5 Questions to Jenny Shen

  • Age: XX

  • Years as a DN: 4

  • Profession: Freelance UX Consultant & UI Designer, Co-Organizer of Ladies that UX Amsterdam
  • Nationality: Chinese

  • Stay in touch:
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Jenny Shen started her digital nomad life with an internship in India in 2012, and decided to add more destinations to her “travel resume.” She enjoys the freedom and flexibility of her nomadic entrepreneurship with freelance UX/UI design work. Being open, communicative and reading a lot of travel books, are the main things that Jenny recommends for starting a digital nomad life. Read more in our series “30 Digital Nomad Stories: How to Work Remotely and Travel the World.”

Why did you decide to begin a nomadic life and what does it mean to you?

Since I was young, I’ve always dreamed of travelling and living in different countries. The wanderlust began with a two-month international internship in India in 2012. It was an eye-opening experience and I thought it would be great if I could add more places to my “travel resume”. Being nomadic fits my entrepreneurial personality because it gives me a challenge every day and provides more flexibility and freedom than a conventional job.

To me being a nomad is not just about going to somewhere warm and taking advantage of lower cost of living, which is what a lot of the digital nomads do now. For me it’s about experiencing different ways of life and work the way I want to work. It’s also about making connections with local people, understanding their culture and trying different things. It’s about balancing life, travelling and work.

How do you earn an income now?

Mostly freelance UX/UI design work. I have clients from Singapore, Taiwan and Canada. I’ve also taken contract UX/UI roles from time to time.

What is your approximate travel budget for a year? Any tip to lower it down?

Depends on where I go it’s between $150 to $2000 USD per month. I lower the costs by living or travelling to places with low cost of living, couchsurfing, cooking my own meals and spending less on transportation. I also don’t like to buy souvenirs or things in general because it adds to baggage weight, which costs extra to check-in. In where the cost of living is higher, I stay with Couchsurfing hosts or in Airbnb rooms or hostels that have a kitchen where I can make my own meals.

For transportation, money-saving tips are country-specific, but in general I buy low-cost flights and early bird train or bus tickets. To keep the cost low, I plan ahead and sacrifice flexibility. Instead of taking taxis, I save money by using public transportation, ridesharing or UberX, on-demand taxis which are usually cheaper than local taxi rates. Choosing less destinations and staying longer at each place also reduce the travelling time and tickets one has to buy.

What would you consider to be one of the best tools for becoming a Digital Nomad?

Digital Nomads is a great, supportive community for digital nomads. One can use different channels in the Slack chat to ask questions about a city you’re intending to go to or meet up with the digital nomads there. There are also channels for specific topics, e.g. cheap-flight-tips, design, legal, freelancer and nomad-beginner.

Do you have any advice for those starting a DN life?

  • Make a list of places you want to go and life goals.
  • Read travel books and stories to get inspiration.
  • Talk to people that have been or are a digital nomad now.
  • Understand what you want – have the freedom to work wherever you are, be a full-time freelancer, have the experience to work in multiple places, or something else?

After you have some clue, just book your ticket! Once that is done trust that you will figure out everything else. Of course, having a plan will help but taking the first step is always the most scary and often the hardest.