Most of us will spend half of our adult life working. Only few of us would make the bold decision to take a longer break from our daily job to travel the world, not just for two weeks, but for a year or two. What if you don't want to quit your career but still want to travel a lot? The digital nomad lifestyle could be the answer.
Typically, if you think about the contemporary digital nomad, you would picture either a laid-back software engineer or an unhurried graphic designer working remotely from some tropical island in Asia.
Artur, my interviewee, seems to be far from this stereotype. It has been more than one year since he abandoned a relatively secure office job and decided to live as a digital nomad. Today, he is successfully running his recruitment business (hiring for technical positions) and exploring Asia at the same time.
Pictures from the private collection of Artur.
Ministry of Talent: How did it all start?
Artur Kos: I never expected that it would turn out this way. I spent the last ten years living in Dublin, Barcelona and Berlin. Before my first trip to Asia, I had never placed my foot outside of Europe. Two years ago I decided to quit my job and travel through India. Just before departure, I received a message from a CTO I knew, asking if I could help him with a project. I wasn’t super confident it would work in travel mode and unpredictable broadband. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, they say. Luckily, I managed to connect him with the right people and that was the moment when I discovered that freelancing could be my thing. Upon returning to Berlin, I set up my own business and started to operate as a freelance recruiter.
MT: How would you define your lifestyle?
AK: As contemporary nomadism perhaps, which is simply the possibility of working in any place around the globe. Being a digital nomad not only broadens your horizons, but also helps to grow your business network. Frankly speaking, I do not really like to use this term to describe my lifestyle.
MT: What are the pros and cons of the way you are living right now?
AK: The thing I appreciate the most is that I can easily work from almost any place in the world. This flexibility taught me how to be professional and disciplined even in the most difficult situations. The biggest drawback is the temporary nature of relationships with other people. No man is an island - sometimes I am missing friends, family and places where you can simply feel safe and comfortable.
MT: What was the biggest surprise from becoming a digital nomad?
AK: Realising that there is more than one way of living. I was ruminating for a long time about a potential journey to Asia. It wasn’t easy to make up my mind, but just a few days into my trip, I was sure it was the best decision I could have made. At the beginning, I was struggling with finding a balance between work and travel. After so many years of working in an office, it is quite intimidating to be your own boss with no colleagues and corporate pressure to hit targets. Quite quickly I fell into my own trap of working at least 40 hours per week. With the help of some inspiring books and authors, I have finally found my personal balance. Right now I am working four days a week, six hours per day. I am usually off on Fridays and weekends.
What is most important is that I am able to achieve the same results as in the previous work system. My job enables me to travel, so it is no wonder that it is one of my top priorities. Also, the fact that I am currently running my own business makes me even more motivated to follow the path I have already chosen.
MT: One of the biggest challenge freelancers face is irregularity of contracts. How do you deal with this problem?
AK: It may surprise you, but it’s not an issue for me. Most of the clients are finding me by themselves. After years of relative stability with a regular monthly income, I have learnt to plan long-term. In crisis moments I would advise staying positive.
MT: How much do you spend on living?
AK: I tend to spend my money reasonably. I rather keep myself away from expensive hotels or restaurants. I usually travel only with hand luggage so my lifestyle is not based on material possessions. Cost of living is dependent on the place I stay. Given that I rely on a solid internet connection and need an environment which allows me to concentrate on my work, I do not live in hostels. The longer I travel, my expectations regarding general comfort of living are getting higher, hence I spend considerably more now.
MT: How long do you usually stay in one place?
AK: I usually rent a flat or a room for at least a month. However, I am still under the impression that I move way too often. I do not fancy visiting another temple anymore. I would rather make friends with a local than tick off just another tourist attraction from my list.
MT: Is the internet widely accessible in Asia?
AK: Roughly speaking, yes. Asia is a large continent and we cannot generalise. If you are based on a tiny island, do not expect too much. There are at least two countries which are not on the top of a digital nomad’s list. These are Laos and Philippines with their poor infrastructure for remote work.
MT: What skills can be useful while working as a nomadic recruiter?
AK: Apart from good organisation skills, determination is key while running a recruitment business. The only stable part of my weekly schedule are interviews with candidates. Being a digital nomad does not really impact my professional skill set.
MT: Would you ever consider settling down and going back to a full-time job?
AK: Only if I had no other choice. Many people would picture my life as never-ending holidays. It is such a huge misconception. This issue also affects my business relations. Some potential clients pulled back once they learnt I was based in Asia. What also annoys me and makes me laugh at the same time is when candidates constantly wish me to "enjoy my time off".
The freedom of working for yourself brings up a lot of interesting questions regarding the future, but also made me reflect on past choices.
MT: Here we come to the end of our chat. Where did you enjoy living and travelling the most? What country was it?
AK: It was without a doubt, Vietnam. It is quite a specific land with stark cultural differences. Despite the fact that this Asian country can bring a lot of frustration to your daily life, Vietnamese cities are vibrant and landscapes are picturesque. If I could focus only on travelling, I would definitely choose India. My last travel to this country left me hungry for more. It all started in India, and I absolutely would love to return there one day.
If you are interested in learning more about Artur's adventures, here you can find alinkto the blog he is writing together with his girlfriend.