Around the world,  Digital nomad,  TDM

18 months of Digital Nomad

It’s been a long time since we wrote a review on the blog. On the occasion of our 18 months of digital nomadism, I take this opportunity to make a mini-balance sheet of our journey and especially the lessons we have learned from it

Reminder: We came back to France in May 2017 after 11 months of “vacation” world tour and thanks to our former colleagues and acquaintances who did not forget us, we were able to quickly sign contracts (in SEA and SEO), allowing us to continue to travel while working In 18 months, we stayed an average of 1 month per country. A duration clearly insufficient to take full advantage of it. For the last few months, we have been staying 1 month and a half per country. This is neither too long nor too short, it allows us to have interesting monthly Airbnb fares (up to -50%) but also to go on long weekends in the nearby cities.

Top & Flop Destinations

Among the cities we visited, we will give you our top 4 and our flop 3

TOP 4: These are the cities that really make us want to come back

Krakow (Poland)

  • Why we like : Krakow is an extremely pleasant city, close to everything, very quiet and pretty. Polish people are really very very nice, but even more so in a small town like Krakow. Sense of absolute security. You can leave your wallet on the table while going to the toilet without having it stolen.
  • Cost of living: very low (we are talking about 750€/month in Airbnb, half less if you stay long, and 3€/meal/person).
  • Internet: possibility to have unlimited Internet, fiber optics (question to be asked to airbnb). A lot of cafés where you can stay and work for hours.
  • For more information, read our travel diaries in Poland

Osaka (Japan)

  • Why we like : Incredible gastronomy, Japanese people are so adorable, nice, polite. We also love to spend our life in the onsens and sentos of the district, a kind of cheap thermal spa (3€). Feeling of absolute safety (a real world of teddy bears as we dreamed of it). If I walk on the feet of someone, this person is going to bend and to apologize for having been on my way (I exaggerate but it is almost that). I preferred Osaka to Tokyo.
  • Cost of living: Housing is very expensive (70€/night) but you can eat cheaply if you wish in the small canteens (4€/meal/person). Lunch menu is very affordable.
  • Internet: optical fiber, but not necessarily unlimited. You must make sure that your airbnb is equipped with a wired connection and not just a 3G key. Wifi not very developed in the cafés.
  • To find out more, read our 1.5 month review in Japan.

Istanbul (Turkey)

  • Why we like: Gastronomic richness, cultural richness, beautiful landscapes, adorable people, lots of wild cats in the street. Sense of security at all hours (even when being a woman and walking alone at night).
  • Cost of living: Not easy to find a good airbnb in Istanbul because the pictures are all ugly. But we were able to find one, too nice for 700€/month. The Turkish Lira is devalued, our purchasing power is huge in Turkey at the moment (check it out, it’s constantly going up and down). Lots of small restaurants with ready meals, we easily manage for 2,5€/meal/person.
  • Internet: not great. Download 4mbps max. Upload 1mbps max. It’s enough to make calls and work but it lacks a little comfort. Lots of cafes where you can work and where the connection is better (but you have to pay regularly for drinks)
  • For more information, read our Istanbul guide here

Hoi An (Vietnam)

  • Why we like : The city is too pretty, big enough not to get bored, but small enough to do everything by bike. Proximity with several beaches, rice fields, proximity with a big seaside resort (Da Nang). Customized clothing available within 24 hours. Delicious and cheap food. Life is so simple. Excellent security vs. the big Vietnamese cities.
  • Cost of living: 650€/month in a 3-star hotel. That says it all! Meals at 2€/person on average.
  • Internet: unlimited, high speed (ADSL but not yet fiber optic everywhere).
  • To learn more, read our guide for Hoi An here

Flop 3

Seoul (South Korea)

Why are we disappointed? Stressful, weird atmosphere. Oversold country (nothing to do with the Korean series we watch). Difficult to find good restaurants without speaking Korean (Google Maps isn’t a big help there). Food much too spicy. Shopping is however very satisfying

Bucharest (Romania)

Why are we disappointed? city too ugly, food too bad. Too much cat-calling. Feeling of permanent insecurity (as a woman). We should have gone to Transylvania actually

Chiang Mai (Thailand)

Life is ultra easy there, the food is delicious (but not very varied), the massages are cheap. It’s nice but we had higher expectations and didn’t understand the digital nomads’ infatuation for this destination (Chiang Mai is considered as “the capital” of digital nomadism). The city is rather polluted and there isn’t even a lol beach

TOP 10 experiments (in chronological order)

  1. Visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland
  2. Tour of the world of thermal baths, hammams: in Budapest (Hungary), mud bath in Eforie (Romania), onsens and sentos in Japan, jjimjilbangin South Korea, Turkish bathsin Istanbul
  3. Spend a day off the beaten track in Angkor, Cambodia
  4. Getting custom-made clothes made in Hoi An in Vietnam
  5. Admire the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Japan
  6. Explosion of Flavor: Eat Kobe Beef… in Kobe, Japan and enjoy a delicious raw crab marinatedin Seoul, South Korea
  7. Bringing our cat Rosalie on vacation to Trans Sur Erdre in France
  8. Climbing 4 peaks over 4000 meters at Monte Rosa in Italy
  9. Fly over the Cappadocia region in a hot air balloon in Göreme, Turkey
  10. Our 12 days of vacations in Egypt: luxury cruise on the Nile (boat for 4 people), visit of the pyramids & temples

TOP 5 unplanned experiments (in chronological order)

  1. Crossing readers of our blog by chance in a café, after missing the plane in Luang Prabang (Laos)
  2. Experience the 4th earthquake of our lives in Chiang Mai
  3. Chance to meet 4 geishas in a cab in Kyoto (Japan)
  4. Being completely naked, surrounded by yakuzas (the Japanese mafia) in a sento in Osaka, Japan
  5. 6:30 am : Gettingstepped on by a horde of instagrammers in Göreme (Turkey)

Sightseeing, Work, Sleep…

After 18 months, we were able to set up a small routine, whatever the country. Our days are organized as follows

  • Me: I work 2 to 3 (fixed) days a week from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. The rest of the time, I blog, organize our visits and long weekends. I read, self-study or learn new foreign languages.
  • JB : Wakes up early to go to the gym. JB works almost every day (even weekends) for his clients, and takes care of the administrative procedures for our company => 4h to 10h of work/day. Little nap at noon.

When he wants to take a break, we go out to visit a monument, then we go back home. We also leave on long weekends (from Thursday to Sunday) when there is something to visit. During the extended weekend, JB does not work. We cook very very little and eat most of the time in bui bui or restaurants. It’s a choice on our part, to discover the local specialties and not to waste time cooking (it’s not our passion at all )

We are much less busy than before. If JB works so much, it’s because he chose to do it. He loves his work
If I work so little, it’s because I didn’t want to work more, even though I love my job, I also want to devote my time to other activities

We finally took “real” vacations three times, during the last week of the year (1 week), the ascent of Mont Blanc Rose (2 weeks) and our stay in Egypt (12 days). The rest of the time, we work like everyone else despite our atypical lifestyle

What we have learned from working at a distance

Working remotely for our customers remains a constraint. To compensate, we impose on ourselves an exemplary rigor and a flawless reactivity. For example, being on time all the time for calls (it’s stupid but a lot of people don’t do it). The time difference or time change are also to be taken into account, it’s so easy to make a mistake of one or two hours because of that); communicate clearly on what we have done/not done/planned to do…; answer quickly and clearly to the emails we receive..

It is necessary to be more present and reactive than an ordinary freelance who is in France. And more professional & competent than a big agency

Being at a distance and being cut off from a large structure also means being more awake. In a large structure, there is often more training and exchanges. Monitoring is done more naturally, just by talking with our colleagues. Being freelance and at a distance like us, we have to redouble our efforts to be on the lookout for all the new developments

When talking with nomadic colleagues, some consider nomadism to be a hindrance and do not dare to talk about it to their clients, but in our case, we have always considered it to be our strong point. It’s our way of life, it’s the DNA of our company, it’s what differentiates us from other freelancers. If potential clients don’t like it, too bad, we don’t want to work with them 😀

Our resources

Since our beginning of digital nomadism, we started from a long term contract with one client each (that is to say we have visibility over several months), to a long term contract each and a few small punctual contracts left to right. Thanks to our long term contracts, we not only have peace of mind, but also the possibility to choose the punctual projects that really interest us. Without the pressure of having to find new contracts every month. It’s a real luxury but it’s still precarious, our contracts can be interrupted at any time and we can lose a very significant part of our turnover overnight. This is why we have created a “safety mattress” that allows us to see a few months coming in case of a hard blow

All leads come from former colleagues, friends or acquaintances and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. Thanks to their help, we have been able to continue to travel and live the life we have. We are fortunate that we don’t need to do business prospecting. Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

As in all companies, there are off-peak periods without leads and periods where we receive 1 lead per day. Usually nothing happens in the summer, and everyone wakes up suddenly before Christmas

Our (net) resources are significantly greater than when we were employees. However, if we take into account the absence of retirement (we have to create it by ourselves), the unpaid leaves, the private health insurance to have, the absence of unemployment in case of trouble, … it amounts to almost the same thing. But our quality of life has clearly improved because we have a great purchasing power living in poorer countries (it is necessary to count between 2000€ to 2500€/month all inclusive for two living very very well, long weekends included). Cf. the comparison here vs. a sedentary life

Certainly, the three months in South Korea and Japan made a big hole in the budget, but this was largely compensated by other cheap countries like Vietnam, Cambodia or Poland. Moreover, in case of a hard blow (loss of a big customer), we can easily reduce our expenses by staying several months in South-East Asia

In short, we earn more or less the same, working a little less (for JB), a lot less (for me ) and having a much cooler living environment 🙂

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