This post is part of 30 Ways in 30 days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. This series seeks to give you the practical, real world steps you need to take to get from wherever you are, to exactly where you want to be– traveling the world and living the lifestyle you want.
To date, this series has been covering the lifestyle redesign involved in moving overseas or traveling long term. However, that’s not to imply that traveling is an all or nothing proposition. For many people, giving up their house or traveling year round isn’t the goal. Instead, perhaps you imagine summering in Greece or taking month long trips once or twice a year. How does this effect the planning process?
Breaking Free to Travel
Career-wise you can go two ways: quit your job every six months to take off to some far flung destination or find work flexible enough that you can schedule those same getaways. The first option isn’t rocket science- most college students have perfectly the work and dash lifestyle. However, getting a boss let you unplug and take off for 1/3 of the year will take significantly more finesse. That’s why you don’t want a boss.
There are a handful of seasonal jobs: school teachers, construction, landscaping, golf courses, tourism, university jobs etc. However, short of landing one of these temporal jobs, the chances of convincing your boss to let you take the summer off or to extend unpaid vacation as a job benefit are extremely low.
The best way to become a part-time digital nomad, is to become a full time one.
That means either starting your own business (as long as you can leave periodically), becoming a freelancer or getting a job where you work 100% remotely. For most of the year, you’ll live like every other digital nomad, except your location of choice will be your hometown.
While You’re Gone
Unlike a full-time digital nomad, you may be able to spend your traveling time work-free. Of course if you’re working for an employer remotely, this won’t be possible, but it’s not at all uncommon for the self-employed to travel sans assignments. On my travels, I’ve met many people in this situation… small business owners taking six weeks off to learn Spanish in Guatemala or the IT Guru that would work six months at $100/hr then take the rest of the year off. If you’re traveling full time you might be tempted to feel a bit sad for their short term plans, but as you’re banging away on your laptop during the day, they’re making the most of their travel time. Untethered, completely free and enjoying their time because of it’s finite nature, not despite it.
The key is to create the systems before you go, so that your livelyhood doesn’t come to a screeching halt. If you own a business you need to plan from the beginning, to be able to confidently hand it over to someone else while you travel. If you’re a freelancer, then you need to be a strict time-master and be clear with your clients that you absolutely are not available during your scheduled travel times (you don’t need to tell them why, just be clear). Having a trusted freelancer that is willing to cover you during your away time is a good strategy to keep clients from straying too far. If you’re working seasonally, you may have the easiest time picking up and leaving. Just don’t be surprised if your coworkers are less than impressed with your healthy tan and travel stories when work picks up again.
Which is better? Full-time or part-time?
I have a theory that most full-time travelers eventually become part-time digital nomads (if they continue traveling). While traveling around the world for a year or five is wonderful, after a while most people settle down, at least a bit. That doesn’t necessarily mean they settle back home– perhaps they spent the winters somewhere warm and then travel, albeit more slowly, throughout the rest of the year. For someone planning their first big trip, I’d advise you not to worry about this too much. Most people travel for a full year before they start day dreaming about having their own bed and a place to put things–that’s bigger than just what they can carry.
Which is better? I always think people should travel as much and as far as feels good and no further. If you’re burned out, stop traveling. If you’re bored again, it’s okay to change plans and leave early. We’re all doing this and making incredible sacrifices–but it’s only worth it, if you love it.
1. The 4-hour work week. This book is recommended heavily by many travelers, but it’s really ideal for the part-time digital nomad. Tim Ferris focuses on the kind of travel we’re talking about here, but he calls them “mini-retirements”. He has plenty of advice on how to minimize your need for contact with your business while away.