Aggie Bainbridge, hard at work, Silo Cafe, Berlin
How to be a digital nomad
Aggie Bainbridge quit her London life for one on the road as a digital nomad. As a freelance graphic designer, she can take her work with her to anywhere with good coffee and a decent wifi connection. She's been on the road for 14 months so far, and has lived and worked across France, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Germany, as well as spending time exploring some of the UK. I caught up with Aggie when she was spending a quick couple of weeks in London before jetting off to live in the French Alps for the winter season.
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Thanks for taking time to chat to me Aggie, in your old stomping ground, East London. Having been on the road for a while now, how does it feel to be back in your former home town?
Thanks for having me! It feels great to be back. I miss it less than I’d expected but I do pretty much love everything about London; it’s such an exciting city.
What made you decide to take the plunge and become a digital nomad?
That’s a difficult question to answer without getting ‘deep’ too quickly. I think that I’d started to feel that my lifestyle become a little claustrophobic. I’d achieved the life goals I’d set myself; getting a great job, buying a house etc but instead of empowered I actually felt more restricted and less creative.
I’ve always had a strong desire to ‘go explore’ so I initially set out on a six month trip to get re-inspired, which has turned into something slightly longer. *laughs*
What has been the highlight of your digital nomad life so far?
Another difficult question! There have been so many things… but I think the main highlight has been the people I’ve encountered so far. So many have been warm and welcoming and its been wonderful to hear different opinions and get tips for where to go next. It’s also great to stay somewhere for longer than a week and feel less of a tourist.
And what has been the most challenging aspect of being a digital nomad?
Um I think that’s a tie between trying to remember a few bits of new languages or working out how to pack for all seasons in just one suitcase!
What kind of places do digital nomads stay in? And what are your absolute musts?
The only thing I’ve insisted on so far is that there’s a decent wifi connection either where I’m staying or nearby, which is imperative when you’re working remotely. Otherwise I’ve been open to options, so far I’ve found myself housesitting, staying in both shared and private Airbnbs, hotels, campervans even a tent and I’ve only been travelling for a year.
Has being based remotely had any detrimental effect on your freelance work (e.g. not being able to attend meetings), or do you find that most clients are more than happy for you to link up via Skype?
So far I don’t think so, there are enough online tools that it makes it very easy to communicate and keep track of projects. Clients seem to get excited rather than put off by the fact I’m travelling.
It also helps that I’m part of two great organisations; The Hoxby Collective which, with over three hundred associates globally, operates as a completely virtual agency and Traab Collective, which is a network of talented freelancers who collaborate and skill share for different projects, some small and some big.
Both campaign to change our ideals of what a standard work day is and how companies can really get the very best out of their employees.
Do you have a plan or timeline in mind? Or are you just taking each week as it comes?
For some things I have a plan in mind - for example staying in one place for five months needed a bit more pre-planning. For the most part however I’ve decided where to go next off the cuff, usually down to the recommendations I’ve had from people I’ve met while ‘on the road’.
How has your digital nomad experience changed you so far?
I think there are several things that have switched in my mind. One is how much ‘stuff’ you really need. I’ve felt happier and calmer living out of my one suitcase than I had for years in my house of beautiful things, that at the time I thought I really needed.
I find myself more inspired, but that’s the joy of being introduced to new places and cultures. I also say ‘yes’ to a lot more things. I feel like every recommendation I receive is a challenge to explore, which has meant I’ve eaten in some great places and had some wonderful experiences that previously might have been really out of my comfort zone.
Is being a digital nomad an expensive way of life? Or are you better off than you were paying London rents?
Honestly it works out to about the same if you budget right and really hunt for good places to stay. Lots of Airbnb properties offer a lower rental rate the longer you book for so that’s been very useful to keep costs down. Flights booked in advance or where you don’t mind the days that you travel.
The thought of a nomadic lifestyle appeals to so many people. What would you say to someone who was considering it?
Well, the reality checkers first: number one be prepared that the actuality of nomadic lifestyle may not be as idyllic or as glamorous as it sounds, the day-to-day is still a mix of work and play. And make sure you have some back up funds for tricky situations, re-arranging cancelled flights for example.
On the other hand I’d say don’t think, just jump into it. Pick somewhere you always wanted to go and just go. Everything can be worked on along the way. And finally talk to new people, that is my single most important piece of advice.
Thanks so much for this Aggie. I honestly think it's so interesting, being a digi-nomad. And a sign of the times and hint to the future of how we work.
Check out Aggie's website and work at petitspapiers.co
All photographs courtesy of Aggie.