Updated: Jun 21, 2019
If you’ve recently been thinking about starting a business and you’ve done any amount of online research there’s no doubt you’ve come across tons of ‘work from home,’ ‘remote working,’ ‘work online and travel the world’ enticing business opportunities.
Undoubtedly, you’ve thought…is that real?….Can people really do that? Travel the world and make a living doing so from behind their computer screens? Well, I’m here to let you know that yes, it is indeed possible.
For me, I always knew one thing - I wanted to get paid to travel. I knew this was a thing, but I just didn’t know how. So when my college counsellor asked me the question, ‘What do you want to do when you graduate college?’ you can image her surprise when I answered confidently, ‘I just want to get paid to travel.’ I’ll never forget the look on her face, and her blunt response of ‘Honey, if that was a thing, we’d all do it.’ I’m sure she thought I was just a crazy, lost, naive college student.
I always knew she was wrong. Not that I’m some sort of visionary, but I always knew that I was preparing myself for a job that didn’t even exist yet. I never wanted to be the stereotypical nurse, accountant, lawyer, etc. The job I was going after wasn’t even something we had the vocabulary for in the late 90’s early 2000’s.
The role that I had been preparing for all these years, was not only an entrepreneur but a ‘digital nomad.’ If you’re not familiar with the term, a digital nomad is someone who makes their living from working online and has the freedom and flexibility to be location independent. Not all digital nomads travel 100% of the year, but many take to the roads for 1-3-6 months at a time or ‘snow-bird’ to escape the harsh winters.
The big shift in becoming a digital nomad started the first time that I heard the concept of PTO (Paid Time Off) explained to me by a HR Manager. This is a system where you need to work X amount of days to equal some horrendous fraction of a sliver of a day in the future that you’re able to take off with pay. I boldly told her that system is not going to work for me. Needless to say, I ended up in China shortly after that.
So how is it that I’ve been able to build businesses that give me the flexibility to travel the world? Below are a few of the main things that make this lifestyle possible (for me). Do keep in mind that my method isn’t perfect and it’s not for everyone, but as I sit on a beautiful white sand beach in Boracay, Philippines I assure you that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.
1) The type of business
It’s a no brainer of course that not all businesses can be executed remotely (especially in the beginning). If you are creating a business that is reliant on having you as the ‘face’ of the business or you have a team/business processes that need you to be present to execute them, then your dreams of sending emails from a hammock become much more complicated to obtain. Instead, having a business that runs with you ‘behind the scenes’ instantly makes that dream become a lot more attainable. The type of business you choose to run, the independence and competence of your team, and having automated business processes are vital to having a functioning remote-run business.
2) Diversified revenue streams
Ever heard the phrase, ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? I’ve always lived by this mantra. I personally have always had more than one income source, meaning multiple part-time jobs through college, and now multiple businesses that I run. For me, this has been a saving grace. When building a business, particularly in the early stages, you are never sure what is going to work, or what you are really going to enjoy doing long term. Having multiple projects in various sectors, various side-hustles to sustain you in between projects and the back-up revenue stream that you can fall back on in case everything hits the fan, for me is crucial.
3) Online and Offline Network
Whether becoming an entrepreneur or a digital nomad, one of the biggest keys to success is having a quality network. Having people and/or communities that you can reach out to for advice, insight, support, and connections will undoubtedly help you along the way. With the ecosystem of social media and ultimately the world at your fingertips there is NO excuse not to have a network that you can connect with and help you along as you build your business - remotely or not. Plus, for the most part, it’s free! I’ve found over and over again, that people are more than willing to support and offer their advice to you, all you have to do is ask!
4) A passion for business, life, and lifestyle
The key to helping me make my digital nomad/entrepreneurial dreams come to fruition is my deep passion for business, life, and lifestyle. I do a lot of different things (remember the diversified revenue streams I mentioned earlier?) Many people either don’t get it, or they say, ‘Wow, you’re always busy’ or ‘wow, you must be tired.’ I simply say, 'When you’re doing what you love, it's not tiring. It’s fun!' I’ve never worked as hard or as long in my life, as I have when I started working on my own businesses. It’s invigorating! That’s when you also know you’re on the right path and doing the right thing in life.
Additionally, my passion for life and lifestyle is what keeps me going even when times get tough (because believe me, it does!) I just try to keep focused on what my next adventure is, and remind myself how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to be living a life that most only dream about.
Hopefully, you can take some of this advice and start applying it to your own business. And before you know it, with consistency and dedication, you’ll be having your next conference call on the beach in Thailand, sending emails from the Alps in Switzerland or working on a proposal from the deck of a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Then when someone comments, ‘Oh, how sad, you have to work while you’re on vacation.’ You can respond by saying, ‘This isn’t a vacation, it’s my office.’
By Vanessa Narvios
Vanessa is a SoCal native and has been fortunate enough to call Shanghai her home for the past 7 years. She calls herself a Jill of all trades. She's a consultant, entrepreneur, event professional and community builder. During her time in China she's run over 200 global events, built multiple brands and helped launch a fitness application, a fashion line, helped produce 2 reality TV shows and started 2 businesses.
Vanessa's areas of expertise include event planning and execution, business development, project management, strategic partnership building, sponsorship sales, branding, online and offline marketing strategies, cross-cultural talent development and mentoring talent.
Outside of her professional world, she enjoys taking spin classes, mentoring young leaders, and planning her next adventure!