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Gone Nomadic | The Story Of How We Became Location...

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  • Gone Nomadic | The Story Of How We Became Location-Independent

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    Well it seems our intro post to his new series about nomadic living raised quite some interest! I’m so happy about this and I can’t wait to share more stuff with you guys. We’ve already received plenty of questions that we could cover and some of them are already being turned into future posts. We are very stoked about this!

    Let’s have a look at the basics. How did we get to live a nomadic lifestyle? It’s kind of incidental but… it’s kinda cool too. It’s a journey we still can’t quite realize has happened but also one we’re quite happy and proud of. So the way we will write about living this lifestyle will of course be very personal and always based on our own experience.

    To start this off, I would like to share our story with you.

    Our transition into a nomadic lifestyle happened very organically, through a mixture of inner impulses as well as little thought-triggering hints & events. Many of them. Our story is therefore rather undirected, perhaps a bit unusual, and it’s not made of “step by step” procedures like it often seems to happen for other people. It’s funny to say this, but we did not plan a nomadic lifestyle at all. It just happened, perhaps because it was meant to happen.

    David and I are originally from Luxembourg. That’s where we met, and this is the adorable little country that we called home. We lived there our whole lives! So after school, after our first work experiences, after freelancing separately for a bit, we started our creative business together there. We gained a few loyal clients and met incredible people through this, as well as other side-ventures which kept us rooted there.

    However, I never pictured staying there forever, neither did David.

    I’ve always been adventurous, in subtle or defined ways. Ever since I was a little kid, I pictured myself living the life of a creative, an adventurer, somebody who doesn’t do things like everybody else. And of course, I dreamed about moving out. Going somewhere new. Right after I finished my studies, I started freelancing in design & illustration. This gave me a taste of how it is to be in control of your life, of making your own money and therefore making your own rules. It was amazing and it allowed me to work closely with people who trusted my abilities. It gave so much variety to my life, as I would work on different things ranging from branding for small businesses to more manual adventures like custom drawing or mural illustrations for private clients/arty events! This is why, a few months later when I temporarily had a “stable” job at the bottom of the chain, it just wouldn’t feel right to me. I knew I was meant to live in a more free way, and I kept looking out for ways to do so. I couldn’t stand stillness or routine, that would make me feel like a bird in a cage. I had also noticed how being in one place for too long would kill my creativity – one question I would always ask is: “where are we going next?“. Little by little, my travel bug was becoming more and more pronounced.

    David on the other hand also fantasized about making a bold move someday, but in a more slow and steady way. Having grown in an environment that was a little less privileged, it was harder for him to imagine something as extravagant as moving away. Especially from his already-existing responsibilities and commitments: a car, a mortgage to pay and a steady job that would promote him once a year and that would make him feel appreciated. Eventually though, things stagnated at his job so he got bored and unhappy. The idea of working remotely had crossed his mind at this point, but that proposition did not work for him and his boss. After our trip to Crete in 2014, he quit his job and started freelancing.

    A few months later we merged our creative freelancing skills together and became a business. Which was when our lives started changing!

    A year or so after running our business together, we would take our laptops with us on holidays. We hadn’t yet allowed ourselves to take any time off, so when we would travel to places with our families, we would try to combine things and work from there. We could go to the beach with our families in the morning, and answer our emails or continue working on creative projects in the afternoon. Work-life balance: on point! Somehow that made us realize: “hey, this is actually pretty nice isn’t it?“. So we did it more and more, and started planning such trips on purpose. We would call them work-cations, and we’d be away for a month or so. Instantly, we would feel more inspired by being in a new environment. Travel was great for our inspiration levels and it made us more eager to come up with fresh creative ideas. It also made us hungry to make this work for us in the long run.

    Of course, it was a bit confusing at first. Many people thought we were on holiday! But thankfully, our clients didn’t get that message. Where we were working from didn’t matter for them. They supported us, and in fact they even appreciated how much more of an energetic & dynamic vibe we could bring to their projects by being in that balanced state of mind. This lifestyle was a win-win for all of us and it absolutely improved our creative process and our quality of life.

    It was so good for us, but we were stuck. We didn’t know how to do it long-term. What if clients ever DO ever need us to be there physically? And how can we afford to do this? I mean, do we even want to do this? Won’t we miss our families? Our friends? Hello? Is this a thing?

    Then, in the vastness of the world wide web, we stumbled upon the term “digital nomad”. Even though I notoriously despise this wording, I feel thankful that this term existed because it opened our minds and showed us that it was absolutely possible to extend the perks of a “work-cation” in the long run. I started following a few people who did it. These are people who work remotely, thanks to the internet… just like we did on our work-cation. But full time. Out of a suitcase, and out of anywhere. It made me curious.

    I won’t lie, many of these online people (that you can find by typing the DN term) make a living out of things that have absolutely nothing to do with our field. Things that sounded like chinese to us: affiliate marketing, dropshipping, e-books, and whatever random money-making shit there is. Nowadays those words don’t sound as foreign to us anymore, but that still doesn’t mean we are interested in pursuing these career choices. Due to this, we could not identify with most of the “digital nomad” content posted online. It even gave us cold feet to be honest.

    But then what happened helped us de-mystify the term a little bit, as we met a couple of digital nomads in real life: Gen & Nick. We met them due to a lovely coincidence. I had been following them on instagram, and as they were nomading around Europe, they were looking for where to go next. I suggested “well, why don’t you come to Luxembourg“. Long story short, they stayed in our place for two months. They paid us a rent. And with that rent, we could afford to travel, and to live & work from somewhere else that summer.

    After we came back, we thought: “well, isn’t this pretty cool?“. If we rent out our place, we can live anywhere else instead! That was really eye-opening for us and we had never really thought about this before, despite how important it is to be able to afford this lifestyle to do it long-term. It had crossed my mind before, but David had especially been wary about this. The idea of having strangers living in our home was quite an obstacle at first. What really changed our minds about it was to sit down and crunch some numbers. If we rent out our place full time, what financial freedom would this give us to live/travel anywhere else while running our business? As soon as we did that, it felt like a revelation. And so in August of 2016, we decided to put our place up on airbnb (at a price that just covers our own costs) and see what happens.

    We got a booking for September. And then another one for October & November. It seemed to work. So we budgeted a 2-month escape, booked plane tickets, long-term accommodation (mostly through airbnb), packed our bags and left to Chiang Mai + Bali. It was unbelievable. We were so far away from home, yet we had managed to live and run our entire business with just what we travelled with. And it worked. We felt free and incredibly inspired. In the meantime, we had also found a system for all the little logistical details that needed attention for our Airbnb (handling check-ins & cleaning) as well as handling our mail & accounting remotely for our business. It felt amazing but it had an expiry date, as the idea was to get back home for Christmas. That whole adventure was just supposed to be a test, to see if we like it.

    But then things turned around – we got a booking request from December all the way till April!

    We felt puzzled and thought: does that mean we can continue travelling? Can we really do this, with the few things we have in our luggage? The answer was simple: yes. We could extend our travels, without having to rely on any savings at all! We decided to go straight from Bali to Australia, as David has some relatives there. We bought a cheap ticket, spent December in Newcastle, had an aussie Christmas, then moved to Melbourne, a creative city that I always wanted to experience. During all this time, our work process got even better, our creative projects evolved more and more, and we accumulated tons of ideas that we never had before.

    Today, as I write this post, we are in Japan. We are living in a tiny old japanese house in the heart of Kyoto. A really tiny one which has everything we need. I’ve already mentioned how travel fuels our creative endeavours, but what it also does is open our minds and spark ideas for everything else in life. It makes us question things. Like, our notion of “home”. Where is home? And what do we need to be happy?

    Living in small spaces in the last few months, and learning to live with less has really turned us into essentialists. We ask ourselves questions all the time, about what we can actually de-clutter from our lives. What heavy things we can remove, what responsibilities we can say no to, to feel even more happy, more free and more creative. This is our pursuit. New horizons open up all the time, and we’re often having life-changing discussions about important things, like those I mentioned in this post.

    Our latest decision? Selling our home and most of our belongings, to have a base somewhere where we can live inspired and debt-free. And then live on the road most of the year.

    If you would have asked us about this a year ago, we would have thought this is nuts. But this is what happens when you dare to step out of your comfort zone. You feel vulnerable, you ask yourself questions, you evolve, and your mind broadens. Nothing seems impossible anymore, and the freedom this gives is indescribable. Creatively-speaking, we’ve never felt so limitless. There are so many things we want to do and no obstacle brings fear anymore. We feel in control of it all.

     

    What are our mantras?

     

    Being creative

    This lifestyle pushes us to cultivate creativity in a broad sense. It’s clearly not just about experimenting with our skills and finding ways to express ourselves creatively or come up with new ideas for our projects, but thinking creatively when it comes to our perception of life itself. To be creative is to be able to think outside of the box, for just about anything!

    Being essentialist

    We obviously became more minimalist with our belongings since we had to fit it into a couple of luggages, but decluttering is something that we have applied to more than just “our stuff”. This lifestyle requires budgeting and prioritizing. The idea is that you can’t have it all, but you can pick what really matters and leave out the rest. It’s a mindset that’s so eye-opening that I’ve written a more detailed post about it here.

    Seeking freedom & growth

    Living like this is not easy. We have our own business to run and we always have things to work on, or goals to achieve. But we do keep reminding ourselves that we did not choose to live this life to end up stuck in a cage or struggling with boundaries. The whole point of it is to gain more freedom and to never stagnate, also outside of our business. To grow as human beings and to never stop learning. Naturally, this opportunity feels so much more present when being in a whole new environment.

     

    To be completely honest: we never chose to be nomads. We just chose to be happy & free.

     

    Everyone’s interpretation of that is different. Our stories, ambitions, triggers and perceptions of life can vary. But if you’d live life in your own terms, what would be the key aspects of it? And how do you imagine getting yourself there? Perhaps you don’t realize it, but it’s very likely you are already on your path there. The answers are all there to start with.

    Ah, life & the search of happiness. I could write a book about it but…I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I would most certainly make a fool of myself.

    Anyhow… I hope that you guys enjoyed this post! It’s obviously very long but writing it helped us reflect on what we’ve been experiencing these last few months – it has a healing effect on us. But of course, I hope it inspires you as well somehow. On the next post from this series I will be sharing more about the “basics” of what makes a remote lifestyle possible (according to us). Just some more practical aspects of what it’s all about and what is at the core of living nomadically!

    As usual, if you have any questions at all, or things that you’d like to know, that you’d like us to cover, leave us a little comment 🙂


    Linda is a mediterranean wild spirit. People are her primary inspiration and shape her creative world. She likes to experiment with illustration, hand lettering, and custom-made ideas that don’t always involve a computer and is striving to create unique imagery. She’s in love with all things natural, real and meaningful. Half-Luxembourgish and half-greek, she swears by cretan mountain tea from her homeland to keep her fueled during busy days, and is an avid fan of Wes Anderson movies.

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    • One of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long time! I love to hear your story and how you gradually became digital nomads!
      As a freelance designer I can relate to a lot of this. I also travel a lot between Belgium (where I’m from), Italy (where my boyfriend is from) and Spain (where we currently live, but moving to Sicily soon) . But that is mostly to see family. I can’t imagine how inspiring it must be to discover new places daily!
      Although this lifestyle appeals a lot to me, I’m not sure it could fit with my toddler girl.
      Any thoughts on if you want to start a family and what you will do then? I do realize that’s a very personal question 🙂
      We are about to switch from freelancer to a creative agency as a couple as well, so exciting times ahead! If you are ever in Sicily, I’d love to meet!

      • So happy you find this inspiring, Anke!!

        You seem to be already quite a nomad, you know! And how cool is it that we share a similar path when it comes to working together as couples – if you and your partner complete each other, then fusioning as a business will definitely be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. So much fun to be a “team” 🙂

        When it comes to the way we live, we technically don’t discover new places daily…more like monthly! We try to travel slow so that we can settle and find balance wherever we go, but also to avoid exhaustion and manage our work/travels in good proportions. In this way it is really relaxing and fun.

        We are not planning to have a family at all, but I do know that there are many nomads out there doing this lifestyle with toddlers/kids! It is harder, but possible – it all comes down to thinking differently and a bit of organisation. Many of these folks do the balancing act of travelling while working and “home-schooling” their kids for example. Although kids are not in the plans for us, it’s incredibly inspirational to see that there are people out there who make it work. The craziest thing I’ve seen is a family of 5 travelling in their mobile van/home. Or families who’ve lived years on their sailboats… Hardcore but… incredible.

        We’d love to travel to Sicily – we’ve actually been talking about it many times. Would love to stay in touch!

        • Hahaha, yes my husband sometimes jokes that we could live on a sailboat! If it wasn’t for the fact that both me & my daughter get so seasick!
          Yes, for now I keep on with our semi-nomadic life. It’s definitely working for us in this stage of life! You never know what the future will bring!
          Let’s stay in touch! I’d love to show you around Palermo if you are ever there!
          Anke

    • Like a breath of fresh air! I can see how much of yourself you put into this, and I love learning about you guys and how this all came to be. It’s funny how something scary and unknown turns out to be the best decision you guys could’ve made. <3

      • Thank you so much Mira!!! I like to think that the “other side” is scary but damn beautiful and eye-opening. The best moves we made in our lives were always the most unconventional ones. It just brings so much inspiration and so much to share <3

    • This is really amazing and inspiring story of how you became nomads. It has definitely inspired me that this is a possibility for my own life even if only for a short period of time.

      Looking forward to even more posts on your unique lifestyle.

      • Thank you so much, Hannah! If you’re curious about trying it out, you definitely should!!

        You know what? When we started this, we did it as just a “test” phase, just 1-2 months at a time. Then one day, things turned around and we realized how much we actually loved it and how it was possible (as we could keep working while travelling), so we reviewed our budget, our needs, asked ourselves questions, then extended it.

        Who knows what happens when you do your own “test” as well. You won’t know until you do, right? 🙂

        If you have any practical questions around things that you are wondering about or where to get started, let us know – we’re still learning but we’re always more than happy to help those who are at the very beginning like we were a few months ago :)) hehe

        x
        Linda

    • Darin Villanueva

      Love this segment! I have been really inspired by your lifestyle and blog.. I happened to stumble across your website a few months back and have been following since! Your posts have given me inspiration and courage to continue pushing forward with my lifestyle dreams, I’ve roped my boyfriend into dreaming this with me. =)
      Your blog has also helped me stay focused and encouraged as I set myself up in this year to travel and work abroad. I do some consultant work on the side as well, and have my own passion project within the same industry, all that I’m trying to perfect so that I can have a solid resume before I try the “digital nomad” life. My boyfriend and I have sites on WWOOFing in south america as a starting point. =)

      • Darin this is amazing!!!! This is soooo exciting and I’m so humbled that we contributed to the inspiration for you to do this. It means sooooo much to us 🙂

        Also, how cool is it that you managed to “rope” your boyfriend in, like you said! This part (doing it with your life partner) is usually the problematic one, as it can be hard to be on the same wave length and have the same dreams, but… kudos to you for that!!!! That is spectacular!

        It’s a very good plan to work on your business structure/projects while trying affordable/easy accommodations around the world. A digital nomad should be able to find some financial stability, at least a bit of it to be able to manage their lifestyle – WWOOFing and so on can help make the process easier (and fun) plus who knows, you might even fall in love with the whole concept of it and want to do it indefinitely, giving you even less pressure to make money and just enjoy life & learn, experience, grow… So many possibilities. So many adventures to be had. This is it, this what freedom tastes like (at least to people like us, right?) 🙂

        Thank you so much for following our blog <3

        • Darin Villanueva

          Sorry just saw this! thanks for the thoughtful response =) Keep up the great work! You guys are my inspiration! and Hope you win that blog contest! 😉 voted for you! <3

    • This is so inspiring and beautiful! I can only dream of doing the same one day 😀
      You guys are very brave and an example that happines and freedom can be found even if you think/are so different from society standards. Thank you for sharing this, it really made my night

      • Thank you so much Mariana, that means so much to us! It was a really gradual process but every part of it (and every hard question to answer) opened other doors. I do believe that freedom and happiness can be found once we break our barriers, question things, especially society’s expectations and the status quo. What happens on the other side is scary but so, so beautiful. We are still learning from this, but I’m so happy that our path can now inspire others and help us connect with other like-minded people. Thank you so much for stopping by <3

    • Amy

      I really appreciate how well you ‘broke this down,’ so that it isn’t like one of those blog posts in which someone writes three sentences about selling his possessions, embracing freedom and never looking back. There is something to say for the process and for looking at the small details of how someone’s life takes another direction. Thanks for taking the time to write about the natural progression of your nomadic life. Amy

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