Digital Nomad, 2D artists making silly faces in front of the camera

Ok, not a year – one year and three months.
So what the hell am I actually doing, that I travelled 22 countries within 15 months and even managed to save some money on the way?

I’m a 2D Artist and Animator, which means I draw stuff for a living, and then sometimes I move it as well (animate). I like it, which is cool, and I get paid for doing it, which is even cooler.

One year and three months ago I’ve changed my life dramatically. How?
It all seemed so obvious to me, but more and more people started recently asking me:

How is it possible?

Did you rob the bank?

Nope. I kinda won in life, because I had a lot of luck and some balls to give it a shot*, so here’s the story about what does it take to be a nomad and how does it feel, when your office is everywhere YOU are.

 

 

Digital Nomad

 

– you’ve probably heard it already somewhere. Possibly under a picture of a guy drinking mojito on a beach and speaking through his cell: “Sorry I cannot talk right now, I’m in a meeting”.

Unfortunately, it’s not exactly like this.

 

Vacation? You have your vacation 24/7, 365 days a year!

 

Wrong. The fact that most of the year I spend in warm places (I hate the cold), doesn’t mean I’m not working. It’s absolutely the same as in a regular office: when the temperature hits 25’C do you just visit your company with a sunbed, to wave your boss with one hand, while the other is busy holding a glass of pina colada? No. (And if you do please PM me with the name of the company). Hot or cold – it doesn’t matter. The job needs to be done. Most of the time it’s 8 hours/day from Monday to Friday, but it happens to me to spend even 10 or 11 hours in front of a silver screen working my ass off.

But nobody sees you, you can cheat!

 

First of all: I’m available AND responsive on Skype during my working hours, so not so many options to cheat here. Second: nobody pays me just for sitting, clicking and looking nice. I’ve got tasks assigned to me and the only way to have them resolved is either to complete them myself.

 

My office in Taipei, Taiwan.

Hardware & Software are bitches.

 

Imagine the situation: early morning, sun is shining, birds are singing,  you come to the office, turn your computer on….POW!
Blue screen.
Or black screen of death.
Or whatever.
What do you do?

Probably you report it to the technical support that deals with such things in your company and either you get a substitutive machine for a while, or wait while drinking coffee or reading a newspaper, till your PC fresh like a daisy, ready to go. At least this is the reality I remember from my previous jobs.
As a nomad, there’s a slight difference.

 

True story bro:

It happened here…

          San Juan, Puerto Rico, Caribbean. I woke up early morning to start my shift. The first two hours went without any problems, but then out of the sudden shiny screen blinked twice just to go completely black right after this.
          No “switch on and off”, no “c’mon you bastard!” no “please, don’t die, I need you” – nothing helped. My first thought was to sit and cry…
What did I have to do, and did instead?

 

          Informed my boss about the emergency, logged out of the timesheet (sorry, taking care of your fucked up computer doesn’t lay within your working hours) and started googling for a computer service. Done.
A BIT NERVOUS I followed the way indicated by the smart-ass GPS to find out, that the service was still closed (even though it was supposed to be open for nearly an hour already). Caribbean time, equals, you never know when, and if, the owner will finally show up to start his business. I remember it was a pretty dodgy neighbourhood: shabby buildings, shabby cars, shabby people… A bit resigned, I sat on the pavement leaning against the service’s doors. 20 minutes have passed, and the only human being who stopped by,  was a homeless, taking place on the sidewalk right next to me. Minutes were passing , nothing was changing – just me and the hobo, almost equally miserable. I started counting the cars to somehow kill overwhelming boredom and anxiety (no computer=no work, no work=no money, no money=YOU’RE FUCKED).

 

          Mr PC-Handyman arrived an hour late, smiling widely and clearly not seeing any problem in the whole situation. What’s more, after entering the shop he literally took his time: calling his wife (who was shouting at him so loud,that I could easily hear shrieks coming out of his cell phone), turning the telenovelas channel on, collecting some papers from the floor…

Mango Mansion working hours.

(I was breathing so heavily, that I’m still surprised a granny who stopped over to watch some sope operas didn’t call for an ambulance to take me straight to the delivery room)
When I finally had a chance to speak to him, I faced another surprise –  he spoke NO ENGLISH at all. Fortunately, the prodigy of Google translator rescued me from going mad.
Happy mute texting with a dude standing right at the other side of the counter provided me with following details: diagnostic was about to take 3 working days, then waiting for replacement parts (if it would be fixable), then service…easily a week. I shivered imagining my salary slowly melting day by day, because of the compulsory “vacation”. But magic sometimes happens and this time heavens had some mercy on me: the moment I wanted to present what was wrong with my dear almost 2 years old Lenovo – there was nothing to show! Screen shone proudly and brightly straight into my face, that gasped in amazement. And since then – still does, although I know it’s a ticking bomb and sooner or later, on one of the continents I’ll have to face the emergency (or maybe I’ll afford a new one sooner).

Penthouse Office in Old San Juan.

This time that was it – only 3 hours to catch up with work. The point is: when you’re a nomad, this is you who needs to take care of your hardware, software, power adapter(!!!) and a decent internet connection.  If you forget something – even a stupid pen tablet nib, apparently, in a 3rd world country – this is a serious problem.

 

Yes, I’d like to book a room…could you please send me a speed test of your wifi?

 

Hundred percent true. I’ve asked this question gazillion times before deciding to actually book a place. I still have those nightmares about uploading PSD files on dropbox for 5-6 hours or being unable to download even a JPG.
(- So what do you think about it?
– Wait, downloading…
– But it’s a JPG!
– Calm down, give me 10 minutes…)
A proper desk or a piece of a table is also needed when what you’re doing is based not only on writing, but you need to place your graphic tablet somewhere to actually draw. Oh, and a chair. The chair that won’t give you imprinted marks the size of the Mariana Trench on your bum after blissful 8 hours spent on it. Been there too…

 

Weirdest places and positions I worked in so far?

 

– at the bar in Pink Manila Hostel, Philippines, surrounded by rum, laser lights, and drunk people;
– in a toilet at Fiumicino Airport, Rome (the only place with a socket);
– almost doing the split sitting on the terrace floor of Slumber Party Hostel, Koh Phangan, at a tiny coffee table;
– at the backyard of the Thai temple, observing monks having their lunch – Bangkok;
– at a counter facing a swimming pool – Kuta, Bali;
…and much more.

 

 

It’s fun, it’s freeing, it’s interesting and all of the views spreading right behind your screen are much more inspiring than the blank wall in the office. This is the amazing part of  being a nomad – no doubts about it. Now, after all I’ve seen, I couldn’t imagine myself coming back to four concrete walls and the routine that, back then, was slowly killing me.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you: the time zones.
Have you ever thought how much your life can depend on them?
My adventure with the remote office started in Thailand, and that was the best place I could imagine for a digital nomad, level – beginner. Not only it was beautiful and hot, but I was starting to work in the afternoon as well. 1-9pm – for me, a perfect timing, since I’m not an early bird AT ALL.

 

The situation was a bit worse in the Philippines. Not that I didn’t like to start later in the afternoon (at 3 pm), but I absolutely hated finishing 8 hours later, when everyone around me was already drunk and happy, while I had to remain calm and conscious. Hashtag responsibility.
A new year has come: new ideas, new places, and an overwhelming need to finally check the other side of the globe.

 

The bathroom 😀

Aware of the fact, that it would force me to wake up hours before the sunrise, I started my meticulous calculations and … miscalculated something.

DST, UTC, OMG, WTF – I ended up placing my sleepy limbs at the table stuffed with energy drinks every day at 4 in the morning (night!), slightly avoiding the horror of the 4 becoming even 3 am.
Pros? No problems sleeping – my body starts shutting down the moment it sees a pillow.
Cons? Well, try to drink 3-4 per day for a week.
Or better don’t.

 

London.

People say, people ask.

 

One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard especially while visiting the Philippines was: how can you even work in a place like this? I’d be lazy as hell!
Let me present you once again a simple equation: no work=no money, no money=no travels, no beaches, no food. No food – you become a ghost and you can only scare people instead of having fun with them. The moment you realise it it’s easy to keep up with the discipline.
And that’s it!

Despite all of those obstacles – I still love it and I still believe it’s absolutely worth it.

My office in Taipei, Taiwan.

BONUS FAQ

 

Aren’t you escaping something? Don’t you want to settle down? Don’t you want to have a home?
(my favs)
TRAVELLING IS NOT ESCAPING. I don’t know who came out with such an idea for the first time, but that’s bollocks. Who would I escape from?Lady Winter, right 😉
During my travels or actually living abroad I still stay in touch with my friends and family as much as possible, but I cannot devote my life to them no matter how precious they are for me. Because this is MY life and I believe, I should live it the way that feels right for me. Even if a couple of years later I’m gonna find out, that I was totally wrong.

Settling down? Having a home? I guess so… ut not yet.
You might want to have your bed, your piece of floor and the lady in a convenience store that knows what kind of yoghurt you buy every day. And I don’t blame you and I’m not surprised. But I, on the other hand, still want to explore a bit more, sometimes going back to the places where I’ve left a piece of my heart already – like Bangkok, where it all began. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise for you too!
Still, if I’d like to stay somewhere a bit longer – I always can. Not escaping, not being chased by anyone. Coming for a week and not leaving for a year or even for a whole life – there are no boundaries and visas or other formalities are usually just a piece of cake. And when somehow the loneliness will hit you – you should remember, you always have yourself.

So…why did I do it?
I just asked myself one very important question: do you want to live your life just as it is without checking if there’s something more out there?
No.
I didn’t.
I was way too curious and I had to check it out.
And I’m still checking … and taking my time.

*How did it happen is a different story for a different time to come 🙂
** Yes, you see Facebook on the screen of my laptop, read about NDA and you’ll know why 🙂