Digital Nomads
June 5, 2014 by Brennan Gamwell

Digital Nomad Liisa Vexler admits that friends, family, and acquaintances in Ottawa, Canada, admire her family’s lifestyle. “When we talk, they tell me, ‘You guys are really living life to the fullest,'” she says.

That’s because Liisa, her husband, and her two sons (ages six and eight) also live part of every year as Digital Nomads in Tamarindo, Costa Rica — a scenic coastal town on the Pacific Ocean. They can walk across the street to visit the beach and swim in the warm Pacific water whenever they want, or watch the sun set beneath the waves from their front window.

How exactly does Liisa pull off moving her family thousands of miles from their home in Canada to the balmy jungle of Costa Rica — all while working remotely?

Liisa’s journey started shortly after she and her husband were married and visited Costa Rica together; they loved the country so much they vowed to return. But Liisa was working a full-time job and, when she gave birth to their first son and then their second, she realized how complicated packing up and moving would be.

Liisa Vexler and her family

What would she do about work? About her sons’ schooling? She had so many questions.

Liisa knew it could be done, however; her husband had been working remotely for an online company since 2000.

“We just need to leverage your skills and figure out what you can do without being accountable to anybody else,” he advised. That way, she could work whenever and wherever she wanted — and she would be free to work, travel, and explore with her whole family.

In 2012, Liisa was a marketing manager for a non-profit organization and had extensive experience in medical writing and research. As a Digital Nomad, she decided to focus on what she was good at and market herself as a medical writer.

“It’s important to consider all the skills you have acquired through your past jobs,” Liisa says. “Pick a single area, and really focus on that.”

Liisa found her niche with medical writing. She quickly found that she could charge more and more, and soon stopped looking for work — because the work found her first.

Once Liisa and her husband had both taken control of their work destinies, they were free to travel and take their two boys with them, with no regrets.

Organizing life in Costa Rica

Liisa works just a few hours a day and spends the rest of the time with her family. “We are such a team. We spend way more time together than the average family,” says Liisa.

And the kids? They thrive when they live down south. Liisa enrolled them in a local school and, when they’re not studying, they take surf classes and play basketball a few times a week. “They’re also trilingual,” explains Lisa, who says they speak English at home. “They go to French school in Canada, but they learn Spanish at school in Costa Rica.”

Liisa is living her dream with her family, and she has a few pieces of advice for other Digital Nomad families who want to explore the world together:

  • For the kids: Many countries have schools that will accept children of expats. You can easily seek out areas in the country of your choice that will accept kids for shorter periods of time.
  • Don’t overthink it: There’s no point in sitting around and thinking about becoming a Digital Nomad for too long. You just need to do it. Make a list of what you need to do to get to that point of freedom.
  • Live your life on your own terms: As far as work goes, you can be whatever you want to be if you believe that’s what you are. “I did that with medical writing,” Liisa says. “You have a lot of skills you don’t know you have — you have to identify those skills and make yourself an expert.”

Are you a Digital Nomad with kids? If so, we’d love to hear your tales and advice in the comments below!

Want to learn more? Liisa blogs at The Family Freedom Project: A practical guide to working and living where you want with your family and bases stories on her experiences living free of the bonds of geography and the clock. She is compiling her favorite pieces of advice into a book of the same name, which will be released fall 2014.

Liisa Vexler - surfing

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

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  • Kathy Pine

    We’ve spent two summers in Costa Rica for extended stays (5 weeks) as well! Not too far from you Liisa – we stay in Nosara. There’s a great school there (Del Mar Academy) we send our 3 kids to. Fun to read about your family!

    • http://familyfreedomproject.com/ Liisa Vexler

      Hi Kathy – I have heard great things about Del Mar Academy. We are heading to Nosara next week for a little weekend getaway. Thanks for connecting!

  • http://familyfreedomproject.com/ Liisa Vexler

    Hi Vijay – It is definitely different than just packing a backpack for yourself and hopping on a plane. But, with a plan, it’s truly not that difficult. Our kids love it and truly feel like they belong in both of our home bases. They are also super comfortable when we travel elsewhere as well.

  • http://about.me/vijaysood Vijay Sood

    Thats the first case of digital nomads with kids that I have found. It sounds easy but takes a lot of planning and courage too. But yes, the kids will going to get a lifetime experience.