The Realities Of Being A Digital Nomad And How To Do It Practically With House Sitting by Jenni Flett
This isn’t a story where I tell you how I gave up everything to become a high-flying digital nomad, because that’s not a pipedream I’m willing to sell. Carefree full-time travel is a myth. If you’re successfully living away from home you’ve either sold everything to go on the road for a while, work online or have a job abroad. The reality is to fund an alternative lifestyle, you need to be self-sufficient and adulting might be required.
Work hard, travel slow
Before life abroad, I studied for four years to become a journalist, worked for several years between contracts in PR and copywriting while also working in hospitality and support work to help pay the bills, eventually managing a restaurant, and becoming the company’s PR manager. In all honesty, I suffered badly from imposter syndrome and felt like my severe anxiety defined how far I could go in life.
Since leaving home, I’ve adapted my work situation to accommodate my choice to live nomadically, but all jobs I had an interest in and the relevant experience to do. These were things like teaching English, seasonal work, and even hotel management on a ski resort. Through these jobs, I was finally feeling like I did have something worthwhile to say and I could be a bad-ass boss lady, and ultimately my own boss.
Choosing the digital nomad life
I guess the one cliché is I did give up my life to go on the road, but I’ve used jobs abroad and seasonal work to live up mountains or engaged with my love of language through teaching kids and families in Slovakia and Italy. The difference is I found new purpose. It’s a fulfilment I didn’t have at home, as well as an independence I was lacking.
It’s only after three years of travel and a year flexing my underused writing muscles on my alternative travel blog that I’ve now taken the decision with my partner (I should note he has been with me the whole time), to work online and travel more freely through house and pet sitting.
Based on my background this is the life I chose, and I want to share a realistic overview of how I manage to sustain myself and travel. To travel full-time it isn’t a requirement to be rich, just savvy!
House and pet sitting
All immersive travel is what I love, which generally means living like a local. House sitting is a huge community of travellers looking to spend time with people’s pets. We mutually agree with homeowners to look after their pets and homes for a brief or extended time, and it’s all for free!
Based on an exchange community and trust, people like me do this for free accommodation in places I want to explore and take no payment for it. It’s done through websites with references for the most part and for each house sit I accept or get offered I have a Skype interview. This way we both know we are who we say we are, and details or doubts can be resolved and discussed.
Each sit on my schedule has been between two weeks and three months, giving me oodles of time to work on my online ventures. I do also have the occasional cat sitting on my laptop but having pets around as you work from home is work/life balance goals!
House sitting allows you to have free accommodation and free bills with pet cuddles. It’s solo, couple and family friendly and suits digital nomads. You can also live like a local exploring in your free time.
The negatives are that travel expenses and food can be costly, so you need an income or savings and often a car is required, but owners do also loan their cars. Your routine changes each sit around the pets needs and if you have dogs it’s likely you can’t leave them longer than 4/5 hours. In saying this it’s worked fantastically for me and I have a year of confirmed sits ahead of me.
Online jobs – teaching, writing, and running your own blog or online business
Online jobs are the bread and butter of being a digital nomad. You need an income to keep going with full time travel, so once I had lined up four months of house sits, I set up teacher profiles on online teaching websites. Then I spent time putting myself out there as a freelance writer. I also built a travel blog and began collaborating with tourist boards and writing travel guides.
Once I’d decided to leave the city where I worked as a teacher it all started to make sense and my years of experience in various fields finally felt useful. Suddenly this anxious shell of a person was brimming with optimism. Years of hospitality prepared me for house and pet sitting, the degree I thought I’d never use again prepared me for life as a freelancer and an enthusiasm for travel, culture and language helped me become a better teacher and writer.
Helpful websites for house sits and online work
How to stay motivated as a digital nomad
The biggest struggle though is keeping that momentum, not giving in to that horrible imposter syndrome. Online jobs whether you work as a teacher, writer, coder, web designer, travel agent or have your own small business is more likely to work if you’re organised.
I know it’s sound preachy, but stay healthy, eat well, do mindfulness meditation and have something outside of your job or jobs to focus on, this is why pet sitting is great for me because animals are the best entertainment and they always offer cuddles! For me it’s all about managing expectations and being prepared, I’m a serious planner, but it helps for this kind of lifestyle choice and being your own boss.