Recently, I sat down and tried to answer the most common questions I get about being a digital nomad. The list was a long one. How do you make money on the road? What are your expenses? How do you choose where to go? Do you ever get lonely? I tried to be as thorough and honest as I could.
And while I was tackling page after page of questions, I also added several caveats, reminding everyone that my experience isn’t the only experience, my path isn’t the only path. Digital nomads—those people who make their living online while traveling the world—are as varied as the day is long. Some travel fast. Some are slow. Some are wealthy. Others scrape by. Some fall in the middle of all the extremes.
Which is why I decided that it won’t do for you just to have my opinion on all those digital nomad questions. It’s much more helpful to showcase a variety of people living in a variety of ways.
And so a new series begins, in which I’ll interview other nomads to get to the bottom of some of the most common nomad questions.
Today’s topic: How fast do digital nomads travel?
Six of us will do our best to answer the question.
As you probably already know, I’m a career writer who has been traveling the world full-time with my freelance writing business and my small dog for four years. We’ve also recently added a man to our twosome, making it a full-time travel threesome.
Countries per year: 3 – 10
(2012: 7 / 2013: 8 / 2014: 3 / 2015: 10 / 2016: 3)
Keep in mind that some of these countries are short stays in between two longer stays. For example, en route to Slovenia from Switzerland, I stopped and spent a few days in Salzburg, Austria, because I’d been wanting to visit, because it was on the way, and because going straight through was too lengthy of a travel day for me.
Average length of stay (in one place): Previously, 1 – 2 months. Now, 2 – 4 months.
When I first started traveling, I planned for a month in each place. But as I’ve continued, my average pace has slowed, which is why I spent four months in Arizona this year and will be spending another four in Vancouver. So the current average is probably between two and four months.
Longest stay so far: Over a year in Switzerland.
Shortest stay so far: Four hours in Zagreb, Croatia.
I also frequently spend 1 – 3 nights somewhere in between destinations (three days in Lake Bled between longer stays in Ljubljana and the Soca Valley in Slovenia, for example, or one night in Basel, Switzerland, after my two months in Slovenia and before taking my cycle trip through France last September).
My name is LaToya. I split my time between working as a software engineer at Big Cartel and building SheNomads, a community of folks interested in remote work, travel, and tech.
Countries per year: 7
This is my first year as a remote worker. Before that, I’d say two. I’ve spent the past two months working from the UK, Israel, Spain, Portugal, and Norway. By the end of the year, it will be seven in total, as I worked from Mexico earlier in the year, and will be working from Dubai in October.
Average length of stay (in one place): anywhere from five days to three weeks.
Because I work for Big Cartel while building my business, SheNomads, I need to be able to work part of the time when my team is awake. I love writing code, which is mentally taxing, intense work. Throw in all of the things I have to do for SheNomads (editing the podcast, setting up remote coding classes, connecting folks with jobs in tech) and I need to be operating at 100 % . Having a set routine and setting aside time for self-care helps. Getting exercise, eating well, getting up at the same time every day, journaling…and the longer I stay in one place, the easier it is. So I prefer to have at least five days between flights when I can.
Longest stay so far: Three weeks in Lisbon, Portugal
I stayed at Surf Office for most of the time and Airbnbs for part of it. I’d like to rent a flat for a month or two the next time I’m in Lisbon. I fell in love with the art, food, music, and energy of the city.
Shortest stay so far: 24 hours in Barcelona
I wanted to check it out and a digital nomad that I met through the SheNomads group was going to be there, so I said why not? She is now a friend and I wish I could have stayed longer. But I had to meet friends in Bilbao for EuroPython.
My name is Brett Kistler. I’m a web developer and sky sports enthusiast and have been traveling the world while working remotely since 2007 (before I’d even heard of the terms “Digital Nomad” or “Location Independent Professional”). I often travel with my partner of seven years, Annette, who works remotely as an independent journalist, writer, and producer.
The location independent lifestyle and our tastes in sport and adventure are all manifestations of the importance we place in constantly challenging our inherited assumptions about the world and are thoughtfully but boldly trying new ways to break out of those boxes.
Countries per year: 15 – 25
Many of these are some of the same countries that I repeatedly visit in Europe or southern Africa. I’ve developed a bit of a pattern where I visit many of the same places to see my friends, while also adding several new countries each year.
Average length of stay (in one place): A few days to a few months.
I haven’t spent more than three months in one place since 2011 and six months in one place since 2007. My stays generally range between a few days and a few months. And the longer I plan to spend in a single location, the more likely that time gets filled up with side-trips to nearby places. As a result, despite my best efforts I never really find myself “living” anywhere.
Longest stay so far: 2 months.
I determine myself to be “living” somewhere if it’s practical for me to have a plant (like a potted basil or chives) that I could reasonably expect to keep watered and alive for the duration of my stay. By that measure, the longest I’ve stayed in a single place in the past five years is approximately two months.
Shortest stay so far: 20 minutes.
My shortest ever intentional visit to a place was when I did a ride-along with an airline pilot friend of mine, joining him in the cockpit on a passenger flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to a small mining town in the DR Congo. I spent less than twenty minutes on the ground before we took off again and headed back. It could be said that the actual destination here was the cockpit itself and the DRC just happened to be where it went.
Jen & Ted Avery
We’re Jen and Ted Avery—a married couple who first sold all our possessions and quit our jobs to travel in 2013. Since then, we’ve housesat for chickens in Australia, slept in hammocks in the Colombian jungle, and eaten bugs in the streets of Thailand. Both frugal by nature, we love finding and sharing innovative ways to travel more affordably anywhere in the world.
Countries per year: 5 – 6
It depends how fast we’re traveling. These days we tend to really slow things down as we’ve eased our way into a work and travel lifestyle. If I had to guess, I’d say 5-6 countries per year, and that seems to be feasible to maintaining that work/life balance.
Average length of stay (in one place): 1 week – 1 month
1 – 2 weeks is our minimum, but a full month is ideal to get a decent amount of work done and feel like we’ve done a new city justice in terms of exploring. Soon we’ll be semi-“settled” in Sydney as a home base to drop our bags at last, but will still definitely be traveling as much as we can while living there.
Longest stay so far: 5 months in Sydney, Australia
This past year we stayed in the Sydney area for five months, but we were moving around on house sits during this time, so although we were in the same city, we were still constantly relocating and getting to live in different parts of the city (which was really fun).
Shortest stay so far: 3 days in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Last year we spent three days in Amsterdam when we found a hugely discounted fare back to Canada departing from that city. That was a whirlwind trip, but it was an unexpected stop since we found such a cheap airline ticket departing from there. We definitely would like to return and spend more time getting to know the city!
Find more on Jen and Ted at Thrifty Nomads.
I’m a freelance game developer and photographer from the UK, specializing in the Unity game engine. I previously worked in London and Brighton before selling my belongings to travel the world as a digital nomad. When not developing games, I spend my time doing photography. I have had images published in places like the Daily Mail’s Travel website and the tech website Alphr.com, as well as being listed as a finalist in various photography competitions.
Countries per year: 5
For the last couple of years I’ve traveled a lot, doing around 5 countries per year (hopping between the UK, the US, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand). This year, I’ve taken a step back and am slowing down a lot. I’m basing in Scotland for at least six months while I do some client work and planning shorter trips instead of constantly being on the move. Next year I might ramp up the travels again depending on client work.
Average length of stay (in one place): varies
How long I stay in a place depends on why I’m there. I spent months in New Zealand and the US, whereas Australia was only a week while I figured out where to go next. Sometimes I visit a country for just a few days for a conference or for a layover. These days, if I’m going to actively try to work while traveling, I need to base for longer as it’s a pain to constantly pack up all my tech. I tend to like my home comforts too, and it’s cheaper to rent a flat for a few months than stay in hotels or hostels for weeks at a time.
Longest stay so far: Five and a half months in New Zealand
The longest I’ve spent in one place is New Zealand if you ignore the one-week hop to Sydney while I sorted a new visa. I could have happily stayed in New Zealand much longer but had to leave to be in a closer time zone to a client.
Shortest stay so far: One week in Sydney (sorting out a visa) and one week in Amsterdam (for a conference.)
I try to avoid short trips, as I feel it doesn’t give me long enough to get used to a place. I like to be there long enough to see past the obvious tourist stuff and live more like a local.
I’m James—an open source software developer and former theatre producer currently in the US wrapping up my goal of going to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. I’m currently hacking on human interaction at Loomio, a New Zealand based collective decision-making tool.
Countries per year: 8
Often I’ll spend the summer in the US, but move around quite a bit while I’m there. I’d guesstimate eight countries per year or so (it’s way less friction to shift countries in Europe or Southeast Asia, say, than the US or Australia).
Average length of stay (in one place): 1 week – 5 months
This varies depending on the time of year. A rough breakdown: 1 place for 4/5 months; 5 places for one month or so each; 10 places for 1 – 2 weeks; and very occasional ‘day trips’ of 1-3 days (maybe 2 – 3 per year).
Longest stay so far: 5 months in New Zealand.
I usually have a good chunk of time in one place (4 – 5 months per year in New Zealand, where my employer is based).
Shortest stay so far: A day or two.
I’ll go on a day or 2-day trip occasionally, but not too often. It sounds nice to go spend the day in Brussels or something, but if I’ve got my big backpack with me all day it tends to be not that much fun.
Now, friends and readers, back to you: Are you a digital nomad? How fast do you travel?
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