Dare to pack it all up and move abroad? Lindsay and Ross share insight into how to manage an international nomadic lifestyle while maintaining a professional working life.
I love living abroad and adore traveling, but even my hell-yes-let’s-go attitude seems downright stick-in-the-mud compared to the nomadic lifestyle of my friends Lindsay Lake and Ross Williams. Now in their late 20s, Lindsay and Ross are nomads. Since I got to know them in Seville in 2008, they’ve lived in Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Victoria (Canada), Buenos Aires, Phuket (Thailand), Paris, Berlin again, Barcelona, Budapest, Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula at Merida and Playa del Carmen, and Barcelona a second time. When I wrote this, they were boarding a plane to New Zealand.
The modern-day digital nomad
Ross and Lindsay are not rich dilettantes on a permanent vacation, nor (so far as I know) are they secret CIA operatives, assassins or members of the witness protection program. They’re digital nomads, part of a small but growing number of people who work over the Internet in ways that allow them to live anywhere – and everywhere – they choose.
Of course, like most people, they started out with ‘real’ jobs in bricks-and-mortar locations, first in Denver and later working for a tech company in Seville. Then they realized that advances in telephone and Internet technology made their location irrelevant for many jobs. Doing international searches on Craigslist, they found market research clients for Lindsay and sales work for Ross that could be done entirely over Skype and cell phone; his sales clients in the US need never know he’s out of the country. For many digital nomads, working at a startup is their first chance to get their work done without having to be chained to their desk all the time.
“We threw all the chips in and bet everything on this decision,” says Ross. They got rid of all excess belongings, and today, their entire worldly goods can fit into a taxi: two suitcases, a small roll-aboard, a backpack, Ross’ guitar, and their large, cheerful dog, Rocky, who travels with them everywhere.
Traveling and living light
The couple has evolved strict rules to keep their baggage manageable. If you buy a t-shirt, you get rid of a t-shirt. Always choose multi-use items, like the lightweight bars made by Lush that serve as shampoo, body wash, hand soap, dog shampoo and even laundry detergent. Plenty of online services have rendered physical objects obsolete, which will help with the packing; streaming services and voice-call apps have rendered televisions and phones almost redundant at this point. Most importantly, don’t buy anything you don’t really, really need.
Like most young couples, they live in modest rented apartments and work hard five days a week. Unlike most people of any age, when they walk outside after work, it’s always someplace new and exciting, with opportunities to learn new skills, such as Basque cooking in Spain and scuba diving in Thailand.
Life on a tourist visa
As long as there’s decent Internet connection and no dog quarantine laws, they can live anywhere that takes their fancy. Entering on a tourist visa usually limits them to a three-month stay and then they move on.
It’s not the lifestyle for everybody, but for Lindsay and Ross, it’s a great way to see the world while moving forward with their careers. “It’s really not a question of why we do it,” says Lindsay. “It’s more a question of why doesn’t everyone do it?”
How long will they keep it up? That’s what’s everyone’s wondering, especially as they’ve just announced they’re expecting a baby in February. They admit they’ll probably have to curtail their travels to some degree, but they have no intention of returning to the US, or settling permanently in any one location. As Lindsay puts it, “We want to be sure we’re raising our kids in an environment bigger than their own back yard.”
Find out more about Ross Williams, Lindsay Lake and the Wireless Generation.
Reprinted with permission of Enjoy Living Abroad.
Karen McCann moved to Seville in 2004 and writes about her expat experiences in her new book, Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad. “I loved this book,” wrote Lonely Planet. “I must have laughed aloud at least once in every chapter . . . The advice in the book is terrific.” Wanderlust has taken her to more than thirty countries, including many developing or post-war nations where she and her husband volunteer as consultants to struggling microenterprises. Today, she spends her time writing, blogging, painting, exploring Seville, and traveling the world.