Traveling the world while working is THE dream.
For a long time now I hear people in my professional and personal surrounding talking about their wish to become a digital nomad. But so far none of them ever did.
I want to encourage you to try it, if you feel like this could be right for you.
Don’t be scared, it’s so easy!
Who I am
I’m Dominik from Germany and I founded my cloud telephony company a couple of years ago. I work in Berlin and have a small team of great people in my office there. Last year when summer turned into autumn I decided to get away and booked a flight to Thailand.
I would love to share my experiences, how I prepared and chose my destination, how I got started in Thailand and what my daily life looks like.
Hopefully I can inspire you to give the idea of becoming a digital nomad another thought.
Why I’m able to run my company while traveling
With my kind of work I don’t need to be physically in a specific place. In my business you can work from anywhere, as long as you have a good internet connection, a laptop and a phone. Also, the digital infrastructure is crucial for organizing, updating and communicating.
As we are selling cloud telephony systems to companies, we are of course using this tool for our internal interactions as well. It’s a very convenient way to communicate reliably, no matter where you are.
Beside that, we as a team are organizing our work a lot with online tools like YouTrack, Trello and Wire. So right from the start, my work never tied me to a physical office.
Now that I’m working remotely, I’m not using more applications than before, I’m just using them with higher intensity.
Running a company while traveling is even easier if you are a freelancer or working alone without a team, because you don’t have any responsibility towards other people. I’m in the lucky position though, that I have very supportive, reliable and responsible people working with me - so I didn’t need to worry about leaving them.
I recommend choosing the right tools and getting them set up and working before leaving on your trip. Trying to make something new work, while just having started traveling, especially if you have a team that relies on you, will be hard and might even interrupt your daily business. Better to prepare as much as possible in advance.
How I chose my destination
When I was thinking about which country to choose as my first destination I was looking at three things: Low cost of living, good weather and great food - Thailand ticks all the boxes.
I did some research especially on a platform called nomadlist which was a great help. On this website you have all kinds of cities all around the world with ratings in different categories, which might be crucial for your decision on which country to work in.
When I explained my plan to work in Thailand to people, they often told me that I’m probably just going to work 24/7 and have a bad internet connection, but they couldn’t be more wrong.
How I prepared for leaving
After I booked the flight I felt relieved that I made the decision and the plan became suddenly pretty real. I researched topics like visa and vaccines and actually had very little preparation to do.
Because I don’t have to be physically present in the office to do my work, there weren’t a lot of big changes. I had one-on-one talks with all my workmates to make sure that everybody feels good about me leaving and knows what to do.
For me, the biggest task was to let go mentally and give my team more responsibility and power in decision-making than they have had before.
As mentioned above, implementing certain tools for communication and organisation with your team before leaving will help immensely and take off a lot of the stress in the early days of settling in to your new environment.
My start in Thailand
Suddenly the day came and I got on the plane, escaping Germany’s cold weather with a smile on my face, excited where this journey will take me and if everything will turn out the way I had planned. I didn’t really have any expectations, so I felt really positive.
The first few days in Bangkok I mostly explored the city, cured my jet lag and allowed myself to work only a couple of hours a day.
I met a group of people who were also here to work and got inspired by them to go to Chiang Mai. This decision was the perfect choice, I ended up staying there for a long time.
How I organized my work and life
After arriving in Chiang Mai, the first thing I was looking for was a coworking space. That was really easy, as the digital nomad community there is huge and supportive.
After checking out some spaces I found the perfect coworking and coliving space through a Facebook group. You get a desk, a meal per day, drinks, a coconut and a more than perfect internet connection. As an extra you can also use the swimming pool and attend yoga classes.
The difficulties of the work and life balance
Suddenly there is this big community around me, all working, exchanging and socializing. As there is so much distraction, at the beginning it was challenging to have a good work and life balance. For the start I made myself a plan for the week, scheduled my work time and my free time and tried to stick to that as much as possible. I do love my work but it was surprisingly difficult for me to sit down and work, while knowing that other people were enjoying their free time in the sun.
Anyway the plan helped me a lot and I got comfortable with my work routine. I definitely recommend setting and tracking goals for each week or month and allocating fixed time slots for work and freetime and sticking to this plan.
What a typical working day looks like
Germany is 6 hours behind Thailand, so with that in mind I usually sleep as long as I want because it makes more sense to start late. After waking up, I have a big breakfast and enjoy the weather outside, starting work around 10:30 am. I work 2,5 hours until I have my lunch break with the other people who are working besides me. After that I go back to my desk until around 6 pm and then shut down my laptop and have a good time. Like this I don’t have a 40-hour week and that was definitely part of the plan. In the evenings I either attend one of the many community events or just hang out with some people.
On the weekend I learned to stay completely away from work, but rather go on trips with the others around Chiang Mai.
Anyway I’m always reachable for my team, also during the night, for emergencies.
Even though I am working less hours, the environment and weather motivate me to give my very best at work. I am more efficient, achieving more in less time and therefore can enjoy my free time even more because I really feel like I deserve it.
It’s inspirational and distracting at the same time to have so many new people around you. You want to get to know everybody and often find yourself in hour long interesting talks but you still also have to get your work done.
The perfect socializing time is definitely in the evening. There are a lot of meetups that are mostly self-organized by digital nomads and some are organized by the coworking space itself.
Usually you can choose between two different kinds of events in the evening, either for socializing or to gain knowledge. The first one is self-explaining, the second ones are mostly workshops from people in the digital nomad scene, who talk about digital business topics, like marketing or coding. You can get lots of inspiration and even free content through those events.
The community here consists mostly of people like me: white men in their mid thirties. Most of them are freelancers and independent of any team or other people. A lot of them are in the coding business, which is an area of work that is easy for digital nomads. Besides coding, there are a lot of people in marketing, design and other digital jobs.
What you need to be able to work while traveling
It’s really not complicated! You basically just need three things to become a digital nomad:
First you need to want it. With that I mean that you really have to like the kind of way of living and working. Get an idea of the lifestyle that’s close to reality, before deciding.
Second, you need the right infrastructure. Most importantly you need to be independent of a physical place and have the right tools on your hand. If you don’t have this infrastructure yet, maybe it’s possible for you to get there though.
Last but not least you have to be good at self-organizing and flexibility. If you’re not used to working completely self-organized it can be tough to motivate yourself at the beginning and be disciplined enough not to get distracted. But there are a lot of strategies that can help. Flexibility is also an important trait to have, especially, if there is time difference to your clients or workmates.
YOU can work while traveling!
If you came this far I guess you are also interested in working while traveling. If you are already thinking about it, I would say just do it.
If you want it and you have the infrastructure, flexibility and self-organization to do so - then just book your flight and this becomes your reality.
Also keep in mind: You can always just try it for a couple of weeks or months - there is always a way back, if you don’t feel like it wasn’t the right choice for you. But if you don’t try - you will never know and always wonder!