A lot of us spend time at work, wistfully staring out of the window, counting down the days until we jet off on that holiday we booked months ago. But what if there was a way you could be at work … on holiday? What if you could travel the world … while at work? Sound good? Chances are, you might just be a digital nomad in the making.
The digital nomad lifestyle, travelling the world and working from anywhere, is extremely appealing, but why is it so few do it? To get a better understanding of what exactly a digital nomad is, what they do, and how you become one, we spoke to Felicia Hargarten.
Felicia and partner Marcus Meurer are the founders and initiators of the global Digital Nomad DNX movement. Together, they started the biggest event for location independent entrepreneurs, the annual DNX – Digital Nomad Conference, and they regularly organize Coworking and Coliving DNX CAMPS in some of the most beautiful spots around the world. This year, camps will be held in Jericoacoara, Brazil.
What is a digital nomad?
Digital nomads are people who love to travel the world and work from anywhere. All they need is a laptop and stable internet connection. However, this cannot be mixed up with backpackers or people doing an around-the-world trip: nomads travel slow, live like a local – and yes, they really work.
Digital nomads can be split in to three groups: freelancers (work for clients/others and still exchange time against money); entrepreneurs (build scalable products and services but work anywhere); and remote workers (standard employees, but with ‘work from anywhere’ kind of jobs).
How can you become a digital nomad, and what are some typical jobs?
You should be familiar with making websites and landing pages, SEO, social media, online advertising, content marketing, ecommerce, sales funnels, email marketing, community building and creating products and services. Of course, it’s possible to outsource what you’re not good at, or what you don’t like to do so much. Depending on your skills, you can either start as a freelancer or you can start to sell your own product or service and focus on the website traffic that you need to reach potential customers.
If you have no idea at all how to start, try completing the following list:
- What are my skills/what am I good at?
- What do I love to do?
- Is there a problem other people have that I could solve?
What was your “eureka” moment when you realized that the digital nomad lifestyle was for you?
It was never a plan – more of a happy coincidence really. I studied Event Management & Tourism, before working for a long time in the 9-5 corporate world in Düsseldorf and Berlin. My boyfriend was working in the start-up scene in Berlin, something he found very inspirational – to the point that he wanted to become self-employed. I wanted to travel more, and then one day, out on a trip, we realized that not only could we work from anywhere, but that our skills were a perfect match.
That’s when we decided to do business together and just keep on traveling. We started freelancing four years ago, taking some of our clients out of our big network in the start-up and online marketing scene we were involved in.
Were there any difficulties adapting to your new life?
Our primary struggles were to always set up the right infrastructure at a new place and to be productive. Today we are very quick at that: Where can we work? Where can we live? Where do we meet other people? Where do we get a local SIM card? Where can we buy healthy food and do sports?
To help productivity, we established a daily routine and use different apps and hacks (we share these on our German DNX Podcast, Life Hackz).
Do you spend a lot of time planning your travels, or do you simply pick a place and move on?
I simply pick a place and move on. But I do plan a bit ahead and adapt my plans if necessary. As the nomad lifestyle is quite unsteady, it is important to plan to a certain extent, otherwise you can get worn out quite quickly.
Thinking both inspirationally and practically, what makes a great digital nomad destination?
In my mind a great destination is a remote place, like an island – not a big city. I love to be close to the ocean and kitesurf. As I am vegan, I need enough options to eat healthy, and of course the internet connection has to be stable, too. I love to be surrounded by like-minded people but also integrated into the local community.
How has life as a digital nomad encouraged you to engage with locals on your travels?
You definitely engage much more with locals and have a deeper connection to them as a nomad compared of being a tourist. As you spend more time at one place you get to really know them. What is their culture like? What do they struggle with? What is their view of the world? What do we have in common?
What is the digital nomad community like?
The digital nomad community is a very strong one, especially at our DNX – Digital Nomad Conferences and DNX CAMPS. It’s a very active and creative community, filled with amazing people eager to help each other, and share their knowledge.
What has the lifestyle taught you about the world?
I’ve learnt that there are lots of people out there that are “awake”. They understand that our old systems do not work for mankind anymore. They’re willing to work towards a future where the world has its inner balance back, and is a peaceful place. It is not only the way we work we have to change – there is so much more; education, religion, banking, health, science and the state system.
We can all create our own reality – everything that exists is also only made by others. You have a choice in every action you take. There are already a lot of people out there that do really great stuff, we just have to learn how to connect and collaborate to make changes happen.
What has digital nomadism taught you about yourself?
It made me more conscious – not only about different aspects in life, but also of myself. Who am I? What do I dream of and what am I capable of?
What is the one most important fact you’ve learnt thanks to your lifestyle?
The people all over the world are all from the same universe. They face the same struggles and have the same fears and hopes. The world is so much more peaceful and respectful than the media tells you, and we can all find some common connection to the people we meet along the way.