The conversation about digital nomadism is at its height. Travel startups are cropping up to make the experience more accessible, while the early adopters are increasingly vocal to show that this lifestyle goes beyond the hype of working on a laptop from the beach.
I recently spoke with Victoria Watts Kennedy, a writer who is based in the UK and travels for part of the year to get her perspective on the lifestyle. For Watts Kennedy, travel constantly challenges who she is; her personality and ideas. We dug into some of the emotions, challenges, and rewards that have come with traveling through 50 countries since she hit the road in 2012 with her partner.
Watts Kennedy in Peckham, England.
Credit: Victoria Watts Kennedy
Tell me about being a digital nomad.
I became a digital nomad by accident. I quit my full-time job as a writer for the British Red Cross in 2012 and set off on a one-way ticket to Rio with my partner Steve. Steve has his own film company and knew he'd be working while we were on the road, but I wasn't so sure what I'd do.
The main thing I wanted was to explore. So I started a blog about that exploration -- of both the world and myself. It started as a hobby, but I soon realized there were a lot of people out there who had a made a life for themselves out of blogging or freelancing while on the road. I decided to try it myself, and four years later, that's more or less what I do.
I don't travel full-time and my work is a patchwork of different things, including blogging, writing for magazines, and copywriting and editing for charities and travel companies. Most of this work is done remotely, but when I'm in the UK I sometimes work in an office. The variety suits me.
Watts Kennedy in Kyoto.
Credit: Victoria Watts Kennedy
What have you learned while writing on the road? Give a recent example.
A lot of people idealize the concept of being a digital nomad -- there's this idea that it's like a never-ending vacation where you also happen to get paid. Although there are obviously perks, such as managing your own time and getting to see the world, being a digital nomad is also a lot of hard work and it's definitely not for everyone. Many of the digital nomads I know work longer hours than I did when I had a full-time job in London, and most have burned out at some point along the way. It's not all hammocks and cocktails on the beach.
Steve and I were the same when we started out. We found it really hard to find a good work/life balance and ending up working far too much, which started to take the joy out of travel. Over the years, we've experimented with different ways of managing that and are slowly learning what works for us. Our current trip in New Zealand has been ideal. We've mixed stretches of work with stretches of travel rather than constantly trying to mix the two. Our time travelling has felt more like it used to -- like simply travelling -- rather than work.
What are you learning about yourself while traveling with your partner Steve?
Steve and I have been lucky to realize we share similar priorities. After a few years of being nomadic, we started to long for a base -- a place to return to and call home. Along the way, we made many different plans -- we even came close to buying land in Mexico and building a yoga retreat -- but eventually we realized we wanted that base to be closer to our friends and family. The Mexico house may still happen one day, but for now, we've chosen to make England our place to return to with lots of travelling in between. We're lucky to share that dream.
On a more day-to-day level, we've happily both learned that our memories are fallible. I think one of the biggest causes for arguments between couples is the whole "no, you said this" and "I said this" type of bickering. Once you've learned your own memory might be wrong, you can let those little things go, which saves a lot of time!
Watts Kennedy and her partner Steve Watts Kennedy on a recent trip through Cable Bay, New Zealand.
Credit: Victoria Watts Kennedy
Who's had the biggest influence on your life and why?
My Mum, for sure. She died in 2009 after a long struggle with MS that she faced with a huge amount of strength, humour and dignity. My Dad also died eight years before so I have a keen understanding of how short life can be. The love my parents had for each other is a major source of inspiration for my own relationship with Steve and I try never to take that love, or my health, for granted. I feel lucky every day.
How do you challenge yourself?
Some people say they "find themselves" when travelling, but I've found the opposite to be true. It's like that saying, "the more you know the less you know for sure". When I was at home I had quite a clear idea of who I was, and so did all the people around me. When travelling, I'm constantly placed in new situations and find my ideas and personality are in flux. This isn't a negative thing; it's actually one of my favourite things about travelling -- how your own ideas, even about yourself, are constantly being questioned or seen in a different light. So in that respect, I challenge myself through travel.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
I write a lot about my journey as a digital nomad on my blog Bridges and Balloons. Please do follow along and feel free to ask me any questions you have. I love hearing from readers.
I'm fascinated by creative women -- their passions, challenges, and contributions to society. If you know a creative woman to feature, please tweet @kmarano.
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