Ever Fantasized About Traveling the Globe? These Digital Nomads Made It Happen
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Nora with a tawny eagleThe Globe-Trekking Business Owner

Nora Livingstone, 32, founder of an animal volunteer organization

“Animal welfare has always been a big passion of mine, which is what motivated me to launch my own startup three years ago that connects volunteers to animal conservation programs around the world. This requires a lot of traveling—to places like Sierra Leone, Ireland and Bulgaria—and I typically spend one to two weeks at a time at each new shelter, sanctuary or conservancy we work with.

Shortly after we launched, the $700 rent I was paying back home in Toronto no longer felt like a good investment. Given that an Internet connection is really all I need to run my business, the digital nomad lifestyle seemed like a perfect fit.

Preparing to take off: I took a hard look at my finances, and decided to sell off the things that I couldn’t take with me, like my bike and bookshelves—netting about $500. I also invested in a solid backpack, a good pair of shoes and some well-made outerwear. I was spending a bit more upfront to avoid replacing these things later.

From there, I organized my income streams—from my company, as well as odd jobs like house-sitting and dog-walking—and projected what my on-the-road expenses for things like groceries and my cell phone plan would be. I’m lucky in the sense that my business pays for flights on work-related trips. [Editor’s Note: Animal Experience International is a B Corporation. Some of the fees paid by volunteers cover expenses to arrange placements and develop new placement opportunities.]

Looking at it in black and white actually made the idea not seem so crazy. I was earning enough to cover all my expenses and still set some money aside for retirement and general savings. So off I went!

Life and money on the road: Since starting this adventure in April 2013, my ‘home offices’ have included a yurt in Mongolia, castles in Europe and tents and cabins in national parks throughout the world.

Meanwhile, my money management system is super simple. I use direct deposit and online banking to keep an eye on my funds, and stick to a strict budget. It’s all about trade-offs. Instead of splurging on, say, new clothes, I take advantage of clothing swaps. This, in turn, pads my travel fund, which is beyond worth it to me.

I do sometimes wish I had a place of my own, but I’m honestly loving the ride right now and wouldn’t change a thing. So I’m taking it all day by day, and looking forward to wherever my path leads.

Her advice for aspiring nomads: “Never, ever dip into your savings while traveling. I’m really disciplined about not touching this money since it’ll be my saving grace if I ever find myself in a true emergency. It’s not much, but I’ve managed to keep a cushion of about $1,700 for this purpose.

I also recommend finding creative ways to finance your travels [like] loyalty programs, rewards cards and airline miles…Lastly, try not to compare yourself to other digital nomads that seem more successful than you are. Try and remember that everyone’s walking their own path.”

September 6, 2016

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