Becoming a Digital Nomad While Backpacking New Zealand
Every Digital Nomad has their own story of how they started on their online career path. Some quit high paying jobs, others knew from the beginning of college that a flexible work schedule, which allowed for the freedom to travel was what they wanted.
My story started while backpacking in New Zealand.
I had arrived in New Zealand without a plan other than to first travel the South Island. After stopping through Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, I decided to stay there for a while.
After quickly finding a permanent bed (not the nicest bed, but more on this later), I met some friends and got set up with a job working for a construction company hanging drywall.
With steady work, plenty of bars within walking distance of my flat, and endless opportunities to hike some of the most beautiful mountains and hills the planet Earth has to offer, how could life not have been good. And it was. That is, until I realized that I wanted more.
I wasn’t willing to settle.
Restless, I knew that I had the potential to achieve greater fulfillment than I currently was. Then one day I met an Australian girl named Caitlin, who happened to be a freelance writer and masseuse.
That’s when everything clicked. Writing is and always was my passion. Not to mention that I had a journalism degree that was just wasting away unused–put on the shelf while I prioritized exploring the world. So I decided to commitment myself to becoming a freelance writer and digital nomad (I would have tried masseuse as well, but I couldn’t help but to think that posting an ad in a local magazine titled “amatuer massage therapist” seemed creepy.).
The first thing that I needed was more time. I was working 55 to 60 hours a week, Monday through Saturday. Waking up early each morning only to be physically exhausted at the end of each day. It was taking a toll on me. I need more time.
I made a bold decision and decided to ask my boss, Ben if I could work part-time. He was a big, middle aged Kiwi who was addicted to work and making money. Needless to say, I was a little nervous.
I Committed to Change with My Actions.
“Ben, I need to talk to you,” I said to him one day after 12 hours of work. “I would like to work three days a week to focus on my writing.”
My heart sank! How upset was he going to be?
“No problem, mate,” said Ben. “I didn’t know you were a writer.”
I couldn’t believe it was that easy. After agreeing to still work long days when I came in, being flexible with the three days I would work, and promising to wait two weeks before I started my new schedule, both of us were very pleased.
Now that I had the time. Next I needed a place to work.
I failed to mention earlier that my bed was in a small 8 bedroom, 4 bathroom house, which I shared with 29 other backpackers from all over the world. The rent was cheap, the location was great, and I had a lot of fun. However, it was hardly suitable for writing.
A Space for Writing.
Luckily, my friend Adam managed a co-operative work space just outside of town.
Adam was a Nomad himself. He lived in a trailer that the owner of the co-op allowed him to park in the space’s backyard. That way he could live on as little money as possible while he worked on his children’s book. This made Adam very supportive and understanding of my situation.
The co-op had only recently opened, so many of the desks in the space were still empty. Until the space filled up, I had a place to work with free wifi.
With no car, I had to hitchhike to the space, but luckily in Queenstown, New Zealand hitchhiking is a very acceptable and efficient means of travel.
By looking and asking for what I wanted I was able to put myself a very good position to be reach my goal. However, I still needed to find work as a writer.
I decided to reach out to another friend, Bethany, since so far the help of friends had lead to so much of my success. She wrote for a local magazine called the Source, and instructed me on the best ways to pitch them, as well as other a few other magazines.
After some serious brainstorming, I had my ideas and I sent my pitches. All that was left to do was wait for responses. So I waited, and waited, and waited some more.
It had been a few weeks and I still hadn’t heard anything. How could they not even get back to me? Could they really be that rude?
I was still making money online any way that I could, but I still hadn’t experienced the fulfillment I desired.
Then one Sunday night I was sitting at a bar with a friend when I got a call.
Dropping Everything to Work.
“Hey, Drew. This is Scott from the Source,” said the panicked magazine editor and owner. “We loved your pitch, is there anyway you can get it to us by midnight tonight?”
I quickly left the bar and hectically began to outline the article. It was already 8 p.m. I needed quotes and to do a bit of research. I was both nervous and excited.
After three hours and fifty seven minutes I submitted the article. I was proud of my work, but even prouder that I was getting paid to write. I only made 65 New Zealand Dollars for the article–less than half of what I would have gotten from a day of working construction.
However, I knew I appreciated that money more than other check I had previously earned in my life.
In no way did I have a rags to riches story, nor did I overcome insurmountable odds to achieve success. But I did take a big risk, which was a huge step towards living my digital nomad dream.