Today, we’re dishing out digital nomad stories that’ll have you laughing, jaw-dropping, and rethinking your life choices – all in the span of this electrifying episode.
So, welcome to a carnival of tales that will make you wonder: ‘Is the digital nomad lifestyle a non-stop party or what?’
Imagine, if you will, the enchantment of swimming beside a blind elephant in the heart of Thailand, the intrigue of being caught in the spotlight of a reality show tailor-made for globetrotters, and the unexpected camaraderie found with not one but two fearless Albanian grannies. Ah, but hold your breath – we’ve barely begun!
How about forming friendships with locals from every corner of this spinning planet? We’ve got stories proving global connections are the real currency of this nomadic life. And then, the spark of revelation! Imagine the moment when the bulb over your head illuminates, revealing that the digital nomad life wasn’t just a pipe dream. It’s a tangible reality filled with avenues to weave prosperity while living life on your terms.
Also, prepare to be touched by the golden hearts of wanderers as they extend a hand to a struggling family in Manila. And hold your curiosity as we delve into the tale of a shaman in Peru, rendering aid to fellow souls on Ayahuasca ceremonies. Yes, you heard that right!
This is ‘The Radio Vagabond.’ Welcome to Part 6 of ‘Seven Digital Nomads’ – where we unearth the special eureka moments that sealed the deal for them. The seven nomads are Chris Cerra, Gianni Bianchini, Jason Robinson, Mr. Derek Smith, Ranika Koneru, Shaun Busuttil, and Nora Dunn.
So, gather close, and let’s step into a world where the impossible becomes the remarkable, and the remarkable becomes our reality.
Eureka Moments Through Connection
Jason Robinson reflects on his Eureka moments as a digital nomad, emphasizing the value of genuine connections with locals. He shares moments of vulnerability and connection while traveling, which have made his nomadic lifestyle meaningful.
Jason Robinson from Ohio calls his project “The Nomad Experiment.” He’s a newer nomad who had a rocky start in his nomad life. He was ready when the Pandemic broke out and then when it was lifted, he was diagnosed with diabetes.
He tells the story of going into a shop in Mexico and genuinely trying to speak the language to somebody, attempting to respect where they are at and that you’re in their home and working through and then seeing in that person not only care about you and the fact that you’re caring about them in return.
He’s experienced that those moments happen regularly if we put in the effort to be more of a connector than just a traveller or somebody passing through.
“So, for me, it’s when I’m in a place and I need some help and I’m afraid – or I don’t know how to ask for help, I break through that, and I try and connect with somebody. And you can see in their eyes that they appreciate that you’re working hard. And then they start working hard.”
Beautiful Connections Happen
For Jason, these beautiful little connections happen often if you put in the effort and surrender to the vulnerability of traveling to new places. These things can be scary, but if you try and get out of your bubbles, those mini relationships that might only last five minutes can be life-changing.
” Going into a shop and having a connection where you can see into somebody’s soul for a second and you think they’re looking deep into yours. That may sound really romantic, but it’s true. I think those are the best times.”
So, for Jason, growth moments like that are what keeps it worth it.
“Those are the little moments that really say,’ okay, this is why I’m here.”
Home Bases and New Directions
In episode two of this miniseries, Nora Dunn told us that in her twelve years as a digital nomad without a home base, she had two for a couple of years. One was in the Caribbean, and one was in Peru.
Today, she reflects on the excitement and plans associated with these bases but also acknowledges that life can change unexpectedly.
“So, when I lived in the Caribbean, I had a relationship with someone who lived there. So we lived together in that place. I thought, as most in new relationships, we had great dreams – what we were going to build, do, and have on the island.”
And so, when the relationship didn’t work, she moved on, and the next home was another new direction in her life.
Nora Dunn from Canada. After 12 years of travelling without a home base, she decided to get one back in Toronto. But still travels most of the year.
” I was like: ‘Okay, that’s it. I’m a shaman now.’ And I was getting my Peruvian residency and I had my house, and then we were doing the things, and this shaman that I was working with, my teacher and I had made a lifelong commitment to one another.”
He would leave her his entire retreat center if he died before she did. And she, in turn, was dedicating her life to being of service to the plants in plant medicine and to being his assistant. This was a totally new direction in her life.
And everything was beautiful until it wasn’t. It was over in a flash, and Nora Dunn again found herself at loose ends. But in both cases, there was an element of” foreverness” to what she was doing.
” Now, with those and other similar experiences under my belt, I tend not to use the F-word very much as in’ forever’, and instead use the F-word as in’ for now,’ because for now is all we have, and that’s all we really need to commit to.”
As a traveller and a digital nomad, Nora has always liked to throw herself into the experiences she’s still as enthusiastically jumping into new experiences and ways of living around the world.
Open Mic Comedy and Personal Growth
“I began to go regularly to open mic events, and that, although very similar in its structure, it was an opportunity for me to try something completely different every single week.”
For Derek, it even found its way and seeped into his business as a speaking coach.
Mr. Derek Smith from Canada has also been nomading for a decade and still travels a lot doing and teaching public speaking. But now he has a home base – or a “hub” as he calls it.
” Now, I offer people open mic events on Zoom, where people come in, they practice their speaking, they practice whatever they’re working on. They can tell a joke, they can tell a story, a lesson, limerick, whatever the heck they’re working on, they can come in and from that open mic format begin to do that. So that was one of the things that, over the last ten years, absolutely changed my world.”
First Nomad Paycheck
Sean Busuttil recalls a transformative moment in 2013 in Rishikesh, India, where he realized the potential of making online money as a digital nomad.
” I was in a restaurant, and I was drinking a cup of chai, and I was writing one of my SEO articles, and I had, I think, eight articles to write, and I was getting paid $20 for each of these articles. So, I was writing the last of my eight articles and then writing the invoice for my work and just thinking, I just made $160 remotely from Rishikesh in India, and that $160 would probably have paid for a month of my acommidation or maybe even travel expenses.”
For many Indian people, that’s more than a month’s pay. That’s a lot of money.
Shaun remembers this as a special eureka moment: “I was just thinking, wow, I’ve just made money online. And, like, a decent amount, like, not like $5, but, like, $160.”
He reflects on how this experience kickstarted his nomadic journey – realizing that he now could work online and not have to return home to work. That his lifestyle was sustainable and that he could do this for extended periods.
“Yeah, that was just a fantastic moment”, Shaun recalls. “I realized, you know what? I don’t need to return home. I can continue doing this.”
Shaun Busittil from Australia has also been nomading for about ten years. He’s in the middle of writing a PhD about digital nomadism and is a very accomplished travel writer.
When he first heard about people working online, he was thinking:
“Oh, yeah, okay, well, yeah, I know it’s possible, but that will never happen to me. I can’t be one of these people that are working and writing articles and getting paid online.’ But I just achieved it.”
That was the beginning of a ten-year journey in the digital nomad space for Shaun Busuttil. Now he’s doing a PhD; people often ask him what he will do when it’s done – if he’s returning to Melbourne, Australia.
“I do always want to live some kind of a nomadic life, but it doesn’t have to be traveling every month. It could be spending six months in Europe, six months in Asia. Having that flexibility in terms of where I work and where I live, I think is something that I’ve always wanted. And now, through remote work, it’s possible,” Shaun finishes.
Transformative Elephant Memories
I also ask Gianni Bianchini if he has any special memories.
“Yeah, there were many because this journey has been transformative every year. And of course, I’m not the same person of five years ago, six, seven years ago, I had different experience.”
Gianni shares two transformative memories, and the first one is of swimming with a blind elephant in Thailand, emphasizing his deep connection with the animal.
Gianni Bianchini from Italy who’s been a nomad for ten years. He’s a YouTuber, podcaster, and teaches his Italian followers how to become a digital nomad.
“And it was a very touching experience because I really felt this animal close to me and it was nothing about riding or feeding them bananas.”
He was volunteering, so he had this chance to go in this river with the elephants, and he found himself swimming beside the magnificent animal for a couple of minutes.
“It was just as if time stopped in that moment. It was really a deep experience.”
A helping hand
The other memory that stands out in Gianni’s mind is a touching experience in the Philippines where he and his ex-girlfriend.
They went to a very humble restaurant. Here, they connected with a poor family and brought joy to a young girl named Diana.
“We had some food, and we started to talk with the owner,” Gianni explains. “And then there was this small girl coming from the rear of the shop. And she was, I think, four or five years. She was smiling and had these very big eyes, and she was really curious about us.”
It turned out that she was the daughter of the woman who was the dishwasher and did all the cleaning. An impoverished woman and this little girl’s father were in prison for murder in Manila.
Then, the day after, they wanted to do something. So, we bought a big doll and some candies and met them in this slum area.
“They were really poor. And we gave them this gift and also gave the mother an envelope with maybe $100 in their currency. And we gave the doll to the girl. The girl was so happy of that. She never had a doll in her life.”
Gianni remembers this as a lovely experience. And the mother told them that this little girl was malnourished and that she could buy her medicine for almost one year with this $100.
This was another transformative memory for Gianni, because they realized that sometimes we have to stop and think about what we are doing. The encounter left a lasting impact on them, showcasing the power of small acts of kindness.
Staring in a Reality Show About Nomads
Ranika talks about auditioning for a Nomad reality show and how it boosted her confidence and transformed her Nomad journey.
“Last year, I was learning how to build a brand from scratch on social media. So, I was trying to put myself on camera. I was a little bit shy and so I saw somebody share this opportunity about auditioning to be on a nomad reality show. So, I decided, why not? I’ll go for it, I’ll try it.”
Suddenly, she was getting an interview to be part of this pilot and was chosen to be on the show. She had limited self-beliefs and was thinking, “wait, me?”.
“I can’t believe that’s happening. And so just in that journey, just of being there, just being surrounded by some incredibly talented people, I just grew in myself, and my confidence and it was just a very transformative point from my nomad journey.”
Ranika Koneru from Texas has been a nomad for almost three years and runs a company called Cloud Connections, where she brings people to festivals around the world.
They followed her for a week in Playa del Carmen and another week in Tulum, Mexico.
When I ask her when we can see her on TV, she says that she knows that they’re currently in the negotiation phase, but she feels like they invested way too much for it to not be picked up – especially with how nomadism is very trending right now.
Meaningful Connections Without a Word
Chris emphasizes the importance of the connections made while traveling as a nomad. He shares heart-warming stories of interacting with locals in Albania, highlighting the genuine kindness and generosity he experienced.
He and his girlfriend were recently in Albania, and we spent one month there. Two old ladies live in the apartment next door to them, and they don’t speak any English. Not a word.
“There was no common language. But we saw them every single day, and somehow, we were able to make ourselves understood.”‘
Chris remembers they were just the sweetest old ladies – one was in a wheelchair. They would take the elevator down every day and sit outside the building in the nice air.
Chris Cerra from England, who’s been nomading around the world for six years with his girlfriend. Chris is helping other nomads find cheap accommodations with his newsletter RemoteBase.co.
“They were so nice that they would always want to try and learn about us. And I think through all of the interaction, I remember the moment when they saw us, maybe after a long weekend, and they were shocked to see that we were still in Tirana.”
Then they started bringing them some fresh vegetables. Chris and his girlfriend returned the favour and bought coffee for them.
“I don’t even know their names. We couldn’t even get to that level.”
When Chris’ girlfriend got sick with a bit of a cough in the night, one of the small ladies came to the front door with a lemon, some dried chamomile, and some sage.
Chris continues: “She knew that it wasn’t me who was sick. And I thought this is crazy. That was a moment I was thinking, this is why we do this. This is a connection that nobody else has on a general trip.”
Chris mentions that they will go back to Tirana, and even though they probably won’t stay in that apartment, they will go and try to find those ladies sitting outside the building to say hello.
“I don’t know why, but it feels important to me to do that,” Chris says.
What are Borders For?
Finishing up, Chris also reflects that there are many amazing things about being a digital nomad, like watching the sunrise over Mount Fiji and that kind of thing.
“But actually, often it’s like, it’s the people. It’s the guy remembering, recognizing me without glasses on, or somebody bringing you, somebody buying your food in the gas station in Saudi Arabia. It’s stuff like that that just makes you think, wow, what is a border? What is a border for? Why do we have those? People are just people.”
Don’t Miss the Grand Finale Next Week
And as we come to the end of this whirlwind of stories that have us craving more passport stamps, let’s take a moment to remember – life as a digital nomad isn’t just about the places you see, but the people you meet and the moments that make your heart race.
From elephants to reality shows, from Albania’s wisdom to Manila’s compassion, and all the way to Peru’s shamanic journeys, we’ve unveiled the digital nomad’s tale like never before.
But wait, dear listeners, don’t you even think about stowing away those headphones! The crescendo, the grand finale of this miniseries, awaits you in the upcoming week.
In our seventh and final installment, these extraordinary digital nomads will be bearing it all – sharing the ultimate guidance for those who dare to dream of becoming a digital nomad.
Discover how to plunge headfirst into the digital nomad universe, find your footing, and how to turn those dreams into reality.
We’re diving into the treasure trove of wisdom these seven nomads have to offer. So, if you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the wanderlust waters as a nomad, that episode will be a must-listen.
The best is yet to come!
My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you.
- Visit Jason Robinson’s travel blog TheNomadExperiment.com and follow him on Instagram as @TheNomadExperiment.
- Follow Nora Dunn’s YouTube channel, with tips on travel and travel gear, her blog, TheProfessionalHoboand on Instagram as @TheProfessionalHobo.
- Follow travel writer on his blog “ShaunBusuttil.com“ and on Instagram as @TheShaunBusuttil.
- Chris Cerra’s email newsletter, RemoteBase.co, for the best accommodation deals for digital nomads. Use promo code VAGA20 to get 20% off on his Premium Newsletter forever. He’s @nomadaccommodationguy on Instagram
- Check out Mr. Derek Smith’s website on public speaking. He’s @Mr_Derek_Smith on Instagram.
- Check out Ranika Koneru’s company, Cloud Connections, for inspiring group travel experiences to the world’s greatest festivals. She’s on Instagram as @RainbowRani_
- Explore Gianni Bianchini’s travel blog, Nomad Is Beautiful, YouTube channel, and podcast for digital nomad advice and insights. On Instagram as @Gianni.Bianchini.
- Connect with Palle Bo on YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and twitter. See all the links here
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