When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I started writing for International Living nearly 18 years ago, it didn’t really occur to us that we were becoming digital nomads.
When we sold our house in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to Quito, Ecuador in 2001 to begin writing for IL about living and working abroad, we knew we were going to be relying on email to communicate with co-workers and file our stories and reports. Back then, the internet wasn’t always reliable; instant messaging had just been invented, and back in 2001 in Ecuador, it was very touch-and-go.
We had no idea then how much the internet would change our jobs in the years that followed. In fact, our jobs have morphed into something that really wouldn’t be possible without the internet.
Now we do so much more than simply file our stories via email. We do research on the internet. We do interviews with other expats and retirees via the internet. We have our weekly meetings with co-workers on internet conference calls. We keep in touch with our family with Skype video calls. We handle our financial and legal responsibilities back home and abroad via web sites and online apps. When we’re not working or communicating, we stream our entertainment via the internet.
And this doesn’t even take into account the amount of texting we constantly do with family, friend, fellow correspondents, and other contacts on our phones—which happen to be U.S. phones and don’t even need cell coverage in other countries for calls and text as long as we have the right apps and there is WiFi available.
Now, of course, digital nomads—people who can take their work with them wherever they want to go in the wold—are commonplace. WiFi is now available practically everywhere, making it possible to check in with your business in Washington or Florida while sitting on a beach in Costa Rica.
Since we started in 2001, we’ve lived in seven different communities in four different Latin American countries, and we have no plans to settle down. We called ourselves “road warriors” for a short time when we first started out…but we soon learned that there isn’t much fighting involved in our lifestyle. With a little advance research and some fundamental tips and tricks, every one of the places we’ve lived in and worked from so far has been welcoming, easy to figure out, and a place that we’d happily go back to. In fact, we have returned to several of our favorite places for a second—and even a third—time.
So that’s really all you need to do what we do…a sense of adventure, an honest list of the things you really and truly need to be happy, and a job you enjoy and can do in someplace warm, affordable, and interesting.
That by no means limits the work you can do abroad to online work—we’ve met thousands of expats over the years who own restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, art and recording studios, provide tourism services, walk dogs, house sit, make clothing, farm… You name it, expats are doing it for money around the world.
We just happened to enter the game as writers and editors—work that we can do wherever our laptops have access to WiFi. We know how lucky we were to stumble on that lifestyle way back when, but today thousands of expats are doing it. It just takes some know-how and imagination.
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