NOT YOUR AVERAGE DIGITAL NOMAD
Digital nomad (noun)
People who are location independent and use technology to perform their job. Digital nomads work remotely (telecommute), which is now economically possible due to cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers.
I’m a digital nomad. This isn’t uncommon – there are many out there – but I’m not your typical digital nomad, for five reasons.
1. I’m “old”.
2. I value “stuff”.
3. I don’t earn my living from travel blogging.
4. I didn’t hate my life.
5. I have a permanent home.
Here’s the thing – I don’t feel old – I don’t feel much different to how I felt 30 years ago. But most digital nomads do make me look “old”. When someone asked in a forum if any digital nomads were over 40, there were lots of replies – Yes, I’m 33! Yes – I’m 18! Yes – I’m 35! Aside from being bad at math, the “oldest” was 44.
Most digital nomads are millennials – born in the early 80s to late 90s. I pre-date them by 15 to 30 years. I’m out to prove this lifestyle is not just for millennials. You can be a digital nomad at any age.
I VALUE “STUFF”
Many digital nomads embrace the trend of minimalism. Before heading out the door, they sell everything they own, and proudly declare their worldly possessions fit into a backpack. The ‘souvenirs’ they collect along the way are on their digital camera
Millennials have grown up in a world of social media. Ironically enough, they’re the age bracket who most keenly embraces a slogan coined before they were born – Take only pictures, leave only footprints. This is all well and good when talking about the environment but not, for me, when talking about souvenirs.
I have too many items, with too many memories attached, to give them all away. Millennial minimalists are unaware the attachment is not about the physical possessions themselves – it’s about the sentiments attached to those possessions.
Yes, if I divested myself of everything, I’d still have the memories – but looking at a photo I took at the Acropolis in 1991 doesn’t have the same impact as opening a cupboard, and seeing a small replica of a Greek urn I bought at the same time.
That little urn transports me back 26 years to the souvenir shop on the wharf in Piraeus, where I bought it. The moment is captured as an image in my memory far clearer than a photograph, and far more emotively powerful. Likewise, I smile every time I step out of the shower onto a bathmat I bought 20 years ago in Livorno. Yes, it’s still good –0 Italian quality!)
I can picture the shops, I can picture the sellers, I can picture the people around me when I bought those items. I can’t do that looking at a digital photo.
The kids will figure out the value of that as they get older. A digital photo is not the same for taking you back across the decades to invoke the memories of a moment frozen in time.
I DON’T EARN MY LIVING FROM TRAVEL BLOGGING
I follow many digital nomads on Facebook and Instagram – and most of them either make their living, or want to make their living,as travel bloggers.
While I do write about my travels, that’s not how I earn my $$$. I’m a technical writer. It’s good money, and I don’t need thousands of followers on social media to be able to monetise my writing, I don’t have that constant struggle to increase my followers, and if I don’t write anything or post any photographs for a while, it’s not going to negatively impact my business.
I DIDN’T HATE MY LIFE
Many digital nomads start their blog with:
- I was stuck in a dead-end job, with no end in sight to my misery; or
- I saw decades of doing the same thing stretching out in front of me; or
- I felt trapped, and incomplete, so I chucked it all in, and hit the road.
I didn’t hate my life; I didn’t hate my job. After 20 years in hospitality I side-stepped into technical writing and learning and development. I love my job, it pays six-eight times what the pub did, and I mostly worked remotely anyway.
I didn’t have to take a deep breath, and boldly plunge into the lifestyle of digital nomadism – I pretty much already worked like that. Any meetings I did have in person were local, and more for the sake of human interaction, rather than because we couldn’t do them any other way. As a nomad, those meeting are now by phone, or skype if I need the other person to see my laptop screen to discuss a document.
Not hating my life was what kept me sedentary for so long. I have a great home, a loving family (no partner or kids – but immediate family, and cats. Always cats.) I live in Tauranga/Mount Maunganui – so when this is close by (see below), there’s no driving need to get out and escape a dreary existence.
I HAVE A HOME
Many digital nomads sacrifice a home base for freedom. Working from my laptop, I have both – the freedom to travel, and my home of 36 years to come back to.
So, while I am currently embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, it’s from an old, souvenir-buying, tech writing, home-to-come-back-to angle.
GETTING MOVING AGAIN
I mentioned being sedentary for many years. Many people say the greatest barriers to travel are money (a lack of) or fear. I had neither of those barriers to overcome. I earn good money, and I’d already travelled to over 270 cities across 43 countries.
I came home unexpectedly from Europe in 2002. My Dad died unexpectedly five weeks later. I decided to stick around for a few months to be with the family, turned around twice, and suddenly five years had whooshed by.
In 2007 I turned 40, and the career I’d loved for so long – in hospitality – was wearing thin.Serving drunk 20-year-olds was fun when I was 25 – but not when I was 40. Changing legislation made it less fun too.
Gone were the days of tequila laybacks and Flaming Lamborghinis, staff drinks till the sun came up, and not worrying whether that drink you sold to the sober dude was being consumed my their mate who’d just thrown up in the bushes, or was 16. It was the start of the society we see today where people no longer take responsibility for their own actions.
Got blind drunk, ran a red light, and killed someone? Not your fault. It’s the bartender’s fault.
Can’t afford to buy food or clothes for your kids because you lost all your money on a poker machine? Not your fault. It’s the gaming attendant’s fault.
People no longer blamed heavy drinkers and gamblers for their own inadequacies – it suddenly became the fault of the person working long unsociable hours for the minimum wage.
I went back to university, got a degree in tourism (complete waste of paper – that’s a story for another day), and fell into a career as a technical writer. Along the way, I settled back into life in Tauranga. I had a loving family around m,e, good friends, I went out and did stuff, I travelled now and then. I was content.
Don’t get me wrong, there were still a lot of things I wanted to do. I’d vaguely though that turning 40 might give me a kick up the behind to travel again. But it didn’t. 40. My grandparents all lived to around 90. I’m not even half way. There’s plenty of time.
Then I turned 50, and that scared the shit out of me. It didn’t compute. I remember being 18, and thinking 30 year olds were ancient. Somehow I’d blinked, and now at least, if not more than, half my life was gone.
THE 50 FOR 50 LIST
I wrote a list, I called “50 for 50” – 50 things I’d been meaning to do for years. Follow along as I tick the list off.
- Abbey Medieval Festival (Brisbane) ACHIEVED
- Roswell UFO Museum (Roswell)
- Boeing Factory (Seattle)
- Cuddle a hairy coo (Byron Bay)
- Glass Beach (Fort Bragg, California)
- Holy Land Experience with Cathy (Orlando)
- Ianto’s Shrine (Cardiff Bay)
- Ice hockey match (Canada)
- Jonathon Young – live theatre (Vancouver)
- Lake Massaciuccoli fishing shacks (Italy)
- Big Hogan – play Spirit Bird, Black as Night, and I’m on Fire (Monument Valley)
- Lisa Elley’s art studio (San Francisco)
- Live gig featuring Locomotive Breath ACHIEVED
- Live gig at Tuacahn with Nicole
- Live gig in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada featuring The Jerry Cans
- Live gig in Noosa featuring Sexual Chocolate
- Live gig somewhere featuring Andi Joseph, Darren Cooper, and Rob Luca
- Live gig somewhere featuring Dustin Thomas ACHIEVED
- Live gig somewhere featuring Hope J. Medford ACHIEVED
- Live gig somewhere featuring Nahko Bear ACHIEVED
- Live gig somewhere featuring Trevor Hall
- Live gigs in Florida featuring The Bus Stop Band
- Lord Howe Island with Mum
- Lunch at the Idle Spurs (Barstow)
- Lunch with John Campbell in Auckland
- Lunch with Tim Shadbolt in Invercargill
- Lunch with Xavier and Ashley Rudd in Byron Bay
- Massage from Erika Rado of Spirit Bird Intuitive Arts
- Matakana Island township and Tuhua
- New Year’s Eve on the water, Sydney Harbour
- North Stradbroke Island ACHIEVED
- Orana Park (Christchurch) ACHIEVED
- Observe the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco LITTLE BUGGERS WEREN’T THERE. AGAIN.
- Renovate my bedroom – plain walls! (Been meaning to do that for over 15 years.)
- Ride Flight of the Hippogriff and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Islands of Adventure (Orlando)
- Ride in a TD Haulage truck ACHIEVED
- Ride in a yellow school bus
- Ride the Fremont Street zipline (Las Vegas)
- Road Trip – follow a Xavier Rudd tour
- Run Silent documentary with Danny, in Singapore
- Shambala in Acton with Robert Florczak for a live performance of N’Chi Ya Nani
- Stand at Four Corners
- Tony Amendola – live theatre (Los Angeles) ACHIEVED
- Tuhua – day trip
- Tyn-y-Bryn (Abergavenny, Wales)
- Walk Stoo and Ivey on Venice Beach with Valerie
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter (London)
- Weta Workshop Behind the Scenes Tours (Wellington)
- Womadelaide and Womad (Adelaide and New Plymouth) ACHIEVED
- World of Wearable Art Show (Wellington)
As I tick off items on the list, I write about them on my BLOG page.