5 Questions to Karen Banes

Another family-digital-nomad-story at “30 Digital Nomad Stories: How to Work Remotely and Travel the World”. Karen Banes and her husband are leading a digital nomad life with her small family, thereby allowing their children to grow up while travelling and enjoying lots of unconventional experiences. Karen is earning an income as a freelance writer and author, and advises persons to have some passive income and a skill set that would allows them to work remotely.

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

I’ve always loved to travel and have lived, worked and studied in several different countries. When my husband and I had children, we decided to settle down for a while as a family, albeit in a foreign country (my children were born in Spain and spent their early years there). I kept thinking about how great it would be to travel with the children, home-school them and raise them as global citizens. When they were eight and ten, we took them out of school to go traveling for a year or so. That was about five years ago and we are still living the digital nomad lifestyle now.

Our lifestyle has given us tremendous freedom as a family, and allowed our children to have experiences they just couldn’t have through short-term travel. I wrote about the advantages of being a digital nomad family, in this article The Educational Value of Long Term Travel With Kids.

How do you earn an income now?

I’m a freelance writer, editor and author. It’s relatively easy to earn a living online now, but income isn’t necessarily the most important aspect of your finances if you want to be a digital nomad. It’s important to be as debt-free as possible before you start. And if you own a property that you can rent for a profit while you travel, you’re in a much stronger position.

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

It’s impossible to say because it depends on where you’re traveling. A year in Western Europe will require a very different budget from a year in South East Asia.

My best tip for stretching your budget is to try and live like the locals. It’s tempting to go traveling and do all the touristy things but you’ll spend as though you’re on vacation. When I used to visit Spain as a tourist, I spent a fortune on going out in the evenings. When I moved there I realized the Spanish eat out at lunch time, and get a fantastic three-course ‘Menu del dia” for a few euros. If they go out in the evening it’s often just for a drink (at a local bar, not a tourist bar) then home for a late supper. You can’t be a digital nomad and live like a tourist. That would be an expensive and unsatisfying lifestyle.

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

A skill set that can earn you money consistently, working primarily online, that involves you doing something you enjoy. Digital nomads might be writers, photographers, web designers, or online marketers. I always say, I can run my office out of my laptop bag, and the only major piece of equipment in there is my laptop.

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

  • Do your research.
  • Stay flexible.
  • Get (or stay) debt-free if you can.
  • Build a skill set that can earn you money online. Try it out and refine it before you go traveling.
  • Building an online or freelance business as part of your day-to-day life is a great way to test your income generating ability and save money for your travels.
  • Design a lifestyle that works for you and refine it as you go along. It might be constant traveling. It might be finding three places you love and using each as a base for a few months of the year. Everyone is different.