This month we interviewed more temporary Chiang Mai residents – Christy and Kali from Technosyncratic. They run their web development business as they travel whether that’s from an RV around the US, a house sit in London or an apartment in Thailand.
1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?
We’ve been traveling fulltime for about a year and a half. For the first 12 months we lived in an RV and road-tripped around the U.S. with our highly neurotic (but super adorable) border collie, but we’ve since sold Mayhem (believe me, our motorhome earned its name!) and the rest of our possessions, left our pup with family, and headed abroad. So far we’ve traveled in England, Malta, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and now Thailand.
2) What made you decide to become digital nomads?
We just sort of stumbled into it, actually — we had planned to relocate to a new college once I finished my graduate degree, so when I made the decision not to pursue a Ph.D. we suddenly found ourselves eager to move but with no place to go! Since Kali was already working from home as an independent contractor and I had no immediate plans, it seemed like the perfect time to try something new. After tossing around the idea of moving to a different country or perhaps trying out a state we’d never been to before, we realized we weren’t ready to settle down in any one place. Living in a motorhome seemed like a unique compromise.
3) How do you fund your travels?
We run a web development business (Deviantech, Inc.), so as long as we have a decent internet connection we can work from anywhere in the world!
4) Do you find it difficult to balance travel and work? How do you manage it?
Absolutely – balancing work and travel is a constant struggle for us. The upside is that we have a lot of flexibility, but the downside is that we take on too many projects and often find ourselves getting so sucked into work that we miss travel opportunities.
We’ve found that the best balance for us is to travel slowly. We almost never stay anywhere for less than a few weeks, because we know half that time will be spent inside banging away at our computers. We always try to set aside enough work time that we don’t get stressed out and enough travel time to explore the destination in depth… it means we travel to fewer places, but overall we’re much happier in the places we do visit.
5) How do you find clients while travelling?
We’ve actually had a pretty stable client base for a few years now, so we’ve been lucky enough to avoid the hassle of running down new leads. Word-of-mouth recommendations from existing clients have led to a few new projects, but more than anything we’re actually struggling to limit our workload and spend more time enjoying life on the road.
6) What’s the biggest challenge of nomadic life?
There are certainly some advantages to living in one place: having a favorite local bakery, staying still long enough to take a pottery or tai chi class, and always knowing where you can buy the good kind of peanut butter! We didn’t realize how much we took these small things for granted until we turned nomadic.
In the same vein, I’m seriously a creature of routine. I’ve mostly been able to manage this quirk on the road by creating mini routines wherever we go, but sometimes constantly having to readjust is exhausting! There’s a lot of sensory overload when you’re a digital nomad. Some people love that, but for us we need time to process everything and recoup.
7) What are the pros and cons of living in a RV?
The most obvious (and awesome) benefit is that we had a house on wheels. We could stay in a different place each night but still get to sleep on our glorious memory-foam mattress and use our glorious VitaMix to make fresh fruit smoothies in the morning. It’s a handy option for those who want a lot of freedom and flexibility but still need their own space.
Unfortunately it is rather limiting from a traveler’s perspective; what ultimately instigated our change was that we wanted to travel outside the U.S. as well. We also had some serious problems with Mayhem’s batteries, which made it difficult to get work done unless we were stationed at an RV park and plugged into their power supply. That was our least favorite way to travel, so it eventually came down to installing solar power or trying something completely different. Obviously, we opted for the latter option!
8 ) You share your monthly budgets on your blog. Which have been the cheapest and most expensive places you have visited?
London was by far our most expensive destination, but luckily we spent our month in the city housesitting… which means that it actually ended up being one of our cheapest months! On the other end of the spectrum we discovered that Berlin and Budapest, two of our favorite European cities, are much more affordable, and of course Thailand is a budget-traveler’s dream.
9) What are some of your favourite off the beaten track destinations?
This might make us horrible travelers, but we don’t really have a drive to find those remote and completely undiscovered locations that every “legitimate” traveler wants to call their own. To be totally honest we don’t get off the beaten track much — usually a well-beaten track means lots of high speed internet.
But some of our favorite destinations? In the U.S. we unexpectedly fell in love with Burlington, VT and Austin, TX, and there are tons of incredible National Parks in the Southwest that just took our breath away. We’re also big fans of the Cotswolds in England and Jaipur in India.
10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?
We rarely have an idea where we’re heading next; we sort of play it by ear and see what emerges. We’ll probably stick around SE Asia for a bit after we leave Chiang Mai, but of course there’s always a constant stream of interesting housesitting gigs to draw us in!
I think that eventually we will settle down, or at least create a homebase that we can use in between our travels. There’s still so much we’d like to experience — like exploring Europe via a small campervan, living on a sailboat, and seeing if we can’t get citizenship (or at least residency) in another country — but luckily we have our whole lives ahead of us to figure it all out.
If you enjoyed this interview then read about other long term nomads in our Nomadic Interviews series.