On Becoming a Digital Nomad

Mar 14th, 2018 in Adventure

It’s been a little over six months back in NYC after cycling across America, and the urge to hit the road has been realized once more. My vision for 2018 is to try my hand as a digital nomad, or one who works remotely on the move. I’ll be moving from city to city in North America and setting up a presence in each, balancing minimalist tourism with local involvement and staying productive online. Having many acquaintances from my travels and the touring music scene has given me a laundry list of waxed-upon-poetically locales to behold with my own eyes.

A reality I need to acknowledge is that this trip is a compromise between sating my wanderlust and the financial challenges that come with going AWOL for months. With a fledgling business as a freelance web developer, I need to work on building that up and giving myself a good savings to fund my future activities. A reality on my bike trip across the States last year is that I didn’t have that bulwark, and lack of money was a constant source of anxiety. I don’t want to worry about cash past the personal challenge of keeping a frugal budget on any other traveling I do. That said, if I don’t succeed in having regular work on the road, I will likely need to curtail or modify this trip. Thus the stakes are high, but my confidence in myself is higher.

An advantage, and perhaps a challenge, is that I will be very improvisational. I’m not setting out to reach any final place, keeping an ordered list of where to go to or giving myself a time limit. When I’ve had my fill or am called elsewhere, I will move on. I’m a big believer in following serendipitous happenings to an end, and I’ll be the most fluid I’ve ever been in taking advantage of them. My goals are to simply forge meaningful connections with new people or places, stay productive in my coding, photography or other work, and not spend more than I earn in the process.

I’ll get to listing some of my expectations on how I will manage all of this on my own. A large portion of last Summer was spent liaising with people who wanted to host touring cyclists through the service Warmshowers. I’m practiced and comfortable using Couchsurfing (have an account? add me.) to get a foot in the door in these new places where I don’t have contacts. From there, it’s a tossup, to how stable I need my living situation to be at that moment. If I have work on my plate, I can find a short term sublet, or stay in a hostel, airbnb or even a motel. If I don’t, I can bounce around between a few people willing to host and learn from them. And then there’s always camping. I will be bringing my battle-tested bikepacking kit and can always drop out into the wild and visit the local state parks if I’m close to any.

As for getting between places, I plan on utilizing rail or buses for my interstate travel. Those tend to be pretty chill about checking bicycles on board. Otherwise, I might try and negotiate a rideshare. I don’t expect to drive or fly anywhere, but I won’t leave any options off the table. As aforementioned, I will bring my bikepacking kit, which I intend to do only a limited amount of distance riding on. I consider road biking for significant distances to be contrary to my stated goal of being available to work, and also quite hazardous, so I will consider it a lapse of this trip’s intent if I’m doing a significant amount of it.

I’m a big fan of working out of coffee shops and libraries, so I’ll be hitting the streets most days in search of them. My favorite shop in Queens, Milk & Pull, has been a great place for productivity as well as gathering intel on local happenings. I’m definitely inspired partly by the warm environment there to attempt this lifestyle, and if I can find sister coffee shops in the other towns I visit, I’m sure I can make things work for myself and not feel too alien in those new locales. I leveraged libraries extensively on my bicycle last year and intend to keep that up as well.

It’s interesting to take a moment and compare this setting of intentions with my writings of the past two Springtimes as I prepared to set out on the Appalachian Trail and cycle TransAmerica. For the AT, I touted my physical fitness and willingness to be open on whatever comes my way. On cycling, I stated my desire to be open to working my way across, which was definitely naïve then and something I conceded on pretty quickly. We’ll see how the results of this new chapter compare with my stated goals. I consider it a privilege to be able to take these chances on living my life this way.

I plan to depart at the start of April. I’m intending to head down to Asheville, North Carolina as my first locale. Its proximity to the mountains and touted arts and music scene make it a keen benchmark for other cities to meet. Plus, it’s a chance to kiss the earth of the Appalachian Trail and bless this year’s travel. Y’all can bet I’ll be keeping another travelogue here on harrisonfm.com as I move around.

Anyone got any suggestions on where to go next?