Digital Nomads
July 2, 2014 by Brennan Gamwell

Digital Nomads are people who have ditched their desk to pursue a life less ordinary, taking work with them while on the go. Digital Nomads don’t always plan their lifestyle, however — sometimes they see an opportunity and just take the leap.

In this post, we hear from a woman with six grandchildren and 15 grandchildren who visits her family on two continents — all while working online. From a young journalist who didn’t land his dream job, but now travels the world as a successful freelance writer. And from one entrepreneur who sought a challenging career right after college, turning to online work because the positions he found at home in Italy weren’t fulfilling. He now travels the world for his clients.

These are three Digital Nomads who are living inspiring, productive lives, doing what they love wherever they want to be.

Gisela von Brunn

70-year-old grandmother Gisela von Brunn swears she’ll continue working “as long as her fingers and head are working.”

After raising her large family, she found her niche in online freelancing in 2010 to keep her busy in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she lived until 2013. Location-independent gigs enabled her to tap all of her talents: Gisela speaks six languages fluently (German, English, Spanish, Dutch, French, and Portuguese) and quickly found work in translation and proofreading for international clients.

Gisela von Brunn

Gisela (center) surrounded by her 15 grandchildren.

For Gisela, freelancing complements her lifestyle: she enjoys the freedom to visit her six children and 15 grandchildren spread across Europe and South America as well as her many friends, and can work while she’s traveling.

Last year, she moved back to Germany without having to give up a single client (in fact, she gained a few new ones after relocating). “Freelancing gives me a wonderful feeling of freedom, while still being able to earn a livelihood,” she explained.

Michael Fraiman

Michael Fraiman_cropWhen 22-year-old journalist Michael Fraiman didn’t land his dream job at the The Chronicle Herald (a prestigious newspaper based in Halifax, Nova Scotia), he decided not to apply to another paper and made a much bigger leap: he moved to South Korea to teach English.

From his base in Busan, Michael hitched inexpensive flights to Southeast Asia and began supplementing his teaching income by writing about the locales he visited.

Ironically, he ended up in the same high-end publications he’d dreamt of a journalism student: The Globe and Mail, BootsnAll, AFAR.com, Busan Haps, Vagabundo (just to name a few).

However, instead of working as a staff reporter, he enjoyed bylines in the travel pages for his freelance articles.

When he left Korea, he decided to “take the long way” back to Toronto, Canada (his hometown). He spent the majority of his savings on a four-month trip around the world, visiting 29 countries across Asia and Europe.

Michael now works as a full-time freelance writer in Toronto while contemplating his next adventure in South America. “Freelancing hasn’t changed what I’m doing, but it has made me realize that I have a lot more time to reach my goals,” he explained.

Michael blogs at A Long Way Back and is releasing an ebook of the same name later this year, which chronicles his travels around the world.

Rocco Baldassarre

Rocco Baldassarre wanted to be challenged professionally and seek adventure right after he graduated from university in Italy — so rather than find a traditional job, he decided that he would work for himself as a search engine marketing specialist.

In just three years, he already has a staff of 15 and frequently travels across Europe and North America to meet with clients. In fact, he’s worked with more than 500 different clients, and has logged hours from ten different countries. Not bad for someone who’s just 25!

Rocco has a few tips for others who are interested in pursuing the Digital Nomad lifestyle like he has:

  • Rocco Baldassarre_copyKeep improving: If you are the best at what you do, companies will keep hiring you.
  • Have a plan: Don’t just jump into work — have a clear outline of your goals before you take a project or start traveling.
  • Plan your income in smart way: Work can come and go, especially when you’re just starting out, so budget and spend wisely.
  • Be available: Clients like it when they can reach you, ask questions, and provide feedback. Have a smartphone and an Internet connection so you can check emails and reply as fast as possible.
  • Be focused on your work: Don’t let people assume you’re not reliable because you don’t work in an office or from a specific location.

Who do you know who lives an inspiring Digital Nomad life? Tell us about them in the comments below!

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