Living, Working, and Thriving as a Nomad
A year ago, I took a leap of faith. After eight years living in Seattle as an employee and then owner of an events management company, I decided to become a nomad—and continue to run and grow my business. I love my work and I also love to wander. I decided there had to be a way to combine both loves!
Have laptop, will travel—and produce events
I had a big “aha” last year. I realized that I had my business in a position where I could work from anywhere. My clients, and the events I produce for them, are all over the world. I’m always holding meetings in cyber space at wacky hours and traveling to venues for site visits and events. It doesn’t matter where I call home base.
I love Seattle but was beginning to feel stale and stuck there. As a Brit transplanted to the U.S., I had an urge to explore more of this huge and diverse country. Perhaps stumble across potential new places to put down roots… eventually. So I gave myself a year to do just that—become untethered, explore the country, and keep my business booming.
I have always had a need to travel. I love to explore, experience new places, meet new people, learn about other cultures, and try new food. Travel and adventure are in my blood. And so is work.
So I took the plunge. I put my belongings in storage, gave up the keys to my apartment and car, and hit the open road. (Well, more like the open skies since I’m constantly flying to event sites. I’ve taken 30 flights so far in 2019!) I ramble from AirBnb spots to hotels and friends’ couches, all while staying connected to my clients across the globe.
This past year has been an amazing learning experience—fun, eye-opening, unsettling at times, but consistently energizing. Here’s what I’ve learned about…
Working as a nomad:
- Technology is my constant companion. Many people have love-hate relationships with today’s communications technology, but I love it. It enables me to run my business successfully while wandering.
- By combining strong organization and communication skills with the right technology, I can make my meetings in cyber space just as productive as in-person meetings. I’ve become a wizard at videoconferencing, troubleshooting (and locating) WiFi connections, and finding power outlets in the most remote spots.
- I always take advantage of videoconferencing. Face-to-face visuals helps to keep strong relationships with clients and colleagues.
- I treat each client meeting (virtual or in-person) like an event itself. If I’m out and about, I locate a good coffee shop with strong Wi-Fi and ample power outlets in advance. (Last minute tech scrambling tends to make meetings go sour.)
Living affordably as a nomad:
- Living out of a suitcase is freeing. If I buy something that will go into the suitcase, then something has to leave the suitcase. So I find I don’t need as much. I’m constantly amazed at how much I don’t miss all my belongings.
- Being diligent in hunting for good travel deals can really pay off. I use Hotel Tonight, Expedia, AirBnB, and VRBO. (But if you use a third-party booking resource like Expedia you won’t get the hotel points you might be trying to collect.)
- I don’t tie myself down by reserving long stays in accommodations in advance. I book about three nights in one spot, so I can move on if I want to without being penalized with fees.
Thriving as a nomad:
- Being on the road often means dining alone and I not only enjoy it, I indulge in it! Unless my schedule requires food on the run, I work to explore interesting and tasty dining spots everywhere I go.
- But since my schedule often does require eating on the run, I find it can be challenging to eat healthily. I sometimes have to search for, and pay a lot for, healthy food options.
- Same problem with exercise. Sometimes the main exercise I get is running for a flight. So I try to get a lot of walking in and I work out whenever I can.
- Staying healthy takes diligence. Airplane germs, grab-and-go meals, varying sleep hours and locations, and no regular exercise can really take a toll. I have to focus on getting healthy food, exercise, and sufficient downtime to regenerate.
- My mantra: stay flexible. Don’t be rigid about time or place, so I can take advantage of opportunities that pop up to try new things and places.
Now that the year I gave myself is almost up, I find I’m not ready to settle down just yet. But the lesson that will stick with me long after this particular journey is over: to set the dream, but not the path nor the result. For, as many wanderers have said in various ways, “The journey is the destination.”