From Dreamer to Digital Nomad in SE Asia
About three years ago I had an idea.
Well, it was honestly more of a farfetched dream. I had just finished interning at Disney and had packed up and moved to Denver, CO with my boyfriend on a whim, and while the change of scenery was exciting, I still had a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I needed to see more.
So I started reading travel blogs. Doing research. Saving money. Trying to figure out if there was any way I could do graphic design abroad and still be able to pay my student loans. I was working for a company at the time that was less than ideal and that definitely didn’t allow enough vacation time to make my dreams of long-term travel a reality, so I felt stuck and defeated.
I eventually left that company and was lucky enough to find a place at JobAdder. Within a few months one of my co-workers in Denver announced that she would be moving to Australia to work with the JA team in Sydney. For the first time in years, I felt a renewed sense of awe and wonder – that could be me!
Fast forward to now and I’ve been happily working with my fantastic JobAdder team for over a year, working remotely from across the pond. All of the programs we use to manage projects and collaborate are completely online, and with Skype it’s easy to join meetings and pop on a call whenever necessary. The cloud-based environment lends itself perfectly to working from anywhere with an internet connection, and the digital nomad lifestyle has since been embraced and encouraged at JA – meaning that as I type this from a beautiful co-working space in Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam, I have now officially realized my dream of traveling the world!
This is my first solo trip abroad and I will be traveling Southeast Asia for a total of four months. It’s not without its struggles and challenges for someone as inexperienced at this kind of thing as I am, but working while abroad has been incredibly fulfilling. Not only do I get to tick places off my bucket list and push myself out of my comfort zone, but I also have a salary that pays the bills back home – this entire experience would have been impossible for me otherwise. Finding co-working spaces, cute cafes and getting to meet tons of fellow expats, digital nomads and locals from all over the world has kept me on my toes and made me excited to get out of bed each day, grab my laptop, and explore my surroundings. I am also now only 3 hours behind my Aussie peers instead of an entire day, so getting to talk to them in real-time has been a treat!
Speaking of Sydney, I got to visit head office last year and am very excited to be heading back in November. Communicating via Skype and email works just fine, but nothing compares to hanging out with my JA family in person. There’s never a dull moment with that crew, that’s for sure!
If you’re thinking of traveling, or even just daydreaming about it as I was a few years ago, I highly recommend seeking out companies that encourage remote working (which seem increasingly easier to find nowadays). Freelance/contracting work is always an option as well. While some would prefer to simply travel without working, I personally enjoy the balance I get from having a day job and co-working with peers from around the globe while also having my afternoons and weekends free to explore my new digs. This way I can keep practicing design and keep my skills fresh – what could be better?
Being apart from my boyfriend of 6 years is a little rough, but we’ve done the long-distance thing before and he’ll be meeting me in Japan at the end of my trip, so it works out quite nicely. As cheesy as it sounds, this whole experience has taught me that anything is possible if you work hard and dream big enough. Take it from the girl who never even fathomed that this would be her reality only a few short years ago. You can do it too!
To follow my adventures as a digital nomad, please visit my personal blog.