What I learnt being a digital nomad on a beach
“Digital nomads are individuals who leverage telecommunications technologies to perform their work duties, and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner.”
7:30am – Breakfast at hotel/beach resort
8:00am – Stand-up meeting to run through tasks and objectives for the day
8:15 to 12:00pm – Work independently on tasks, discussing when necessary
12:00pm onwards – FREE TIME
Sounds awesome? That was how I spent 3 weeks by the beaches of Koh Samui and Phuket, as one of the two Greatest Startup Marketing Interns! Earlier this year, I was privileged to get selected by the popular digital nomad and serial entrepreneur Jon YongFook, to help with digital/content marketing for his social media start-up Beatrix. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to work while traveling, so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out my video application got chosen!
So what’s it really like working by the beach?
We worked 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. The rest of the time was free for us to do whatever we want. Whether it’s to work on our glorious tan, or explore the island paradises we were at. The plan was really good, but because I had plenty of commitments for my startup and freelance work back home, I couldn’t enjoy as much. That said, I still felt that the idea of working remotely in new surroundings to be really positive. This is why.
(1) You’re free from distractions
Because I love spending time with my friends, sometimes it can be a little too distracting. No more extremely long impromptu dinners when I should be finishing up on work. Even time consuming routine tasks like laundry and housekeeping can be “outsourced” to the hotel/resort staff.
(2) It’s a lot cheaper than working in a big city
Legit Thai food. This is how the food master @yongfook takes his pictures. Learning in progress. Lol #digitalnomad #food #kohsamui #creepyintern A photo posted by Hendric Tay (@pohtecktoes) on
Unless you’re splurging on expensive meals and luxury accommodation all the time, living expenses are considerably lower. Granted that my accommodation was taken care of this time round, I spent only US$300 on food, massages and activities for 3weeks in Koh Samui and Phuket. It could have been even lower if I wanted to.
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(3) Motivation to work efficiently
Working overseas doesn’t only entail doing work in foreign land. You’re overseas and should be spending time outside exploring, or tanning at the beaches. The desire to go out and play kept me focussed. I want to work as efficiently as possible, completing the tasks at hand, before enjoying the rest of the day guilt-free and out.
(4) It’s refreshing and mind broadening
Simple pleasures in life. Enjoying an ice cream on the beach with good company. #beach #phuket A photo posted by Hendric Tay (@pohtecktoes) on
There’s something about being in a new and unfamiliar environment that refreshes you. Perhaps it’s about being exposed to different people and perspectives. I even got new insights from observing the different sales techniques street vendors used, and the tell-tale signs to which restaurant or massage places are legit.
(5) You feel pretty good
Maybe it’s because it seems cool, or perhaps it’s the calming sound of the waves. But it feels really good working by the beach with a kick ass view just a stone’s throw away. I guess it’s also the feeling of knowing that you are kind of on holiday, have the freedom to travel, and do whatever you want!
How can I work while traveling too?
(1) Do work that allows you to
A photo posted by Hendric Tay (@pohtecktoes) on
Probably the most important thing to figure out. Whether you are freelancing or running a startup while traveling, you need to find one that allows you to work remotely. Freelance design and social media offers me enough flexibility to work anywhere as long as I have my laptop and a decent internet connection. Take a look at your strengths, and decide what you can do. After all, you can’t be overseas if you have to constantly service clients.
(2) Be super disciplined
It takes a lot of discipline to get up early and make sure you finish enough work before heading out to play. The temptation is huge, because everyone around you is getting ready to go sightseeing or something. What worked for me is to plug my earphones in and isolate myself from the rest of the tourist for a few hours. But if you’re someone that requires a fixed structure and boss to answer to, then maybe a digital nomad lifestyle isn’t for you.
(3) Start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
A photo posted by Hendric Tay (@pohtecktoes) on
A lifestyle like that can be uncomfortable at times. You got to be fine with being in a place where you might not know the language, or constantly changing accommodation till you find the right spot. Other than shifting accommodation a couple of times, we even had to change our plans and move from Koh Samui to Phuket because the weather was bad.
(4) Have at least 6 months of rainy day funds
The worst thing that can happen is to get stranded cause you ran out of money while you’re overseas. Think about all the things you’ll be missing out on! The thing about doing work that allows you to travel is that it’s either freelance, or for your own business. Anyone who has done either of these will know that cash flow can sometimes be an issue during slower months, or when payment arrives late.
(5) Realise this universal fact of life
That you can do anything you want, just not everything. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, and you’ll need to understand that it’s impossible to do everything. Sacrifices have to be made, and decisions have to be committed to. For money, instead of saving to shop or splurge on expensive meals, I keep them for travel.
Would I do this again?
Hell yes. Maybe not for a 1 year (cause I still miss my Hainanese Chicken Rice), but weeks at a time if I need a change of environment or extreme productivity. :)