The Digital Nomad opportunity sort of just landed in my lap. I began working with National Geographic Traveler, as a freelancer, four years ago. But it's not always easy to travel to work!
DIGITAL NOMAD PROFILE
NAME: Robert Reid
TYPE OF DIGITAL NOMAD: Freelancer
NAME OF THE COMPANY: National Geographic Traveller
CURRENT LOCATION: Portland, Oregon
NEXT LOCATIONS: Hong Kong and Russia
FAVORITE LOCATION: Mexico
TRAVELING: Usually alone, sometimes with a photographer
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: Varies wildly
When did you decide to become a Digital Nomad and why? What did you do before?
I’ve been in travel publishing for 20 years. After 15 years at Lonely Planet, I started working with National Geographic Traveler – speaking, writing, being an “expert” on a couple of their trips, even working on a video series for textbooks. When the previous Digital Nomad left, Andrew Evans, they asked me to take the position. So it's my actual title.
I also do freelancer work for other publishers. Being a Digital Nomad for them has totaled anywhere from 20% to 65% of my annual workload. It varies.
Tell me more about your current job. How did you start?
It sort of just landed in my lap. I began working with National Geographic, as a freelancer, four years ago. A few years ago, they asked me to be their Digital Nomad when Andrew Evans left the role. In terms of writing, I’m a relatively rare travel writer who studied journalism. I knew I wanted to write from the beginning, and to write about travel, long ago. Somehow I’ve made it work out this long. I've written for the NY Times, CNN, Lonely Planet, ESPN etc. Who knows what's next?
Your job title is Digital Nomad. What do you do exactly?
The Digital Nomad is a travel writer freelance position for Nat Geo, originally set up by Andrew Evans. I've been in the role three years. I write a series of articles and share photos/tweets, sometimes Facebook video, on one destination that has some partnership with Nat Geo. A few months ago I went to Mexico, wrote and shared four articles, under the "Digital Nomad" column of their website.
What kind of tools do you use to be productive? How many hours per week do you usually work?
I research articles like I’d research any articles – I read a book of a destination before I go (history or a novel or a travelogue), watch relevant movies, look up articles on the destinations and travel articles. I try to find the “conversation” in place – then figure out how I’ll add to the conversation with what I write.
How do you choose the next locations?
Digital Nomad destinations are picked by National Geographic Traveler. Otherwise, I tend to pitch stories to publishers.
Which are your passions? What do you do in your free time?
Listen to records, loudly.
What’s the worst part of being a Digital Nomad?
In terms of my job role as Digital Nomad, it’s the same problem as any freelance job – no job security, no benefits, no idea what you’ll be doing in two, three, four months. I couldn't imagine literally being truly nomadic all the time, as some do. I like having a "home." Even if I'm not there half the year.
What’s your advice to somebody who wants to become a Digital Nomad?
Honestly? Have a partner who has a lot of money. Or study business, work for five or more years, save money – then go. I’ve been pretty successful in travel publishing for two decades. I’ve got to see a lot, meet a lot of people. I’m very lucky. But I don’t bother having a saving’s account. I have money due to me now, but – currently – I have no means to pay rent in a week and a half. If it doesn’t come, and it often doesn’t come on time, I won’t be able to. It's a constant stress. That’s a reality people should know about too.
The best "nomads" are ones that have steadier work that ISN'T about their travels. I know people who do programming for tech companies and travel while working on it. That makes good sense to me. For me, I'm travel to work. Which means there's no breaks on the road. Also, less pay generally.