Interview with Nomadic Couple, Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky

Interview with Digital Nomads: Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky

Interview with Digital Nomads: Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky

Don’t you wish you could sell all of your possessions and just permanently travel the world? Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky have done just that!

The couple recently celebrated their one year anniversary of living a nomadic, location independent lifestyle. Kelly and Mike travel the world while continuing to do freelance graphic design and flash development. They share their experiences in this interview.

Please tell us about your travels over the last year.

We just wrapped up our first year abroad having spent 6 months in the Visayas region of the Philippines, 3 months hopping around Thailand, 1 month in Bali, and 2 months in Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo.

What made you decide to sell off your possessions and begin a nomadic lifestyle?

Both Kelly and I were looking for a lifestyle change from 9-5 desk duty and we’re both avid travelers. It started off as a joking suggestion that we quit our jobs and go live elsewhere. Once it was out there, we kept coming back to it. There really wasn’t that much tying us to Vancouver beyond some good friends, an apartment, and our jobs. Kelly had moved to the Netherlands for a year previously and had great memories of living overseas. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more we thought about it, why couldn’t we do our jobs virtually anywhere?

What are some of your favorite countries so far and why?

Every country we’ve been in has had fantastic highlights, but I’d have to say my favourite spot was Malaysian Borneo. The world class scuba diving at Sipadan was unbelievable (Video, Blog Post with Pictures). Borneo also has the most insanely awesome roads for motorcycle riding. Most of all, I found the people in general were incredibly hospitable, friendly, and genuine.

How much income or savings does a couple need to comfortably travel like you do?

We haven’t done the math on the entire year yet, but there’s a pretty good portion of it detailed in our travel budgets post.  I think we’re on point for around $40-42,000 for the year. We aren’t budget travelers. We’re budget conscious, but we’re not 21 year old backpackers anymore. We have a quality of life standard that’s comparable to the one we left behind.

How do you earn an income?

Both Kelly and I freelance online. Kelly is a graphic designer, and I’m an interactive developer. We’ve been in the website building business for the past 10 or so years. Having worked for a number of advertising agencies and design firms, we have a pretty solid group of contacts that continue to send us work and keep in touch via email, Facebook, Skype, and the odd conference call. We do have an internet dependency, so we tend to limit our travel to locations with reliable and easily accessible connectivity, taking day trips into the more remote regions.

What do you like and don’t like about your lives now?

I love the freedom of working for myself, setting my own hours and choosing where I work. How many people get to say they’re working from the beach? I love that my days off are spent scuba diving in warm 30 degree waters. I love the endless variety of new places, people, and foods that are available to us.

Being away from family is hard. So is constantly putting yourself out there, trying to make new friends. I took for granted being able to just give a buddy a shout and instantly having someone to go out with for a beer and a chat.

I don’t like hauling 70-80kg of bags everywhere. We’re in a constant battle with our possessions. Trying to stay light weight, but having everything we need to be comfortable and work efficient is a challenge.

I miss my motorbike. Kelly misses her wardrobe of shoes.

Is it easier or more difficult to travel as a couple?

Financially, it’s much easier. Sharing the costs and having multiple incomes is a huge benefit. In general, I think that traveling together is a real test of any relationship. Everything is amplified when you’re out of your own element. You’re spending 24/7 together for an extended period of time. Minor irritations could grow into huge issues with that kind of constant contact, so open and honest communication is essential. Lucky for Kelly and I, we’re both super easy going and have never had any issues we couldn’t work out. I’m really glad I have someone with me to share it all with and to support me when things are tough.

Have you had any major problems on your travels?

Well, there was that time in Thailand when they were ripping down the bungalow we were staying in while we were sleeping in it… but other than that, we had surprisingly few major problems this last year. Millions of challenges, but nothing I would call a major problem. We never missed a flight. We were never threatened, scammed, or robbed. We always found an internet connection when we needed one. We never missed a deadline. Does putting on 10 lbs of beer belly count?

Where are you going next?

After southeast Asia, we came back to Canada for a month to visit family, friends, and clients. It’s was great to be back, but it’s getting cold! We just arrived in Central America a couple days ago. We flew into Liberia in Costa Rica and headed west to check out Tamarindo and some other spots on the coast. I’m thinking we’ll rent a house or apartment for a few months. The last six months has been a whirlwind of moving from place to place every couple of weeks and we’d like to settle down for a bit in one spot and unpack the bags for a while. Trips to Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama are likely at some point. Maybe even heading further south. Brazil was awesome when we were there a few years back, and I’d like to see Chile and Buenos Aires.

What advice would you offer for others thinking of living a nomadic lifestyle?

Travel slowly. The longer you stay somewhere, the more cost benefits there are.

Freelancing already? Take advantage of the lower cost of living in a developing country if you can work virtually for a developed country.

Be nice to your parents. You’ll need their basement to keep stuff in until you realize you’ll probably never need it again.

Do you have any plans to settle down and have a more traditional life again?

If a traditional life means moving back and settling into a 9-5 office job again? No. Probably not. We’re more likely to turn into expats. We consider every country we visit a potential future nesting location. Kelly wants a puppy in the not so distant future, so I suppose I’ll need a back yard somewhere, sometime.

Kelly and Mike’s Travel Blog
asFlasher Mike’s Flash Development Site

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

11 Responses to Interview with Nomadic Couple, Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky

  1. Dan says:

    I love Kelly and Mike’s blog I found it only a few days ago and I’ve already gone through all the back posts. They have some great information about living in the Philippines.

  2. Gordie Rogers says:

    It’s great to see people doing this. It’s so inspiring. You’ll have such a host of stories to tell you nephews, nieces and grand kids in the future. I recommend you come here to China for a visit too.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Schimanowsky. Mike Schimanowsky said: An interview about our nomadic travel lifestyle is up on Thanks John – @JetSetCitizen […]

  4. Nate says:

    Really great interview. Kelly and Mike are living the dream!

  5. […] Have a look here: Interview with Nomadic Couple, Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky […]

  6. Sean says:

    Really enjoyed this post! As the end of the year approaches, I am finding myself having to make some decisions about where to go and what to do. I am thinking the idea of finding a place that interests me (Utila, Honduras is that place of the moment) and renting a house for a few months sounds pretty right now. Would love to hear some updates as your journey continues!

  7. GotPassport says:

    Love the travel slowly idea. I am just aching right now to live our lives in Thailand in 2010. Love this story and these interviews really give us more food for thoughts as we prepare to relocate with our child.

    Great interview!
    .-= GotPassport´s last blog ..Our Beloved New Orleans Series Part 1 =-.

  8. Hey John,

    Thanks for sharing this great interview! Mike & Kelly, I love the line “Trying to stay light weight, but having everything we need to be comfortable and work efficient is a challenge.”

    After being away for ten months now, I am starting to feel this more and more! I was recently asked what I missed the most and my immediate response was “My Clothes!” After living out of a backpack for so long, I have a new appreciation for my wardrobe in storage.

    Of course, I miss other things like modern conveniences, friends and family, but I know it will all be there when I choose to come home… whenever that is. Glad to know there are others out there enjoying the world!
    .-= Brooke Ferguson´s last blog ..Four of Your Biggest Travel Worries & How to Handle Them =-.

  9. It’s always fun to discover new digital nomads! Thanks John, I didn’t know about this couple and enjoyed the interview.

    We sold everything in 2005, mostly got out of the ever free-falling dollar and have been on an open ended world tour as a digital nomad family since 2006. Four continents, 30 countries, & over 160,000 miles (most overland) later, we are convinced that it is the best way to live and educate our child!!

    Slow travel is definitely the way to go, but I must admit I was surprised about how much they live on. We have been based in Europe primarily, so far, and find it easy to live really large on just 25K a year …total costs for a family of three! We’re definitely not backpackers and love luxury, but we are also frugal by nature.

    Always interesting to compare and contrast with other digital nomads! We can all learn from one another!
    .-= soultravelers3´s last blog ..Family Travel Photo – Ireland =-.

  10. Mike says:

    Thanks for the encouraging comments everyone! It’s really great to hear that some of you are taking inspiration from our wanderings.

    John, this series of interviews and all the comments have really amazed me with how many people are trying to live a nomadic lifestyle and the variety of ways people achieve it. I’m reading a ton of new travel blogs. Thanks for including us.

    Safe travels everyone!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Week 58: Settling In =-.

    • John says:

      Thank you for the interview Mike.

      I am also amazed at how many people are traveling long term. The idea has become more mainstream recently, but there are many who have been doing it for years. The world is definitely getting smaller!

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