Digital nomads: Meet the women who combine work and travel

Meet the women who combine work and travel

The ability to work and travel simultaneously is a goal for many women with a passion for exploring the world.

As the digital nomad lifestyle and working remotely becomes more commonplace, women are finding ways to not only take their work with them wherever they go, they’re able to maintain a career at the same time too.

Sounds like the best of both worlds, doesn’t it? But how do they actually do it?

Four women who are currently combining work and travel share how it’s done.

Georgina Tan travels the world while working as a freelance marketing consultant

The freelance marketing consultant

Australian marketing consultant Georgina Tan has always wanted to travel the world.

The 30-year-old was living and working in London and when her visa expired in February 2017, it prompted her to take a year off to travel.

She had saved up a substantial amount of money to cover her year off, and she didn’t intend to work while hopping from city to city.

But during the year that Georgina made it to 25 countries, people in her network reached out and asked if she could fulfil short-term projects and contracts.

“I saved enough money so that I could travel until the end of the year so I wasn’t desperate to find work but it was nice to have that extra cash flow. It allowed me to stay in nicer places and do more things on my travels,” she said.

The experience gave Georgina a taste of what it was like to travel and work simultaneously.

“Shifting to a remote working arrangement suited me because I was already used to working in companies where there would be staff members or entire teams based remotely,” she said.

“The lifestyle also suited me because I’m single and don’t have any financial attachment to anything. I can imagine having a partner or children would make this kind of lifestyle hard.”

The adventure also taught Georgina a thing or two about working and travelling.

“As long as I have an internet connection and my laptop is working, I’m okay. Sometimes in remote towns where internet is not great, it can be testing. If I knew I had a big project coming up, I tried to plan to be in a big city or at least at a hotel that could ensure reliable internet,” she said.

She also learned a few travel hacks along the way, like sticking to a certain cost limit for accommodation so she wouldn’t burn through her money and taking cheaper transport options where possible.

“Sometimes, I took the bus instead of flying because it was much cheaper and I sometimes travelled overnight so I wouldn’t have to pay for accommodation. Because I didn’t have time pressures, I could take longer transport routes,” she said.

Georgina has enjoyed this working arrangement so much that she is looking to make it a more permanent fixture.

While she returned home to Australia in late 2017 to see family and friends during the festive period, she recently returned to London for a month to meet with a client based there.

She has since established marketing agency Third Gemini, spent time in Thailand and United Arab Emirates, and hopes to include plenty of travel on her itinerary for 2018.

The travelling solo mum

For single mum Gaby Barnett, the idea of travelling with her son and working remotely was a lifestyle she had dreamed about.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Gaby was focused on studying and motherhood before she started working remotely.

The 42-year-old has been travelling and working remotely for 18 months and is currently based in Spain.

“I had been travelling for some time and living outside the UK before deciding that it was a lifestyle that I wanted to maintain. To be able to do this longer term I needed to be able to better fund it,” she said.

To manage the transition to working remotely and travelling, Gaby saved some money to live off and mostly travelled to and lived in third-world countries, allowing her to keep expenses low.

Gaby’s first remote job was with a UK-based inventory company doing transcription work. All she needed was an internet connection, a laptop, a foot pedal (for transcribing) and some computer software. The sporadic nature of transcribing left her with a lot of time to build up other work.

She used global freelancing platform Upwork to source jobs but found much of the work was irregular and poorly paid.

Eventually, Gaby joined English education platform DadaABC and teaches English online to children in China. She finds the hourly rate decent, and she still has plenty of time to pursue other avenues of work while continuing to travel.

“The company is great, they look after their teachers well and it’s a really fun, rewarding way to work remotely,” she said.

Gaby also does regular translation work and maintains a blog for translation service company Be Translated.

In addition to working, Gaby has studied nutrition and shares her knowledge via her Instagram account The Food For Health. She’s currently looking into ways she can expand on the hobby, to see if it is possible to monetise the account through affiliate marketing.

But how exactly does Gaby manage the juggle of remote working and travelling?

“I am very lucky in that I have had the luxury of building up my remote income without too much pressure, due to having another small residual income from the UK,” she said.

“Coupled with living and travelling in countries with a very low cost of living and beautiful beaches, this has made for a very simple life without many requirements and no impending need for a high income. A little money can allow you to live very well in certain destinations.”

While travelling through Europe, Gaby has encountered increased living expenses compared to countries with lower living costs, and she is working more for a higher pay rate to compensate. She also has the option to increase her teaching hours – currently she keeps her hours for this job minimal.

While this lifestyle requires a flexible and adaptable attitude, Gaby loves the fact that it allows her to fuel her passion for travel.

“I love the excitement of always getting to explore new places, being constantly challenged. I find the people I meet while travelling are the kindest and nicest people,” she said.

“Travelling also gives me the space and the time to be creative, and to explore my talents and ever-growing interests.”

Alexis works remotely as a blogger, photographer and marketing consultant
Alexis working in hotel room

The travel blogger

When Singaporean woman Alexis Toh Mu Qin decided that working in a corporate finance job was not for her, she made a career change that evolved into working remotely full time.

In 2014, she left the corporate world and joined a local Singapore food blog Miss Tam Chiak as a food writer and photographer.

In October 2015 she started her travel blog Alexis Jetsets and by August 2017 she was able to leave her full time job at Miss Tam Chiak to focus on her own business.

The 27-year-old’s passion for travel began as a teenager, when she would tag along on her parent’s business trips.

“My parents encouraged me to keep a travel diary… and I picked up photography when I turned 16. I like learning about different cultures and heritage whenever I visit a new destination. It allows me to view things from different perspectives,” she said.

“I did not have time to travel when I was an auditor and I missed it so much. That’s when I decided I needed a lifestyle that incorporated lots of travelling.”

The transition to working remotely was relatively easy for Alexis. She saved money while working in her corporate job, and while she has not yet been able to monetise her blog directly, she attracts enough paid content creation work to support her lifestyle.

Most of her work nowadays includes creating content and managing social media accounts for clients, taking on photography projects and developing marketing campaigns for brands.

While Alexis doesn’t accept paid hotel reviews on her blog, as she wants to remain transparent with her readers, she does often work with brands and tourism boards who offer complimentary accommodation and activities. All other aspects of her lifestyle are covered by her freelance income.

For most of 2018, Alexis intends to constantly move around and work remotely. At the time of this interview, she was in Hong Kong but hopes to get to Cambodia, Thailand and Laos next.

“I like not being tied down to one particular place or company. Being my own boss definitely has its perks – I get to decide the direction I want to take not just in life, but for my career and business as well.”

Betty lives on a boat and teaches English online

The online teacher who sails

One way to travel the world is to take up residence on a sail boat and make a living by teaching online. At least, that’s how Betty Cassidy does it.

The New York-born woman spent a large part of her life in the Philippines and has had travel in her blood for as long as she can remember.

The 27-year-old is currently docked in Panama on board the sailboat she now calls home. She travels with her partner and teaches English online from her home office in the boat.

“The sailboat is our home. We do not earn income from the boat (we do not charter), the boat is simply our residence,” she said.

Because of the nature of sailing, Betty’s work has to be flexible. With teaching English online, she is able to create her own working schedule, which can fluctuate from teaching 30 minutes every day to working maximum daily hours three days per week.

Throughout January and February this year, Betty and her partner sailed around remote islands in San Blas. There was no stable internet so she didn’t work at all during this time. Thankfully, it only cost $50 per person per week to live, including fresh lobster and alcohol, so they managed.

“Right now we are close to a main town – Bocas Bocas Del Toro – with stable internet. This allows me to work Mondays to Saturdays. I typically begin teaching at 5am and finish at 9am. The rest of the day is free for exploring islands, swimming, surfing, snorkelling, checking out cafes and bars in town,” she said.

“We talk about sailing to Colombia sometime which entails not working for a couple of months. We also talk about leaving the boat at a marina and heading somewhere cool for the summer. Whether we end up in Medellin or Denver, I can bring my job with me. The beauty of this lifestyle is the fluidity; it’s very flexible.”

Betty is able to comfortably live off the income she earns and fund her travels.

With the ability to earn, on average, US$20 per hour, Betty said she can easily make US$2000 a month (excluding her partner’s income). Their living expenses are low and even with being docked at a marina, monthly costs rarely exceed US$1000 per month.

“We do have solar power, watch movies and cook at home. My partner does all boat maintenance himself which saves a lot of money as well,” Betty said.

“Living in a 32-feet home forces us to be minimalists and therefore shopping for clothes and such is not part of the lifestyle; I’m either barefoot or wearing flip flops. However, I get to splurge on electronics such as a Macbook Pro and iPhone, which I use for work, and a drone which is just for fun. We also go out a couple times a week for food and drinks.”

While this lifestyle may not be for everyone, Betty has always loved being on the move.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity to travel. It enables me to expand my horizons, to see the world and its people in a different light – a better light,” she said.

Do you combine travel and work? How do you do it? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Sharon Green, editor

Sharon Green

Sharon Green is the founding editor of SHE DEFINED.

An experienced journalist and editor, Sharon has worked in mainstream media in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Forever in search of a publication that confronted the real issues faced by modern women, Sharon decided to create her own.