From Desk Jockeys To Fulltime Nomads: Our Digital Nomad Story

digital-nomad-story“What’s the worst that could happen?”

With these words, we jumped into the unknown and found ourselves in Medellin, Colombia – our first “home” outside of Australia.

This life of constant movement is our current normal. But it wasn’t always that way.

Today we’re celebrating 2 years of being full time nomads so I thought this was a good time to tell you our digital nomad story.

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The Itch

In early 2012, Johnny and I both started questioning our lives on the Gold Coast (our home in Australia). We went through a phase of seriously considering moving to Sydney or Melbourne. This soon escalated to a desire to live and work in another country. We spent a lot of time researching and figuring out our options for finding work in Singapore or Hong Kong (as both have very good opportunities for digital marketing careers).

fulltime nomad sydney

Playing tourist on my first trip to Sydney, many years ago.

As you can see, we just wanted out. We were getting a bit tired of the complacency and living a life that wasn’t stimulating us much. We wanted to travel more and experience living in a place that wasn’t home.

The Preparation

But we couldn’t just up and leave as Johnny had a mortgage he was trying hard to get rid of – at a time when the real estate market wasn’t being kind to sellers.

So in the meantime, we kept working on and refining our plan.

During this time, we read The 4-Hour Work Week and discovered Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. The lightbulb went off.

You could make a living online, completely independent of a boss. And that meant we could live anywhere we wanted.

Why move to Singapore and acquire another boss when we could just do something for ourselves instead?

 Full Time Work + Weekend Grind

From that point on, we spent every Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) learning about building websites, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, web design and everything else in between. We had been working in digital marketing for almost five years at this point but all of this stuff was completely new to us.

This was also the time I came back to freelancing with a vengeance. I’d been doing it sporadically over the past few years but I decided to fully commit to it and build it up (while working full time) so I could take it with me wherever we ended up.

We also knew we were leaving eventually; so we saved like crazy. We didn’t stinge but we definitely had a lot of people wondering why we were still driving around in Johnny’s decrepit old station-wagon that I had lovingly named The Death Machine (a.k.a. Deathy).  😉

I’ll be honest. Some weekends it would all just seem so pointless. I’d see people enjoying the afternoon sunshine while we’d be indoors trying to understand how to make changes to a site’s CSS so the header would display the way we wanted it. “Why are we doing this to ourselves?!?!“, I’d frequently wonder.

Our home and workspace

Working from our Gold Coast home while watching the Australian Open, 2013.

Working on these side projects while not knowing exactly when we were going to leave was frustrating sometimes. We had to regularly remind each other that this hard work would eventually pay off.

The Final 3 Months

And then one day in mid-2013, Johnny’s property was finally sold. And we knew it was now or never.

Suddenly, we had to make a real commitment. And so, after a few weeks of planning and research, we decided it was time to go to South America.

Selling Our Lives

We’ve never owned much so this wasn’t that hard. We sold, gave away and donated everything we owned barring a box of things that have sentimental value for us.

I think a lot of people didn’t understand why we were getting rid of everything because most assumed we were coming back. And even though we had no legitimate source of income yet; in our heads we knew we weren’t going back to live in Australia any time soon.

Quitting our Jobs

Quitting work was an emotional decision. For both of us, it was our first job after uni. We liked our jobs, had been there for over five years, were paid well and were friends with our colleagues.

But, it was still a job with limited vacation time.

And holding onto it meant this other life we wanted was never going to happen.

We gave 10 weeks notice and luckily for us, our bosses were incredibly supportive of our decision. And just like that, it was over.

The First 3 Months

And then, we were in Colombia.

We chose Medellin based off a lot of good things we’d heard about it from friends and other bloggers. And it lived up to it completely.

medellin christimas

Christmas lights, seen from our apartment in Medellin.

We settled into an apartment there and straightaway started living pretty disciplined lives, working during the day and getting to know Medellin over the weekend.

Apart from some small freelancing jobs, we didn’t actually make much money during our time in Colombia; but we worked hard any way. We did however, get our first taste of living with flexible work schedules and we knew that being “digital nomads” is definitely what we wanted to do… forever.

Two Years In…

Two years later, we’re still doing this and are currently based in one of our favourite places we’ve ever lived in: Guadalajara, Mexico.

Our online business took a different turn. We never ended up working too much on building sites and affiliate income. Instead, we found freelancing became a much more lucrative option and we had lots of people we knew, wanting to hire us. We set up our online marketing agency and today that is our primary source of income.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

We’ve changed a lot as people in the last couple of years. Travel and living abroad will do that to you. We’ve seen and experienced some incredible things and continue to want to do/see/be more. We also have a clearer picture of what we want our lives to look like. And it definitely doesn’t involve being chained to a desk.

Here Comes The Pep Talk

I know we keep saying this but it’s true – if we could do this, so can you.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Neither of us were born into money. We worked hard, set goals for ourselves and taught ourselves skills that would enable a location independent lifestyle.

We’re normal people, just like you. The key is to be motivated and want this more than anything in the world. You have to help yourself because no one can else can do the hard yards for you. But if you commit to it, the end result is a life of freedom.

Freedom. That’s a good life goal to have isn’t it?

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We're celebrating 2 years of being digital nomads and we're always getting asked "how did you become digital nomads?" Well, this is our story. | FulltimeNomad.com

Written by


Radhika B.

After turning her back on office life in Australia, Radhika set out to create a life lived on her own terms (a constant work in progress). As co-founder of Fulltime Nomad, she is super passionate about helping others live life with more freedom and flexibility, and a bit of travel thrown in for good measure.

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26 Comments

  1. Trista

    I love your story! I’ve been working on the same goal for about 5 years now, it’s just taking awhile to figure out my business exactly and building up a client base. Plus, life happens, am I right? 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story, it’s a great kick in the pants to keep pushing!

    • Radhika

      Thank you Trista. 🙂 I hope you figure out your ideal business & client base soon. And, if you ever want to chat or bounce some ideas, feel free to email me at radhika [at] fulltimenomad [dot] com

  2. Tiff

    Thanks for sharing your journey! Kudos for also pointing out that it took work and preparation. I think that part gets skipped over sometimes 😉

    • Radhika

      Honesty is so important. We definitely don’t want people to think we woke up one day, quit our jobs and everything else just fell into place like magic. It took work! Thank you for stopping by, Tiff. 🙂

  3. Shannon

    Love your story! After years of thinking about it, I’m doing the freelance/digital nomad thing for 5 months on a trial period. I love the lifestyle and don’t think I could ever go back, although I need to seriously commit to building up clients and earning some more money to do it longterm. Definitely signing up for your newsletter for more tips!

    • Radhika

      Congratulations on taking the plunge, Shannon! Good luck with building up your client base and feel free to email/ message us any time with questions 🙂

  4. Sara

    What an inspiring Journey! Thank you for sharing — and convincing me to do the same. 🙂

    • Radhika

      SO happy to hear that, Sara! Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. Nat, Website Superhero

    Oh my god, what a cool post. Really inspiring, thank you. It really fills my heart to read success stories like this, and modest ones, not “I made a bajillion dollars while sippin’ mai-tais in Bali!” stories. Keep it real!

    • Radhika

      Hahaha your comment made my day, Nat! Thank you 🙂

  6. Ashley

    Yay! This was a great read, but most importantly (to me) it was honest. Thank you for sharing about the hard work you did to prepare; I feel many nomads glaze over this important step. I just celebrated the one year mark of traveling with my dude and we’re excited to celebrate many more!

    • Radhika

      Thanks Ashley and I’m really happy to hear you appreciated my honesty. While I want to encourage more people to consider this lifestyle, I definitely don’t think they should go into unprepapred. Congratulations on your one year anniversary too. Cheers!

  7. Maisie

    I love how you broke down the process for us! Most digital nomads lead you to believe that it was merely a leap of faith and then everything was awesome. 🙂

    My guy and I are both freelancers and each quarter we try to take 1-2 week “working vacations” to various parts of the world to practice our digital nomad skills. On Wednesday, we are headed to Bogotá for 5 days. We love having a home base to come back to, but I can see us extending our adventures in the future to longer periods of time.

    Looking forward to following you on your journey!

    • Radhika

      Hey Maisie! Thanks – it’s important to me to keep it real so others realise it’s a great lifestyle to aspire to, but it also takes a bit of work. I love that you’re taking these working vacations. That is the beauty of this life, I think. You can choose to travel if/when and for however long you want. Just having the freedom to do it, is the best part. Bogotá is great – enjoy!

  8. Jennifer Kennedy

    Woohoo! Love this story. The boyfriend and I are gearing up to becoming nomads as well. We plan to live in a van for however long we can stand it. 😉 Ha. But, I’m excited to live a life of freedom! Thanks for sharing your story. Very inspiring.

    • Radhika

      Thanks Jennifer and good luck with your van-life 🙂

  9. Tom Hunt

    An inspirational story guys!

    And great choices of location, I am currently in Venezuela but am considering Medellin.

    Where abouts are you now?

    Thanks
    Tom

    • Radhika

      That’s great, Tom! We’d love to go to Venezuela some day soon 🙂 Enjoy Medellin! We’re in Mexico at the moment.

  10. Petr

    Great inspiration, I hope I will travel like you in the near future, Petr.

    • Radhika

      Thanks Petr! We hope you do too. 🙂

  11. Aritra

    Radhika!! You’re living the life i had once dream’t of! So glad to know that the Radhika ( my college mate) is actually there! All the best and keep it up. I’m sure your story is an inspiration for many!

    • Radhika

      Thanks Aritra – great to hear from you 🙂

  12. Diego

    Cool story! Out of curiosity, where did you stay in Rio??
    It’s my hometown and now that I’m back I decided to turn my house into a co-living space for entrepreneurs called Startup Inn: https://www.facebook.com/Startup-Inn-494511737377617/
    I wonder if this is the type of thing that can help nomads?
    I don’t consider myself a full nomad yet, though I traveled a lot… I’m still learning about being a digital nomad, hope to meet more nomads and learn from them. Did you find any groups in Rio that might be relevant? Thx!!

    • Radhika

      Bom dia Diego! Nice to meet a Carioca 🙂 We stayed all over Rio – Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana & Santa Teresa. Your coliving space sounds like a cool idea. We didn’t actively look for any Rio DN groups while we were there, but there are plenty of general digital nomad groups on Facebook that you might find useful for getting feedback as I know many of them spend time in Brazil. Send us an email if you’d like specific links.

  13. Jorden

    Awesome story, Radhika! I’d love to travel full-time at some point, so it’s really encouraging to see another freelancer making it happen! 🙂

    • Radhika

      Thanks Jorden 🙂