After 8 years of working for various top online marketing agencies in Amsterdam, I decided that the 9-to-5 lifestyle was not for me. Working between four walls (an office as they call it) is absolutely not necessary as an online marketing specialist, so I started to loathe an office job. I quit and started looking for a life as a remote worker.
Ever since I have been working independently as a freelancer in online marketing for various clients around the world. And I'm also all over the world. From Indonesia and Australia to Costa Rica, Mexico, and America, I can work anywhere as long as I have a good internet connection.
This lifestyle has many advantages and disadvantages and I would like to tell you all about them:
The ultimate reason why I started working remotely, of course, is because I can travel full-time and go anywhere I want (as long as there is Wi-Fi, though). How cool is it to be completely free in where you can go? That is surely my favorite thing about the lifestyle. There is a lot of variety, and I can basically visit any country I want, without having to return home after a weekend. A dream coming true.
Because I constantly visit new places, meet new people, eat new things, I also constantly have new inspiration. You get off your beaten track and always look at the world with new eyes. That works well for my inspiration. Since I left I write a whole lot more, I feel more energized than ever and I am open for new stories and experiences. I even started multiple companies (some succeeded, some failed) that I wouldn’t have dreamed of if I was still working in an office in Amsterdam.
I notice that I work much more efficiently when traveling than when I was at home in the Netherlands. Of course, I want to finish work quickly so I can go to the beach, but there is also more focus. I want to impress (and prove) my clients by showing I can work remotely and travel the world at the same time. They make my dreams come true, so I better work hard for it!
Besides that, in the co-working places, you meet so many people that could be your potential future client. This network of digital nomads is pretty strong and has helped me a lot with finding new clients. But how can these people recommend you to their employers if they don’t see you putting in the work? In my experience, delivering great work and being efficient introduces you to your next project.
I think, to be honest, that I learned more in the past 3 years as a remote worker than I did in those 8 years I worked at offices in Amsterdam. Not just personal life-lessons as a solo traveler (which are a lot too), but also professionally. I have done so many e-courses, watched unlimited webinars, and attended numerous skill-sharing presentations. I educated myself through the internet and know so much more now.
Another great advantage of being a remote freelancer or entrepreneur: you have the opportunity to earn as much as you want. With a fixed office job, you are tied to a monthly salary, and if you work super hard and get your boss a happy client, you probably don’t see any extra money for that. But as a freelancer, if you work really hard, you will be rewarded for that. The more hours, the more you make. Plus, the more value you bring, the higher your hourly rate.
On top of that, and this is for everyone working remotely, depending on where you go, your monthly costs may be lower than your hometown. That boosts your savings account for sure!
I always find it great fun to make new friends, and when you travel that is just easier. At home, you’ve probably been in the same circle of friends for years and you do not easily meet new people. You meet people almost every day while traveling. And while these friendships are probably not as strong as with your friends from back home, it's nice to have friends around the world to go visit. You keep each other inspired, motivated, and they understand why you do what you do. Try to make your friends back at home understand why you live this “unsafe” life.
Working remotely is the best of both worlds: you can work and travel at the same time. But if you do not plan it properly, you will suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). I travel slow. Like around 3 months per location. If you travel a little too fast, you constantly have the idea that you either miss things while traveling (because of too little time) or that you are behind in work (because of too little time). You fix that feeling by traveling slower, like me.
This sounds so spoiled, but the lack of fast working WiFi is really painful when you are traveling. You just really need it when you work remotely, simple as that. In some of the accommodations I stayed at, the WiFi was really bad, and constantly looking for a good place to work can be really frustrating. Wifi is pretty much the only thing you really need when you work remotely, so you just want it to work.
I learned that it is best to contact several Airbnb hosts BEFORE you book anything. Ask them to do a speed test and put the screenshot of the results in their Airbnb ad. Our apartment in Mexico City has 55 Mbps upload speed, one of the fastest so far.
This is probably really stupid, but since I no longer have my own house, I suddenly became diehard into interior design!! Ok, this point is about more than design, but still...
It is nice to have your own place, where only your belongings are, where you can be as neat or sloppy as you want. Moreover, it is really very tiring to keep packing and moving your bag. You don't really get the time to settle somewhere. And if you do, when slow traveling, for example, it’s hard to leave your place you called home for three months. That can be frustrating after a while.
When I travel, I always realize how devoted I am to the Netherlands. That you just know how everything works, that everything works smoothly, that you can buy exactly what you like in the supermarket.
As a digital nomad in South-East Asia, for example, normal things will take up a lot of time. The fact that no one can read a map, for example. Or that you don't have wifi outside cafes (buy a SIM card everywhere!). Or that ATM machines don't accept your card because you have a maestro card (get a visa card!).
Doing laundry is an adventure that lasts for hours, and you have to plan those things because you have to pack everything again in two days. And you have to learn different languages over and over again (or at least a few words).
Small things, and once you embrace the situation, it’s one great adventure! But it's just that everything takes a lot more effort than in your own country, and that can be quite annoying at times. So make sure you always have some snacks on you, have a lot of time (don’t plan too many things in one day), and have that local SIM card. Good preparation is half the work.
This is of course also a disadvantage. I love my family in the Netherlands so I always like to come back and see them every now and again, but I also know it is part of the life I chose as a remote worker. Acceptance and meditation always help to make me feel better when I’m feeling a little bit homesick.
All considered I am very happy that I took the step to work remotely. I grew so much personally and professionally! Heck, I even met my boyfriend while traveling! I have seen so much more of the world, experienced (and was part of) different cultures, lived in several countries, and, for example, visited Australia at least four times just for fun. My work and lifestyle is part of my identity now, I wouldn’t change it for the safety of office life with a fixed salary every month.
In the end, I know me and my boyfriend will settle down somewhere abroad for a longer period of time to have a more “normal life”, but we will keep working remotely. As far as we think right now, that would be in Portugal or Mexico, but who knows! Maybe we will visit Capetown next winter and we love it there so much that we decide to settle there. I also don’t know when. There is still so much out there that we want to go see.
You can read all my pros and cons per location I have lived in as a remote worker here. This is also where I keep people posted about our travels and experiences as remote workers!