The Digital Nomad

If you read my blog or follow me on social media, you’ll know I recently packed my life into boxes and headed to the East to work remotely. The move was both impulsive as well as a long time coming and, now that I’m here, I’m loving it so much I don’t want to come home. I mean, I will. Eventually. But for now I want to stay put.

When I’m not working, I get to explore South East Asia at a leisurely pace, an area I love and adore, while indulging my need for ‘new’. For adventure! I don’t have to deal with the poohness that is Cape Town’s winter. Or it’s drought! I love getting to meet the most fascinating people. I adore being able to eat like a queen for very little and nobody has to know how jiggly my ass is getting. Also, living out of a suitcase with very little makes me happy. It gives me great perspective and helps me realise just how stupid ‘things’ are. You don’t need five freakin’ body lotions. Just one that does the trick. When I travel light, I feel light. And happy!

Now that I’ve become a ‘digital nomad’ (a word I despise) I get asked a lot of questions about it and the most common is probably the hardest to answer, but I’m going to give it a bash. So here it is – the big kahuna – ‘how do I do that too?’

This is tricky because you don’t have to do what I do to work and travel. I’m a freelance writer for ads, magazines and TV and I have several regular clients that I work for each month. One of them has me on a retainer, so I know that even if the others had to fall away, I’d still have enough, from the one client alone, to live comfortably. If I didn’t have that ‘security’ I probably wouldn’t have left Cape Town. Also, for the record, you don’t need a high earning job to be here. You could easily live on R10K a month in the east as it’s a lot cheaper than South Africa. I earn more than that, so my lifestyle is now even more luxurious than it was back home and my living expenses are less!

So, again, you don’t have to be a writer. It’s just a matter of finding yourself a job that allows you to work from home. It could be coding. It could be web developing. Whatever. There’s no ‘secret’ or ‘trick’. It’s as simple as ‘if you’re working remotely in South Africa why not do the same thing in another country that’s favourable to the kakness that is the rand?’ Back home I used to spend R9K on rent, electricity and internet alone and now I can get all of that for less than six. 

Once you have that, the job that lets you work anywhere, it’s just a matter of wrapping up your life and then taking the plunge. The ‘wrapping’ bit involves getting rid of or minimising every cost you have in your old home (for me this meant giving up my apartment and putting whatever I didn’t sell into storage) and the ‘plunge’ was buying my plane ticket. For me, that was the scariest thing. That’s when things got real. Still, once that was done, everything else just kind of fell into place. I know from experience that only once you initiate and start walking towards something, as opposed to waiting for an opportunity, that the universe starts opening doors for you. 

Once I started ‘walking’ so many ‘problems’, many of which I’d already solved, were suddenly taken care of in ways that were even better. For example, I planned to park my car in a friend’s garage but when another friend found out I was leaving she asked if she could rent it while I was gone. Yay for yet more passive income! Also, because she’s a better driver than me (I’m shocking!) my insurance premiums went down.

If you’ve already got a job that allows you to work remotely, aren’t anchored by responsibilities like kids and have been thinking about making a move, then my advice to you is this: ‘What are you waiting for? Go, go, go!’ Minimise your ‘home’ expenses to the max (paying ‘rent’ in two countries is insanity’), ensure you’ve got a client that’s stable, save up three months savings to cover you in case stable client goes rogue and then hit the road like a boss. You’ll have the rest of your life to stay in one place. And if you hate it and everything goes to hell then you can just come home. It’s that simple.

I have a lot of freelancer friends in Cape Town who could easily do what I do but find making the leap a little scary. If this is the case, then rather stay put. If you want to do anything enough you won’t let fear hold you back. Still, just be sure you know exactly what it is you’re worried about. 

Before committing to my trip, I made a list of the things that were keeping me in South Africa. ‘Giving up’ my friends and family, albeit temporarily, sat at the top and that ties into another thing I’m most asked most about. ‘Don’t you miss your friends?’ The short answer is yes, but for me it’s not a deal breaker. Having done a gap year in London in my early twenties, I know that it’s possible to bugger off for a year and everyone who loves you will still be there when you get back. Also, thanks to social media and WhatsApp, you’re never really out of touch. 

Another of my ‘cons’ was dropping the beauty aspect of my blog but, again, this wasn’t a biggie and my craving for travel outweighed it ten to one. I’ve been writing about lipgloss for a decade, so I’ve said much of what I have to say, have schmoozed and boozed at enough launches to last a life time and press drops are viewed as work, not presents. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I get back home and have had a bit of a break but for now, I’m not missing the grind. I only miss the daily interaction with my ‘beauties’. Beauty blogging has enriched my life with the most amazing women, be they my fellow ‘blogger bietse’ or the kick ass PR queens who just ‘get it’. 

So ja. If you’re undecided or nervy, do a little list making. You might also be surprised by how easy it is to find solutions to any cons once you’ve put them down on paper. Once you cross them off, you’ve got more reasons to stay.

If you’re not undecided, really want to work and travel, but don’t have a gig that allows you to move then that’s your biggest obstacle. But if your desire to travel is truly a burning one, you won’t need much advice because you will find a way to maneuver yourself into a position that allows you to do it. It could be as simple as asking your boss if they’d mind if you worked from home and being surprised when they say yes or as complicated as working like a dog to developing a gig on the side that allows you to eventually quit your nine to five. But if you want it enough, you’ll get it. And once you’ve got that, the rest is piss. 

Here’s hoping I see you on the road! I’ll be the girl with the soon-to-be very jiggly ass.

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Images - Leigh's

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