Digital Nomad

13/07/2015

Introduction

I have always loved the idea of travelling for extended periods of time (idea being the operative word). Living somewhere different for a while, instead of just going on holiday for a week or two. Really immersing oneself in a different culture instead of simply being a tourist.

I grew up in North Wales, but have lived in London for the last 5 and a half years. I came initially for university and then worked as a web developer, first freelance and then full time.

Whilst on a train one day, I was pondering (you get lots of thinking time on London trains) and realised that my personal spaces have always been decorated primarily with travel related items: from map posters and rotating globes, to pictures of remote locations. Something within was clearly crying out to travel more. I thought I should stop dreaming about it (my duvet cover and pillow cases were even of the Manhattan skyline) and just go.

So in February 2015, I left my full time job as a backend web developer in London and returned to being freelance. My idea was that I could do freelancing as I had been, i.e. in shared office spaces (or Starbucks #freeWiFi), but in different countries for short periods. I mean surely any digitally based job can be done from anywhere right? I had previously lived in San Francisco for five months on a university exchange program, so had an idea of what I thought this lifestyle may be like.

My tenancy was also due to expire in the summer, so this gave me a deadline to prepare and decide if I was actually going to do this. If I didn’t do it now, I never would. The door seemed to be wide open.

Digital Nomad

After leaving my job, several ‘nudges towards that door’ happened at the same time:

A graphic designer introduced me to the concept of a ‘digital nomad’. I knew that was what I had been thinking about, but didn’t know there was an official term for it:

“Digital nomads are individuals who leverage telecommunications technologies to perform their work duties, and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner.”

She showed me a helpful website https://nomadlist.com/ which gives advice about ‘nomading’ in various cities, and she also told me about some shared office space in Lisbon called Coworklisboa. My taste had been whetted.

I decided Portugal was a good place to start because I had already started trying to learn Portuguese, and this would hopefully help me to develop some fluency in the language.

I decided around that same time to read – i.e. listen to an audiobook of (again, lots of time on trains) – the four hour work week, which had been recommended by several people. I didn’t actually know what it was about, and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was about how to work whilst travelling. I didn’t completely agree with everything in the book, but it definitely made this working arrangement seem very achievable. I now really wanted to do this.

Finally, the extra push came from watching some documentaries by Louis Theroux. I thought that, if Louis can spend time with Neo Nazis and other quite scary groups – around whom I would fear for my life – then I would probably (hopefully) be fine CouchSurfing and Airbnb-ing in a few different countries. Airbnb – for those who don’t know – is basically renting rooms (or whole houses) from others through the Airbnb website.

So, being the cautious person I am, I have decided to give this lifestyle a trial; unlike my aforementioned graphic designer friend who is committing for 6 months – I am not so brave. This is what this next month and a half is about.

This blog is here to: document the journey; help organise my thoughts; hopefully provide some good stories and helpful hints for others who may want to do the same; and also explain to some very confused friends and family members what it is that I am actually doing.

I will also reiterate (and I can not do so strongly enough) this is NOT an extended holiday, this is attempting to live like a local in new places (and don’t believe my biased Instagram feed because I am not going to be taking photos of office spaces every day!)

My expectations for this trip are not only to learn about other cultures, but also to step back from my own culture and take a good objective look at it.

Preparing

I have come to realise that I don’t often grasp concepts until I actually put them into practice. So whilst I have prepared as much as possible for this trip and have an itinerary, I understand that unknowns will make more sense as I gain experience doing them.

My efforts to digitalise as much as possible over the last few years, have also come in handy in helping prepare for this:

  • All my books are now in pdf or eBook format. As much as I love physical copies of books, this makes travelling considerably lighter.
  • My laptop and phone I treat as ‘shells’ for accessing data stored on Cloud services such as Google Drive and GitHub. This serves as both a helpful way of synchronising between different devices, and as a backup solution.
  • My laptop and phone I treat as ‘shells’ for accessing data stored on Cloud services such as Google Drive and GitHub. This serves as both a helpful way of synchronising between different devices, and as a backup solution.
  • This scanning app (ScanBot) has been an invaluable discovery this year. It has enabled me to almost completely eliminate the little paperwork I still get (some companies are not yet in 2015) by converting documents into a cropped digital format. It even features Optical Character Recognition!

 

I have discovered a strange enjoyment in getting rid of physical stuff. I felt in some ways that “I didn’t own stuff, stuff owned me”, and I see incredible value in having less, as stuff shackles freedom of movement.

Airbnb has conveniently become more popular this year, which makes finding somewhere to stay much easier. Feel free to use my link to get money off if you want to try their services (this will also help me out by providing me with credit!):
https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/tcoleman72?s=8

And finally, for anyone reading who happens to find themselves in the same city (especially if you are also doing the digital nomad thing), please get in touch, I would love to hear your story!

Para Lisboa.