Let us introduce James, a digital nomad from Portugal. For over 6 years James has been travelling around the globe while being independent in the job he does along the way. In his interview with Seats2meet magazine, James talks about what it feels like to be a digital nomad and shares some peculiar experience of his.
Hi James, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is James Cave. I’ve been travelling the world for around seven years now and running my own business at the same time. During that time, I’ve lived in France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany, and also travelled through parts of the world like South East Asia, South Africa, and North America.
I’m currently based in Lisbon where I’m working on Portugalist, my latest project, which is a travel website all about Portugal.
What is your background?
Although I lived in Portugal for a few years as a child, I mainly grew up in the South of Ireland. After finishing school, I moved to the UK. There I started learning how to build websites and also about online marketing, which eventually lead to me getting a job at a digital marketing agency. I worked in the industry for several years before deciding to go freelance and travel the world as a digital nomad.
How exactly did you decide to become a digital nomad?
I’d had the travel itch for several years, but I also didn’t want to give up my new career to do the typical backpacker jobs of working in a bar or in a hostel. I liked what I did, and wanted to get better at it. So, I decided to become a freelancer and try to travel the world while continuing in the same line of work.
Prior to hitting the road, I spent a year working on some projects which I thought would be my main source of income while travelling. Within a few months, however, I began offering marketing consultancy and this was how I earned my living for the next few years.
Where did you work and live before you became a digital nomad?
Directly prior to becoming a digital nomad, I lived in Scotland and worked in the marketing department of a large travel startup.
What does is it actually mean to be a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is simply someone who can work from anywhere in the world as long as there’s wifi. The most common jobs are developers, graphic designers, translators, copywriters, life coaches, and marketing consultants.
There’s a difference between a digital nomad and say someone who has bar experience. Someone with bar experience can move to a new country, even temporarily, and work in a bar but they need someone to employ them. A digital nomad doesn’t need to look for a new employer when they arrive: because their work is all done online, they bring their work with them wherever they go.
How often and why did you move from country to country?
It depends a lot on the country. I personally like to travel slowly and stay somewhere for many months at a time, but factors like visa restrictions and the cost of living may mean I’ll only stay somewhere for a few weeks.
In Europe, I can move around pretty easily and may spend up to 6 months in a country before moving on. In other parts of the world, I’m usually a lot more limited.
Where would you normally stay (in a hotel/house/apartments)?
I like apartments best as living and working from a hotel room can become very claustrophobic. The ideal setup is an apartment with an extra bedroom that you can use as an office, so that you have some separation between your work and your leisure.
Of course, money is also a factor and, unless I’m staying somewhere cheap, I don’t usually have the luxury of the extra bedroom. I usually try to stay in a 1-bedroom apartment, but I’ve also spent a lot of time living in hotel or hostel rooms.
Did you ever have local jobs?
I’ve never worked a local job as I’ve always brought my work with me. The only thing that you could consider work (although I wasn’t paid) was the house sitting I did in France. Here, I looked after other people’s homes (and pets) while they were on vacation. In return for walking the dog and feeding the cat, I was able to stay there for free.
This was a fun way to travel, and at one point I ended up looking after a farm of 18 alpacas and 7 cats. That was quite a lot of work, actually. I had to be able to tell them apart and by name, and usually there was around four or more hours of work that needed doing every day.
How many languages do you speak?
I’ve learned some German, Portuguese, Spanish, and French along the way, but at the moment the only language I’m really studying is Portuguese.
That’s the problem with languages, unfortunately. You need to continually use them if you want to keep them.
Were there ever any language-related problems during your travels?
Of all the places I’ve lived, France was probably the hardest country language-wise. I was living in the countryside there, and rarely met anyone who spoke English.
I ended up in quite a few situations where I would have liked to have been able to speak French. Probably the craziest situation was where the French police turned up at my door with a photo of a missing girl and my French phone number, which was one of their leads in the investigation.
That’s definitely the type of situation where you want to be able to speak the language! Thankfully, the girl eventually showed up and I wasn’t left to rely on my terrible French.
What were the most difficult and the most pleasant situations you faced?
The most difficult situation was a 5-month long house sit that was supposed to have internet but turned out to just have a dongle with a limit of 3 GB per month. That’s less than what most people use on their mobile phones every month, and I was going to have to try and run a business with it.
Basically, I had to try and limit the amount of data my computer used which meant preventing it from loading images or videos. If I had to make a client call over Skype, I would drive to the nearest McDonald’s which was the only place nearby that had internet. It was roughly an hour’s drive from the house.
The most pleasant situation was probably working from Koh Lanta in Thailand. That was a very beautiful part of the world to spend time in, and everything was very easy-going there as well.
What is your job at the moment?
At the moment, my main job is running Portugalist. This is a travel website about Portugal, which gives advice on the best things to see and do here. Although I do a bit of everything, my main focus is producing content for the site.
People mainly want recommendations on hotels and things to do. I just produced an article on Portuguese castles that you can stay at, for example, and later I’ll start working on a list of cookery classes that you can do in Lisbon.
I still do the odd bit of marketing consultancy, but Portugalist is my main focus at the moment.
Thank you, James! And good luck on your way!