Rod is the founder of the Coliving base in Provence France at www.retreats.io. Born in Thailand and then from there he’s been to over 45 countries, working or exploring. He also runs the Facebook group Retreats and Top Nomad Houses & Events. (The image above is from his coliving space)
1. What got you into the Digital Nomad Lifestyle? Tell us about your journey.
I had a dream, my love of travelling and exploring the world linked with a mobile business. My dream was to be able to work on a beach and make money at the same time. Sounds so simple now, yet when I started, there were no smartphones, only slow portable computers using Windows 3.1. Global tech business and services were only just on the tips of conversations. Unknowingly I had become a Digital Nomad before the term became known. I used faxes as my primary communication system backed up with international couriers. I toured computer exhibitions and often asked the sales people where they worked, and they always replied in an office building. They sold stuff that allowed business communication yet were bound to their posts. I would ask them if they would like to do their job on a beach, of course, they always said: “wouldn’t that be great”. Well, now many people are doing just that. I also see this escalating as many services and facilities are being created to help the mobile digital entrepreneur. Quality Coliving spaces, and networks that can provide; just drop by services that allow you not only to fit straight into a community but also help introduce you to all that is locally advantageous helping them in life and business. I am currently developing this with a group of like-minded founders. People are freeing themselves from the standard, Born here, educated here, work here, die here, single place world. They are making something of their lives at the same time as living.
2 How do you earn as a Digital Nomad?
I realised quite some time ago that the portable computer would free us from being tied to a desk, now we have the added freedom with smartphones, and everything else that’s developing; VR, live streaming and more. The way forward is to keep abreast of the tech as it changes, adapt and redefine how we can apply it. In the early days, I was a mobile consultant in International Marketing and particularly data mining and profiling, I could do this anywhere in the world, the key was having a stable base even if you weren’t there, i.e., someone answered the phone, and it had a registered fixed address. There are now many VPA’s (virtual personal assistants) and websites form the solid base for a registered entity. Trust is still an important factor that you must create. Also, do not tell your clients, if they come from the mainstream, what you are doing. They get jealous. Recently I have been more into tourism and property development for Coliving.
3 What is your favourite destination as a Digital Nomad? What is so special about it?
I don’t have a favourite destination; I just have places that I am comfortable going back to regularly. I like Europe a lot because everything is near to each other and you can have a massive change in your lifestyle very quickly. Where my estate is in the South of France, you can be in Snow, rivers, lakes, quirky villages, and important cities in less than an hours drive. You also have lots of fantastic seasons, from super hot to just right. Grey dull days are very few and far between. Marseille is a hub airport, and you can be anywhere in Europe and further a field in a matter of hours, just staying in Europe gives you the chance to visit extraordinary places. Although I have been to many far flung places, I believe that you have to take into account the cost of the ticket and cost it over the time you stay. Therefore you need to be in an area for a reasonable amount of time, say three months or more to balance it out against the cheaper living costs. Many people forget this.
4. What are some challenges you’ve faced as a Digital Nomad?
Having children when you are a Nomad is hard because apart from home schooling as the only other option, they need education and in many places, it is illegal if you do not. I still managed to travel lots, and of course, I gave them the bug as well, they love exploring the world. You have to fit in everything around the schooling timetable and in my case my x-partner who wasn’t into this lifestyle.
5 How do you discover places to work & explore in a new city?
In every place, there are Nomad groups, and you can get lots of advice from them. I run the Facebook group; “Retreats and Top Nomad Houses & Events” which specialises in quality Coliving experiences. I also join immediately the local Meetup group I look for the expat community and the language based ones as you will be sure to meet some interesting people with lots of local knowledge.
6 Any tips for Digital Nomads looking to start out?
Yes my biggest tip is to find a Coliving space and live with a group for at least three months this will immerse you into the living style, and the people you live with will assist you to understand a way to earn money and deal with family, friends and Xs. Leaving people behind is one of the hardest tasks, and they are the leading negative influencers as they do not want to (in their mind) loose you. Before you take the dive into it, you can join coworking spaces near you and get to know the people there who are also Nomads. I would also suggest not taking the first steps too far away initially, try and see if you like it first. It sounds super to go to some far off exotic place but just ask yourself, what would you do if you were stuck on a golden sandy beach with no money and no way to get some help? You can also start up your online working before travelling from where you are, yes it will be hard if you have a day job, but that’s part of the whole thing. We have to juggle our time between work and play, and sometimes the work side just has to be done. Be careful of all the so-called experts online as they are just interested in supporting their Nomad lifestyle by you paying them, and some of them do not know much about what they say they are so brilliant at. Also, there are too many get rich quick schemes don’t go there. If it sounds unbelievable, it usually is.