Making the Most of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Written by Dustin Johnson on July 20, 2018

At the end of January 2016 I packed my bags and set out for a year of traveling and working abroad with 75 people I'd never met as a participant in a program called Remote Year. It would be a journey of a lifetime. In just over a year, I traveled to 26 countries spanning 11 time zones. I summited an 18,000ft (6,000m) mountain, ate piranha I caught from the Amazon rain forest, learned to scuba dive, earned my European private pilot license, and bailed a friend out of a Thai jail. And I did it all while working full time as Seeq's Architect.

At Seeq there is no physical office space. Every employee works from the comfort of their home office, a co-working space, a coffee shop, or anywhere else that best suits their lifestyle and productivity. Before remote year, my chosen working space was a home office, but my decision to go digitally nomadic changed that. Since starting my travels with my fellow Remote Year participants (we call each other 'remotes'), I've worked out of co-working spaces, apartments, coffee shops, trains, planes, and buses all over the world.

The idea behind Remote Year is to travel as a group of 75 digital nomads, all working remotely, living in a different country every month for 12 months. My group (the 2nd Remote Year group) lived in 4 countries in South America, 4 in Europe, and 4 in SE Asia. Along the way I picked up a few do's and don'ts:

Do: Plan to spend most of your time during the week working. For some reason, especially if the time zone you're trying to match is fairly far from your local time zone, it feels like you work for a longer portion of the day than normal, even when you're working the same number of hours.

Don't: Stray too far from the time zone you have to match (if you have to match one at all). I matched at least 4 hours a day with my Seeq team, and while South America was a pretty easy time zone adjustment, SE Asia was a distinct challenge.

Bali Indonesia

Do: Take advantage of your weekend time. Each weekend is a mini vacation in an area of the world that is now easily accessible.

Don't: Plan your time like you would on a vacation. This isn't a vacation. You're working, and that means that you'll experience the sights on a much slower pace than if you were on vacation. I estimate that I needed at least double the time in a location, when compared to vacation travel.

Patagonia Argentina

Do: Expect to be fairly lonely if you decide to travel solo. The main motivator behind my joining the Remote Year program was the social benefit of having 74 travel companions, many of whom have now become good friends.

Don't: Expect to get a lot of sympathy or understanding from those back home, many of whom will view your decision to travel as an extended vacation. In my experience, being a digital nomad was certainly not a vacation. At various times it was stressful, lonely, and scary, and during the week you're working, just as before. Nevertheless, many folks will not understand the day-to-day aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle, and, in my experience, it can be difficult to relate everyday challenges to friends and family back home.

Mandalay Myanmar

Do: Pack lightly. I've slimmed my luggage down to a weeks’ worth of clothes, my laptop, and a few pairs of shoes. Altogether, I have 24kg of stuff in two backpacks, and I wish I had less. The more stuff you have, the harder it is to move around, and it turns out that most of the time you just don't need very many things to live while on the go.

I'm thankful that my chosen profession allows me to experience the digital nomad lifestyle, that the executive team at Seeq was supportive, and, most of all, that my team was supportive and excited for me every step of the way.