A big, warm welcome to Grace, a freelance filmmaker and communications professional. What started out as a backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, developed further into a shot at the digital nomad lifestyle, and ended up with place independent income and total freedom to travel the world. Grace was a skeptic at first, but it all turned out quite well for her. Let’s find out how she did it.
I decided to give the DN lifestyle a go, but I didn’t really believe that this whole digital nomad malarkey was legit.
You’re a freelance filmmaker and communications professional. Could you please go into more detail about the type of projects you’re involved with?
I had only done filmmaking for fun before I became a nomad, but becoming a nomad gave me the freedom to pursue my passion as my profession. I’ve been involved with filming local festivals, for example a South East Asian puppetry week with traditional puppets from eight countries, I’ve done promos for five star hotels and got to stay in their VIP rooms as payment. Got to participate in a Youtube day with some Malaysian Youtube stars that was super fun.
How do you find paid work?
- I’m a facebook fiend, I’ve found most of my work through joining groups and looking for listings.
- Cold emails not the most fun, but also been pretty successful.
- Business exhibitions and introducing myself.
What’s your story? How did you end up where you are today? What motivated you to live this lifestyle?
So, I spent six months backpacking through SE Asia and Japan and I met a wonderful American boy who was also a digital nomad. So, after a quick stint at home, it was back to Thailand to see him. I decided to give the DN lifestyle a go, but I didn’t really believe that this whole digital nomad malarkey was legit. I really struggled with believing that I could make money without a traditional career. But, I made 1.500 dollars my first month and haven’t looked back.
I move places every three or four months.
What are the best sides of living a digital nomad lifestyle?
The best side is TRAVEL and FREEDOM, to know I can wake up tomorrow and go wherever I want, that is just mind bogglingly wonderful to me. Second best is the personal and professional challenges. I’m growing at such a faster rate than at home. I’ve also found that I’ve been taking better care of my health, exercising and eating better, because of having more control over my schedule.
And the less glamorous ones?
Admin problems can be tiring, being abroad means doing routine finance or tax items can become very complicated. I’m not very good at dealing with this stuff even without this added hassle, so that can be wearing. When I first started, I decided I had to be generating enough income to sustain myself immediately, which I did. But that was pretty exhausting and definitely an unnecessary pressure I put on myself.
What’s your top tips for people that want to earn place independent income?
Facebook!!! Pretty much the entirety of my adult income, I would say definitely 95%, has come through jobs I’ve gotten on Facebook. Get on all the digital nomad groups and scour them every day, there will be lots of postings. Get on all the groups specific to your skills. Get on any platforms you can to get your name out there.
Do you have any tips for resources (web pages, books, courses etc.) for aspiring digital nomads?
To be honest, I’ve not really done much research on the digital nomad lifestyle.
Please mention some amazing places you’ve discovered lately that you definitely want to go back to.
Penang Malaysia is a really great place for nomads. We had a brilliant community when we were there. Penang is an island which has a population of over 1 million people so you get city and beach life there. A lot of the locals speak English fluently which meant that I was able to really integrate with the local community. I even ran a project with a filmmaker I met there after I left. The only downside to Penang is the wifi access is generally terrible but there is one really excellent beautiful co-working space with good wifi and it’s cheap too. Here’s a wee video I made for them if you fancy checking it out.
Do you think this type of work and lifestyle is possible in the long run? How would you balance it with starting a family?
100%, I move places every three or four months and I’d imagine eventually I’ll have a hub, a place I return to every year for prolonged periods. I don’t want children, so perhaps that makes it easier for me to see it long term.
Do you want more people to follow you? If so, how would be the best way to do that?
Do you find it hard to combine a vegan lifestyle with being a digital nomad? How’s your experience with this?
Being vegan while travelling has actually had tons of upsides. It’s meant discovering amazing foods like fermented beans in Japan (delicious, who knew) or moss soup in Vietnam. It’s a bit more of a hassle to mission to vegan friendly restaurants, but they have such a wonderful ambience. For instance, in Penang a monk that we didn’t even speak to paid for our meal.It was our first day and we were a bit flustered and I think he just wanted to show us kindness, I was incredibly touched by this. There were vegan festivals in Penang where locals would invite strangers such as ourselves to eat with them. Amazing coconut ice cream. I could go on and on. Sure, sometimes it can be more tiring and the food can be repetitive but, for me, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I made a wee video about going from veggie to vegan in case you fancy checking it out.