One of the many beauties of freelance work is that you can work from anywhere, at any time. You work the hours you’re most productive in the places that foster the most creativity for you. With today’s technology, more and more people are living the life of a digital nomad, travelling the world while doing meaningful work.
We’ve been inspired by many of the members of the CloudPeeps freelance community who have adopted this lifestyle. These Peeps have mastered the nomad lifestyle, living and travelling freely within reason. They know all the tricks and tips, tools and services to make the nomad style work for anyone willing to give it a try.
One of these Nomads is Briana Green, marketing and community strategist from New York, currently living wherever the wind blows her. We sat down with Briana to learn her nomadic secrets and resources.
1) Were you already working remotely before taking the leap into nomadism?
I was going on seven years living in New York City when I quit my full-time job in Manhattan to work for Crowdsourcing Week, a young Singapore-based company that was building a distributed team, meaning we can work remotely from anywhere.
2) What did that decision making process look like?
For me, it was a matter of weighing risk versus reward. I knew what I wanted: a big change, an international adventure, and a professional challenge.
I was also afraid of failure.
I had enough savings to buffer myself for six months if need be, so I told myself that if things didn’t work out in that amount of time, I could come back to NYC and start again – but with six months of risk-taking, Southeast Asia travel, and professional growth under my belt. That was a win-win scenario for me — enough so to take the leap — and luckily, I never had to look back. That was two years ago, and I’ve been living without a home base ever since, traveling and working in over 20 countries over the last 24 months.
It also helped my decision making process to think of others who lived much more radical lifestyles or were taking greater leaps than myself. An acquaintance who bicycled from Alaska to Argentina. An old roommate that uprooted from Brooklyn to Abu Dhabi. If I thought about it, there were quite a number of people I knew who were living differently and succeeding at unconventional opportunities. If they could do it, I could at least try.
3) How did you decide where you were going to go? How much planning goes into each adventure?
I’m lucky that at Crowdsourcing Week, part of our job is to organize a week-long conference in Asia and Europe each year, and that gives me an opportunity to explore and work in those regions each year after the conferences are over. I use my work schedule as a guidepost for where I need to be and when, and then plan travel around that.
Planning now takes less time than it used to. Over time, you learn what cities you like best and adopt temporary home bases (for me – Bangkok in Asia, Budapest in Europe, New Orleans in the U.S.) and I will sometimes book the same room there each time I go.
There’s a definite learning curve, like knowing when it’s better to use Airbnb (larger cities where competition is high) vs Agoda (remote areas where competition is low and Airbnb isn’t yet widespread) vs local platforms (like in Berlin, where the local “Craigslist” site WG-Gesucht.de offers the best deals) to find a place to stay.
There’s a lot of planning and research involved in each move, especially if you want to do it cost effectively. This could be perceived as a negative or tedious aspect for most folks, but I personally love the ‘research & discovery’ part as much as I love the travel part.
4) What resources did you turn to when planning?
Last year, I spent one month living in Beijing, a place I never really thought I’d go in my lifetime, much less in 2013. The opportunity came about while looking through listings on a TrustedHousesitter.com, an Airbnb-like website where people exchange free pet sitting services for a free place to stay.
A China-based expat family was going to Italy on vacation and needed a live-in sitter for their cat in Beijing. I first thought, I can’t do Beijing, that’s crazy. And then I thought, why not?
The experience was amazing. The apartment came with a lovely office setup for working, having the cat around was a treat, and even a friend from NYC joined me for part of the time. We saw the Great Wall, ate amazing food, connected with expats introduced to us by friends back home, and even spent a day art gallery hopping with a random local we met on the subway.
This is just one example of how a sharing economy platform, combined with the ability to work remotely, enabled a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The whole thing cost less than a fraction of what it would’ve cost to live in NYC for the same month–or the cost of taking an actual vacation to China.
Other sharing economy platforms that have provided incredible opportunities, in both an economical and social sense, are BlablaCar (a shared ride from Krakow to Budapest set me back €15), Relay Rides ($66 to rent a neighbor’s car in San Francisco for a daytrip) and Couchsurfing, which is just a wonderful community for connecting you with open-minded people around the world.
5) Any other cost-cutting tips or tips for traveling efficiently?
I think a common misconception is that travel, especially long term travel, is prohibitively expensive. However it actually costs me much less per month to live as a digital nomad than it cost me to live as a permanent resident of NYC!
If you spend like you’re on vacation, then of course travel will be expensive. The formula for affordability is to spend like you’re a local living a normal daily life while using sharing economy platforms to facilitate your biggest expenses like lodging and transportation.
One of the most shocking discoveries for me was how cheap mobility is within regions like Asia or Europe, thanks to the plethora of low cost airlines and buses now available. I was able to book round-trip flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Yangon, Myanmar for $50 total – less than a single dinner out in NYC. A Megabus from London to Glasgow cost €9 – less than lunch!
By embracing things like public transportation, sharing economy platforms, and resources that you have (time) over those you don’t (money), usually any trip can be within reach. “I can’t afford to do something like that” is not really a valid excuse for excluding the possibility.
6) How did you stay productive while on the road?
Stick to cities – there is better wifi, more co-working spaces, and the general hustle and bustle keeps me energized to work in a way that a remote mountain or island setting does not.
Make a routine – your location may always change, but your work routine doesn’t have to. Set your agenda for the day each morning before you begin working and stick to it.
Create deadlines – I work better under pressure, so I’ll create self-imposed deadlines. If you want to go see that floating market, you need to finish X, Y, and Z first.
Be flexible – sometimes your routine goes out the window, and the only time you’ll have to work is a few hours at the airport, or by waking up at 5am to work while the wifi connection is still strong and not yet overloaded. Being able to squeeze productivity out of these (sometimes awkward, irregular) windows of time is key to being able to enjoy yourself when you step away from the computer.
7) How did you prevent loneliness when staying in new places where you didn’t know anyone?
Often one of the first assumptions people make is that being mobile must be lonely, when in fact, dropping into a city sight unseen and meeting people has never been easier thanks to the digital information age we live in. It’s easier than ever to connect with friends of friends, people with parallel interests, or discover common professional connections – no matter where you are.
I always start by checking to see if Creative Mornings, Pecha Kucha, or any other global meetups are hosted in the city I’m in, and by researching local coworking spaces to visit, and tapping into the events hosted by the local Couchsurfing community.
Editor’s note: Check out LiquidSpace to book on-demand coworking space across the globe!
A photo posted by Briana Green (@brianapudding) on
Another advantage of traveling as a digital nomad is that you’re traveling with purpose: you’re not aimlessly wandering like a backpacker, you’re there with a job and set of professional interests that likely overlap with some locals. This gives you a pretense for tapping into a parallel professional community wherever you are — reach out to your counterparts, set up meetings or collaborations, or do some networking.
Additionally, Digital Nomads are growing as a cohesive international cohort, forming their own communities, apps, and holding meetups around the world. NomadList.com and Dynamite Circle are two such digital nomad communities that ensure you have a group of friends and professional connections to tap into wherever you go.
8) Any other tips or words of wisdom for someone considering the digital nomad lifestyle?
It’s not for everyone. This isn’t the new, universally better way to live and work. But for the many people that love traveling, crave the freedom to create their own path, and can embrace uncertainty – this has cracked the whole world wide open for you.
If this is something that at some point you’ve thought you might like or want to try, you should absolutely do it. Try it out for a month, no need to commit a lifetime. That’s the beauty of this lifestyle — you can adjust travel frequency, length, geography or extremity to suit or re-suit you at anytime (last year I changed location every 3-4 weeks, this year every 3-4 months, and next year… who knows?). It’s your life to make, make as you want it.
Here’s a list of sharing economy services and tools that will help you make the leap to digital nomadism without breaking the bank!
Housing and accommodations
6) Relay Rides
9) Pecha Kucha
Knowledge share resources
11) Dynamite Circle
Ready to make the leap into digital nomadism? Take freelance for a test drive by becoming a Peep!
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