FAQ on Being A Digital Nomad Answered in pursuit of happiness why i became a digital nomad

FAQ on Being A Digital Nomad Answered

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There’s no doubt that the digital nomad lifestyle is appealing. For many people, the idea of being able to work from anywhere in the world is a dream come true. But leaping to becoming a digital nomad can be daunting. There are a lot of questions and unknowns involved in making the switch. We’ve put together this FAQ on being a digital nomad from experiencing it firsthand in 2014. We’ll answer all your questions and help you take the first steps to live life on your terms. So whether you’re already living the digital nomad life or just considering it, read on for some helpful tips!

UPDATE: Since first writing this article in 2015, plenty has changed. While I am still working for myself, I no longer own my original business shared in this article; I am no longer married, and my Digital Nomad journey came to an end after settling in Portland, OR, in 2016.I also moved back to San Francisco shortly before the 2020 pandemic and am now getting ready to move to Spain. However, the lessons and experiences shared within this FAQ still stand true, especially as this new wave of Digital Nomads has emerged from 2020, and many countries now offer a digital nomad visa of sorts. Since 2016, I’ve continued to travel extensively, along with my dog, and home-basing in places three months at a time, like Mexico City and Alicante, Spain.

In Pursuit of Happiness Why I Became a Digital Nomad

In Pursuit of Happiness Why I Became a Digital Nomad

If you long to escape your desk job for a business that allows you to travel the world, you’re not alone. A new breed of professionals who’ve merged their bucket lists and careers into a mobile way of life: are called Digital Nomads.

Last October, my husband and I joined this new generation of professionals. We skipped renewing our lease in oh-so-expensive San Francisco, sold most of our stuff, and stored the remaining few items we own at my parent’s home to live a location-independent lifestyle, along with our two dogs, Teddy, a year-old Chihuahua, and Zoe a 5-year-old terrier mix rescue. I know this lifestyle is special, happy, and fortunate. One that I don’t take for granted.

Although we are about four months into this new lifestyle, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers, family, and friends on the topic of being a digital nomad couple. I thought I’d answer the top questions.

What does ‘Digital Nomad’ exactly mean?

First, let’s define the meaning of a ‘Digital Nomad.’ According to Wikipedia, a digital nomad is “someone who leverages technology and the internet to work remotely and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner.” With that defined, my lifestyle is exactly that. I’m lucky enough to work for myself and can virtually work anywhere in the world — as long as there is one thing: the internet.

In Pursuit of Happiness Why I Became a Digital Nomad 5

In Pursuit of Happiness Why I Became a Digital Nomad 5

Why did you leave your 9-to-5?

I understand that leaving a 9-to-5 job for the freedom to work anytime and anywhere may seem like living the dream — but it’s also an intimidating leap of faith, even for us. My husband and I are in a unique situation where we’ve worked for ourselves for many years. We have an established routine, making picking up and traveling much easier. The intimidating part came from second-guessing ourselves if this was the best decision we were making. Thus far, it’s been one of the best decisions. Whether working in San Francisco, at a cafe in Kennebunkport, or on the beach in Tamarindo, we live the same life. We’re just in a new setting; that’s all.

When did you start your digital nomad journey, and why?

We officially started our digital nomad journey on October 1, 2014. Our journey began six months prior with the idea of traveling long-term and living in a different country, state, or city. Ideally, 2-3 months in each location.

This idea would always come up after returning, love-struck from another trip. We had dreamt of living in Italy and Spain, but the “due date” kept getting pushed forward more and more, never really jumping on the idea. It seemed like a fantasy that would never come to fruition.

In the Spring of 2014, during a hike, we came to the realization that we could virtually work anywhere in the world. We didn’t have a job tying us down. No mortgage. No children. So, why were we living an unhappy life in the most expensive area in the United States? San Francisco was zapping our energy, diluting our pocketbooks, and making us some of the most unhappy.

This was hurting our relationship in the long term. Sure, San Francisco/Silicon Valley is “home.” But, we didn’t have to live there, deal with awful commuter traffic of this increasingly more congested area, or pay sky-high prices for rent for a teeny-tiny space; we were looking at $3k for a one bedroom. That’s wild!

After that hike, we decided that with our lease coming up in October, we wouldn’t renew it; instead, we would pursue our passion and travel the world. We would bring work with us on our travels. We had about six months to plan properly and to get our bearings straight—sell our most of our possessions, get digital nomad insurance, getting our pets ready for the move by updating their vaccines, etc.

Capturing the Thrill of a Workcation: Life as a Digital Nomad

How does my work sustain my life of travel?

I earn my money as a virtual lifestyle concierge, a business I started back in 2009, where I’ve built a solid clientele base. I business coach and mentor other aspiring women entrepreneurs that aspire to have their own VA or lifestyle concierge business and have been featured in Entrepreneur Press’ ‘How To Start A Concierge Business.’ I’ve also been working hard to build my wellness-focused food and travel blog, which I get paid for via Google AdSense, affiliate links, brand endorsements, and sponsored posts. Some months I earn a great amount of money. Some months I don’t. It’s the ebb and flow of being your own boss. My partner earns money from automotive-focused niche websites. He’s been a web entrepreneur for many years and since the first dot com wave. Similarly, he relies on Google, affiliates, and selling ads.

How does my life of travel sustain my work?

Family, friends, and strangers alike have all said it’s nice that we can go on vacation for this long. Let’s get things straight. This is not a holiday. We work and travel at the same time. You cannot do one without the other; work is a constant in our life and travel. Sure, we may be in a new and exciting place, but we aren’t constantly “vacationing,” and at the same right, we aren’t working 8-hours straight. It all comes down to balancing and structuring your priorities and allocating the right amount of time for work and travel. If we have big projects or deadlines that need a lot of attention, we’ll find somewhere quiet to do this in whether it is in our rental, a cafe, or the beach. If we have more flexibility, we will pursue our travel goals like exploring a city, surfing, yoga, or whatever.



How do we select our destinations?

With so many places to visit, it makes the deciding part difficult. We always discuss where we will head next, the pros and cons of a place, and what we know about a place. Talking to other travelers helps as well. We picked Costa Rica because we had both been to Costa Rica and enjoyed it. We wanted to be somewhere warm and where we could hike and experience fun outdoor activities that weren’t nearly as expensive as back home. Costa Rica was the perfect spot.

What was the biggest challenge?

Convenience is a black hole for anyone who’s ever wanted more out of life. It takes a very strong-minded person or team to take the first plunge into the unknown. Traveling makes you confront your issues head-on—no hiding or going around them. There aren’t distractions from being able to place them to the side. Going out of our comfort zones is a big challenge in and of itself—new cultures, languages, and having no one else to rely on in everyday situations but ourselves. And, of course, a consistent high-speed Internet connection. Being in Costa Rica, we’ve come to terms that long are the days of reliable, fast internet. At least until April, when we have to pick up and move on to our next destination, which will most likely be Portland, OR. We’re learning to accept this part of our daily life here.

Yep. This is me and my suitcase. I'm holding everything I'll be traveling with.

Yep. This is me and my suitcase. I’m holding everything I’ll be traveling with.

What do you want to achieve?

We want to live life to the fullest. This is a sort of world tour of potential places we’d like to settle. And if it ends up not being just one place, but a few that we want to route back to, that’s fine too. Being a digital nomad gives you a great opportunity to devote time to fulfilling personal goals, too, because you have the freedom to change your environment to suit that. New environments help you to be inspired. This year I want to work on developing more professionally and personally. Work on better health and being an overall happier person.

What are your next destinations?

So far this year, we’ve planned on staying in Costa Rica until April 8th, then returning to the States. We’ll most likely stay in North Carolina for a week once we arrive back and head to San Francisco for the remainder of April. The plan is to head to Portland, Oregon, in May to explore the Pacific Northwest. Road Trip across the US over the summer. We’ll be in Greece in August, Berlin, Germany, in September, and Barcelona, Spain, in October. We’ll conclude our year in Asheville, NC. Our original plan was to head to Barcelona after Costa Rica, but we would need to figure out getting a visa to stay longer than the allotted three months. But we’ll see…We’re still open to ideas for 2016

The article was first published in November 2015 and updated by our editors 2022.

Hi, I’m Valerie!

I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.