Where was I two years ago? In the military, doing my part like Uncle Sam asked, but questioning where my own path should really take me.
And where am I now? 28 countries and about six jobs later, booking my one-way plane ticket to Perth, Western Australia to embark on my next adventure—and to build on my passion for travel writing and photography.
In a matter of a year, I went from being a Captain in the United States Marine Corps to a digital nomad. From a strictly planned out, regimented work-life (mostly work if I’m being honest), to complete freedom and flexibility to travel and work wherever I want.
I’m talking complete location independence—something my military life only partially prepared me for.
In the Marine Corps we had a saying: “Keep it simple, stupid.” Not very nice, but hey, that’s the military for you. Even still, it’s a bit of a mantra for me now. Big life changes and new environments can make things a little hectic.
Over-complicating your to-do list and overlooking the basics is a direct path to the blues. so…keep it simple!
There is so much to do when you make the jump from office dweller to nomad, that things can tend to get overwhelming quickly. But just start with the basics and go from there.
Specific to my experience, I had quite a lot of learning to do in becoming a travel writer and photographer and living a location independent lifestyle.
I did not cover myself or my equipment thoroughly enough from the beginning, and thankfully nothing terrible happened, but what if it had?
If you’re going to be on the move, you need travel insurance that covers things like trip delay and medical expenses. How remote will you be? What is the quality of that region’s healthcare systems?
You may want to spend the extra chunk of change to make sure your insurance covers evacuation and repatriation so that you can be flown home with medical staff for treatment in the worst-case scenario.
And don’t forget about covering all your travel gear! For me, that’s a laptop, phone, and a growing collection of camera equipment, all of which I would not be able to work without. I have had to call on my travel insurance on multiple occasions and have learned to read the fine print.
Mini sob-story alert!
I had a piece of equipment stolen from me at the beginning of this year. And even though that was stressful and annoying, I was like “sweet! At least I’ve got insurance!”. But shortly after filing the claim I realized I’d goofed. My plan didn’t cover theft.
And even if it had, the data for the item that the insurance company had collected from me when I created my account with them was not the data they were asking for as part of the claim. Think Serial Number vs IMEI, original purchasing receipt, etc. So, read the small print and make sure you’ve got all of your information!
Lesson learned, and I did upgrade my plan after that, but buying a replacement sure did suck.
Don’t Stay at the Party, But Don’t Go Too Far
This took me a little longer to come to grips with. I’m a bit of a merrymaker. I like to go where the party is; after all, isn’t seeking out fun part of the joy of travel?
Well, for the first few weeks I made a point to book myself into some of the best-rated “party” hostels I could find. I wanted to be in the middle of it all. And I was. Every morning, afternoon, and evening. There was always something fun going on and rad people to hang out with.
And that was great…except I needed to work, and I wasn’t really doing that as consistently as I’d set out to. Also, I realized I needed a restful night sleep, in a good bed, without rave lights crashing in through the windows and EDM buzzing through the walls.
So I ever so slowly figured out the right way to go about it all. I now book myself into clean, quiet hostels with WiFi that cater specifically to digital nomads, so that I know I’ve always got a peaceful place to work and sleep. But I also make sure that the party is only a quick walk, cab, or tuk-tuk ride away!
Remember, your location independent lifestyle is dependent on your ability to be productive on the move!
Create a Website for Maximum Exposure
I was dreading the thought of paying heaps for a webpage. My camera gear was already expensive enough, and I really didn’t want to fork out a whole lot more cash for my business.
But the price of a website has gotten more and more reasonable, and scalable, depending on your needs. And building my own website, something that speaks to my style and is easy to use, was actually fun.
If you’re an entrepreneur, a creative, or a freelancer, chances are, you need a website. Somewhere professional to showcase your work and give potential clients somewhere to contact you and, you know…pay you.
Social media can meet some of these needs, but certainly not all of them. As a writer and photographer, I need a portfolio and an eCommerce function, so having a website has been crucial to my success on the road.
So do yourself a favor and make a website!
Join Frequent Flyer Programs and Collect Points and Miles for Free Flights!
What works best for you is an individual choice, but start by researching options for the region you’ll be traveling in, and then sign up for those frequent flyer programs before you travel, even if you haven’t booked anything with those airlines yet.
Next time you go to book a flight, you won’t have to worry about signing up- you can just plug your member number in and start collecting!
Now, Just Get Out There
You do you! Hopefully, your path to location independence will look completely different from mine. But isn’t that the point?
A lot of planning and a little logistical finesse go a long way when embarking on this kind of life-changing journey, so do the work…and keep it simple.