The story of a digital nomad
Digital nomad. A term I first came across ten years ago when I was a fresh grad out of Central Saint Martins, trying to break into the ad industry in London. There I was, sitting in the uber cool open-planned offices of a digital agency in Shoreditch as an intern, when I was given a brief to work on their latest campaign - the Skype nomad. The idea was to send someone - this ‘digital nomad’ - travelling around the world in a month. She would be photographing, blogging, vlogging her journey all via Skype, and I remember thinking, is that for real? A job where you get to travel to amazing countries and see incredible sights all whilst earning a living? It sounded like the dream job, but I knew all too well that this was ‘only an ad’, and such jobs of course didn’t exist for real people like me. I quickly snapped back into reality, staying late to sketch out a banner ad ready for the client meeting the day after.
Soon enough, I managed to land a ‘proper’ job as an art director. It was a prestigious agency, my boss was a Sir, and they had offices all over the world. It was something my parents could finally brag about to their friends. I thought I had it, my dream job. I was working, pitching, shooting, partying, working late, shooting again, partying more, working weekends. I spent most of my waking hours in the agency and that seemed like a pretty normal life for a twenty-something-year-old.
Then we had a baby, a wonderful little boy. Suddenly, this dream job no longer fit in with the breastfeeding or the nappy changing or the baby building, and we moved to Bristol to seek a quieter life. A life that would be fit for raising children. A beautiful second baby boy followed, and I spent the year looking after my brood. It was the most precious of times, and one I wouldn’t swap for anything.
But soon enough, I felt the need to do something creative with my life again. I knew agency life wasn’t for me anymore. I wanted to be in for the school runs, assemblies, nativities and parent evenings. I decided to combine my passion of photography together with my love of interiors and ended up working for one of my favourite interiors publications, travelling to different places shooting creative people’s homes. So whilst I was technically living in Bristol, I’d bring my family to stay in London with me when I had a shoot, living out of Airbnbs and working with my editor in America.
Meanwhile the project from ten years ago kept popping back into my mind. Had I inadvertently become some form of digital nomad, not being tied down to a particular place but still able to make an income? Could I earn whilst travelling with my family, experiencing all the things this amazing world has to offer? Could we trade Big Ben with the Big Buddha, the Royal Albert Hall with the Sydney Opera House, Fitzrovia with Fitzroy? The possibility of working whilst still having my favourite people near me was starting to look more and more doable. So about a year ago, we made a decision. We would break from the pack, go off on an adventure, and try out this digital nomadic life for real. We would rent out our home and travel as a family, whether by taxi, hire car, plane, boat, scooter, car ferry, cable car or tuk tuk, for eight months. We would explore Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and all over South East Asia. And after that, who knows where this adventure will take us!
Suddenly I get a flashback of my younger self, sitting in that Shoreditch office, chasing that dream job. I wish I could tell her that it will come, it just might not look exactly like you imagined. It could be even better.