Digital Nomad wannabe Marion Piper – It’s hard to believe how much the world has changed already in 2020. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of such ‘unprecedented times’ (anyone else sick of that phrase yet?!) is that we can’t go anywhere. Forget about jet setting to a tropical island or even skipping across town to visit friends. “STAY HOME” is the message, but my heart can’t help but wander off.
Last October I had finally set off on the adventure I had been dreaming of for years. I had sold or packed away all of my earthly belongings (aside from what I could squeeze in my luggage) with the hopes of becoming a digital nomad. But alas, it didn’t quite go according to plan. Let me explain.
Wait, back up – what the heck is a digital nomad?
In a nutshell, a digital nomad is anyone working remotely that travels to different locations. At the heart of the nomad lifestyle is the ability to work anywhere, at any time, typically online. Spoiler alert: I wanted that lifestyle. BAD. Ever since I first went overseas – which was for work in 2008 – I yearned to be on the road.
In order to get to the juice of my story, let’s zoom out and look at the fruit, aka the career trajectory that got me here.
From a PhD to creative agency copywriter to freelance boss babe
Yep, that’s right. Not only did I manage to survive a PhD (it was the hardest thing I’ve created to date), I also ‘did time’ in creative agencies, both here in Melbourne and California. I cut my teeth at various agencies spanning digital advertising and communications (snoop my LinkedIn for deets if you fancy), while also birthing a creative doctoral project about the relationship between creativity and posttraumatic growth. Did your heart stop just now too? SAME. I still can’t believe I had the energy for ALL THAT (thank you coffee, I love you).
But enough was enough. I finally admitted OUT LOUD that I wanted more freedom and to pick and choose the clients I collaborated with. So in July 2019, I did it, I quit my full-time job, much to the chagrin of my amazing boss who, at the time, I know was under a lot of stress (big ups to her for letting me go).
After a few months of freelance life, I had a few steady clients so I thought “[email protected]$k it, let’s hit the road!” But oh…what a naive fool I was. I’d been to 30+ countries and wanted to prove to myself that I could work and play and experience the world, and I was just the right amount of cocky to throw caution to the wind and dive on in.
So I did (now you’re up to speed). There were so many things I wasn’t prepared for, so rather than lie and tell you “5 ways to CRUSH the digital nomad life”, I’m going to do the opposite…
Here are 5 things I wish I knew before I booked my plane ticket as a Digital Nomad (from kinda important to crucial)
5. You don’t need all those clothes
You hear this one A LOT for backpacking, but the same applied to living as a digital nomad. I stupidly bought a suitcase, overnight bag AND a backpack. What did past me think was going to happen? I’d need a full wardrobe for all the events and galas I’d intend as an important vagabond? NO. When it comes time to pack, layout what you need then cull it by 75%. Trust me, you don’t need all those shoes.
4. Don’t travel with someone who doesn’t want to be a digital nomad
This one snuck up on me by surprise. Last October when I set sail for the United States, my partner at the time came with me for his ‘holiday’. That should’ve been the first red flag. We wanted to spend our days very differently. He had the luxury of annual leave to support him, whereas I was earning on the fly. So if you start your adventure with someone else, make sure you’re on the same page about where to eat, what hours you need to do your job and the budget for accommodation.
3. Build out your workflow BEFORE you leave
As a one-woman show, I’m responsible for all the goings on in my biz. This means that I need to lean on technology more and more to get all the back-end stuff done faster. Why? So I can spend my time where it’s most needed: writing copy and treating my clients like QUEENS. And I think I knew this to be true before I left, but my ego thought simply setting up a CRM and a few G Drive folders would be enough to manage my workflow. LOLZ. Invest in an expert to help you set up your CRM so you can start using templates, forms and any preset modes to get your systems singing.
2. Plan at least 6 months ahead
When you’re working and travelling, you don’t often have the luxury of endless hours in the day to plan your next move. I wish I had planned the first 6 months (or even year) ahead so I could actually enjoy where I landed. I spent so much time freaking out about accommodation and where I should go that the emotion of it all gave me decision paralysis…which eventually found me on plane back to Australia.
1. Exchange rates. Shit.
This was the final nail in the coffin to my confidence. I knew the exchange rate between Australia and the US wasn’t great, but I also didn’t factor this into my budget. Typing that out just now makes me feel super embarrassed because DUH, of course the exchange rate is crucial *facepalm*. Nothing will make you question that second latte like paying twice what it’s normally worth.
Why I’ll never give up on the dream of becoming a Digital Nomad
Despite all of that, I am still committed to being a digital nomad. Even though I can barely leave my neighborhood right now, I am already living proof that it’s possible––I’m nailing the DIGITAL part, and I’ll add NOMAD in when they finally give us the a-okay to cross borders.
A final love note…
I want to give you a permission slip, dear reader. If you’ve ever wanted to work and travel, NOW IS THE TIME. We’ve all proven we can work remotely (thank you Rona) and the world will once again open its arms to you soon. The question is: are you game to give it a try? I know I am.
Dr Marion Piper – as Marion Piper Creative – helps feel-good and do-good brands take the stress out of knowing what to say and how to say it. Offering conscious copywriting, intentional illustration and creativity coaching, her mission is to unearth your authentic voice and crack open your creative spirit. Pre-pandemic, she was globe trotting, but now she’s embracing the local life in Melbourne, doing lots of yoga and having meaningful encounters with the world’s most interesting people on Pick My Brain.
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