A Reflection on Living a Digital Nomad Vagabonding Life One Year on

Katherine:

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Our one year digital nomad vagabonding anniversary came and went the day before yesterday unacknowledged. This time last year we awoke to our new tabula rasa life in a BnB in Camden, London having just flown in the day before. I think a little reflection is in order.

Then

On the 31st May last year I wrote this in my notebook:

“Come Sunday evening a melancholy befalls in the realisation that I have to go to work tomorrow and the next day and the next day and so on and so forth. Well, this is officially my last Sunday of mourning the weekend for hopefully a very long time, if not forever. This week is my last week of work before I take annual leave and then move to Europe with Mike to re-evaluate and re-invent out lives. I never again want to have a job that makes me mourn the end of the weekend. I either need to have a job I love or a job that takes up as little time as possible”.

A note to the people of seaac (my previous workplace), if you are reading this: I still love you and seaac! I thought I wanted to be a social worker since before I knew what a social worker was – in fact, I even talked to Steve, our beloved leader, about all of this in my exit interview. Turns out I’d prefer to be holed up in a little studio day and night drawing and painting strange but beautiful fictional characters and designing yummy collage papers and patterns! Who knew?

Now

I’m working on the marketing side of things for A Tasty Pixel, Mike’s software development business. I’ve learnt how to use Photoshop so I can design my own collage papers and surface pattern designs and have plans to learn how to use Illustrator as well. I’ve designed over 100 of them and even had a hand in designing Mike’s new website! Hopefully Mike’s next iPhone app will do well enough so that we can hire someone to do the marketing next time and I can focus on what I love. Until then, I don’t mind this type of work. At the end of the day I have complete autonomy and that counts for so much. What I would love to do is sell my collage papers, surface pattern designs, textures and brushes online as downloadable files. I’ve pretty much got it all worked out, now I just have to find the time to do it!

Then

A couple of weeks after arriving I wrote this in my notebook:

“The world is full of wonders and we’re going out to see them. This is probably the most amazing thing we’ll do in our lives and this is the beginning. It is all ahead of us. I’m really excited about spending TIME, precious, preciuos time on art. Learning, learning, learning. The thought of learning has always grabbed my imagination with all of its connotations of possibility and the unknown”.

I also remember updating my facebook status with something like this: “I have dallied for too long: Too many paintings left unpainted”.

Now

I’m still really excited about seeing the wonders we have yet to see. Scotland is our next super exciting destination. I dream about being in a remote Scottish countryside surrounded by dramatic mountains, achingly pretty lochs and at the mercy of fierce weather.

I would still like to spend more time on art. It’s funny, for the first time in my adult life I’m neither studying nor do I have a “job” but I am busier than I have ever been. Sometimes when I think about all the things I want to do and learn I feel overwhelmed. I think it’s a pretty good problem to have. Now that I’ve found my passion it’s gained its own momentum. It’s as if it was waiting, dormant, and as soon as a shaft of light fell upon it, everything that was already there, in waiting, unfurled and is growing bigger and bigger the more light it gets.

To round off, some things I know now that I wish I knew then:

  1. Put some bamboo mats and towels under your mattress or you will be re-constructing your bed in 9 months because a dirty big patch of mould is growing there.
  2. Driving the entire length of France on toll-ways will cost you a small fortune, which you could use instead to buy a small island or put towards your firstborn’s university fund.
  3. One month in Ireland is NOT enough time – not even close – and indeed three months in one country is not enough (unless it’s Tunisia) – slow down!

Some things I never anticipated:

  1. Learning how to use Photoshop – those familiar with the mutual animosity between myself and all things computers will appreciate the enormity of this
  2. Starting a small business and being self-employed – not something I ever envisaged for myself but now I wouldn’t want it any other way. Also, knowing a great deal about running an online business – didn’t see that coming.
  3. Having a blog and meeting kindred spirits online – I used to think blogs were rather self-indulgent, pointless things and I was even quite sheepish about telling people that I had one to begin with (ditto for twitter)

Some things I’ve learnt:

  1. How to have an argument – Mike and I live together, travel together and now work together all in a 6×3 metre space! We need to be able to resolve arguments and we’ve gotten pretty good at it.
  2. I can wear a pair of socks (light use) 5 – 10 times before they start to smell
  3. I don’t think I ever would have dreamt of, let alone done, any of this – the business, the design, the blog – If I had’ve just stayed in Melbourne working 9-5 Monday-Friday with 4 weeks off a year. Not a chance. There’s something about drastically changing your entire life that opens up boundaries you didn’t even know were there and lets you begin to imagine that things can be different, very very different.

Michael:

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My mother made this comment about our experience just recently, but it’s worth repeating because I find the fact of it really remarkable: That this thing we’re doing is totally multifaceted. The travel stuff is wonderful – one of my top priorities for my life – but equally valuable is the creative side which has been really rewarding (although not quite financially rewarding, yet – we’ll get there!).

The most awesome aspect of this is Katherine’s artistic journey, and I’m loving seeing her artistic side prospering. Plus, the glee she gets from art supplies is a thing to behold.

Personally speaking, I’m loving the indie software developer lifestyle to pieces. It’s a creative outlet that suits me perfectly, and I love designing software and putting the pieces together just so – which satisfies both my creative side, and my OCD side. My mother used to joke that me, working (tapping studiously away at a keyboard), was rather similar to me taking a break – party time (tapping studiously away at a keyboard). It’s pretty much that way still, and doing this job means I basically never work, and am in fact constantly playing. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Actually, the one thing that does get better than that is having a beautiful, changing view out of the window that we can go and explore from time to time, at our leisure. When we started out, we didn’t have a clear idea of how the travel thing was all going to work, but we’ve sorted it out and found our pace. We love being in the country, fields, woods, mountains, and really enjoy hiking (although not for too long!). Cities have their appeal too, but our hearts lie in the wide open horizons, or the deep green (or preferably, orange and yellow!) of woods.

One thing I never anticipated was the people we’ve met along the way. I certainly hoped that we would make connections with people as we went, but given that we’re not exactly gregarious (I almost wrote ‘egregious’) people by nature, I wasn’t sure how successful we’d be. Don’t get me wrong, we like a good pub, maybe once a year. For a few minutes.

However, we’ve met some really interesting people and made some wonderful friends, always in unexpected ways: On the side of a volcano, in the back-alleys of an ancient Tunisian marketplace, in the car park of a little Italian town, and through my involvement with writing WordPress and iPhone software. A great adventure still to come will be spending some time living in Padua (and learning Italian!) and getting to know our wonderful new-found friends there, who I originally met via my product Loopy.

The online side of this mobile social life has been fascinating – we still have quite a number of people we’ve met online to catch up with some time: Users of software I’ve written, other bloggers, and other people who’ve come across us online (or vice versa). We’ve made some great friends who are currently cycling across Europe (actually, they’ve just bought a little red car and are heading towards, and then across, Siberia), who we discovered while doing a bit of travel research in Tunisia, and we dearly hope to meet them in person one day – then kidnap them and keep them all to ourselves, in our enclave of ‘favourite people’ that we will one day build. nothing

The last thing that I find surprising, in spite of my ever-overly-optimistic self, is just how feasible this thing has been. Okay, we had some fantastic help to begin with – some great, long house-sitting appointments that meant we went almost a whole year rent-free – but apart from the initial, mostly recoverable outlay (Nettle), we’ve generally been living on less that it would’ve cost us to live in Australia – particularly with the horrendous housing situation there lately. My blithely optimistic anticipation of this whole thing has been actually pretty spot-on. We can do this for a lot more time yet, even if this indie software thing doesn’t take off.

So, in more ways than one, becoming ‘vagabonds’ (‘technobonds’?) has been a real enabler for us to pursue the things we really want to do with our lives, travel aside. It’s taken us away from the distracting, (albeit dubious) attraction of a steady income and jobs about which we’re ambivalent, freeing us up for the more important things, while actually lowering our living expenses to make our ‘buffer’ last longer.

That’s pretty cool.

Things I am glad I now know:

  1. What Katherine says is right. (Katherine’s note: this is a work in progress)
  2. Taking a wrong turn or getting lost never matters – relax, go with it.
  3. It’s probably not a good idea to wild-camp in a big city, and especially not a port. Just…don’t.
  4. It doesn’t matter how much you don’t like marketing/PR stuff, or how much you’re too engrossed in developing a product: Do it!
  5. Don’t look too closely at how your motorhome’s put together, especially the raised bed (or as I like to call it, flimsy-sleeping-platform-of-death).
  6. If you run out of food, you can make pancakes with flour and water! (Although they’re not so good if you’re out of water too)

Here’s to another year of technomadding!


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2 Comments A Reflection on Living a Digital Nomad Vagabonding Life One Year on

  1. Tara & Tyler

    Oh my goodness you guys. This post has everything (as does your life), and it made me laugh and cry. Wow, what an inspiring journey. Also loved the little striked-out side note… that was nice as well. :D

    love you guys!

    T&T

    PS: Katherine, sorry I’ve been such an email-responder slacker. :-( I did get that lovely long one you wrote, and sent you all kinds of nice thoughts, but haven’t gotten to writing a worthy response yet.

    Reply
  2. Katherine

    I just re-read the post trying to work which part made you cry – was it the bit about the socks?

    I really appreciated Mike’s little striked-out note too – that place totally exists in my head. After meeting our friends in Padova we were driving across Europe to get back to the UK and I was sitting there imagining what it would be like to get them in a room together with all my favourite people, including you guys. I had a big grin on my face :) – it must be built!

    Reply

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