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.
In this interview we’re interviewing Toby and Marcel from Home is Where Your Bag Is blog.
Meet Toby and Marcel
After writing Digital Nomad Escape Plan, I’d started exploring quality Thailand guides written by other digital nomads.
That was when I came across Home is Where Your Bag Is blog –an excellent English/German bilingual travel blog with a focus on Southeast Asia, penned by two travelers from Germany, Marcel and Tobi.
What’s your story?
Tobi: We, Marcel and me, launched our Home is Where Your Bag Is blog together in 2012 with a focus on the upcoming round-the-world trip that was planned from January to June 2013. On the road we decided to throw over our plans and traveled only Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand instead.
By now, the initial fascination for the Southeast Asian countries turned into more than that and we travel, live and work here almost full-time. I quit my 9 to 5 job in August 2014.
Since then we are constantly on the road, except a couple of months each year visiting family and friends in Germany.
At the moment we are living on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan in Thailand, which has become a home base for us. From here we discover the rest of Thailand and Southeast Asia, which is the focus of Home is Where Your Bag Is blog.
How long have you been on the road?
Marcel: We’re on the road since 2013 basically. But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been back home since then. We regularly go back to Germany and visit our friends and family. Sometimes for Christmas, sometimes in the summer (when it’s supposed to be hot in Europe, which is not always the case in Germany). Then we stay in our parents’ home so we can save much money for accommodations which are obviously much more expensive there than in Southeast Asia. And our parents are happy to stay with us for a couple of weeks.
We don’t know how long we will continue Home is Where Your Bag Is blog, to be honest. At some point, both of us want to have kids and family so we will have to settle down and choose a place to stay for a long period eventually. At the moment, our home base is Koh Phangan but it’s not a place where you can stay for many years and have a family. On the other hand, we don’t think too much about the future and let things just happen.
How do you stay healthy? Do you have any health tips for long term travel?
Marcel: One of the big problems here are certainly the mosquitoes. Dengue fever is present all over Southeast Asia and you should always avoid getting bitten in the first place. Luckily, we never had Dengue until now. No matter if deceases, motorbike accidents or other things: in every case you have to have a good health insurance and enough money on your bank account.
Which countries have you been to?
Tobi: The countries we’ve been recently to are Thailand, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macao, Australia and New Zealand.
Apart from these countries, we traveled quite a lot during every holiday we had when we still used to work 9 to 5. So we’ve seen a lot more countries like the USA, Dominican Republic, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Island, Denmark, Malta, Egypt, Tunisia, Ireland, the United Kingdom – and I’m pretty sure I even forgot to mention some.
Marcel: Don’t forget to mention Germany, which is a beautiful country to travel, too 😉
What would you say to someone afraid of travel because of what they see on the news?
Tobi: Don’t be afraid of traveling and the people of the world. Yes, there are always some bad people, but that’s a minority. During years of travels we met so many people from different countries, cultures and religions. The absolute majority of them are nice, friendly and kind people. Even if you speak different languages, there is always a way to talk to each other. From time to time you will stumble across some impostors, but don’t let that discourage you. The world is a beautiful place with some exceptions. And traveling is always the best way to open your mind.
Marcel: When it comes to crime, thefts, robberies, scams or even terrorism – we all have this in Europe as well these days. So why would you be scared of traveling for example in Southeast Asia when all this might happen to you in front of your own door? People here are mostly friendly and warmhearted. In over 4 years of traveling, nothing serious has ever happened to us. If you are scared of language barriers or other cultures – don’t worry, there are always ways to communicate and the best way to learn about culture and language is to make local friends. You can always find nice people on the road.
What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve had in recent history?
Marcel: Well, actually there are many beautiful stories or moments that we had during the last 4 ½ years in Southeast Asia. Since I don’t know which one to choose, let me just talk a little bit about our recent trip to the island of Redang in Malaysia.
It was one of the best snorkeling trips we ever had. It was the first time for us where we could swim closely with sea turtles. And it was not just seeing them for afar – no, they were so close to us that we could even literally touch them. Of course we didn’t do it.
The 2 turtles were not shy at all and they were swimming around us all the time. It was so much fun! Apart from the turtles, we could also spot some baby sharks during that trip which was a little bit thrilling first. But after all, the baby sharks were pretty shy and rather scared of you.
What must-have gear do you keep in your suitcase?
Tobi: Since we always try to improve our Home Is Where Your Bag Is blog with great pictures and videos, our must-have gear is all about tech and gadgets. For instance, there is our newest toy the DJI Mavic, so we can level up our travel videos with some nice drone shots. In addition, we always take our GoPro Hero5, Canon G9X and our Laptops. That’s all we need to work and it’s going everywhere with us.
How do you earn a living from the road?
Tobi: Most of our income comes from the blog with classic affiliate marketing, sponsored posts and ads. Our biggest source of earnings are ebooks and printed books, which we are selling on our Home Is Where Your Bag Is. In addition, I am freelancing as a translator and copywriter. Marcel does some freelancing jobs from time to time as a graphic and web designer.
Marcel: Our best source of affiliate marketing is definitely Agoda. With hotel recommendations we make the greatest part of affiliate marketing income. At the moment we are also trying with booking.com, which is improving slowly. Another good source for us is the partner program of DKB, a German bank that provides credit cards that are suitable for travelers. In Germany this bank is very popular with travelers and you can get a very good commission per sale. The third largest affiliate marketing income is Amazon which we’re constantly trying to improve. It could perform much better to be honest but we’re on a good way I think.
“Digital Nomad” or “Location Independent Entrepreneur”?
Marcel: Well, I think it’s not about how you call yourself – it’s about what you do and how it makes your life the way you feel happy about it. To be honest, we don’t like to be pigeonholed and we just do what we do. Traveling, working here, working there, making money online, enjoying life. Tobi and me are also not the stereotypes of nomads who go to co-working spaces every day. We have our home here on Koh Phangan and mostly that’s our working place.
Awesome insight, both of you and thanks for stopping by. We’ll look you up when we visit Koh Phangan later this year! Hobo readers interested in stalking following the Home is Where Your Bag Is duo can track them down on Facebook, Twitter (Marcel, Tobi), YouTube, Instagram, and Google+.
Interested in reading more interviews? Check these out.