My dear friends,
How time flies. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last wrote in this thing.
And what a year it’s been. I’ve been completely location independent for 14 months and traveled to 9 countries and 12 states. I’ve learned a lot during those 14 months, and I guess that’s why I’m back here today. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you. So here it goes, a short FAQ on what I’ve learned after 14 months of working remotely and traveling full time.
“Where do you stay?”
Anywhere and everywhere! I’ve slept on friends’ couches in Seattle, in spare bedrooms, hotels, hostels, Airbnbs, and in Bedouin camps in the Egyptian desert. I try to not impose too much, so if I do freeload off a friend’s couch or spare bedroom, it’s just for a night or two. Mainly, I prefer long-term stay in Airbnbs as they’ll typically provide a discount (between 10 to upwards of 60% off!) for long term stays of 28 days or more. (Note: you can’t cancel these kinds of reservations after you book them.) I like to have my own space to spread out, my own kitchen to cook in, and somewhere to just generally unwind. The longest I’ve stayed in a hostel is 2 weeks, and honestly, I couldn’t do that again. Hostel life is great for a short-term traveler, but for someone who’s in it for longer, it’s just not for me.
“How long do you stay in a specific place?”
It varies, widely. I’ve stayed in places for as little as a week, and as long as 3 months. The longer the better, in my opinion. One month when you’re working full time is really only 8 days of “free time”, and one week is even less if you travel on weekends.
“How do you pick where to go next?”
The places tend to pick me, actually, 🙂 I’ll hear about a place or an event or a trip from a fellow traveler and become fixated on it until I actually go. I do look for a few things when picking locations, though:
Is anyone coming with me? I often travel with my best friend who also works remotely, and I’ll also travel with coworkers or other digital nomads. In those circumstances, it becomes a discussion of finding a place that we all want to go to.
If no one is coming with me, how can I make friends in the place that I’m going? Do I have friends there? Friends of friends? Is there a large digital nomad or expat community?
What’s the cost of living? I generally try to stay at or under my monthly expenses from when I was living in Seattle, which is surprisingly easy when I use my credit card points for flights and book Airbnbs with heavily discounted monthly rates, but there are a few places in the world that are more realistic than others.
What’s the timezone? All of my team works US hours and I need to be cognizant of that.
And last, but definitely not least, what’s the wifi like? I’ve backed out of trips to Honduras, Belize, and Cuba because of potential WiFi problems. I’ll go there on a vacation, but I don’t want to risk dropped calls with partners for a good time.
On that note, “How do you find good wifi?”
This question should (and probably will be!) a blog post on its own. In fact, it should probably be a blog post for each individual city I visit. I do not have much stress in my life, at all, but if I could name one stressor, it would definitely be the constant struggle to find a solid wifi connection. Everywhere I go, I constantly have my phone out speed testing every internet connection I come across, looking for something above 10mps. Before I go to a location, I’ll research co-working spaces in the area and book an Airbnb within walking distance of one, if possible. I’ll message the Airbnb host before booking and ask them (very nicely!) to run a speed test on fast.com and let me know the result.
I consider myself a pretty laid back person, but Wifi is the one thing that I very type A about, and it’s for that reason that I rarely run into WiFi issues in a new location. Even still, it does come up, so it’s good to have a backup just in case. I use T-mobile’s international plan, which gives me free unlimited data and texting all over the world, so in a pinch, I can use my phone as a hotspot if need be. It’s not cheap, but I consider it a necessary expense for this lifestyle. That being said, I’ve also heard good things about Google Fi, or there’s always the option to buy a sim in every new location.
“Don’t you get tired of constantly being on the road?”
Absolutely, yes. There are days where I wake up exhausted and have to check out, get on a flight to another country, take a taxi, check in to another Airbnb, find a grocery store, and start all over in a new location. I’ll be on the flight trying to sleep but unable to, wondering again if this kind of lifestyle is worth it. Thinking that this is my last flight, after this I’m headed back to Seattle and renting an apartment and moving my things back into it. Wondering how in the world I’ll find the energy to figure out how to get a taxi, much less how to get around after I get out of it. But somehow, I always do. And after a nights rest, I wake up in a brand new and shiny location with a whole new city to explore, full of potential and adventure and excitement. I have new people to meet, new cities to walk down, new sites to see. And all of a sudden, the previous days’ exhaustion doesn’t matter because this, this is where I’m happiest.
But, “does that mean you’ll do this forever?”
Absolutely, no. It might mean that, but it also might not. The number one thing that I’ve learned about myself while on the road is that, no matter where life takes me, I’m not going to let it be dictated by societal norms. If I want to “settle down” one day, I’ll do it on my own terms, because I want to. Not because society tells me to. In the meantime, I have no intentions of slowing down. I love the life I live and I’ve never been happier.
But, “don’t you miss certain aspects of having a traditional lifestyle?”
Absolutely, yes. I miss knowing where my mail is going. I miss my friends and family back in Seattle. I miss knowing how to get around without Google Maps. I miss the ease of recycling and composting in the US. I miss having a sense of community and a sense of home.
But….”what do you love about your current lifestyle?”
This is where the list gets infinite. I love meeting new people from around the world. I love finding cute new cafes to work in. I love trying new foods. I love seeing new sites. I love having a lunch break in a hot tub in Alaska, or a tattoo parlor in Tel Aviv, or the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe, or a dive boat in Mexico. I love getting lost in the streets of Antigua. I love learning about new cultures, and languages, and histories. I love that every day is a new adventure, that even the mundane becomes an adventure. I’m not just going to the grocery store, I’m walking 2 miles along the streets of Nicaragua as the sun sets behind me. I’m not just doing my laundry, I’m taking a taxi to a woman’s house in rural Costa Rica and explaining in broken Spanish why my shorts are covered in mud. I love that my commute might be a walk along the beaches of San Juan Del Sur, through the cobblestones of Antigua, a bike ride through downtown Playa Del Carmen. I love that I’m able to travel with my best friend and life partner. I love getting lost, feeling uncomfortable, the anxiety of almost missing a flight.
And that’s just the beginning, I could go on and on about everything I love. It’s a magical lifestyle, and I wake up every day so overwhelmed and grateful to call it my life.