Many people have dreams of long term travel, something that is more than the typical 1-2 week vacation a couple times a year (or every couple of years!).
They crave a slower pace to more fully immerse themselves in different cultures and experiences. More opportunity to enjoy quality time with far flung friends and family. A chance for ever broadening horizons, not constrained by a “back to work” deadline.
That sort of long term travel is generally thought of as reserved for:
- Retirement – when life savings, pensions and social security can cover the expenses, and one has completed a career and put that phase of life behind them.
- Before career – fresh out of school before one commits to a career and family, taking a few months or years to explore the world.
- In between careers – when a current careers is no longer rewarding, quit, take off and travel for a while before re-entering the workforce.
Essentially, extended travel is often to the exclusion of work or career. It’s something you do after you’ve ended a career, or in-between phases of life.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these approaches. Taking time in-between life chapters, and focusing on travel, can give one very deep insights into themselves and the world. Valuable stuff.
But what if now is when you want to travel, not some distant post-retirement future when your health and physical capabilities may no longer be up for the experience?
What if a year just isn’t enough to experience the world?
There is another option.
Combining Career and Travel
Not many of us are in a position to entirely quit the workforce, retire early and sustain our desired lifestyle. Some of us actually enjoy working, embrace our careers, and aren’t itching to escape them. And others, despite vigilant financial planning, haven’t been able to acquire enough savings to travel without some sort of supplemental income.
Our generation, Gen-X, in particular was brought up believing that social security likely wouldn’t be around by the time we reach a traditional retirement age. The old concept of retirement just doesn’t play into many of our generation’s long term plans. Some of us are pursuing a sustainable work/life balance that can last our entire life. We’d rather fully enjoy our lives now, instead of putting off our dreams for some future that may not exist for us.
There are certainly many careers that are not apt to a full time traveling lifestyle. For those passionate about such a career path, that is reason enough to put off full-time travel. In the meantime, find ways to integrate in purposeful travel into your vacation time, sabbaticals, and/or by creatively extending business related trips.
You might be surprised at how much flexibility you actually have – many part-time nomads manage to negotiate time-off (without pay) to turn the typical two week American vacation into two or more months off each year. You never know until you ask, or sometimes issue an ultimatum.
But if you’re not on a stationary career track that inspires you, and travel is calling you louder, perhaps it’s time to explore creative ways to re-think how you might make it work.
There are generally two different ways to go about earning an income while traveling.
First, find work that naturally integrates in travel.
Or, design a “location independent” career that involves work that can be done primarily remotely, letting you work from wherever you are.
First, here’s a video compilation of some fellow full time RVing nomads that we met up with in 2010 at a NuRVers.com Gathering – where they all talk about how they earn an income on the road:
(For individual full interviews, check out our Ramblings: Tales from Nomads interview series)
And here are some more ideas to get you thinking…
Careers with Travel Built In
A nomadic life based on following the work is nothing new at all – it’s been part of human culture since the earliest adventurers got the itch to explore the world around them.
There are many career paths that can require, or be adapted to, travel as a core component of them.
- Artists & Jewelers
- Seasonal Workers
- Festival Workers
- Truck Drivers
- Migrant Workers (harvests, oil fields, etc.)
- Construction and Craftsmanship
- Contract Medical Staff (nurses, doctors, technicians, etc.)
- Cruise Ship Staff
- Fishing or Boat Crewing
- Military Service
- Traveling Sales
- Therapists & Body Workers
- Hair Stylists & Cosmeticians
- Tattoo Artist
- House & Pet Sitters
- Tour Guides
- Amusement Park Staff
- Providing Services (cleaning, organizing, computer setup, handyman, etc.)
- Repair & Technician Work
- Temp Workers
- Performance Artists (balloon twisters, dancers, comedians, gymnasts, fire swallowers, etc.)
- Conference Speakers
- Trainers & Teachers
- Teaching English as a Second Language
- Volunteer Jobs (that cover some living expenses)
- Consultants & Designers
- Workamping (exchanging services for RV parking and/or pay)
Many of these career paths could utilize travel as part of the means of getting to a work site, but often may require adjusting your travel plans to meet the schedules of work obligations (military service!). You may have to strike a balance that works for you between giving up control of your schedule and destinations, and having work that actually pays you to see the world.
Other nomadic career paths allow for travel totally in your control, but you need to have faith that you can show up to a location and market yourself to find gigs.
There are some jobs (particularly in remote areas – such as oil fields, fishing or mining) that offer a rotating schedule of intense periods of work (weeks to months at a time) then lots of time off. Taking a job that involves such hard intense work for a month straight may be grueling, but it is balanced out with time off to travel extensively before you need to return.
One nomad we know has spent the past few years working the seasons in Antarctica as support staff at McMurdough Station. His long stretches spent living on the ice is balanced with seasons spent full-time on the road exploring other parts of the world.
With the advent of wireless broadband, there’s a whole new class of mobile careers available. They’re digital nomads and location independent professionals – or as we prefer to call ourselves, technomads.
Some examples of careers that can be done remotely from anywhere with decent connectivity might include:
- IT managers
- Database managers
- Bookkeepers / Accountants / CPAs
- Personal Assistants
- Web Designers
- Photo & Videography Work
- Affiliate Sales
- Social Media Specialists
- Product Evangelists
- Bargain Hunting & Re-Selling Online
- Online Products & Stores
- Graphic Designers
- Online Professors
- Personal and Professional Coaches
- Consultants & Advisors
- Freelance Writers
- Customer Support
- Agents (travel, insurance, etc.)
- Investors / Traders
- Researchers / Information Providers
These are folks who can utilize technology to take the office with them untethered by ethernet cables and phone lines. Sometimes people pursuing digital nomadism have existing gigs lined up before they hit the road, and sometimes they search for remote working compatible gigs as needed by searching outsourcing job boards such as:
We’ve had friends who are IT consultants who took their lives completely mobile and actually didn’t tell their clients for months of the change. After all, who really knows (or cares) where the phone physically rings or where code is written?
The above lists certainly aren’t comprehensive of the options. It’s limited only to your creativity and passions.
What skills and interests do you have? How can you adapt your skills into a job that allows you the level of travel you desire?
Brainstorm, and don’t let anyone tell you your idea isn’t worthwhile exploring.
Entrepreneur vs Employee?
There seems to be a common misconception that to be location independent, you have to be a self-employed, freelancing, entrepreneur. This is not necessarily true. While a self-disciplined motivated individual can do quite well being self-employed in a location independent career, it’s certainly not the only way.
As the world has become more and more virtual, and the economy has forced more companies to scale back on the costs of maintaining real estate, more traditional workplaces are becoming keen on allowing their employees to transition to becoming remote teleworkers. So why not take it a step further, and work from anywhere?
Some companies have even gone entirely virtual – with no fixed office at all.
One company run by a friend of ours has employees all over the world who only ever see each other at their quarterly week-long working retreats, always held in an exotic new city so that when the team comes together they can bond by mixing work and play.
Of course, not all positions are going to be able to be done remotely, particularly factoring the uncertainties that come with working while traveling. However if you have a job that you think you could do from anywhere, you might want to consider coming up with a proposal for your boss.
Don’t expect your employer to jump right on the opportunity, and expect that you may have to prove you can do it by perhaps starting with working from home a couple days a week. It is possible however, and really all depends on how open minded your workplace is and how critical your role is to your organization. It likely won’t be an overnight transition, but if you like your current career and job but just want to do it from anywhere – think creatively on how you can make it happen.
If you are willing to negotiate a lower salary in return for fewer mandated office hours and more travel flexibility, you might be surprised as to what your bosses might agree to.
On the other hand, not working for someone as an employee is very freeing. It also means being quite disciplined and resourceful to both find work and keep your clients happy, as well as figuring out all of the logistics of running a company – paperwork, taxes, healthcare, insurance, etc.
If you’ve never run your own business before, it may be daunting to approach learning the ropes while also adapting to a fully mobile lifestyle. How much of a change you’re up for is going to vary quite a bit by person, skills and tolerance.
Working less or working smarter?
After Timothy Ferris’ book The Four Hour Work Week came out, a bunch of folks got the notion that they could set up online businesses, outsource the bulk of the work, and only work 4 hours a week while earning a bunch of cash and playing the rest of the time.
Sure, it may be possible for some, and there’s good stuff in Tim’s book that can really help folks think differently about the role work plays in their life. Just don’t get the idea that life as a nomad is always a full time vacation. It takes a lot of work to set up and maintain a passive income stream – so much so that for most it’s really hard to call what they end up doing all that passive.
Most of the mobile working nomads we’ve encountered don’t have a life of complete leisure or a passive income stream. True, we may not be always working a typical 40+-hour work week plus commute, but we are putting in productive hours with deliverables. We just tend to do it smartly without all the wasted time that tends to come with an office life.
Many of us are working in careers that inspire us in some way, better the world and that we actually enjoy. And we’re doing it from amazing places with ever-changing amazing office views. Instead of ending our workday (or night) and coming home to the same ole routine, we have a new location waiting for us to explore!
We’ve encountered such a variety of ways people make it work – from working a fairly normal work day, to those that work in waves of intense 12-15 hour days for a few weeks then coast for months after that.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just make sure it’s YOUR way.
Our Mobile Careers
Working for ourselves, and working remotely, is the primary route that Chris and I have taken.
I’ve been location independent since 1994 when I started taking over my family’s software development company, running it from my beachside home in Florida. I used to tease my clients when they called that I could be working from anywhere – by the pool or the beach. Then I started taking it further.
When I needed to travel for work, I’d tack on personal days to explore, taking advantage of the majority of the travel costs having already been covered. Then I started taking longer personal trips where I integrated in a remote work day, and used my off-time to explore. It worked well, and remarkably, I found I rarely felt the desire to take a conventional dedicated vacation.
I liked the balance of travel just being a regular part of my life and having the flexibility to just go with little need for pre-planning.
And I’ve never felt like I needed to escape my career – I already built something I loved.
When I met my lifemate Chris in 2006 (who was already living as a full time nomad), it all came together for me to totally remove myself from a fixed homebase and office, and I started the process of shifting my life to become fully mobile.
Before going nomadic, Chris had a career in the mobile technology industry – most recently having worked for Palm and PalmSource as their Director of Competitive Analysis (aka ‘Chief Spy’), traveling the world to keep tabs on the entire mobile tech industry. It was truly a job too good to give up until Palm & Palm Source imploded. He had already long ago decided that this would be his last job for a big company, and his lay off propelled him to finally jump into something he always wanted to do – become a technomad.
Today, Chris and I together do various technology and strategy consulting as we travel via our partnership Two Steps Beyond LLC, mainly only taking on projects that inspire us and which are fun! I continue to work for many of my long term clients, and we’ve begun developing our own line of travel related mobile apps. We’ve also taken on several intense short term gigs that have included: advising tech start-ups, orchestrating new product launches, doing intensive market research, providing market insight to investors, selling our photography and travel videography, and writing for tech journals.
And when we have lulls in our workload, we’ve been known to take on temporary gigs outside our norm just to explore new things, such as workamping for a month at Amazon.com packing boxes during their peak holiday season.
We like to shake it up, explore new avenues of income, and most of all – have fun!
Read Chapter 2: Affording Full Time Travel —->
A Practical Guide To Going Digital – Christine Gilbert over at AlmostFearless.com provides some amazing resources and inspiration. This eBook gives a lot of information working remotely and digitally.
25 Career Ideas to Design Your Location Independent Lifestyle – Carmen Bolanos, co-founder of NuNomad.com, put together an awesome round up of 25 mobile careers using examples of real nomads he has interviewed.
Work for RVers and Campers – Website maintained by a couple who has been full-timing for nearly 20 years and earning an income while they travel.
Digital Nomad Academy – An online program run by Cody McKibben to help those wanting to be a digital nomads set up and explore business ideas to create a mobile friendly career. Targeted to the entrepreneur minded who has yet to figure out how to make it work.
Reaching Escape Velocity – The original Technomad, Steve Roberts, shares how he used sponsors, the media, volunteers, and “other potent forces” to enable and afford his own massively ambitious technomadic undertakings. If your planned adventures are audacious enough to draw this sort of attention, you need this book.
No Excuses: Go Nomadic
This article is part of an ongoing series answering the common excuses folks give us for why they’re not pursing their dreams of full time travel. We launched this series a few years ago as Answers to the Common Excuses – and are in the process of massively updating it. We’ll be releasing newly updated & expanded chapters over the coming months. We’ll be addressing topics like: Affording It, Family, Pets, Logistics, Healthcare, Community, Keeping Connected and more.
Read the whole series: No Excuses: Go Nomadic
eBook version – This blog series is also available as convenient eBook. We offer this compilation on a ‘pay as you wish’ basis, and will be keeping it updated with the blog series. We don’t aim to make a living off our blog, but a little support to keep the blog going is always appreciated (buying the eBook is kinda like taking us out for a beer).
Cost: Pay As You Wish (really… just set the price!)