This Series: Sharing Digital Nomad Stories
"It broadens your horizons unlike, I imagine, anything else could."
- Michelle Lawson | Founder, The Remote Experience
There’s no denying it: as technical positions become more abundant, and business success becomes less reliant on face-to-face interaction, the in-office 9 to 5 lifestyle is dying - and fast. Work-from-home and remote work options are becoming incredibly abundant and, as innovators do, some workers have upped the ante on this trend, becoming fully nomadic. The digital nomad lifestyle, from the outside looking in, is easily alluring. Who doesn’t see the thrill of working the same work-from-home job, but from a remote Thai jungle one month, then the spending the next in the heart of center-city Prague?
The reality of the lifestyle, however, can be anything but thrilling. Considering logistic hurdles like overcoming time zone differences, finding suitable living and work spaces, keeping up with friends back home, making new friends and - most importantly - having a reliable income is a lot to handle. And all of that is without thinking about planning the fun parts like sightseeing, activities, and enjoying culture.
Welcome to The Remote Experience’s #MeetTheNomads series. Every month, we talk to a few remote workers - both in and outside of the TRE network - who took the leap into the digital nomad lifestyle. We’ll cover their transitions into the digital nomad lifestyle, and the things they’ve seen, experienced, and learned along the way. Be sure to follow TRE on Medium to catch each nomad story as it premieres or head back to our blog at the end of every month to see a summary of all 4.
#MeetTheNomads #1: BEN - FOUNDER AND WEB DESIGNER AT FAT PANDA DESIGN.
Ben's nomad journey began when he sold most of his belongings - minus, of course, the crucial outfits, his backpack, laptop, and the barest essentials - and ventured to the cheapest place he could think of outside of North America - Cancun, Mexico. He planned strategically and stayed 20 minutes outside of the city’s center to get the cheapest hostels with workable amenities and worthy perks ($11USD per night for accommodation, breakfast, and internet? A steal!).
We got the chance to ask Ben some questions about his transition into the nomadic lifestyle and what’s come of it so far. His journey of diving right into the remote work lifestyle provides incredible insight on the “ just pack up and go” method of transition.
[Note: Ben answered these questions after a few beers on his adventures - he is really living the life.]
What unexpected things have you encountered along the way?
“Wow, I’ve encountered so many unexpected things…day 3 of being in Mexico, I had a total plan – no more than $600USD/month budget between lodging/food/minor fun here and there (beach, etc). Well, I became great friends with an Englishman, a Canadian, and 2 Aussie ladies. Mike decided to rent a freaking car for $35USD/day, and we all decided to just head southwest/south…we did Playa del Carmen for a few hours, snuck into the ruins of Tulum, partied in Valladolid for 2 days (incredible little cultural town that’s about 20 years behind the times) and then drove 8 hours south to Palenque – more Mayan ruins in the jungle.”
If you could have done anything differently, what would it be?
“If I could do anything differently…my mind would say yes. I would have stuck to my frugal plan, stayed on point with my budget, and been a boring old lame-o. However, my heart decided that it needed to be adventurous (as I am, I’m quite spontaneous when I choose to be) so I chose the path less traveled, and did the entire trip across Mexico. I honestly don’t think I would have done anything differently at this point – fiscally, I’m shaking my head, but from an emotional/mental happiness state, I could NOT be happier than I am now. I chose the right path, for sure.”
How did you accommodate time zone differences?
“ The time zone difference isn’t bad. Cancun is EST, you only change 1 hour difference once you head towards Valladolid/Chichen Itza/Palenque. So it’s not terrible, it just does throw you off a tad. But it does make things interesting when you’re trying to make bus routes on time.”
What has been your favorite aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle?
“My favorite aspect by far, has been meeting people of every culture/lifestyle/ethnicity/background. Growing up in the US, I feel I’ve been SO sheltered…having late night conversations with people from every walk of life has been truly eye-opening, and I am so grateful for that. I feel like I’ve grown as a person simply because I am no longer an ignorant “stupid American” as most would call people from the US. I love, love, love meeting foreigners and hearing their stories/customs/cultures, and learning their mannerisms.”
What is your least favorite aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle?
“My least favorite aspect…sadly, losing people you become close to. I met my “crew” on my 3rd day in Cancun, and we all traveled together for a month. You really get to know people so well during a time period like that, especially when you eat, sleep, party, and do everything together. It’s not like home, where you make a friend, maybe see them every few days for food/a party/whatever. When you’re traveling, you do EVERYTHING with your friends, from eating meals, sharing laughs, wandering random backroads at 4AM, talking to locals in terrible accents…it’s just so different. I really feel like a piece of my heart has vanished after losing the few close guy and girl friends I’ve become so close with on this trip, even after only a few weeks.”