Working As We Travel: How We Became Digital Nomads

Work and travel can go hand in hand -- if you do it right. We thought we'd share some of the tricks we use to earn money while we travel the world, as digital nomads.


A year ago while sitting in our apartment in San Francisco, we never would have thought that we could travel around the world, living in a different city every few weeks and still earn a living. However, just because we're traveling does not mean we are "on vacation" -- Even though sometimes our "office" is a cabana on the beach in Indonesia. Though we will admit that it can sometimes be tough to get motivated to sit down and work when all we want to do is go out and explore a new place. But, without a doubt, this lifestyle does beat working in an office monday - friday from 9 to 5! 

Not too long ago we participated in an interview with Business Insider regarding our work style and gave some of our personal tips and tricks for working while traveling around the world. We thought we would share a little more about our process and go into more detail about how we work as digital nomads. 


How do we earn money while traveling?


I help businesses plan, design, and launch websites and web applications. This includes everything from helping to figure out what the product will do, the strategy, what features it will include, the design, and how its’ implemented. 

I also maintain a web application I founded a few years ago called which allows users to create price alerts for any product sold on Amazon. Basically when the price drops on a particular item, you get an email letting you know. 


I work with businesses to help identify their social media strategy and get it going, or to help them get back on track with actionable content. This includes everything from coaching employees and giving them tools and feedback to actually creating and designing social profiles for companies. I also do marketing design - creating banners, landing pages and other marketing collateral for a handful of clients.


Danika working in the living room of our villa in Ubud, Bali


How often do we work?

We both work anywhere from 20-40 hours a week, depending on our work load and travel schedules. Before taking on new clients & new business we look at our schedules, incoming projects and open projects to see if it's realistic to take on more work. If it's not, we politely say no and are okay with this method. This also insures we stay on schedule and don't over promise.

In another sense we also work nonstop; as we are both very passionate about our blog and are always taking photos, editing content, writing, etc.

It's not uncommon for us to take 1,500 (or more) pictures each month! 


What are the disadvantages of working while traveling? 


While we were in Bali the wifi connection on some of the smaller islands was really bad -- if we we're even able to get a connection at all! This made video conference calls, uploading photos to Instagram, or even just checking email almost impossible. However since sometimes there is just nothing that can be done to fix it, I have learned to just take “vacation” while traveling to some of the more remote areas of the world. 


Although I prefer working remote, I have always been a “face to face” marketing girl so for me it’s been more difficult to make the transition to being a digital nomad.  Also I love to print out things and keep files, journals, planners and editorial calendars, which is pretty impossible to do while traveling.. I miss my white board wall!

Getting clients in the beginning was difficult. They were used to seeing me around, and had never worked with someone 100% remotely. My experience is in the design, hospitality and retail industries, which typically aren't as tech ready as the industry Chris works in. Honestly, letting go of past relationships was also hard. Some of the people that I used to work with just weren't ready for Skype calls and emails. 


How has travel changed how we work?


My days are pretty much the same as they were when I was was working from my home office in San Francisco. I just need to make sure I get the time difference correct when scheduling conference calls, or returning emails.. Even before our trip, I always worked with just a laptop, so basically any place I can site down, I can work. Though personally, I've found that I love working on trains, but for some reason hate working on airplanes. Go figure.


I am still getting used to working 100% remotely. I haven’t mastered the way to effectively show my thoughts 100% digitally, as I'm used to having visual graphics printed out and nice portfolios to make a presentation. Even though I am trying to get better at being more digital I still have my notebook and different colored pens with me. Sometimes I think I'll always be part pen & paper girl.


Tip & tricks for working while you travel

  • Make sure you have a comfortable place to work: When we first started looking at apartments on Airbnb, the thought of having a desk and comfortable chair/ work area didn’t even cross our minds. Now this is one of the “must haves” when looking for a place. Not having a comfortable work space is really difficult and makes for crabby work hours. Personally, we also insist that the chairs have backs. It may seem like a small thing, but sit on a chair without a way to learn back for 8 hours and your fell like getting up and hurling it across the room.

  • Always have Internet: Even if it's just knowing what cafe in the area has free WIFI, or having a data plan for your smartphone -- which is perfect in case the wifi in your apartment fails, or you have a 4 hour train ride. You should also learn how to "tether" your computer so that you can get your computer online using your smartphone.
  • Know what time it is: We keep a bunch of clocks set to different important timezones (Paris, New York, San Francisco) so that way we always know what time it is in different places. Don't be late for a phone call with a client because you mixed up the timezone conversion, that just in-excusable!
  • Keep a journal: Danika likes to keep a planner that she can write addresses in, travel info, to-dos, etc. You know writing things down on paper can be useful incase we ever lose our phone, and our iPad, and our computer, and our other computer, and then the internet breaks and we can't access any of our stuff on the cloud. So we play it safe, like a couple of luddites, and write important stuff down.
  • Stay organized: This is a matter of personal preference as one man's idea of "organization" can be another's anal-retentive OCD nightmare, but we hate to have to "search" for something when we need it, whether that's a charger, cord, batter pack, pencil, whatever -- we keep a dedicated bag that has all of our work related stuff in it -- which makes it really easy to find the stuff we rely on each day!

Even in Shanghai, China were still checking emails :-)

Do you work remotely? Are you a digital nomad? Share your tricks working remotely in the comments below!