This is the story of the very exact moment I decided I no longer wanted to be an expat, but become a digital nomad. The funny thing, is I decided I wanted to be one when I was already doing it.
Digital Nomad Journey
Let me explain:
It was December 2015; I had reluctantly left behind my expat life in Thailand where I had been living for the past two years, to spend a few months in Boston where I could reconnect with my family after some personal stuff happened at home that year. I really had loved living abroad; Thailand to me was the paradise I had always dreamed about and the expat community I found there was the most amazing group of likeminded people I always wished to know. Being back home was a hard adjustment and I wasn’t emotionally committed to sticking around, so I decided to find some remote temporary work as a writer. Over my time in Boston, I received two long-term job offers-- one job was a full time remote position with the company I was temping for, and the other was a cool position at a digital marketing agency on the Mediterranean island country of Malta.
Making Life Decisions
My thought process at the time was that while I did think working remotely was pretty cool, I was worried about not having structure or a social circle of colleagues in my day to day, and getting tired of working from my parent’s house or eventually my own apartment. Still, the job paid more so I considered it and decided that if I were to work remotely, I would move to NYC so I could live in an exciting city but still have access to my family in Boston. That might make it not so bad.
With the Malta opportunity though, I’d get my “expat life” back, I’d have structure and colleagues, plus the country has year-round beautiful weather (I’m a huge baby about the cold), and I had always dreamed of living in Europe… As December days got snowier, I thought more and more about it, and guess which one I chose?
I no longer wanted to be an expat, but a digital nomad.
Maybe you guessed it: I accepted the position inMalta, which would start in February, and I told the other company I would continue my temp contract with them for another two months until I went toMalta. I was hesitant about Malta because it’s a small island and I was very used to big-city life at the time, but Malta checked more boxes and seemed a lot safer and more comfortable of an option.
The Lightbulb Moment
Going to Malta meant I’d have two months to kill at home. Since I’m always looking at flights when I’m bored, I noticed there was a cheap one to Costa Rica over the New Year and I booked a last minute trip there with a friend. I was originally going to just do a week, but decided I’d bring my laptop so I could do a little work from there and justify staying for an extra week after she left. I wasn’t used to traveling solo, but thought it would be better to arrive in Malta with a tan (right?).
Flash forward a few weeks: I found myself sitting in front of beach, next to a beautiful pool on a lounge chair in Costa Rica...with my laptop... making money... getting paid(!?)... Wait... What have I done?? I could go work from NYC and spend all my money on rent and coffeeshops, or I could stay in less expensive countries like Costa Rica and use some of that leftover money for more flights, and still have some left over. I could go home whenever I want... I’m FREE.
It’s worth noting that I had never heard the phrase digital nomad before, and honestly had never considered traveling and working at the same time because it simply hadn’t dawned on me that I could do that.When I realized though, I called both companies and reversed my decision (it was a hard conversation with the Malta company, which I still feel guilty about, and luckily the offer still stood with my current company).
Once that was done, I cancelled my return flight home and I stayed. I met some nice and fun people in Costa Rica who invited me to join them on a trip to Nicaragua, so I went. After a few weeks, I moved on to Colombia. After a couple of months, I hopped over from there to Ecuador. Later I flew over to Brazil. All the meanwhile, I was opening up my laptop at 9am EST, closing it at 5pm, and in my off hours I was exploring new places, trying new foods, meeting new people, and learning all about managing the most perfect work/life balance I’ve ever experienced.
That lightbulb moment was over three years ago now, and 51 countries later, I’m still thriving as a digital nomad; appreciating the world (and feeling grateful for technology!) every single day. Follow along my journey at @christabellatravels on Instagram or message me on this Bonjour community for expats, nomads and travel bloggers: I’m constantly posting tips and tidbits about my experience as a digital nomad.