Do you know what you want to do when you get older? Or rather, do you know what you don’t want to do when you get older? Sometimes getting where we want to go is more a matter of avoiding where we absolutely don’t want to be and figuring the rest out along the way. It’s easy to fall off the bandwagon, especially when your goal is to travel-full time as a digital nomad.
Humor me as we go through my perception of the typical work day, if it’s too painful to read feel free to skip through. I must admit it’s boring and monotonous and awful, but it’s a powerful motivator.
Life After College
Wake up, brew some coffee, watch the news.
Listen to your favorite podcast as you inch through traffic to get to work.
Sit down at your cubicle, unlock your desktop, read your email, get to work.
Grab some coffee, say hi to a coworker, sit back down at your cubicle.
One more hour until lunch.
Run to the bistro next door, slowwwwwly eat your Italian sub.
Discover cake in the company kitchen, have a slice (or two), catch up on company gossip.
Back to the cubicle. Hope that a hurricane comes and you get to leave early.
Remember that game Candy Crush used to be really fun? Might as well give it another go.
Wonder if you can make your pencil stand on its point.
Only 1 more hour.
Grab your suitcase, rush out the door.
Listen to the radio while you inch through traffic to get home.
Toss your things on the couch. Flop down, pick up the remote, flip through the channels.
Pop a freezer meal in the microwave. Watch the timer slowly tick down to 0. Flop back on the couch.
Realize you didn’t go to the gym. Again.
Maybe you’ll re-watch the office.
This is amazing.
The Office is so funny.
Wow there are so many episodes.
I should probably go to bed soon.
Last episode and then bed.
Oh wait, the next episode is already playing. Guess I can’t go to bed now.
Crap. I have to get up for work at 7:00 tomorrow. Brush your teeth and finally head to bed.
If you made it all the way through, cheers to you. I don’t know how I even wrote that. Kinda terrifying. Everyday, 5 days a week.
Would you want a life like that? I can’t imagine you would. Would anybody want a life like that? Perhaps throw in a friend or two, maybe you actually make it to the gym once in a while, and maybe you don’t watch Netflix quite that much. Nevertheless, its still doesn’t seem like a desirable life.
So why does it seem like that’s the life society is funneling us into? On the outside it seems like an ideal life- a stable job, a house, maybe some pets and a family. Perhaps 10 vacation days a year. That’s the life our parents wish us to have, the life our college counselors wish us to have, and the life society expects us to have.
That life sounds unhealthy, monotonous and depressing. Each day the same long sad boring tale. Do you remember how in high school we used to count down the days until the weekend? But then the weekend would fly by and Monday morning would come around and the process would start all over again. Imagine that being the rest of our lives, only with no summer break.
In two years, I could graduate college and that could be my life. I could go straight into a desk job crunching economic data for a big firm. But, there is no way I am going to let that happen. Hell no, there has to be more to life than that.
For the longest time this life seemed like basically the only option. Then I discovered that there are people out there living a wildly different lifestyle. These people are known as digital nomads.
What is a Digital Nomad?
The name is pretty self-explanatory: it’s anyone who works online while living a nomadic lifestyle.
But more in depth…Digital nomad is a pretty wide category that covers everything from freelancers, to bloggers, to CEOs of companies, to Youtubers, to remote employees. The work piece of the lifestyle is pretty much anything you can do online that will provide you with enough money to pay for one more night at the hostel. You live the life of a nomad while using the internet to maintain a source of income, versus working a standard job, saving up and then taking a temporary vacation.
There certainly seems to be plenty of monotonous moments while being a digital nomad. There’ll always be parts of any job that are a bit tedious and there’s probably plenty of annoying times when all you want to do is sit on the beach, but you have to stay in the hostel where there’s a wifi signal. Despite this, the lifestyle is still alluring.
To me, learning about marketing, creating content, and providing value for others in the format of being my own boss and running my own company sounds awesome. If I have to stay inside for a few days versus sitting on the beach that is right outside my doorstep, I think I could live with that (major sarcasm here because I doubt anyone would truly mind). I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so doing so while living a nomadic lifestyle is just the missing piece of my puzzle.
Discovering the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
When I tell people I want to travel the world and make money in some non-specific way on the internet, a lot of them look at me like I’ve got a screw loose. You too might be wondering, how in the world did an idea like that pop into the head of a small town girl like her?
I’ll answer your question with another question- have you ever heard of Tim Ferris? A few years back, Tim wrote a book titled The Four Hour Work Week. This book details how you can break free of the 9-5 jail most Americans have found themselves trapped in and go explore the world now, versus waiting for a retirement that might never come.
As Tim says, “Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan—there is no need to wait and every reason not to. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, high-end world travel, monthly five-figure income with zero management, or just living more and working less, this book is the blueprint. You can have it all—really.”
While The Four Hour Work Week is not be the end all and be all of the digital nomad lifestyle, it’s enough to get you thinking outside the box.
For young Kelly, learning that I didn’t have to spend my days in a corporate job saving for retirement was life-altering. I suddenly knew how I wanted to live when I was older. Immediately, I started creating business plans and researching different prospects. I was going to create my “muse” as Tim called it, a little cash cow business that would sustain me through years of traveling starting immediately after high school. Spoiler alert: this plan was not successful.
Steps to Becoming a Digital Nomad
Spoiler, I am in no way living life as a digital nomad yet, I ran into loads of roadblocks. It’s been a long and twisted road to get to the point where I am physically counting down the days until I set off, but I plan to be traveling across Europe wholly supported by funds I make online by next June. Here’s the story of how I’ve gotten to this point:
The Two Reasons Why I’m in College
When I told my high school guidance counselor that I did not intend to go to college, her frown grew so deep that I swore it was going to freeze and stay like that forever. Despite her protests, I knew college was not the decision for me. The world was big and I could waste no more time before getting out and exploring it. A digital nomad didn’t necessarily need a college degree. Many great entrepreneurs didn’t go to college, so I didn’t feel a need to. But the following two things got in the way:
1. My Parents
In addition to my guidance counselor, my parents also weren’t overly fond of the no college idea. Our conversation went a bit like this:
Parents:“You could do that, the digital nomad thing, but it’d be smart to get a college degree first. If you don’t have a college degree you’ll be restricted in life, there will be bridges that you just won’t be able to cross, promotions you won’t be able to get.”
Me:“But I won’t need a promotion if I’m running my own business.”
Parents:“It’s good to have a backup. Plus the education could help you. And 18 is really young to go travel the world alone. Why don’t you make some friends in college and then travel together afterwards.”
Me: “What if I just do a gap year?”
Parents: “It’ll be hard to go back and finish your education after a year off. You won’t be used to studying, taking tests, etc. Plus, life has a tendency to get in the way.”
Me: “Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
Parents: “But if you change your mind it’d be much harder to go through the application process outside of high school. Right now you have support of your high school and you don’t have a job so you can focus completely on applications.”
The list of reasons why I should just go straight to college seemed to go on and on. I know my parents would have supported me in whatever I chose, they respected me enough to let me make my own decisions, but they sure wanted to make sure I was making a well-educated decision and knew what I would be getting into. All things considered, college seem like a smart enough decision that I found myself roped in.
If my parents hadn’t suceeded in convincing me to go to college, my friends and FOMO would have. Spring of junior year came around and everyone at my highschool started to get excited about college. “Where are you applying?” everyone would ask. ” I hope we’re close to each other so you can come visit!”
“Football games! Cute campuses! Dorm room decorations! New friends! College parties! Living away from Mom and Dad!” The list of exciting things seemed to go on and on.
My Mom scheduled a tour of Clemson for Spring break that year. By the time I went, I was truly excited. I wasn’t completely sold on the college idea, but it sounded like a lot of fun. I got the feeling I’d be missing out if I didn’t go to college. I got to Clemson and the FOMO was serious- it looked like a blast.
So I got busy. By Christmas of senior year I had sent out four applications. I had completely fallen for the idea of the college experience. To me the best way to get that was to go a big state school. To me “college experience,” meant going to a top ten party school that had a huge football team and was in cute city. Something you would see in the movies. All the tailgates, the thousands of students , the plethora of opportunities, and the variety of majors so I could try a little bit of everything.
My Compromise on College
I wanted to travel, but my parents wanted me safe and with a college degree. In the end, I reached a compromise with myself and my parents: I decided to go to a college several hours away- a healthy degree of separation to prove to them and to me that I’d be fine on my own later while traveling. Plus, I’d be far enough away that hopefully I’d be able to get some sort of cultural differences. Of course I also intended to study abroad for a year.
Florida State was the perfect match. I fell for that school faster than you could blink when I visited. Moreover I’d always wanted to return to Latin America and they had a freshman study abroad program in Panama. Of course the next fall found me living in Tallahassee, FL. Life was amazing and every day I felt like a child waking up in Disney World, until this past year.
My Wanderlust Began to Disappear
This past year of college was the slow death of my desire to be a digital nomad and travel full-time. I began looking at internships, I debated rushing a business fraternity for professional training and connections that would serve me when “finding a job,” and I almost adopted a dog. Adopting a dog would have been great, but this would have restricted my travel opportunities for the next 10-15 years. The idea of a life spent in Washington D.C. working for a large economics firm and traveling on occasion was beginning to sound enticing.
In a random spurt of wanderlust, I planned a summer trip to Costa Rica with my two roommates. I wanted to see what life would be like living in hostels and traveling. The idea was that this would give me a sample of what my life could be like as a digital nomad to see if it still held any allure, but when the time came to leave I honestly didn’t even feel like going.
Thank goodness I went though. You may know what happened and if not I’ll probably tell you the whole story later, but it quite literally knocked me some sense into me and reminded me of my passion and enthusiasm for adventure. It reminded me of my dream of becoming a digital nomad and instilled in me a wanderlust fiercer than I ever known.
Before I even hoped out my flight out of San Jose, Costa Rica, I was already planning my next adventure. My first instinct was to book the next flight to Europe and just start traveling- figure it out as I go. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would be severely disappointed and regretful if I didn’t spend one more semester with my FSU friends (love you guys so so much). Besides, I’m only 21 credits from graduating college, so I’m going to be a smart adult and finish while it’s so close.
The Future: Finally Achieving My Dream
The more I thought about leaving right away, the more I realized I would be severely disappointed and regretful if I didn’t spend one more semester with my FSU friends (love you guys so so much). Besides, I’m only 21 credits from graduating college, so I’m going to be a smart adult and finish while it’s so close.
The current plan is to spend one more semester at college and then jet off to Spain for a study abroad exchange to finish my last few credits and to get a solid base in Europe. I’m low key terrified that life will once more try to find a way to get between me and my dreams of traveling. If that happens please reach out and remind me. Sometimes it’s hard swimming against the current and going against the grain of society. Every once in a while you need a little push or bop on the head to remind you to just keep swimming.
Tag along as I prepare to leave my little slice of the world behind and cut loose like a dandelion in the breeze. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of ups and downs, as always
So I’m Kelly and now you know the story of my childhood dream of becoming a digital nomad. For more about me, please visit The Primal Nomad About Page.