Digital Nomads
February 4, 2014 by Brennan Gamwell

For most of us, commuting is a time-consuming nuisance. But for some, commuting to the office can be downright brutal.

“I used to have to fly literally a million miles a year,” says Digital Nomad Jay Shapiro, whose commute was a grueling 21-hour flight from his home in New Jersey to the headquarters of Singapore-based BLUE, a digital advertising agency he founded in 1999. With satellite offices in London, Singapore, Tokyo, China and on both U.S. coasts, Shapiro lived in a narrow seat with no leg room at 30,000 feet and ate unevenly heated meals from an airline commissary.

Hear Jay talk about his commute—and how he ditched it for a virtual office.

“I would typically spend three weeks of every month flying circles around the planet. At the height of the stupidity, in 2007, I had a house in Singapore, a house in San Mateo [CA], a leased flat in west London and a leased flat in Beijing. I’ll never do that again,” Jay says.

The travel—and the multi-day commutes to and from cities in Asia and Europe—was a necessity for Jay’s rapidly expanding business. But frequent travel also meant time spent away from his wife, Alice, and children, Maya and Kurt.

In 2011, tired of recycled air, bland food, drab office interiors and too much time away from family, Jay made the decision to sell BLUE and found Infinite Monkeys, a DIY mobile apps tools site—that he built as an entirely location-independent business, relying on support from a virtual team.

Taking advantage of his newfound freedom to work wherever he wants, Jay and his family began touring the world. They also took their “home” with them, in the form of a custom-built “Eco-Roamer,” a 33-foot camper van fashioned entirely out of sustainable materials. Jay designed the camper to serve as both a second home and mobile headquarters for his blossoming virtual business.

Check out Jay’s mobile digs, the Eco-Roamer.

Jay still works more than 50 hours per week, but from anywhere he wants now—including a glacier in Alaska, stops in southeast Asia and many parts of the United States, as well as beside the lake behind a vacation home he has in Canada.

“I’ve learned that I don’t have to be tied down with a permanent staff or have to be headquartered in one location,” Jay says.

The other upside: Jay never has to worry about the commute. Instead, he’s busy scheduling the next leg of his adventure around the world.

Want to learn more about location-independent work?  Jay shares five tips on working virtually with worldwide teams on the oDesk blog.

Brennan Gamwell

Communications Manager

Brennan Gamwell is a Communications Manager at oDesk, where he focuses on managing the customer reference program to share the inspiring stories of the amazing professionals using the platform. Brennan brings with him extensive experience in non-profit and advocacy communications from his time in Washington, DC, and is just slightly obsessed with grammar and punctuation (especially hyphens). He holds a Bachelor's degree in international communications… read more