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Ladybug Podcast

Thoughts on Being a Digital Nomad

aspittel profile image Ali Spittel Originally published at blog.alispit.tel ・3 min read

Almost two years ago, I donated almost everything I owned and left DC. I was at a job that wasn't the right fit for me, and I didn't know my future. I decided that rather than signing a new lease, I'd instead mostly live at tech conferences for the summer and crash at my parents' in between, and then start living out of AirBnBs in the Fall. I ended up retiring from the digital nomad lifestyle in order to work in an office gain (which started 3 days before the COVID shutdown 🤦‍♀️). That being said, I think this is a pretty unique experience, but more people may be able to do the same as remote work becomes more popular and (hopefully) the pandemic starts to subside. So, I wanted to write down my thoughts and advice on the experience.

The Logistics

I personally chose to live out of AirBnBs. The longer you book a place, the more discount you get normally. So, I'd book a place for a month at a time. The cost for AirBnB pluses ended up being less than my DC rent most months. The van life idea is so appealing to me, but the mechanical knowledge needed and the potential lack of internet intimidates me. I also personally stayed in the United States because of my dog, I didn't want to quarantine her which you need to do with most international countries.

I travelled from city to city in my car, which was super nice. I was able to visit a bunch of sites nearby cities instead of just staying downtown, which I may have had to without a car.

I chose cities by expense, activities available, and their proximity to National Parks. My biggest bucket list item is to visit all of the National Parks, so this very much helped in that goal. I loved being able to experience different areas, taste test different restaurants, and to never get bored of my surroundings. I also was using it as a way to vet cities before settling down -- I didn't know where I wanted to move longterm, so this was a way of trying out different cities.

Taxes can get so complicated if you're moving around a bunch, especially if you move internationally or are self-employed (or just have side gigs like me). I hired an accountant who specializes in digital nomads, and it's such a weight off my chest. Here is his site in case you're interested.

The Hard Parts

There were two really difficult attributes of travel for me: the first was loneliness, the second was the lack of a routine. It's pretty tough to get to know people when you aren't staying in a city for long. Something I would probably prioritize if I did this again would be to go to cities with a big tech scene so I could go to meetups and potentially speak at them. I was also single at the time, so doing this with a partner or a family would probably help in that regard. As far as having a routine, I was changing where I lived every month. So it's difficult to get too settled. Part of that was nice, I would go on hikes every morning with my dog in Asheville and would go to a neighborhood coffee shop in Nashville. But, I definitely missed having a set workday schedule.

Conclusion

Overall, it's an experience I really enjoyed and would highly recommend if your work and life situations allow it. I would probably go back to being a digital nomad once the country re-opens and my partner was able to work remote. If you're interested in moving internationally, check out this Ladybug episode. Please Tweet any questions to me, I'd love to help out!

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Ali Spittel

@aspittel

Passionate about education, Python, JavaScript, and code art.

Ladybug Podcast

Listen to Kelly Vaughn, Ali Spittel, and Emma Bostian debug the tech industry.

Discussion

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Cosmic timing Ali ! I’m about to do this my self.. I’ve been at a job that allows me to do this for about a year now , and my lease is up in July , so as soon as it is , I want to sell all my stuff and do it while I’m still single and not having kids

Thank you so much for the heads up , in regards to loneliness and lack of routing - being a creature of habit I think I too would seriously miss this aspect Of everyday existence the most ...

PerHaps if I stayed longer than a month , like at least 3 at a time , it would enough to feel settled in .

And to combat loneliness - I am pretty violently extroverted and usually end up making friends wherever I go .. just difficult when they don’t speak English .

 

Awesome! Yeah, hopefully by then things will be more open and you can go to events. I think that will be really helpful :)

 

This is exactly what I would like to do but kinda afraid to take the plunge. I too had a plan to visit different cities and just go to tech conferences and meetups but I’m unsure if I should without a car and use public transport or not. Also I am a freelancer so it’s feast or famine when it comes to money.

 

Really cool to share this experience! I would love to do something similar in Europe but am always a bit scared about the lack of routine and how hard would it be to meet people and build relationships in short term.
This post inspired me though! Thank you

 

What if you are planning this in the country where you live right now.?
I would be less scared if I plan it "smaller".
And probably you already will get some good experience and confidence to do it in the whole Europe.

 

That is also a valid idea :) I am living in Austria currently, so small country if compared to where I come from, but still there are other cities where would be cool to live for a while!

 

Neat! Thanks for sharing, especially the accountant bit!

We plan to launch in 2023. I joined a community called Fulltime Families last year, and I'll be keeping my membership up until the big day because there is just so much to learn! There are people in this community that do it with AirBnB like you. One of the other benefits is the private small groups in the community, such as the one for IT Professionals.

Starlink will be in full swing by then, so hopefully we'll be more connected than ever so that we can be more disconnected than ever. Wrap your mind around that!

One of the things you said really stood out to me, and that was your comment about DC rent. In Annapolis we are are shelling out $3,700 a month between childcare and rent, and I didn't know how well that would prepare me for places like Norway which famously costs you about $25-35 dollars for fish and chips and a pint. Cool, we do that, too!

It comes up a lot in the group, because there is someone experiencing the digital nomad life at every level from financially independent to the most frugal families you've ever met. The first question I asked was whether or not I was ridiculous for wanting a 5th wheel for the three of us when there are people cramming 12 into a vintage Airstream, and I found that it's all about what is comfortable for you. It set me at ease. This is going to be our home for a few years while we are roadschooling/unschooling, after all.

Oh, and national parks are high on our list, too. 😄 I want to fill out one of the passports.

 

Wow, that sounds awesome!

I consider every now and then to "travel" around the UK.
As I am not working in IT yet, my plan is/was to apply a global company which has stores around the country, so I can transfer myself between stores/businesses. So, I would spend 2-5 months in each city on my list, keep working so I have income and the same time I explore everything in my free time.

As I came from another country without partner or family member, I already have experience how to spend my free time without feeling alone or lonely.
There are some really cool meetups and activity groups around the country which I would love to visit.

 

What a cool goal you had! Staying nearby National Parks! If the possibility to work remotely stays in my company, I'd also consider moving closer to the mountains.

 

Thanks for sharing, Ali! I'm planning to be a digital nomad from next year first locally (in my country) and then internationally for the next few years.

 

It sounds exciting. Where would you like to go? Which cities are on your list?

 

What a wonderful way to work, Id welcome the private time and time for me. That sounds like a bucket list item I may need to add.

 

I'm doing this right now :-).

 

We are planning to do the same next year, but go around Europe and Asia - I will document our adventures as digital nomads :)