Digital Nomad Life After One Year

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I’m running my practice remotely. I don’t go to the office. If you’re a regular reader, then you already know that I do it from the road.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve done my work in Berlin, Edinburgh, London, Lisbon, and the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a cruise ship.

I’ve worked from Miami Beach, Las Vegas, and Denver as well as Hong Kong, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh. We got quite a bit done while spending a few months in Vietnam visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, Da Lat, Hoi An, and Hue.

Most recently, we’ve been in Turkey, moving from Antalya to Kas to Istanbul.

Now, 365 days in, we’re in Verona, Italy.

We’ve moved quite a bit over the course of the year. We were warned that moving too fast might result in travel burnout. We decided that we’d risk it and that we’d take more downtime if we felt like we were reaching our limit.

We’re likely to slow down a bit going forward. We’ve discovered that more time in one place is better than less. Time gives us the opportunity to settle into a routine and get to know the local people and services better. We enjoy a place more when we invest more in figuring it out. But we’re not locked into any particular plan or schedule. We’ll keep experimenting, and we’ll see how it goes.

We’re leaving Italy in a few days and heading to Ireland. One of our kids is doing an internship in Dublin, so we’ll visit and then head off to the countryside. We’re sticking around Ireland until early September. Then we’ll head over to Scotland for a month, after which I’ll visit America for a few workshops. Then it’s back to Southeast Asia for four or five months, followed by Jordan.

Below, I’ll answer some of the most frequent questions I’m getting about our lifestyle:

How’s It Going?

Working remotely isn’t new for me. I’ve been working from home and coffee shops since 2008. I like it. For me, adding travel to the mix has made it even more interesting and fun. I love taking walks in new places, and using our weekends to see local sights is an amazing opportunity. Having new neighbors all the time keeps it all fresh, new, and interesting.

How Is the Business Coping?

The business worked well with my remote work for a long time before I left the country. It continues to go well and grow. The biggest issue with “coping” has been time zones. For instance, it’s hard when I’m in Asia to schedule voice calls due to the extreme time difference. On the other hand, working without interruption results in more productivity.

Is It Like Vacation All the Time?

Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. We pick good spots, and, during our time away from work, there are awesome opportunities for exploring and adventure. We often have great views and great restaurants. But sometimes, it’s just head down, earbuds in, cranking away on the work. There are days when I have to stay focused and push onward in the face of a deadline. Those days don’t feel like a vacation. It’s just work in a different place.

Is It Stressful?

Sometimes, yes. It’s hard to maintain systems and routines when the setting keeps changing. That’s a benefit and a detriment. It’s especially challenging when something goes wrong. Getting sick, dealing with unexpected stress or upset, or having a crisis of any sort is harder when you lack a routine to get you through the day. On those occasions, the stress level gets high, and it’s easy to miss the comfort of “home.”

Where’s Your Stuff? Do You Have a Home Base?

We sold most everything. We’ve got two bankers boxes in storage in New York for our winter clothes and some mementos. We don’t have a base. Everything else that we own fits in our carry-on bags.

How’s the Technology?

The technology is pretty good. I’ve got everything working really well from anywhere, so long as I can get decent Internet. We’ve had a couple of times where the Internet was incredibly frustrating, but we’ve overcome the issues by tethering off phones, finding better co-working spaces or cafes, or batching the work in some way that avoided the bad connection. We’ve found shockingly good connections in the weirdest places and shockingly bad connections in places you’d think would be speedy. But the connections are mostly fast, even in places off the beaten path.

How’s the Budget?

Shockingly, it’s great. We’re spending less now than we did living in Raleigh, North Carolina. In Southeast Asia, we mostly stayed in hotels. That area is known for being inexpensive. In Europe, we’ve stayed in apartments rented through Airbnb. Most of us think of travel as expensive. I think it’s expensive because we have very little flexibility, tend to go to popular destinations, and are forced—due to our schedule—to book expensive hotels. Lisa and I have been able to mostly take short, inexpensive flights on a flexible schedule, which reduces the price. Also, many of our flights have been free as a result of my interest in the points and miles hobby. We’re also getting long stay discounts on housing. Most significantly, we’re not hanging out in places where prices are driven up by the popularity of the destination.

How Does It Feel?

Mostly, it’s a blast. I’m in my element bopping between places and cultures. I never tire of the novelty. I’d give it two thumbs up with a few qualifiers. Two issues come to mind.

  1. The biggest downside for me is feeling more out of control. When something comes off the rails, I feel less able to fix it. Between the distance, the time zones, and the technology, there’s a disconnect that makes it hard to repair a situation immediately. I have to talk myself through being comfortable with the speed of getting things back on track.
  2. The other issue for me is that it’s harder to read people when you’re 10,000 miles away. Misreading people can make bad problems worse. I can’t always detect subtle emotional cues in employees, vendors, and advisors when we’re on videoconference instead of sitting across from one another. That’s challenging and sometimes results in miscommunication growing into upset.

Having Any Second Thoughts?

Nope. We’re still loving our adventure and will keep rolling along. If you’d like to come along, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram, where I post regular updates and pictures.

Anything Unexpected Happen So Far?

Most every day, there’s something unexpected, whether it’s the police in riot gear surrounding protestors, having dinner with a guy who turned out to be a Google Ventures partner, or meeting someone who hooks us up with “her guy” who finds us an apartment in a magical city we’d never heard of before. There were the hours we spent talking to the guy who saw most of his family killed by the Khmer Rouge and the chicken that attacked me in the street. Something unexpected happens before lunch most days.

Any Plans to Settle Back Into a Non-Nomadic Existence?

Nope. It’s going well, we’re having fun, and we’re getting our work done. We’ll keep going so long as those conditions continue.

Other Digital Nomad Lawyers articles –

One Year as a Digital Nomad Lawyer
Two Years as a Digital Nomad Lawyer
Three Years as a Digital Nomad Lawyer
Four Years as a Digital Nomad Lawyer
These 11 Truths Quickly Transform You Into a Successful Older Nomad
11 Road Warrior Essentials for the Nomad Lawyer

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