10 Questions to Thomas Jakel

We will stick to our word about showing you the world. Well, not exactly, but our fifth digital nomad trainer, Thomas Jakel, will talk about how you can make your dreams come true.

As a nomad who prefers to stay longer at each location, his journey took him here to Tenerife for one month. And because he is a really open minded person, who likes meeting and interacting with new people, he will spill the beans about which tricks can help you to become a digital nomad.

Furthermore, he will speak about how to cycle around the world for fun and about toilets. Are you curious about the combination of this two topics? Then join our Meet Up on December 14th, 6 pm and hear about it for yourself.

Thomas Jakel

Digital Nomad Thomas Jakel

Why did you decide to lead a nomadic lifestyle and what does it mean to you?

To be honest, my life is only semi-nomadic. I started living in different places during my high school exchange in 11th grade, which included a stay in the US for 10 months. During my stay there, I realized how much more I had learned than I would have had I stayed at home. Thus, it was clear to me that staying abroad, learning languages, experiencing and getting to know different cultures, etc. was a great way for me to broaden my horizon. So after university and seeing that I wasn’t interested in getting into the normal career path, I joined a friend in the effort to build a lifestyle business. The goal was to earn 1000 bucks a month and have the freedom to be anywhere in the world.

How do you earn an income now?

My main source of income over the past years has been my outsourcing company, Strandschicht, which is a Virtual Personal Assistant Agency with 30+ full time employees. However, I also had some income, or at least had travel paid for by other companies. I also started projects such as a production company, a social business in the area of sanitation and most recently a new Info-product business.

How many hours do you work on average on a usual day?

That’s difficult to say and really depends on the time in my life.

When I am in Berlin, my work hours can range anywhere from one or two hours up to twelve hours. When I am working on a project that I am excited about I am working probably up to 60 hours a week.

The thing is that most of my “work” doesn’t feel like work to me….at least not as I remember work from university or internships that I had. That was grueling and awful. Now, the only time I feel I have to do serious work is when I have to face bureaucracy. =)

When I am on the road it could be that I work two hours a week or whenever I manage to have internet. So yeah, anywhere from 2 hours a week up to 60 hours when I am in the flow mode.

What is your approximate travel budget for a year? Any tips on how to lower it?

Also difficult to answer. I have never really set a budget for my travels. For example: On my first nomad escape in 2010, when I stayed in Brazil for half a year my budget was still limited to 1000 Euros a month for the first three months. Then it increased to 2000.

In 2012, when I cycled to India with a few friends, my budget was actually limited by my friends’ budgets. One of them had only about 450 Euros per month so we decided to jointly camp anywhere. We would sleep at gas stations, at the side of the road, do Couchsurfing, or strangers would take us in. Anything. Sometimes, also hotels when we decided it was time for a warm shower again. So I never hit my monthly limit for travels. But it would have also been somewhere between 1500 and 2000 Euros a month.

Last year, I hitchhiked to Pakistan. We filmed the entire tour and had pre sold the material to a production company and TV station in Germany. So many of the expenses were covered via our production budget. This kind of thing I have taken advantage of quite often by now.

So if you want to lower your expenses for traveling there are a few things you can do:

  • Travel like a local – hitchhike or take a bicycle (a great way to get to know places), longboard or whatever human-propelled means of transport you can lay your hands on. This will save you quite some money.
  • Travel slowly….the longer you can stay in a place, the less you will spend on transportation. Also, you can find cheaper accommodation, find the local joints to eat in, make local friends and avoid all the tourist traps. Also, chances are that you will attract locals who want to show you their country, invite you and just make you feel at home (this happened a lot in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and even Hungary and Romania).
  • Be flexible. I guess this is a no brainer, but if you have time and can choose any flight of any time then you can take advantage of the best deals and won’t have to pay a fortune during high season
  • Connect your travel to a project – this is what I have done a few times now. Traveling to India on a bicycle for a good cause (and making a film about it, plus having a crowdfunding campaign) got us a few sponsors for our gear, such as super professional bicycles. Hitchhiking to Pakistan for a good cause and making yet another documentary about it, paid for my visas, a bunch of gear, hotels and hostels and the flight back. Last year, I flew to Tunisia, Egypt and India for projects that were partially paid for and I could extend my stay for my own pleasure. Also, if you are a travel blogger then you can also try to get sponsorships.
  • Stay with friends or friends of friends and make good use of your network. A friend invited me last year to stay with her for a week in Senegal. I said yes. Another friend of mine chipped in and provided free tickets to fly there. Yet another friend of mine is always networking with airline people because they can assign standby tickets to friends and relatives. So she usually flies very, very cheaply. Is this luck? Maybe…but it is also networking and looking for great opportunities to see places.
  • Get on sites like couchsurfing and warmshowers. Or you could also look at home-sitting if you want to stay in a nice place but not pay rent.
  • Travel in the off season
  • Travel to countries with low costs of living. South East Asia and India are good starting points, and also many countries in Central and South America.

Okay, these are but a few options to travel cheap(er). I am sure there are plenty more and you can ask me all about them in the comments. =)


What would you consider to be one of the best tools for becoming a digital nomad?

Okay, two tools:

First, a location-independent source of income – ideally one that doesn’t require that you sit in front of your laptop every day to get paid. That could be an online business but also rental income.
Second, openness, awareness and presence to be able to fully appreciate the journey.

Do you have any advice for those starting a digital nomad life?

Hmm, I have much great advice 😉 but I am not sure if it is applicable to everyone.

One thing is certain though – there are many ways to travel the world. You don’t have to become a digital nomad to travel. You could go for work and travel somewhere. You could live on a shoestring budget. You could be a busker.

I guess these are all interesting ways to get to now this beautiful planet.

But so is seeing the world as a digital nomad.

I guess if I had to start again from scratch, I would set up a small business at home, hustle my behind off to get it off the ground and to earn 1000 Euros a month, and then I’d pack my bag and go to some digital nomad hotspot to acclimatise myself to this lifestyle.

How long have you been traveling and where have you been? Do you have a favourite place in the world?

I have been traveling on and off. As mentioned above, my first longer stay abroad was in the US for 10 months back in 2002. Then I did my civil service year in Honduras. A great experience that allowed me to travel Central America and learn Spanish. During my studies, I stayed in Paris for 6 months. Up until then it was all in the normal “career” path I’d been on.

Since becoming an entrepreneur in 2010, I have lived in Brazil for 6 months. I hitchhiked from Portugal back to Germany, stayed in Morocco twice, Cycled to India, hitchhiked to Pakistan, flew to India a few more times, cycled to Estonia and motorbiked to Finland this summer.

There were a few more trips but either I forgot or they were no longer than one or two weeks. My favorite city is Berlin thus far, but I am looking forward to finding a new favorite. My other favorite places thus far are Jericoacoara in Brazil and Goa in India. Hospitality-wise, I loved travelling Iran and Turkey. But then again….I don’t have very strong favorites. I enjoyed most places I travelled to.


What is your travel frequency? How often do you change where you stay and do you have a home base?

So far my home base has been Berlin. Currently, I am looking for a second and maybe even a third homebase. After traveling little in 2013, I decided to not let another year pass without travelling at least a few months. And travel to me could also mean just living in a different place for a few weeks and months.

How do you manage the distance from family and friends? Do you miss having an established home and a wardrobe that’s without weight limit?

If I can establish certain routines e.g. going for a run and having a quiet place to meditate in the morning, I am fine.
I don’t really miss family and friends that quickly. Mostly, I am at peace and happy with myself. Also, I make new friends easily.

Can you imagine keeping up the digital nomad lifestyle for the rest of your life?

Not as a “hardcore” nomad. I am not someone who likes to rush from one stop to the next. But if I have four or six weeks here and then two or three months there, I don’t see why it should become tiring. If however, it meant just running around and visiting one site after the other, always updating social media channels and telling everyone about how great (my) life is, I’d be tired of it after just a few weeks I guess. I guess time will tell. But for now travelling is an essential part of what I want to experience in life.

Are you a digital nomad with experience? Then you might want to read our blog post “Hey you, digital nomad! I want to offer you something