Living in perpetual motion: I'm a digital nomad, and it's given me the world
A life on the road is possible — here's how
In 2014, when my apartment house in St. John's got sold at the same time my job was coming to an end, I had never heard of the term digital nomad.
Since I was between jobs and homes at the same time, I had lots of options for where I could settle. It never occurred to me that settling itself was actually an option.
Five years later, I still haven't found a full-time job or a full-time residence, but I have spent lots of time in Europe and managed to escape a few Newfoundland winters.
Sometimes people ask me how I made this happen, and my first thought is that it was an accident: a house-sitting job here, followed by a journey there, followed by another house-sit, and so on.
Over time, these short-term stints have accumulated into a career that enables me to work from just about anywhere and to see parts of the world I once only read about or saw in the nightly news.
I may have stumbled upon this lifestyle when I started out, but now I can identify the moving parts that keep my life of work and travel functioning.
A portable job
After my regular job ended, I began picking up gigs through a freelancing website as a way to earn money until I found my next real job.
Instead of finding a full-time job, I found clients who became regulars and turned my temporary freelancing into a consistent source of work.
There are lots of freelancing sites out there, and I've used a few; the one in which I've gained the most traction in recent years is Upwork.
I've since picked up other projects outside of the freelancing sites through word of mouth. Don't despair if you're working in a full-time job and want to travel. Some employers are open to flexible work arrangements, if you can make a strong, professional case for it.
When you do get to another country, be aware of your host country's employment and tourism regulations: in the places I have visited, it is okay to bring my work with me but not okay to take a job based in the local economy.
I used to think the only way to travel on a budget was to stay in backpacker hostels, and my introverted self would balk at the prospect of sharing dorm-style rooms with strangers.
Beyond my personal needs, my job requires a measure of privacy and a suitable physical workspace. With home rental sites like Airbnb, I can find accommodations in lots of countries at monthly rates that rival typical long-term rental costs in St. John's.
An even lower-cost option is to find free accommodations in exchange for house- or pet-sitting.
There are lots of sites that connect homeowners with sitters; the one I've used consistently is Trusted Housesitters.
Keep in mind, if you're planning to travel in one country or region for an extended period of time, you'll want to know any regulations around visas or visitor time limits before committing to your accommodations.
A physical presence may not be necessary for all types of work, but if you're working remotely you maintain trust through consistent communication.
Before deciding on a place to stay, I always confirm that there will be a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Once I arrive, my first stop after finding food is a mobile service provider.
Most of my travel has been in Europe, and all the countries I've visited have affordable pre-paid mobile phone options. With a VoIP app like TextNow, as long as I have internet access, I can use a phone number with a Newfoundland area code anywhere in the world at no cost.
By combining that phone number with apps like WhatsApp and Viber, I can call or text users from other countries free of charge.
An anchor back home
Although I don't have a permanent living space at home in Newfoundland, I do have a space to store my boxes and an official mailing address, which my sister monitors for me.
I get home twice a year, and during those stays I do all the maintenance stuff like seeing my doctor, renewing my driver's licence, and simply being in-province to keep my MCP coverage active.
If you're planning longer-term travel, check your province's medical care plan to ensure your time out of province still falls within their residency guidelines.
For me, working while travelling is not only an affordable way to see other countries; it also gives me a way of travelling that fits with my personality. I get nervous in unfamiliar places, and I'm prone to getting lost.
Having a work deadline to meet keeps my travel anxiety at bay, and the extended length of my visit lets me take my sweet, sweet, sweet time getting to know my surroundings.
I have time to learn a few words of the language, to make friends with the butcher, the baker and the farmers at the market — and even time to find my own favourite spots not featured in the guidebooks.