May 23, 2016

Five Weeks in Europe as a Digital Nomad

A few months ago, I learned about the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin. Being one of the three founders of the Triangle Wikipedians user group in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to attend the conference this year. The main reason I was able to go when the other two founding members could not is that I'm a digital nomad. This means my work travels with me, and that's why I was able to spend five weeks in Europe this summer. Here's how I live and work from anywhere in the world - and you can too.

Stop vacationing and start living

Frank C Jones in Izmir Turkey

It was back in 2001 when I first began to dream of a life filled with travel and the opportunity to explore the globe. The person sitting next to me in the photo above, Steve, was the owner of a pizza restaurant I worked at during this time. He and I both shared this longing for travel and adventure in our lives. At that time, we believed that working harder and putting in more hours every week was the only way to achieve the lives we wanted. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Ultimately, the way we got our chance to travel was to throw out the rules we thought guided everyone in the world and to just grab the life we wanted. It was a huge risk, but we both decided to stop living for vacations and to craft the life we wanted every day of the year. Today, Steve lives in Izmir, Turkey and regularly visits cities throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. He works as an English teacher and travels during his breaks. Personally, I've taken the route of building my business online and traveling with my laptop tethered to internet access around the world.

There are many ways to achieve a lifestyle in which vacations are no longer the highlight of your year, but become part of your daily life. In my case, travel is a big part of the reason I pursue location independence.

Traveling and working in Berlin & Barcelona

A section of the Berlin wall

While I was in Berlin for about a week, I was able to focus on exploring the city and attending the Wikipedia Conference. This is because I took care of most of my work tasks prior to my arrival in Berlin. Blog posts were scheduled and social media updates were written in advance. Additionally, some of the tasks I still needed to do were managed by my virtual assistant (VA). This allowed me to simply check in on my business for a few minutes each day. However, I cannot run my business in this way all the time. Rather, I take advantage of the work I've put into my sites by putting everything on autopilot for short periods from time to time.

Barbie and Frank in Barcelona

From the moment I arrived in Barcelona, and even when I told people at home I would be staying here for a month, I've been asked if I am here for vacation or for work. However, I find this question difficult to answer.

On the one hand, I am exploring the city with my wife for several hours each day. We go out for lunch or visit one of the neighborhood markets most days. With the exception of a couple rainy days, we have strolled along the promenade at the beach every day we have been here. On the weekends, we meet with friends for coffee in the morning or drinks in the evening.

On the other hand, I have brought my laptop with me and I am writing this blog post at 10:30am on a Saturday with only one week left in our trip. I have taken calls from clients and scheduled consulting appointments during my time in Berlin and Barcelona. During this trip, I have even signed a new client and will have my first consulting call with them this Tuesday - while in Barcelona.

This lifestyle blurs the lines between work trips and vacations. While I'm here in Barcelona, I have also connected with several area groups of digital nomads and location independent freelancers. I enjoy combining my work with my daily life because I love what I do - making it feel less like work. Additionally, I have intentionally built my business so I can take it with me while traveling because I want to serve my clients regardless of where I'm located on the globe.

For digital nomads, life is good

Frank wearing his "Life is Good" shirt in Barcelona

This is one of my uniform shirts when traveling. It's a festive orange shirt with interesting patterns and the embroidered slogan "life is good" - which is apparently a registered trademark of the company that makes this shirt. The bright colors and stitching stand out in almost any crowd, but it's a button shirt with a pocket and collar. Unlike a simple t-shirt, this shirt blends business and pleasure in an interesting way - the same as I do while traveling and working in Europe. I can wear this on a call with a client or while going out for drinks with friends this evening.

Even the usual lunch break is an adventure when living and working abroad. One of my favorite ways to explore the world is through culinary cultural exchanges. Here, I'm enjoying a common street food in an uncommon restaurant. Bismilla Kebap is the only place in Barcelona with a tandoori oven which they use to make fresh pita bread when you order your kebab. All the other places simply warm the pita on a grill when they make a doner or shawarma. The warm, fresh baked pita makes this one of my favorite treats when visiting Barcelona.A culinary cultural exchange

If you haven't already started following me on Periscope, you should. I started live streaming during this trip to Barcelona and you can find me @FrankCJones.

Have a question? Just contact me.

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