce about the time that we hiked up Table Mountain in Cape Town – or went boogie boarding down a snow-covered sand-dune in Utah.
Not just have memories of sitting in one spot sending emails and writing articles – no matter how good the writing may be, that’s not what life should be.
Where Do You Park?
Pretty much anywhere that’s out of the way! Sometimes we’ll stumble upon an amazing parking spot right on the beach, and other times we have to use apps such as Park4Night to find camper friendly parking.
This was one of the parts of vanlife that I was worried about before we got started, would we always be able to find somewhere to park? Would the police wake us up in the middle of the night telling us to move on?
In fact, since getting the bus we’ve had nothing but friendly locals coming by to take pictures and ask us about the bus! The police usually just smile and wave, and have never asked us to move.
From the many people we’ve talked to along our journey, it seems that of the biggest barriers for many potential vandwellers is the fear factor of parking – it was for me too – but seriously ladies, it’s not a problem.
So You Don’t Have a Shower or Bathroom?
Nope. But one of the absolute best things about living in a VW is that no matter what, I have to go to the gym to get a shower! You might be confused about why that’s a great thing, when many of you cana walk into your very own bathroom and take a shower right here, right now.
Well, it’s because it is the absolute easiest way to make yourself go work out, I don’t get to think about whether I feel like working out, or whether I’m just too tired today, I’ve just gotta get up and go!
We use public bathrooms, cafe bathrooms, and pretty much any kind of bathroom that’s available. It’s very rare that we’re not able to find a proper bathroom, but when that does happen I have a GoGirl which is a handy little device that makes it possible for ladies to pee in a bottle – so ladylike I know, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Do You Cook In Your Bus?
You betcha! We have a single gas burner as well as a fridge/freezer and a very sizeable pantry (well, by VW standards!), so we do tend to cook a lot of our own meals.
I had to get a bit creative when we moved into the bus to find recipes for one-pot meals as I was very much used to having four burners.
We could cook one thing at a time and use multiple pans – but as we have a 10 liter water tank for washing up, we try to be as streamlined as possible with our cooking.
Other than that, it really hasn’t felt any different to cooking in a regular kitchen. I have enough counter space for chopping veg and if I need more – I just pop up our dining table and use that.
We don’t have an oven, so sometimes I miss baking, but whenever we’re visiting friends and family – we make the most of their kitchens and bake up a storm which tides me over until my next big baking day!
Is It An Affordable Lifestyle
Hell to the YES! If you do it right, vanlife can work on a tiny budget. I’d go as far as to say that, in my opinion, it’s the best lifestyle for digital nomads!
If you’re starting out, you can afford to travel and see the world while building up a client base, and if you’re a more seasoned DN’er – then you can put money aside for your retirement, or splurge on some mega trips every now and then!
The most significant costs associated with vanlife are gas, insurance, and repairs! Then you’ve got food, gym memberships, and wherever else you choose to spend your money.
My boyfriend and I spend approx £1500 per month for both of us to travel full-time in Red, but I know we could do it for way less if we wanted to – we’re vegan, and coffee addicts so a chunk of our budget gets used up in those areas.
Do You Ever Get Me-Time?
Absolutely. Only working three days per week means that I have plenty of time to read, drink tea, and go on epic adventures. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I do struggle to go completely work free for those four days, but I’m working on it!
My boyfriend and I were warned by ALL of our family members how much we’d get on each other’s nerves living in such a small space, but having already travelled together pretty much 24/7 for four years before buying our bus – we’ve learnt to be good at communicating when we need alone time.
So, even though we’re in the same little bus – he’ll play video games, and I’ll read – it’s actually quite lovely being alone, but together.
So Your Life Is One Big Endless Adventure?
Pretty much! Although I think everyone assumes that it’s all sunshine and rainbows – grass is always greener and all! But, we have to run errands, pay bills, and get our work done just as much as the next guy.
The difference is that we took the time to design and follow through on creating a life that makes us at our happiest. Which for us, means spending our time outdoors in the sunshine, going on adventures, and exploring as much of this great big world as we can!
Happy Travelling xx
Nadia is a badass digital nomad, currently travelling the world in her vintage VW, working three days per week as a specialist equine and canine writer, and spending the rest of her time going on adventures!
She recently launched a blog all about her journey to find the perfect work/life balance and say yes to life. To read more of her caffeine-fueled ramblings, and to find out how you too could live the vanlife – head over to SayingYes.is or follow her on Instagram @SayingYesIs!
Introducing a new series called #nomadtruths, or maybe it’s just a one-off, we shall see. I want to talk about the digital nomad lifestyle in all its glory but also share the ugly or difficult sides. Today: “there’s no right or wrong way to be a digital nomad’.
One of the things I’ve been hearing myself tell people over and over these past few years is that ‘there’s no right or wrong way of being a digital nomad’. And I truly believe this. I’ve seen so many girls write things like “I’m not a real digital nomad because…[insert any random reason]’ and it bugs me. Not because it’s sooo important to be a ‘proper’ digital nomad – because hey, that’s really just made-up concept – but because I don’t want anyone feeling they’re doing something ‘wrong’ or that they’re living their life ‘wrong’. After all, we’re all creating lives for ourselves that we want to live. That we’ve dreamt about living.
This whole topic is especially frustrating and ironic because I’ve been beating myself up for months now for feeling like I’m not a ‘proper’ digital nomad. Crazy right? I mean, deep down I know there’s no such thing.
But let me explain. You might already know my story. The short version is: I used to be a chemist, then decided to ditch research in exchange for a round-the-world trip, and after nearly 2 years of backpacking and working holidaying (is that a verb? it is now…) my boyfriend and I took the leap and rocked up in Chiang Mai to try our luck at digital nomading. We had no clue how to, he became an online science editor and I started a challenge to take any freelance jobs I could find. I freelanced for about 1.5 years, travelling around 9 countries in Asia and Europe, working as a social media manager, translator, writer and website designer. All the while I was running DNG as a hobby before I decided to turn it into a business. Phew, that’s the short version.
Now once we’d travelled and worked basically non-stop for 1.5 years (and travelled for nearly 2 years before that) we were exhausted. Like “I-don’t-ever-want-to-move-again” exhausted. So we decided to make a home base for a little while to chill out and so I could focus on DNG without moving constantly. It was a great idea, settling down, living cheaply, enjoying sunny Las Palmas, enjoying the nomad scene and community here, and building up my business.
Fast forward 1.5 years and we’ve had a home base for all this time. Sure, we travelled a bit, but mainly for conferences, retreats and to visit family and friends. No ‘real’ travel. And during this time I started feeling like a total imposter. I mean, ‘who am I to run a business called Digital Nomad Girls if I’m not moving around at least once a month?’ and other helpful destructive and untrue self-criticism like this.
It got so bad that I actually started feeling disconnected from DNG and the community, which really sucked and felt horrible. Here I was running my dream business, totally location independent, but feeling like I didn’t deserve it. That I wasn’t being a ‘good enough’ digital nomad.
The crazy thing was that, from the outside, everything looked great, like I was doing all the right things. So when people talked to me about DNG and told me they loved what I was creating, I didn’t feel proud, I felt like a fraud. It really sucked.
But why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I realised two things:
First, there’s an incredible amount of pressure in the digital nomad world.
We might not realise it immediately, but after a while, it creeps up on us. We left the social norms and pressures of our ‘old lives’ behind, the white picket fence and 9-to-5 pressure, just to put a new type of pressure on ourselves. Now we need to be crushing it. We need to have constant adventures every day. We need to make a minimum of six figures or we’re undervaluing ourselves and basically failing. We need to constantly strive for more personal development.
What, you don’t have a morning routine yet? Ugh, you’re not a ‘proper’ digital nomad. You’re not making any passive income? Oooh, better work on that if you ever want to live the Four Hour Workweek (disclaimer, I don’t). And make sure you share your perfect life with everyone on Instagram to prove that you made the right decision to leave the ‘normal’ pressure behind.
It can be exhausting. But when did this become our focus? We wanted to live simpler lives, be in charge of our days, spend time doing things we love and helping people while travelling and exploring the world. Where did this pressure come from (I have a feeling there’s another blog post following about this soon) and why are we playing along?
And the second thing I learned was this: if I am feeling this way, there must be others out there who feel exactly the same. And isn’t that what DNG was supposed to be all about, and why I started the Facebook Group in the first place? To connect with others who were going through the same process, who had questions and were looking for answers? If I don’t get honest and real about my feelings about doing the whole digital nomad thing ‘wrong’ then how can others who struggle with the same issue start feeling better about themselves?
So, it all comes back to this:
There’s no right or wrong way to be a digital nomad. Full stop.
And I’m not talking about the type of work you do (don’t even get me started on that, more will follow on this topic). I’m talking about how you travel. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a home base and only travel for a month every year, or whether you travel carry-on only or drag two 23kg trunks around the world with you. It doesn’t matter whether you hang out in Bali or Lisbon, or in Munich or Manchester. There are no minimum air miles you have to accrue over a year. The only thing that matters is that you’re living a life you enjoy and that you’re not harming others and the communities you visit.
It’s time that we start sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of the digital nomad lifestyle.
I don’t mind whether your Instagram feed is a messy mix of pictures of burritos and selfies with your new friends from around the world or glamorous shots of you in a ball gown on a mountaintop, but I applaud you if you have the courage to share real photos of the digital nomad lifestyle (#nomadtruths). Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next DNG of taking pics by the pool and reposting drool-worthy Insta pics on my feed. It’s beautiful, it’s colourful, it’s fun. And it can also be real. But it’s just one part of the reality. One side of the coin. The lonely days, rough journeys, and frantic wifi-searches are also important parts of the picture.
This isn’t to warn others away from this lifestyle, but to make sure they know the reality of what they’re getting themselves into. Often it means working 12 hours a day in your pyjamas instead of 4 hours a week by the pool. And that’s ok. You’re not doing anything wrong. You just do you. And keep tweaking this life. If something sucks, talk about it, share it and improve it. But don’t expect perfection from the start. Everyone’s different and everyone’s nomad journey is different. And that’s what makes it awesome.
So, for me that means that I will be sharing muuuuch more stuff like this. I’ve been wanting to do it for ages and have been holding myself back, because it doesn’t fall into the shiny Insta-perfect grid of nomad expectations. But it’s part of my journey.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to get the nomad life ‘right’? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!