You have decided to end your working days in the home office or at the same old office hub as your colleagues because of the routine you feel stuck in. So you make up your mind to change the scenery. Instead of adhering to this monotonous lifestyle, you make plans to wake up in the Italian countryside in a house that overlooks the hillsides of Florence or in a Greek beach house where the ocean waves hit the shore in a rhythmic pattern that reminds you of long torrid summer vacations. And all this while still working remotely on your laptop and making a living while sipping an icy drink on your veranda. Sounds like the perfect balance between work and travel, or better said, life and career? But how does this imagined picture of the digital workspace differ from the reality that is being a digital nomad?
In a chat about the rising trend of working remotely and traveling simultaneously, I sat together with Greta Webhofer and listened to her story of success while discussing some of the challenges and upsides of adopting the lifestyle of a digital nomad. Greta is a full-time accountability coach who helps ‘‘women in their 20s hit their goals in life and business through daily accountability’’. She started this business at the age of 23, assured that she can combine her two passions into one: traveling full time and helping ambitious women reach their fullest potential. She is one of the many entrepreneurs who took the chance to reshape their life according to the values they want to stay true to. In this interview, Greta touches upon various aspects of being a digital nomad, offering us inside tips and telling stories that perfectly capture the reality of her new work and travel lifestyle.
What does a typical day for a digital nomad look like?
It starts early in the morning with my morning routine, where I prioritize filling my cup of coffee and creating the right energy for the day. I love to spend that time outside in nature and truly be present and grateful for all I created. After breakfast, I co-work with my roommates and do whatever is needed for my business. I usually stop working around 5 pm and then take some time for myself to really slow down. Usually, I love to go to the beach and have a ukulele session at the end of the day. I feel like there is actually not much of a difference to a “normal” job, only that I have a different view maybe? It all comes down to how you organize your days.
Being a digital nomad is very glamorized on social media. What are some of the downsides of this lifestyle that most people hesitate to share with the outside world?
Yes, it is. In reality, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. I feel like a lot of people think that we are just 24/7 chilling at the beach, drinking a cocktail, and doing nothing. Nope. That’s not true. There goes so much work into making this lifestyle possible. On the one hand, the actual work, and on the other hand, your mental work. I feel like going for your dreams comes along with getting outside of your comfort zone over and over again. This triggers fears and limiting beliefs. With every journey I have done so far, there were always mental challenges coming up. This life is most definitely not glamorous.
Picture this: you are in the middle of the Italian mountains, in a town with 60 citizens (none of them you ever see). You have a room with a balcony and this beautiful view, where you enjoy the sunrise every morning. Still sounds good, right? Well then, the first thing you see in the morning is this huge scorpion in the kitchen sink. Your bathroom is full of spiders and weird bugs. Your Airbnb host is telling you about this dangerous snake he found in the garden, and you can’t stop freaking out. Well, this is a true story about a not-so-glamorous life.
At every place I have been so far, there were some challenges coming up, but what is probably the hardest one is saying goodbye to the people you have been surrounded by your whole life. I know that by doing this I might not be able to see my grandmother that often anymore. I feel like I am not able to be as good of a friend as I want to be because I am never at home, and there are moments when you realize all that. You realize all the things you sacrifice, and you question everything. Why didn’t you just choose the easy way? Why make life so complicated for you? I know that this is the path that I am supposed to be on right now but still, there are moments of doubt and sadness.
How much freedom is there really in this environment? For instance, is being a digital nomad tied to specific countries? Is it really so easy to enter this field with no prior experience in managing your schedule and travel plans so specifically?
There is as much freedom as you give yourself. It all really comes down to how you organize your life, and you can be wherever you want. As a woman, I would always recommend you to first inform yourself about how safe the country/area you plan on traveling to might be, so you are not putting yourself in danger. Some remote jobs might also give you restrictions, but other than that you can do whatever you want. I think learning how to manage your time and energy is very important, but you can do that as you go. With each experience, you will learn more clearly what you like and what you don’t like.
From your knowledge, are most people entering this field setting up their own business or is a high percentage of them applying for jobs that offer this option from the start?
Within my bubble, I would say more people have their own businesses or are freelancers, anything from virtual assistants and graphic designers to coaches, and much more.
Does your job as an “accountability coach’’ provide you with a full-time traveling agenda? Do you have certain tasks that you have to complete in a day or a regular 8-hour schedule per day to adhere to?
Every week I set appointments for coaching calls with my clients, which is always my first priority, so I can ensure they are achieving their goals. Other than that, I can decide what I want or need to work on, but that doesn’t mean I am chilling. I break it down into different categories like marketing, scaling, admin work, discovery calls, etc. I also tend to always have a bigger project going on in the background like doing a rebranding or creating a video course.
Is it possible to earn a decent living by doing this job and traveling at the same time?
It works. I’ve been doing all of this out of my own pocket from day one, but I would be lying if I said it’s always been easy. I also think it is important to mention here that traveling can incur more costs than you can cover as a digital nomad. But you can really make it affordable by the choices you make. If you really want to do this, there are so many ways you can make it work.
Does the stress level increase when you have to work and travel simultaneously, especially when knowing that there is no fixed working place?
I would say I am a pro at creating routines, habits, and structures, so this is not really a struggle for me, and because of the fact that I do “slow traveling” meaning I stay in a place for at least a month. I would be for sure stressed if I had to travel to a new place every three days because I wouldn’t be able to get the work done or see the place properly. Also having friends doing this with me is so motivating to the point that I work more when I travel.
Would you like to continue pursuing this lifestyle? Have you ever gone through times when you thought about quitting? What triggered those thoughts?
I can see myself continuing this lifestyle for a couple of years but sometime in the future, I would like to return to a fixed place. Although I haven’t thought seriously about quitting, there were moments of doubt. I remember saying goodbye to my grandmother and realizing that this might be the last time I see her, which was really heartbreaking, but I know deep down that this is the path that I need to follow right now.
Have you noticed any trends changing around you? Is the number of people adopting this lifestyle increasing or decreasing? Do you believe this could end up being the norm in the future?
I would say the number is increasing. “After” Covid, people more and more felt the urge to see the world. Working from home turned into something rather normal, so why not do it with a better view? Although I would say being a digital nomad is not something for everyone. It needs a lot of discipline to actually do the work and not just explore a new place. People are different, so I am not sure if it will become the norm, but if you have the freedom, I would highly recommend you try it out (and if you don’t have it yet, remember you can create it too!).
If you were to start from the beginning, is there anything you would do differently? Do you have any tips for the newbies?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I remember I went to Greece for a month, just to try it out and to see if I would like it. Two weeks later I realized that’s the life I want to be living. So, I found someone to sublet my actual room to in Vienna for the next couple of months and continued traveling. I would recommend you test this out. Book an apartment for a month, maybe with some friends, and see if you enjoy it. Fun fact, for long-term stays on Airbnb you can get amazing discounts. I ended up paying only 300€ for our accommodation right in front of the beach. Make sure you specifically ask beforehand if they have good Wi-Fi, a big supermarket, and transportation. Then you are good to go.
Reviewed by Anita Ghoreshi, proofread by Ipek Yilmaz