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.
After pursuing location independence due to an illness that left her severely fatigued, she found her true calling as a coach and healer. This is Anna’s digital nomad origin story.
Today, Anna Duweke is a talented blogger and coach who helps her clients work through life’s challenges –the kind not often easy to articulate and even harder to overcome. But it hasn’t always been this way. Only after a series of her own personal challenges did she take the risk of going from day job to dream job, and the adversity she endured provided her with a lot of insight that she passes on to others today.
Let’s rewind this story and start from the beginning.
Anna was born and raised in Germany, and her journey began when she left home after A-levels for one year in Australia. From there, she went on to the Netherlands for International Hospitality Management studies and unexpectedly fell in love with the country. After graduation she stuck around to organize conferences and tradeshows in the Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria and the US.
Over time she began to feel unfulfilled by her job, so she took steps to turn things around; she ended her employment, moved on to another location for a change of scenery, obtained a part-time Masters degree and took on a new position –where she became ill with Epstein Barr Virus. The latter became a key turnaround point in her life.
The long recovery period of two years was a blessing in disguise; she learned more during this time than she ever anticipated. There was no going back.
Step by step, her journey became one of healing and spiritual awakening. Somewhere between her prolonged period of fatigue and cultivating the inner strength required to push forward, something inside her began to stir –this is where Anna began to see the world differently.
Related: An Open Letter to the Struggle
Working remotely as a freelancer during the last part of her Masters studies was the final piece of the puzzle; it gave her all the freedom that she needed to sustain a life of frequent travel.
In March 2017 Anna was able to begin supporting others on their own healing journey, full time.
“We can’t take over each others life’s purpose. We all receive signs which bring us towards this purpose, living that healthy, happy, fulfilled and joyful life. All we need to do is realize that the signs and nudges are there, understand them and act upon them. Trusting ourselves and our intuition.”
How long have you been on the road?
I left my apartment in the Netherlands end of November 2015 and haven’t had one ever since. However, this was not a decision to nomadism. The plan was to stay with my family in Germany for the Christmas period and maybe a bit longer until the apartment for my then-boyfriend and I in London was finished. Which took about half a year longer than we thought.
I stayed there for three months until the relationship came to an end and I ended up in Germany again. After I took some time for healing and threw my considerations of getting a new place over board, I decided to travel. I took some trips and on my last one, Panama, it became crystal clear for me that this is the only way forward for me at this time. It wasn’t a complete surprise, as this passion was always in me and I already decided for it, but actually feeling it being completely alive again: a whole different story!
I then embarked on the ‘real travel’ in May 2017. So depending on when you read this, you can do the math on how long I have been on the road.
Any end in sight?
I don’t see an end to it just yet. Maybe I will never truly settle at a place, who knows? Maybe I do this for a while and then I feel settling would be a natural thing to do. I am taking it as it comes and do my best to go with the flow.
What made you decide to become a digital nomad?
My guidance, intuition, and inner voice; whatever you want to call it. I knew and felt that it’s the right thing to do for me and God knows, I have been receiving signs.
Which countries have you been to?
Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Portugal, South Africa, Egypt, Australia, Malaysia, Panama, US, England, and Denmark.
Where are the most fun places you’ve been, and why?
I suppose over the last years, from Australia 11 years ago and now, my idea and definition of fun have changed. Meaningful connections and experiences are now much more fun to me than a night out, generally. I have had a lot of those connections and experience ever since I embarked on my last trip. I can truly say that this is what makes my time, my life worthwhile. While I surely appreciate a place for what it has to offer, it is more about the people and the experiences than about a place. So far I found beauty everywhere I went. No matter the continent, country, state, city, district or accommodation.
In the last almost four months there was only one place, a housesit, where I didn’t enjoy the place very much. And I also know why: I could have stayed at a much better place if I would have trusted more and had more patience. Lesson learnt! I quickly updated my wish to the universe and stayed in amazing places ever since!
So yes, to answer the question, for now, San Francisco, CA, would be the most fun place on my current journey because that’s the place where I had the most magical experiences. There is something about this place that is truly special and that really showed! It’s more a feeling, a vibe than anything else.
What’s the most digital nomad family-friendly place you’ve been to?
I believe that the Netherlands are probably the most family-friendly. Kids are part of society there, it is normal to also take them to cafe or restaurants and people would not kill you with their eyes as they might be more likely to do in Germany, for example. They have special play corners, equipment etc. This might be super subjective, as I love the Netherlands and the Dutch.
What would you say to someone afraid of travel because of what they see on the news?
If what we see and hear on the news teaches us anything, then it is that no place can guarantee us safety. Finding safety in a place seems like an illusion to me. Finding safety in yourself and life however is possible – and to me, travelling is a great way to find and explore this.
We live in the illusion that we are safe in a particular place. Most of us would say they feel safe in Europe, but not in the Middle East. Recent (and not so recent) events show us however, that also Europe isn’t as safe as we thought it would be, or would like it to be. So while we can still feel more safe in one place than the other, and surely some places are more safe than the other; are we really ever safe somewhere?
To me it becomes clearer and clearer, that it is an illusion of safety – when we think about it location bound. Wrong time, wrong place – it can happen anywhere. External factors do not truly or completely bring us safety.
However, there is safety. There is the safety within us and in our hearts. It’s not location bound and that makes it a bit harder to find, access and explore. The safe feeling of knowing that you are at the right time at the right place. That you are always protected and safe, no matter where you are, what you do, who you are with and what is going on. The faith and trust in not just yourself, but life and whatever higher power you believe in. That, to me, is the state of being safe and experiencing real safety.
Travelling is a wonderful way to explore this because it brings a lot of change and experiences with it. Even if you are a slow traveller and even if you don’t travel far or maybe not too long. You will overcome so many challenges and live through situations you couldn’t even imagine beforehand. Good and bad and it most likely will change your perception of safety and increase your level of it.
This was last weekend in Sedona, AZ at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It’s hard to believe that this picture isn’t staged, isn’t it? #roadtripping I was taken away by the beauty of all the red rocks around me. Especially Bell Rock which I am checking out in this picture. I am not really a mountain, canyon or rock kind of person, but this was just different to what I have seen and experienced before! So. Much. Beauty! ? Also that whole trip was just flowing effortlessly. You really don’t have to know each other for long in this lifetime to experience flow with oneanother and with everything around you! #soulfamily Beauty is everywhere. We don’t have to travel to see beauty and experience flow. More than a place, it’s our perspective that counts. It’s the way we look at our life and the world around us… and shifting or changing that is totally in our hands! #changeofperspective What beauty did you see and experience today?
What was the biggest criticism or objection from your peers for becoming a digital nomad? What advice do you have for others facing the same objections?
That’s a tough one for me to answer. Which makes it a great question to be asked and answer!
I don’t really feel criticized or objected by my peers. That is probably because I am selective with who I surround myself with. However, I surely know my own inner critic who I call my ego. Also, I feel that the alternative way of living and working can be a challenge for i.e. my family to truly accept and support without any worry or concern.
My advice: Surround yourself with people who are on the same path. Loving, supportive people who inspire you and lift you up. Take time for yourself and inner reflection whenever is needed. Self-care and self-love are no luxury, but non-negotiable necessities! Listen to your intuition and follow your guidance. Stay open to what others have to tell you, there is always something to learn from it, but that doesn’t mean that they know better. You know best what is best or right for you. Be yourself and live authentically, that’s the greatest gift you can give yourself and others!
What online communities do you recommend?
Have you ever found love on the road and have your ideals changed?
Yes, I have. The ideal on-the-road relationship for me is not different to one that would be stationary. Aside of the fact that both are, most of the time, on the road! A balance between couple travel and couple stationary life would probably be great.
How do you stay focused on work while living abroad?
Staying focused is/was a great challenge for me. I tried setting time frames in which I work on specific things. Such as twice a day checking and answering emails, Facebook messages and working on my page and group. Keeping my phone off during that time.
It’s so easy to get lost on the internet, to overly multitask, but at the same time, it also brings you places you otherwise haven’t gotten to. So it’s kind of a balance thing. At the moment I am not following a set structure.
What I really like to use is intently.com which replaces all advertisements with motivational pictures or quotes which topic you can choose yourself. You might not be carried away by online shopping, but all those advertisements do get to you one way to the other; replacing them with something nice and uplifting really gives a different surfing experience and keeps you yes, focused.
Intention setting is important as is choosing a focus for the day. I do that with my guidance from God, Jesus and the angels which are the best coaches ever.
How do you earn money online?
At the moment it is a mix of the money I earn from my job and savings. I earn by giving coaching sessions, energy healings and angel card readings.
I earn a little by referral marketing, but that is more to cover my own costs and is not something I really focus on.
What is your main source for client referrals?
I get or hold contacts with my clients online; mainly via Facebook or e-mail.
Anna’s recent posts are pretty great as well, and I didn’t want to stop at listing her top 3; visit her blog to also read “Nourishment: What we allow ourselves to receive” and “Vulnerability Where our true strength lies“.
Do you leverage your blog for free swag or hotel stays? Are you open to sponsored posts?
I do not, and I am not blogging about travelling so much. Instagram is a bit more about the journey. I would only be open to sponsored posts if I truly believe in the service or product and would support it anyhow.
Did you ever overlook an important aspect of making money online that you wish you knew/adopted sooner? Make any mistakes where you left money on the table?
Not what I would know or could think of. I know that there are so many ways to make money online, but I am not really intrigued by them. Yes, we all need money BUT for me it is more to do something purposeful and fulfilling, than just about earning.
Who in the blogging world influences you, inspires you or teaches you new things regularly?
In terms of travel, who I really like and am following since a long time is Lauren Juliff from Never Ending Footsteps. She has a book that is great to read, especially if you start out and are anxious about it. Also she just launched a course, check her out!
In terms of business I really enjoy Marie Forleo for a long time now- get the newsletter!
What sort of budget does it take for a digital nomad beginner to start out?
I wouldn’t know because it depends on so many factors and I am not an experienced nomad. What I do know is that we are always well protected and cared for when we open ourselves to abundance.
When we do what we came here to do, God, the universe, spirit, however you want to call it, does everything so that we keep on doing that. This is when things fall into place, rather than road blocks piling up in our way.
So the best budget tip would probably: Find out what your purpose is, follow it and enjoy the ride!
What was a recurring challenge in the beginning and how did you overcome it?
Recurring challenges in the beginning were related to freelance work.
Putting myself under pressure for having to work: I was working less hours than at my office job, but it kept me busy much more because I didn’t have fixed working times.
Finding a balance between work and free time: While a fixed schedule was not for me, no schedule at all also wasn’t.
Stress: I felt stressed and pressured, also from logging my time, worrying too much etc.
Self-care: Setting myself first, not the job was again a thing to learn.
Motivation: Big thing when your heart is not really in your job and a great sign that something needs to change!
I like to experiment and try things out so that is what I did. For example; in terms of scheduling my working hours, well, organizing my day at all. Eventually, I found something that worked for me. Also, I talked about my struggles with others, which also helped. In the end, when the time was right, I left those jobs because they were not serving me anymore, despite being a good source of income.
What has been your biggest sacrifice?
I can’t think of anything that I let go of that has not been replaced with something much better. So, no sacrifices here.
What must-have gear do you keep in your suitcase?
Other than the obvious digital equipment, I take my pendulum and angel card deck(s) with me. Might digitalize that one day, but so far I haven’t. Throwing some small gemstones in for good energy –all ready to go 🙂 Oh… and my list of singing crystals.
How do you stay healthy? Do you have any health tips for long term travel?
Regarding that topic, I have A LOT to share. That can be an interview on it’s own. So if you are interested in that, we can elaborate on this some other time.
Prioritizing my health and my well-being on all levels. Physical, mental and spiritual. Which requires really connecting to oneself and listening to the given guidance of course.
I take my supplements, try to drink a lot of water and eat healthy and regularly. I also do yoga and walk a lot.
How do you navigate “the system”? Like insurance, taxes, educational requirements –anything that comes to mind, any tips, advice, recommendations?
Tough one as I probably not have found the ideal way yet. I am registered in the Netherlands as a private person and as self-employed. I pay my taxes , have my regular and my travel health insurance and bank account there. It seems as if I am also still registered in Germany, but I don’t have anything there, not even a bank account.
My best advise for now is to keep it as it is, if you don’t break any rules that is, for as long as you feel you don’t have to take action. That is what I do now.
‘Digital Nomad’ vs ‘Location Independent Entrepreneur’ –a silly debate I spot often on Facebook. Thoughts?
I am not big on titles to be honest. After all it really is just a matter of definition. The difference between digital nomad and location independent person/entrepreneur for me is that the latter does not necessarily or solely rely on a digital/internet connection.
I do rely on internet for most what I do, so digital nomad would probably be the best fit in terms of titles. However, unexpectedly I am working more offline while traveling than I expected. So you pick your definition 🙂
Final thought: What would you say to your past self?
Dare to be yourself. You are not here to please others. All is going to be okay and life is so much more wonderful, magical, fulfilling and rewarding than you can imagine right now. You are safe and you are strong. You are here to make a difference in this world and there are wonderful people who support you on this mission. And so many people who want and need your help!
“You are not creating a new you; you are releasing a hidden you. The process is one of self- discovery. The hidden you that wants to emerge is in perfect balance.” — Deepak Chopra
Also, daring to quote myself:
“When your longing is bigger than your fear, you know you are ready!”