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This is the fourth interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!
Eva is a freelancer/entrepreneur from the U.S. who currently lives in Los Angeles after spending a year and a half nomading all over the world.
I love Eva’s mindset about personal development/growth and I’m excited to help her message reach more people! Lots of great lessons in this interview about nomading, freelancing, travel, life, and more.
If you want to get more tips about freelancing from Eva, subscribe to her newsletter!
When did you start nomading, how long did you do it, and what inspired you to start traveling the world?
I started nomading in June of 2017 and I traveled non-stop for 1.5 years. I was inspired to travel the world thanks to social media. I was watching travel vloggers and influencers experience beautiful places and live these incredible lives and I couldn’t ignore it. I contemplated going full nomad for at least 6 months before deciding not to renew my lease in Nashville, sell all of my stuff, and travel the world solo while starting my freelance writing business.
What caused you to stop nomading?
I stopped nomading when my business became more of a priority to me than travel. While this sounds weird, after 1.5 years of traveling through 12 countries, countless cities, and living in hostels with hundreds of strangers I felt ready for something new. I wanted to settle down and see what would happen to my business if I put my entire focus into it, instead of focusing on travel and working simultaneously. I doubled my business the first year I stopped nomading and doubled it again the next year.
What is your background and what do you do for work?
I’m a freelance content writer and I work with businesses committed to publishing high-quality content. I work with startups to multi-million dollar companies to create content that increases brand awareness, positions them as an expert in their niche, and gets them customers and clients.
I seriously love what I do and would not trade it for anything else. I recently started coaching freelance writers to show them how to get clients and create a steady income for themselves. So far, I’ve been able to help 4 freelance writers land $46,000 in retainer contracts.
How did traveling the world change your life?
Traveling the world pushed my emotional intelligence further than I’ve ever experienced before. Paired with traveling solo and starting my freelance writing business at the same time, the amount of pressure at times was unbearable. It can sound ridiculous because travel is seen as such a luxury (and in many ways it is), but when you pair it alongside creating a steady income for yourself—life gets hectic. This was definitely my hardest lesson.
One of my favorite lessons from traveling has been that home is wherever I want it to be. It can be in the childhood home I grew up in or across the globe in a Bali hostel with strangers. I no longer feel like my home is the place that I’m currently in, or where I grew up—home is wherever I need it to be.
How did nomading change your views on conformity, societal pressures, and building a custom life path?
I tried to have a “custom life path” before nomading. I remember sitting at a desk and being able to see the next 30 years of my life pass my by—and it freaked me out. I watched every single person I know choose a custom path and couldn’t figure out why I just couldn’t get myself to do it.
When I started traveling and meeting others who hadn’t chosen that path, I felt understood in a way I never had before. I realized that conformity and social pressures are choices we make (whether we realize it or not). I wish everyone would travel *solo* for an extended amount of time to see how many other lifestyle opportunities there are and realize what they really want out of life.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about digital nomading or who’s about to digital nomad?
Move to a nomad-heavy place. NomadList.com is great for this. You can always travel to the less popular places later, but first you want to meet other nomads and establish a headquarters for yourself while you’re transitioning and still working. Once you’re settled in, you can hop around to other areas of the world. Better yet, if you’re traveling with other people who need to work too you’ll have a much easier time ensuring you have income.
What were your biggest concerns right before you started traveling? And how were those concerns appeased or not appeased when you started traveling?
I took everything day-by-day, which was a huge help. For example, my first destination was Uvita, Costa Rica. I booked 4 nights in the Flutterby Hostel (definitely recommend!) and my only concern was making it from San Jose to Uvita. I didn’t worry about anything else but getting myself to my hostel safely. Once I got there, then I focused on making friends and figuring out how to be a digital nomad.
In hindsight, I should have been much more concerned about how I was going to make money and fit working into a busy travel schedule, but all I could focus on was getting out of the conformity I felt myself in. I ended up figuring out a lot of that as I went, which wasn’t terrible but led to very busy, very hectic days haha.
Any tips for other nomads on how to best meet people while traveling?
Stay in places with a lot of people. I loved hostels because I would be able to have friends within a few minutes of arriving in a brand new city. There are also coworking places, like the infamous Dojo in Canggu, that will help you meet like minded people. Wherever nomads would congregate is a great place for you to meet people, as well as activities like surfing, climbing volcanoes, hikes, etc. I would say that while I was traveling I had the opposite problem. I was meeting TOO many people and it was keeping me distracted from working. 😂
What’s the best advice that you would give to potential freelancers and who’s your favorite thought leader in your field?
Make sure you understand how to create consistent income for yourself. Don’t rely on one-time projects to help you make a living. You need retainer clients, or whatever that looks like for your field. You never want to be stuck in sales mode as a freelancer. You want steady income instead.
My favorite influencer/thought leader is definitely NomadLists founder Pieter Levels. His story of building 12 companies in 12 months to see which one is the most profitable and then riding that into huge revenue is awesome. Better yet, he’s still nomading and building his entire business from a MacBook—he’s the epitome of a nomad.
For someone interested in becoming a freelancer, what learning resources do you recommend?
The first step is understanding what kind of freelance you want to be. What skill set do you want to have or already have? Once you’ve nailed that down, look up successful freelancers in that space and figure out what secrets they’re giving away for free. Read their content, sign up for their newsletter, and start to learn from them.
When it comes to getting clients, you have to be proactive. Reach out to companies who you want to work with and ask them if they’re looking for help. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go find them. You’ll be shocked at how fast your life can change if you focus 1 month of your year on finding 5 retainer clients. I’ll even bet you end up making more money than you were before. 🙂
Where are you currently living and would you recommend it to other people working online & traveling? Why/why not?
I currently live in Los Angeles. I would totally recommend it to other people working online and traveling. There is a fear around moving to a big city like Los Angeles because it’s expensive. I like the phrase, “opportunity tax.” Sure, you’re going to pay more to live here but that’s because you get more. You get way more experiences and opportunities to meet people you never would in a small city in the middle of nowhere. I also loved the idea of living in an expensive city because it would force me to have to make more to be able to sustain myself. If you’re looking for a challenge, open minds, and a health conscious community—Los Angeles is a great place to move.
What are your 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
My favorite place is Canggu, Bali. I wish I had started traveling in Bali so I could have met more nomads. When I started traveling, I was in Central America and in Europe and it took me 5 months to meet another nomad. Everyone I met was just taking time off of work or school to travel the world. In Bali, specifically Canggu, you can find so many nomads who are like minded and have the same challenges as you. My top advice to new nomads is to start in a nomad hub like Canggu or Chiang Mai and travel out of there once you’ve made new friends.
With that said, I loved traveling through Central America. I stayed in a beach hostels that required us to take a taxi, a boat, and a horse drawn carriage to reach them, swam with sharks in Panama, and watched sea turtles lay their eggs in Costa Rica. That was incredible, but be warned—it was sooo hard to keep up with work.
What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?
When I traveled through Nicaragua, I hiked up Volcano Concepción. It was about a 3-4 hour hike up to the crater where we planned to camp the night. We hiked for almost 3 hours with 30 pound backpacks full of camping gear, food, and water when we found out that there had been a tremble. Since Volcano Concepción is an active volcano, this meant there might be an eruption. Our guides asked us if we wanted to keep going and stay the night or go hike back down.
I was with 2 new travel friends and we all decided to keep going (at this point we all were in pure adventure mode). Due to the tremble, we weren’t allowed to spend the night camping by the crater so we stayed with an indigenious tribe who lived about 30 minutes away from the top of the volcano. The volcano never erupted and I’m here to tell the story, but I’ll never forget how cool the experience was (and maybe not very smart haha).
It was the epitome of a travel experience that you just can’t have when you don’t live outside of your comfort zone.
Four of the biggest barriers to people nomading are debt/student loans, owning a pet, having an apartment lease, or owning a home. If you had any of these when you started traveling, how did you address or think about these issues and what advice would you give to other people with a similar situation?
The only one of these I had was an apartment lease, but I waited until my lease ended and planned my trip around that time.
When it comes to debt/student loans, I would sit down and actually crunch the numbers to see if you would be spending the same or even less on your lifestyle to be a nomad. For example, if you pay $700 a month in rent + utilities and $300 a month in student loan debt, if you moved to Thailand or Bali you would be able to cut your rent and utilities by at least $200. It costs about $20 maximum to eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and Bali and like $8 maximum for 3 meals if you want to make them at home. I bet that you would spend less money living there and could put *more* money towards your loans than wherever you live now.
If something is holding you back from becoming a nomad, make sure you’ve actually done a significant amount of research into ways around it before telling yourself you can’t nomad. Nine times out of ten there’s a solution, you just haven’t found it yet.
What are some of your biggest recent business learnings that other people can learn from?
I love systemizing my business. Right now I’m loving Notion for keeping track of what I need to do each day of the week. I use it as my daily to do list, but then add how much money I’m making from those tasks. This way I know the total amount of money I’m going to make each week and if I need to adjust the tasks I’m working on to make more. This helps me stay on top of my annual goals, so I know that I’m making what I want to be. Once I’ve perfected this, I’m going to share it with other writers.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
Creating a designated work space for myself in my apartment. Since COVID-19, I’ve been (obviously) working from home. Having my own designated space to work from helps me stay productive and house all of my work stuff. Even though I moved to Los Angeles, I was always working on-the-go, either from coworking spaces or cafes. It has been nice to have one place where all of my work gets done and where I can easily access my tech/equipment as needed.
What’s the best purchase you’ve made under $100 in the last 12 months?
Books, for sure.
What software or app that you pay for has added the most value to your life? And are there any other paid or unpaid software and apps help power your life?
Google Calendar and Notion are my absolute go-tos, and they’re both free.
What’s your favorite book and why?
The Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. I think about teleology daily now and how, whether I want to be or not, I’m creating my life based on goals that don’t always fit my definition of happiness. This goes back to being a nomad and realizing how many people were just *choosing* to live normal lives, even when they didn’t want to. We spend a lot of our time choosing to do things that don’t make us happy—without realizing it. This book helps you see that so you can change it.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
I post about content writing and marketing on Instagram and Twitter, so if you’re looking for help becoming a better writer or getting clients that’s a great place to start. I also have a newsletter for freelance writers that will help you with cold pitching, landing retainers, and understanding the business side of freelance writing.