Moving abroad is hard.

Whenever someone hears about my plans to move, they are usually taken back as to how quickly I can suddenly ‘make’ a decision.  The reality here is that I don’t tend to make quick decisions.  I tend to do a lot of background research into my options so that when the time arrives to make a decision, I am able to finalize a decision in what seems to be at ‘lightning speed’.

Right now, I am moving to Berlin.  I was talking about the maximum amount of suitcases that I need to pack.  Then the overall comment was that moving was as simple as packing a suitcase.  Not so.  Anyone who has ever seriously moved on their own, especially to a country where English/their own main language is not the main language for that country.

The other issue that irks me is the continued assumption that because English is a language that is widely used and adopted in professional and personal circles, that it’s the default and defacto standard in modern cities like Berlin.  Not so fast.  German is the default and defacto language used.  Sure if you are lost in Berlin and you need to find the nearest train station, then you’ll find someone who can help you.  But when you are poring over tenancy contracts, government websites, and so on, you will realize that English is merely just the guest language.  In this case, I’m looking forward to learning German in my time and stay in Germany.

Last but not least, the one thing that I’ve learnt so far is that moving is hard overall.  Even if you are moving to countries like the UK, Canada, the US, Ireland and so on there are still a lot of major and minor differences and nuances that you need to learn first.  I remember going to an event in Vancouver and someone made an offhand remark as to how Australia and Canada are the same and that because of this, moving is not that difficult.  I used to think the same – that moving to Canada was on the easy level.  But, not so.

Making your own definition of digital nomadism

On moving

Since 2014, I have lived and worked in five countries – the UK, Australia, Canada (Vancouver and Toronto) and now Ireland.  I don’t uproot myself every month or so, but instead opt to live in a place for months at a time as my home base.  From there, I would travel out to different countries and cities.

You set your own agenda – you can be as boring or as adventurous, you can stay in a place for a few days or a few years.  It’s not a race to go to the most places in one year.  Digital nomadism is a marathon, not a sprint.

On planning

I am a very meticulous planner, which ironically allows me to skydive right into a major decision that others may see as very risky.  My planning and preparation allows me to take risks like being able to move to a new country next month.  The amount of planning, and preparation that I do allows me to go to a booking site and book a ticket to move to a new country that same weekend.  So on the surface it looks like spontaneity…but really it isn’t.

When you sit down to plan and prepare your life, you have the ability to take further control of your own life and your definition of what it is like to be a digital nomad.

On careers

I largely worked remotely as a consultant and as a bona fide full-time employee.

One of the genuine concerns that has been at the back of my mind, and I’m sure it could be in yours, is potential career risk.

My first overseas move was to Canada in my early 20s.  While in Canada, I signed a couple of major contracts for my work back in Australia and I was also freelancing remotely.

The second was the move from Australia to the UK.  My contract had ended and I moved the following year.  I had some confidence in my cashflow as there were client work that could be done remotely and it had to be remote anyway since it was on the other side of Australia.  But they didn’t like that I was now on the other side of the world.  Unfortunately, Australia hasn’t warmed up to the notion of remote work that on the second time I was offered a new position that could be done remotely (and the organization also advocated remote work) it was retracted when they found out that I would be overseas.

Other than the two examples from Australia, my career has definitely flourished in tangents unimaginable should I have stayed in Australia. I have exposure to new industries, new clients and customers, new work cultures, new ways of life and of work I have absolutely no regrets leaving.

I am not saying that Australia is a bad place to be.  But I have the capacity and the privilege to do all this, so why not?

When you jump into this type of lifestyle then you are opening up to new opportunities, new experiences and new challenges.  You define your own version of what is career success.

On finances

Having made some financial mistakes in the past has helped me grow into a better person when it comes to managing personal finances and investments.

Digital nomadism is an expensive activity and requires being able to put together and customize various pieces together.  And those pieces are definitely going to be personal finance and investment related.

Luckily for me, I enjoy reading and learning about this but for others, it’s either a complete bore or some sort of necessary evil.

For me, my digital nomadism has sacrificed a certain level of financial stability that I could have very much gained in the past 10 years.  Is it a deal breaker? Well, it’s at a level where I am aware of this potential issue and I am actively seeking out to learn more and educate myself.

I’m also confident that I am able to reach my financial goals.  Although there are some days where I want to just make things easier…

The key here is having a personal finance compass – to solidify and be aware of long-term goals, to continue to pursue it, and to be aware of straying away from such goals.

Defining your own digital nomadism

Am I a typical nomad? No, not really.  In my suitcase there are designer dresses, a large monitor screen for my work, half a suitcase filled with shoes that I will probably only wear once. So no, I’m not the minimalist backpacker type.  I draw the line when it comes to heavier items like homewares, books.  I define my own ‘nomadism’ but that’s OK.

Why Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Last week, I sold a couple of items.  More like half-sold.  They were only able to pay for one item, then decided to wait for the next paycheck to pay for the second.  I gave them the second item anyway because I trust them.

It baffles me that if one wanted to purchase two items but had suddenly, the following day, run into financial restraint that they suddenly cannot pay for the second item…

More than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  And yes, it sounds like this guy is on that half.

I have several months living expenses from Canada.   In Australia, I also have savings and I even have an extra surplus on my credit card.

I have both an RRSP (Canada) and superannuation (Australia) pension fund set up.

I have no further assets directly to my name though (maybe that is normal if you are in your 20s and have been travelling around since your early 20s..).  Which is a bit worrying (nonetheless!).  So right now, most of what I have is liquid.  I am working on building the assets part.  Once I am able to, I will continue to allocate as much as I can from my savings into some sort of investment account.  And I also want to allocate a portion of this into charity or a good cause (ie Joy of Tech).

Not having to live paycheck to paycheck gives one a lot of freedom. And, with a bit of work and discipline, you can get yourself out of this cycle.