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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!
Tom and his partner Laura knew they wanted to work for themselves but didn’t know how to make that happen. A one-way ticket to Bangkok and beyond allowed them to hone in on passions and eventually turn them into e-commerce brands. Be sure to check out their companies Woven Rosa and Batch Coffee.
Thank you for hanging out with Freedom Is Everything, Tom!
Key takeaways from Tom’s interview:
“Travelling has really opened my eyes and given me perspective on what is important in life. It has also taught me to not believe what you’re told about certain places. I think the media plays a huge role in scare-mongering folk into staying put and not exploring – believe me, the kindest and most hospitable people I have met are always in countries that I beforehand I was apprehensive to visit.”
“You will get out what you put in when travelling. Always look to strike up conversation with travelers, expats, and locals. People are always so friendly, and you’ll meet some of the most unique people while travelling. Always eat local, and if you are trying to practice a language, sit in the front seat of a taxi – my Spanish was built on chats with taxi drivers (mainly around football).”
“Get out there, and don’t be shy. Always be kind – there is no excuse for being a dickhead.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
My name is Tom, and Laura (my partner) and I were brought up in the UK just south of Manchester. We both had fairly similar upbringings and left high school and jumped straight into University. I studied maths and Laura studied media. After Uni, I had a couple of years working in an accounting role before we both decided to pack our bags and buy a one-way ticket to Bangkok.
We spent almost a year travelling around South East Asia, with a large chunk of that living in Hanoi, Vietnam, teaching English. We then headed to Australia, where we spent four years.
Australia started as the classic British working holiday visa. We spent four months working on farms before heading back to Sydney, where we would live for the majority of the time. During our spell in Sydney, I became completely hooked on the coffee culture they have and started working in specialty coffee, firstly as a barista and later learning how to roast coffee. Laura worked in media and gained insights into social media marketing.
We left Sydney and landed in Cuba, where we would then travel down through Central and South America for 18 months. This trip completely changed our lives today. It altered our way of thinking and helped us gain insight into what we wanted.
Before we began travelling down through the Americas, we knew that we wanted to eventually work for ourselves doing something that we love but had no idea what and, more importantly, how.
We listened, watched, and read countless experts giving their opinions on how to build a business, but it felt like a mammoth task and one that we had no experience in.
We landed in Peru and travelled down into Cusco – a magical city that is steeped in history. A day or so into the trip, we stumbled upon a market where local women were selling their textiles, predominantly rugs and a few cushions and throws.
Laura fell instantly in love with the array of colours, the intricate handmade designs, and the wonderful artisans. After carrying out some market research that night, we decided that these textiles were something that people back in the UK would love, and on a bus trip to Lima, Woven Rosa was born.
We stayed in Lima, Peru, for four months, where we launched our eCommerce brand, with regular trips back to Cusco to visit artisans and learn all about these amazing people and their heritage.
From there, we spent time in Bolivia and Mexico, where we rented short-term accommodation and worked on the many aspects of starting our own business.
We returned to the UK, where I then started another brand, Batch Coffee, a specialty coffee subscription box.
Since then, we have moved around the UK. We were set to move over to Spain in July of 2000, just after COVID; however, that plan is now on ice until it’s safe.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
We have travelled quite extensively throughout the last eight years and met so many different types of people. Travelling has really opened my eyes and given me perspective on what is important in life. It has also taught me to not believe what you’re told about certain places. I think the media plays a huge role in scare-mongering folk into staying put and not exploring – believe me, the kindest and most hospitable people I have met are always in countries that I beforehand I was apprehensive to visit.
We also came across many ‘digital nomads’ while traveling. This really inspired us to create something that we could work on while travelling the world.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
Peru was the first place we lived and worked for ourselves. The people here are amazing, and the food, especially in Lima, is top draw. Ceviche and amazing fruits and veg that you can only find in local markets.
Mexico City completely blew my mind. A place that I was a little wary of before I arrived, but within a minute of being there, I was sat on a street corner eating the most amazing tacos, chatting to the vendor. A city that has so many surprises and so much history.
Hanoi is an amazing place. A city that looks chaotic on arrival, but dig a little deeper, and there are so many hidden treasures that you’ll sometimes just stumble across. I remember riding through the backroads of the city on my motorbike one day after teaching and stumbling across a small lake with the tail end of a B52 bomber coming out of it.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
It really depends on how you enjoy travelling and what you want to get out of nomading. I prefer to stay in a place for a while and try to immerse myself in the culture. Sharing accommodation with local people is a great way to do this. We did this in Lima and would highly recommend it. There are always ads on Facebook, Craigslist and Gumtree.
I would also recommend staying in an Airbnb when you first get there and try to look for a private room instead of the whole place if they serve breakfast even better. This gives you a free tour guide and a priceless few tips about the city from a local. We made so many friends from our Airbnbs; our trips definitely wouldn’t have been the same without them.
You will get out what you put in when travelling. Always look to strike up conversation with travelers, expats, and locals. People are always so friendly, and you’ll meet some of the most unique people while travelling. Always eat local, and if you are trying to practice a language, sit in the front seat of a taxi – my Spanish was built on chats with taxi drivers (mainly around football).
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
Persistence is key when starting a business. Always show up, make sure you post every day, that you’re present on social media, and be yourself. Talk to your customers as if they were purchasing something from you directly. Say thanks – we record personalised thank you videos.
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
I would try to consume as much information as possible before making your decision about what you want to do. Listen to different podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and figure out what route you want to take. From there, figure out who is leading the way in your sector and focus on their advice. Pick two or three mentors to have as your online consultants, and always take notes when you’re listening/watching.
The people I listen to most are Niel Patel, the guys at Authority Hacker, and Gary Vee.
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
Bonojoro – great for recording videos. Canva – everyday design and social posts. Ubersuggest – really good for keyword research. Zoom – even more now since we are in a pandemic.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
Each business is growing by the week, with various revenue streams on each website. We’re looking to expand our product range in both eCommerce stores.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Get out there, and don’t be shy. Always be kind – there is no excuse for being a dickhead.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
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My laptop is pretty important as that is how I manage to work. However, if I don’t have my morning fuel, then there will be very little work done. My travelling coffee equipment is always the first thing that I pack. It consists of an Aeropress, hand grinder, and filters. I usually pick up some coffee on the way, and all I need is hot water to make a delicious coffee every morning.
How can people learn more about you and your work?