You might find yourself with an unquenchable thirst for travel but with an equal need to work. How can you make both happen? How much freelance work do you need to fuel a traveling life? You might have also heard of digital nomads who have somehow found the key to do both work and travel. So what does it actually take to become a digital nomad? We spoke to Vianessa Castaños, a long-time freelance writer, and actor who decided to take on the digital nomad life and share her know-how online via Hustle Juice, a resource for digital nomads and freelancers. We asked her some of our most pressing questions about how she makes it all happen. Whether you’re looking to into doing this for a month or as long term, Vianessa shares many insightful tips with us. Check out her responses below!
Traveling and the Digital Nomad Life 101
Q: To start, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to begin Hustle Juice?
A: I worked as a freelance writer and marketing professional for about 13 years in conjunction with my decade-long career as a professional actor. In 2016 I made the decision to start traveling more and was trying to figure out how to do so without ‘throwing away’ the many years of work experience that I had. When I started my search for a more permanent creative gig, I dipped my toe into the digital nomad pond and left California for New York. I figured that being nomadic within the US was a logical first step. I loved the city, but with only a short-term freelance writing contract under my belt, I still felt creatively and financially stifled.
It wasn’t until I took my first solo international trip in May 2017 that I was struck with the idea to start Hustle Juice. I traveled to Spain to do the Camino de Santiago, a sort of pilgrimage, and met some incredible people with whom I shared deep conversations. More importantly, I had time to myself to think of what I wanted to do next. There was a moment when I knew that I had to start my own business upon my return to the US. Once I got back, I spoke extensively with a friend who is a freelance journalist and another who worked as a social media manager about the woes of working as a freelancer and the desire to run a business and travel. Within a week, I had purchased a domain and structured a business plan for Hustle Juice, figuring that there were others out there who had the same questions and desires that I did and who could benefit from such a resource.
Q: What are three tips you could share with anyone who wants to start their journey as a digital nomad?
A: It’s not a competition. I’ve met a lot of people who are in a hurry to travel to as many countries as possible and they rush from one place to the next and end up stressed and overworked. Burn out is real! Especially if you’re working while traveling which is what being a digital nomad is about. It’s important to work and move at a pace that works for you – don’t compare your travel and work schedule to anyone else’s.
Do your research before you come out of pocket. There is a lot of information on the internet, some good and some not so reliable…and some, very expensive. Don’t just pay for any old course that claims to teach you about the digital nomad lifestyle or how to travel and make money. Do as much research as possible before the start of your journey and take advantage of as many free resources as you can find – like Hustle Juice.
You decide when you’re ready. I would recommend that anyone that wants to start their journey as a digital nomad not do so until they have a solid client or source of income under their belt. That said, however, there isn’t a magic number or savings goal that you need to achieve before going nomadic. Everyone’s circumstances and needs are unique. One person may not feel safe traveling without several thousands in savings. Another might determine that the cost of a flight and housing in another country will actually cost them less than staying home and just go for it. Take the time to assess your needs and goals and make your plans accordingly.
Q: Your workspace is constantly changing. What tips do you have for staying focused and making the most out of your “office” time?
A: I can’t overstate the importance of consistency. Some think that consistency and routine is the opposite of what being location independent is about, but in fact, it’s essential. Whether it’s following a set schedule or arranging your workspace (be it in a coffee shop or office) in a way that is familiar and conducive to your productivity, setting a routine of some sort is probably the most important thing that you can do to remain focused.
Q: What are some things you wish you knew before starting your digital nomad journey?
A: When I first started out, I felt like I always had to be ‘go, go, go’. One month here, a week or two there, and although I enjoyed the adventurous aspect, that sort of pace is not sustainable – at least not for me. The more I traveled and the more nomads I met in co-working and co-living spaces, I found a lot of them traveled at a slower pace. The most successful nomads – either financially successful or those who have been maintaining a nomadic life for a few years – all have a home base (or two) somewhere where they spend 3 to 6 months on average. The rest of the time, they travel and work from other locations. So, I think that there’s this sort of misconception that to be nomadic you have to constantly be on the move and that is just not the case.
I also feel that when you travel there’s an underlying pressure to like or enjoy every place you visit. I’ve visited some places that just weren’t a fit for me for whatever reason and where I didn’t feel like I could be productive at work…and I felt guilty about it. I spoke to some other digital nomads and they all seemed to have been to at least one place they didn’t really enjoy as much as others did, and they too felt guilty. Life Hack: It’s okay to not like being somewhere, and in fact, the sooner you accept that it’s not your cup of tea, the sooner you can move on to a new place where your happiness and productivity won’t be negatively impacted.
Q: A reality for many people today is that they most likely have to share a living or working space, whether that be having roommates or a shared work environment. What tips do you have for making the most out of a shared living or working space?
A: The concept of ‘coliving’ isn’t new – it’s just fancy marketing talk for having roommates. The key difference between staying in a co-living home, rather than answering an ad for roommates off Craigslist, is that co-living spaces are intentional. Every one of your roommates is an entrepreneur or freelancer or traveler. Essentially, staying in a co-living space trumps your standard roommate situation due to the potential business-building opportunities. And it so happens that some co-living and co-working spaces come with hefty price tags that include brainstorming sessions and planned activities. Participate in all of them! Ask questions, ask for feedback on your ideas, just get out there and network! And again, do your research to find an environment that will make you happy. There are a variety of working spaces to suit your needs, including spaces that are exclusively for women and some that even make health and wellness a priority.
Q: Finally, what is your best travel tip for us?
A: My best travel tip: maximize layovers. Long layovers are the bane of most traveler’s existence, but I think they’re a great way to squeeze in some sightseeing or add another trip within your trip. Often, building a layover into your trip will save you money. For example, flights within Europe are relatively inexpensive, but if you fly from the US to certain European cities it can cost you a lot. Instead of buying a direct flight, find the cheapest one-way ticket to any given European city, and use that city to buy another one-way ticket to connect to your final destination at a cheaper price.
Vianessa Castaños is a long-time freelance writer and television actor turned digital nomad. After years of hustling in Hollywood in front of the camera and behind the scenes, she decided to hit the road (and sometimes skies, tracks and seas) and use her experiences to build a resource for other location independent hustlers and those looking to achieve the ultimate work-life balance.