How to Stop Being Stuck in One Place, so You Can Get a Location Independent Career

Modern jobs need nothing more than a laptop and a stable internet connection, giving you the privilege to live your life and work as and where you please.

In this interview, digital nomad Milena Dawidzionek explains how you too can get a location independent career, become a digital nomad and get a chance to travel the world!

Read on and find out how to become a digital nomad, how to have a social life as a digital nomad, plus find out the best gear for digital nomads!

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Milena. I come from Poland where I grew up and graduated with a degree in English and Russian studies. After college, I moved to Georgia — the little country in the Caucasus region, to help at an NGO. Now, I work as a translator and copywriter. Also, I have a blog focused on life as a digital nomad.

I’m happy to be able to call myself location independent. Currently, I’m traveling through Southeast Asia. I stay in one place for a month or so, trying to live as a local and working remotely.

My hobbies include traveling, especially slow travel, foreign languages (they’ve been my huge passion since childhood), and photography. I’m currently focusing on improving my photography skills, and it is so much fun.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

How and why did you become a nomad?

I got my first freelance projects in 2010 when I was still in college. I was just a broke student who wanted to travel a bit during my summer break. As I was living outside of the city and transportation between my place and the city was quite limited, I decided to check out some ways to get a remote job.

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought at the beginning. I applied for a few job offers on different freelance platforms, and soon I’d received my first project. My first client asked me to write some simple articles for his website. One article led to another. I earned enough money to go for two weeks to Italy and France. When I came back, I was still working for the same client and getting other offers.

Today, I’m self-employed. I wouldn’t switch it for anything. I always wanted to be location independent instead of being stuck in one place.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

Why is having a nomadic life important to you?

Being a digital nomad gives me so much freedom. Today I can wake up in one location, and tomorrow I can be in a totally different place. When I travel, I spend as much time as possible with locals, as I believe it’s the best way to get to know a new place. Local people share stories with you that you’ll never learn at any school.

From another aspect, traveling for me is an excellent opportunity to learn more about myself. Being exposed to something new every day allows me to face my fears and find ways to overcome them. You can’t achieve that when you are constantly in your comfort zone and, in my opinion, traveling often pushes you to leave it.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

What have been the hardest parts of having a nomadic life?

We are so bound to all kinds of cultural expectations — we are told to finish at a university if we want to have a good job, or to focus on polishing our CV because one year or two of travel doesn’t look very appealing.

Many people seem to worry too much instead of following their heart. You can easily combine most things with travel.

We live in a digital age, which is full of opportunities. Online courses, even free ones, are a great source of knowledge. You can easily enroll in them and even receive certificates when you finish. You just need a stable Internet connection. There are even some universities, such as the University of Malmo, that offer free Bachelor and Master remote studies for citizens of the European Union/ European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland.

If you’re going to be a digital nomad, be prepared that many people won’t understand you. They will only see all those beautiful photos that you post on your social media. They will actually never see what’s behind them — how many hours you have spent on your laptop to finish your projects to be able to have one day off. Or even how much you still need to do.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

Where do you live as a nomad?

I usually stay in a guest house or in a rented apartment, mostly through Airbnb. I like to stay one month or longer, usually as long as the visa allows me.

Last month I spent in Bangkok; This month I’m in Penang (Malaysia), and I’m going to spend the next two months in Bali. I rarely cook here in South East Asia, especially now that I’m in Penang, which is the number 1 food destination, according to Lonely Planet. My taste buds are in heaven. The food in restaurants here is cheap, so I don’t have any remorse going out every day. Also, I’m staying in a guest house where the access to a kitchen is quite limited.

As a digital nomad, I sometimes miss my own bed and pillow. When you change places every month, you need to adapt to the new environment, food, or even view out the window. It can be quite challenging. But this is what I like a lot about my lifestyle — being exposed to something new all the time.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

Where do you usually work?

I don’t have a typical working day, but I’ve created some routines that keep my days balanced. I wake up with the sunrise every day, have a healthy breakfast and some time for myself, and then I focus on work.

I usually work for 4 hours in the morning, then take a break, and then I work another 3 or 4 hours in the evening. Of course, there are days when I work much more if I want to have off the entire next day. But even when I work more than 8 hours a day, I make sure to slow down with work the next day. Balance is really important as you still need to have time and energy to go out and explore all those new places.

Most of my clients come from Europe, which means there is some time difference when we communicate. They often send me emails when I sleep, so I can’t answer them immediately. But I don’t treat it as an issue. I just turn my phone on silent mode, so all those notifications don’t wake me up.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

How do you build a social life as a nomad?

When you move from one place to another as a digital nomad, after some time you realize how small the world is. Your friends are basically in every part of it. Even when you say goodbye to them, you know that sooner or later you will meet each other again. You just don’t know when and where, but most probably you will cross paths again.

When I want to go out and meet new people, I often use a local Facebook group for digital nomads. There are many meetups posted. Even when there aren’t any, I just create a post and ask: “Hey, what’re you up to tonight? Would you like to go out and eat something / drink a coffee / hike / party / etc.?” This is an easy way to meet like-minded people — digital nomads will understand you better than any other travelers.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

How do you finance your nomadic life?

The biggest expense is for a place to stay. Then comes flight or train tickets and possibly visas, as I move from one place to another every month or so. My budget depends on the cost of living in each country. But I try to keep my expenses low — eat where locals eat, do more free activities like hiking or going to the beach, and avoid touristic traps.

The good thing is that I have very limited space in my backpack. So even if I want to buy that beautiful dress or another pair of shoes, I simply don’t do it as I don’t want to carry an additional item that I will only use a few times.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

What kind of gear do you bring with you?

I travel with a 90L backpack. It might look huge, but I don’t need to worry about squeezing in all my things. Plus when you travel long term, you need to have a wide variety of clothes, shoes and other items — warm jacket, light jacket, summer clothes, hiking shoes, sandals, flip-flops. Everything adds up.

Besides that, I have an additional small backpack for going out. When I travel, I treat it as a carry-on for all my electronic equipment. It includes a laptop (MacBook Air), a camera (Canon D700 + Sigma 250mm lens + tripod), GoPro Hero 5, Kindle Paperwhite 3, and plenty of cables and chargers. I am quite an electronics geek, but I really can’t imagine traveling without those items.

What has been your best gear purchase under $100?

Huawei tripod! Like this one.

I’ve found it’s the best tripod for your mobile phone. Works not only with Huawei phones but also with iPhones and many other brands. It’s light and small, so I can easily carry it in my purse. It doesn’t need Bluetooth as you simply connect it to your phone via a cable, so you don’t need to charge it.

It can act as a tripod (very useful when you travel alone or want to take a longer video) or a selfie stick.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

What is your best advice for new nomads?

Know what you want and follow your own path. Be persistent in what you do. The more you work, the faster you get where you want to be on your professional path. Don’t be afraid to take on a new challenging job, but make sure you really enjoy what you do. As a result, you will treat it as a fun way to spend your time rather than a duty you just need to fulfill.

Guy Kawasaki said, “Ideas are easy, implementation is hard.” If you really focus on something, you are going to achieve it. It’s just a matter of time.

Nomad Milena Dawidzionek

What will the future bring?

I have no idea. I rarely plan as I prefer to see what the next months will bring. For now, I know that I’m going to spend the next two months in Bali. After that? A year from now? How long will I lead my nomadic life? Those are very open questions.

Right now, I want to explore Asia and diversify my sources of income. My dream is also to make my blog an inspiring resource for digital nomads. This is what I work hard on these days and what brings me much satisfaction.

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