In The Remote Work and Travel Show interview series, I am working hard to feature a diverse selection of remote workers and remote business entrepreneurs; diverse in terms of both place of origin as well as career. I want to debunk any myths implying the only viable careers for aspiring digital nomads are travel-centric (eg: travel blogging), as well as the perception that digital nomads are largely white westerners. Agnes Grace Nyamwange helps me blow both of these stereotypes out of the water.
In this interview, we discuss how Agnes was a pioneer in the online healthcare business field, how she became an “accidental” full-time digital nomad, online healthcare training challenges and advantages, what it’s like to travel full-time with a Kenyan passport, being featured in a documentary about digital nomads, and more!
Related Interviews You Won’t Want to Miss:
How Beth Santos is Changing the Narrative of Women in Travel
Creating Purpose and Connecting People, with Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Creating Digital Nomad Visas, Summits, and More, with Olúmidé Gbenro
Jump right into my Awesome Interview Series videos on YouTube here – and please give it a thumbs up, leave comments and subscribe!
Meet Agnes Nyamwange!
Agnes Grace Nyamwange was born and raised in Kenya. She earned her Bachelors degree in Uganda and Masters in the USA. She has been a digital nomad for over five years; the first three of which were part-time and the last two+ years have been full-time (though initially somewhat unintentionally so).
Agnes has been to 21 countries, her favourites of which were Bolivia (for the culture), Norway (for the landscapes), Ghana (for the relaxed pace and ease of travel as a solo digital nomad), and the Ivory Coast (because it’s like traveling back in time to the 90’s)!
Check out our conversation on YouTube, or click “play below”.
How Burnout Can Inspire Change
Lord knows I’m no stranger to burnout. And most of the time my more serious episodes of burnout have led to some pretty big changes! Agnes shares her own thoughts on burnout, such as:
- Her experience burning out of her career as a nursing assistant, followed by quitting her job (and eating potato chips for four months).
- How her career break was an opportunity to imagine what her ideal lifestyle and career could be like.
- “No amount of money is worth working yourself to death,” and what that means to Agnes.
- The various side gigs she tried out while on hiatus, including the one that stuck.
How her Remote Business Developed
What started as a side gig turned into something more, and then something more again. Agnes was way ahead of her time in the healthcare industry, and it has served her well. We talk about:
- Agnes’ occasional side gig for years, offering life support classes for healthcare providers, and her inspiration to turn it into something more after burning out of her management job.
- How she went from conducting certification courses in person to online, and how that changed her remote business structure.
- How a terrible WiFi connection in Bolivia inspired her to go from conducting Zoom calls to telephone calls, and how that was a gift for both Agnes and her clients.
- The opportunities that came from converting her geographically-dependent business to online, and the explosion of new customers she got because of it.
- What Agnes did about this explosion of new business to ensure she wouldn’t burn out again.
Being an “Accidental” Digital Nomad
Agnes wasn’t entirely an “accidental” digital nomad. She had already been working remotely for a few years and enjoying long trips around the world, but she still had a home base in the United States. And that abruptly changed. Here’s what happened:
- When returning from abroad in 2018, she was denied entry to the U.S. because one of her documents had expired.
- What happens when you are denied entry (technically it’s not deportation if you were never actually admitted into the country).
- The irony of statements like “you’re not under arrest” while siting in a detention centre.
- How she went from having a 21-year home base in the U.S. to being not allowed to enter, and what she did about it.
- The real blessing here, which is that Agnes had already transitioned her business to working online.
How her Remote Business Developed
We cover the gambit of pros and cons of running an online business. Things like:
- Wishing traditional companies (like the one Agnes formerly worked with) would be more accepting of online training.
- The effects of remote work on workplace culture (and the fact that many people believe the effects are negative despite studies to the contrary).
- The magic thing that happens when you have eight hours of work and only three hours to get it done.
- The beauty of being able to choose the hours that you work.
- Being able to decide how your day should look vs. somebody deciding for you.
- When you drive to work punch in and out of a job, how many of those hours are you really truly productive?
Being a Digital Nomad with a Kenyan Passport
Traveling with a western passport is like a golden ticket to the whole world, as compared to a passport without such privileges as visa-free travel. I ask Agnes what it’s like.
- There’s only one country in South America she can visit without applying for a visa in advance (Bolivia).
- There’s a reason she has only been to 21 countries!
- Various visa challenges Agnes has had.
- Why she decided to get an apartment in Kenya.
- How the new digital nomad visas may present some new opportunities.
- The difficulty in proving income for visa applications as an entrepreneur.
- Why she was denied a UK visa.
Advice for Aspiring Digital Nomads and Remote Entrepreneurs
Agnes’s digital nomad experience thus far has served her well, and she’s preparing for further post-COVID travel adventures to come. Her advice includes:
- Digital Nomad Rule #1: Travel on one-way tickets! Your plans will change all the time!
- Don’t just quit your job without a plan (and ideally the foundations of your remote career in place).
- That said, the real push will be to take the first step.
- Develop a side-hustle first (Jason Moore is really big on creating a side hustle to eventually enable your lifestyle ambitions).
- Take advantage of countries with a low cost of living when you’re building your busines.
Being featured in Roamers
I met Agnes through our mutual friend Matt Bowles (who I interviewed here), and they were both together in west Africa when the crew from the Roamers documentary – the first studio-backed documentary about the digital nomad lifestyle – arrived to film their every move for a week. I had to ask what it was like. Agnes mentions:
- What it’s like having a camera crew follow you around and record everything you do.
- Suddenly forgetting what “normal” is when a camera crew says “act normal”!
Agnes doesn’t have an internet presence like many of my guests on this show do. This is because she’s not a blogger or content creator or online coach any of the things you might assume digital nomads would be. As such, she didn’t come on my show to plug something or promote herself or even to get any SEO backlink love from my site! She just came on to shoot the breeze with me about her experiences and lifestyle, and for that I’m very grateful. There are a lot more people like her out there, and I hope you’ve been inspired to see if you can carve out your own way as a digital nomad despite any perceived odds against you.
In the meantime, you can catch up with Agnes on Instagram @aggiesworldtravels.
And remember – this article is just a summary of the things Agnes said. It’s always best to get information directly from the source – which you can do by watching the video here.