Ever since Veeran and I left Korea to travel indefinitely through Latin America, people have had a lot of questions about what on Earth we’re doing. These days, more and more millennials are deciding to buck the 9 to 5 and choose a digital nomad lifestyle. But what is that and how did we decide that this was the right lifestyle for us? To help you understand, I’ve put together this post answering the most common things we’re asked! I want to be completely transparent about my lifestyle and how I afford to travel constantly so hopefully, this will shed some more light on it!
Any burning questions that I didn’t answer? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Why are you doing this?
We have a few different reasons for deciding to travel long term together. The first reason is the most logistical: it’s actually one of the easiest options for us. Since Veeran is from South Africa and I’m from The UK, living with one another in one of our home countries would be a bureaucratic nightmare. UK immigration is notoriously tough and because we’ve not lived together officially for 2 years, it’s impossible to get a spouse visa. South Africa is easier but, with the current state of the country’s economy, we decided it would be better to go elsewhere.
The other option was to settle down somewhere like Vietnam or Japan and teach English together. However, after years of teaching, we both needed a change. We’ve both always wanted to travel long term so when we started dating during my second year in Korea, we decided that we would save up for (at least) a year abroad.
How will you afford it?
Korea is a fantastic place to save money and we both managed to put a fair amount away while we were there. But, we don’t plan to use all of our savings while travelling. I make a tiny bit of money from this blog but I also work remotely as a content writer. As a digital nomad, I can work from anywhere, as long as I have WiFi and my laptop so it’s actually much cheaper to work from a country like Guatemala or Mexico than say Scotland or Canada.
On the side, I also teach English online and do some freelance work as a Pinterest consultant and a virtual travel assistant. It’s pretty normal for people leading this lifestyle to have a few different income streams when they’re first starting out and it really takes the pressure off finding clients.
Veeran spent much longer in Korea than I did and so has a lot more savings than I do. He didn’t need to immediately jump into work like I did but he’s currently trying to set himself up as a freelance illustrator. I can’t wait until he starts working so that you can see all his amazing travel doodles! 🙂
How Long are you Travelling for?
The magic question- to tell you the truth, we have no idea! Since our jobs are on the road, we don’t really have any commitments to get back home for. Originally, we said “until the money runs out” but now that we’re setting up income streams on the road, we don’t have to worry too much about money.
I guess now, the answer is just “until we want to stop travelling.” Realistically, though, we think we’ll spend at least a year in Latin America. There’s so much to see here and the continent is huge- I am desperate to get to Patagonia which is pretty far away from Guatemala! We plan on travelling mainly overland so, yeah, it might take a while.
How did you Get into Freelancing
For me, getting into freelancing was a bit of a natural progression. I started my blog almost 2 years ago as a way to use up free time at my teaching job in Korea. When I finished my teaching contract, almost a year ago to the day, Veeran still had 6 months left on his. I wasn’t really keen to get another job for such a short amount of time so decided to put my writing skills to the test and start freelancing. (Originally, we planned to travel using savings and teach for a while in Colombia but that’s all changed now!)
To start out, I used Upwork and did a couple of terribly paid jobs to get 5-star ratings. Now, I get a lot of clients through Upwork but also from pitching outright. I’ve had clients in the past that I’ve found in Facebook groups, too. You really have to market yourself hard and be proactive about finding work in this field. This isn’t the kind of industry where work is going to get thrown at you. It’s competitive so don’t expect anything to land on your lap!
How Often do you Work Each Week?
We tend to work every day and take Sundays off. Sometimes if we’re only going to be spending a few days in a city, we’ll take all of those days off and just enjoy it, like we did in Mexico City. Our schedule is flexible that way but we still work our arses off. (And I’m still usually doing odds and ends on my days off!) Finding clients, doing client work, replying to emails, taking skype calls and creating invoices are all extremely time-consuming. On top of that, I’m also writing blog content, researching companies to partner with, pitching those companies and running all my own social media.
I’m scared to actually track how much time I spend working! On average, I’d estimate that I work at least 45 hours each week. It’s more hours than a full-time job back home but completely worth it for this lifestyle! (Although I hope that a few years down the line, I’ll have a bit more time for the drinking pina coladas on the beach part of being a digital nomad!)
Do you Set an Alarm Clock?
This is a bit of a random question but I think it has to be addressed since people think we laze around all day. Yes, we set alarm clocks! I work much better in the morning so I usually set an alarm clock for 6am or 7am then wake up and get things done. Recently, we’ve been moving around a lot, though, so we do treat ourselves to no alarm days when we’re exhausted. Generally, though, we need to wake up at a regular time so that we can actually meet our goals and be productive!
Where do you Work from?
I get cabin fever and can’t stay in the one place for too long. We try to spend some time working from our accommodation but also some working elsewhere. We love exploring coffee shops and had our first venture into co-working while we were in Oaxaca which I loved! I’d definitely like to join some other co-working spaces on our travels.
How Long do you Spend in Each Place?
We’re still finding our feet with this and working out a travel style that works for us. If we know that a place has great WiFi and a good digital nomad scene, then we might decide to spend a month there. That’s what we did in Guadalajara and will definitely do when we get to Medellin in Colombia. We’re currently spending a month in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala where the WiFi isn’t great and there aren’t many digital nomads but the views are awesome!
Spending a month works out much more economically than short stays as we can get reduced rates through Air BnB. For everywhere else, we’ll decide whether we want to spend a week or a few days. We never stay anywhere for less than 3 nights, though. That would be too hardcore!
Where do you Stay on the Road?
If we’re going to be somewhere for a few days, we’ll usually get a private room in a hostel as it gives us the chance to meet other people but still have some privacy. For anything longer, we like to have our own space and, like I mentioned, get an Air BnB. Most Air BnBs give you a discount if you’re going to be there for a week or a month, so longer stays save us money. Plus, little luxuries like having your own desk and cooker go a long way when you’re travelling long term and trying to avoid burnout!
Why Latin America?
After having lived in South Korea for so long, we both knew that we wanted a change. We also had to consider our budget and, since we wanted to travel long term, Europe was out the picture. We were trying to decide between Latin America and South East Asia but decided we wanted to explore a new continent. Plus, we’re both keen to learn Spanish and maybe even salsa dancing! I’m loving it so far but I do miss a lot of things about Asian living- especially the food!
What’s your Daily Budget?
We try our best to stick to a budget of about less than $1000 each per month- this is easy when we’re in one place but gets harder when we’re moving around a lot (because we love eating out!) Travelling on a budget like this allows us to see the places that we want to see while putting away money at the same time. As a digital nomad, it’s very realistic to make at least $1,000 per month. We’re very lucky that, through my blog, we also get a lot of our activities and accommodation sponsored so we can do all the fun things on a budget, too!
Can you Actually Make Money?
Yes! I was sceptical at first and in my first month pitching for jobs, I thought it was going to be impossible. But, when I started building up clients and diversifying my income streams, I started making quite a lot. This month, I’m projecting to make almost as much money as I did teaching English in Korea! It might not seem like loads to anyone working in corporate but it’s enough to sustain my lifestyle. Plus, every month I make a little bit more than the last so hopefully, by the end of the year, I’ll be making a well-respected salary. I’m actually going to start adding income reports into my monthly updates so you can see for yourself how much you can earn as a digital nomad.
Where will you live after you finish travelling?
Another million dollar question! This is something that we talk about all the time and have decided to stop thinking about for now. The UK is strict about visas and, to be honest, I think that other countries offer a much higher standard of living. (Although home is, of course, home!)
We both love Japan and would like to spend some time there after our Latin America trip but that would just be a temporary move. I was a huge fan of Cape Town when we visited and could see us living there but you never know! There are so many places in the world that we love. It’s difficult to choose just one. Eastern Europe is supposed to have an awesome digital nomad scene and be cheap to live in, too so that’s another possibility! The foreseeable future is definitely going to involve a lot of moving around while we’re both working remotely.
Maybe we’ll even live on every continent at some point….. apart from Antartica. (Shit wifi.)
Will you Teach English Full Time Again?
At the moment, neither of us have any intention of teaching English full time again. However, to live in Japan, we might need to. If I manage to make a decent income as a digital nomad, I probably won’t but there are days when I miss my little pumpkins too much! Never say never, I guess.
What are you going to do afterwards?
I’ve never known what I’ve wanted to be when I grow up but I really love my accidental career in content writing! I’d like to progress in this field, especially since I enjoy the freedom of freelancing and the creativity I get to use in my work. In the future, I’d also like to start my own online business, create my own digital products and have some passive income streams.
There’s always the possibility that I’ll work for someone else again but I’m not sure when or where. I really miss the social part of being in an office and the job satisfaction so it’s highly likely that I will get a corporate job one day. Being a digital nomad can get lonely. This skill set that I’ve built up would allow me to slot myself into a digital marketing role easily so I’d probably work in that field.
Recommended Reading for a Budding Digital Nomad
If you think this is a career and lifestyle choice that you’d like to pursue, I recommend reading these books. They’ve been an invaluable help to me in this journey and I’m sure they will be for you too!
I hope that this post has helped you make more sense about what on Earth I’m doing in Latin America. Sorry to burst your bubble but no, I’ve not joined a cartel or inherited shitloads of money! I’m basically just doing the same thing as you are back home- staring at a computer all day and working to pay the bills. I just decided to do it from some pretty awesome places and only show the cool parts of my life on social media! If there’s anything else you want to know about our digital nomad lifestyle, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you!
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