Ever wondered what it would be like to be able to make money while you travel?

Amy Mitchell, of Do What You Want, has spent the last two years working remotely from beautiful places like Bali, Portugal, and Nicaragua. While the experience has been totally amazing, you should know that it’s not all sun tans and margaritas. In this episode of the Own Up Grown-Up podcast, Amy shares what it’s really like to be a “digital nomad”.

If you know what you want to do then don’t wait. Just start putting something in action. You’ll wish you would have started earlier.”—Amy Mitchell, Do What You Want.

I have a real bone to pick with a number of people trying to sell this idealistic lifestyle depicting a young and free individual traveling the world and earning tons of cash with nothing but a sleek Macbook and a passport. The problem with this is that it doesn’t really work that way, at least not at first, and while we should all aspire to great things, believing false advertising won’t help.

Even Chris Guillebeau, who’s traveled to every country in the world (seriously, he has!) and worked in many of them, he’s said that the life doesn’t come without its stresses and inconveniences. That’s why I really appreciate that Amy gave it to us straight. Yes, you will experience problems with wifi and background noise and different cultural norms. I remember being on the phone with Amy in late 2016, while she was in Spain, and she told me how it was hard to adapt to siesta time, where everything shuts down (including cafes with wifi) for a couple of hours every day—aka, unproductive, non-work time!

If you do want to see the world and earn money while doing it, arm yourself—with knowledge and the right equipment. If this lifestyle is something you’re serious about, Chris Guillebeau’s blog and books are a great place to start.

There are many ways to work and travel

Keep in mind that when you work and travel, you will have to work. I know this is one of the hardest things for people who are abroad. They long to adventure, but have to find a balance between making their employer or customers happy and exploring.

While I’ve done very little traveling internationally (Europe is on the agenda for Fall 2017—hold me to it!), I do work from home (or Mom’s couch or on the occasional Friday, a noisy pub) and I have talked to many people about their experience and what they do to earn money abroad. Here are some ideas:

Help people set up and run online business software, similar to what Amy does. Many online entrepreneurs are great at sales and/or the creative side of their business, but not the technological side.

Further to this, look into joining a virtual assistant agency, where you help people with all kinds of things from social media to market research and more.

If you’re good at writing short, punchy messages and designing graphics or taking photos, consider becoming a social media manager. 

Writing—you can really do it from anywhere and you don’t always need a wifi connection. There are remote copywriting jobs out there, blog and advertising writing, and more. If you’re skilled with words, there are many opportunities out there for you. (Did you know I’m also a copywriter?)

Affiliate sales. If you love sharing your favourite products with people, consider joining an affiliate program for a business you like. It typically takes some time to build up enough of an audience to generate sustainable sales, but many people supplement their income this way.

If you can help someone improve their web presence through search engine optimization or online advertising, there are people out there who could really use your help.

You can design websites, graphics, mobile apps, and more from a decent laptop that can handle heavy software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

There is a TON of work out there for software developers and there are many employers out there who offer flexible hours and remote work opportunities.

This is just a taste, and what I’ve shared is all related to digital marketing in some way. Obviously, you need to have experience and skill—no one can become a graphic designer overnight. Think of ways that you can digitize your current job or leverage what you’re really good at already. If you want to learn one of the skills above, there are many resources you can use to get started.

Three lessons from Amy to optimize your work-travel experience

Amy shares a few things she’s learned during the last couple of years of working abroad:

  1. Give yourself arrival and departure buffer times. Plan your travel schedule around other important activities so that you don’t miss important meetings or attempt impossible deadlines while trying to sort out accommodations, wifi, and available power connections. You’ll need buffer time in case there are travel issues, jet lag, and you’ll want time to get acquainted with your new surroundings. After all, that’s why you’re doing this!
  2. Organize accommodations ahead of time. Research locations. If your work requires lots of meetings, you’ll need to be somewhere reasonably quiet and private, with reliable power and wifi. Airbnb is a great place to start looking. You’ll pay more than you would for a hostel, but your things will likely be more secure and you’ll be able to have quiet, focused time to work.
  3. Make sure you have all the right equipment. Bring international power adapters, wireless routers, and anything else you need to do your work abroad. Nothing’s more annoying than having to find equipment when you’d rather be scouting the streets for a refreshing afternoon patio beer.

Most importantly, go for it!

Amy and I have known each other for quite a while. We started our businesses around the same time, and we regularly check in with each other. We’ve had countless “what the fuck am I doing?!” conversations. You will too, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do this.

It just seems like every time I sort of entertain the idea of pursuing something new doors open up and things just sort of conspire to help you if it’s something you really want to do.”—Amy Mitchell, Do What You Want

Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Prior to traveling, you should ensure you have enough cash to back you up in case something falls through with your work. Other than that, what do you have to worry about? Sure, there’ll be some awkward pausing as you and a stranger try to understand what the other is asking for. There will be boring waits in airports. You’ll have to talk to new people. Be smart, travel smart, plan ahead—and go!

If you want to learn more about what Amy does, check her out online and on Instagram (she shares lots of travel pics!). Her site’s getting an upgrade right now, so check back soon to see all the amazing shit she does. Also, be sure to check out her awesome course, Rock Your Systems, that she created for Suitcase Entrepreneur, Natalie Sisson.

And let me know in the comments: do you have a work-travel experience or dream you’d like to share?