There’s a saying that goes “if you are tired of London, you are tired of life”. A phrase which has kept many a person in the capital, probably a little too long and possibly stopped them from starting their travelling, digital nomad or remote working dream.
It’s true that there are endlessly amazing things to do, places to eat, people to meet and places to visit. However, if you’ve lived and worked in London for any time at all, you will know, that we have a lot of grey skies and rain, often painful and congested commutes and if you favour living anywhere nice and alone, you are shelling out a small fortune each month. London is full on, hyper-competitive, anxiety-inducing, fast-paced and fun, but after a while, you just need a break, at least that’s how I felt.
My Story – My Why
The reason why I decided that I wanted to become a traveling digital nomad, is of course slightly more extreme than just needing a “break”, but like many leaving the capital, I felt like I needed something new and exciting (and warm) to breathe fresh life, fresh perspective and a little more joy into myself.
My idea to go on the road and digital nomad so to speak, came about after I started researching digital nomads for a product line I was launching. As you can read in my longer post, “the Nomadic lifestyle experiment” it took me until 2017 to actually be able to see it as a reality and start really making an action plan.
I think a lot of people think about the actual physical actions that need to be done to take themselves and their business on the road, but I’m not sure many think about the physiological challenges you need to overcome. I know I didn’t. All I knew was that I needed to get away. I actually had no idea, how traumatic and difficult it would be to actually do it. And weirdly enough it was my STUFF, that caused the biggest issue and barrier.
So you can get a grasp on how long it took me to really get going on it, I’ll take you through my stages, as they actually happened.
Most of 2017 was spent planning and talking about it, and there was a hell of a lot of visualizing going on. In fact, I ruthlessly dedicated 10 mins morning and evening for months visualizing what my digital nomading heaven was going to look like. I set timers on my phone to remind myself, so I would not forget. In fact, they are still there now, just slightly different. Visualization is a powerful tool for making things come to life. Don’t underestimate it. However you can do as much visualizing in the world, without actually taking action, nothing is going to happen is it?
Work Set up ( Remote Working)
I have to say that I am incredibly lucky in that I have my own agency that services consumer electronics brands and I’ve been set up to work remotely with wonderful techsessories brands for 8 years now. I can literally work anywhere; planes, trains, cars,co-working spaces, hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, kitchen tables, running up and down shopping centres or the best at home in bed in my PJ’s. I draw the lines at beaches, there’s too much sun and sand! Planes and trains are my favourites, There’s something about them, that makes me concentrate. No one really works at a beach, that’s one of those Instagram fakeries!
My role is to help these brands to get their products into major retailers across Europe and the Middle East. My main client is ReTrak, a Travel Tech brand who is based in Dallas, Texas. We have been together for 7 years already and I’ve always been near or in London. So although remote working for them is not new, the UK was my home-base and they were used to be being there all the time.
Even though the UK is my home market and it’s one of my key markets as the jump of point to Europe from the USA and London especially is a hive of trends, ideas and inspiration. However, it’s still not the centre of everything, and often I think it gives me a somewhat skued impression of the consumer, compared to other parts of the UK and Europe.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Brexit, but this has certainly had a significant impact on my thinking and my need to be in London all the time. As someone who studied European Business and speaks German and Spanish to say that the vote pissed me off would be an understatement. I am not going to wait around while the government ties themselves up in knots, consumer confidence slides and innovation and creativity runs dry. For all I know, by the time we are fully ejected, I may not even be allowed to travel. Of course, I might be scaremongering, and this may not happen, but I would never forgive myself if I sat around and did not take advantage of getting out and spending more time in other countries, as who knows how much longer I will be able to.
COMMUNICATING WITH MY CLIENT
I left it pretty late in the day, to mention it, so it could easily have not worked out !! I would not necessarily recommend this course of action, as it did cause me a few sleepless nights, but I am 100 % convinced that me doing this will be a huge advantage to my clients, especially as travel tech is such a growing market, and I’m working on so many cool and exciting products.
Of course, I still have to do the work, and like with anything, if it’s not working, then we have to change it up. So a big thank you to the open-minded, forward-thinking cool kids of ReTrak for supporting and embracing my Nomadism.
Handing in your notice ( Flat Rental)
London letting agents are notoriously difficult. Some might call them con artists. I will confirm that I got charged hundreds of pounds for a few scratches on a wall once and various other minor misdemeanours which cost me dearly. I tried to leave my lease early this time. Nope, not possible. The twists and turns in their complicated contracts meant that I had to buy myself out of it and quite honestly I did not want to give them one extra pound, so I stayed and gave my notice a month before the end. My landlady of course, is lovely, but be careful of your contracts if you wish to leave early, and don’t forget your obligations of deep cleaning, fixing broken stuff and so on, as that all adds up to your moving costs.
Packing up (Home Stuff)
About 2 months before the leave date I started trying to minimalise. I watched the minimalism movie, listened to the podcast, read all about Marie Kondo and tried to figure out what was sparking my joy. I managed to chuck out a few bags of stuff and then would sit there looking at the expanse of stuff (I had a big flat full) and cry. It was so overwhelming, that this went on for weeks and weeks, and it was not getting any smaller.
So I started the other way around like I would a project. I got my suitcases out and designated them. 1. Travel HOT country 2. Travel COLD Country and put in everything that I would need and thought I’d just ditch the rest.
That started to work out a whole lot better, but I still had loads and loads of stuff and some of it that I was hanging on to for no good reason. I knew that there was a mental or emotional block there, but I could not make myself get rid of stuff that I might fit into one day, stuff that had cost an arm and I leg, that I did not want to chuck and so it went on. Then I fell upon tapping by chance in the Gala Darling feed on Instagram, Gala is a self-esteem expert, and she’s a big fan of tapping. I had done this several times before in the past, and it had worked, so I decided to try again.
If you don’t know what tapping is, it’s basically tapping on meridian points on the body in order to push out emotional pain. You can watch videos of how to do it online. Don’t ask me how or why it works, but it does work well for me. After sitting there with stuff everywhere all over my bedroom feeling lost and desperate, I tapped for 20 mins, and somehow I pulled myself together, ran around like a whirlwind, literally put 70% of it into bags and took it to the charity shop. Done. I continued doing this each evening, tapping on it, then tackling an area in a room. Somehow or another it all came together. By the end, I was literally throwing out everything! Do I have any regret? None. I just wish I had thrown even more….
Planning for long-term storage
After I had minimalised all I could now I had to pack. Normally I just order all the cardboard boxes on Amazon and pack up myself. The last time I ordered cardboard boxes and those fantastic ones, which are like cardboard wardrobes. However I was informed that for long-term storage, you should not use cardboard, you need sealable plastic boxes, that mice won’t eat through, and are less likely to get damp. Apparently, it’s also not a good idea to use the sealable vacuum bags either. In the end, I settled on these large movable storage containers from Argos and added lavender and sandalwood to stop the moths. I also dry cleaned all my key clothes and removed the cashmere and precious items and left them at my mums. According to my excellent dry cleaner in Belsize Park, he said best not leave precious items in storage as they often have moth issues in storage locations.
Packing up the Business for DIGITAL NOMAD travel
So I’m based in the UK, my company is registered and based in the UK, and I will be in and out of the UK at least once every 1 -2 months, so I plan to carry on as normal in terms of paying my taxes, and all my contributions as a resident. I see a lot of threads on the travel groups with people trying to avoid paying taxes and making it excessively complex. Consult a reputable accountant and do it properly, otherwise, you will come a cropper. It’s also not good karma to avoid your civic duty in my eyes. Be generous to your home country and those you visit, it will make your life much happier and peaceful.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
If you know or have read anything about GDPR, you have obligations as a company or a freelancer not to have paperwork and customer data all over the place or on-line drives which could be accessed and used criminally. GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulation) is an EU wide regulation, and it applies to anyone that stores data for business. After breaking one shredder, I found a company that for £50 came and picked up 10 bags ( I only had 1) and shredded my stuff for me. Shred Station. They are accredited and safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry in this instance.
Luggage and what to take for DIGITAL NOMADING
So the most important items for me hands down is my tech. Phones, laptops, 360 cameras, reliable chargers ( for everything) etc and my payment cards. Clothes, toiletries, make-up can all be bought on arrival if I forget something. Having said that I’m 100% sure I have bought way too many clothes and bags. For all the years I’ve been travelling, I’ve still not got better at packing lightly, so my mission this year is to become a lot better at this. Just make sure you have all your must-haves on you, and deal with the rest after. Unless you are flying to the middle of nowhere, almost everything can be procured locally.
Don’t forget to pay your bills and to do a redirection. There will be bills that get lost, believe me, and then you will wonder what happened to them and not doing this can get you in serious bother. I move often and you would be surprised what you forget. I am having all mine redirected to somewhere safe, but there are services, that will scan and send you. I just could not find one, that I felt okay with if I’m honest. If you do know one that you have used, feel free to share. Also, I made sure that I scanned in all my latest bills, and any paperwork for the last few months, as you never know what you will need to access at some point.
Since I work a lot on my laptop and I need to access files over and over, if I am without them, it’s a massive issue. My laptop is my work, as is my phone, so make sure that you have a back up of everything. I’ve everything backed up to Google Drive, plus a backup drive and all the passwords are linked into LastPass, should something happen and I need to auto-generate new passwords to sensitive issues. I can’t emphasise enough, how important this is.
I have a very good travel insurance with my bank, that will allow up to 180 days out of the country. So I will be using this as I first start out and then upgrading as soon as I get near my time up. As I will mostly be staying in the EU and we still have a reciprocal agreement for health so this is one less issue for me, but do make sure that you have an up to date EU health card, as some places will not treat you if you do not.
Make sure that you alert your bank to you being in another country, as they are highly likely to shut you down for inappropriate payments. This has happened to me on several occasions, so I now have several accounts and limiters on each account, so you can only get out a certain amount of money per day. Just in case, anyone tries to scam you. I also suggest you get some kind of prepayment card like Monzo if you are in the UK, as not only are you able to track what you are spending on it, but you can pay for small amounts easily in stores, and you are not charged monster conversion rates.
It turns out that PayPal has become quite expensive, and not all banks allow you to transfer funds cheaply, without huge costs. Sometimes you will need to transfer funds in other currencies to your coworking space for example and you don’t want to incur the charges. I just got recommended Transferwise. I have just used it for 1 payment and not seen the exchange so far, but it looks pretty good at first look.
These are the major points, that are key to working remotely. The next time I’ll go into a little more detail on how to remote work effectively and the tips and tricks that I use on a weekly basis.
Do let me know if there is something else that you are keen to know, and i’ll be happy to add that in, in future posts.