It is hard for most people to imagine what it is like to constantly travel. Most imagine that great riches are required, but from my own experiences and those I have interviewed, a travel lifestyle is probably much easier than you imagine. Digital nomad, James Clark of NomadicNotes shares his story of creating a life of constant travel in this interview. By keeping his expenses low, he is able to fund his travels through various advertising driven travel related websites.
Please tell us about your travels.
My first trip abroad was a brief holiday to Hawaii which activated the travel bug. I took some annual leave holidays after that, but I found that even saving up 2 months of leave from work wasn’t enough time to explore in a time frame I wanted. My long term travels began in 1999 when I moved to London on a 2 year working holiday visa, where I used London as a home base for travels around Europe. So far my travels have taken me to over 40 countries across North America, Europe and Asia. I still have much of the world to see, but I am not in a hurry to tick off a list of countries.
What made you decide to begin a nomadic life?
I wouldn’t say that my nomadic lifestyle was a decision, rather it has been something that has evolved over time. My original goal was to become self employed doing a job I enjoy which I could do anywhere. At first I would travel for shorter trips, then the trips extended to the point where now I am traveling full time.
Do you have a home base somewhere that you return to?
At the moment I have no home base. When I first started out working for myself in 2003, I had a home base in Melbourne. I averaged around 6 months away and six months at home, while keeping the place I lived at. In 2010 I moved out of that house so I am now without a fixed address.
If you had to choose one country to live, what would it be?
Tough question! I think I will always call Australia home but lately I have been gravitating towards SE Asia whenever I want to stay put for a while. So out of that region I will nominate Thailand for its food, lifestyle, cost of living and good internet service.
How do you earn an income now?
I run a number of commercial travel websites which earn income from the following sources:
- Affiliate sales
- Google Adsense
- Direct Advertising
I have done web design and search engine optimization in the past for other sites, but currently I am working exclusively on my own sites.
Do you make much money from your website?
Without going into details, I make more money working for myself than when I was working for someone else, which is a satisfying feeling. I have had periods though where I wasn’t making much money at all. This is all part of the life of being self employed, a stress which is not for most people.
What is your approximate travel budget for a year?
I don’t really keep a travel budget as it is more of a living budget now. I am aware of my outgoings and I keep my expenses down by not paying for internet or staying in expensive accommodation. I recently kept track of my cost of living for a month for when I was living in Mexico as an example of how you can live well on a small budget. I spent $850 in one month while living in Playa del Carmen. This was a living budget, and not a travel budget, which has different considerations such as transportation and short term accommodation costs.
Are you getting tired of traveling?
I’m not tired of the traveling lifestyle, though I manage this by breaking up my travels with breaks in one place. As much as I love travel, I also love the work that I do as well, which is a good incentive to stay at a home base for a while rather than continuing on to the next destination.
Have you had any serious problems on your travels?
I have been denied entry to two countries in Europe for not having a visa (oops), been in a hotel fire and have had numerous flight delays and cancellations (I’m looking at you Eyjafjallajökull!) but nothing too serious (touch wood).
How do you deal with administrative issues like banking, bills and health care?
This is something that has evolved over time as well. Most of my banking is online now. I have opted out of paper statements and get e-statements instead. I have the occasional payment with cheques (yes some companies still use cheques!) so I have them sent to my parents who manage my banking as well as my quarterly business tax statements. I still maintain health care in Australia, and for travel insurance I am currently using World Nomads.
Do you have any advice for people considering long term traveling
Whether you are travelling as a working nomad or just taking a year off work to explore the world it is a good idea to start simplifying your life before you go. Get out of debt if possible and wind down any monthly standing payments like TV subscriptions. Get rid of unnecessary mail subscriptions and get anything that can be done online set up.
As for making a travel plan, I find you don’t really need one. Once you are on the road you will get into adventures that may take you destinations that weren’t on your original itinerary.