Since I started travelling full time I've had several friends and acquaintances message me to ask about my journey.
Here's some common sentiments that I've received:
- I am so jealous, you are living your best life.
- How does your job work again? I want one.
- I really want to travel more but I can't because of insert reason.
- Are you staying in hostels and doing the backpacker thing?
- How do you fit your life into a suitcase?
All of this is fine. But I wanted to answer some of these questions and give an honest insight into what life is really like as a person who works and travels full time.
Being nomadic is amazing, but it's not without sacrifice
I don't want to be negative or put a downer on this, or to discourage any one who really wants to try the travel/work thing for themselves.
It really is an incredible opportunity, but it is what you make of it just like any other lifestyle. Being over a year in to having no fixed address, I certainly haven't got everything figured out - but I wouldn't change it and have no plans to in the near future. Everyone makes sacrifices to do the things they love and missing family and friends is a big one for most people who go down the nomadic path.
Everyone I speak to on my travels has a story about when their travel dream became reality. I discovered that many people who choose this lifestyle hit a wall at some point. The travel becomes normal and all of a sudden you have things to deal with things like loneliness or anxiety.
For me I hit a wall pretty early on while living in Southeast Asia. You need to ride a scooter to get around on the island of Bali and I wasn't very good at it, nor did I want to do it. I also struggled to make new friends and developed some social anxieties that I'd never noticed before, which was difficult to deal with as an extrovert.
It's probably the first time in my life that I've struggled to adapt, and that made me question so many things. As a result I got into some bad habits of working too much and not taking enough time to figure these things out for myself. Eventually I had to force myself to dig deeper and position myself far outside of my comfort zone to find happiness again.
Putting yourself out of your comfort zone can be uncomfortable, but it's where the most growth happens. Travel helped me to do it in the end, but that doesn't mean it's perfect for everyone.
I'm jealous, you are living your best life
Sure, it looks like that. But it's not all beaches and sunsets. Like most people I post my best bits on Instagram. But in reality I spend most of my days behind a laptop working.
Having said that, this does feel like a fortunate life, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. But as I always tell my friends, behind the scenes my life is pretty normal just like it was before I left the UK. I'm not suddenly a different person, I just live in different places and have to balance my life around new experiences and ridiculously long flights.
Work-life balance can actually be more difficult when you are on the move, or in a difficult timezone. Remote workers often feel lonely or get into bad overworking patterns to prove themselves since their employer can't actually see them in the office. This is something I have really struggled with and I haven't figured it all out yet.
How does your job work again? I want one
I work for a software company that is 100% remote. My co-workers are based all over the world and we communicate online the majority of the time, apart from twice per year when we all get together in a new destination.
It's the most fulfilling job I have ever had, without a doubt. But that isn't just because of the fact I can work from where ever I like. The team is great, the projects I get to work on are interesting and challenging, and there's no office politics.
If you were wondering, I found my job on remoteok.io. I had actually applied for some other remote jobs in my field (marketing) before. But I didn't have the right experience and absolutely no remote or freelance experience.
Knowing that getting the freedom to work on something that I was excited to get out of bed for with the freedom to travel, I decided to make a plan. I spoke to people with remote work experience, I found out what was required, I moved jobs for a year to get the right experience, and then I tried again.
If you really do want a job that offers remote freedom, it's not as far out of reach as you might think. Remote jobs are increasing in popularity and where once they were mostly engineering roles, you can now find roles in design, marketing, customer support, operations, HR and more. Even some corporate companies have started extending remote teams.
The main thing that would really benefit you is to gain some experience working with technology companies, which make up the majority of the remote job market. This might mean you need to move jobs, do some work on the side or even learn new skills. But it's all possible if you set a fixed goal and work towards it. Formal qualifications in the modern remote technology company are not a requirement.
I really want to travel more but I can't because reasons
If you want to do this, and I mean really want to do this, then you will find a way.
So many people have told me they want to, but they can't because they have a house or a car or a non-remote job. These are the things that will need to be changed if it's truly what you want.
Sometimes people I speak to don't want to travel, but they also don't want to work in a 9-5 office job. Remote working is not just for those who want to float around the world. Most of my colleagues secured remote jobs to get the freedom to work from home, spend more time with family or make the most of their time every day.
Are you staying in hostels and doing the backpacker thing?
Not at all. I optimise for quality of life and some creature comforts, which for me is a private home. The one thing I am willing to spend more money on is accommodation. I'm nearly 30 and have worked hard to get to this point, so this is the thing I can comfortably splash out on.
It's the thing that makes me feel "at home" in every new home I go to. It also helps me to have a space where I can go and relax, or work, or do what ever I need to in privacy.
It depends on the country but this means I am renting private apartments, condos, villas, and occasionally hotels, or what ever I can find that suits my needs in each place.
Another thing I am happy to spend money on is a co-working space, so that I can have a place away from home to work and meet new people.
This is just my personal preference, and I am not usually spending any more money on rent than I would have done back home. Certain locations mean breaking this rule, but that's OK too.
How do you fit your life into a suitcase?
This bit was the easiest of all, it was therapeutic getting rid of all of my possessions. I managed to raise over £600 for Oxfam by donating my clothes. Who needs that many clothes? What was I thinking?
Don't get me wrong I still love shopping, and I still go shopping. But the excess of it when I lived in one location was clearly just something I did to fill a gap, to fill some time.
Now when I buy clothes, or anything for that matter, I have to think "do I need it?", "what can I throw out or recycle to make room for this?". I try and donate clothes when I can and circulate my suitcase-wardrobe.
I started to travel with one cabin baggage sized suitcase and one backpack. That's it. Then when I added colder locations to my list I introduced a small check-in suitcase.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when you really need something specific and you are in a country where you can't get it, but that is pretty rare.
Simplifying life into a suitcase has free'd up more time than I thought possible, and weirdly, despite having less outfits and cosmetics, I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I did before.
It's surprising how travelling soon becomes normalised
Many things do change when you live out of a suitcase. But it all becomes a normal part of life very quickly. You still have to balance work and life, being healthy, exercising, making new friends, keeping in touch with old friends and making plans to see the places you visit.
My life changed, but I'm still doing normal shit every day
Most of all you have to learn to adapt and adopt a high level of self awareness. When your environment changes frequently, you have to adapt to it. If you like routine (surprisingly many nomadic people do), then you have to find ways to get a routine in different locations.
If you like adventure, then you need to figure out how to balance going on adventurous trips, with living in places that have the infrastructure you need. I need the internet to work. This cuts off a surprising amount of locations for me unless I am taking a holiday.
Each new place you go to comes with a list of things you have to find to adapt to a new routine: supermarkets, restaurants, co-working, social activities, gyms and coffee shops.
If you are guilty of working too much (raises hand) then you need to remind yourself to take a step back and enjoy the places you visit. Otherwise, what's the point?
The good stuff
I guess this post has mostly been saying that travelling full-time isn't too different to living in one place. Which is true, to a point.
I wanted to end on a positive note, because I still believe that this is an incredible experience that more and more people are taking advantage of. For me the greatest things about this lifestyle that have lived up to my expectations are:
- New experiences
- Meeting new people
- Challenging myself
- Learning new things
- Spending more money on life and less money on things
- Getting the chance to figure out where I might live permanently one day