What is it like to live on the road and travel the world as a solo female traveler? In this month’s digital nomad interview series, we sat down with Aleah Taboclaon of Solitary Wanderer to get a glimpse of her life as a remote worker and a travel blogger.
What was your life like before being a digital nomad?
I love traveling. I have tried traveling solo when I was a kid, so travel is definitely a big part of my life. Before becoming a digital nomad, however, I had to make do with a salary ranging from $300-500 a month. As you can imagine, it was really hard to travel with that budget, and coupled with my full-time work, I also couldn’t travel for long.
I did love my jobs. I was working in non-profits and helped abused women and children. So in terms of fulfillment, it was there. There’s nothing more fulfilling than a job that makes a difference to people’s lives. However, given the nature of my work (imagine talking to abused kids day in and day out!), I burned out and decided to go back to my first love, writing.
When did you start being a Digital Nomad?
I decided to become location independent because my boyfriend then lived in Europe. At that time, I had also burned out from my work as a counselor for abused children. I thought that taking a break for a couple of years would replenish my soul, so to speak.
It’s been 7 years now, but I’m still not tired of being a digital nomad. The world is just too big; there are so many places to visit, so many things to see and experience, and so many people to meet. Someday, when I settle down, I’ll go back to my non-profit work, but in the meantime, I’m quite satisfied with being a digital nomad.
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Describe your typical ‘workday’ as a Digital Nomad
Wherever in the world I may be, I work best at night. So I would usually work until 2 or 3 am, get up the next day at 9 am, go around if it’s a new city, check my emails, have lunch and dinner, and then start working in the afternoon or evening.
Of course, the routine also varies. For example, when I was in Bolivia for almost 3 months, I volunteered at a hostel. Daily routine included working in the reception, going to yoga, working on my blog, and then working on my clients’ tasks. In Israel, I would go hiking solo in the desert in the morning, work on my blog/client’s tasks in the afternoon, and then man the hostel reception at night.
Tell us the top 5 things you can’t live without as a digital nomad.
Obviously, my laptop is my number 1 prized possession. It’s a Dell XPS, so a bit pricey, but it’s worth its weight in gold. I used to buy cheap ones, but traveling around South America with a heavy (and slow) laptop was no joke! I also can’t do without my mirrorless camera. As a traveler and travel blogger, I really appreciate its compact size. I did have a DSLR before, and that, coupled with the cheap laptop, really made my life miserable.
Another thing I can’t do without is my Travelwifi device. As a digital nomad, I can’t leave Wifi to chance, and I’m glad that I can get Wifi subscription by just chatting using Travelwifi extras. My smartphone, obviously, is something I need to have with me always. All my banking transactions are done through my phone, so whenever I leave the country, I always have roaming enabled.
Finally, of course, I need my passport. As a digital nomad, the world is my home. My third-world passport isn’t powerful – I can only enter 66 countries visa-free – but with an OECD visa (United States), I can go to an additional 30+ countries!
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What’s your favorite part of being a digital nomad?
My favorite part of being a DN is freedom. I can work wherever I want, whenever I want. I don’t have to buy an office attire, I’m not bound to a 9-5 schedule, and I can work when I’m most productive. Depending on how hard I hustle, or where I am based, I can earn and save a lot, too.
What’s the hardest part of being a digital nomad?
Not having a stable income is the hardest thing about being a digital nomad. I have to work a lot to make sure my monthly bills are paid. Freelancing can mean big bucks, as I earn in dollars and spend in pesos (if I am based in the Philippines), however, the work is seasonal. There are months when most of my clients don’t have enough tasks for me to do, so I have to look for new clients. Of course, the opposite is also true. There are some months when I have to work 10-14 hour days just to meet some deadlines.
My learnings: saving is important. Given that digital nomads don’t have a stable income, it’s necessary to learn how to set aside money for the lean months that’s sure to come.
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Where are you currently based and what are your future travel plans?
I’m currently based in the Philippines and planning to be in Europe for 3 months by July. If I don’t get the visa (thank you, third world passport), I’ll go to Vietnam and spend a couple of months there.
Another option is to go to Mexico for 6 months and make my way down to Central America. I’d planned on spending 3 months in Colombia as well to study Spanish. I’d studied Spanish in Bolivia, but that was 3 years ago, so my language skills are now a bit rusty.
What are your tips for Digital Nomads if ever they are in a city without reliable WiFi?
Definitely get a Wifi hotspot like Travelwifi. It’s such a big help in places where there’s no good internet connection. Some hostels I’ve stayed at, for example, had very slow Wifi. As someone working online, I need to make sure I’m always connected. I could, of course, buy a local SIM card and use data; however, I don’t have a dual SIM phone, and I need my Philippine SIM card to remain active for banking purposes. Travelwifi keeps me connected even in remote places. I always bring it with me!