HUMBLE BEGINNINGS AS A DIGITAL NOMAD TO LIVING WITH THE ELITE OF VIETNAM
Rise of the Digital Nomads Conference – Keynote Speaker Nathan Ergang
My Digital Nomad Story
My story started in 2019. Just broke up with my girlfriend and was feeling lost. I felt like my life was really boring and all I did was sit in my room and work on my computer. Vancouver was expensive so I have to work a lot to afford the ridiculous living costs in Canada. I was still 22,000 in debt from student loans and was feeling a little depressed.
I remembered a better time when I went to Thailand for 3 week on a digital nomad adventure. It was one of the best moments of my life and I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
So within 3 months I sold everything I owned. Fit everything I needed into 2 suitcases and a backpack and booked a 1 way ticket to Chiang Mai Thailand. I had no idea what life had in store for me. I was a little nervous but I had a goal. Live cheap and pay off my debt.
The 1st Year as a Digital Nomad was a Complete Rollercoaster.
At the top, it was the most exciting year of my life. At the bottom it was filled with personal growth and reinventing myself. Made lots of mistakes, many lessons and problem solving along the way. Ill cover those here and how I overcame them.
I learned that moving every 1-2 months was initially exciting but after a while it got expensive and exhausting. Lots of crazy things happened to me along the way. My laptop I just bought stopped working, lost half my income when my biggest client decided to shift financial priorities, and I had to overcome the language and culture barrier.
THE GOOD TIMES
After that the next few months was amazing. Slowly climbing up to the top of the most intense part of the roller coaster. Had Lots of work, fun adventures on the weekends. Met a girl and started spending too much money. Forgot about my initial goal of saving money and paying off debt. This was definitely a mistake because of the rainy days that were just around the corner.
1 Month In Japan
The only affordable place I could find near Osaka was a capsule hotel called Sai in Moriguchi Japan. A small city just outside Osaka. You basically sleep in a coffin that just has enough room for you to lay down and your suitcase. They have some really nice shared spaces though.
I would take the train down to a coworking space call “The Links in Kitahama”. It was quite nice for only $167 for the month. They had a really amazing coffee machine, friendly staff but was only open 6 days a week and closes at 10pm.
平等院 Byodoin is a Buddhist Temple - Kyoto Japan Byodoin is a Buddhist temple founded in 1052 in Uji, just south-east of Kyoto. The Byodoin Temple gradually expanded into a massive Temple complex during the Kamakura Period. Byodoin's significance in Japan is attested...
Tsuen Tea Shop - Kyoto Japan Tsuen Tea Shop. The oldest tea company in Japan. Located in Kyoto right in front of Uji station. Apparently it's a family run business that has been around since the year of 1160. It has prepared tea for millions of travelers from all over...
BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS DIGITAL NOMAD
I got back to thailand just to hit the bottom of the rollercoaster. All these things happeded to me at once.
My largest client cut my budget to 2% of what it was. They had to shift financial priorities to survive.
Lost my debit card so it became super complicated to get money out of an atm.
My new computer I just bought broke. The mother board fried. The computer shop said it was going to take 2 months to fix.
I had a trip booked to Bali soon and had to leave Thailand because of my visa.
Lessons Learned From Challenging Times as a Digital Nomad
Owning a second laptop
So I ended having to get a second laptop. Which is actually not a bad idea. If one has problems it gives you time and the ability to work on the other one while you get it fix. I use my cheaper laptop when I take short trips and leave my expensive one at home.
Always have access to cash
One of the worst things that can happen to you as a Digital Nomad is you get stuck in a foreign country with no money. I suggest that you always need to have access to cash. Even if it’s credit. Savings is best but you need a backup plan if funds dry up or if an emergency happens. If I didn’t have access to credit I would have been screwed at this point. If you can get a line of credit it actually has a very reasonable interest rate compared to a credit card. Usually I use my credit card first and always pay it off within 30days to avoid the crazy interest. But… I use my line of credit todo that if I’m low on funds. Having a line of credit has saved my ass so many times. Gives you time to recover from a crisis.
Have a few back up bank accounts & credit cards
It’s always good to have a backup plan if something goes wrong. If you loose your bank card you can easily switch to another. Unfortunately at this time I wasn’t aware of this and it was super painful to get cash. I had to make a Canadian friend, trust him enough to send them $1000, then ask them to take it out in cash for me. I had to do this a few times till I could get back to Canada.
I now have 5+ bank accounts so I’m always covered. I store them in different wallets in different places. Always have 2 on me and a few stored at home somewhere. Many banks let you set up a saving account for free and allow you to add a Chequing account at any time online. Sometimes one bank card might not work as well due to random technical issues.
Multiple Steams of Income
There’re some pros and cons to this depending how its done. One good thing about having multiple steams of income is if one source dries up you can focus on the other one to pay your bills while you rebuild. I lost just over half my income. If I lost everything I would have been in a much worse position. If your a freelancer you defiantly don’t want to rely on 1 client to provide all your income. That’s dangerous and they have too much power over you.
A trap that people get themselves into though is spreading themselves too thin with too many completely different ideas on how to make money but never get anywhere with them. It takes time to create a source of income so don’t work on creating too many especially in the begging. It can be good to have your main thing. Say freelancing and work on 1 alternative source on the side.
Tried Co-Living at Bali Bustle
I stayed at a really cool place called Bali Bustle. Its a co-working office with living space upstairs. It even had a restaurant with room service so I could order food or a coffee up to your room. Had a pool, simple gym, great coworking space and fast internet.
The only problem was I didn’t that much work todo and I was burning borrowed money. I had no time to waste. I had to work on my marketing plan.
My Digital Nomad Marketing Plan
In the beginning I tried many different things.
Applied for 100s of jobs online,
worked on the SEO of my website,
made a video for YouTube,
tried cold emailing companies
but what worked the best was…
Calling someone in my network Every Single Day
I wasn’t too pushy or salesy, more conversational. Asked a lot of questions, see how they are doing, let them know what I was doing, asked them what they where working on, showed them what I’ve been working on.
For gatekeepers and sales people I would offer them a commission if they sent work my way. A gatekeeper is someone who has access to your idea clients.
Studied & worked on personal projects
These 2 things ended up leading to a lot of referrals in time. In 2-3 months my business was back to normal. After 1 year I was super busy all the time.
#1 REASON WHY DIGITAL NOMADS FAIL
The number 1 reason digital nomads fail and I have met many people that have failed is…
They Run Out of Money
Many Digital Nomads have NO INCOME GENERATING SKILLSET
They save up some money, quit there job and try to be a stock trader, Youtuber, develop their own app, try to become a blogger.
BUT MAKE NO MONEY. Once they run out they have to come home with their tail between their legs.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: I’ve seen foreigners that even become homeless because of this. Trapped homeless in a foreign country. Which is just absolutely terrible. I’ve seen more foreigners in this situation during the pandemic. Trapped and cant get home with no money. These digital nomads give the rest of us a bad reputation so this is defiantly not good. This is why I stress this so much. Money is even more important as a nomad. You cant just so easily get a job, there is no income assistance for you. Your on your own.