During the last 3 years, I have lived a life often referred to as "Digital Nomadism":
- • Travel through several countries every year.
- • Nowhere to stay longer than 3 months.
- • Do most of my work online.
There are several articles with pictures of laptops and beer on the beach. They promise that you can get rich quick while living your dream.
There are certainly people who achieve this crazy fantasy. But as with everything else, the lives of long-term travelers depend on the people who live them. Mine is slightly different from the cliché.
Hammock on the beach (Ko Kong, Cambodia)
This does not mean that I sometimes do not like to put a picture on Instagram that shows my feet on a hammock on the beach in order to reap as much envy as possible from people working at home.
But in reality, that's not the rule but an exception:
- • Nobody likes sand in the laptop.
- • Where is the outlet between palms?
- • Do not even try to find Wifi on an island.
Also, as Florian, my pragmatic German partner says:
"What is the theater with the beaches? Everyone pretends that beaches are special. But there is nothing to see there.
It's just desert with water. "
Scooter days are always better for me than beach days (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
I've been thinking about what the travel lifestyle actually brings me after Florian was interviewed about traveling couples in an article . They wanted to know how we manage to be together 24/7 without killing each other or our relationship.
In describing our "division of labor," Florian said that the difference between us is that I do not like sights. As I read that, I felt like a total idiot, like a travel loafer.
If I get angry because Florian says a little flattering - typically German - he's usually right. Once I complained that his >
"You're bad at most things you do.
Do it anyway. "
Vagabond on Java (Surakarta, Indonesia)
After my first year of romanticized vagrancy, I see much of the world as "same same, but different" and am no longer infinitely interested in the many manifestations of being human.
I'm such a travel-lover that I get a bit tired when enthusiastic backpackers use "traveling" as an active verb in a couchsurfing meeting. I think the passive form would be more appropriate.
"I bought a ticket, sat in a chair that moved and was delivered from A to B."
would be more accurate than
"Yeah man, I've just traveled through Cambodia, it was blatant to hang out with the people. So much culture.
Then I traveled through Myanmar , then I traveled through Thailand ... "
Water fight to Songkran (Bangkok, Thailand)
"No thanks, you do not have to wash away my sins for the New Year. My sins are just right, as dirty as they are. How about you get me a papaya salad instead and an iced coffee without getting soaked?
No, asking too much? Everyone wants to wet the farang? (Thai for "stranger") Great. "
Thailand is usually Flos and my favorite place around the world, but from now on we try to be somewhere else to Songkran.
So, having accepted that I'm actually the Grinch who still travels, what's the lifestyle of a digital nomad?
Permanent traveling has allowed me to reduce my life to the basics I need to be happy and let go of everything else.
By bike on Lake Titicaca (Isla del Sol, Bolivia)
When I left the US five years ago, I thought I would be back after 3 months. I packed all of my belongings in moving boxes, stored them in the garage of a friend and see you soon.
But very soon, I realized that I find my new life much better. I only earned about $ 300 a month, but my expenses were even lower and I was happy.
The following year, I started another job in another country, this time with a 30% salary increase to $ 400 a month.
I was still happy and made so much more money than I could spend saving money for a three-month bike ride through Bolivia. That was the first major trip from Flo and me and the official start to my nomadic life.
Shortly thereafter, I started working briefly in the US and slowly spending my time and money abroad for the rest of the year. I enrolled for distance learning at a university near my hometown to get a certification.
In addition, I researched and wrote a book in my spare time and in the second year learned the programming basics and created a website.
Now, in my third year as a nomad, I'm completing my Level 1 Teaching License and trying to expand my beginners' knowledge as a programmer and web designer.
On the Mayan pyramid Coba (Yucatán, Mexico )
I would not have had time for any of this if I had stayed at home and kept pedaling in the hamster wheel.
That's not to say that every moment was a kind of #liveauthentic dream:
- • I've gone through the cycle of initial disgust to indifferent acceptance of Squat toilets.
- • I know how cooked assholes taste with chicken feet.
- • I think air conditioners are for rich people.
- • When Flo and I spend the night in a guesthouse, which is offering us towels, we shout joyfully, "How did we earn it?!?".
Our travel budget can only be described as minimal on lavish days. That's how I learned how much less I need to be happy than I originally thought.
It also showed me where my limits are and what comfort I need, if I do not want to doubt my state of mind.
"Que bienvenido, Papa Francisco!" (Manila, Philippines)
In January 2015, I was at Changi Airport in Singapore - my favorite airport and winner of the Golden Pillow for nearly 2 decades. I received an email saying that my flight to Manila was canceled: not delayed, not postponed; canceled.
There was no replacement flight. I was stranded at a foreign airport - ok, my favorite airport - without a visa or onward flight.
Fuck. Why? Fuck.
After more than an hour on the phone with the airline, I was told that the reason for the cancellation was the visit of Pope Fransziskus.
The airport was closed as a security measure for most of the day. The Pope would arrive in Manila that day as part of his trip to Asia.
I finally got another flight, one of the last to land in Manila. That brought Flo and me one of the most unique events in Manila, in decades.
The main streets were closed, children ran everywhere and hopped on old mattresses in the street. All sorts of Pope's stuff was sold (Flo and I both got a pope shirt).
Pope shirt (Manila, Philippines)
Gigantic TV screens stood on every corner of the street to signal his arrival, and the streets were lined with Filipino women many miles from the airport into town, signs announcing their affection. They looked like surprisingly wrinkled teens at a boy band gig. It was a great day to walk around Manila.
Unfortunately, it was not a great day to find accommodations in Manila. After felt hours, Flo and I finally found a local Guesthouse, with free rooms. It was a lot more expensive and drastically rundown than the shacks we were used to. But what should one do on Pope's Day? We took a room.
Pope Live Viewing (Manila, Philippines)
Later in the evening, after only 1 block of roads and 5 minutes missed opportunity to wave to the Pope, we came back. What looked disappointing in the daylight paradoxically looked downright offensive. The corridor leading to the shared bathroom has changed from dark to pitch-black, without any light.
The worst thing about looking into the dark corridor to the bathroom was: I had to use it. Reluctantly, I went back to our room, picked up my flashlight and slipped down the hall.
When I found the bathroom, I stood in the doorway to look at the shit-covered toilet seat. It took me long enough to lure a furry little monster from inside the bowl to see what was going on.
To be completely honest, it may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that a huge rat crawled out of a fucking toilet to chase me down the hallway. After all, I do not know if the rat really hunted me, do not know their intentions. To be clear, the facts are undeniable:
- 1. The toilet seat was full of shit.
- 2. A big rat came out of the toilet.
- 3. I turned and ran back the passage.
- 4. The rat ran the same passage behind me.
- 5. It was pretty disgusting.
- 6. I mused about my life.
Climbing the Sticky Waterfall (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Most of the time, it feels like my minimalist, nomadic lifestyle is the right choice for me. But what happened was the absolute low point. I was in a position that no sane person would choose voluntarily and can not outweigh any other benefits.
Having just a few clothes and no stuff to sell just the bare necessities of my time is a fair exchange for me. But if my standard of living allows only circumstances like these: that's not freedom, it's just another kind of slavery.
From the point of view of privileged people (to which I belong) that is the other end of the spectrum. People who do all sorts of jobs to buy as much as they can, with little idea of what they want or need in their lives to optimize their happiness.
I can not say that my experience is a kind of condition for a realized life. But on my further travels, I was aware that, in the end, my claims are only a little above a safe place to sleep and a rat-free toilet. To accept that does not make other surprises in life seem so bad.
I am writing this from my home country where I have spent the longest time in 5 years (already 4 months). I work with great people whom I would like to count as my colleagues - at least if I would stand on such a thing. I can not escape a certain admiration for air conditioners and seat toilets, free from vermin.
But I do not like the persistence in one place that makes trivia important. Or that I have to accumulate possessions to fill the inner emptiness - I'm talking about my empty flat, but take that metaphorically if you like hippie bullshit.
I prefer to travel.
Breakfast on the terrace in the jungle (Coroico, Bolivia)
Guest contribution by my partner Michela - First published in English on Medium: When My Travel Lifestyle Hit Rock Bottom .
Michela has not learned German, was too heavy for her;)
What was the low point of your travel life?
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