When you’re procrastinating on a deadline or trying to keep yourself from nodding off in yet another meeting you weren’t needed at, thumbing your way through Instagram is a solid distraction. But when you land on a photo of your long-lost pal from college who is–somehow!–filing her work from Bali on a Monday and Chiang Mai on a Friday, your jealousy might overtake your boredom.
Considering more than 35% of the U.S. workforce is freelance, working for yourself while traveling the world might not be as farfetched of a dream as it once seemed. For many digital nomads, seeing the world has become less of a pipe dream and more of the means for their lifestyle. In fact, many bring home an income, teetering above–and even doubling or tripling–six figures.
Here, traveling professionals who have figured out how to be successful on the road (or the plane or the train) share their impressive stories and best advice.
“Travel Makes You Productive”
Nicole Faith was happily working at Squarespace helping small business owners ideate and build their websites. The company allowed her to work from home, and that flexibility spurred her to take on freelance clients, realizing her skill set translated easily to solo-preneurism.
But mastering the pull and tug of a full-time role with a side gig proved to be mentally taxing, so Faith took a two-week trip to destress. It ended up changing everything: She discovered an appetite for solo travel and made it her mission to never work set hours again. After quitting her full-time gig, she took to the road and now runs her own website design and branding company–10-Carat Creations–with an annual income of between $150,000 and $200,000.
To make this shift possible, Faith says you have to be self-motivated. It helps that her view is no longer an office cubicle or her living room, but some of the most beautiful sights in the world. “I’m much more efficient as a digital nomad because there’s no time to waste when you’re somewhere spectacular for a short period of time. I want to get my work done in the most productive way possible, which has led me to systemizing and automating,” she says. “Success can happen in weeks or months. You have to be willing to put in the unpaid hours to reap the rewards later on. Your attitude toward making a lot of money online should be, ‘Why not me?'”
“Don’t Be Afraid To Talk To Strangers”
When Ryan Murphy tipped his cap at high school graduation, he knew two things for certain: He wanted to work for himself, and he didn’t want to go into tens of thousands of dollars in debt. After working several different odd jobs, he started working for Enagic, a Japanese company that produces medical-grade Alkaline water units. Since his work didn’t require him to be situated at a desk between nine and five, he decided to take his work on the road so he could travel the U.S. He bought an Amtrak rail pass and managed to not only see 29 states in 28 days—from Austin and Dallas to Cleveland and New York City—and he came home with a lot more money since he wasn’t paying rent.
These days, he’s a nomadic entrepreneur, Enagic distributor, and investor who has made between $134,000 and $356,000 annually over the past four years. His advice to aspiring globetrotting professionals is to exercise your social skills to build relationships. Not only is striking up conversations—business-related or otherwise—beneficial in maintaining his on-the-go career, but it’s resulted in new friends in 34 of the 50 states.
“Don’t Give Up On Your Passion”
While Jenaya Robinson, a first-grade teacher and single mom, used to love the reward of the classroom and the summers off, her lifelong wanderlust tempted her to carve out a different path that would set her and her son up for success—and freedom. With the little time she had between balancing her job responsibilities and raising a kid, Robinson tapped into her graphic design skills to create teaching materials for overworked teachers on her site, Lesson Plan Diva. Within a year, she was making six figures and selling her products to instructors around the world.
But as she watched her work circle the globe, her desire to travel heightened. She took a leap of faith and left her teaching job to put all of her energy into her online business. It was a serendipitous move that helped her realize how easy it was to marry travel and work. And she also got married, and her relationship with her new husband inspired her second company—Marry Me Magazines—which creates wedding stationary.
Today, Robinson and her partner and son have called Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, Scotland and other countries home, and they bring in between $150,000 to $200,000 a year.
To those who also feel unfulfilled by traditional office routines, Robinson recommends finding your passion—and sticking with it until it works. “Do something you love and keep doing it. Turn your passion into your business and make the world your office, that way you will love working every single day,” she says.
Robinson credits much of her fodder to the places she’s checked off her bucket list. “I incorporate a lot of the color and design palettes into my work that I see every day. I see so many different fabrics, art, and artifacts that become inspiration for my designs. There is so much to learn about different parts of the world, and I love incorporating that into my work whenever I can,” she adds.
“You Get Bolder As You Go”
Brad Chase, a managing partner at Chase Global Media Group, left his gig at a Fortune 500 company seven years ago. He not only craved more flexibility and passport stamps, but he was burnt out of what he calls the “red tape of corporate bureaucracy.” Since he’s made the move to communications, he’s earned an annual salary of $150,000 to $250,000 and was fortunate to partner with his former boss and U.S. ambassador to start a consulting company. He’s worked in more than 30 countries and 100 cities worldwide. In addition to this impressive travel, his company has grown, executing many high-profile, headline-making campaigns over the years.
Though he says it can be unsettling at first to be fully responsible for his own income, healthcare and everything else, he reassures wannabe digital nomads that when you hold your destiny in your hands, “You find the strength to be bolder and get better results.” The first move is figuring out where you can begin your business and not being afraid to jump in, knowing you’ll be able to make it through whatever ebbs and flows will inevitably come.
“It Teaches You How To Better Communicate”
After reading Tim Ferris’s famous 4-Hour Workweek, Kate Bagoy convinced her boss to allow her to try remote work. She proved that she could be productive on the road during a three-month trial period and was granted permission to work remotely full-time, so she moved cross country and spent 25% of her time traveling.
A few years later, she gave Remote Year—a program that helps professionals live and work abroad for 12 months—a chance, but ultimately left. The experience was enough for her to commit to the digital nomad lifestyle. She quit her job, sold all of her things, and has lived in 15 countries since 2017.
Today, she’s a business coach for entrepreneurs, a freelance designer, and the founder of Six Figure Freelancers, on track to make more than $300,000 in 2018. She credits her success to a shift in mind-set toward her career–and also raising her standards. As she reminds traveling professionals in the making: “You’ll get what you believe you can and deserve to get, regardless of whether you’re traveling or not.”
She encourages those who might feel like their industry is holding them back to remember that most roles can be performed outside of the office. “Unless you have to be in the same room with your clients, you can meet via video or phone. If you know how to market yourself and your business and create value in your role, nearly any position can be translated into a ‘workanywhere’ job, at least part time. And if you absolutely have to meet with someone in person, it’s just a good excuse for another trip,” she explains.
“Get Involved With The Digital Nomad Community”
Serial entrepreneur Steve Spiro become an international traveling digital nomad after his son gave him the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. After reading it, he realized his dream of seeing the world while running his business was attainable. Today, he’s moving countries every month while on Remote Year, reaping an income of more than $300,000. Though he’s struggled with balancing the wonder of seeing new continents and countries and also staying connected to clients in different time zones, he’s figured out how to manage his time effectively. What’s helped him make the move? The supportive community of the 50-plus other digital nomads he’s traveling with, and his effort to connect with the larger network of professionals who take their jobs with them.
Not only does trading crazy travel stories build friendships and your overall network, but Spiro says it can lead to other opportunities based on your nomadic lifestyle. “Digital nomads have made good money as guest speakers at workspaces, and have also earned consulting gigs from the local companies they have met. You might even find you have complementary skill sets, and that you can earn more money together,” he adds.