The Reality of Being A Digital Nomad

Posted on June 20, 2012 by

After six months of intensive traveling and working on the road, we’re now back at our home base in Granada, Spain, dizzy from the high of traveling and drained from juggling our crazy travel schedule and workload. It’s been quite a journey as we hopped from one country to the next, working with tourism boards and operators along the way, while keeping our business  going (which happens to be this website and our magazine).

We swam with whale sharks in the Philippines, hiked through beautiful rice terraces in Sapa, celebrated Songkran in Bangkok, biked through the holy land of Bagan in Myanmar, traversed through China and even made a visit to the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea… We revisited places we love, discovered spots that truly resonates with us, met people whom we connect with, and learned so much more about other corners of the world.

Our office in Koh Lanta, Thailand

But it wasn’t all beaches and cocktails. We have a business and profession to maintain – that means that in between hikes and temple visits, we were cramping in as many hours of work as we could. Yes, we are so fortunate to get to write and travel for a living. Believe me, we love it. But like those who travel for business and spends more time on airplanes with their families, it’s never as fun or glamorous as everyone else imagines it to be.

In Philippines, we lugged our laptops to the beach bar and worked like a bunch of geeks while other divers relaxed and played poker. In Bangkok, our old friends who came to visit us went out to party while we stayed back to work. During our last week in Beijing, we really wanted to have a farewell dinner with a friend – but we couldn’t, because we had work to do.

As we were working with several tourism boards, we were effectively on assignment most of the time. That again meant that we had to stick to a fixed travel schedule, attend casual meetings with our partners and churn out articles along the way. We couldn’t afford the luxury of taking a break even if we had wanted to. While we did take a few weeks off in Thailand and  Philippines, we were just taking a break from traveling but not from work.

By the end of the six months, we were honestly burnt out from the hectic schedule and overwhelming workload. That’s when we decided to cut our trip short (we had initially planned to continue from Beijing on to Mongolia and Moscow by train) and return home to Spain for a much-needed rest.

That said, being able to work from anywhere in the world is truly a privilege. It’s a lifestyle I’ve always dreamt of. Having the flexibility and freedom to work for ourselves (with no one to report to) and a different office everyday has always been my lifetime goal. We clinched an advertising deal while working in a cafe in Krabi, we got a well-paid assignment with Readers Digest when the editor learned that we were on Sumilon Island, and we also did an interview with BBC during a train ride in Vietnam. Going on scooter rides in between work breaks, swimming in the sea every morning, typing away on my laptop to the sound of the waves: it’s a life many people dream of living.

Typing away in our hotel in Inle Lake, Myanmar

What does the future hold for us?

We’re back in Spain only for a few weeks before heading to South Africa to speak at the Getaway Travel Blog Conference. It should be quite an exciting event, with many travel bloggers from around the region gathering to discuss ideas and exchange tips. We’ll then spend two weeks traveling with Cape Town Tourism as well as hopping over to Mozambique and Zambia.

In August, we’ll head over to Florida and spend a week exploring the state with Visit Florida, before flying to California for a family reunion. I’ll then hop over to Palau for a press trip with Visit Palau – the itinerary includes scuba-diving trips, sea kayaking and swimming with jellyfish. It should be quite an adventure! It’ll be another jam-packed month in the States, but we’ll be sure to take some time off to hang out with family while we’re there.

Right after, we’ll be back in Spain for TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference). This time it’ll be held in Costa Brava, and we’re looking forward to catch up with our travel blogger friends and industry folks.

So as you can see, we’ve just taken a short break from travel and it won’t be long before we get back on the road. It looks like the second half of the year will be equally busy but as always, you’ll be hearing from us whether we’re on the road or back in our home base.

Us in China

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

28 Responses to “The Reality of Being A Digital Nomad”

  1. @candacerardon June 20, 2012 6:12 am #

    Thanks for the update, Nellie! It's exciting to hear what's coming up next for you and Alberto – I'm especially jealous about the trip to Palau, that sounds incredible. I really do understand the reality you're talking about here, though – it's not always easy to balance making the most of where you are and yet still maintaining your writing and blog. But considering all the possibilities it offers, it's a challenge worth taking on :)

  2. Karin-Marijke June 20, 2012 8:21 pm #

    Oh yes, long-term traveling combined with working on the road can be exhaustive. It's a good thing to take time out every once in while. After a good rest you'll be able to appreciate all the wonders in the world again with a fresh eye. Enjoy your stay in Spain!

    • Nellie June 22, 2012 11:11 pm #

      Thanks Karin, it\’s good to be a couch potato in front of the TV at home. Or hang out with friends over wine and tinto. :)

  3. @acooknotmad June 20, 2012 10:09 pm #

    Has anyone uttered the phrase, be careful what you wish for? If there are any press trips you aren't interested in you can send them our way :)

    • Nellie June 22, 2012 11:10 pm #

      Haha! :D Previously, we traveled based on press trip invitations. This time, we decided to plan our own trip itinerary, choose where we want to go, then pitch to travel operators and hotels (which means we have no one else to blame but ourselves!). But what Im trying to say is that you too can arrange your own press trips!

  4. Regina June 20, 2012 11:03 pm #

    Sounds like fun and a lot of work! But you're doing work you love, and that's important.

  5. Martin Pietrzak June 21, 2012 4:51 pm #

    I agree that working and moving constantly can be a mess. Regardless, it looks like you had a nice window view or two:) I do have a question. Do you have any advice in terms of how to approach regional tourism boards to work with them? Any advice would be appreciated. martin at

    • Nellie June 22, 2012 11:27 pm #

      hey Martin, thanks for leaving a comment. I am more than happy to help – I think the first step is to make contact with them via social media, let them know what you do and what you can offer, and after establishing a relationship, try to approach them with a well-drafted proposal and media kit. We have been very lucky as we have mostly been approached with tourism boards, but pitching to them is definitely a highly feasible way of establishing a partnership. Another good way is to attend conferences where you can network and meet many of them face to face. Good luck!

  6. epic8540 June 24, 2012 10:51 am #

    Sounds like great fun despite the tiredness! Thanks for posting your tips re approaching tourism boards – what would your key tips to anyone starting out in this business be? Katie at

  7. Rachel July 2, 2012 5:34 am #

    Hi Nellie, we’ve also had the pleasure of mixing travel with work and completely understand how exhausting it can be. We’ve had beaches for offices but at times have been so busy that we’ve had to forego a travel experience or two, but we wouldn’t change it for the world! Beats 4 walls any day…. Hope to meet you at TBEX. Enjoy the down time while you can!

  8. Ann Anderson August 2, 2012 6:15 am #

    Here is a cool site to get great deals on vacations, holidays, hotels and shopping across the Caribbean

  9. Lee @ Global Goose September 10, 2012 9:49 am #

    Whilst we are on a more flexible schedule you are completely right about the working. Just because you are on the road does not mean you do not need to out in your 40 hours (or however many you work). It's this work that allows us to travel so we try not to demonize it in our minds, we love what we do.

  10. Jessica Wray September 25, 2012 2:25 am #

    Sounds super hectic, but pretty awesome. I love the working pictures. Even though it must be stressful and busy, those are some great office views! :)

  11. John@ Cheap Car Hire September 26, 2012 5:49 am #

    I love your blog! Totally. I so badly want to travel all my life but I think I will just end up doing nothing but just reading about your experiences. Still its fun ;)

  12. Simon October 9, 2012 1:39 am #

    Ouch, sounds stressful and amazing all at the same time! I'm a journalist so I know about deadline pressure but when I travel, thankfully, I only have my personal blog to worry about.

  13. Bangkok October 10, 2012 3:23 pm #

    Realy nice website. Nice to see people which love traveling :)
    I love it as well.

  14. Jo (the blond) November 18, 2012 4:41 pm #

    It's funny that you go to these awesome places and then come back home to rest and to have a little bit of holiday :) I would love to have a lifestyle like you, guys. Maybe one day…
    Have a well deserve break!

  15. gauravb January 16, 2013 10:46 am #

    Thanks for the advise Nellie on how to approach tourism boards.
    I know how hectic it is to constantly travel but the fulfilment of doing a job you are passionate about compensates for all :) Keep travelling

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  19. Mo May 17, 2013 6:56 am #

    Very interesting article, I like your honesty!
    I always wondered what’s it like to work and travel, therefor I am gonna give it a try and see how hard it is. I am sure it has advantages and disadvantages, but I will let faith decide on that ;)
    Thank you for sharing!

  20. Jessica December 10, 2013 11:25 am #

    Sounds like you guys have had some fantastic experiences! I'd definitely agree that being able to work from anywhere in the world is absolutely priceless – but not quite as glamorous as people think! Since leaving the uk we've often invited friends to visit us wherever our current location may be, and I always feel bad that I have to be glued to my computer half the time they're staying with us – but I wouldn't trade it for anything. We've started a website to help other people start a location independent website and see the world – check us out at


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