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Traveling entrepreneur since 2005.

October 15, 2009

Attention all digital nomad wannabes

Me working in Bali

Firstly, this post is not for everyone. This post is directed to those that dream about becoming a digital nomad. What’s a digital nomad? I think a digital nomad is someone that has the freedom to be located anyone in the world and has the ability to change location as often as they want.


Over the last 6 months I’ve seen a huge increase in life-style design blogs pop up all over the place. To me, it’s an extension of the make money online niche that exploded a few years back. The premise of all these lifestyle design blogs are that you can quit your job, work from anywhere in the world and live the life exactly as you want to live it. Sounds great doesn’t it?

I have no grudges towards the writers behind these blogs, I think what they are doing is a great thing by capitalizing on this growing niche. They are executing which I always admire. I wish them luck.

It’s the people that read them and dream about this lifestyle I want to address.

I haven’t seen any of these digital nomad bloggers be blunt about exactly what you need to do, so I thought I’d do the deed for those wanting to become a digital nomad in one single post.

Here goes….

The only way you are going to become a digital nomad or live the life-style you want is to stop reading about it, stop dreaming about it and get some serious work done.

Same goes for weight loss. The weight loss industry if worth billions… but we all know that if you want to lose weight one needs to eat less and exercise more. It’s not rocket science.

There is nothing that will teach you more than going in head first and learning from your own actions and mistakes.

To become a digital nomad with the flexibility to move around like I do, you basically have 4 options to chose from:

1. Set up an internet based business
2. Become a school teacher
3. Become an Independent writer
4. Become a consultant

School teachers and writers pay is often poor – so if I was you, I’d rule these out first (Traveling around is so much nicer with a bit of cash to splurge from time to time). If you know something inside out and can get a couple of decent consultancy gigs going, this could provide a very cool lifestyle.

But I want to dig deeper in what I do; I build internet based businesses where the sky is the limit with enough graft and motivation. And the best part of running an internet business is that the revenue is residual income! When I’m out stuffing my cake-hole with great food, I’m earning money while I’m doing it!

If you want to build an internet business so that you can become a so called Digital Nomad (I hate that term), be prepared. It’s not easy as all these digital nomad bloggers make out. Especially if you want to earn more than a school teacher.

If it’s an easy life you are after, school teaching is the way to go.

But if you want more than that… to become a financially independent digital nomad (now that sounds more sexy doesn’t it?), read on…

Your life-style will need to change dramatically, in that work will over-ride near enough everything you do. You need to ask your self whether what you are about to do will bring value to your business. I don’t watch TV – Haven’t done for 5 years. Why? Because it doesn’t bring value.

I listen to Radio that’s only work related. Most of the people I follow on Twitter are in the online space. Most of my friends work online. I try to cut out the noise that will not have a positive impact on my business, and if you want to become successful… I believe you will need to cut out the noise too.

To put it bluntly, your whole life needs to revolve around your work. You need to live it 24 hours a day.

99% of the people that will read this are just lazy bums. Sorry folks… I may sound a bit harsh but it’s the truth. I’ve spent 7 years creating web sites for lazy people – and you should to if you work online.

Nothing would make me happier than to see more people become extra motivated in what they do so they can pursue their dreams.

So there you have it. If you want to become a digital nomad you’d be better of investing your time in building something rather than reading or dreaming about it.

Go on… bugger off and get some mother fucking work done!

Hey, like this post? Why not share it with a buddy?


  1. Great post Chris! This is a much-needed wakeup call! My life certainly revolves around work, staying up until 7am, waking up other days at 530am to be with clients everywhere! Email & Twitter on the run on the iPhone.

    The hardest (and most important) thing is like you say—eliminating the unnecessary, buffering your attention and building some selective ignorance.

    • Chris

      I sued to pack in as many work hours as poss… but the art is working smarter not harder. Although I work more than a 9-5, I’m no longer at my notebook every hour I’m awake. It’s all about getting the balance right… something I’m still working on :)

  2. I echo Cody’s sentiment here, brilliant post. Indeed it’s not rocket science, it just takes hard work and a lot of it at that.

    Minimalism sure is a great tool in achieving the location independence. Less reading, less daydreaming and get off your a** and do it!

    I think that to 99% of the readers of blogs on digital nomads it’s never going to be more than a fantasy. The one percent that does succeed has earned every minute of it.

    Building websites for others, a prime example of laziness. It’s not that hard to set up a site, although I must confess that I did need some help to get me started. Every time I look at the code now however I understand more and more and can manipulate things easier. (Having some knowledge of C++ helps though) but in the end it all boils down to If you want something, go out there and get it. It won’t just wind up on your doorstep by itsself.

    Thanks for the wake-up

    • Chris

      With so much talent in India and south east Asia avalanche for $5 an hour… there’s no reason why you can’t get a project of the ground for a few bucks.

  3. Good writeup.
    It’s basically the same as it every was. Gurus, ebooks, salesletters. Just now the flavour of choice is traveling. It’s interesting that the “make money online scheme” with all it’s interesting, but old mechnisms branches out into a travelling taste. if thats possible. what will be the next direction and how to cash in first? Cause the first guy is always the guru :)

    • Chris

      They all sell the dream.

  4. Hi Chris,

    How have you been? Long time no talk.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Everyone seems to be chasing “lifestyle design” like it is some get rich quick, instant weightloss, get smarter while you sleep scheme.

    Success takes hard work folks. The more competitive the market, the harder the work. And blogging is damn competitive!

    • Chris

      It’s better to be a small fish in a competitive niche than a big fish in a small niche… based on my previous experience.

      95% of blogs don’t make money… better of setting up a blog network and having writers write content for $3 a piece and setting up a strong sales force to sell advertising. Sure beats writing content and sticking adsense on your blog.

      A travel blog network is a great example I think could work – Set up a blog for every country in the world… get a guide written up, subscribe to news/blog alerts and just re-write the content on the blogs. Go out to airlines/travel agencies and hit them hard. I have been doing this for the last 8 months (on a different niche) and we are seeing results.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. I thought of sacrifice after I read this post. For all the dreamers that I know who won’t be able to make the transition, it seems the have trouble with giving things up. (Comfort, the idea of an acceptable career arch, the chance to meet a wife from their home city, the chance to put a little more money in the bank, their free time after work). It took me 2 years of evenings and weekends to get my business off the bank’s books, and I don’t regret a moment spent building it.

    • Chris

      Dan – Nothing wrong with peps just wanting the routine and safety net of a 9-5 job. It’s those that complain and dream about wanting more that need to get up of their arse! :)

  6. David

    Thank you for finally saying what all those blogs won’t say. You are right. I left a Fortune 500 job in California to become a digital nomad. For me it was about easy lifestyle, so I became a school teacher. Now I work in Asia, and I can travel all around Asia during vacations and between contracts.
    My current job is up in 4 weeks, so I’ll be heading to Bangkok for a while and avoid the cold winter East Asia.

    • Chris

      Enjoy Bangkok David :)

  7. Do or don’t, there is no wannabe! ;))

    The people who can really pull it off don’t need a reminder that your life will revolve around your work. It’s a prerequisite.

    • Chris

      Spot on. Some people are just born to work hard and make something of them selves, while others just fall into it. A few, I hope, will turn their dreams into reality.

      It took me a while to really get bitten by the work bug… I think it was when I cleared $20 a day that I really started taking things seriously.

  8. Go on… bugger off and get some mother fucking work done!

    Hahahahaha. Made me laugh that one. Classic end to a good post.

  9. You make a really important point that behind most digital nomad lives is a lot of hard work. However, I disagree with you that there are about 4 choices of career for digital nomad wannabes. In fact in doing many interviews of actual nomads I’ve come across a whole variety of careers including insurance sales, graphic artists, marketers, balloon artists (yes, that’s right – at $2000 per gig!), teaching about biofuel, trapeze business owners, and my own career, being a professional certified coach. Online businesses are only one way to go and in my opinion one of the riskiest in terms of not succeeding. If you are passionate about nomadic living try to find a career passion that can be mobile, become good at it, build your clientele and then start your traveling.

    • Chris

      There is no way an insurance sales exec, graphic artists (not web based), marketers (not web based), balloon artists, teaching about biofuel, trapeze business owners can just get up tomorrow and move to a different country.

  10. Nate

    Really eye opening post. I never really thought about “To put it bluntly, your whole life needs to revolve around your work. You need to live it 24 hours a day.”

    You have a point and I am realizing that this is what I’m missing with my biz. I’ve always had the mindset “Oh I’ll work for 5 hrs today but when I’m done then no more work for the rest of the day” and this is a mistake.

    I’ve aimed for a new goal of Daily Incremental Improvement in my business. The idea is to accomplish a little more each day than the prior to consistently improve. To chronicle this, I’ve started a daily business journal to record my to-do lists and how I spent my day, hr by hr.

    Hopefully this helps with the transiion. Keep up the good blog!

  11. Yes, there are some good points here.. however, I want to re-echo the comments made by Carmen and add some of my own:

    1) There are many many more career options than just the 4 listed. There are lots of successful nomadic folks exploring a lot of different jobs while they travel.

    2) You don’t have to submit yourself to work 24 hrs a day to be a successful nomad.

    3) Being a nomad (digital or otherwise) is NOT just about being able to get up and move to a different country whenever you want. It’s about redefining the concept of ‘home’ and having a lifestyle that is mobile enabled. You can be a successful nomad and never leave your own country, as an example.

    I will agree that the only way to be a nomad – is to actively make changes in your life to make it happen!

    – Cherie
    Technomad roving around the USA for 2.5 years and counting

  12. You hit it on the nail the only magic to this is a bit of hard work!

    I found the WN Forum near 4 years ago and within a week had started to monetize my site $0.44 the first Month LOL then I built more sites and for 2 years worked a full time job whilst building my own sites arriving at a place where I had a decent residual.

    Another 2 years of working for the same company enabled me to save a decent amount
    and let my sites mature along with the residual income.

    This June the 8th I fly out to Bangkok to do what i started 4 years ago.. Can it be done in less yay

  13. Only a few months into building a business and I already know that what you are saying is true. I’m still working a 9 to 5 job so all of my business building is done during breaks and lunches during the day and ALL of my evenings. Not easy for a married guy with kids. I’m thankful that I’m married with kids though as they provide the motivation to not be a lazy bum.

    I’m now constantly thinking about business. Everything I encounter is passed through a business filter as I try and analyze how someone else did something. I feel like I’m still in the infancy of my entrepreneurial journey, but I’m journeying nonetheless!

    It’s encouraging for someone to just flat out tell us it’s going to be hard. Thank you!!!

  14. “Your whole life needs to revolve around your work” — too true. Which is why it’s so important to choose something that really is your passion. I’ve gone the travel blog route, with a few freelance graphic design clients helping me keep going. I’m not self-sufficient yet (only been blogging 6 months), but the numbers are looking good and I hope to reach that point within a year.

    The ‘digital nomad’ nomad lifestyle is attainable, but it’s certainly not for everyone and it sure as hell takes a lot of work.

  15. Hi Chris,

    I gotta agree with you that it takes a hell of a lot of work to set up an online business.

    But… “your whole life needs to revolve around your work. You need to live it 24 hours a day.”

    I’m not sure about this, I think it depends on how much money you want to make. I remember you making a blog post about a year ago, saying that you wanted your sites to be earning x amount and therefore having a value of a million (I’m assuming that you mean pounds). I have no doubt in my mind from reading your posts and your work ethic that you will achieve this (if you have not done so already).

    However do you need to own a business worth a million to have a nomadic lifestyle? If you want to have a simple life you can live in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey (I’ll say that one because I did, when I was starting out) for £300 to £500 a month. Some people will be happy just to work a few hours a day writing articles for constant content, eHow etc. or doing a few designing/ programming jobs on elance/oDesk. Then spending the rest of their time relaxing, reading, diving, whatever.

    Admittedly they may have to turn to the job market or step up their ideas in the future, but that brings up a different question, do people want to stay nomadic forever? It can get quite tiresome sometimes.

    • LOL I got to this post from @TropicalMBA twitter post, did not realise it was over a year old!

  16. Nice blog. I found you through I am getting ready to head over to South East Asia for my own experience. I have been building my online income for years and now am ready to focus on it full time. With that idea, along with looking to reduce my spending, while also enjoying some travel I am looking to take at least 2 years. I am probably going to settle down in one country to use that as my base.

    Do you get short term rentals? Stay in hotels all the time?

  17. I’ve heard that often enough, that the digital nomad lifestyle involves centering your life around your work and merging work and play into a synergistic system of smart choices and smart work. Makes sense enough, but as a brand-new blogger just poking his head into the world of digital entrepreneurship, I often wonder– what the hell is there to DO for a blog (or other form of online work) for 40+ hours a week? This is something that none of the posts that exclaim how hard-working this lifestyle is really seem to go into. Can you shed some light for me?

  18. Rich

    Not convinced you have to work that hard.

    Some biz’ require more work than others.

    I’ve met people doing freelance editing, translation, writing, web design or development, working remotely, and they all work less than 40 hr weeks.

    And many of them got it off the ground in their spare time while working normal jobs.

    Research shows humans are most productive at 35 hrs work a week. You actually get less done by spending more time working. How much that applies to running a business is debatable, but it’s at least reason to question the assumption that being an entrepreneur = 24/7 work. I think alot of people like to wear that as a badge of honour and are reluctant to work less for other reasons.

  19. Tim

    So I take it drinking doesn’t exactly mix well with work? Or drinking at all? The whole theory of working on the beach in Hawaii sipping a mai tai is out of the question? Not to be harsh myself but it sounds like some “digital nomads” need to get a life and quit worrying about where they live or travelling for that matter… besides does it really pay off to be a digital nomad when your in a beautiful place but your stuck in your “backpackers” room trying to get work done when everyone else is out partying and having a good time??? btw not to be a prick but there are some typo’s in your post, otherwise great post man… you def changed my mind…

  20. sianne

    this is intresting, so how do you actually make money doing this? and or posting blogs. i am trying to figure a way to work and make money with my love of traveling .

  21. Chris,

    This is an old post that speaks truth about becoming a location independent lifestyler – that is, it is hard work. Yes, it’s true that most of what you enumerated above still are some of the best way to become location independent, there are now other some other jobs that will qualify as well, like a travel agent. With the advancement on communication on the internet, it has become possible for us travel agents to work anywhere. It’s still hard work, though, which include mostly talking on the phone or VOIP line with customers. But, it’s better than what it was before.

    Nice post which stay valid for a very, very long time.


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