I often get comments and questions about our lifestyle as a digital nomad family, so I’m sharing how we actually made it happen. Often people will remark how we are ‘living the dream’, and we have traveled and lived in some incredible places together as a family, but we definitely didn’t start out living like this.
My Husband Was Against Long Term Travel Or Moving Overseas! (And I Think Would Have Heart Failure If I’d Mentioned ‘Digital Nomading’)
In fact, when I first told my husband I wanted to live overseas, he told me that it was an outright No for him, that he was happy where he was and living in another country had never been part of his plan and never would be. I felt crushed.
Now we live in Thailand, and we are in our fifth year as a digital nomad family! We’ve lived in a beautiful golf resort home complete with an open air jacuzzi in a tower and sea views on the beautiful island of Cyprus, a beautiful ‘petite chateau’ in rural France, and now we are in a chic condo here in Thailand – and we have traveled to New Zealand, Dubai, New York, Italy, and Australia inbetween (not to mention too many trips back to the UK to count).
We are technically ‘slow travellers’, living in each country rather than just hopping from place to place – actually living in each place enables our daughters to gain some sort of normality and rhythm to their day, rather than constantly living at airports and out of suitcases, and living in this way enables us to really dive deep into a place and experience it all.
Life Before Becoming A Digital Nomad Family
So how did we get from our tiny (lovely, yet still tiny) three bedroom terraced townhouse in the UK, where my husband would leave the house at 6am to get to work, and not be back until the evening? I used to spend my time with the two tiny babies all day, watching the clock until he got home where I would thrust the babies in his direction and run off up the stairs to work on my business – how did we get to this place where we work four hours each most days (if that, to be honest), living alarm clock free, and spending almost all of our time together traveling the world?!
Back then there were some weeks we barely saw eachother, let alone had family time together – our weekends were spent with friends and family and the general ‘busyness’ we all allow to creep into our lives, of kids meetups and coffee mornings and lunch dates.
My evenings were spent working on my businesses – first my hair accessory brand, and then my photography business – and my weekends were spent viewing locations and meeting clients and marketing.
But – I never gave up on the belief that ‘one day’ our lives would be different. It had always been my dream to live abroad, and although my husband’s comments had crushed me – I of course didn’t let them stop me from browsing French property websites on the evenings I didn’t work (which weren’t really many).
I had my heart set on pretty shutters and acres of land, and every so often I would just ‘casually’ show one to Rob, always starting with ‘I know you’re not interested in living abroad but…
LOOK AT THIS!!!’
And I would obviously show him an incredible property that was a fraction of the price of anything you’d find in the UK.
Why I Chose To Base My Business Overseas
At the same time, I decided that if we weren’t going to live abroad, I’d base my business there instead – and promptly sent a message to a french wedding blog to enquire about a collaboration. The result was that I got to photograph a beautiful wedding in France!
It was a heavenly few days spent with my assistant, who was also one of my closest friends, and we got to basically ‘live the dream’ for a few days while we slept in a spooky attic room in an amazing chateau, wander around french supermarkets buying cheese and tart (of course) and do what we loved most, with lovely people. (If helping people to to find more freedom wasn’t my deepest calling, I would definitely still be a destination wedding photographer)!
The result was that the wedding was published on the blog, and soon I began to get more enquiries about photographing weddings overseas – although I was already fully booked for the following year, so I decided to refocus my business and and shoot only weddings overseas, and in my local area. I hoped this would satisfy my wanderlust!
There was only one issue – I hated being away from my baby girls. And as much as I took them almost everywhere with me, and could also take them to destination weddings overseas, it was a lot of upheaval for them at that age, both still toddlers.
I wasn’t sure what to do for the best, and it seemed the only option would be to actually MOVE to the country I wanted to photograph in – France!
All signs were pointing to France! But still – my husband worked full time, and he had recently taken on a new job where he was expected to work even more hours than his last one.
At the same time, my business was now reaching the point where I felt I had to give it more time – but it felt like there simply wasn’t any more time to do so- we were already squeezing every minute out of the day – some nights I was up working on my images and business until one or two am, only to get up early again with the girls the next morning.
There didn’t seem to be a solution that suited us all, and I was rapidly becoming exhausted.
Not Giving Up Hope On Travel Dreams!
And then one day – I remember it so clearly, being sat at our wooden dining room table, the lavender-tinted grey walls cocooning me – I had this weird experience that I can’t really describe. It was a mixture of me praying for God to help me find more time, writing in my notebook that I wanted and needed Rob to leave his job, and a very clear feeling that Rob wouldn’t be in his job for much longer – with no idea why, he liked his new role – and a knowing certainty that something was about to change.
Two days later, I picked up Rob from work. His new firm didn’t have the work for him they initially thought when hiring, and he had been let go.
In shock, we planned a quick mini-getaway to Cornwall. We stayed at our favourite hotel on the beach, spent time collecting our thoughts, dreaming, making plans. We wrote our names on the sand and ate pizza as we watched the sun set over the sea.
We had barely any savings. But although there was definitely some sadness, and a little fear, there was also a great deal of excitement. We decided he wouldn’t go back to work, and my business could support us all, and he could help do behind the scenes management – website support, SEO, etc.
We bought two surfer-style hoodies as a gesture towards our new found freedom. I’ll never forget that feeling of not only wow, this is the start of something new, but the feeling that my husband was starting to see potential and possibility for his life in a new way.
The lifestyle shift was a much bigger deal for Rob than it was for me – I had always believed it could be this way – but I think Rob had always identified with the 9-5 daily grind, it had been an accepted – and liked – part of who he was. We were both excited for what was to come next.
Though there was little talk of moving overseas – especially not now! I think Rob’s initial thoughts would have been just about survival, not more upheaval.
The Books That Changed Everything
There were two other distinct turning points that enabled us to make the choice for Rob not to go back to work. One, was that a few months earlier I had written a book, for other photographers. It was an e-book about film photography, something I had trained in at University, and an area where I had definitely found my niche and passion. (Even just last night, we were looking at film camera shops and developer labs to visit here in Thailand)!
I wrote the book because I had so many of my friends ask me about film photography, and I began to write a blog post to answer all their questions, that eventually the blog became so long it couldn’t be anything other than a book.
I created the whole thing in about two weeks, though the actual first draft was completed in a weekend! – inbetween baby naptime and in the evenings after Rob got home.I’d stuck it on some ancient online shopping cart website that I don’t even think exists any more that looked like it was built at the time of the first computer, and told a few people it was available.
I really didn’t do any more than this to begin with in terms of marketing and promotion – I think I wrote some sort of basic sales page, and then added it on to my photography website. I also collaborated with another business – I messaged them to ask if they would like to feature in it and offer some kind of promo to go with it – I knew collaborating would raise both our profiles, and they said yes, so I was able to use their endorsement on the cover –
(which I totally DIY’d myself, of course)
But beyond that, I didn’t do much marketing at all, to begin with. I never intended it to become this big thing, just as a solution that would help people find the answers they needed (and stop me having to repeat myself)!
But the book was a great success for me – considering I had thought I’d be thankful to make $200 with it, it went on to sell $2000 worth in the opening week alone – and I hadn’t even begun to promote it yet. Ok, so not riches – but way beyond what I expected – and what’s more, I had LOVED writing this book! Writing had been my dream since I was a kid – well, that and owning a business – and here was my (very imperfect) book selling all over the world!
Plus, because I had self-published (which wasn’t even a choice, by the way, I didn’t even consider the traditional route because I didn’t even see it as a ‘real’ book, it had just become that way as I was writing a blog post)! I had no profit to share with publishers etc – all revenue was mine.
Creating An (Unintentional) First Passive Income Stream, And The Start Of Our Adventures As A Digital Nomad Family!
The book sales continued, and I had continued to market it – slowly, to begin with. And still, the sales came. So having this slow, steady trickle of relatively passive income from my book sales was a comfort to know when my husband left his job – and why I think every business owner should have some form of ‘passive’ income stream available to them.
The second thing that happened during that time was that we read a book that was literally, life-changing for us. We came across a book called The Four Hour Work Week, By Tim Ferriss.
I STILL read and re read this book even now. If you haven’t read it, Tim details how the ‘new rich’ isn’t about having possessions or things, it’s about having the one thing we value most – time, and the luxury to spend it how we want.
And how, when you have that time – you can travel the world or live however you wish. The book gives you the strategies to make it happen – whether it’s creating a passive income product, or convincing your boss to let you work from ‘home’.
For me it wasn’t so much the strategy that was useful – though it definitely was useful! – it was more the illustration that you can have an amazing lifestyle while at the same time not having to enslave yourself to the 9-5 grind. It was so wildly inspiring.
Rob is not what I would call a reader – I read a book a week, he reads a handful a year and he would much rather listen to a podcast – but I was determined he would read this book! So I left it lying around the house in obvious places, talked about it non stop, no doubt annoyed him by reading bits aloud from it – anything which would eventually lead him to reading it – and eventually he did, and I think it opened his eyes to a new way of thinking.
That living another life could be possible for people like us.
And that, was a huge, huge mindset shift.
How We Eventually Made The Decision To Become A Digital Nomad Family!
It wasn’t that either of us had made this concrete decision- that suddenly, we would uproot our lives and live elsewhere. It was a slow gradual process of exploring, talking, and consuming information, that ultimately lead us to understanding that living a different life was possible.
We began to look more at homes in other countries, browse the French property websites. And still, no concrete decision had been made or discussed that ‘we were going to move’ and certainly not that we would become digital nomads!
Rob would have had heart failure at the suggestion I’m sure, and to be honest I didn’t know I wanted that either – I was just wanting to escape bleak UK winters and our tiny home, even though I’ve been a wanderluster my whole life, starting with moving to Japan when I was 19.
As we started to get curious about what property was really like in France, our landlords in the UK announced they would be increasing our rent. Not by anything we couldn’t afford, but while we were absorbed in looking at dreamy french homes for a fraction of the price, by comparison it seemed ridiculous that houses in the UK would cost so much, while on the continent you could literally live the french dream for so much less.
As we were building our business, we realised how important that was – we wanted our money to be invested into our business, not into a property that wasn’t even ours.
So one evening – one magical evening – we were casually browsing French property sites (me hoping the whole time we would find ‘the one’ that would be enough to convince Rob to move) when we realised that there weren’t any properties we could actually live in. France had a ton of beautiful properties for sale, but none for rent!
Hmm. So then we looked at Croatia, and there were even less – only holiday homes available. Ok so this was before facebook groups, but not before the internet! Why couldn’t we find any?! We looked around the globe for somewhere we would consider living and then I remembered somewhere I’d visited once when I was 16 – a place where I recalled I had been sat in a restaurant, and I couldn’t get over how much attention the waiting staff were lavishing on the children. It was pure, beautiful, genuine affection.
Cyprus. Beautiful mediterranean, balmy-sunshiny-Cyprus.
I clicked quickly to search for ‘long term rentals Cyprus’ and spotted a house on the first page of the first listing that came up. A large three bedroom detached villa, with pool and sea views.
For less than what we were paying for our current terraced house.
Taking A Leap
Within two weeks, we had paid a deposit and reserved the property – without visiting it or even speaking to the agent on the phone!
We decided we would go ‘for six months, just to see what it was like’ and ended up staying for over three years – first in that home, which we loved, and then moving to our dream home on the golf course.
And that’s how the adventure began – it wasn’t a conscious choice (though everything is a choice, really) but an evolution –
a process which began with my strong desire to live out of this busy web we had spun for ourselves, out of the rat race, and a resolute determination not to give up on that.
I believed there could be something different – not just for me, but for all of us.
And there was. Cyprus was a dream, I can’t describe it any other way. Aphrodite’s magic will always hold her spell over me, and maybe we will return there – the girls still think of it as home.
But we still were not yet a digital nomad family. We were ex-pats, who had settled in one location.
My business model evolved. The first book sprang life to two further books, and more books beyond that. Other photographers began asking me to mentor them. And from there I built my first online business, a membership website and platform. At the same time, I made the decision to leave wedding photography – I wanted more than anything, to stay home with my kids while they were young.
It was a shame – my business was supporting us all and I was – and still am – hugely passionate about photography, and I still daydream about photographing weddings every now and then!
But I knew where I wanted my focus to be – though I was beyond grateful to my photography business. It had enabled my husband to leave his job and us to move country together – and given us back our time together.
Cyprus’s breezy, laid-back approach to life helped us to relax, we began to understand the ideas of rhythm and flow, and began to feel more at ease in ourselves too. We swam in our pool under the stars, and explored the beaches and mountains with the girls, we got a rescue puppy and we found Home.
Until we were called again by the winds…
I Want To Live In A Chateau! Finding Destination Number Two
We had decided last year that we wanted to visit Italy, and so I set up some intensive coaching days for my clients. At the same time, Rob had started work of his own, which then meant he was unable to come to Italy – so he stayed home while I traveled alone. And Italy was magical. (particular thanks to my dear client and friend Julie from My Secret Italy, who lavished me with her magic when I arrived in beautiful Santa Maria)
Rob was realising that he wanted to travel more, and that Cyprus was feeling small for him. The one who never wanted to live elsewhere other than the UK now wanted to travel! 😉 but we couldn’t decide where! I was staying in an incredible old property in Italy, and being on mainland Europe just felt right. Rob called me, as I was watching the sun set over the Italian hills one evening, and I blurted out over the phone while we were going backwards and forwards yet again over where we should live –
A chateau! I want to live in a Chateau in France!
and so once again, we jumped on to property websites. Yes, it was that simple. I think Rob had a little – er… is this possible? type moment, but he knows me better than to doubt now! and he thankfully, most of the time, he now just goes along with whatever random dream I come up with next!
And so two months later, we arrived at our petite chateau in France.
Where we spent the coldest winter I’ve ever known, but warmed by new friends, and the arrival of spring and early summer.
I wish I could tell you the decision was any more difficult that that, but it wasn’t. One thing I’ve learned from business is that you cannot break commitments to yourself – you have to honour yourself first, above all else because you are the root and the foundation of your life –
And we had long ago made the commitment to living in this way, through what back then seemed to me like having eternal patience and endurance, and making continual suggestions about beautiful properties in France and leaving property magazines lying around on specific pages 😀 After so long, we ended up in France, just like I had originally dreamed.
After nine nurturing, soul-nourishing, and bloody freezing months in France (seriously, the coldest winter I’ve ever known- EVER) our tenancy was up – we needed to decide where to go next.
The UK simply wasn’t discussed, not because we don’t love it there, but because this time, we both wanted another adventure.
A Digital Nomad Family In Thailand + Our Next Travel Destination!
Weirdly, neither of us recall how we chose Thailand. Though several of our friends had been traveling there while we were in France and raved about how amazing it was, we can’t remember the point where we said -ok, Thailand it is! Maybe she chose us.
But either way, here we are now, for as long as we are meant to be here- though we already have our eyes set on New Zealand next, where we have family living (I want to have many squishy cuddles with my latest nephew to be born, who I haven’t even met yet).
It was only being here in Thailand that I realised we actually are ‘digital nomads’. We both work online (yep, at some point during the journey Rob became a freelance writer, and he loves it), homeschool our kids, and live in Thailand – basically where every digital nomad lives at some point! I actually went and purchased a BACKPACK just so I can further be the stereotype (but seriously, I can’t carry my laptop in my shoulder bag for a minute more).
So, how is being a digital nomad? It’s unexpected! It was never my full intention to be a nomad, and I will be honest- while I hope I will always travel, I also find myself longing for a Home, and writing this post has got me longing for the seas of Cyprus again, I love to nest and root, and the girls do too. Maybe that will be the next part of the journey 😉
Because finding freedom isn’t about a place, it’s a feeling you have within you, it’s a resistance to living life in the ‘normal’ way, and it’s the absolute refusal to quit your daydreams. And I always had that all along… and I’m guessing you do too. That is freedom, and from that place you get to flourish.
So that’s our digital nomad story! Are you a digital nomad, or would you consider it? I’d love to know any questions you have about living a digital nomad life and how to make it happen! Leave your comments or thoughts below…