I know I’ve been MIA for the last few months, and it’s been a whirlwind. Three months ago, I sold 95 percent of my belongings, downsized my life to fit in a 45L backpack, and moved from Washington DC back home to Chicago to focus and prepare for my next great adventure. I’ve spent every waking moment working towards this path I set out on ten months ago, and now I can’t wait to share that with you.
To explain, here are some excerpts from the (admittedly, very extra) powerpoint presentation I prepared for my family last fall to explain why I’m rejecting the traditional path and defining my own success, in order to get their support.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who makes their living by using the internet to accomplish tasks that would traditionally have been done in an office from anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection.
Due to the advances in communication and collaboration technology over the past 10-15 years, the idea of a single, fixed workplace has become largely obsolete. I strongly believe that five years from now, we’ll look back and laugh at how people used to spend 40+ minutes (each way) commuting to an office where they will be less productive than they otherwise would have been in their preferred work location. Of course, this isn’t possible in every industry and there’s something to be said for the value of face-to-face interaction with your team, but remote, decentralized companies are the future of work.
In addition, the American work norm of ‘living to work’ is something that I fundamentally take issue with. The mindset of measuring a person’s value to society based on their productivity in the labor force is completely backwards. Americans suffer from work- and stress-related illnesses (hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, burnout, etc.) at a much higher rate than other countries. (Read more: American Institute of Stress, The Atlantic, Business Insider). A key factor in this is the 9-to-5 sedentary lifestyle with two weeks’ vacation per year, and the mindset of if you work less than 50 hours a week, you’re not ‘working hard enough’ or ‘dedicated enough’ to your company.
This doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to hard work by any means, but I am opposed to putting my own health and well-being aside to fit into the corporate culture mold.
Why this is what I want to do with my life
I’ve never really been an office person. I don’t like sitting at a desk. I’m most productive between 7:00am-12:00pm and then again for a few hours in the evening. I would much rather work from a cozy bagel shop than an overly air-conditioned office building, and am far more productive and inspired in that environment.
The one thing I love more than anything is travel (so much that it viscerally hurts). At this stage in my life, I know that I will never be happy somewhere where I get two weeks of vacation per year and have to show up to the same office every day, because it means I will have to sacrifice the thing that I am most passionate about. For the most part, every job I’ve ever had can be done with just a computer and an internet connection, so it doesn’t make sense why we still feel the need to force human beings into this outdated labor model.
There’s a big difference between being a digital nomad with the freedom to work from the beach and change locations whenever you please, and being on a permanent vacation. Digital nomad life is not easy, and certainly comes along with its own unique challenges.
How I plan to get there
My International Relations degree didn’t lend itself particularly well to remote jobs (that I was actually interested in doing), so for the last three months, I’ve been leveling up my portable skill set in General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive program, preparing for a new path as a Full Stack Developer.
The path from here is not going to be easy, especially given my lack of experience. My first grade teacher described me as having “the hardest head on the littlest body” that she’d seen in her 20 years of teaching, so I am determined to make this work even if it kills me.
Over the next few months, I’ll be working nonstop to build up my portfolio and client base, working my way towards being able to support myself as a remote developer. I’m leaving Chicago again in two short months and heading back east, with stops in DC, Boston, and Miami, before crossing the pond over to Portugal, where I’ll be based this fall.
It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
If you’re still reading, thanks for making it all the way through. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing a series of articles on the digital nomad lifestyle, so stay tuned!
And now, time for my shameless plugs:
If you or anyone you know needs a website or application built, please check out my portfolio here and get in touch! I’d love to chat about how I can help you and your business.
For more of this super extra powerpoint presentation on my digital nomad journey, click here.
To follow my adventures in real time, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @bubu_backpacks.
Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)