Travel Planning in the Hill Station Restaurant in Sapa, Vietnam

Making a Digital Nomad Living

Somehow, five months have dissolved since I last published a report of our progress towards making a digital nomad living. So, what have we been up to? Well, we’ve made visa runs to Penang and Hanoi, taken a spin on the Mae Hong Son Loop, celebrated our four-year travelversary and taken up yoga. Oh, in case you missed it, we also got married and started planning our onward adventures to Nepal and Sri Lanka. That might all sound exciting, but daily life in Chiang Mai has mainly been all about work. So, what have we achieved?

Andrew and I getting Married in Thailand

Our mini honeymoon in Chiang Mai

What we’ve been working on

I’ve been focusing hard on freelance writing, which is starting to pay off. I now have four clients and a steadier income, yet I’m still finding my feet and learning hard lessons about being a freelancer. The blog has taken a back seat lately but I’m publishing at least once a week and we’re occasionally accepting advertising, plus making a small amount from affiliates. I’ve also finally finished writing our Teaching in Vietnam e-book, which Andrew is now designing. Our big goal is to have that finished and up on the site before we leave Chiang Mai in – gasp – just seven weeks’ time!

School boy Holding an "I Love English" picture

Our Teaching in Vietnam e-book is almost complete!

Andrew has been doing about 15 hours of online teaching a week, which provides a steady, reliable income stream. His students are based in France, which means it’s difficult to take on extra hours because of the time difference. Rather than look for work with another company though, Andrew is dedicating time to designing the e-book, creating videos and trying to boost our social media channels, which is something we’ve seriously neglected over the years.

Income update November 2016 – February 2017

Here’s a breakdown of how our digital nomad income has developed since our first report in October 2016. As always, we share this information in the hope that it will help and inspire other remote workers like us who are just starting out. It’s also super-useful and motivating for us to see how much progress we’re making.

Income sourceNovember 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017
Freelance writing£242.59£1,057.97£1,147.28£1,297
Blog & affiliates£199.08£118£253.74£495.29
Online teaching£556.48£472£590£375
Total £998.15£1,647.97£1,991.02£2,167.29

We’re happy to see that the long hours we’ve been working are paying off, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Here’s a look at some of the challenges and issues we’ve been wrestling with as remote workers.

Fears, doubts and staying inspired

A growing income hasn’t silenced my niggling self-doubts or fears. I still have periods of sometimes crippling anxiety over the insecure nature of freelance work and there are moments when I feel totally out of my depth. In fact, I had one just last night when I got tongue-tied discussing rates with a client over Skype and ended up feeling like a total fraud. Added to that, I’m finding that writing full-time again for money, as I used to back in London, stifles my creativity and sucks some of the joy out of the writing process.

Us, revisiting Hanoi, overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake

On our visa run in Hanoi

When I lived in London, I dealt with this problem by taking a creative writing evening course. I joined groups where I could share work with other writers and collaborate on charity writing projects, just for fun. I spent time journalling and writing stories, purely for my own enjoyment and sanity. Eventually, I launched this blog as a space to practise my travel writing and it has provided a vital creative outlet for me. Lately though, partly because of work pressures, I feel like my blog posts have been pretty uninspiring and that makes me sad.

A Native Gnome at Jamaica State Park

Fostering my creativity in Vermont

Fortunately, this month I read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, which touches on these very themes of dealing with fear, finding inspiration and fostering creativity. This book has really encouraged me to start making time for creative writing again, whether it’s for this blog, other publications, or just for me. I’m hoping that our upcoming trip to Nepal will give me the space away from work to start doing just that.

Working while travelling

On a more practical note, we’ve been learning a bit about how to manage our workload while we travel. During our recent visa run to Vietnam, for instance, I had to take time out to complete some assignments. This didn’t work out too badly when thick fog left us hotel-bound in Sapa, but it was hellish when I ended up crunched over my laptop with a huge headache, battling terrible Wi-Fi, at an airport departure lounge. Balancing online work with travel is definitely going to take some practice.

Travel Planning in the Hill Station Restaurant in Sapa, Vietnam

Nepal planning on a foggy day in Sapa

Nomad health

Today, our yoga teacher Weena gleefully recounted the story of our first ever lesson. “You were terrible! So young, but hunched over like old people!” I’d like to report that my posture has miraculously improved since then, but I think Weena would disagree. Yep, yoga is definitely a slow and steady learning curve for me. I know that the root cause of my problem is working on a laptop, but with deadlines to meet and money to earn, it’s a necessary evil. I am trying to prioritise my health though, so as well as going to yoga twice a week, we’re making an effort to swim every day and eat healthily. Nevertheless, I suspect we won’t find out what our bodies are really made of until we start trekking and volunteering in Nepal.

Us practising yoga - the couples tree pose

Check out our tree pose!

Spending too much

Speaking of Nepal, we finally realised that unless we wanted to walk to Everest base camp in flip flops, we were going to have to buy some walking shoes. Now, we’ve developed a strong frugal streak over the last 10 years and fully endorse the merits of a minimalist lifestyle, but in this case we reluctantly spent substantially more than we normally would on sturdy, waterproof shoes. As painful as that purchase was, we reasoned that there’s no point going all the way to Nepal and then crippling ourselves with rubbish footwear.

Our new Merrell Capra Hiking boots for trekking in Nepal

Nepal walking boots

Shoes are just the beginning though. There are also internal flights to book and trekking supplies to pick up in Kathmandu, including a tent and sleeping bags for volunteering. The Frugal Freddies within us panic every time we go through our expenses and see money flying out of our account. Even though we’re earning a decent amount it definitely feels like we should be saving more, but we aren’t because we’re constantly planning future adventures. For the rest of our time in Chiang Mai, we’re making an effort to spend as little as possible and save as much as we can.

Balancing work and travel in the coming months

Unbelievably, we’ve been in Chiang Mai for seven months now and our time here is rapidly coming to an end.  Although the thought of leaving this sanctuary we’ve built for ourselves makes me sad, I’m also ready to get out and travel again. Between trekking, volunteering and discovering a country we’ve never been to before, Nepal is going to be one hell of an adventure. We’re also making tentative plans now for our time in Sri Lanka, a country we’ve heard nothing but glowing stories about. These adventures will come at a cost though and we know our earnings will take a sharp nosedive. How we deal with this in the months ahead remains to be seen, but we’ll keep you updated.

making a digital nomad living, Pinterest pin

Pin me for later!

In the meantime, please let us know in the comments below whether you find these reports useful and ask away if you have any questions. We’d also love to hear any advice you may have for us about working remotely.

  • Alyson
    Posted at 19:58h, 10 March Reply

    Very useful.
    Tell me, how did you boost your affiliates like that?
    New scheme or better strategy?
    Ours are skyrocketing lately, now we’ve found ones that pay really well.
    Cheers, and lovely to see my website on your screen 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:28h, 11 March Reply

      Hi Alyson, yep we found your website really useful for Nepal planning and I’ll definitely link back to it when I write my own posts about Nepal. Affiliates are only a small part of the blog income to be honest, although a Trusted Housesitter New Year sign-up offer worked well for us, as did a Vietnam Visa affiliate scheme. The bigger jump in Feb is mainly due to a couple of ads we ran for companies like the bus service we used in Eastern Europe last year. To be honest, we really haven’t been on our game with the blog at all lately as we’ve been so focused on client work. I definitely want to improve this over the summer when we’re back in the UK. I was also inspired by your site redesign and hope for that to be our next blog project once the e-book is finally out.

  • Patti
    Posted at 22:30h, 10 March Reply

    I remember when you were just starting out and now look how far you’ve come! You’re doing it! You’re defining your path and making it work for you. Well done Amy and Andrew!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:23h, 11 March Reply

      Thanks so much Patti! It’s definitely a relief to see our bank balance rising rather than continuously dropping! The tricky part will be combining what we’ve built with travel again, we’ll see how it goes 🙂

  • James
    Posted at 10:01h, 11 March Reply

    Love this, your earnings are looking great and everything is heading in the right direction. I can’t believe it’s five months since your last update! Really interested to see where it goes when you set off to Nepal 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:37h, 11 March Reply

      Thanks James, we’ll let you know how things go when we set off to Nepal. I’m sure the drop in earnings will be worth it for the adventure 🙂

  • Tracy & Della
    Posted at 09:30h, 12 March Reply

    Always inspirational and helpful ?
    Interestingly, we are in the throes of planning a trip to Nepal and are considering a stint with Helping Hands so we are keen to hear about your experience in future posts.
    We spent 5 weeks in Sri Lanka in 2016 and loved every minute. For us it definitely lived up to our expectations. ?
    Retirement is around the corner so we are thinking ahead now to where we want to travel and how to keep within budget…..always a challenge ?

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:00h, 12 March Reply

      Hi Guys, glad you found this helpful 🙂 Helping Hands sounds interesting, we are going to be volunteering with All Hands, a few hours outside of Kathmandu. We will let you know how it goes. So glad to hear that you loved Sri Lanka, we are excited about our visit!

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 21:00h, 12 March Reply

    You have progressed brilliantly and on schedule. I am sure it is very hard work, daunting and scary, but you have each other and you are both very resourceful and clever people. I like your new walking boots and I am so looking forward to hear all about where these new boots are taking you?

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:39h, 13 March Reply

      Hi Gilda, thanks so much for your kinds words. I know our earnings will take a knock in Nepal and Sri Lanka but I’m hoping we’ll get back on track again in the summer, hopefully we’ve done the hard part now starting from scratch and we can do it again if we need to. We’ll see! We still have yet to break in our boots, we’ll have to get cracking with that soon!

  • Victoria @The British Berliner
    Posted at 07:41h, 14 March Reply

    I think you’ve done rather well as your income has steadily increased. It’ll take a while, but you’re making it! And even though you have to spend some of your hard-earned money (Eek!), look at what you’re spending it on – Nepal, Mount Everest, Sri Lanka…wow!

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:48h, 15 March Reply

      That’s true, thanks Victoria. I’m sure Nepal and Sri Lanka will be worth it 🙂

  • Dee
    Posted at 23:15h, 27 March Reply

    Great Post! Well done on generating that income! Can you recommend the site for online training? Do they look for specific qualifications ?
    Have fun in Nepal! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your volunteering and yoga adventures too!!?

    • Amy
      Posted at 08:47h, 28 March Reply

      Hi Dee, thanks for reading and commenting. Andrew works for a French company called WooSpeak and teaches French adults business English (Andrew used to be a French teacher in the UK). There are plenty of other more general online teaching companies VIP Kid that you could try as well as Meisi, which is Chinese company. I will at some point get around to writing a detailed post about teaching online 🙂 Thanks for following our adventure!

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 19:44h, 01 April Reply

    Thrilled to read your update, and a touch jealous since my freelancing income is climbing but at a slower pace. I am going to email you more about your affiliate and advertising income since we are just having challenges with that but so happy for you guys that you’re making this fantastic life work out! Good for you.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:25h, 02 April Reply

      Thanks Rhonda, yours is climbing too, so that’s great. Ours will plummet during our Nepal/Sri Lanka trip, so I’m not feeling secure just yet (if you ever can feel secure as a freelancer!). Yes, email me soon 🙂

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    Posted at 10:17h, 08 October Reply

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