This is the latest 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!
Josien took a step to prioritize her health and happiness. She quit her office job, transitioned to a location-independent freelance career, and left for Bali. We love her story of finding a lifestyle that suited her better. Be sure to check out her four-step recommendation below of how to start nomading!
Thank you for hanging out with Freedom Is Everything, Josien!
Key takeaways from Josien’s interview:
“Nomading has changed me a lot. It made me healthier, mentally and physically. I have time to go to the gym whenever it suits me. I have time to meditate, go for a walk, read a book, educate myself on subjects of my choosing, etc. I realized very soon that working 9-5 is a brain killer. It makes me numb. It took away my creativity. Now I’m thinking out of the box more often, I’m energized, doing new things every week, have friends around the globe, and my personal growth is a steep curve upwards.”
“For me, everything has to be in the right balance. That goes for time spent on work vs play. But for example, also for the amount of healthy food vs not-so-healthy food or fun projects vs projects that make lots of money. If that balance is off, I immediately notice it in my body. Stress, pains, anxiety, injuries, sickness… So as soon as I feel stressed, I search for the imbalance in my life and fix it. That’s my key to happiness and stability.”
“For me, it’s not about how much I make, as long as I make enough to be comfortable for the location I’m at and can save some money that I can put into side projects like crypto. Currently, I have five clients, and that is enough for me to be busy and have a very comfortable life here in Mexico.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
Hi! My name is Josien Galama, a Dutch digital nomad who focuses on SEO and web design. In 2017 I chose to quit my job and start freelancing in online marketing. The office life was just not for me, and I was certain there were better, healthier ways for me to make a living. A living that included much more time for travel and enjoying life my way. I heard about the digital nomad lifestyle a few years before. It intrigued me. It inspired me. And most of all, it made me quit my job. I said goodbye to financial comfort and started my own business. I worked from home for three months and then packed my bags for Asia.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
I have always been a traveler, from a child on. And with so many different cultures and countries close to the Netherlands, it was pretty easy to fulfill that need of travel. Yet, it was never enough. It was always a holiday. A week in Italy, two weeks in Portugal, a weekend in Belgium, etc. Never really diving into the culture of the local communities.
The partners I was working with during my last job were mainly working remotely. I think that was just the last push I needed to make the decision. I had so many examples of digital nomads that I knew I could make it work too. If they can do it, so can I.
Personally, it has changed me a lot. It made me healthier, mentally and physically. I have time to go to the gym whenever it suits me. I have time to meditate, go for a walk, read a book, educate myself on subjects of my choosing, etc. I realized very soon that working 9-5 is a brain killer. It makes me numb. It took away my creativity. Now I’m thinking out of the box more often, I’m energized, doing new things every week, have friends around the globe, and my personal growth is a steep curve upwards.
My global perspective on life has shifted too. For example, nomading brought me to very poor places. Places with communities that struggle. My struggles were nothing compared to theirs. And even though I knew this before going there, seeing it with my own eyes is something else. It was overwhelming sometimes. I have felt a certain shame for my rich, western background. I see it as a shame for my luck of being born in the Netherlands, which I can’t do anything about, of course. But it felt so unfair when I saw what life is like for people who were born somewhere else.
The good thing about this experience is that you take action on it. Or at least, me and my travel families (the friends you make along the way) did. We did voluntary work, donated money to local charities, promoted good causes, and helped where we could. This is also the main reason for me to promote travel so much. I think everyone should take a year of traveling before they start with their full-time job. See the world. Get out there. See how other people live. How life can be somewhere else. It will only do you, and if you do it well, and others good.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your freelancing business.
I worked in online marketing for over eight years when I made the decision to start freelancing. I did a short course on how to be a virtual assistant, reflected on my own personality (What do I like, what makes me happy, etc.), and checked with my friends and family for input and feedback. It was pretty clear to me that my business would be in SEO, email marketing, and social media (somehow, web design also rolled in that package over the years).
When I had my business plan on paper (finance, target group, services, market, etc.), I went for it. I quit my job, started my own company, promoted my services on LinkedIn, and pretty soon, I signed clients from my already existing network.
I first started working from home, back in the Netherlands. To be sure I would enjoy being a freelancer/working alone and that I could make it happen financially, I decided to not leave the country right away. After three months, it was pretty clear that I could do it. I booked my flight to Bali.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
This list is anything but original, you’ll hear many nomads name these, but here it goes:
Bali will always have a special place in my heart since it was the first place I went as a digital nomad. It kick-started me, fired me up. It is the place where I met my first travel family. Where I felt free from the rat race for the very first time.
Mexico. Because this country has everything I need. I might even end up here.
Portugal. If I don’t end up in Mexico, it will be here. It’s closer to my family in the Netherlands, warm-ish climate, surf, culture, history, friendly people, complicated but beautiful language, and a modern internet network.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
In case you really are insecure about what to do:
- Have a monthly budget in mind (nothing too strict, but have a plan)
- Book a flight to a Digital Nomad hotspot (Canggu in Bali, Chiang Mai in Thailand, Cancun in Mexico, Lisbon in Portugal, etc.).
- Book a co-working hostel
- Sign up for the first pub crawl or outdoor activity and go with the flow.
It really is that easy.
My biggest fear was finances. So I worked from home for the first three months of my freelancing career. Making sure I would earn enough to make it happen. Then I checked countries that would fit my budget and went there.
What is your philosophy on being happy and/or finding meaning/purpose in life? And any recommended resources for people navigating this journey?
For me, everything has to be in the right balance. That goes for time spent on work vs play. But for example, also for the amount of healthy food vs not-so-healthy food or fun projects vs projects that make lots of money. If that balance is off, I immediately notice it in my body. Stress, pains, anxiety, injuries, sickness… So as soon as I feel stressed, I search for the imbalance in my life and fix it. That’s my key to happiness and stability.
As a woman, what should other people who identify similarly (and who haven’t traveled much) know about traveling/nomading?
I always traveled with a cheap silver ring on my finger. So that, in case of need, I could pretend to be married. I’ve needed it in Turkey and Kenya to keep some creepy guys away.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain clients?
My own network. From the beginning, the most reliable (and fun) clients came from my network. Former partners I worked with, friends that refer leads to me, and even former colleagues who started their own businesses are now clients of mine.
Linkedin is the platform I use heavily for this. I promote myself, like and comment on posts, and scan for potential jobs.
I have tried Fiverr and Freelancer.com, but the competition is high, jobs are vague, and clients are not always fun.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
For me, it’s not about how much I make, as long as I make enough to be comfortable for the location I’m at and can save some money that I can put into side projects like crypto. Currently, I have five clients, and that is enough for me to be busy and have a very comfortable life here in Mexico.
For someone interested in becoming a freelancer in your field, what’s the best advice you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
If you want to start in SEO, I recommend the courses that SemRush is offering or find some good e-courses on Udemy about how to use SemRush or Ahrefs. Google offers courses on Analytics and Search Console, which are super important to finish before you even think about starting.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
- All my work tools (laptop, phone, chargers, external batteries, hard drives, headphones)
- Dramamine (I get motion sickness from skydiving, laying on a surfboard, in cars, boats, motors, etc.… )
- Mosquito spray (they always find me…)
- Imodium (in case you ate something real bad ;-))
- My eco products like stainless steel bottle, metal straw, soap bars.
- My fiancé 😉
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
SemRush, Asana, Zoom, Slack, Mailtrack, Boomerang, and HARO.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Oh so dark… ehm, I would probably share something like “do it together.” As a freelancer, you work alone, but if you join a marketing agency that could get you clients or join forces with another freelancer that operates in a different field, you will get more work and grow faster.
If you’re passionate about FIRE (Financial Independence Early Retirement), please share how this has impacted your life, what your journey has been like, and what other people should know about FIRE!
Definitely working on this. My fiancé and I found out about FIRE through videos from OurRichJourney on YouTube. We were already investing in real estate, crypto, and 401k plans, but because of their videos, we became more aware of it. We have a plan 😉
How can people learn more about you and your work?