7 things you can do on your RTW trip to get set up for a permanent nomadic lifestyle
Our RTW trip/ honeymoon in 2004 to 2005 before ‘location independence’ made it more permanent
Round the world (RTW) trips are usually funded by years of hard saving. Or maybe even from the proceeds of selling everything we own (except our souls, which thankfully get returned to us when we hand in our resignation letters!) But no-one ever really talks about what will happen when the trip ends (who wants to contemplate that?) But the longer the travelling goes on, the less appealing it is to return to the life we’ve already discarded once. So what are the options for travellers who don’t want to go backwards? Where do you go when all the flights have been used and the savings run dry? Well, times have changed and there are some pretty decent career choices available which have never been as accessible as they are now.
You CAN have a career AND travel the world. Any self titled ‘location independent’ or ‘digital nomad’ will tell you. There will be loads of people ready to tell you it’s simply not realistic but there is a ton of proof that it really is! There are just too many photos, stories, articles and websites for us all to be lying, and surely it has to be easier to take those tropical beach shots for real than to stage ALL of them??
‘Location independence’ is where the RTW trip grows up. It’s about realising that travelling doesn’t have to be one of those experiences you look back on with nostalgia, but instead one that graduates into becoming a lifestyle. We all know that it’s only the people who have never done it that believe going away will ‘get it out of your system’. It really doesn’t work like that!
Of course it’s not a piece of cake, but whatever our career choices they tend to present a fair amount of challenge. But sticking your head in the sand on that glorious SE Asian beach is not going to make your eventual wake-up call any easier. If you love all those things about travelling so much that you want them to continue, then you need a plan. This doesn’t have to be as dull as it sounds. After all, you probably don’t arrive in a new country with NO clue about your destination. Even if you haven’t worked out the finer details you probably know what the local currency is, where you want to head to get a bed for the night and where you might like to explore after that. Well that’s what you need to start doing NOW when it comes to life beyond the RTW.
Every IT gadget we take when we relocate (except Han’s laptop)
Look behind the scenes to any successful long term traveller or digital nomad and they aren’t just living the dream, they are making an income, from somewhere, somehow. They will have other business interests, are freelancing, have continuity or passive income, are running programmes etc. They won’t JUST be writing about the how great the trip is, not if they want to continue their lifestyle long term at any rate.
Setting up a business may seem a little daunting from where you are now, but there are some pretty straightforward options which mean you can rock this lifestyle as long as you please. You are just best off starting to do something about it NOW.
So here are a few ideas:
1. Work out what your skills are.
Sift back through all your old jobs and think about what you were paid to do. Did you build up any particular expertise? What were you particularly good at? What did colleagues or bosses come to YOU for? Think more broadly than just your job description and break down your role into tasks and talents. What might someone else need that you can do? Do some brainstorming and write down everything you’ve got. There may just be something in there that you can build on. Obviously it needs to be something that you can do from anywhere, but a hell of a lot of office jobs fall into that category.
What could a Psychologist and an IT Consultant create?
2. What are you qualified to do?
If your existing skills and experiences are coming up a little dry it’s time to think about getting some new skills. There are plenty of online courses you can take some time out to do, whether it’s WordPress or Excel, proof reading or SEO. If that’s not how you like to learn, practice! When people are buying your services they aren’t going to ask to see a certificate- but they will want some evidence that you can actually do the job. If you want to train up in something more specialised you may even want to consider returning home after your RTW trip to get some skills behind you, ready to embark on the next phase of your life; no one said that your ‘plan’ was necessarily going to be a quick fix! People go to university for years (for the parties and booze admittedly) but also the delayed gratification of thinking there will be a better job waiting for them post-degree. Apply a fraction of that strategy here; you want the end goals, you may have to put some leg work in to achieve them.
3. Register with some VA (virtual assistant) sites and forums and see what sort of skills they are offering.
Do research into freelance work on sites like Odesk and E-lance. What are people looking for? What do you need to be good at to stand out amongst the crowd? What skills seem to be marketable? It might open your eyes a little to the vast array of tasks that business owners all around the globe are looking to outsource. Somewhere there is an operation that needs help doing something that you can offer. Start looking for opportunities, even if you aren’t ready to take the plunge yet. It will give you a head start in thinking about how to position yourself as an expert at resolving a specific issue when the time comes to start adding to your funds.
We could not run our business from Thailand without our STAR VA Sarah
4. Be proactive and don’t be scared to take massive initiative.
There is nothing like traipsing round the world for sky-rocketing your vision and creativity so put it to good use. One idea might be to search out other digital nomads and location independent entrepreneurs. Find out from them what sorts of skills they are in constant need of. If they are already making an income on-line they are always going to be on the lookout for awesome support. Make yourself the person who can provide that by finding out what they need and getting the experience to match it. Be prepared to work pretty cheaply until you have the experience you need and a decent track record behind you. Be the person that can take problems off their hands with no hassle and no fuss and eventually they won’t be able to do without you. And they certainly aren’t going to give a damn where in the world you are based at any given time!
5. Don’t start a travel blog because you think it will make you money!
Writing a regular, high quality blog will suck your time into a black hole, and still not make you any real money. If, after a good chunk of time, your site does get enough traction you might be able to run a few ads or have a few affiliate links. They’ll probably make enough to fund a couple of snack runs to 7-11. Only the most exceptional travel writers generate real cash, and to be honest, I’m not even sure these exceptions are exactly living the high life on what they make. They don’t need to I guess. But at what point do you get pissed off with waking up to the fumes of a stranger’s sweaty socks and want to raise the bar a little? You might want to go into it thinking big, a proper income instead of scratching around. It’s up to you what you do with it, but at least it will give you options. We all know it’s cheaper to have an amazing lifestyle in countries like South America of Asia, so it’s true that you won’t need the volumes of cash you could easily chuck away back home. But it can get wearing living on a shoestring long term, so steady reliable income is a big bonus.
6. Network! Make connections, build relationships, get to know people.
Make notes to remind you of who they are, what they do, what their interests are, where they worked, where you met, what you had in common if needs be. One of the most successful online business ‘gurus’ I know, Carrie Wilkerson aka ‘the Barefoot Executive’ does this religiously and it’s worked for her (whereas I’d just lose the notes). You never know where your skills might be just what someone you know needs, or they know someone they can hook you up with. Staying in touch is crucial- it doesn’t have to be relentless but stay up to date, go out of your way to meet up. Don’t forget people you used to work for or with, contacts you had in your former life. However much you may want to leave that all behind, don’t burn your bridges, they may be good sources of work in the future.
Everyone was shocked to see REAL cheese @Tweetup Phuket 16/10/2011
7. Once you have a rough idea of what skills you want to offer and what work you want to supply, start to build a profile in this.
Even if you don’t intend to do anything with it for a year or more down the line, start to establish your presence in the market place; you’ll be thankful that you started to make some inroads later on. Get a facebook page, a twitter account, a professional but not massively fancy (or expensive) website. Even if you just put some effort in for a couple of hours a week and never use it, then you haven’t lost much. It’s not as sexy as a life of pure hedonistic travel but those few hours in an internet cafe instead of on the beach might mean you get to keep at it for an awful lot longer. Start to think about laying some foundations now. It will give you a platform to launch a whole new era of travel which you may just find you need somewhere down the road.
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