Digital & Life Nomad

As a self employed husband and father of 3 children it has taken me many years to finally realise that what I have been striving for is what I’m going to call a Life Nomad:

A person who has given themselves the freedom to make full use of their skills to live the life of their choosing wherever this may be with integrity

The above definition is the best I can come up with after one of the most turbulent years of my life but best sums up how I feel MY life should be lived. During this time I have lived as a part time Digital Nomad utilising several coworking spaces in Europe (see here) in an effort to try and appease my wanderlust whilst balancing this with helping my amazing wife to raise our family at home in the UK. I am now writing this and think some background to all this might be useful…

A (NOT SO) BRIEF HISTORY OF (MY) TIME TRAVELLING 67,000 MILES PER HOUR AROUND OUR SUN FOR THE LAST 37 YEARS….

I hadn’t left the UK until I was 17 years old in 1997 which was when I had saved up enough cash to book a 7 night ‘package holiday’ to Tenerife at the local travel agent BEFORE you could do it on this new internet thing as my family didn’t drive, didn’t have much cash and were pretty ‘dysfunctional’ to put it mildly! However growing up I had ALWAYS had an inner wanderlust and once I had escaped Blighty albeit very briefly all those years ago, I was inspired to make plans to try and see as much of the World as I could. Not fancying a career in the armed forces and no other real options that interested me at 18 I applied for an IT degree at the local University as I enjoyed my time using computers at college whilst also working part time jobs to save cash so I could get away at least once a year. Whilst at University I went out of my way to take a Japanese language course and even contemplated being a holiday rep of some sort abroad in order to be able work and live elsewhere but life had other plans for me.

Marriage

I met my wife whilst I was at University and we both settled down after I graduated into a great life with each other for several years. This led me to proposing to my then girlfriend but I can vividly remember our conversation one night where we both had this horrible realisation that once we got married it was “Kids… then death!” To counter this we both realised there must be more to life than this next ‘sensible’ step and had many late night discussions about how we could organise our lives so we could go out and explore the World like younger people did on ‘Gap Years’.

Around this time, I read a random post on a lazy Sunday morning whilst browsing a mobile phone forum which sounded like a pyramid scheme but was in fact all to do with affiliate marketing. In simple terms, if you could get people onto your web site and click your special affiliate links you could get paid commission for any sales that resulted from these special clicks. This was a eureka moment for me as after leaving University with spectacularly bad timing, just after the .com boom and subsequent bust I hadn’t really found much to put my IT skills into that interested me a lot. Now with a computer and some time teaching myself about it all there was a way of earning money whilst I slept!

I contacted the owner of the main site who provided the data and launched my own mobile phone comparison web site whilst also getting odd jobs fixing people’s computers and making web sites outside my safe and steady IT job at a local college. Based on the first few months of sales from this site and the day job getting progressively worse during a ‘amalgamation’ with another FE College I made the HUGE decision to go self employed.

Having survived going it alone for several months I figured I could earn some cash whilst working remotely as we travelled and proposed to my wife we could maybe give the whole seeing the World thing a go. This was 2004 and still very early days of WiFi / mobile internet but being a bit of a risk taker I thought it was a risk worth taking – you only live once right!?

Thankfully she agreed and empowered by taking this decision to go see the World we asked family and friends to NOT buy us any of the standard wedding tat for our upcoming wedding but if they wanted to give us something then please direct any cash they were going to spend to our Round The World ticket fund. Due to having AMAZING friends and family and sacrificing the usual toasters etc they actually fully paid for one of our tickets which helped massively. My wife then told her employer the plans and as she worked her notice we also put our flat up for sale. Selling the flat seemed like another crazy decision to a lot of people but part by luck but more by my horror watching the UK housing market increases year on year it seemed like the best option to bank any money that we had ‘made’ and keep this as a back up emergency fund whilst we were away.

After selling as many of our possessions as we could, signing the flat over to our buyers we set off with the last few possessions in 2 back packs each and boarded a plane to Japan less than a year after deciding there had to be more to life than what we had….

July 2006

Our original route around the World – child free

I was now effectively a ‘digital nomad’ in 2006 managing several of my own web sites and clients via a Pocket PC (Windows) Phone over pre 3G using WAP / GPRS with an international data roaming sim card whilst my wife and I travelled around the World!

I had to buy a laptop for work a few months into our travels!

We kept a blog via a specialist travel site as Facebook was still in it’s infancy and I didn’t really want to use that. This blog was a great way to record our thoughts and keep family and friends informed of what we were up to when we managed to find WiFi connections or using an infrequent WAP / GPRS signal on the above XDA Exec!

Travelling was AMAZING and as soon as I landed in Japan I realised I had never felt as alive and happy as this. We had some tricky moments along the way like…

  • Running out of cash in Australia and taking turns to lick free vegemite tubs we had kept from our last hostel whilst driving a very basic camper van.
  • Nearly being kidnapped in India by the military police and their friends when we wouldn’t pay their bribe for ‘gambling’ on the train to Agra.
  • Nearly dying on the roads of Peru in icy conditions when our coach skidded off the road narrowly missing another coach and a steep mountain side
  • Having to make an emergency landing in Lima with all the emergency vehicles waiting on the runway as we wobbled back to the airport when 1 of the two engines of our plane failed.

However it was ALL worth it as you can see from some of our photos – click on them to see them in more detail 🙂

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Oh and we also made good use of that flat sale money by buying a house off the local baker who had some sort of squatter rights to the land on a dream island in Thailand called Koh Tao! This meant we cut short our 12 months around the World to ‘only’ 9 months as we wanted to head back to the UK to sort out some of our affairs and see friends and family before we went back to live in our new Thai house.  I was going to continue  to work remotely and my wife planned to set up the first child care facility on the island…

Risk worth taking…

Best made plans

6 weeks or so into our new life in Thailand, my wife carried out a pregnancy test and we realised she was 8 weeks pregnant! After confirming this by travelling to the neighbouring Koh Samui where they had an actual proper hospital and ultrasound machine via a 2 hour ferry we had to rethink our life plans AGAIN. As this was our first child we decided to head back to the UK ‘temporarily’ due to the lack of proper hospitals and rented a flat back home whilst we waited to welcome our first born into our World. Around this time my father also died so it was ‘lucky’ we were in the UK so I could be with him during his last few months 🙁

Our son was born but our care free, adventurous spirit had waned somewhat due to being back in the UK and dealing with the rigours of parenting however we were both still fairly young (28 years or so) and felt we still had unfinished business in terms of travelling. With our dream house now luckily rented out we made plans to try and live in Asia again starting in Hong Kong where I would again work remotely and we would use that as a base to explore Asia further like a digital nomad family.

After telling friends and family our plans we then realised we were about to become parents again so decided to try and settle down for at least another 12 months in the UK! Our first daughter was born and at aged just 3 months we took her and her 18 month year old brother back to our house in Koh Tao to see if we could just maybe make it work for our new family. Unfortunately after much soul searching and deliberation we decided Koh Tao wasn’t the place we could personally raise our children so asked the local real estate people to try and sell the house for us and headed back to the UK 🙁

Amazingly, we got a buyer for our house not long afterwards which enabled us to bring some cash back to the UK, put a deposit down on a proper ‘family home’ and we settled for another 12 months or so before we started planning our next adventure…

This time we headed off for a 6 week adventure, taking in Singapore, Australia (inc 4 weeks touring Tasmania in a motorhome) and Hong Kong on the way back just as our daughter turned 2 years old. This was a mild attempt at wondering if we could maybe start a new life in Australia or Tasmania but again we decided that they weren’t quite the right options for us as a family.

2011-2017

We again tried settling back in the UK, did several standard life things such as moving up the house ladder whilst also managing to create another amazing child but after all of our adventures all 3 of my children had ended up being schooled in the same primary school I attended!

So now, finally after being pretty static for 6 years and before our eldest heads off to high school, my family and I are currently planning to head off, initially around Europe sometime in 2018 and Worldschool / Roadschool the kids whilst I try to pick up being a full time digital nomad again via my web development work and show the children what an AMAZING World we live in 🙂

Follow some of our adventures via my blog here…