Digital Nomad: road to independence

What it needs and means to become fully location-independent
Saturday, May 6, 2017

Introduction: becoming a full-time digital nomad

Ever since I quit my office job in Switzerland, I am on the road. Everything started in 2015 when I took a sabbatical gap year from my professional workplace. After over a decade on the job, I had to change my environment and discover new lands. With an unsettled urge for traveling and digital media, I started my personal solo travel blog. Soon after my independence, I started to help out friends and social enterprises with their projects. I wanted to utilize my experience and knowledge to support inspirational projects. After nearly two years on the road, I completed my transition into a full-time digital nomad.

Bureaucracy: personal and business registration

My biggest worries are outdated national regulations. Legal procedures and administrative processes cannot keep up with modern living standards. While most nations acknowledge expats today, digital nomads are a new phenomenon without much support. In theory, you could give up your permanent residency and roam around freely if you don’t spend at least 180 days in one country. This, however, complicates most aspects of modern life, especially insurance, social security, and banking. It took me a while to figure out the best approach for myself. I have realized, that this highly depends on your personal situation and background. As for myself, I still keep close ties with my home in Switzerland.

Networking: stay in touch with old and new friends

I cannot emphasize this enough: networking is a major pillar of success. That I have already learned during my professional time in Switzerland, especially while working with the Chamber of Commerce Basel Countryside. Since that time, I spend a lot of energy and time creating new contacts and nurturing old connections. And this holds true even more when traveling and working around the globe. However, as my reach is growing, it is getting more difficult to keep up, and I have to tighten my priorities. Digital tools and online platforms are a great help, but it also requires a lot of effort. Networking is my most important source for new projects and opportunities.

Travelling: keeping costs as low as possible

I am used to leading a minimalistic lifestyle. On the road, however, it is even more important to hold your budget tight. Travelling and moving around can become a major expense and a real burden. As for myself, I have found a good mixture of living low budget at a minimal international standard. I can abstain any kind of luxury but always try to get a good night sleep in my own room. As a digital nomad, a stable internet connection is my major priority. Again, online platforms helped me a lot to prepare and plan all my journeys. Deciding where to go, booking my transportation and finding an affordable place to stay is of highest importance. On the other hand, I’m trying to blend in with the local life. Instead of staying in a hotel, I prefer staying with locals through Airbnb or CouchSurfing. Living a global life is affordable and fun!

Business: generating a minimum revenue

With minimized expenses, I don’t need much to survive. To be honest, living on the road is much cheaper than maintaining a home in Switzerland. Thus, I am not dependent on a large income. This, however, does not mean I am working less hard as a digital nomad. I have just shifted my focus and now dedicate a lot of time for passion projects, mostly non-profit. Besides those pro bono projects, I am consulting a handful of selected clients around the world. I have become fairly picky with whom to work with and how to spend my time. Establishing a sustainable lifestyle was my top priority for this year. This was a huge success, as all my engagements cover my basic living and travel expenses. Being an independent digital nomad is highly rewarding.

Summary: from a sabbatical to a digital nomad

It took a lot of effort and persistence to get to this point. Finally, I have concluded my transition to becoming a full-time digital nomad. For me personally, this means, I can dedicate my time and energy to projects I am interested in and spend time with people I want to. Instead of going to the same office every day, I can freely change my location and expand my reach and network. It still requires a lot of motivation and discipline to keep on going. Sometimes, it feels a bit lonely, but on this crowded planet, I am never alone. Deciding where to go next is probably the hardest decision I have to deal with every day. A situation, most people are dreaming of and trying to avoid at the same time. How long will I continue with this lifestyle I don’t know myself. As for now, I am happy with my choice and my lifestyle.

Big thanks to everyone who supported me on this path to independence.

My waypoints on this journey

Kaschemme Basel - Rave the Day (daytime) in one of the coolest underground clubs in the city of Basel
Rave the Day (daytime) in one of the coolest underground clubs in the city of Basel
Kleinhafen Coworking - having a business meeting to prepare my upcoming digital nomad projects
having a business meeting to prepare my upcoming digital nomad projects
Dreiländereck - where the three countries Switzerland, Germany and France meet at the Rhine River
where the three countries Switzerland, Germany and France meet at the Rhine River
RUBAG - Swiss family run company selling construction site machinery since 111+ years
Swiss family run company selling construction site machinery since 111+ years
Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik Uni Bern - meeting Matthias Stürmer of the digital sustainability research institute in Bern
meeting Matthias Stürmer of the digital sustainability research institute in Bern
Vitra Design Museum - learning more about robots and artificial intelligence at a great exhibition
learning more about robots and artificial intelligence at a great exhibition
VitraHaus - gazing at historical and contemporary interior design masterpieces in Lörrach
gazing at historical and contemporary interior design masterpieces in Lörrach
Wenkenpark Riehen - having a relaxing walk through the green park landscape just outside of Basel
having a relaxing walk through the green park landscape just outside of Basel
Chrischona Fernsehturm - remote working from a very special location just outside of Basel-City
remote working from a very special location just outside of Basel-City
Frieda's Büxe - raving through the night in one of Zurich's most colourful and special nightclubs
raving through the night in one of Zurich's most colourful and special nightclubs
Borderline Club Basel - raving to wild Goa music in one of Basel's darkest underground night clubs
raving to wild Goa music in one of Basel's darkest underground night clubs
WERK 8 Basel - having a relaxed business lunch and then working from a comfortable couch
having a relaxed business lunch and then working from a comfortable couch
Schiffbau Zürich - getting some work done on a cozy couch before going clubbing in Zurich
getting some work done on a cozy couch before going clubbing in Zurich
Nordstern (on the ship) - probably the most famous night club in Basel since years with a great lineup
probably the most famous night club in Basel since years with a great lineup
Stadt-Krimi - helping to create an uniquely thrilling mystery event exhibition booth
helping to create an uniquely thrilling mystery event exhibition booth
Hermetschloo Kantine - dancing on the rooftop high above Zurich, overlooking the city and mountains
dancing on the rooftop high above Zurich, overlooking the city and mountains
Vazco Wroclaw - visiting my web-development project partners in Poland
visiting my web-development project partners in Poland
Das Lokal Wroclaw - dancing after a few days of hard work with my project partners
dancing after a few days of hard work with my project partners
Sheremetyevo Moscow - working at the Russian airport on my way from Europe to Asia
working at the Russian airport on my way from Europe to Asia
Schiphol Amsterdam - stranded at the airport in Amsterdam because of heavy snowfall
stranded at the airport in Amsterdam because of heavy snowfall
Amsterdam under snow - the beauty of a city full of cyclists covered in white powder
the beauty of a city full of cyclists covered in white powder
Prinsengracht Amsterdam - walking Amsterdam's most famous canal up and down
walking Amsterdam's most famous canal up and down
Stoos-Muotatal - riding the world's steepest funicular railway in Switzerland
riding the world's steepest funicular railway in Switzerland
Chessu - Coupole - dancing my calories away after a series of heavy Christmas meals
dancing my calories away after a series of heavy Christmas meals