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?
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!
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 🙂