Let’s face it: times have changed since your parents were growing up. Long gone are secure jobs with room for growth and affordable housing. It’s scary, but for some millennials – it’s just presented a new kind of opportunity. According to stats, it’s estimated that freelancers will comprise roughly 40 percent of the American workforce by 2020, with many between the ages of 22-44.
As many millennials take a stab at ‘being their own boss’, there has been a fascinating rise in a new type of lifestyle: living as a digital nomad. Much like freelancers, digital nomads leverage technology, like wifi and laptops, to work wherever they please in the world while traveling. This work, traditionally taken place in a single stationary workplace, can be done anywhere: a beachfront, a cafe or a gallery. The thing is, you weren’t confined to one single space.
Lisa Felepchuk and her fiancée Coleman Molnar decided to ditch their full-time nine-to-five media jobs for the freedom that living as digital nomads would bring them. Molnar admits that he and Felepchuk knew how much work and hustle and grit it was going to take but shares, “We run a media company that specializes in lifestyle content, Li et Co Media. We’re marketers, writers, brand strategists, influencers, photographers, and more. It’s exciting but keeps us on our toes.”
For the pair, there is a thrill of waking up to a new location and having the curiosity of the unknown outside of their window. But they explain that people were skeptical of their decision explaining that people think that they are hippies and don’t work at all. “It’s largely because of the van,” Molnar explains of their 1983 Volkswagon transformed into a mobile home.
Lisa & Coleman in their van
Anne Cayer and her partner Ryan Tyler Thomas worked in the communications and advertising industry for over a decade, chasing their respective dream jobs. Cayer explains, “Travel had always been a goal of ours, but so was building a career. We prioritized the latter assuming we’d get to travel one day.” After constantly putting in 70 hour work weeks, the pair found themselves exhausted and miserable. So they started to reevaluate their priorities and look at how exactly a digital nomad lifestyle could work for them.
After saving a budget to cover them for a year, the pair set out with places they wanted to see and a monthly budget they stuck to. Like many remote workers, Cayer and Thomas chose the
lifestyle as it provided them with the freedom to not only travel but to live life at their own pace with their new business, Go Squab.
But the pair explains, there are many misconceptions about what being a digital nomad entails. “People probably think we’re rolling in cash. The Instagram effect also contributes to this; the proliferation of carefully staged, overly-edited images has given a false impression of what life as a digital nomad is for many of us,” Cayer shares.
Ryan & Anne with their TukTuk
According to a study, about a quarter of remote workers/freelancers describe themselves as digital nomads. Only 17 percent of them travel to more than five countries a year. Cayer and Thomas found within the first year of travelling, the balance of work and life became extremely exhausting, as they juggled their new business. Cayer shares, “When we first left, we moved cities every 3-4 days, meaning we were in an almost constant state of planning. Once we started signing bigger and bigger contracts, it just wasn’t realistic.” But now, they’ve found by staying places longer, they can get more done and have more time for exploration. “It gives us time to appreciate where we are.”
Many are calling it quits on working in desk jobs in search of adventure and new perspectives, there are things to keep in mind. Felepchuk and Molnar created their very own work-back plan before setting out on the road, and admit it was one of the most important steps. “We didn’t just wake up one day and decide to quit our jobs and move into a van,” notes Felepchuk. The two set dates along with items that they wanted to take action on, and decided to break things down into bite-sized goals so living felt a lot less daunting. On the flip side, Cayer and Thomas believe it’s important to set a budget. “With a bit a financial savvy and prioritization, traveling while working is way more attainable than people might realize, but it takes discipline,” explains Thomas.
Being a digital nomad can have its rewarding moments and experience, but it is important to be realistic about your expectations and balance them responsibility with freedom, like these two couples, have done.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Ama Scriver)