How I went from chemist to digital nomad & started DNG

How I went from chemist to digital nomad featured image

It’s been over 2 years since I started DNG and, somehow, I still haven’t properly shared my own story with you here (most branding and marketing gurus would roll their eyes at this I guess). But today I decided it’s about time that I shared my story of how I went from chemist to digital nomad and how I started the Digital Nomad Girls community along the way. You will laugh, you will cry… no, just kidding, it’s just my story. I hope you like it 🙂

How I went from chemist to digital nomad & started DNG

So, here we go! I’m from Munich, Germany, and I have a weird accent because I grew up bilingual and my mum is British. In my ‘old life’ I was a scientist. But after studying chemistry and working in labs for nearly 10 years, I realised I wanted to do more with my life than research one molecule for the rest of my life (talk about niche, hey?).


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Yep, that’s me ‘working’ in the lab!


So, in 2013, after finishing my PhD after 4 long years, I swapped my lab coat for my backpack and left London to go on an around-the-world-trip with my sidekick, I mean boyfriend, Simon. Our trip was supposed to last a year. But after only 7 months we ran out of money and ended up in Australia. We’d kind of known this would happen and had timed it perfectly so we’d arrive in Straya and work there on working holiday visas for a year.

After quitting research I had no clue what would come next for me career-wise. All I knew was that I wanted to travel so I decided to enjoy Australia, work odd jobs for a year and figure it out along the way.


That’s when I learned about digital nomads

Yeah, I’d heard of travel bloggers before but I didn’t know there were other ways to become nomadic. I was fascinated by the idea and started listening to podcasts, reading blogs and books. It helped that I had quite a relaxed (aka boring) lab job at the time where I could listen to podcasts while working.

After months of research I had decided (and convinced my boyfriend) to move to Chiang Mai and start an e-commerce business. I had heard so much about Chiang Mai and how drop shipping is the perfect way to make money online, so we gave it a try. Long story short, we rocked up in Thailand, ate all the food, and after about 2 days I got bored of dropshipping.

It was back to the drawing board for me. I had to find something better, but with my background in science, I had no clue what to do.


So I set myself a challenge

I decided to try every single online job I could find and document my progress on my personal blog. But how did I even get any jobs?

I’m so glad you asked. To be honest, it was a mix of things, but mainly just by using my network and talking to people. I’ve never liked the word networking. But once I realised it just meant meeting new people and making new friends, I changed my mind. I told everyone I knew or met what I was up to. I posted on my personal Facebook and wrote about it on my blog (which approximately 5 people read, 2 of which were my mum).

And the work started rolling in.

I’m not gonna lie, I don’t think the PhD title hurt, despite being in a totally unrelated field. Because people are suckers for titles and they make them trust in your abilities.

I did a little bit of SEO writing, translations, social media management, learned WordPress & started building websites and it all went from there. My first job was writing SEO articles for $7 a piece. I once wrote 28 such articles about office refurbishments.

It wasn’t very glamorous and I wasn’t making a tonne of money (definitely not a 6-figure digital nomad, haha). But within 6 months I earned enough from all my different projects to make a living in Asia. I was so excited to finally have found a way to keep travelling long-term!


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Working at the beach… as you do (not).

But there was one thing I hadn’t expected

As a backpacker, I found it really easy to make friends. But as a digital nomad, it was a whole different story. I didn’t have as much time to socialise, was restricted where to travel by wifi availability, and most backpackers had no clue what I was doing. We also weren’t really staying in hostels anymore so we met fewer people than we were used to.

I felt lonely

And especially I was missing having a bunch of girlfriends to hang out with. At the coworking space in Chiang Mai, my friend and I were the only girls. The same for meetups we went to. I was wondering, where are all the girls?

That’s when I decided to start a Facebook Group for female digital nomads and that’s how Digital Nomad Girls was born in August 2015.

Ever since the group has grown to nearly 15k girls, I’ve organised three coworking retreats for girls around the world, and my little passion project has accidentally turned into my business! I’ve learned so much from the girls in our group about travel, online business and life (yeah life too).

And I’ve made more friends online and offline than I could have ever imagined. I would have never dreamed that starting a little Facebook group could have this kind of impact on my life.

But that’s exactly what happened.


DNG Retreat Javea 2017 Group photo
At the latest retreat in Javea, Sept 2017 <3

But why the hell am I telling you all of this?

Very good question! The point of my story is that if you’re still starting out and aren’t sure how to become location independent, know that you can do it. You can do it. This life isn’t reserved for the rich, the techies or the bloggers.

If there was a way for me, an organic chemist from Munich, Bavaria, then there’s a way for all of us.

That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy or an overnight success. You’ll have to work hard, learn lots and it’ll take a while. Sometimes it’ll feel impossible.

But the one thing I learned over the last 2.5 years is this:

The most important ingredient to success is having a strong community of people who get you.

And that’s what DNG is all about.

For the last year, I’ve been dreaming of taking this community to the next level. I’m so incredibly excited to share with you that the DNG Inner Circle will be opening its doors very soon! To be the first to find out, join our waiting list here. We’ll have expert masterclasses, live Q&As, goal setting sessions, virtual coworking, exclusive member discounts and much more!

I hope you enjoyed my story and to see you in the DNG Inner Circle soon!



Categorized as Inspiration

By Jenny

Jenny is the founder of Digital Nomad Girls. She is a freelance writer, social media manager and virtual assistant who also blogs about her digital nomad journey over on Square Hippie. Jenny loves noodle soup, ceviche and dumplings.