Tag Archives: travel

How to prepare for life as a digital nomad (without freaking out)

22 Apr
The whiteboard of endless lists

The whiteboard of endless lists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There comes a time in every soon-to-be digital nomad’s life when they think:

‘HOLY CRAP! I HAVE SO MANY FREAKING THINGS TO DO! Where do I start? How will I sell all my junk? Why am I doing this? And why did I choose NOW to start watching Breaking Bad? So many episodes, so little time! WAAAA!’

Welcome to my world.

Above is a piccy of my lovely little whiteboard. It looks fairly tame, sure, but it’s been updated about 15 times in the past 2 weeks. As soon as a task is done and rubbed off, I think of another thing to do and it fills back up again.

Let’s just say I’m a wee bit overwhelmed.

On the flip side, it’s thrilling. Every time I tick off a task, I’m inching towards my new life as a digital nomad. The weeks are whizzing by and I can’t wait to hop on the plane and see where I wind up.

Here I share my top tips for getting ready to work overseas – wherever that may be. I hope this list helps you avoid the WAAA! moments:

Sort out your stuff

So, you’ve got a room or apartment full o crap. Eeeexcellent. This is every neat freak’s dream. It’s time to sort that shit out, my friend.

Begin by grabbing some bin bags or boxes, a marker, labels or paper strips and clearing space on the floor. Going room by room (maybe make a goal of one room a day to avoid overwhelm), sort everything into piles:

  • Pack
  • Bin
  • Sell
  • Donate

Then put each pile into a bin bag or box, labelling it accordingly. As soon as you see your stuff start to move out and onto a new life. you’ll feel invigorated about doing the same!

Cancel your accounts

Depending on how long til you go, you’ll need to start cancelling your accounts such as your mobile phone and internet, electricity and gas, library and gym memberships, tolling and any other regular payments. Ensure you advise the company of the day you’re leaving the country…cos cold showers and no phone ain’t fun.

Set up new accounts

Think about how you’ll work as a digital nomad, and the tools and tech you’ll need to thrive. I’m still researching this, but I know I’ll need to sort out my cloud storage, get a VoIP connection so I can keep my Aussie number – or upgrade my Skype account, and find an organisation that will divert my mail and email it to me. I’ll write a post once I’ve worked these little things out.

Get a visa

Some countries offer visa exemptions, others ask you to apply before you arrive, while some (like Indonesia) grant you a visa on arrival. If that’s the case, you may find you can only get a longer visa (i.e. 6 months rather than 3) if you apply before you arrive. So visit the website or office of the relevant embassy in your city to get the down low.

Just be aware that there can be a backlog. You don’t want your passport sitting under a pile of untouched applications when you’re due to fly out in three days time.

Get an International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a handy little document to get. It allows you to drive in over 150 countries, so you’re not hopping around illegally on your standard licence. In Australia, the NRMA (and other motoring groups) issues 12 month IDPs for $39.

Just be aware that if your normal licence expires before the 12 months, your IDP does too. My licence expires in 6 months, so I have to wait til the new one comes through before I apply for the IDP. Saves the hassle of renewing it from somewhere in the middle of South-East Asia.

Get travel insurance

Sigh. I know. It’s a pain in the derriere. But it’s worth forking out a few bucks to save your butt. When shopping around for travel insurance, look for annual rates. And ensure it includes emergency evacuation (especially if you’ll be in remote places) and any adventure sports or driving you plan to do.

Throw a party!

I know, it’s really tempting to just take off with minimal fuss. Especially if you’re an introverted nomad like me. But show your friends you care by organising one or a few farewells. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but people will appreciate the chance to buy you a drink and wish you well. Besides, who doesn’t love a party?

Alrighty, that’s all I can think of for now. Because Breaking Bad is calling and it’s been a long day of sorting out my crapola to sell or ditch.

What are your tips for getting ready to roam? I’d love to know! Just leave a comment below.

 

Starting out as a digital nomad – a lesson in living lightly

13 Apr
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This tiny bag will soon hold everything I own in the world.

 

I didn’t think I had a lot of stuff. I rarely buy anything and move around so much that I’ve purged piles of crap over the years (and probably a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have ditched. Oops, sorry Nanna.)

But I’ve just spent half an hour looking around my room, then at my teeny 50 litre backpack, then back to the room, then back to the backpack. How the HECK will I reduce all that stuff to the bare essentials? How will I have enough possessions to last 3, 6, 12, 150 months, as I roam around the globe? Can I take my beloved blender? Should I embrace the frizz and forget the hair straightener? Can I still satisfy my inner girl with just a few basic, bland outfits? Will I really wear wedges in Vietnam? What if I decide to flee Asia and explore Europe, but only have yoga pants and el cheapo market singlets? I only just bought some beautiful bed linen for my boudoir (which I can now call a boudoir thanks to said bed linen) – what a waste… 

Moving overseas is an epic lesson in living lightly. 

It’s so tempting to cling to things. To think we really need items that sit around collecting dust. To convince ourselves that survival is about having an outfit, a utensil, a guidebook for every destination, every situation. 

But it ain’t.

As I start to simmer down my belongings to what will fit into a baby-sized backpack, I’m realising that it’s important to strip back.

Even if you’re not planning an overseas adventure, it’s a great experiment to live with little. Get by with what you need – and not much else. We surround ourselves with stuff, security for the ‘what ifs’ that never arrive. We celebrate milestones by giving gifts bought in a hurry at vacuous malls. 

It reminds me of this quote by Dave Ramsey: 

“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”

A tad cynical, sure, but bloody true!

I’m still struggling to work out what to take on my travels. I’ll be hitting up a few digital nomad blogs in coming weeks for ideas – and will share my eventual packing list with you here.

What are you tips for travelling and living lightly? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Newcomer’s guide to Mantown…I mean Manly

11 Apr

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There’s a magical place brimming with sun-kissed surfers and gorgeous girls. A peninsula that’s packed on weekends with grinning tourists, and refreshingly quiet through the week.

You can knock back a cold one while watching the waves, sprint along the shoreline, get dumped under a swirling swell, sip a creamy coffee at a beachfront cafe, or don your heels and hit a nightclub for what’s sure to be a ridiculous, fun-filled evening.

If you’re open to it, you’ll find friends easily. One week after landing in Manly, I walked into a cafe and struck up a conversation with a stranger about grammar. He is now one my closest friends, part of my little local tribe (and he runs the uber cool 100Strong Training kettlebell studio in a back alley).

That place is Mantown. I mean Manly. I mean Mantown, as the laid-back locals call it. Cos there really are a lot of men.

What’s special about the northern beaches

If you’re visiting Sydney and have an extra day up your sleeve, hire a car or jump on a ferry and get yo ass over to the northern beaches. The seemingly endless stretch of coastline is simply stunning.

And while it’s not easy to hug the beaches as you drive north (not as easy as it is in Western Australia at least), since the roads are set back, cruising up the coast with the tunes pumping and a panting dog with its head out of the window is a must-do (dog optional).

The northern beaches are also sacred. Situated on the land of the Guringai people (the traditional land owners), Manly and surrounds are steeped in rich Indigenous history. Some say it’s one of the most spiritual spots in Australia. Maybe that’s why so many people feel at home here, almost immediately. I know I did.

Is Manly expensive?

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world. And so, by default, Manly is a pricey place. Rent can cost anything from $500 for a two-bedroom apartment (I was paying $330 a week to flat-share a two-bedroom, top floor apartment with views of Sydney Harbour). You may be able to find cheaper rent in a larger flat-share, granny flat or surrounding suburb such as Manly Vale or Freshwater.

A weekly shop is likely to set you back at least $80-$100 per person. I skip the supermarkets and pick up fresh fruit, veg, seeds, nuts, eggs and superfoods at the Frenchs Forest Organic Markets. It’s always fun sampling produce, saying hi to new friends and tucking into fresh foods. And even though organic food can be expensive, it lasts longer in my fridge and tastes far better than supermarket stuff.

Manly also has a stack of cafes – a large soy latte is around $3.80 – $4.50, while a big breakfast can cost between $12 and $25, depending on where you go. Insitu crafts delicious breakys – and their Rocket Boost cacao and goji berry smoothie is unbeatable.

I also love Barefoot Coffee Traders. They have two spots, which I like to dub Big Foot (on Wentworth Street) and Little Foot (a popular hole-in-the-wall on Whistler St, next to the Council Carpark).

Three Beans on Darley Road is another fave. Be early to grab an outdoor table and people watch in the sunshine.

The only downside is that many Manly cafes are yet to offer free Wi-Fi. Actually, that’s an Oz-wide problem – internet speed and access is a little on the crappy side.

Is Manly safe?

If suburbs were schoolkids, Manly would be the popular kid who charms the teachers and causes havoc at the back of the bus.

It’s beautiful and serene during the day, but at night has a wild and reckless streak. As a result, there’s a 2am lockout on Friday and Saturday nights. That means that if you’re not inside a bar writhing and grinding, you’d better hop in a cab (if you can get one) and high-tail it home.

You’ll also notice hoardes of teenagers descend on the Corso (pedestrian area) on weekends. They’re usually pumped up with booze and out to let loose. As a woman, I’ve never felt unsafe – although a guy did grab me on the dance floor at the Manly Beach Club when I refused to dance with him (thankfully my seven-foot-tall glamazon friend grabbed his collar and threw him across the room. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but she did give him a what for).

I often walk home alone after a night out. Even at 3am, the streets are packed with people buying greasy feeds or stumbling home. Up in Little Manly where I’ve been staying, it’s filled with families and I’ve never seen or heard anything dodgy.

Manly in a nutshell

So – in my experience – Manly is a magical place. It’s sunny, fun and the perfect escape from the city. It’s got a rocking surf break, fab food, quality coffee and it suits families, couples and singles.

It’s also a popular hub for tourists, and there are plenty of backpacker hostels to support the many transient travellers who pour in throughout summer.

Sure it’s expensive, and nights out can get loose, but Manly is a charmer.

Have you been to Manly? What was your experience?

 

 

Fighting the fear to travel

10 Apr

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I’m quitting my life.

In Sydney, everything is easy. A little tooooo easy. Too freakin’ comfortable. It’s beautiful, abundant, brimming with opportunities. But I’m bored. And edging on ungrateful…which ain’t good.

And after spending a month in Vietnam, I’m yearning to spread my flippers and sample more.

So off I go on my gray whale migration. Heading north to California, then Bali to check out the digital nomad community and get my body back into balance. Then I float across to Chiang Mai in Thailand, and finally Vietnam. The plan after that is…well…there kinda isn’t one.

Eep.

I’m scared.

Weally, weally fwightened.

Only really extroverted, confident people can pack up and make a red hot go as roamers. Right?

I’m a super sensitive soul. I’m not flamboyant, I take time to open up to people (after which time I am flamboyant. Just invite me to karaoke.) And I tend to worry about stuff.

One thing working in my favour is that I like my alone time. Of course I crave contact with others, but I’m genuinely happy in my own company. As a writer, it’s all part of the gig. I like time to reflect and think and feel deeply. So I’m not worried about being alone while I meander around.

Maybe I’m afraid of finding my self. Or not finding her. Or being in a dangerous situation. Winding up broke. Missing marriages and babies back home. Not putting down roots or making real, lasting connections with people.

But I know the only way I’ll make it as a gray whale is to JUST. GO.

I have a whiteboard with a million tasks scribbled on it. Each day, I pick a task and tick it off. It’s all I can do. If I give myself time to question my travel plans, it may not happen.

I’m here to prove that even we introverted folk, we sensitive souls, we can roam. We can do GREAT, GRAND things. We can have an EPIC existence. We can push and surprise and be alone and fall down and laugh about it…and then cry about it. We can do it while being a little bit weird.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. This mammoth migration.

Here are my flippers. They’re stretched out wide. Let’s go swimming!

Vietnam – the land of suntanned smiles

7 Mar

Some sensitive souls struggle in hot, heaving places. India, for instance, is incredibly overwhelming. Stunning but stifling.

Vietnam is a soothing surprise.

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Amid the tooting mopeds, giant sleeper buses, dusty roads and heaving street stalls, there is a sense of solace. Peace in the pace.

Anxiety melts away. Smiles as wide as the soft sunset. Quiet enterprise. A low, comforting hum swirling through the vast valleys and twisting alleys.

A surprising start

Even her heaving metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, is a delightful discovery. Stepping onto a local bus without proper change, the locals rushed to pay my way. An introduction to the warmth and kindness of these sweet people.

A must-see is the war museum in HCMC. It’s a tough attraction. The cold hard truths of the American War are documented in death toll notices, reports of ambushes on innocent villagers, and heartbreaking images of deformed babies – caused by chemical warfare. I had to leave that room, feeling ill and incredibly sad. As I did, I noticed a bright shiny Coca-Cola fridge, filled with bottles of the ice-cold brown beverage. Another kind of chemical warfare…

Despite its horrific history, Vietnam is vibrant. Keen to crack on. Welcoming to camera-touting tourists. Proud and positive.

Discovering Da Lat

I took the top bunk on a comfortably cool and cosy sleeper bus. Lulled by the local love songs played on an endless loop, I looked outside and recorded these thoughts:

Mountains meet valleys. Little limbs, scarved necks cycle out of dusty school yards. A giant giraffe statue beside a shop with grimy glass windows, where weary wedding dresses and forgotten frocks hung.

Masked smiles on scooters, faded mint and butter yellow hued homes for miles. Abandoned building pipes, half-built blocks…what horrors were stamped on these streets mere decades ago?

French windows, French impressions, almost out of place in these quaint villages. Crumbling abodes like dollhouses, their fronts blown open, abandoned rooms on show.

Sun sets behind temples, bus teeters over twisting turns, head-ons avoided by mere millimetres.

Freshly bathed babes play in pyjamas. A sea of fluttering trousers spills out of a pristine church, a magenta sky illuminating its steeple.

Seven hours later, a panel of colourful disco lights flood the cabin. Not to be outdone, Da Lat puts on its own Vegas-style light show, with kitschy flashing signs and LEDs in the shape of animals and roses. Gigantic plush hotels with manicured lawns meet manicured streets.

In a dark alley, the Pink Hotel awaits. The effervescent Mr Rot beams – “Miss Kat! Come in! You have the honeymoon suite – big balcony! Most excellent view!”

Most excellent it is. My $10 retreat. With an endless vista stretching out to the edges of the highlands.

Secret tour, humble hosts

Jump on the back of a bike – a geared, clutchless motorbike – and zigzag through steep coffee plantations, vibrant green rice paddies, past immaculate school children screaming ‘HELLOOOO!’

See silk spun from tiny cocoons onto spinning wheels. Taste the freshest fruits – milk apple, custard apple, dragon fruit, jack fruit, tomato apple – and savour the sweet treats offered by generous stall owners in remote markets. Curious eyes peer out under helmets.

Ushered out of the heat and into a hut – the humble home of a local lady with thick tanned skin and a crinkly smile. She and her friends speak one of the 50+ dialects that span the land, and so we connect with smiles, nodding, showing, pointing. A fermented ginger treat turns out to be a concoction mixed with rat. Local man with broken English explains the local culture – girls are married at 10, her family must buy her husband, and their prosperity depends entirely on coffee.

Join a vigorous volleyball game on a pitch marked with wire and with a net strung between two tree trunks. Locals cycle off the road to watch, bikes are abandoned in the sand, babies propped up on scooter seats.

Darkness creeps across the field. Back on bike, spluttering in the dark.

Back to Da Lat. Back to the quaint, quirky town. Back to a feast of what looks like chicken but turns out to be dog, cat and frog. Back to a karaoke bar, where proud locals sing slow songs and couples puff up their chests and slow dance gracefully across the polished floor. Where we sing Summer of 69 and ABBA hits, as men present us with glittery fake flowers.

I love this land. Her fresh pho. Her fragrant herbs. Her delightful delicacies and proud, positive people. Her open arms. Her gentle yawning highlands. Her kindness and her curiosity.

I am transfixed.

This is Vietnam.

Layover in no man’s land

3 Mar

 

I’m writing this from an eerie airport lounge in Kuala Lumpur.

It’s dim, chilly, vast.

Every so often, the sound of phlegm being spat up in a sink penetrates my headphones.

A Muslim man wades past in freshly pressed linen pants.

Just hours ago, I was in my living room in Sydney, munching veggie sticks with my trivia buddies. The reigning champions, we were celebrating our winning streak with wine and snacks. Rain rattled the windows. Boats see-sawed in the rough harbour. We laughed at silly things.

A horn tooted, bag flung over shoulder, cab to the airport…

And now here I am.

Alone.

In a Malaysian lounge serving congee and coffee from a push-button machine.

I could be anywhere.

Weary, bleary-eyed travellers warily watch one another. I wonder where each one is from, where they’re going, if they’re with a lover or colleague or brother. Are they heading off on holiday – or home to bad news or an exhilarating announcement?

How odd that we are all here together. Strangers in this sterile no man’s land, sipping our sweetened coffee while screens silently stream the film The Impossible, about the 2004 Thailand tsunami.

I wouldn’t want to have a ticket to Koh Samui right now…

In just a few hours, I’ll be in Vietnam.

A three-week wander awaits.

No plan, no bookings, no clue.

The Sa Pa mountains are calling.

My sensitive soul is seeking solace.

India is a distant memory. I need be awakened again.

I’m grateful that I am free to travel. It’s a privilege. And I promise not to waste it.

xx

I try – leaping without looking

7 May

Oh, hey blog! It’s been a while. Apologies for the neglect, but I’ve been doing something just a wee bit exciting…

Last week, I quit my job. Without a whole lot of thought. I also bought the last items on my India packing list. And I snapped up the domain for my newly-launched business, Kat Tate Copywriting! I even have the certificate to prove it (apologies for the dodgy shot):

In essence, I invested in my future. My freedom. I launched myself off the cliff and free-fell. Without knowing where I would land. It was a week of being courageous, of listening to a little voice that told me to jump. And ignoring the voice that said, ‘But what if you fail? What if you have no money? What if…’

My plan is to freelance in June, jet off to India & Nepal for a month-long health and wellness quest in July and return refreshed and ready for my next adventure.

Here’s to living fearlessly. Here’s to leaping without looking. What a feeling!

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