2015 was my first year as a digital nomad. It was a huge adventure, and a steep learning curve. While there’s little I would change about last year – because I learnt some valuable lessons – there are plenty of things I want to do better this time around.
So here are my goals for 2016. (Yes, I know it’s rather late for setting goals. I actually spent New Year’s Eve planning these, but I want to put them out there so I can hold myself accountable.)
I set up my business so I could have the freedom to travel. And last year was fabulous.
However, after Valencia the longest I stayed in one place was 5 weeks. And while that sounds ample time to explore a new city, my business suffered. I did my client work, then ran out to explore the city, and I didn’t spend any time growing my business (which any entrepreneur or freelancer will tell you is business suicide) and still only got to know each city superficially. So I want to spend the first half of 2016 in one place so I can do some serious work on my business, build a good foundation for some of my other goals, and get to really know a place and its people. And then mix long stays with periods of travelling more frequently.
(I’ve already achieved this goal – yay! On 24th January, I arrived in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with a week’s Airbnb booked, and I spent that week frantically running around the city looking for a place to call home – hard, as it’s high season here. The universe was on my side as I found a beautiful home in a traditional Canarian house from the 1800s near Vegueta, the old town. And I’m so happy here! You can now rent this gorgeous home on Airbnb – if you haven’t signed up yet, use my link for a discount off your first stay.)
Well, travel is still my first love…
I haven’t planned which countries I want to visit yet (ahem, see next goal) but I do want to feed my travel bug by exploring some new countries this year. There’s a travel blogging conference in Sweden I’d like to attend, there’s a multitude of countries I want to visit in Eastern Europe, and I may return to Southeast Asia for winter and see some countries I missed last time, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Of course, I won’t do all this in a year because I’m aiming for a better travel-work balance but 3 new countries is a good aim, especially if I intend staying longer in some places (and of course, 3 is the magic number…).
I had a rough plan of places to visit last year, shaped around some events I wanted to attend. Other than that, my planning involved frantic last minute searching of accommodation and flights, swearing, and lots of emailing around hosts trying to negotiate a deal. And at times it was sooooo stressful and time-consuming (and the main reason I ended up in a dodgy mafia district in Sicily).
Flexibility’s great, but travelling and running a business is different to simply travelling. I need to know I have a good place to work and I like having a comfortable place to call home. So I want to eliminate some of that stress by planning my longer stays in advance and not continually leaving everything to the last minute.
This is a biggie for me. And it’s something I kept shoving on the backburner last year. The entire reason I set up my business is because I wanted to travel and be a travel writer and photographer.
However, I spent all of last year on the road, and barely wrote a word about it. Partly because I didn’t organise my time well and prioritised client work and exploring, and partly because I was a wee bit scared. I’m a fairly private person and I find it difficult writing about myself. Plus I’m a total perfectionist, which also makes me a terrible procrastinator because I like to put things off until they’re perfect. Which they never will be. So bear with me while I get into the blogging groove – I aim to be rocking it by the end of the year…
I set up my business, The Wandering Wordsmith, because I wanted to be a travel writer. But I started writing anything so I could get the lifestyle I wanted – one that allowed me to travel.
I’m now a professional writer (and traveller/digital nomad) and I’ve found some niches I enjoy writing about – WordPress for example. But this year I want to focus on getting more travel clients, and writing about things I love – travel and related subjects like food and drink, art and archaeology, nature and wildlife…
To date, my social media activity has been sporadic at best. Sometimes I find it overwhelming, especially as I have a different name for my business and my travel blog – do I set up a Twitter account for each? Or would that get even more overwhelming?
Plus, as I said above, I’m a fairly private person and I find self-promotion difficult, as I’m not great at blowing my own trumpet. And I feel as though I’m tied to my smartphone/Mac enough as it is! But if I’m serious about running my business and establishing my travel blog, I have to get serious about this shit.
So, this is the year I will conquer my social media fears and become a social media wizard. Which means establishing a Facebook blog page, getting organised with my Twitter account, becoming more active on Instagram (which is happening now I’m travelling with a better camera phone) and getting my head around Pinterest.
I read so many posts about digital nomads who leap out of bed at 5am, go for a run, meditate, enjoy a super-healthy breakfast and be at their desks by 8am.
I’m never going to be one of those. And that’s OK.
But more often than not, I drag myself out of bed at 9 or 10, sit around in my PJs drinking a cuppa, before starting work around midday. I always complete my client work, but other stuff – such as my travel blog – often gets left behind, and I frequently work late.
I’ve always struggled with routine – I hate it – but I do believe having a routine is important for productivity and for generally managing my lifestyle. So I’m experimenting to find a routine that fits with my natural body clock and allows me to organise my time better and be more productive.
I’ve a love-hate relationship with money – always have done. I’m not motivated by money in the slightest; I’m much more driven by experiences. Living as I’ve been over the last 15 months is undoubtedly cheaper than living in the UK, but many of my decisions over the last year were made according to where I could afford to go, rather than where I really wanted to go. Plus, I’m over 40 and have little in the way of savings.
This year started off quite badly in terms of money – I owed HMRC just over a certain threshold, which meant I had to pay 50% towards this year’s tax too, something I hadn’t accounted for, plus a long-term client that regularly sent lots of work went bust. And suddenly I’m using my savings and dipping into my credit card. Which wasn’t in the plan. Oops! I’m not in trouble, but it has given me the kick up the arse I needed so I’ve set a target of earning £3k per month by the end of the year – a figure I managed a couple of times last year so I know it’s doable. But if I can achieve that on a regular basis I’ll be much happier.
Staying fit on the road is a challenge. Especially if you enjoy tapas and wine as much as I do! I love sampling the food and wine of countries I’m travelling in – it’s one of my ultimate travel pleasures. But my lifestyle means I spend a lot of time sitting at my Mac, and over the last year I’ve developed quite the tapas tummy! I’m by no means overweight, but I am a little bigger than I’m comfortable with, plus I’m the wrong side of 40 which means weight is more difficult to shift.
As the summer months are fast approaching, with it comes a determination to get fit – for my own health and wellbeing, and so I can jump around on a beach at Sète in my bikini again without worrying about jiggling wobbly bits! So a daily exercise session plus brisk walk has been built into my routine. Wish me luck…
I’ve flirted with meditation a few times over the years, but never really established a solid practice. However I’m a firm believer in its benefits, and I think it will really help me with working on my business, learning to tune into my intuition, and improving my self-confidence (which I struggle with at times).
So I’ve got stuck into the excellent Headspace and am starting every day by meditating and journaling. It’s still a fairly new thing for me, but by the end of the year I want it to be a solid daily practice.
Since setting out on my nomad journey I’ve stuck to main cities for my base for a variety of reasons – great transport links, lots of opportunities to meet other travellers/locals as I’m travelling alone, good wifi and lots of accommodation options. And I do love city life. But it’s greenery and nature that really makes my heart sing. I love hiking, I love watching wildlife, and I feel so at peace when I’m surrounded by greenery or walking barefoot along a wild, sandy beach. It resets me, recharges my batteries, and I need to do more of it.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Spain over the last 15 months – it’s undoubtedly one of my favourite countries, and a place I can see myself building a base eventually. So becoming fluent in the language is a big aim for me. But I struggle with languages – partly due to my perfectionist tendencies, which mean I hate making mistakes, and partly simply down to confidence.
But I want to knock that silliness on the head. I’m almost at the end of the Spanish lessons on Duolingo, I’m taking regular classes here in Las Palmas, and am spending lots of time with locals and in language exchanges – by the time I leave this lovely island, I expect my language skills to be much improved.
I love photography and I definitely want to do more of it, and improve my photography and editing skills. At the moment I’m only travelling with my compact, although it’s an excellent camera, and now I have a decent camera phone too. I intend to spend this year improving my skills and becoming more creative with my travel photography. If all goes to plan and I reach my financial goals, I’ll be treating myself to a compact system camera at the end of the year. Bring it on…
Oh god, I hate photos of myself and I’m not a fan of the selfie craze. But I’ve been travelling alone and when reviewing my pictures for this website I was struck by the fact that I had few pictures of me in these wonderful places. Doh! Was I actually there? So I need to change this. I’ve got a mini tripod for my camera, and who knows, I may even throw in the odd selfie…
Travelling alone can be lonely, especially for an introvert like me – I love meeting people, but find large groups quite testing (so rocking up to Sète alone last year was a major challenge for me). And I get tired when I’m constantly moving on and meeting new people – I’m not one for small talk; I prefer to really get to know somebody, which takes longer. Sometimes I just want to chat with people who know me well.
Nomad groups are great and I’ve made some fantastic friends, some of whom I’ve met in several places already and I have regular Skype chats with others. And of course I stay in touch with family and friends back home. But if you want to really get to know a place it’s important to mix with locals too.
When I set out last year I was staying in Airbnb accommodation with hosts, and I got lucky meeting some wonderful people who included me in their lives. But the longer I do this, the more I realise just how much I love having my own space to retreat to, so I prefer to rent an apartment on my own. Which means I need to make more of an effort to get out and meet locals, and build a community of people. Again, this is something that gets easier the longer you stay in a place – I’ve met a wonderful mix of locals, expats and nomads here in Las Palmas – but it’s something I need to work on whenever I move on.
Phew! I think that’s it… I’m excited to get stuck into my goals and improve my lifestyle and business in 2016. (And I’ll try not to make every post I write 2,000+ words…)
Did you set any goals for 2016? How are they coming along?