My nomadic digital lifestyle as a Dutchie – how it started to take shape

Nomad and ex-teacher, AJ.

October 8, 2017

If you look at the definition of nomad, “a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer,” I qualify, sort of. I say sort of because I as a Dutchie do not just hop-hop non-stop. I have tiny breaks in between. I do have a home base (or two) around the world. Places where I can stay for a few months at a time.

In other words, it’d be technically more correct to label me as semi-nomad. Or phrased differently, a digital nomad who lives a semi-nomadic lifestyle.

Me with laptop at airport, Australia.
Me on the way to my gate at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) airport.

I’m not one for labels, but being out there in the world for years on end does make you wonder where you belong and what and who you are. At one point I desperately needed a tag; I could no longer explain it to others.

Stranger / friend: “So you go to all these countries and do what? You a what?”

Me: “Yeah …”

I never actively pursued this kind of lifestyle, you know. I just rolled into it. In the early days of the internet there was only email, besides the normal browsing and MSN Messenger. It was enough, though, for my adventurous plan.

Store at airport in Sydney.
I thought Sydney, Down Under was fudging pricy, but also one of the best adventures I’ve ever had.

So, when I had to write my final law thesis I was like … let’s go to Australia, (which is halfway down the world for Dutchies). Let’s do things remotely, from a different location. Let’s spice it all up. I’m just going to fill up my suitcase with books, copy all these legal journals, and whatnot … and take the plunge.

It was unheard of, but I was craving for a change of scenery. I was on a small government grant and figured that with a side job and some savings I could make it work.

My professors in the Netherlands were a bit like, “Ah huh … so how does that work?” But I just went. And it went well with emails flying back and forth. You just got to be super motivated and make sure that the work gets done. You need a dose of self-discipline, because distractions are plenty.

Down Under I got a small room for Aus$ 130 a week, (which is cheap compared to today’s prices), and had to install my own phone line. It was dial-up internet, but it still worked. I’m just saying, it’s by no means always easy to live this kind of nomadic life. Everything is NOT laid out on a silver platter for you.

I stayed in that eight-square-meter room in Sydney for twelve months. So, it wasn’t that nomadic, but just to show that even in the early days of the internet it was possible to be, what we nowadays call a, digital nomad or remote worker.

Changi, Singapore.

Schiphol, Amsterdam.

Schiphol, Amsterdam.

Vending machine at unknown location.
Airports worldwide seem similar, though, some are most definitely better than others. My favorite is the one in Singapore (Changi).

The hardest part is to be able to afford the nomadic lifestyle. You’ll have to find ways to make money on the go. Nothing in life is free after all (besides maybe a walk in the park or swim in the ocean). If you want to get on the “banana boat” you got to come up with the dough.

So how?

I can just tell you that I started out as an overseas teacher in the People’s Republic of China and right from the get-go I started to “pile it all up.” Not that teachers earn gigantic amounts, but if you manage to save 60-70% of your income and you INVEST this at the right times, you will probably do well. Remember Warren Buffett’s wise words though, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” So, educate yourself. But I guess that applies to anything you do in life.

Newspaper in Vientiane, Laos.

Dutchie teacher with students in China.
I averaged about twelve hours of actual teaching time a week.

Sometimes I come across “wannabe digital nomads” who ask for a donation to fund their nomadic year around the world and whatnot. Like US$ 500 would buy them, (and their $1,500 MacBooks), a month in Thailand. But why don’t they just get a teaching job? You can do six months in Phuket or whatever and another six in Seoul, Korea. It’s actually also more fun that way because you land right smack in the middle of it all. You’d learn so much more.

But hey, it’s your life, you decide. That’s what a nomadic lifestyle is – in its deepest essence – all about after all. Freedom.


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