Five Years Without a “Real” Job – What You Should Know About Digital Nomads

Matt Long Tanzania Africa

As hard as it is for me to believe, it’s once again May which means that it’s also once again the anniversary of entering a new phase of my life. In May of every year I like to take a moment, step back and ponder what it’s been like shaking off the restraints of a career I hated and instead inventing a new career in what is a strange form of micro-entrepreneurship. For those of you who aren’t fully aware of my backstory, you should read this post but to recap in just a couple of sentences it’s a simple story really. I was a DC lobbyist for about 12 years, a career I never intended to go into and one that I didn’t particularly like. But it paid the bills, provided me with healthcare and along with my partner’s job, we had (and have) a nice little suburban existence. It’s not the suburban aspect that I hated, it was the career. I’ve lost many close members of my family in the last few years and that, almost more than anything else, has taught me how very important it is to devote your life to something that you enjoy and something about which you are passionate. Passion is key and it can be anything, from being a doctor to a lumberjack to a travel blogger, what the career is doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you are totally and absolutely passionate about it.

Lately though I’ve seen a lot of misinformation swirling out there in the interwebs about travel bloggers and location independent folks like myself so I thought I’d set the record straight. I think this is important not only for the casual reader, but for other people who think they can do this as an actual profession. Sadly, there are now thousands of so-called travel bloggers out there and most of them are horrible. There’s no barrier to entry in this job, so anyone can try it – and they do. But they don’t understand the work involved and while most ultimately fail, in the process they damage the reputation of the entire profession. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I want to share what it is that I do exactly.

Sunrise Diplomat Beach Resort Florida

Digital nomads and location independence

These are terms which at first blush can be confusing, especially identifying as a digital nomad. In my personal opinion, both terms are essentially interchangeable and mean that someone has a job which enables them to work anywhere in the world. As a mid-range Gen-Xer, growing up in the 80s and graduating college in the 90s, the concept still seems fantastical to me and yet it’s becoming increasingly common. Thanks to the great computer and internet, millions of folks like myself can work from anywhere. As great a luxury and innovation in the history of work since the wheel. (That may be an exaggeration) You can be an accountant and be a digital nomad, or a travel blogger. Calling oneself a digital nomad though doesn’t necessarily mean you’re nomadic.

I’m location independent and yet I have a house in the burbs, three dogs, cars and a pretty common suburban lifestyle. When looking at the top travel bloggers in the world, this kind of stability is actually the norm, although there are outliers. Traveling in perpetuity isn’t fun, it’s taxing and (I think) a little depressing. Instead many of us do in fact have homes, but travel quite often.

Bamberg, Germany

Quitting your job not always the right answer

While leaving behind my corporate life was the right answer for me, it’s certainly not the right answer for everyone. Investigating new cultures around the world has ALWAYS been my one true passion in life for as long as I can remember. Transitioning from a soul-sucking job to what I do now was the natural progression in my life, but it’s not the same for everyone. Just because you don’t like your job doesn’t mean you should backpack around the world. It means you should find a new job. That’s what I did, it just so happens that my new job is a little unconventional.

When reexamining one’s life, it is crucial to be as realistic as possible. Of the thousands of travel bloggers out there, very few of us have been able to make this a true career; turning it into a stable profession with income sufficient to live in a Western nation. It’s more than just making money though, it’s about having the business sense to understand how the site and associated business should grow over time, how it should evolve and change in order to guarantee that this remains a career choice and not a momentarily blip in the timeline of my professional life. Looking around at the other folks who have made this a career, I see many commonalities. Most of us are 35-50, we all came from successful careers in other fields like politics, medicine, law, banking and so on. For the most part, these are individuals who would succeed at no matter what they do, it just so happens that they chose travel writing. If you want to make travel your career, that’s fine, but treat it like a career. That means being organized, methodical and having a business plan moving into the future. Part of my job is to make this all look effortless, but it’s certainly not. I’ve never worked harder in my life, but I’ve never been happier doing it.

Moving forward

I was raised with a very clear New Englander mindset, part of which includes not to be too prideful. And yet, sitting here at my desk preparing to leave the country for a couple of weeks doing what I love most, I can’t help but feel tremendous pride in what I have accomplished. I don’t exist in a bubble and creating this dream job from scratch wouldn’t have happened without a lot of help. But it also would never have happened had I not worked as hard as I have to will this profession to exist. I don’t know what the next year or five years holds in store and it may not be here on this blog. But whatever my next steps in life may be, I know that I am on the path I was meant to be on and for that I could not be more thankful.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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4 Responses

  1. Scott Adlhoch

    Your story inspires me a lot. I just love your story of traveling without a job. Really inspiring story. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply
  2. Rebecca Bingham

    Thanks for your consistency, your courage and your commitment. You continue to inspire me.

    Reply
  3. Michael

    Really great and inspiring, I feel like I’m still at the start of your story wondering how to break free. I don’t actually hate my job but would welcome the location independence. Question, what do you do with your 3 dogs when you travel?

    Reply
  4. Steven Rokes

    Hi matt,
    This is really cool writing. keep up it. and can you share more experience?

    Reply

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