You Might Already Be a Digital Nomad and Not Know It

The sun rises early in Florence. A small market bustles below our window, selling produce and salted meats from all around Tuscany. The pasticceri fill the streets with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Our daughter is still snoozing in her new room. After our journey yesterday, she may sleep until noon.

That’s fine, though. We haven’t planned anything for today. The city will come to us.

Last year my wife, Chelsea, and I lived in San Diego with our new baby girl. We loved our California costal home, but couldn’t sustain our new family reality there. And once we discovered an Airbnb near Florence cost half our monthly rent…we got to thinking.

We decided to leave our little paradise behind. Since that decision we’ve lived in 20 homes in 14 different countries. No, we’re not running from the feds; we’re a full-time, slow-travel family. Some call us nomads, others call us crazy. Whatever we are, we’ve never been happier.

Now, with what’s left of our possessions in backpacks, we sit in our flat in Florence, drinking espresso, waiting for our baby to stir. We may catch the bus to San Marco Square then walk to Piazza del Duomo. Maybe this afternoon, we’ll stop at The Academia to bask in the presence of Michelangelo’s David.

Funny how life works.

To date, we’ve visited Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Germany, Montenegro, Austria, the U.K., and the Czech Republic. That said, life moves at a more peaceful pace now, despite the constant change.

Matt and Chelsea Gillespie with their daughter in Venice.

That’s because we travel slowly. We book at least a month’s stay at each location. It’s easier for everyone this way, and the discounts are significant, too. We seek out affordable homes right outside the cities we visit, strategically situated near public transportation.

The savings surely help, but we can only swing this lifestyle because of our employment. We’re lucky enough to have location-independent careers, and we were smart enough to take advantage. We both have jobs where we can work from anywhere, provided we have reliable internet. As a web developer and digital marketer, we’re able to telecommute from our rental flat, a café in Montepulciano, or anywhere else we choose. We don’t race to and from work anymore, saving for “someday” trips elsewhere.

We can now live elsewhere.

And there is a good chance that you can too…or that you’ll soon be able to. A recent, report by FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting company, said that by 2020, the number of self-employed workers could triple. And many of those workers will have jobs they can fit in a laptop case.

That kind of freedom is priceless.

Each time we find ourselves in a new city we set our alarms early the next morning. We don’t plan anything, though. We just walk. We stroll down to the main piazza or walk the vias and vicolas until something strikes our fancy, or our daughter’s. We wander, meander, and peruse. These days are usually our best.

With their nomadic lifestyle Matt and Chelsea have traveled all over Europe, including Dubrovnik, Croatia.

This slow travel pace is fantastic for our wallets, family life, and creativity. It affords us the time to just live. We’ve slept in on weekends in Venice and enjoyed rainy days in Dublin, knowing we’ll have enough time to sightsee.

And therein lies the difference between our old planned vacations and the slow travel we enjoy now. No more rushing between strictly scheduled activities. Instead of furiously checking off bucket list items, we’re discovering new ones along the way.

We’ve driven the Alps near Lake Como, breathed the crisp air atop the Dolomites, captained a boat in the Cinque Terre, dipped our toes in Tuscan hot springs, and enjoyed prosecco in Trento.

We have chosen not to escape, but to explore. Immersion in local culture is the goal. If we complete bucket list items, like tasting wine from centuries-old casks in Montepulciano, even better.

The noonday sun now beats down on our balcony in Coverciano, just outside of Florence. We hear there’s some rule about not waking a sleeping baby. We might break it today. We’ve got a new city to explore.

Or we could just let her sleep and start early tomorrow. We’ve got time.

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