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Mike and Juergen have an interesting way of combining work and travel as digital nomads. They spend 91 days in each place and their slow travel method enables them to really get to know a place which shows through in their detailed writing on their blog For 91 Days.
Mike graduated from Ohio University with degrees in Computer Science and Spanish, and Juergen studied at the New England School of Photography. They met in Boston, in 2000, and immediately recognized the love of travel in each other. For the last few years, they’ve used the freedom of their work situations (photographer and programmer) to see as much of the world as possible.
1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?
We started For 91 Days in August of 2010, in Oviedo (Asturias, Spain). From there, we went to Savannah, Georgia and then to Buenos Aires. We spent the next three months in Bolivia, before returning to Europe for a stint in Palermo, Italy.
2) What made you decide to become digital nomads?
We’ve always been restless travelers. We had lived together in Boston, Germany, Ireland and Spain before starting this project. Once the idea of moving every three months had entered our heads, we couldn’t shake it out! As long as we have the freedom of working independently, we thought that we ought to use it to do what we love, which is to see the world and learn about other cultures.
3) How do you fund your travels?
Both of us have day jobs; Mike as a programmer and administrator for a couple websites (Criticker.com, Lastminute-Auction.com), and Jürgen as a photographer. We don’t see a lot of income from the travel blog, though we’ve now begun selling e-book versions for Kindle, and making a little extra cash that way.
4) Do you find it difficult to balance travel and work? How do you manage it?
It is difficult, without question. We often work very late into the evening, and also sacrifice weekends when necessary. We’re independent, so can set our own schedules. So if we want to go to a festival on a Tuesday, for example, it’s no big deal. Without that flexibility, our lifestyle would be nearly impossible. Still, there are never enough hours in the day, so at the end of every evening, we just have to be satisfied that we did as much as possible.
5) You spend 91 days in each location. What are the benefits of travelling slowly?
By spending such a long amount of time in each place, we are able to really get to know the culture in a way that would be impossible over the course of a few days, or a week. There’s plenty of time to see the main sights, meet people and actually understand the experience of living there. It’s also more sustainable — if we were moving to a new city every month, we’d tire out quickly.
6) How do you find accommodation in each new place? Do you book in advance?
Since we spend three months in a single city, we try and find a furnished, short-term lease for an apartment, rather than rely on hostels or hotels. And we always book in advance — when we arrive, we want to have a place to go immediately. It can be a difficult task to do from abroad, when you can’t see the apartment and haven’t met its owner in person, but so far it’s worked out. You have to be flexible, utilize common sense to spot possible scams, and also be open to a lot of options. We always try and find expats in the cities we’re moving to, who might have tips on landing a place.
7) What’s the biggest challenge of nomadic life?
It’s tough to be away from family and friends for so long. We have nieces and nephews who seem to grow by leaps and bounds, since we only see them about once a year. Facebook and Skype help ease the pain, but it’s still rough to be so isolated, even if it’s self-imposed.
8 ) What are some of your favourite local dishes that you’ve eaten on your travels?
We’ve been spoiled by the cuisine of almost all the places we’ve been. In Savannah, they deep-fry everything, even pickles… in Bolivia, the fruits are so fresh and interesting… and Sicily is of course famous for its pasta and pizzas. But I think the cuisine of Buenos Aires was our favorite, particularly the fugazza, a delicious, white, deep-dish, unbelievably cheesy onion pizza. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
9) What are some of your favourite off the beaten track destinations?
In every place we stay, we like to explore things that won’t appear in guide books. In Savannah, we found Ebenezer, an old deserted settlement of Austrian Lutherans, where there’s a museum and colonial artifacts. In Buenos Aires, we went to a taping of the Radio Colifata, a radio program set in a sanatorium and DJ’d by the patients. And in Bolivia, our favorite off-the-beaten-path adventure was a visit to the annual party in the tiny mountain village of Independencia. Seven hours by bus from the nearest city (Cochabamba), this was a fiesta that not many foreigners get to see!
10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?
Next, we’re off to Sri Lanka! It will be one of our more exotic locations, and we’re both really excited about three months there. Elephants, monkeys, cobras… well, we’re not too excited about the cobras. I can’t imagine we’re going to continue this lifestyle indefinitely. We’re both in our mid-thirties, and eventually will get tired. But, we both envision a future where we have a base in a city that we love, such as Valencia, and spend half the year traveling. So, it’s always going to be a major part of our lives.
If you enjoyed this interview then read about other long term nomads in our Nomadic Interviews series.