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This post is brought to you by luxury sheets Kassandra travels with to make each new country feel more like home and by a few of her book recommendations: Practice Makes Perfect: A Graphic Design Student’s Guide to Freelance by Ben Hannam and Atomic Habits by James Clear.
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!
Kassandra and her husband began their nomad journey in 2014 and have already been to 26 countries. We love their story of finding a remote life that fits their desires and how they’re taking off into joint ventures together!
Thank you for sharing your story with Freedom Is Everything, Kassandra!
Key takeaways from Kassandra’s interview:
“We felt like we watched the movie about life in Brisbane on repeat for many years. So we wanted to see and experience something different. In particular, we were keen to learn more about ourselves. What makes us, us. Starting our nomad journey in Cambodia meant we learnt so much about ourselves and the world because we didn’t speak the language, and the culture there is different to Australia.”
“One of my biggest fears about travelling overseas was running out of money and being in an emergency situation. I remedied this by making a separate bank account and putting enough money in there to buy the most expensive plane ticket home tomorrow. Just that one thing gave me (and my family back in Australia) a big sense of relief.”
“We travel with a backpack and suitcase each. Everything we need to live a comfortable and full life is in there. For example, one of the strangest things I have in my suitcase is a set of luxury sheets. First thing I do when I get to a new accommodation is make the bed with my sheets. I have a few other little homewares like tapestry, oil burner, buddha cross stitch I made in Cambodia. These little things instantly turn anywhere into home.”
Table of Contents
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
I am Kassandra Marsh from Brisbane, Australia. My husband, Tim, and I started travelling and remote working back in 2014. Back then, there was not really the term “digital nomad,” and even remote working was limited. We’ve travelled slowly through 26 countries, spending 2-3 months at a time in any location. In 2020 we moved temporarily back to our hometown in Brisbane, Australia.
I work as a qualified graphic designer, specialising in documents. I help passionate business owners by designing all their business and marketing documents so they can focus on what they do best. I make the world a more beautiful place—one document at a time.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
We felt like we watched the movie about life in Brisbane on repeat for many years. So we wanted to see and experience something different. In particular, we were keen to learn more about ourselves. What makes us, us. Starting our nomad journey in Cambodia meant we learnt so much about ourselves and the world because we didn’t speak the language, and the culture there is different to Australia.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
I started my business while still living in Australia and made sure it was something I could do completely remotely. As a graphic designer, I already had a university qualification, and start-up costs are minimal. I already had a computer and a Creative Cloud license. That is all you really need to get started. It is all the time taken to learn how to design and how to run a business that stops most people from getting started.
There are many different ways that I acquire customers, but mostly it is having online profiles (so I can be found) and word-of-mouth. My clients need regular design work, and I have worked with many of my clients since 2015.
Tim and I have just started a joint venture where we apply our combined skills to review marketing materials. We called ourselves Fresh Eyes since sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes is what marketing collateral needs to spot any mistakes. It is a great use of Tim’s marketing and writing skills and my design and error spotting skills.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
Having profiles in the places where clients look. In particular, I have heard some clients say they don’t believe a graphic designer to be legitimate if they don’t have a profile in Behance, LinkedIn, Upwork, and Instagram. I make sure I have up-to-date profiles in those (and other) places. In terms of retention, I always meet or surpass my clients’ expectations. I make sure to work within their systems, so it is more effortless for them when dealing with me. This then makes it easier for them to keep sending me more work. I feel as though the few clients (early on) where I tried to make people follow my system were off-put by having to learn more things/add to their internal workflow.
What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone that wants to travel with a similar style?
We travel with a backpack and suitcase each. Everything we need to live a comfortable and full life is in there. For example, one of the strangest things I have in my suitcase is a set of luxury sheets. First thing I do when I get to a new accommodation is make the bed with my sheets. I have a few other little homewares like tapestry, oil burner, buddha cross stitch I made in Cambodia. These little things instantly turn anywhere into home.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
Cambodia is our favourite. We lived there for four years, setting up a home base and travelled in and out. Even on our very first day there, it always felt like coming home. The people and culture are amazing, and we were both so glad to have a bit of Cambodia in our hearts forever. We struggled to learn the language but found learning enough to have transactional conversations made a richer experience. For example, after attending the weddings of a few of our friends, we included bits of the Cambodian wedding ceremony in our wedding.
Morocco. We backpacked around Morocco for two months and stayed in each place for a week or more. There are so many wonderful things about Morocco, and in particular, I think about the food. The olives were so fresh! During our stay, we spent a week living in the desert with a group of people who wanted to retreat away from the world. In that week, we woke, did yoga, ate all our meals together, played games and music, watched the sunset from the top of the dunes, and had a campfire at night. Some of my favourite days here on earth.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
In my business today, I am making around $50k per year. I work part-time. This dollar value seems like the sweet spot to me where I can live in most countries in the world and pay for onward travel while saving a bit for my future. Because I work part-time, I can work more if I need some extra money. I feel like it is a good balance.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
Most people are interested in chatting with travellers. There are language barriers, sure, but generally, in my experience, most people want to learn more about the people who are travelling. They learn more about where they are and how they fit in the world by meeting other people. Just be brave and strike up a conversation. This doesn’t just apply to the fellow travellers in hostels or at touristy places. By chatting with the locals, you will have a richer experience of the places you travel to. Again, they are curious to learn about why you choose to travel across the world to their home town.
One of my biggest fears about travelling overseas was running out of money and being in an emergency situation. I remedied this by making a separate bank account and putting enough money in there to buy the most expensive plane ticket home tomorrow. Just that one thing gave me (and my family back in Australia) a big sense of relief.
For me, the most common misconception of nomading is the images you see online where the digital nomad has a cocktail sitting on the beach, working on their laptop—not going to happen in real life! Firstly, it is very unprofessional to drink alcohol while working. Secondly, the beach is the worst place to try to work. Sand gets in laptops and breaks them. And you need to be able to see your screen. It is much more likely that you will work from the room, at a comfortable (sometimes makeshift) desk, finish more quickly because you are focused on your task, and then go and spend a few hours at the beach enjoying your time there.
What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?
Doing any of those YOLO (You Only Live Once) things, twice. For example, going to Paris and seeing the Eifel Tower. Catching a double-decker bus and walking across the Tower Bridge in London. Climbing to the top of the Duomo in Florence. Walking through Venice’s high water (aqua alta). Partying at a Thai Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. All things I have done twice!
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
Adobe Creative Cloud (InDesign, Acrobat, Illustrator, Photoshop), Microsoft 365 (Word, Powerpoint Excel), Gmail, Slack, Trello. My website is WordPress, Elementor, and WooCommerce running on SiteGround. For social media sharing, I am using Hootsuite.
Tell us about a deep passion of yours! What has your journey been like, and what advice/resources would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about this topic?
My company tagline really expresses this well: Making the world a more beautiful place—one document at a time. I started my journey quite young; I remember being eight years old, turning boring school assignments into professional works. I never stopped. I’ve read many books over the years and learn by doing. I am also teaching others what I know in the form of workshops, book, and coaching sessions.
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
The book Practice Makes Perfect: A Graphic Design Student’s Guide to Freelance by Ben Hannam was hands down the best book I read to get my mindset ready for being a business and not an arts student. There are so many useful and practical bits of advice that I still use every day.
I also found good advice in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is useful for many people just to get an understanding of how habits shape our lives and how we can use these mechanisms to our advantage.
The other thing I like doing is watching any YouTube clips about my side interests. There is so much amazing content on YouTube. It is really quite mind-blowing. Pick a topic, and it is there! Plus, Blinkist has short overviews on most books in the world.
If you’re a content creator (podcaster, YouTuber, blogger, etc.), tell us about your content creation journey and share some of your favorite content that people should check out!
I do have a blog for my business. www.lakazdi.com/blog it has helpful articles for my target audience. I write with the audience in mind, and the posts are useful to help drive traffic to my website. I like writing and being helpful.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
It’s so silly but write down your bank card’s pin number before you travel. The number of times I have forgotten my pin after not using it for a week or more while travelling.
On that note, making sure you have all the overseas currencies and working bank card while travelling is super important. An example, people don’t know that you need to get the magnetic strip on your card activated before going to some countries. Having spent years paying too much in fees, I now highly recommend using Wise.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
My husband. We met in our hometown, travelled the world, got engaged during a simple lunch in Kuala Lumpur, planned our Australian wedding while living in Venice, Florence, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. He is my best friend, and I really cannot imagine travelling without him.
What’s your favorite book and why?
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
Discovering that how I feel and what I think about is my choice.
What is your philosophy on being happy and/or finding meaning/purpose in life? And any recommended resources for people navigating this journey?
Doing things you love doing. Not necessarily as a job. That might mean pursuing things on the weekend or after office hours. I really wanted to design and produce a diary that would help others to be more creative. It was something that I did as a passion project, knowing it might not make me any money. I devoted 1 hour a week, every week, until it was complete. You can buy a copy of The Daydream Space here.
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!
Yes, this is something I think about. To achieve this, I make sure to make good money young and live below my means so I can save. I have invested some money in the share market and regularly contribute money to my superannuation (Australia’s retirement fund system). I do this because I do not want to work every day until I die.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
The best place is my website: www.lakazdi.com