My ‘cubicle’ has a drink menu, my coworkers and bosses are on different continents, and today my office is furnished in hammocks, vintage furniture, and beanbag chairs.
…Allow me to elaborate. I don’t have a normal job- I have many jobs and they are all online. My main source of income is teaching English to students all over the world via Skype, but I also do freelance writing and editing, as well as running an online business of my own. My office… wherever I can find a decent WIFI connection. Today it’s in the bar of a large hostel in Cusco, Peru, munching on fresh bread and avocado. Later I will migrate my office to the courtyard, so I can sit in the sun while I work.
I’ve become whats known as a “digital nomad” partially on accident. By the way, digital nomad ….loosely translated, it’s just a fancy word for anyone who works entirely remotely/online, be it from coffee shops, shared work spaces, or in my case, a hostel in South America… usually one who uses that freedom to move around, travel, and explore. The internet is a beautiful thing, as far as the potential it offers for stepping outside of the traditional career box.
I personally realized that a ‘normal’ career in one place wasn’t what I wanted when I was traveling in South East Asia. But even as a kid, when we’d write essays in class about what we wanted to do ‘when we grew up’, I would rarely name a career, and instead dream of seeing the world. Dress pants, time clocks, and office walls have always made me cringe. I have the heart of a traveler, but equally important ‘the American dream’ of working a 50+ hour workweek so I could spend the weekend buying things… it felt like a trap, and never made much sense to me.
In December of 2013, I started a business selling antiquarian books online. I had just returned to the states after teaching English in Thailand, and after stumbling upon a few valuable books in local thrift store, started as a means to support myself while I searched for my next job. I got to spend hours digging through dusty piles of my favorite thing- books!- and within a month, I ended up turning down two full time job offers because my accidental online business was already paying better… and because I was hooked on the freedom of being able to schedule my own life. If I wanted to take the afternoon off to go to the park and work later that evening, I could. If I wanted to sleep in one morning, work in my pajamas, or take a break to grab coffee with a friend, I could. Freedom AND income, what a concept….
Six months later, I decided that I wanted even more flexibility- up until that point I’d been able to schedule myself but was still tied to a location by my inventory. So I shipped my books to a warehouse where my customer orders would be shipped by a third party. I spent the next two months road tripping across the US, camping in national parks, couch surfing, and visiting old friends. I used the travel experiences as an opportunity to start doing some freelance writing and expand my blog, started getting some of my work published, as well as getting small editing jobs.
I was hooked. I started exploring all my options- buying and selling was great, but realistically I could only do it from the US. Yet again, I wanted to expand my possibilities.
Two years later, I have rewarding work that I can do from anywhere. I teach English and various other subjects via Skype to students all over the world, helping tutor many of them towards gaining admission to American universities, as well as freelance writing and editing…while having free time to explore whatever location my happy heart decides to visit. Right now that place is Peru… my next destination is yet to be determined, but being completely open to possibility… feels amazing.
I’ll be honest, my lifestyle is not for someone who needs it all to be predictable, and like any job, working online has stressful moments. I’ve lost clients because of internet issues and I’ve taught English class from a hallway with my finger on the mute button in case a hotel guest wanders by speaking another language. Working on the road requires adaptability and a willingness to believe things will work out even when the going gets tough. Initially building enough online work to travel had its challenges, as did finding the resources to travel in a sustainable way. Getting to this point has been a trial and error process, and I am constantly learning. However, traveling and working can be as predictable as you choose, and the options for achieving a mobile life nearly infinite.
Along that vein, before leaving for my latest trip I decided I wanted to share those resources as well as utilize my own background in counseling to help others explore what their best life looks like, and how they can design a more adventurous and mobile existence, by launching a business, LifeCREATIVE… because I truly believe we all can create a life we love.
While I’m busy sharing my new project, my blog will feature guest contributions from friends and fellow travelers, artists, writers, and creative entrepreneurs who have discovered ways to live the life they love. BONUS- I’m also going to fill the new site with a ton of free resources for making travel sustainable, including links to many of the resources I’ve used to land online work, free and cheap accommodation, and work exchange opportunities. Feel free to share your own travel/freelance/life resources in the comments below.
(PS- Stay tuned, the next post will feature an excerpt from the absolutely wonderful and resource packed book, The Abundant Bohemian- Live An Unconventional Life Without Starving in the Process, written by my friend Joe Downing, a Dayton, Ohio lawyer who is using his own life to shatter the illusion that we must either choose adventure or material success… Joe’s new book highlights how we can easily have both)