Our 2013 as digital nomads
Welcome to the part three of our 2013 recap! In this post we cover the digital nomad aspect, our learning about working on the road. The first post of this 2013 recap series was a taster of the year in the form of a short story and Instagram photos. The second post concentrated on our travel experiences with a cool map of our destinations, a video compiling our best pictures from the year, and our most memorable moments listed.
In 2013, we were running our business online while traveling to 17 countries. Here we try to share with you some of the things we have learnt about being a digital nomad, and some plans we have for 2014.
It is possible, also technically
In the beginning we had some doubts whether we can do client work well while traveling. Not anymore. Oftentimes the challenges came more from unfamiliarity with the tools than from bad connections. That said, we started to reduce our dependence on continuous, quality internet access. Some things we tried out, like longer online workshops for groups, didn't really work yet, with too many technical challenges on different sides. Remote desktop work via encrypted network access was not fun either on crappy connections, and there was always the uncertainty of the network quality when moving to the next place. On the other hand, we we were able to use e-mail in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. These things are changing really fast.
In 2014: Optimizing our business more to take the technical constraints into account, reducing the dependence on constant high-speed internet access even more
Being one's own boss is both good and bad
I guess being an entrepreneur is the biggest change of all, no matter if we're traveling or not. Being our own boss gives us freedom to do things our way, with no one telling us what to do or peeking over your shoulder. This is sometimes a problem, too. We tend to get excited about things, which are not always the ones we have agreed to be working on. We started the year by making very detailed plans, which turned out to be not so successful, everything changing so fast and being so new to us. We ended up not following up on most of the plans, and are now learning a more agile way of planning. Going much better so far!
In 2014: Focusing our efforts more, perfecting our agile operation model
Freedom causes happiness
Being one's own boss also means setting our own time tables. For me this means slow mornings. Who ever knew I would wake up quite early? Really, usually sometime between 7-9. On most mornings I do not use alarm clock, but get to wake up naturally. Or in some cases by dogs, but still, that could be called natural? And when I'm awake, I can take my time reading blog posts, drinking coffee and taking it easy before getting into work. Fits me perfectly! On the other hand, Antti has usually gotten one or two hours of work in by the time I get into it.
In 2014: Taking full advantage of our freedom.
Being on the road and working from home offices or cafés has actually been very productive for us. There's no continual interruptions or time wasted on unproductive meetings (or well, we might have some with each other, but still). Also, since we are mostly on a different time zone than the people we work with, only part of the day is common working time, leaving the rest free of interruptions. Although the social media monster might cause some attention deficits every now and then, we get much more done than in our office days of the past!
In 2014: More discipline dealing with online distractions.
We have no social life
We don't have much of a social life at the moment. We've been quite absorbed in our work and moving around gives us few opportunities to get to know people better. Most of the people we meet are just passing by as travelers or have their own steady, hard to penetrate local lives. With both groups we find it a bit hard to relate, and so far we have only met a few other digital nomads. With the two of us traveling it is easier to close ourselves into our own bubble, taking distance from the world around us. Yeah, we need to get out of the house more.
In 2014: Making a conscious effort to get out of our bubble more often, immersing ourselves to the local life and meeting people.
We crave a community
Workwise we are both used to being part of a bigger community, and now with just two of us we are missing this aspect. Also, I think we are starting to think too much alike and need some fresh insights. We loved the few instances where we got to work around other people, in co-working places or some events, and crave for more of these. Having discussions online is good, but it doesn't replace the need for being physically present.
In 2014: Finding places where we can work together with other entrepreneurs, catching up with other digital nomads.
Routines are important
Surprisingly, routines have played a big role this year. We have realised we need routines, to bring stability to our ever changing lives and new environments. They also make us more efficient, freeing brain capacity for more important things. On the other hand, changing the environment regularly helps us not to get stuck in our routines, because we need to recreate and re-evaluate them often.
In 2014: Being more courageous about how we build our routines. Even though in theory we have the freedom to design our lives and work to be anything we want, it is easy to get stuck on conventional ways, like working from 9 to 5. Why not instead have a routine of working from 10 to 12 and then from 18 to 24? Or any other way that best fits ourselves.
We are comfortable being together 24/7
We have been together almost 24/7 for a year now, and still haven't killed each other. Not even close, we actually seem to enjoy each others constant company. Working and traveling together has taught us a lot, like what irritates the other one, how to make one's point understood, and when you just need to find something to eat. We are still nowhere close to perfection and have small quarrels almost daily, but I think we have improved. We each take care of the things we are good at and at the same time try not to leave all the unpleasant tasks for the other.
In 2014: Taking some "me" time and adventuring out alone more often.
We don't really need that much
When starting we were little worried about how we will survive with only our backpacks. But during the year, we haven't really missed anything and have downgraded our possessions even more. We now travel with hand luggage only, and have all we need.
In 2014: Figuring out where to find multi-functional, durable, decent-looking stuff to replace our old things, without blowing our budget.
Home is where our luggage is
We have become quite fast at settling down in new places. We are often calling them our home already the second day. The feeling of home comes from small things. One of the first things I do when settling down somewhere for longer than few days is to unpack. Having my clothes in a closet and toiletries on a bathroom table makes me feel at home. This is a bit weird, since before my nomadic days, it could take me weeks to unpack after trips.
In 2014: Keep traveling with hand luggage only, to not loose our home.
Going slow is the key
Most of the time we want to stay put in a specific place for a while. It seems that a month somewhere, followed by faster travel for a few days, or two weeks max, is our best bet at the moment. When staying longer in a place, we get to know the local neighborhood and see how the everyday life is there. Less about seeing sights and extreme experiences, more about how to figure out how to make an edible meal out of the things they sell in the local grocery store.
In 2014: Keeping the slow pace. We are thinking staying put for about a month, then few days of travel, and settling down again.
Show me the money, or not
Our total living costs for the year were 34.779,86€, which translates to roughly 2.900€ per month or 96€ per day. This includes everything we used money for, except the expenses of our company. We had budgeted 3.000€ a month, and that's very close to what we ended up spending. Looking back, we could have lived on less if we hadn't been so comfort seeking or lazy sometimes.
After breaking even on our costs vs. income during the Spring with client work, we made a conscious decision to concentrate more on some of our own projects in the Fall. We knew they wouldn't produce much income straight away, but we had savings from 2012 to support us.
In 2014: Making sustainable income from our business doing what we want to do, to have enough to cover our living costs and to save some for rainy days. And paying more attention to how we spend our money.
That's it! Now let's see what 2014 teaches us.
More of our 2013
We are Mirje and Antti, a 30+ digital nomad couple, entrepreneurs with restless feet and passion for experiencing the world. more »