Two months into the digital nomad life, and I thought I should get off my ass and give an update.
What’s awesome about being a digital nomad:
1) Work is fulfilling
In my previous corporate jobs, I always tried to find my own meaning in what I was doing. And for the most part, I enjoyed what I did. But when you’re a digital nomad, it’s a whole different ballgame. Essentially the power is in your hands. That’s both a powerful and worrying idea, but to be honest, mostly it’s powerful.
(a) We decide what’s a priority
Mike and I have a very collaborative work relationship. He shares with me his ideas, his strategies, and then we decide on our short-term goals, our next steps and bounce ideas on what to do. I feel attached to our goals and our work because I had a hand in crafting them.
(b) Every day has a new learning opportunity
Things I’ve picked up in the last 2 months: social media management, creating simple graphics, SEO tools, website management tools, email marketing, sales funnels, Facebook ads, sales copywriting, affliate marketing etc etc. Every day, I learn something new or how to do something better.
(c) We can tell very quickly if what we’re doing is effective
Oh, this is my favourite thing! Seeing the fruit of your labour come to life is so rewarding, and with online marketing, the numbers can tell you if you’re on the right track or not. And if you’re not, no biggie; just try a different tactic and see if that works instead. I absolutely love the problem-solving nature of the work.
2) It’s inspiring and motivating to be around like-minded people
One of my favourite things is how awesomely supportive the digital nomad community is here in Chiang Mai. There are Facebook Groups, meet-ups and various sub-groups based on interests/business and everyone is open to sharing and willing to exchange ideas.
Everyone I’ve met here has their own unique story, is on their path on attaining their business/life goals and I learn something new from everyone. Whether it’s a business idea/model I wasn’t aware of, or a city I haven’t travelled to, or a new program that makes something easier, the people here are a fountain of experience, knowledge and stories. You just have to be open to hearing them.
3) My office is different every day
I tend to think of myself as someone who likes routine, but there is something so freeing about not having an office cubicle! Mike and I have specific working hours (typically 9.30am to 4.30pm), but other than that, we mix up our working locations. We have a few favourite cafes and we tend to bounce between them.
What I’ve found is that the stimulus of a new environment actually does help me be more creative and productive. Sure, we all have our off days once in a while but in general, the hours that we do work, we get shit done. And if we do feel unfocused that morning or afternoon, then we have the choice of doing something more ‘fluffy’ or that requires less brainpower.
4) Every little victory is extra sweet
When everything you do directly leads to an outcome, and then things go well, it is so damn sweet. Earlier this month, we launched new tiers of info-products which we had been working on for a month. Everything from the content of the eBooks to the sales page to the email marketing were things that we created. So when you put that out into the world and people respond to it, it’s bloody awesome!
Yes, I’ve had work victories in the past but when you’re a cog in the massive wheel, you don’t feel as emotionally invested. It’s not even the monetary bit that is extra nice, it’s more the feeling of knowing you created something that worked and is of value.
5) I’m responsible for my own life
Having autonomy is fan-fuckin’-tastic. There’s nothing I value more than my own independence and freedom, and this life choice fully supports that. Again, it can be a scary power to have, and I know that there is definitely more I can to fully take advantage of it, but for now I’m just enjoying it.
I’ve been mulling over some ideas for the future, and I’m extremely excited about the possibilities and the different roads I could take. I enjoy feeling like I’m in the driver’s seat of my life and that all roads are open to me (just have to decide which one to take!).
What’s challenging about being a digital nomad:
1) Finding your own path/purpose
Analysis paralysis! The more I hear about what others are doing, the more I learn, the more options there are. And the more difficult it is to choose.
I came into this thinking that I wanted to build a freelance writing business. Now it’s merely one option in a somewhat lengthy list. I have some ideas percolating in my mind, but nothing I’m invested in yet. I think this is probably something that might take a bit of time, and I’m willing to cut myself some slack on it. (Time is ticking, and I know it…)
One of my biggest personal challenges is to get out of my head, stop conceptualizing and just fuckin’ do it. I have to start somewhere, and then refine the idea as I go along.
2) Meeting people and making new friends as an introvert
Making new friends, sighhhh. It can tough when you’re an adult. And when you’re an introvert in a new environment, it can be a nightmare.
Coming to Chiang Mai as Mike’s ‘intern’ smoothened the process for me a little bit. He introduced me to his circle of friends and they very kindly welcomed me into the fold. We had some business meetings with other entrepreneurs, and Mike also introduced me to other acquaintances. Having someone else be the social conduit so to speak was valuable.
The good news is that most nomads here are pretty cool and open to meeting people, so it’s a matter of being willing to step out of your comfort zone a little bit. Going to interest-specific meetups have worked for me. Making the effort to keep in touch with people. And having random conversations with strangers. Having a curious attitude helps.
My problem these days is that I’ve settled into my own routine and become perhaps too comfortable; I’m not going out socially as much as I did in the early weeks. So that’s something I’d like to work on. I’d also like to cultivate some of the friendships that just started, and make them more solid.
3) People come and go
You meet someone cool and then boom, two weeks later they’re moving on. That’s the reality of the nomad life. The transience of relationships here can be a bit of a bummer, but there’s also the possibility that your paths will cross again in the future. And y’know, you have friends around the world which is awesome. This is just one of those kinds you have to get used to, I think.
4) Keeping in touch with people back home
Oh boy. So, full disclosure: I’m not homesick at all. But I’m quite a self-sufficient person and I don’t need regular contact with the people I care about. Sure, life here would be sweeter if I could share it with my family and friends, but I’m not heartbroken over it.
I think I do a decent job keeping up with friends. If I really need to get something personal off my chest, they’re only a Whatsapp message away and I know they’re always ‘there’ if I need them (and vice versa!). And they have been there to listen to me whine, give advice or support, so I still feel that friendship bond even though we’re in different countries.
What I struggle with is meeting my mom’s emotional needs. I know she misses me, she worries about me, and she wants to talk to me more. I don’t enjoy talking on the phone or talking about the mundane details of my life, so what I’m willing to do is a weekly Skype call instead of many calls every few days. I really don’t have much to talk about so talking every week gives me the opportunity to store some stories to share with her.
I’m a super low-maintenance person in terms of needing contact with people I care about, but I’m also lucky that I know those people have my back.
5) Staying disciplined
Maintaining accountability to myself is an on-going struggle. And I know that part of it has to do with having undefined personal goals (which will change soon!). I think that once I set my path, I’ll feel that inner motivation to put in consistent work.
I’ve also gotten tips from other people on how they stay productive so I need to try out some methods and see what works best for me and my lifestyle. It’s a process of self-discovery and finding out what pushes me. I like uncovering new things about myself that I can improve on.
All things considered…
I think I’m in a great place in my life and exactly where I want to be!
It’s funny to think that I’ve only been here two months because my life before this feels like a hazy memory. I joined Location Rebel on 29 July 2015, and now one year later, through a series of coincidences, I am actually living the location independent life. It’s so trippy and shows how the unexpected can lead to awesomeness.