Why the Birth of My Son Convinced Me to Become a Digital Nomad (Corritta Lewis’ Story)

This post is brought to you by a kid-friendly tablet Corritta’s son travels with.

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!

Corritta knew sitting in an office all day while missing key moments in her son’s life wasn’t acceptable. She moved her career to a remote position and set off for Mexico with her wife and son. We love how they emphasize spending quality time together and how nomading internationally is cheaper than living in the US.

Thank you for hanging out with Freedom Is Everything, Corritta!

Key takeaways from Corritta’s interview:

“The birth of our son inspired us to become digital nomads. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t have paid maternal leave, so I had to return to work only 7-weeks after giving birth. It broke my heart. I started suffering from severe postpartum anxiety to the point I was having debilitating chest pains. At that moment, I decided it was unacceptable to expect new mothers to leave their baby at only 6-weeks old to return to work after everything our bodies go through during pregnancy.”

“The notion that happiness is associated with a house, cars, getting married, or whatever society considers acceptable is not reality. I know it’s cliché, but the saying the best things in life are free is true. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to value your time and the people you love. Happiness to me is being able to spend time with my family, and truly be present as our son grows up.”

“A lot of people ask how we afford to travel and think it is about our income when in reality, we focus on our expenses. Our main priority isn’t just about the money coming in, but the money that goes out. You can’t always control your income, but you have a lot of control over your expenses, so limiting the money you spend on frivolous things will add up quicker than you think.”

“We’ve experienced some very obvious racism, but we’ve also encountered amazing people who have helped us throughout our journey. Our philosophy is to dislike hate, not the person. I understand that people fear what they do not understand, so we try to befriend people. Imagine things from their point of view. If you’ve never encountered a person but have seen images of them on TV, what would you believe? It’s easy to go to a place of anger, but I try to understand where they are coming from. In most cases, people truly do not understand, and how can you be angry with that?” 

Table of Contents

Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?

two women sit on a bench facing a lake while their small son plays near the lake's shore

I am Corritta from It’s a Family Thing, and we are a two-mom family traveling the world. My wife (Mea) and I travel with our 2-year-old son (Caleb), and it’s been an interesting experience. 

I am currently a Human Resources System Analyst for a specialty retail company. While working full-time, we also run our family travel blog, along with a few other websites. 

Before the pandemic, I initially became a nomad when we decided to take a family gap year. I was working for a hospital and intended to resign to spend time with extended family before heading off to see the world. 

Things didn’t work out the way we planned, so I ended up getting laid off, and we decided to move to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Now we’ve been here for nine months and loving every minute of it.

I managed to get a new job in December 2020, so now we spend our days working, exploring, and eating good food. Although it seems like the ideal life, traveling with a toddler has its challenges. Overall, we love being a nomadic family and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.

What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?

The birth of our son inspired us to become digital nomads. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t have paid maternal leave, so I had to return to work only 7-weeks after giving birth. It broke my heart. 

I started suffering from severe postpartum anxiety to the point I was having debilitating chest pains. 

At that moment, I decided it was unacceptable to expect new mothers to leave their baby at only 6-weeks old to return to work after everything our bodies go through during pregnancy. From that moment on, we changed our lifestyle to save as much as possible to travel the world as a family.

Now that we’ve been a nomadic family for over a year, it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We can watch our son grow up instead of seeing him a few hours a day and waiting for the weekend.

Instead of waking up to spend 10 hours at an office, we spend most of our days together. Although I work throughout the day, I have time to take a break to read, play, or just hang out with our son. I haven’t missed a special moment, and that to me means everything.

Please tell us your detailed story of how you got into your line of work and how you turned it into a remote career.

Corritta Lewis sits on the side of a boat with emerald green ocean and tall cliffs behind in Thailand

My job isn’t exciting, but it’s independent and can be done from anywhere, which is why I love it. I started in Human Resources in college. 

Fortunately, I was able to get a job in my area of study from school, so I continued my path within Human Resources. Over the last 10 years, I’ve moved from traditional HR to specializing in human resources system management. 

The job itself is independent in nature since it involves working with a system to configure modules, set up tables, and run reports. I could go several days without speaking to someone because I am so immersed in the system.

What does a day in your work life look like? Paint a picture for us :).

My days vary depending on my priorities. I usually work from 9 am to 4 pm, with a working lunch. I am currently working on several projects, so the last few weeks have been hectic. A major goal of mine was to launch a benefits module platform for the company, which went live last week.

When I have project implementations, I work more than usual, and oftentimes the hours are very long. Some days I work until 9 or 10 pm because we have a launch date to meet. Now that the system is live, I can breathe a little more.

I do have to credit my manager for making sure I take time off so I do not become overwhelmed. It’s easy to get caught up in work when all you have to do is open your laptop.

My day usually starts with my standard reports, emails, and getting caught up on some troubleshooting. Currently, I’m focused on creating reports for our leadership team, so I spend a lot of time building reports in Cognos.

One of my major strengths is process improvement and automation, so I meet with other members of the HR team to discuss issues they may be having and come up with solutions.

It’s hard to give a rundown of how my day is because it varies, depending on the priorities. I get pulled in if someone is having a problem with the system or if leadership needs information.

My early mornings are usually dedicated to working on content for our blogs. It can get a little difficult, so I set a goal to complete one blog post per week. Some weeks I achieve it, but most weeks, I don’t. 

Once our son wakes up from his nap around 4:30, I try to dedicate the rest of the day to him. 

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?

The first piece of advice is to not let anyone discourage you. A lot of people project their fears onto others, so they are discouraging you from doing something they do not have the courage to do. Do not believe them. If you believe in yourself, that’s all that matters.

For families wanting to travel with kids, it’s possible. You do not need a lot of money to travel, with the proper planning. We’ve been living in Playa Del Carmen for $900 a month without giving up a lot of our everyday comforts.

Kids are a lot more adaptable than we give you credit for, and the time you will have together will be priceless. You get to watch them grow as people instead of getting passing glimpses due to life getting in the way.

A lot of people ask how we afford to travel and think it is about our income when in reality, we focus on our expenses. Our main priority isn’t just about the money coming in, but the money that goes out. 

You can’t always control your income, but you have a lot of control over your expenses, so limiting the money you spend on frivolous things will add up quicker than you think.

The best way to save money when traveling with kids is to travel slow. The more time we spend at a specific place, the more we’re able to learn to save money. We don’t travel like tourists; we look for local activities, grocery stores, and restaurants.

Facebook groups are a wonderful resource for finding and meeting other people. We’ve connected with other families and even locals from Facebook groups. 

What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone that wants to travel with a similar style?

A small boy stands on a rock in a forest while a woman stands behind him holding his shoulders

We are slow travelers, so we spend 2-3 months at a time at a specific location. We’ve made a decision to only travel to warm places, so we avoid anywhere where the temperature drops before 60 degrees. 

Having grown up in Ohio, we’re not too fond of the cold. Our plan for next year is to spend 3-4 months a year in South Korea and spend the rest of the year traveling through Asia. 

What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?

So far, my favorite places have been Playa Del Carmen and Thailand. We fell in love with the people in our local community, so we started more charitable efforts to help the kids in our neighborhood. They really enjoyed playing with our son, and we wanted to do something to help families, especially with the pandemic. 

Thailand is my wife’s favorite place because she loves elephants. While we were in Thailand, we had the opportunity to go to an elephant sanctuary and interact with them in an ethical way. 

If you’re a woman, person of color, and/or LGBTQ, what should other people who identify similarly (and who haven’t traveled much) know about traveling/nomading?

Two women stand facing each other smiling with ornate flower decorations in the shape of birds behind them

We seem to hit the trifecta in terms of being black, women, and lesbians. You should know that there are people who are ignorant or downright mean, but that’s not a reflection of you, that’s a reflection of their character. 

We’ve experienced some very obvious racism, but we’ve also encountered amazing people who have helped us throughout our journey. Our philosophy is to dislike hate, not the person. 

I understand that people fear what they do not understand, so we try to befriend people. Imagine things from their point of view. If you’ve never encountered a person but have seen images of them on TV, what would you believe?

It’s easy to go to a place of anger, but I try to understand where they are coming from. In most cases, people truly do not understand, and how can you be angry with that? 

There are other times where we have gotten upset because there is no excuse for racism or bigotry in places where there is ethnic diversity.

If you had debt/student loans when you started nomading, how did you handle or think about this, and what advice would you give to other people with a similar situation?

I paid all of my debt before we started traveling, but my wife has student loans that we are still paying off. Traveling has made it easier to pay off her loans because our expenses are not as high. 

If you can work remotely, I recommend finding a low-cost place to live and pay as much on your student loans as possible. Now is the perfect time because there is no interest, so if you cut your expenses by $1,500 a month, put some of it towards your student loans. Before you know it, you will have paid off $12,000 in loans over a year. 

Our expenses went from $2,500 a month in Oceanside, California, to only $1,000 a month here in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We save 75% of our income and use the rest to pay bills. 

What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?

Two women stand holding their small son with two other people next to wear wearing costumes

We’ve had a lot of interesting things happen to us, but our most interesting one is when we were stranded in Cabo San Lucas. I found a great deal from San Diego to Los Cabos, Mexico, when our son was 9-months old. 

We spent a week exploring Cabo, La Paz, and Todos Santos. When it was time to return to San Diego, we waited at the airport for nearly 5 hours before we were told our flight was canceled and we’d be in Mexico another day. 

We weren’t too stressed about the flight, but we didn’t have enough diapers and baby food for our son. It ended up being a great day because we were transported on a bus to a 4-star all-inclusive resort for the night. 

We ended up spending the rest of the day hanging out by the pool near the beach, and they reimbursed us for our son’s necessities. Not only did we get to stay in an amazing resort for free, but we also got vouchers for future flights. 

What started as a canceled flight and being stuck in Mexico turned into a fun night at a resort on the beach. When they took us back to the airport, we got an upgrade to first class, so everything worked out.

For someone interested in getting into your field of work, what’s the best advice you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?

Honestly, it’s something you have to learn by doing. I started working in Human Resources as an intern to learn the basics, then moved to the different areas from there. 

Starting from the beginning helped me become more knowledgeable for employee relations, benefits, and compensation, so I am more proficient in applying the technology needed to help our business partners do their job.

My best advice is to start as a generalist and determine what you like from there. I started in traditional HR and learned it was not for me, so now I work with the technology side of things.

What digital tools do you use for your work?

We mostly rely on Microsoft for work, but I use TickTick to manage our blog. It can be difficult to juggle writing content for our travel blog while working full-time, so having tools help.

Tell us about your content creation journey and share some of your favorite content that people should check out!

Two women stand near a tori gate in Japan on an overcast day

We’ve been working hard over the last eight months to grow our family travel blog. I am proud to say we are now making money, which is a great feeling after so much time and effort. 

Some of my favorite content has yet to be written, but here are some of our most popular articles.

The Ultimate Guide to Las Vegas with Toddlers

Playa Del Carmen with Kids

Tips for Flying with Toddlers

If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?

The most important lesson I would share is to be kind. You’d be surprised how far a simple act of kindness goes. This is the philosophy we live by, and as full-time travelers, it is always our goal to give more than we take. 

This is a quote that is taped onto my laptop.

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” Dalai Lama

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?

A deep passion we have as a family is giving back. It’s important to us to give back to the communities we travel to. We put a lot of time into getting to know the locals in the area and helping in any way we can. 

My advice to others is to be kind. A lot of people around the world have an image of Americans that is not good. When you take the time to speak to someone, smile, or just acknowledge that they exist, it makes a difference.

What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?

I can’t live without my laptop and headphones. Being able to zone out and get into my creative space is crucial.

Dell XPS 13

Sony Headphones

We travel with a toddler, so we have a lot of travel toys for him. That’s one of the most important things when traveling with a young child, you need a lot of entertainment. 

What small change has made a big difference in your life?

A small boy stands in front of a woman on a playground in a fake police cell

Since traveling, I’ve been able to connect with people more than ever before. I’m an introvert, but traveling has forced me to interact with people more. 

I’m working hard to become fluent in Spanish, so I’ve been engaging in more conversations with strangers to improve my Spanish. It’s not that great, but it’s getting better. 

What is your philosophy on being happy and/or finding meaning/purpose in life? And any recommended resources for people navigating this journey?

What I’ve learned over the last year is that happiness is a personal choice. We’ve been sold the idea of the “American Dream,” but it doesn’t exist. 

The notion that happiness is associated with a house, cars, getting married, or whatever society considers acceptable is not reality. 

I know it’s cliche, but the saying the best things in life are free is true. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to value your time and the people you love. 

Happiness to me is being able to spend time with my family, and truly be present as our son grows up.

How can people learn more about you and your work?

You can follow our journey on our Instagram or blog:

Blog: It’s a Family Thing – Travel Blog

Instagram: @_itzafamilything_

We’re working on creating content for our YouTube channel, but you can check us out here: It’s a Family Thing YouTube

 

Lauren Allain
Lauren is a freelance journalist from Seattle. She travels the globe in search of the best grocery stores, bouldering gyms, and snorkeling locations. Her mission at Freedom Is Everything is to help others make the transition into location-independent lifestyles.