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Fish Out Of Water: How I Became A Digital Nomad

July 7, 2014

Following the excellent response from our recent article on the Rise of the Digital Nomad [How To Have An International Lifestyle], we’re sharing this fun story from Michelle Hammond.

Michelle is an Australian journalist turned blogger who recently spent 12 months living, working and travelling overseas.

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Over to Michelle . . .

How I Became A Digital Nomad

In late 2012, having only recently returned to work after a two-week holiday in India, I was restless.

There was such a build-up before the trip and then, in an instant, I was back at my desk – just like all the other dutiful workers in the Melbourne CBD. And I was sick of it.

Perhaps someone older than me would have put it down to a Gen Y tendency to get bored quickly. Or merely a case of post-holiday blues.

But I knew it was more serious than that. I’d been bitten by the travel bug.

I was no longer satisfied with the notion of “going on holiday”. I wanted to live and work overseas, and I successfully convinced my partner that he did too.

Typically, Australians flock to London for their working holidays. Many of them have family in the motherland, and then there’s the allure of having continental Europe on your doorstep.

Troy and I decided to venture further afield and set up shop in the land of maple syrup, also known as Canada. Did we know anyone there? Not a soul. 

How I Became A Digital Nomad

While neither of us had any apprehensions about quitting our jobs in Australia, we were a little nervous about going to Canada with hat in hand, looking for work.

A Google search led us to Global Work & Travel Co., an agency that specialises in helping twenty-somethings like us find work overseas.

We paid over a $1,000 each for Global to set up Skype interviews with prospective employers and finalise offers of employment prior to our arrival in Canada. The funds also went towards airport transfers and initial accommodation.

It was a lot of money and, in hindsight, we definitely could’ve done it ourselves. But as neither of us had ever worked overseas before, we wanted some peace of mind knowing we had jobs lined up before we headed off into the great unknown.

Troy and I were offered jobs at the Grande Rockies Resort, a luxury hotel situated in the Canadian Rockies.

Both of us were overqualified for our positions; I was employed as a front desk agent while Troy worked as a houseman.

But we knew from the get-go we’d be taking momentary sidesteps (and significant pay cuts) from our respective professions, so it was fine.

Keeping an open mind – particularly in relation to the type of work you might be doing – is key if you intend on being an international nomad.

We were also very upfront about how long we planned to be in the country for.

And we were both promoted within a few months anyway. An electrician by trade, Troy was soon dividing his time between the housekeeping department and the maintenance department.

Meanwhile, I worked directly with the president of the hotel on some major marketing projects and events whilst retaining my role as a front desk agent.

When we weren’t working we were hiking, snowboarding (Troy), doing yoga (me), eating new foods, meeting new people and just generally having a good time.

We visited quintessential Canadian tourist towns like Banff and Jasper, saw bears in the wild, walked on top of a glacier, gazed at the Northern Lights and celebrated our first white Christmas.

And I was blogging about our experiences the entire time. 

Canada

Before we left Australia, a few of my friends suggested I start a travel blog, not only to keep everyone updated but as a way of “staying active” from a writing perspective.

I dismissed the suggestion at first, thinking a blog would only fizzle out. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

Blogspot and WordPress were the two sites recommended to me, and I opted for the latter.

WordPress has a fantastic range of free, customisable themes, plus the backend is ridiculously user-friendly without being oversimplified.

And so, in April 2013, two months before we left Australia, The Adventures of Lady and the Tradie was born. Since then I’ve published 80 posts and I intend to publish many, many more.

When Troy and I lived in Melbourne, I worked as a business journalist for a website aimed at start-ups. While the role afforded me a certain level of freedom in terms of who I could interview, the articles had to be written a certain way.

Now that I’m blogging, I can write however I please. Ladyandthetradie.com continues to be a labour of love (I’ve yet to monetise it) and I’m immensely proud of it.

Troy and I have all but abandoned the laborious process of creating photo albums on Facebook; all of our best photos and stories can be found on the blog.

But Canada isn’t the only country we’ve photographed and written about.

In the time Troy and I worked in Canada, we were able to save CAD$10,000 between us. We used this money to fund a three-month road trip around the United States – a dream come true, for me in particular.

For 82 days we lived in our car and I blogged about our journey the whole way (God bless the Wi-Fi sanctuary that is Starbucks).

We slept in campgrounds, outside visitor centres and in one too many Walmart parking lots. We often went days without a shower or clean clothes.

But I dare say we saw more of the United States than most Americans see in their lifetime.

After the US we ventured south to Mexico, namely to see the awe-inspiring Chichen Itza, and Peru, where we spent four days hiking the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu – another dream come true.

We’re back in Australia for now, but who knows how long it will be before the travel bug gets the better of me again?

You can read more about Michelle’s travels at The Adventures of Lady and the Tradie, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @journohammo.

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