It’s almost been a month since I decided to pack my bags and try out being a digital nomad. For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia’s definition is, “digital nomads are people who conduct their life in a nomadic manner while engaging in remote work.

Sunsets in Gran Canaria
Sunsets in Gran Canaria

It was around 2017 when I first heard of this term, I was still at university on a placement year trying to delay what felt like the inevitable: figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.

Hearing career advisors and mentors all tell me about the one route to success – in other words, graduate and work your way up the corporate ladder – dampened my spirit. Learning that I would get 20 or so days holiday and short weekends to live, travel and explore made me almost go down the “I’ll just do a masters degree so I don’t have to be a real contributing adult to society yet.”

So when anything that went against that norm was presented to me, I held on so tightly; freedom is an important personal value to me because life is too short to be chained to something that you don’t really like. But feel forced to do, simply because “everybody else is doing it.” I never wanted to be a passive follower, so why start now?

Trips over the years

I did a lot of research, discovered NomadList built by @levelsio and ended up getting a lifelong membership. The more I went into the rabbit hole, the more I was convinced that I would one day want to do this. It was the ultimate dream.

5 years later, I’ve now been on the road for a few weeks making a living from my laptop and spending lots of my time next to the ocean where I belong. Even when I got my first fully remote job with Gitpod, I was still living in the pits of what I like to call, “2020 WFH hell.” Adjusting to healthy async, remote culture was actually a little bit of a challenge especially after I came from two enterprises that were no where near as effective. It took me a good 9 months to find a good balance that works for me and perhaps is the reason that it took this long to finally leave the comforts of my tiny apartment to live more nomadically.

📍 Ericeira

Even now, I still think this is my “trial run” before moving to more adventurous trips in the future. I’ve stayed in Europe — spent a little over 2 weeks in Portugal 🇵🇹 and now spending as long as I possibly can here in the Canary Islands 🇮🇨. I’m still quite far from home, but exploring more of Asia is something I’d love to work up towards. I have university friends in Thailand 🇹🇭 that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while…baby steps!

The pandemic changed us all. When I left the UK a few weeks ago, I was already considering cutting my trip short out of the excessive worry of everything going on in the world. But now that I know I’m able to work away from my usual set-up and live the best that I can, I’m looking at ways to extend as long as I can. Arthur recently texted me with:

A screenshot of a message saying "you're not coming back, are you?"
Side note: if we ever become texting pals, I’m sorry in advance for sending voice notes. 🤪

He’s probably right.

I also completely forgot how much travelling opens your mind and soul to all the possibilities. Circling back to freedom… remember I mentioned it up there? Well, I guess I was losing touch with it whilst back home in my set routine. I began to follow less of my heart but more of what external pressures were telling me to do. I had all these plans and commitments for the year which I thought I wanted but I’ve never been more conflicted. I’m still processing what all of this means to me…truth be told, I still don’t really have a clear idea.

Yesterday a local at the hair salon I went to shared something quite profound with me, she said, “It’s the things that you experience that make you realise what you want.”

2 years stuck in a set routine in the pandemic made me think what I wanted was a bigger place to live in with a garden and neighbours I speak to over a white picketed fence… I’m not saying that I’d never want that, but maybe not right now? Those 2 years made me forget about all the things I’ve yet to experience and the people I’m yet to meet. Those 2 years isn’t just it.

As I’m experiencing the cool morning breeze and hearing the sounds of the waves, the thing my heart wants is freedom.

A selfie with the view of Lisbon on a sunny day!
Shoutout to this beautiful terrace in the hotel I accidentally booked in Lisbon 😂

Thanks for reading this post! Conclude your time digesting all these words with this very relatable song.

3 responses to “Freedom”

  1. Hey Paw! I’m so happy to see that things are going well and you’ve found a work arrangement that allows you the flexibility to travel at the same time. A goal of mine has always been to live and work abroad for a few years (yes, I’m sick of Australia haha). Initially I considered only landing overseas jobs but I’ve also now opened myself to the possibility of finding a fully remote job and heading over to Asia. I think it’ll be manageable as long as the time difference isn’t massive. Out of curiosity does your company allow you to work asynchronous hours or are you expected to be online between certain hours? I think it’s a huge positive that the way we work has changed as a result of Covid and we should embrace new ways of thinking, working and living. Excited to see more on this topic in future!

  2. I’ve been following you on Insta and it looks like you’re truly having a blast lately. Seeing as I’m always in wanderlust, I am quite envious of you.

    Cheers to more adventures (that I can’t wait to see and hear about).

  3. This is currently what I’m working towards myself. The city I live in is so detrimental to my physical, emotional and financial health that I have to get away. I’ve had no luck with finding a career in my degree field, but have been working through udemy and free code camp courses lately in order to boost chances of decent remote work so I can “escape the pit” as it were.
    As scary as it seems I know in my soul that this is what I have to do for myself. At 31 I’ve not gained any ground in almost a decade of stagnant unhappiness. You’ve definitely done what many think impossible, and it’s an inspiration to many. Keep putting yourself and your happiness first Paw.

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