Interested in the story of how all of this came to be?
It all started with a Hawaiin shirt… or living on my friends couch… or Vietnam? I guess to tell the real story of Digital Nomad Lifestyle I have to go back to 2015.
I was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
No I wasn’t fighting a war, but if that makes the story more exciting, feel free to envision it. In lieu of fighting, I was teaching English. I graduated college without any real idea what I wanted to do. I studied psychology and thought I’d be a therapist, but after working a bit in the field I realized it wasn’t for me. So I went to Vietnam to teach English.
After graduating college I racked my brain for some kind of direction. The only thing I loved was travel, so I started to research how I could do it longer. Naturally I chose teaching English. Vietnam was warm, it paid well, and I couldn’t think of a more different country from my own.
So I left For ‘Nam
I didn’t know anyone in Vietnam, but slowly learned how to navigate the swarms of motorbikes, use chopsticks and even speak Vietnamese. After a while I started my own English teaching consulting. I started off posting on my Facebook page about how I could teach English to anyone. After all, I taught myself how to speak Vietnamese, I knew a thing or two about language learning. The business slowly grew and I was even teaching English to employees of a Nestle factory. (On a side note, I have since lost most of my Vietnamese, which nearly brings tears to my eyes).
I was starting my own business, I had freedom to travel when I wanted, and I was living in this far off exotic land.
On paper, all of my boxes were checked. What else could I possibly want?
Despite this I felt depressed. I recall sleeping being my favorite activity and really didn’t want to wake up most of the time. I felt isolated, and my heart wasn’t in the work I was doing. I decided to stop philandering around and told a very beautiful woman I was dating at the time, that I was ready to be serious. Apparently, she wasn’t ready and we never talked again after that.
I floundered for a couple months, until finally tucking my tail between my legs and returning to the United States.
I Arrived In The US Without An Idea of What To Do
I had been in Vietnam for a year, and I was starting over from scratch. However, I look back nostalgically at waking up that first morning and being excited about the day. That was the first time I woke up with excitement in a long time. I had a mission, to go get my bike from storage and start rebuilding my life.
For The Next 3 Months I Was Living on My Friend’s Couch
I had no money, no parents with resources, no car & no real job. I found myself working for a drunk at a construction job. I would sweep the floors and run and get tools for him for cash. I recall one morning playing basketball with him outside his house so he could sober up enough to drive to the construction site.
When we finally got to the construction site the reality of my life hit me. It hit me as hard as the 4th DUI charge that man had gotten weeks earlier. This was the reality of my life, I was approaching 25 years old and while my friends had careers I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on. I was a loser, and this construction site was a mirror of where I was internally. I was half-finished, and my progress was leagues behind where it should’ve been.
I made a vow to myself when I started sweeping that day. That I would figure out a career by the time I clocked out.
I must’ve went through at least 20 different jobs, and I kept coming back to marketing. I was always interested in marketing, but my younger self found it unethical. How could you use psychological principles to influence people to buy things? For whatever reason, I let go of that concern and cemented my fate.
So I left the job that day (a job I was never paid for by the way) committed to making marketing work out.
I spent the next year dreaming, learning, and trying to fool someone into paying me for marketing. It didn’t work.
I was bartending at an Indian and Nepali restaurant, and they needed a website. So I asked them if I could make one for free. Thank god this version of that site isn’t up anymore.
I ended up doing misc. digital marketing tasks for them for about a year (free of charge). Then I finally got an internship working at a digital marketing firm downtown. I dressed up nicer than any of the partners.
I was committed to playing the part of the successful business professional
Neither of my parents worked in the business world, so it felt like I had literally broken through to this upper level in life and I needed to play the part.
I worked there for about a year and a half, and I needed a promotion. I was on the fast track to prove to the world that I was the successful business professional. I made my case for the promotion, but was denied.
How was the world ever going to see how important I was if I kept that same meager job title?
So I found a new company, and the title I wanted. A job at a larger firm that had much sexier tools and bigger clients. I was on my way! I would soon be working for a huge firm, working 13 hour days, driving a $100,000+ car and raking in the dough!
After about 4 months of working there the excitement waned. I looked around at my life, I had the title I wanted, I had promises of promotion, bonuses and equity options. I was on my way to being the successful business professional.
On paper, all of my boxes were checked. What else could I possibly want?
I felt empty, I recall sitting in parking lots on my lunch break desperately trying to figure something out. A way out of this, a solution, anything…
I would listen to motivational speakers, desperately trying to fix my mindset. Maybe that would fix my mood, maybe it’s just me. Maybe the emptiness I felt was just a phase. Maybe everybody else feels this way too?
I searched and searched for a fix.
I felt inauthentic, and my heart wasn’t in the work I was doing.
One Friday I recall my manager coming up to me and saying “If you continue to wear that, you’re not going to be working here much longer.” I looked around trying to figure out what she was referring to. She pointed to my Hawaiin shirt. The vibrance of which was only surpassed by its tightness. I loved that shirt, and this was the final straw.
A Week Later I Put In My Notice
Right away I started doing UberEats to supplement my income while I built my own digital marketing business. I would work on my business during the day, then do Ubereats in the evening. I still recall the warm summer nights driving through neighborhoods with my windows down, listening to 4 hour work week and any other audio about being a digital nomad.
I had only the vaguest idea of how my business would work out
Part of me felt like a fraud. I was making all my money from UberEats and telling people I owned a digital marketing company. However, I look back nostalgically at those days. Just like my return to the US, I woke up with excitement again.
I had a mission, to travel the world while proving to everyone that I was the successful business professional.
I started hustling & traveling right away. I had to prove to my former co-workers and friends that I made the right decision and that I didn’t leave a promising career for food delivery.
So I dedicated myself. I proved all “my haters” wrong.
My business was fueled by an excess of coffee and resentment, and it started to work.
I kept a list of everyone who had slighted me in the past, and I reviewed that list regularly for inspiration. I was going to show them…
Eventually I didn’t have to do UberEats anymore, and my business survived the worst of COVID 19. Then after some time I had enough money to bring on some contractors.
I was cruising
Then I decided to do a bike trip from Athens to Istanbul.
On my first day I tried to do 160 kilometers, or 100 miles. In Greece, in the middle June, with all of my luggage saddled around my bike. Needless to say this didn’t go so well.
I had what felt like a near death experience
I became so weak I couldn’t ride my bicycle anymore, even on the lowest gear I would lose my breath. I was out of all life force, and I was in the middle of nowhere. I finally mustered the strength together to shuffle a few hundred meters at a time, then sit underneath the sparse tall bushes that lined the road.
At one moment I thought to myself, “I might die out here.” and I tried to focus my attention on why. Why was I pushing myself so hard? This was difficult, thoughts were flying through my mind like I was on a bad acid trip, I couldn’t focus on anything. I felt my life flashing before my eyes, and I resigned myself to whatever fate came, at least I had lived a good life.
Thankfully, I crawled my way to the nearest town, and I had an answer to my earlier question. “Why was I pushing myself so hard?”
The Answer Was My Ego
The drive to be better than everyone else. If the topic of what was your longest day came up with another biker, I wanted them to know that I had biked farther than them, and that I was better than them.
This drive nearly killed me. I also recognized how it slowly ate away at me everyday.
Everyday I compared myself to any mildly successful looking guy I walked past. Everyday I held onto the slights I had received from previous co-workers. My competitiveness had grown to an unmanageable level, and I couldn’t keep living this way.
So I became more aware of it. I tried to remove it from my life, but that didn’t work. So I try to work with it now, and channel it in healthy ways. I’m creating more space between myself and my competitiveness, finding ways to make it work for me.
There’s a great quote that I think touches on this
“I was bathed as a child in a toxic form of masculine power… that’s been my Zen Koan. What is the right relationship to power in general and masculine power in particular? Earlier in my life I was grandiose and I seized that power in ways that were not useful. Later in life I tried to divest in the power I had because I thought it was destructive… now… let it flow through you and don’t own it and be grateful.”Terry Real
I’ve Had A Million Versions of This Same Story
Where I build a life I want, I check off all the boxes but my heart still isn’t all the way in. I have dedicated myself to the pursuit of happiness. This goes beyond just experiencing different countries, onto self-development and ensuring that I’m the most fulfilled I can be in this journey.
I’m going to miss the mark, I might trip up and re-learn lessons, but I am committed to my fulfillment, and sharing my journey with you all. Sharing what makes me happy, what doesn’t and what I’ve learned along the way.
The Future Is In Digital Nomading
Join me as I strive to balance a life of mental, physical & financial health while traveling the world.
Welcome to Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Read About My Hometown & Struggle With Identity Here