Digital Nomad - My LIFI life

Digital Nomad is a term that seems equally aspirational and reviled! Long before I discovered it, I was much more attached (and still am) to the idea of owning a “Location Independent” business (hence our LIFI Family Vision – Location Independence, Financial Independence).

What is a Digital Nomad?

The main appeal for most is the “Nomad” – the opportunity to travel the world, possibly with a home base or annual routine, or even as the fabled Perpetual Traveller. Those of us who love to travel, and immerse ourselves in new cultures and different countries, obviously love the idea of doing it always and not just on an annual vacation.

You could wait for Financial Independence [LINK TO FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE PAGE] to be able to afford the perpetual travel, nomad lifestyle. But why wait if you don’t have to? The “Digital” element in Digital Nomad refers to running a business (or working remotely) digitally, so you can be anywhere in the world (or at least, anywhere with WiFi access).

A Digital Nomad is someone who works digitally, without ties to a physical location. Location independent, they use this freedom and flexibility to travel the world.

How I became a Digital Nomad

When it comes to converting dream to reality, you absolutely want to be “Digital” first,  “Nomad” second. In other words, create your location-independent digital business FIRST and THEN begin the travelling.

As lovely as it might sound to pack it all in, grab your $2,000 in savings, move to Thailand and start an online business (and some people do this! and succeed) that’s a pretty good way to be scrambling for an airfare back to your friends' couch within a few months.

I’ve bloviated elsewhere on my concerns that many Digital Nomads are subsisting on a tiny monthly budget, building a super tiny income stream with no view towards their future.

It’s possible to live in some countries on $1,000 per month (or less); I just wouldn’t want to, and if you’re earning $1,000/mth then you’re definitely not investing a chunk of money for your retirement. (Without judgement, this is a statement of  MY priorities to set the scene for the decisions we made to become Digital Nomads with a mortgage and a baby.)

I first had a taste of location independence in 2010. My beautiful wife and I had committed to moving to London, and in an attempt to make that transition easier I managed to manifest two client projects – one running marketing strategy for a company in Australia, and the other helping design a digital coaching product for a company in the UK. For a very brief period I was running at an annualised $100,000 income for clients who never needed me to visit their office – bliss! That year, 2010, straddled the double-dip great recession. Both contracts collapsed, in one case just three days before we moved to London.

Even so, the seeds had been planted and while other priorities existed, we managed to visit 25 different countries and eventually achieved our outcomes of travel and work.

It took us 9 more years to really become Digital Nomads. We returned to Australia with the intention of multiplying then heading back out into the world with babies on board, never expecting it would take 9 rounds of IVF to achieve that outcome.

As we went through fertility treatment, the Digital Nomad plan was given time to develop. Remember – digital first, nomad second.

Based on having worked in the UK and Australia, plus some minor activities around Europe and North America, in 2013 I rebranded myself as an International Business Coach. Incredibly, the day after I did that on LinkedIn I was invited to join a project working with HSBC in Hong Kong.

This positioning led to other work – the highlight remains the Matanivusi Eco Resort in Fiji  – and so I was able to combine travel and work. In 2017 I made the conscious decision to try more coaching work remotely, via Skype / Zoom / WhatsApp. Again, this focus led to some client introductions, and the more work I did with international clients the more other international organisations would reach out.

The Slo-Mad

By early 2019 – when our calm and happy baby daughter was born – more than half my income came from these international clients, who frankly didn’t care whether I was dialling in from Brisbane or Timbuktu. So late 2019 was the big test: roughly 4 months on the road, working remotely.

Our itinerary is way too jam-packed for what we ultimately plan – I was working, while also travelling with my beautiful wife, baby, and my beautiful wife’s parents, and they all treated it as a European holiday. Still, if I can make that work, then doing it again more slowly is the plan. If you look at my business vision from 2016 you’ll see I talk about being a Slo-Mad not a Nomad: Henry Mancini told us that there’s such a lot of world to see, and thankfully my business coach Lorna Patten taught me that there’s always enough time. So no rush! That vision also spells out some commercial goals. Specifically, how can I become a Digital Nomad earning $150,000 a year … then $250,000 a year … then even more? $1,000/mth in Thailand we ain’t.

Without being spendthrifts, we do want to experience some of the nicer aspects of world travel – I enjoy the pointy end of the plane, especially on long flights, and every now and then it’s nice to drop $600 on dinner at La Mer Honolulu or Il Mirabelle Rome. And of course, we continue to invest to create our Financial Independence.

In summary, how did we become Digital Nomads?

  1. Business Ownership, specifically with the valuable and internationally-applicable business coaching skills
  2. Continue to invest in training and coaching, to create a high performing business
  3. Deliberately create an online / digital component to the business
  4. Not accepting the limiting beliefs of anyone else, especially those who felt that long term travel as a family would be difficult