I spent the day on the beach in Sosua in the Dominican Republic: my own little slice of paradise. I swam in crystal clear waters with the fish from Finding Nemo, drank fresh coconut straight from the shell, ate a plate of $6 ribs and went for a walk through a town lined with some of the most stunning women you could hope to see.
My Spanish is getting better, even though I get the odd pitying glance. And I smile to myself each and every day in this place. That didn’t happen before.
Now I’m settling down to an evening of work in front of the TV. It’s client work through my copywriting site, Epic Content, not just the blog. But I can choose my own hours and as long as I clear $100 a day then I can live life on my own terms.
It feels like Heaven. It has done for three months, ever since I flew out of Manchester Airport to start a new life as a digital nomad.
Not everybody understands the digital nomad lifestyle
My friends think I’m either a moron who is ducking out on life or the luckiest person they’ve ever known. I am living the dream, or I am a total fucktard. There is no middle ground, but that’s cool. Not everybody has to understand my life. I’m not living it for them.
And I wouldn’t swap my life for the world. Total freedom is one of the most spectacular, beautiful feelings you can have. Too many of us give it up to ‘do the right thing’ and live the life that everybody expects us to.
But the simple truth is, if your work is largely computer-based, then you can have it too and work online. Digital nomads aren’t special, we are not unique. We just chose to live life a different way and there are all manner of digital nomad jobs that might suit you. We have decided that life is about the experience and padlocking ourselves to a desk, or a house that will become our tomb, is not the way we want to live.
How to become a digital nomad is a story for another day
At some point I’ll get round to a full guide on how to become a digital nomad, which is a much bigger question, but this is just an introduction. It’s the reason why. If it resonates with you, then you probably already know what you want to do.
If it sounds like somebody else’s crazy pipe dream then you’ll probably never get it and this life isn’t for you. That’s good too, at least you know what you want.
This is my second shot at living abroad and the first time it went very, very wrong. I started a business in Spain, it died on its ass and sucked every single penny I owned out of the bank in the process. I arrived back in England broke, emaciated and so stressed I could barely function as a human being.
Lesson learned, said everybody else. Now be a normal person and live a normal life. Find a wife, have kids, get a minivan, stop having sex and go to the same restaurant once a month for the rest of your life for a ‘treat’.
That’s what normal people do.
Normal life and kids just don’t appeal
I fought back from beneath Ground Zero to get some money together, rent an apartment and start living. I got furniture, bought a car, hit the gym, started dating again, which is another story for another time, and became a fully functioning member of the human race.
That’s when it struck me… Is this really it?
My family were talking about meeting the right girl, settling down finally. I thought about garden centers, about spending my Sundays shuffling through the pre-ordained path in Ikea. And a little part of me died inside. It just wasn’t the life I wanted to lead. Besides, who the fuck can afford to have kids these days?
People do, I know they do, but every day seems a struggle and they seem worn out. It just doesn’t appeal to me.
Freelance work makes a normal life tough
Finding work as a freelance writer can be tough, too and the staff jobs are largely a joke that confine you to the poverty.
The editorial world was getting worse, with low payers, non-payers and constant problems. England is an expensive country to live in and the bills just don’t wait.
So while I was getting excuse after excuse from my clients and the rates were going down, bills were stacking up.
I was taking work I didn’t want, for people I knew would be trouble, just to try and cover the bills. Like a lot of freelance workers, disposable income became a running joke, there just isn’t any. I was running on the spot, going nowhere and working my ass off to do it.
My life was a treadmill of work and tragic online dates
Life became an endless treadmill of working all day and looking for clients at night, trying to figure out a way to bring in more income and live a better, happier life.
I spent some time casually perusing Plenty of Fish or Tinder and going on dates with girls that really didn’t excite me either. One did, but she turned out to be a nutjob, and when she went out the window I had a good long look at my life.
It was going down the wrong path.
On the surface, everything was fine. This was life. I worked every day, mostly from home, paid the bills and my food and at the end of the month I’d start the whole process all over. It’s what happens.
It just seemed so fucking futile. It’s a zero sum game. With no joy, no happiness, just a never ending loop of grey mediocrity.
You don’t have to accept mediocrity
So that’s when it dawned on me. I could do something about it. I had the power to change my life. You have the power to change your life. It would just take a little bit of planning and the odd sacrifice.
I used to drive supercars for a living and I loved it. But, with the editorial industry tanking, that was turning into a hobby rather than an actual career. So it had to go. What else could I do? I had literally specialized as an automotive writer for my entire adult life. Suddenly I had to change tack.
Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
I spent my nights searching for US-based blogging clients, any clients that could handle remote workers. Because if I was already remote, why would they care if my location changed?
I gave the notice on my apartment, a gorgeous place near the sea in England that most people would love to call their own. As I packed up my stuff, after a year and half of living there, a wave of relief crept over me. It never felt like home…
Just one more thing, where was I going?
I moved in with my dad for a few months to save money and there was just one small issue left to solve. I knew I was going, I just had no fucking idea where.
Everybody is different and there is some really good advice from different people, including this piece on Thisistrouble.com that explains why the tired old locations aren’t always the best.
So I pulled up Google, Skyscanner and Airbnb. I looked for the cheapest places to live in the world, I looked up digital nomad sites, I looked up everything. I settled on Bali, which still looks amazing, then I switched to Cancun, then Cozomel. And then I found the Airbnb search combination that changed my life.
I like to think it was destiny.
By the way, I love Airbnb. Without it, I’m not sure I could have found an internet ready apartment, anywhere I wanted to go in the world. So wherever you’re thinking of going, if it’s for a day or a month, you should check it out. There are massive monthly discounts that put great apartments into the right price range and I can even give you an Airbnb discount coupon to save you more than $30 on your first booking.
I’d never been on holiday to the Caribbean. It was too expensive, too far, too luxurious. But one night, out of dumb curiosity, I found I could search the whole Caribbean. By God I was amazed at what I found. I brought the maximum monthly rent down and down until I was left with two places: Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
They were the same price.
Venezuela is dangerous, chaotic and just a bad place to be. The Dominican Republic is one giant holiday resort. OK Santo Domingo is a tough fucking city, but Punta Cana, Sosua and La Romana are picture postcard places to live and you can get by here on $1000 a month. I had to make that before I could even eat food in England.
The Dominican Republic is an awesome place to live
So that was it, decision made. I could live in paradise, using Airbnb as a start point, for next to nothing. The first apartment I wanted in Punta Cana went before I could book it, so I just switched to the other side of the island and took a place in Sosua, near Puerto Plata.
My first two months here I lived in a 3-star hotel, with cooking facilities, a pool and a bar downstairs for the princely sum of $380. That included electricity and there was no water bill. It was fucking crazy to me. I can walk to the beach, so I don’t need a car, I can eat out for $5 and I can eat at home for $30 a week.
I buy fish from a man who wonders the street with today’s catch on a pole. There’s a man selling papaya, pineapple, banana and mango creations for 50 pesos ($1) from a cart and you can buy a passable café latte for 70 cents. I can go out and get smashed drunk for $10 and while 98% of the single girls are hookers, they’ll give you better night than you could get at home off any girl for around $40…
I can live in Sosua on $20 a day
Once I was here I could find an even cheaper apartment, too. I now pay $325 a month, including all bills. I cook with gas from a bottle, I don’t have hot water, but I do have American cable TV and a big flatscreen.
It isn’t luxurious, in fact it’s pretty rough. But it’s safe, it’s dry, its cheap and I’m not working like a slave to pay for it. In fact, I can live on $20 a day in the Dominican Republic and Sosua is one of the cheapest places in the world to live.
So yes, I wanted to escape the rat race and I wanted to see the world. I wanted to go swimming with Nemo and Dory and see a lifestyle that sounded too good to be true. But I also wanted the freedom that goes with lower bills and a less materialistic life. I wanted to step off the horrendous treadmill that most of us call life and actually breathe without thinking about the next big bill.
Nobody actually believes me when I say I moved to paradise to save money, and the truth is far more complex than that, but it’s one of the biggest reasons I came out here. I’m no longer a slave to my apartment, my car and the utility bills. I live life on my own terms here and I honestly couldn’t be happier.
I’m working to live, not living to work. And I’m working to live an absolutely spectacular life full of stunning beaches, incredible girls and fun.
Every day there’s a crazy new world out there to discover, I have rediscovered my sense of wonder and the smile is back on my face. If you’re missing your smile, and if my story resonates even slightly, maybe the digital nomad life is for you.