How This Management Consultant from the UK Became a Nomad Based in Thailand

Nomad Ellen Bard

I’m Ellen and I do a few things. Firstly, I’m a freelance Chartered work psychologist and management consultant, and I do assignments in countries from Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, Qatar, and many others. I have a personal development website where I focus on the intersection of productivity and self-care, and I write romance.

I’m originally from the UK, and visit there a couple of times a year, and base myself out of Thailand. From there, I travel, and also use my freelance work for opportunities to spend time in new places. (I’m writing this on a plane from London to Dubai).

How and why did you become a nomad?

Before taking a sabbatical and ending up in South East Asia, I was a full time management consultant in the UK for 10 or so years. I met a number of people with non-standard careers, including various digital nomads, and it inspired me to try something different.

Nomad Ellen Bard

Why is having a nomadic life important for you?

Seeing so many countries, both traveling and working, has been really eye-opening for me, and I hope helped me to get perspective on some of the small stuff I struggle with, as well as giving me a greater respect and understanding for different cultures. Plus, I have seen some amazing sights — from Angkor Wat, to the Great Pyramids, to the Rockies. I have met fascinating people of all nationalities, and have friends all over the world. I think the smaller the world is for you, the more you realize that your own culture and what you grew up with is only one of many ways of being in the world. I hope it has helped with my tolerance and open-mindedness.

What have been the most difficult parts of being a nomad?

When you travel a lot, and spend time with others who travel a lot, it can be hard to sustain friendships and relationships. You also often have to be the one to drive some of the friendships you want to keep from your country of origin, as many people won’t really understand your lifestyle, or resonate with it. Some countries are more challenging than others – China, for example, I’m never quite sure I’m doing the right thing. I think a smile and patience go a long way in most places, and remembering that it’s going to be different, and different doesn’t mean better or worse.

Nomad Ellen Bard

Where do you live as a nomad?

Depends on where I am. AirBnB, hotels, friends are all places I stay, and in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I keep a place all year round (despite staying there less than half the year on and off). For the first couple of years, I didn’t have any home base, but I realized that even though I have very limited possessions, carrying only what I need, and leaving some things in a base has been a lot less stressful, and Chiang Mai is very reasonable in terms of rentals.

Where do you usually work?

Mostly, I work in cafes, or sometimes the room / apartment I’m in. I go to co-working spaces sometimes, but usually I prefer cafes. I would say most nomads will tell you that Wi-Fi is the biggest challenge – finding consistent, fast Wi-Fi can be a real challenge.

How do you build a social life as a nomad?

It’s easy to have a social life, but it’s hard to build long-term friendships and relationships. Meetup.com and Facebook groups have a ton of places to meet new people, and events happening, but in order to have longer term relationships of any sort, it takes more work than it does when you’re in one place all the time and so are the friends.

Nomad Ellen Bard

How do you bring your things with you?

Well, I have three different sized wheeled suitcases, which weren’t bought for brand, but because they seemed solid and had four wheels and can be moved around easily. I don’t carry a backpack because I have chronic pain and it would kill me lifting that kind of weight. I try to travel as light as possible wherever I can. I also carry a large handbag, which fits my tech in easily. And that is waterproof (it was actually made by my mum!) and yes, I think having at least one waterproof bag if you carry any kind of technology with you is critical.

I only really use a very large suitcase when I go between UK and Chiang Mai, if I am moving stuff between countries, and the bag mum made, which contains laptop and other tech, and is my carry on.

What kind of gear do you bring with you?

My most important possessions are my iPhone 6s, my Kindle, my Bose Q20 in-ear headphones, and my tiny 2016 MacBook. With these, I basically have an office and entertainment in my handbag (yes, the laptop goes in my handbag). I don’t own too many physical possessions.

Nomad Ellen Bard

What is your best advice for new nomads?

I think a lot of nomads underestimate the loneliness of being a nomad, and the exhaustion of so much travel and nights on the road. It’s not for everyone. I did maybe 120 flights last year, and this year it’s August and I am coming up on 80. It can be pretty tiring.

I strongly suggest having a good few months of savings and a realistic budget plan with a good 10% just-in-case money. As well as a good plan for how you’re going to earn money. The places you go will have wildly differing budget-needs – the States versus Indonesia for example would be a huge differential. So start somewhere you can afford, while you build up your business.

And pack as little as possible!

Nomad Ellen Bard

What will the future bring?

I’ve just opened my self-care toolkit course again (open 1-8 Sept http://www.ellenbard.com/selfcare-toolkit/), and I hope to get my next novel out before the end of the year (ellenbardauthor.com).

Also, I’ve just opened up guest posts on my travel blog (whereverthewindtakesme.com) and my next consulting assignment is in Qatar in a couple of weeks. And that’s just for starters… See you on the road!


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