Ever wondered what it’s like to be a digital nomad?
Read our digital nomad interview series where we talk to people living their own unique lifestyles abroad, while working online. No two stories are the same; get insight and advice from our peers and shed light on the efficacy of your own plans through the experiences of others.
Meet Dave, a Seasoned Traveler for 20+ Years
I’ve been traveling for more than 20 years, and the last 8 years or so I’ve been on the road 4 to 6 months each year. So I’m not a true nomad, but somewhere in between I suppose.
According to the Travelers Century Club (which is fairly liberal in what they consider a ‘country’ ie they list a number of territories), I’ve been to 160 countries and territories to date.
I’m addicted to International travel and what it brings in the form of unique experiences, varied cultures and religions, and both the natural and urban worlds.
A trip to Nepal in 1996 inspired to start my travel website, Dave’s Travel Corner. Also into wine; trying to visit, taste and write about every winery and producer in the Napa Valley, California (900+ completed to date) –all my research there is found on my Napa Wine Project website.
Many of these trips are personal – but a few are press trips – where my travels are sponsored – and a few are a combination of both. Once I get a sponsored trip to somewhere I often take advantage of already being in one place to explore additional nearby countries on my own.
I have a home base in California and a home base in Thailand. It has been a lot of travel and moving around the past few years – and I plan on slowing my travels down slightly over the next few years.
Where are the most fun places you’ve been?
I don’t often cruise when traveling but I have done so on a number of various cruise ships for work with brands. I remember when my grandparents left to cruise the world – I had a chance to go on the ship as a young kid prior to their departure and was in awe of the size of the space, activities and remember the fun of meeting other children.
I also remembered that I wished at the time I could have gone with them to all the cool places and countries they would have been visiting. I think for families, a family/children oriented cruise would be extremely memorable.
What must-have gear do you keep in your suitcase?
When traveling while on the go, my number one most important digital tool is Google Maps. For handling monetary transactions, it is Paypal.
In my backpack, I always travel with an SLR camera, a lightweight laptop & several small electrical adaptors. My full travel backpack list can be found here including for seasonal travel.
Have you ever found love on the road? What is the ideal on-the-road relationship to you?
Yes, I met my wife to be in Thailand. We had a four year long distance relationship which is quite tough. An ideal on the road relationship would be to actually live with the person rather then trying to have a long distance relationship. We did rent an apartment in Thailand and lived together for a summer which was good.
Were there any sacrifices you had to make to become a full-time traveler?
A stable job and stable finances. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
What was a recurring challenge in the beginning, and how did you overcome it?
Building a website 20+ years ago struggling with using that era technology for 10 years. Finally we migrated the entire site to a content management system and built a semi custom backend to handle certain functions.
How do you earn a living from the road?
This can be very difficult, especially in an increasingly crowded competitive space. Currently I do this through a variety of ways:
1. Influencer work with brands
2. Sponsored posts
An example of working with brands in a content creation and promotion role –Brand A hires me to create content (writing, photography or video) and then I promote it via my social media outlets and occasionally through their own outlets. Sometimes I create content and sell it to them to use (ie. photography and written posts).
I also selectively sell advertising on my site; mostly in the form of travel related links, also sponsored posts, sometimes banner ads. I charge for product reviews. I work with one company to do often weekly scheduled twitter chats. I freelance and from time to time provide content to other publications, both print and digital. I continue to look for opportunities and partnerships that make sense to me.
What is your most popular blog post of all time?
My post on the Freeways of Los Angeles. It wasn’t one time traffic either, for years it continues to be the top post on my site.
And as far as my most popular one-time post, that would be my sisters piece titled
“From the Outside In: My Reflections as a Non-Muslim Wearing the Burqa in Silicon Valley” –this is a very good read.
Do you leverage your blog for free hotel stays or free swag? Are you open to sponsored posts?
Regarding comped hotel stays, I have done this a number of times before but seems like it is increasingly difficult to do so, especially with established brands and or hotels. I find a much better reply rate when reaching out to new properties who are hungry for business.
I charge for writing product reviews (for my time to test out the product and write and promote it) which can be most anything.
I will very selectively do product review for free if its something I am really interested in and can use. I do accept sponsored posts and charge specific rates based on where they are placed on my site (certain parts of my site have more exposure then others).
I also accept non-commercial guest posts from those who travel and enjoy writing. We have had over 550 contributors to date –more information about that is here.
What sort of budget would inexperienced nomads need to have to live this way? We’re talking about before they learn all the travel hacks, ways to save money, etc.
First and foremost (unless you can afford otherwise) find parts of the world where the cost of living is generally lower than more developed countries –there are often already established digital nomad communities in these areas. South East Asia is one of the most common areas for nomads (experienced or inexperienced) to spend significant amounts of time.
There are parts of Thailand where you can spend $50-$100 USD per month to rent a basic apartment – food is not necessarily expensive – if you’re not moving around all the time, I could see spending between $500 and $1000 per month for a very basic lifestyle. Perhaps your room & board is free in trade for some skill or work you can provide. Of course you have to factor in your other expenses – the costs of getting there from wherever you are now, long stay visa fees etc.
As with anything there are degrees – if you are constantly moving from place to place rather than making a temporary “home base” for months or longer rather than a few days or several weeks, you will find you will spend significantly more money. Find a balance and what works for you.
How do you stay healthy? Do you have any health tips for long term travel?
Know your limits. For example I often get severe altitude sickness when I am above 4,000 meters, so I spend time acclimatizing before climbing higher then that (I love mountain climbing).
The key to staying healthy for me at least was spending years getting severely sick on food and water when I traveled (and I mean severe at times – where I wasn’t able to walk I was so weak, throwing up constantly, fevers etc). I would eat everything as I am a very adventurous eater. About 7 years ago I simply stopped getting sick from all these foreign bacteria – my diet and eating habits did not change whatsoever. I suspect I finally developed some sort of immunity to whatever was commonly making me sick before.
And in certain situations like in Africa or other regions – I try to time my visits during the drier seasons – less chance of getting malaria and perhaps other diseases when outbreaks more commonly occur in the wet seasons.
I always travel with a very strong antibiotic – names I have in my tiny medicine bag include Bactrim and Norfloxacin.
Who in the blogging world influences you, inspires you, teaches you new things on a regular? If you were Kirk, who’s your Spock?
I admire Ric Gazarian who runs Global Gaz and is also interviewing some of the world’s most well-traveled people. He is on a mission to visit every country in the world. I see him in Thailand every year and we have bumped into each other in Armenia before.
There are few travel bloggers who I have connected with as well, like Jacki Ueng of
Bohemian Vagabond; with a zest for life, curiosity about the world and a commitment to helping others, she exemplifies the persona of a traveler. I am richer for having met Jacki a number of years ago. From West Africa to Los Angeles, we have had some crazy trips together.
Do you recommend any online communities?
Travel Massive if you are involved in travel work at all, join and go to their monthly meetups held in cities around the world.
What’s the difference between a “digital nomad” and “location independent entrepreneur” and how would you define yourself? Do any of these titles describe you?
To me both of these are very similar. A digital nomad is someone who supports his or herself financially based on an online business and can work regardless of their location as long as they have access to the online world. Their income comes from work related to the digital world rather then a brick and mortar business.
A location independent person/entrepreneur can be a digital nomad but they don’t have to be. They may have left a previous job and have the financial means to support themselves while being location independent and do not necessarily have to work while on the road. Or they may look for activities/temporary jobs to support themselves while on the road – digital or otherwise.
If you could speak with yourself before you hit the road, what would you say?
“Ownership of most things is overrated. Ownership of worldly experiences is not.” I came up with that quote based on experience.
I used to collect souvenirs while I traveled, as it turned out these were just things and didn’t really give me any satisfaction or use.
A number of years ago I did a big purge – gave away most everything that I didn’t truly appreciate and or things I hadn’t actually used in a year. Now I use the photos galleries on my travel site as reminders of any of my travels.