People sometimes look at me, assume I’m older than I look and am retired. It’s an easy assumption in Australia to make, as it’s a huge cultural event with baby boomers, packing up their caravans to travel around Australia. People who ask this are shocked to learn I’m only 48.
So, they ask more questions.
Some ask if I’m wealthy. I quickly shake my head to that one and answer, with a chuckle, ‘Ah…no’.
I tell them that I travel full time and work along the way, where I then gauge my audience by their reaction to that and add that I’m either a travel blogger or a writer. Either answer doesn’t quite explain the full picture of what I do, but it’s the easiest answer when most are looking for the elevator pitch.
I mean, yes, I am a travel blogger and yes, I make an income through my writing. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.
People then ask me how I make money if I’m traveling full time.
I answer that it’s through sales I make through the website, along with partnerships and sponsorships I build with companies. I tell them that I sell photography and products I create like eBooks, which I then sell via my website. When they really dig in, I reveal that I have an investment safety net, because well, all of the above doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Like six years of slogging away to get to this point.
It also shocks people to no end when I tell them I plan on traveling indefinitely.
“You have no home?”, is usually their shocked response.
“Nope.” Then I point to the car and tell them “that’s home for now”. I explain further if they are about to keel over at that idea, that home tends to be wherever my daughter is, but I joke that, even then, she doesn’t have a spare bed for me either.
That usually gets a giggle and the conversation either turns into full-fledged, detailed curiosity where they have dreamy wonder in their eyes as they wonder what it would be like without a mortgage, rent, utilities, a car payment, etc. or, the conversations ends right there.
Sometimes the idea is too much for people to comprehend. I mean, I suppose I’m technically homeless. But not in the ‘living under a bridge’ kind of way.
I see it as living life on my terms. Not living to other people’s expectations or within the boundary’s someone else’s judgement.
Not everyone can do it. I know that. You’d be amazed at how much you learn about yourself when you travel long term. Some people manage a few months before the flexibility does their head in. They crave structure. They look at everywhere they travel as a whether it can be ‘home’.
Sometimes it’s too much freedom. Or, they find they love the freedom so much they lose all momentum to work. That is until the money factor slaps them in the face and they realise that they have to find work somewhere, somehow. Or at least, I would hope that would be the case. Otherwise, they will find themselves living under a bridge!
It’s not a holiday. It’s a lifestyle.
Common Questions I’m Asked While On The Road
So, I decided it was time to answer some of the questions I’m constantly asked. I’ve put together this post as a response, answering many of those frequently asked questions that I’ve received over the last 8 months since I started traveling full time.
Q: You say you’re a Digital Nomad but what does that actually mean?
A. A digital nomad is someone who either has an online business and travels full time or has a ‘can work from anywhere’ kind of job and travels as they work. Generally, it’s someone traveling long term and doing their job online.
To be a digital nomad, they may have negotiated their flexible workplace with their current employers, who don’t care where they are, as long as they get the job done. They may own a website or even multiple websites (like me), offering services like affiliate links, membership pages, products or services such as courses or eBooks.
They may freelance through online outlets like upwork.com or fivrr.com. I’ve known freelancers to offer services like copywriting, editing, as a virtual assistant and sometimes all of those things at once.
The secret to being a successful digital nomad is diversification. It’s the key.
Q. What is life really like as a digital nomad?
While this lifestyle looks to be one big vacation, it’s actually a lot of work. Hours upon hours each week go into making it a success. I think I spend more time on my business than I did working in my corporate job!
A lot of time is spent online and without great internet connections, it’s a massive challenge to get work done.
It’s not as simple as uploading a post quickly to a website. I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.
Instead, it’s a ton of time spent on research, writing, editing, marketing, etc., all of which goes into each and every post. There’s even a strategy around every post that includes what information needs to be included, when to publish it, where to share that publication etc. And, every post is different.
Let’s not forget that to be this Digital Nomad, you’re on the road all the time.
When you’re not traveling, you’re researching your travels. You’re booking your travels. You’re writing feedback on travel stays (if using Airbnb) because that’s what helps get you booked for future stays faster and more smoothly. You’re making note of what places were great or not, so that can be added to another post.
And, if you’re driving, there is no opportunity to write as you go. (I’ve tried recorders. They don’t work for me). Even if you’re the passenger, you don’t want to miss out on what’s happening outside the window because, well, what are you going to write about?! The last thing you want to do if have your head down in a laptop.
So, when I do work, it’s when I’m stopped. Sometimes that’s at the end of a travel day. Sometimes that while I’m squeezed into an economy seat on a plane. Sometimes that’s while I’m riding the waves on a ferry. Sometimes that’s an all-nighter… or close to, because you know you won’t be stopping again for a while.
Most times, it’s this massive work session when I’m stopped for more than a day or two. One day is spent doing the washing, time to get my head around being stopped for more than a night, then it’s this massive cram session to get the writing down.
That’s why I like housesitting. It gives me some time and space to get my personal stuff done, but then time to get some serious work done. I have a notebook that I write notes in as I travel and then when I do stop, I’m a working fiend.
Q. How do you deal with bad internet connections (particularly in Australia)?
As I mentioned, housesitting is great for working as a digital nomad, as long as you have an internet connection. It’s one of the questions I ask homeowners when we’re still in the application stage. There have been times I’ve declined a housesit because of the lack of internet availability. Other times I’ve gone ahead, knowing I can still connect locally.
Connecting locally means connecting to WiFi at a local library or café. I only use these facilities for uploading images and posts to the website, scheduling my marketing strategies, sending general business email, and doing general research for posts or upcoming travel.
The downside of this plan is that libraries tend to have slow internet connections, so you have to come prepared for that, or have some other work to do while waiting for internet uploads to happen. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when the connection is lightning speed and I tend to work ahead in those instances. That means uploading media to my website for future posts I haven’t written yet. Getting the marketing images uploaded too, etc
I do have a Telstra dongle I use, particularly when I need to connect when there’s no internet available. I also use it to do more confidential work or when I’m working with sensitive information like financial or medical data.
Q. How do you actually make money doing what you do?
There are a couple of ways: Sponsorships, Affiliate Sales, Ads, and Selling Products or Services online.
Let’s start with Sponsorships.
As a travel blogger, I work with companies along the way. In exchange for significant online exposure, I receive compensated accommodation or experiences (like food tours) from those companies.
What that essentially means is, I stay in places I‘ve either reached out to directly (or pitched to) or have received offers from. In exchange for that accommodation or experience, I write a post on my website that can be also shared on theirs; I share my experiences via social media; and I sometimes offer photography to companies that they can use for their own commercial use (copyright stays with me) but that is usually only with higher end accommodation.
Not only do I share all this with my readers, but I also share with collaborative sites I’m involved with. I have a large network whom I work with, where we share posts and contact information when needed.
Here are a few sponsored opportunities I loved working with:
Then there are Affiliate Sales.
Affiliate sales are a big part of my business strategy.
Affiliate sales are basically links embedded on my website, that when clicked into and used by you, to buy a good or service, I get a small (and believe me when I say small) commission on the backend. It’s no additional expense to the user.
When I write a post on an experience I recommended, and have paid for myself, I will include an affiliate link. When I write a post that is a list of helpful products I use to travel, like my 10 Things series, or with travel booking sites, like Booking.com or TripAdvisor for example, I use affiliate links.
It’s a way for me to make money, linking to companies I know my readers already use or I have used myself and feel would be useful to the community. As with ads, I only work with companies I feel are relevant and helpful.
Here are some affiliate links I use on my website:
Then there are Ads.
I also post ads on my website. I only put ads that I feel are relevant and helpful to my readers. I won’t put crap on there. If the ads are not affiliate links, it is advertised space I charge companies for. They buy space on my website. I have not done this a lot though.
Then there is selling products online.
The other way to make money on the road is to produce products and sell them via the website. Products like [eBooks] or courses. I’m talking about products where you don’t have to manage inventory. I have created one eBook already on Housesitting, but I have another in the works. I also have a course that’s just finished its beta testing and will be launching in late 2017.
Here’s a link to the eBook I currently have available:
I have another website I’ll be launching next year that will keep the income flowing, called The Crackpot Writer.
The website is focused on writing and will offer membership sites for an online writing group (for review/feedback). It will also offer editorial services where I will be on the backend, gaining a commission for anyone using the editor’s services. Also available will be the opportunity to sell short stories, poetry etc, and possibly even links to novels once published.
Here’s a link to The Crackpot Writer.
Lastly, I do freelance writing where I sell my writing elsewhere.
I have worked with Upwork before, writing hotel descriptions for websites. I have it as part of my strategy plan to work freelance with magazines.
Q. How far in advance do you plan your travels or, even book ahead?
This depends. Sometimes months, sometimes hours.
Since housesitting was new (to us) in the beginning of the 10-month (re) Discover Australia road trip, some housesit opportunities were booked months in advance. The overall itinerary was managed around those commitments.
Between housesits, the plan has been more flexible.
Camping was a big part of the original plan but the weather hasn’t been conducive to camping (how rude!), so Airbnbs have become more prevalent in the plan. It’s a bummer really because I had been looking forward to free camping.
Alas, I have become an expert in finding Airbnb gems, sometimes only days – sometimes even hours – in advance. Usually, it’s with filters on to include WiFi, sometimes with a washer and dryer but since they aren’t needed on every stop, the pool of options become measurably more expansive.
In Australia, Airbnbs tend to be more spacious and, dare I say, cleaner, than staying in a motel or resort. Even staying in a Caravan or Holiday Park has proven to be, at times, twice the price than an Airbnb. The few times we’ve done this, it’s been with regret, with only a few exceptions.
Q. How did you start doing this? How long did you plan?
I’ve written about this a lot on the website, but I think the post that explains it best, is this one below, so I’m going to refer you there:
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Have more questions? Ask away in the comments below!