In 2017, I published this Financial Case Study about Barbara, a digital nomad who was earning her location independent living as a translator and copywriter while traveling through over 40 countries, and also writing about her experiences on her blog for digital nomads called Barbaralicious.
But things change, and I wanted to give Barbara a chance to update us on how her life and career has changed over the last five years.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that lifestyle design is a fluid thing, and no lifestyle should be a life sentence. The beauty of a location independent career is the ability to change how (and where) we live our lives according to our preferences, and in some cases, necessity. This financial case study will outline just that.
This post was originally published in 2017. In 2022 it was republished as a completely updated post.
What happened since 2017?
So much has changed since then. I had decided to make my biggest wish come true and become multi-locational by renting an apartment longterm. I chose Chiang Mai to be my new first home. But it wasn’t meant to be. Just 10 days after I had moved into my apartment – I was actually on a spontaneous trip to Hawaii in those days – I got a call that my mother had been diagnosed with cancer, final stage. I didn’t think long. I had to go back to Germany.
Long story short, I moved back to Germany to stay with my family in this difficult time of our lives. My mother stayed with us for another 8 months before she took her final breath. It is strange. You know that this moment will come very soon (and we were actually lucky to have her for 8 months and not just a few weeks) but it totally hits you! That’s why, emotionally, I didn’t manage to leave.
Just more than half a year later I pulled myself together and told myself that I need to leave because I’m not happy in Germany. I left in January 2020. Yeah, bad timing. I guess you all knew by reading the year that it didn’t turn out – again – the way I had planned.
In march 2020, I flew back to Germany but I couldn’t stand the thought of being on the other side of the planet and lose my second parent to that stupid virus. I’m still here. In Germany. I met someone on Tinder (classic!) and we got married in April 2021. I still dream (quite literally) of my life as a nomad but it’s not my reality anymore. Maybe one day again…
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
2017: I started my nomad journey on November 5th of 2014. I began with a trip around the world (Latin America, North America, Oceania and Asia) to see if I really like traveling and working on the road. After that I just moved on because I loved it. I traveled Europe in summer and went back to Latin America in winter. After two years putting the focus on Latin America and Europe, I decided that it’s time to explore Asia again, where I am now.
2022: After writing this, I spent an incredible 2.5 years in South East Asia with regular visits in Europe to see my family. But I traveled much less than before. I enjoyed it a lot to come back to a few places that I kind of called home – Chiang Mai, Singapore, Saigon, Canggu. I mostly traveled for visa runs not to explore new places. I made friends among locals and expats. I had my favorite cafés to work from, to have amazing breakfast or to meet my friends for a chat. My life was just perfect.
Please describe what you do for income.
2017: I’m a freelance translator and copywriter, I published 10 ebooks (two of which have been published as paperbacks, too) and I earn money through collaborations with my blog Barbaralicious. As well, I created an online course for students of languages or translator studies on how to become a freelance translator.
2022: I’m surprised to read that I still called myself a translator and copywriter at that time. I put more focus on my blog afterwards, I guess and went to being a full-time blogger, teacher (I teach blogging and social media at a local school here in Germany but I teach online), and photographer.
Also, I published 24 self-published ebooks by now and the first one with a publishing house has been published back in June 2021. My second book with a publishing house is already written but not out yet and I just signed the contract for a third one. So, I would say things have changed quite a bit but in a good way.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
2017: I work around 100 hours per week. Sometimes a bit less, but it happens as well that I work more, for example when I have many collaborations or events to attend, because I still have freelance projects and my blog, which I both don’t want to pause in those occasions.
2022: I have no idea… I don’t count the hours at all anymore and also don’t know what exactly to count. If I need to guess it’s probably between 30 and 70 hours a week depending on the workload.
How much money do you make?
2017: Unfortunately, my income varies a lot.
With freelancing projects, sometimes I make 2K Euro in a month, sometimes I make nothing at all. In 2016, I made 12K by freelancing so 1K per month.
It’s similar with my books: On good months, I make 200 Euro, in bad months just 30 Euro. My online translator course wasn’t too much in my center of attention, but I want to change that now and make money with it.
2022: It still varies a lot but my monthly average is higher now. It also needs to be higher because life in Germany is so much more expensive. I make an average of 2-3K per month at the moment.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
2017: My income alone wouldn’t be enough to support myself. Nevertheless, I always find solutions to not have to ask others for help: At the moment, I have a house sitting gig for one month, for example, which means that I have a big apartment with a pool for myself and don’t pay a penny. I have to feed a cat though. But that’s fine for me. Other solutions can be collaborations. Very often I don’t pay for accommodation because I will promote the place. I go on press trips where everything is paid or tours that include some nights in a hotel. In the first four months of 2017, I paid for a total of two weeks; the rest was covered by my collaboration partners.
2022: Yes, it’s enough. Especially because my husband and I pay the bills together now. And it would also be enough to hit the road together. Unfortunately, my husband isn’t allowed to work remotely.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
2017: I love the freedom and independence. I’m choosing where I go and when I go.
2022: I would like to answer: I miss exactly what I wrote back then. I miss my freedom and independence. I would go back to being a nomad immediately.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
2017: One of the greatest challenges for me is that most people don’t understand the lifestyle. Very often, I hear: “You can’t live like this!” or “You are always on vacation!” No matter how hard I try to explain the digital nomad lifestyle, some people will never get what it’s about. It took my family almost 1.5 years to understand it and I’m not sure if they really do now or if they just say it so we don’t fight anymore.
2022: I can still relate to the challenges I had back then. It even got worse since now people say things like “Oh, you finally got a normal life” or when I tell friends how much I miss Thailand “Get used to it. This is the normal life”. It breaks my heart. But at the moment, I won’t be able to change the situation.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
2017: I will probably be nomadic in a certain way for the rest of my life. I don’t think that I will ever be able to settle down again. I would like to have several bases though making my life multi-locational and move from there. At the moment, I’m more roaming around without any base at all, although I still have a room at my parents’ place. It doesn’t feel like “my home” though and I would like to have something like it. So perhaps a condo in Chiang Mai and a room in Bali would do!
2022: It’s still my dream to live muli-locational. Maybe one day.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
2017: If I could go back in time, I would probably tell myself not to leave with so little savings. It takes time to be financially independent and it makes things so much easier when you don’t need to worry about money all the time.
(Nora’s note: Amen to that! I too, built up my location independent career on the road, and it was difficult. See also: Things to do to Prepare for Lifestlye Travel)
2022: Follow your heart! Money is important, yes. But life is short. Don’t waste it waiting for the right moment…