4 Months as a Digital Nomad: Travelling with Senior Digital Marketer Mark Galvao

Welcome to the Advesa Spotlight series. We feature the talented individuals working hard behind the scenes at Advesa Digital. We highlight their stories, insights and tips so that you can better thrive in today’s competitive environment. 

 

With technology paving the way for an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, there’s a new phrase to describe the few who endeavor to earn a living digitally while pursuing a nomadic lifestyle. 

Advancements in telecommunication technologies such as video conference calling, collaborative software and the internet have been what was once thought impossible an enticing career option for the travel-oriented. Working while relaxing at a sun-soaked beaches and visiting exotic destinations during your weekends sounds like a great idea on paper, but is the lifestyle as glamorous as it sounds? 

Advesa’s Vincent Lee had an opportunity to ask Mark Galvao, one of our Senior Digital Marketers, to tell us what he learned living for 4 months as a digital nomad. Here’s what he had to tell us:

“Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection.” – Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear.

 

Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to do nothing but travel the world. All I’ve wanted to do is sit on a beach in Thailand, drinking Tiger beer and watching the teal waves breathe upon the sand.

Then as I grew older and learned cash is king, I realized nobody would pay me to bum around (or maybe I just haven’t found anyone yet!).

So, I did the next logical thing. I started my hunt for a career that would allow me to explore and still manage a steady income. I had done work for accommodation before, but I wanted something more flexible.

It wasn’t a linear voyage, but after 2 years of working at a marketing agency, I earned the opportunity to write and work remotely.

“Woo-hoo, dreams do come true!” Unfortunately, they never tell you when you chase your dreams; the victory doesn’t taste as good as the journey.

I’ve learned a lot about the world and myself. But, working on a laptop isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Unlike what some Instagram accounts will have you believe.

I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything and will continue to venture into the world. But, before you purchase a new laptop and throw yourself into the digital nomad game, I want to give you a sneak peek into a nomads perspective.

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Travelling Builds Discipline

For the most part, since the day we turn 4 years old, we’ve had at least one-third of our day planned out for us. Our grade schools decided what time we need to be there, and how many hours we’d spend at the fine establishment.

Then, for those that attended post-secondary, more of your schedule’s decided for you. Even though you could pick your courses now, there was still a time that someone else decided they required your physical presence.

If you happened to opt for the work route right away, odds are your employer didn’t let you choose what time to turn into work.

It’s a little scary at first when you have to be your own timetable. We’re programmed to follow somebody else’s watch for so long we’ve forgotten how to tell time ourselves.

But, when you do start to carve the time out to work, something miraculous happens. You gain discipline. This discipline then pours over into other aspects of life. A planner becomes your best friend.

You’ll start to learn how to manage your time more efficiently and allocate space for other activities. Events such as journaling,  meditating, exercising and playing an instrument become part of your life. Time is on your side.

But, that being said…

Keeping A Routine Can Become More Difficult

I know this sounds like the exact opposite of what I just said, but hear me out. The previous section was assuming you’re staying on your own in an Airbnb or a shared house. If so, then I stand by everything I said. But, if you’re staying at a hostel and staying in a dorm, the game changes a bit.

Now, this isn’t a knock on hostels whatsoever; I love them. It’s the best way to meet friends when in foreign lands. They help organize events and guide you through the city. But, most of all, they’re cheaper than staying by yourself in hotels and Airbnbs.

And when travelling for extended periods, cutting costs is essential, especially when staying in cities that like to burn through your wallet. I’m looking at you Vienna!

The positives when staying at a hostel are numerous, but building a solid routine that is difficult. Most hostels are perfectly set up to let you work. But good luck meditating in a dorm room or shared living space when people are always coming in and out.

The Art Of Currency Conversion

What if I told you that I know of an investment that will make your money more valuable instantly? It’s not a pyramid scheme or a startup you’ve never heard of that’s going public tomorrow.

Nope, what I’m suggesting is much easier and safer. It’s called taking your money to a country that it’s worth far more.

If you add up the cost of living in most metropolis North American cities, you’re looking at about $3500 to live comfortably. That’s if you’re single, renting, don’t have kids and haven’t locked yourself into unnecessary debt.

To put it in perspective, the median wage in Portugal is 860 euros a month, or about $1200. An apartment in cities such as Faro, Loule, Lisbon and Porto range from 300 to 1000 euros for a very nice setup.

Not only is the housing much cheaper than North American, but food, drinks and entertainment are all adjusted to their income!

Lots Of Travel Becomes Exhausting

Anytime I’ve mentioned that extensive travel becomes exhausting when you’re still working, people laugh at me.

On the surface, it’s excellent, and it’s an issue that’s easy overlooked. That doesn’t change the fact that when you’re bouncing around from city to city, working, missing flights and sleeping in trains, the energy reserves will start to fade.

I learned this the hard way. And after visiting far too many cities in a short period, my batteries needed replacing.

It’s exciting to get to hop on a train and see the Romanian countryside, then 3 days later to take a bus to beautiful Serbia. Just don’t try to see too much without charging up the batteries and smelling a rose or 2 on the way there.

Life Is The Greatest Teacher

While the energy may get a little drained, the soul fills in equal parts. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but travelling teaches you more lessons than you can handle at times. Some of them are subtle; others come hurling at your face like a pitch from Randy Johnson.

When you’re tossed out of your comfort zone and mingle with people from all walks of life, it opens up your perception of the world. There’s only so much you can learn from a textbook or blog post.

The real value comes from sitting in a coffee shop and talking to a local about their experiences growing up in Naples. Or from taking a break at a park and watching parents with their kids. We’re all essentially the same in terms of needs. We want shelter, food, and for our family to prosper. This doesn’t change whether you’re in Moscow or Manitoba. However, you learn to appreciate the ease of life that we’ve been gifted in Canada.

When a Croatian mother and her daughter talk about hiding in the bathroom while bombs fell and assault rifles ripped through their kitchen, you listen. And in listening, you learn humility and compassion towards others.

Every Day Is A New Challenge

This one is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, always adapting and having challenges to hurdle makes you stronger in the long run. But, sometimes you want to have a day where you know how everything’s going to pan out. 

Walking to an ATM and having it eat your debit card usually isn’t a problem. But not if your bank located 9604 kilometres away. Then it becomes a bit of an issue.

Or when you take a 6-hour bus ride, get detained in Bosnia, finally arrive in Split to realize that your bag didn’t make the trip. It looks like the clothes on my back will have to do for the time being.

Situations like these arise quite often, and it sucks, but it’s all part of the game of life. You either shake it off and keep going or sit there crying over the milk you’ve spilled. There are 2 sides to every coin. To paraphrase the great Epictetus, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how to react to it.

Your Baggage Becomes Smaller

You can take this as emotional or physical baggage, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the need for extravagant and excess starts to fade.

There’s nothing that hits your soul like watching little kids play with what you’d hardly call toys and grinning like a Cheshire cat. Or adults that have a Galaxy s5 and couldn’t give two hoots about upgrading to an iPhone XR version 5, model 7.

We’ve become accustomed to living in a world where product advertisement bombards our feeble little minds and plays with our insecurities.

Embracing a sense of minimalism and appreciating what you have relieves stress and helps put your energy and focus on what matters. You don’t need to go full-blown monk and drop all material goods, but find a balance that works for you.

Working Sucks When Everybody Is Having “Fun”

Nothing hits harder than a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s natural for us as humans to grieve when we feel as if we’re missing out on all the fun. Don’t leave me behind!

Well, I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss some good times and you have to live with that.

This sums up working remotely. Being there will most likely be a difference in time zones, you’re required to work late at night, or early in the morning. That means no shenanigans at the local bar or club until 4am. Or a hike to a pristine lake, nestled away in the beautiful mountains of Poland. Yes, surprisingly for some, the reality is that working remotely means work is the priority.

It Can Get Lonely

I’d be lying if I didn’t say at this very moment, I miss my friends and family. They’re an integral part of my life and are always a central focus when I’m at home.

It makes staying at hostels even more important. There are always people doing the same thing as you and travelling and looking to make friends. So, it’s easy to meet new people and make connections abroad.

To me, it’s one of the main reasons to get out and see the world, the people. The people you meet shape your life and who you become.

And by meeting open-minded people that are looking to for a better understanding of this rock we live on, it helps better define what we are looking for.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that there’s something inherently peaceful and fulfilling about being with your family and or simply shooting hoops, playing video games or having a beer with your friends.

You Learn Who You Really Are

Without trying to sound existential, I’ve found travelling reveals you to yourself. Not in a sense that you’re going to become a completely different person, but things will change.

We are the products of our environments and it’s inevitable to change when you find yourself in a new landscape.

Our personalities are collections of experiences, psychological traits, feelings, genetics and behaviour.

It’s a very complex subject, but studies have shown that personality, for the most part, is learned and not something that we’re born with. Our cultural differences, friends, tastes in music, sports, entertainment, books and everything from A to Z help determine who we are and how we engage with others.

But, what happens when being thrown into a foreign land where you don’t like the same music, get the same commercials, sports, and friends telling you what to like and what to watch?

By giving yourself some time alone and away from all the distractions of society, you may find what moves your soul.

The Grass is Always Greener

Your day to day struggle might be a challenging one and you dream of being elsewhere. Maybe you’re working 14 hour days to support your family. 

Maybe life would be better if you finally got that promotion you feel you deserve. You know what, things will be good when you finally get that spoiler added to your Subaru. 

Through various methods of persuasion, our minds and ego have convinced us that we’d be better off somewhere else. Only if you could move to that city, you’ve been dreaming about.

The truth is if you don’t take the proper measures to be happy content right where you are, the eternal want of more will always follow you.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t work for a better future. But, we have to embrace what we have right here. It has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from travelling.

Some would do anything to have a fraction of what I’ve overlooked as a privilege. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are in North America when we’ve been living most of our lives in comfort.

It might obviously be a bit of a gross overgeneralization, as many people do struggle to make ends meet. But for the majority of you that are on your laptop or phone reading this, I encourage you to step outside your boundaries. 

It’s important to see life from another’s perspective. You might just find that you’ve always had what you’re looking for.

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Written By Mark Galvao

Full-time writer, part-time jack of all trades, Mark is a member of the Advesa content team. You’ll seldom find him without a basketball in his hands. But, if he isn’t shooting hoops, he’s probably exploring philosophy, metaphysics, nature, or a little known corner of this planet we call home.