Top 8 lessons - 4 years as a Digital Nomad Videographer
In 2011 I made the decision to leave my job, my apartment in Vancouver Canada, and blindly pursue my passion of video and travel. In 2013 I sold my car and my local possessions, and move abroad to Taiwan for a year with my laptop and camera gear. I learned the lifestyle of a digital nomad since then and feel like I've earned my degree in location independence. I thought it would be good time to reflect and share the top lessons I've learned living abroad trying to build a business from the ground up.
Don't do this alone
This alternative lifestyle is still a new thing. It is rewarding, but at the same time there are few people that will relate to this lifestyle and some of the challenges you will face like visa runs to Vietnam, renting your first motorbike, or getting your sim card in Thailand. Find like-minded people to connect with to learn and share your business craft, and to hang out with. My strongest network of like-minded people have come from Chiang Mai.
Develop a hard skill like Videography before your journey
As rewarding as online passive income can be It can take time to develop your online business. I recommend you develop a hard skill that can allow you to freelance while you travel. For example I was able to shoot video and do editing for other digital nomads and foreign clients while being abroad to supplement my online income. Some people can develop web pages, do translation, or do programming gigs. Having unique skills to offer will help you become a valuable member of your local community. Check out my Travel Videography school for some video courses.
Love can be tough on this journey
Not many talk about relationships with the opposite sex as it is one of the downsides of this lifestyle. It may be easy to meet people on your journey, but it is challenging to maintain a serious relationship with this lifestyle for many reasons. If you meet someone from another country they may have other travel plans or priorities that get in the way of the relationship. If you are dating a local you may have time apart while you deal with visa issues or differences in culture. I've met couples that are business and relationship partners from the same country that seem to have the balance of both worlds. I'm not sure what answers are I'm just saying generally this is a challenge.
Take care of your health
I am no guru, but practicing some of this stuff on a consistent basis will pay off in the long run. Taking care of your body and emotional health will help you perform better for your business and live a higher quality of life no matter where you are located. While abroad you can visit the gym, play sports, go running, go for walks, cycling, swimming, surfing, or do yoga. In Taiwan, I would go to community gyms and the large stadium tracks. In Chiang Mai and Bali I would go swimming. Health is not just limited to exercise... you should try to practice workplace safety like good back posture, give your eyes a break from the screen, try standing desks, or get a laptop stand so you can look at your screen at eye level. Also, try to eat healthy as well. Make sure to get your greens and vegetables on a regular basis. Avoid oo much junk food, unsanitary, or sketchy street food or 7-11 runs. Limit your drinking and smoking if you do and yes drink lots of water and juice. On the spiritual side practice journalism and meditation to work on your mind and spirituality. Get enough sleep and develop a regular routine that your body can get accustomed to. Limit your exposure to the radiation of your electronics. Try to limit the amount of big night outs drinking. As you get older it you can loose half your day to recovering from a hangover. How valuable is your time to you? I know I know easier said than done. At least drink a lot of water to reduce the impact.
Relocate to where you are treated best
Relocate to a destination that will give you the best chance of success and happiness. Sometimes this may not be where you grew up in because of costs, culture, shitty weather, infrastructure, or a supportive environment. For example, Vancouver ( Canada) has now become one of the most livable cities in the world. Not the best environment for a digital nomad. Expensive housing and overall costs, a retirement and family city, few affordable co-work spaces, and almost no like-minded community. I spent my first 2 years in Taiwan learning Chinese and trying to start my business. I spent my next 2 years mostly in Chiang Mai, Thailand traveling around destinations in South East Asia. I was able to get some traction in my online business leveraging a lower cost of living and giving me the freedom to focus on my business full-time while maintaining a high quality of life. I've produced or planning living guides for the destinations I've lived in and can recommend the following destinations for a digital nomad like Chiang Mai Thailand, Taipei Taiwan, Bangkok Thailand, Canggu Bali, Penang Malaysia, and Capetown South Africa.
Invest & base yourself around a good Cowork Space
Some people prefer working at cafes or hybrids. I've bounced around cafe's and daily co-work spaces earlier on. I think if you are serious about your business and productivity I recommend investing in a co-work space. A cafe is designed to serve drinks and snacks. It usually has a nice atmosphere that will allow you to work for a few hours. A co-work space is a dedicated space to allow you to work and focus on your business. I can go on about this at length, but the bottom line is if you want to be more productive I think you should not only invest, but base yourself around a good co-work space. It's a good lifestyle design practice to choose a place to live that is a short commute to your co-work space. I like to spend most of my days at a co-work space and will breakup the routine by working at home or a cafe.
Find a business model for your passion
Find a business model that will allow you to earn with your passion. For example, I had a passion for video but didn't start really monetizing until I learned about the stock footage business model. This allowed me to license my footage on agencies and develop a consistent passive income stream. Maybe you can teach courses on a craft, skill, or special experience you have teaching on-line courses. Maybe you can are a good writer and start selling best-seller Amazon Kindle books.
I believe we are in the golden age stages of technology. Now we have things like Uber, Airbnb, google maps, tinder, facebook, and smartphones. Technology is changing our lives and disrupting the ways things are done. The people that keep up will reap the rewards and not get left behind. Things are changing fast to the point where traditional education like Universities can't keep pace. I finished my MBA in Vancouver in 2011, and it was only when I started my working holiday that the real education began. I'm not discounting education. I just think that traditional education is not as practical and is too slow to adapt. It does have a place as a degree is good to have as a fallback plan if you plan to return to a job. There are many ways for you to learn about the online world, I recommend listening to good entrepreneur podcasts like Smart Passive Income or my own The Greg Hung Show. Learn who the authority is in your particular field and see if they have a blog, online courses or books you can learn from. For example, I leveled up my stock footage game reading the stock footage millionaire. In turn when I gained experience flying drones and filming with other travel-friendly cameras and gaining stock footage success I created my own courses. Chiang Mai is a great destination to learn the basics in online marketing like landing pages, sales-funnels, and landing pages.
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