What does it take to be a Digital Nomad?

8 min readJun 6, 2018


By Rodaq

Like many of you, I have always dreamed of being a full-time traveler and being paid while exploring the world. I’m not talking about travelling influenced by a touristic guide, though, or staying in that safe route between airport-hotel-touristic hotspots. I’m talking about being open to see the unseen, to experience the unknown. Yes, you need a fair budget to do it, and only this idea sets so many people away from pursuing the dream of living and working abroad. But it starts with the desire of leaving your comfort zone. I actually have never met anyone who doesn’t like traveling. But how do we combine work and vacation? 🤔

The unknown excites me immensely. I identify myself with the idea of being a digital nomad, and today I can easily work from anywhere I am, as long as I have a good internet connection. Has it always been like this? Absolutely not. The journey to successfully become a remote worker is hard but worth the effort.

“How much do you charge per hour?”, I was asked once by a guy from Las Vegas that found my portfolio online. It was in a moment when I was having my first experience as a full-time UX Designer in a startup, after quitting my job in an agency as a webdesigner. That simple question resumes how my journey to become a digital nomad began! 🕺

We all have been in one of those moments where you do extra work to top up your budget. Parallel to my “official” job, I started to work with the Las Vegas guy on my free time, experiencing for the first time what was like to be a freelancer. The feeling of being my own boss and working under my terms excited me a lot. He then offered a very interesting contract, pushing the idea of being completely independent. After a month working together, I finally decided to quit my job and officially jumpstart my career as a full-time freelancer. What an exciting moment! The next day, my very first one as a solo freelancer, the client dropped the contract. Changed his mind. So that was it. No job, no contract.

I was terrified. The idea of returning to a safe job was conflicting with the anxiety to move ahead and find more clients. This experience taught me so much. I’ve been working as a designer for almost 10 years now, but my independence as a freelancer began during this chapter in 2014 when I joined Upwork. Through my profile, I was able to connect with more clients and keep surviving in the jungle, a lifestyle that I identify with.

I have struggled a lot on the transition from regular 9–5 jobs to freelance life and later to a “workation” (work + vacation) and all those changes have taught me how important it is to adapt to a new scene quickly, so you can keep being productive and efficient.

Yes, the feeling of independence is priceless. As a freelancer that freedom motivated me to keep going further. It started with the setup of a home-office and a life/work routine similar to the one I was having before. But as I started to grow as a freelancer, I lost control of a regular routine, working 10 to 14 hours a day, not to mention weekends. I was living a mix of excitingness and exhaustion. With little or almost no time to disconnect my mind, I thought investing in a more comfortable home-office would help. In the long term, it only made me feel unhappy and stuck in my comfort zone.

I was desperately chasing for a change and for the first time, I decided to move from Valencia to Malaga, in Spain. I had absolutely no reasons to do it, apart from my desire for a fresh new life.

A van full of stuff — From Valencia to Malaga

​​After a year, I was feeling again a prisoner of my own job. All my past attempts to work on coworking spaces, cafes, were unsuccessful, as well as my first attempts to work remotely while traveling, because I just couldn’t concentrate out of home. ​😩​

​​​​Once again I decided to change by moving to London, a fascinating place to global citizens like me. Yes, that’s what I needed. I drove over 2.000Km from Málaga to London in a 2.5-day trip with Bravo, my buddy. We love road trips!

​​Moving houses is not an easy thing, but during this process, I was able to fit all my personal belongings in a car, leaving behind extra furniture and stuff I didn’t need anymore, slowly embracing a minimal lifestyle.

A car full of stuff — From Malaga to London

After a few months in the “city of dreams” I found myself in a burnout state and again stuck on working at insane levels, following the rhythm of the city. As a Brazilian, I also struggled a lot to adapt to the cold and dark weather. I was deeply disconnected with myself. 😰

The Transition

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”.
- Maya Angelou

I finally realized I needed a break, but also to change my mindset. I knew for a long time I was ready to embrace the idea of being a digital nomad, mixing my passion for traveling with my passion for designing. I left London with just a hand luggage and the scary idea of being a homeless person, landing in Bali with a one-way ticket and absolutely no further plans. I was ready to test-drive my digital nomad journey. 🛬

A hand luggage full of dreams — From London to the world

I instantly fell in love with this paradise. Beautiful natural exotic places, warm and stable weather, friendly people, delicious healthy food and a very cheap cost of living, plus, I had no idea I was coming to find a huge community of remote workers here. Bali has even being credited as the Silicon Valley of Asia, and it is now considered one of the hottest hubs for digital nomads.

New Place, New Barriers

Secure a reliable internet connection is crucial to survive as remote worker. In Bali you’ll find amazing coworking spaces like Dojo or Hubud with great internet speed, but having a good mobile connection at hand as an alternative is not a bad idea. I found here in Indonesia a 35GB monthly package for 145K IDR (about €9) with Telkomsel. When I hotspot my mobile internet to my macbook the video calls with clients always go smooth. 🤩

At the villas where I stayed the connection is usually enough to navigate, reply emails, etc, but not to join conference calls, as there might be a reasonable amount of other guests using the same connection. With some luck, you can find a place with an awesome internet speed, like I found at Ryan Bagus Guesthouse, in Canggu. Also, a great tip is to use a speedtest app wherever you go and create your own wifi treasure map. 😎

Ryan Bagus Guesthouse (in Canggu) — Affordable accommodation + awesome internet speed!

Now you must be wondering how I am able to balance leisure and work in a destination like Bali. Well, when you have a strong commitment in building your future you might not have enough time for touristing. It’s a totally different traveling approach which I like to call “Workation”. A tourist has a limited time to come back home. A digital nomad doesn’t need to feel anxious for visiting everything in a short period of time since the decision to go around is not tied to a return date, but to your desire of moving and exploring.

What Changed

I can now balance work and leisure. I have more energy, the ideas seem to pop up more brightly. Not to mention the increase of my quality of life and the quality of my work. Being here makes me feel constantly inspired and the pressure to produce can be better managed when you are in an inspiring place like Bali.

Everyday I get to meet new people, new places, cultures, flavours and experiences I have never seen before. I’m producing efficiently. Not having a place to call home stopped being a concern.

This was the beginning of my new professional journey as a digital nomad.

All the way from a freelancer to the founder of a Digital Agency. I managed to put together a group of trusted professionals (a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a project manager and a content writer) who think alike as being part of a big movement growing around the globe: the remote workers! We are not only changing the way we work, but we are helping to change the industry!

This is extremely exciting and a large group of remote workers are heading this way this month to discuss the ins and outs the remote working scene. Not only independent workers, but big companies like Buffer, Transferwise, Github, Atlassian, just to mention a few, who will attend the Running Remote Conference, in Ubud. Events like these are a precious opportunity to learn and increase network with professionals and startups who are also running or willing to run remote teams. You can find more information about the Running Remote Conference over here. I have secured my spot. Don’t miss out!

I hope my story encourages you to free from old chains and take your test-drive. Start small, but give it a try! You won’t regret. 🤞

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”.




Rodrigo de Aquino Angelim (rodaq), is a Product Designer, a Brazilian dreamer, a curious traveler, a remote worker, not in any particular order. weshape.design