Escape Artist #4: Nick, the startup/small business consultant

Welcome to Nick, the first male digital nomad! Nick was born to parents of Thai, Chinese, Irish, Polish, Lithuanian and American heritage and lived in 3 different countries before turning 25 (!), so becoming a digital nomad seems like the natural choice for such a citizen of the world. Nick is a worldwide start up and small business consultant, and likes helping companies that really make a difference and improve peoples lives. Let’s get to know Nick a bit better!

I’m not a big fan of “working”. I enjoy providing value and receiving $ for it.

Portrait of Nick Kengmana

How do you make money as a digital nomad?

I do consulting for startups around the world that are helping people live happier lives. I started my career in sales, so I still have a key focus on relationship and revenue development. I’ve been building myself into an expert generalist, preparing myself to start a company.

As New York is so competitive and developed, it means that a lot of business practices are probably more advanced and effective here than in most places. This means that if you can bring some of that New York business acumen to another market, it is even more valuable. Fortunately, New York also has such a strong brand that I think that people tend to realize this – they don’t say “if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere” for nothing!

What’s your story? How did you end up where you are today? What motivated you to live this lifestyle?

I was born in Hong Kong to a Thai, Chinese dad and an Irish, Polish, Lithuanian, American mum, moved to New Zealand at 8 and on 3 months notice, moved to New York at 24, so I’ve been raised pretty multicultural. I was also fortunate enough that my parents loved to travel so I grew up traveling internationally and have had wanderlust ever since.

When I arrived in New York I realized how much of the US Brand was just good PR and how the concept of “the best country in the world” is bullshit. Every country has it’s pros and it’s cons. And that’s OK. I guess I never really fully identified with any one nationality and as I grew older and more aware, became less and less nationalistic and started realizing how much pain and negativity nationalism causes in the world. I would love it if no one had to have a passport now and we were all just considered human. This all motivated me to explore as much of the world as I can and see how different people live and what their realities are.

Nick diving

Relationships tend to be much more intense when you travel I’ve found, a mate for an hour feels like a mate for a month somewhere else.

By reading your blog (checkt it out here) I get the impression that you’re a very goal oriented guy and very tuned in on personal development. How important is the “inside” work in regards to becoming a digital nomad?

Yes, I’m definitely type A, very aspirational and constantly working on improving myself. I think working on yourself is key to every lifestyle. Being a nomad and freelancer does require perhaps a bit more discipline as there’s no one looking over your shoulder or holding you accountable, and it’s very easy to get distracted by the temptation of exploring the cool new destination you are in or joining other travelers as they party.

I do believe however that traveling is one of the best forms of learning and education, so you’ll naturally be developing yourself a lot… I also think that digital nomads as a general rule have probably self actualized and become more self aware than the average person. This is probably what gives them a lot of the confidence and self belief to break free of standard social rules and become a nomad in the first place. They are also much more reliant on being independent and making their own decisions, therefore they are used to having to rely on themselves and develop themselves in a way that allows them to do this.

Nick in Colombia
Colombian selfie!

What are the best sides of living a digital nomad lifestyle?

Constantly growing past your comfort zone, meeting incredible new people, experiencing new things, the freedom.

And the less glamorous ones?

While there’s a lot of loooong bus/ferry/train rides etc., probably the more challenging ones are the lack of routine and familiarity (you’re always out of your comfort zone and having to figure out basic things, like where a light switch or toilet are and have to deal with frequently changing sleep patterns, food and exercise routines etc.) and the number one… always saying goodbye.

Relationships tend to be much more intense when you travel I’ve found, a mate for an hour feels like a mate for a month somewhere else; but when you move frequently (and they do too), the downside of meeting so many incredible people is you have to say goodbye to them all the time!

Imagine how easy it would be to afford a trip if you don’t buy that $300 jacket that’ll be the 10th one in your wardrobe.

What’s your top tips for people that want to earn place independent income?

Figure out what you enjoy doing, that pays, that you can do from anywhere and get good enough at it that you provide people with value. I’m not a big fan of “working”. I enjoy providing value and receiving $ for it. That makes it much easier for me to stay focused and do what I need to do to earn money while I’m traveling rather than going out for that beer or dancing until 3am.

Do you have any tips for resources (web pages, books, courses etc.) for aspiring digital nomads?

There’s a few pretty active and engaged Facebook groups which are great for connecting with other digital nomads and getting advice. There’s a couple basic ones like nomadlist, expatisan etc. In terms of web pages, I think what most people would consider the Bible from the book side would be the 4 Hour work week. To be honest, I haven’t focused on these so much.

Nick in the mountains
Where to next?

Please mention some amazing places you’ve discovered lately that you definitely want to go back to.

Budapest, Ireland, Luang Prabang, Minca (Colombia), Queenstown, Wanaka & Waiheke Island (New Zealand), Hong Kong (rediscovered is perhaps more accurate)… too many places to mention!

Do you think this type of work and lifestyle is possible in the long run? How would you balance it with starting a family?

I don’t think I’ll personally be living this way for too long consistently – I’m looking at launching a brick and mortar company this year so will need to be in one place fairly often if so.

In terms of a family, kids is not something I’m interested in having currently so they don’t really factor into my lifestyle decision making. Having a partner would be fantastic but I don’t think I could ever seriously date someone again who wasn’t a globetrotter as well so I don’t see this lifestyle as being off limits. However, due to other goals, I don’t think I’ll keep on “nomading” for more than a few more months, at least this time!

I do think however that I’ll never really have the same perspective of “home” or “living” as most people and I’d like to be able to do at least 3-6 months of traveling every year (which I do think is very sustainable, at least if you don’t have kids).

As a more general response though, I think that the way that the world views home, income, work and the whole value system is going to have to change drastically due to automation, AI and robotics. There’s not going to be enough “normal” jobs for most people so people are going to have to change their focuses. One way of doing this is artificial stimulation (computer games, drugs etc), the second is to change the value attributed to learning, self actualization and connecting with others. If society goes the second route then I think “nomading” and travel will become much more common and accepted. Also, with the sharing economy and people starting to realize how little things matter (you’re statistically less happy if you buy a house for example), travel is fortunately already becoming more common.

Side portrait of Nick

Do you want more people to follow you? If so, how would be the best way to do that?

I do (check out Nick’s blog here). I believe people as a general rule should form their own values, morals and opinions far more than they generally do right now. Don’t listen to a religion, government or newspaper about how the world is or what is or isn’t right. Go out, see how things are in different countries and decide for yourself what you think the ideal is, then start living that way.

The first step is to stop wasting so much money. I’ve heard in different articles that Americans throw out between 65-86 pounds of clothes a year… that’s fucking horrifying! First of all, the ethical (YOU are literally supporting and empowering child labor and slave work) and environmental impact of this is horrific but it’s also incredibly harmful to your own life. Not only are you wasting money on things that aren’t bringing you joy, but you’re also creating an addiction to needing new shit all the time. Imagine how easy it would be to afford a trip if you don’t buy that $300 jacket that’ll be the 10th one in your wardrobe.

Nick diving
Nick taking a leap of faith!

Do you have any goals for 2017 that you want to share?

I’m looking at doing two major things this year:

The first is launching a travel concept that helps people have a positive local and global impact through facilitating purposeful experiences, local, genuine connections and curating partnerships with organizations having a positive impact. It will be a hub for both travelers and locals who are focused on having a positive impact, having a high end hostel, co-working space, event space and healthy dining options.

The second is to throw a charity masquerade ball for my 30th birthday in July and raise $30,000 for Pencils of Promise in order to build a school in Guatemala.

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