Portfolio Site: Hugh Blaisdell
Instagram Account: This Is Not A Vacation
When did you start your Instagram and why?
I just started a travel Instagram and backloaded it with all the best pictures of the last 2 years of working on the road. I wanted to give my viewers an accurate account of what its really like to be a digital nomad. #nofilter
What can our readers find on your Instagram?
After seeing unrealistic images of digital nomads working directly on the beach I decided to start my own Instagram account. This shows the scrappy and somewhat humorous realities of being a digital nomad.
Where was home prior to you starting the nomad life? and do you still go back and how often? how easy is it to return home whilst roaming the world?
I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts but I could easily call New York City my home. I lived and worked there as a Visual Designer for the large advertising agencies. I visit every year to see friends and interview with more agencies.
How would you describe the term nomad life in your own words?
ExPats live in foreign countries, nomads are always on the move. I see them living in two or more places a year, only going home to visit.
When did you start the nomad lifestyle and why? How long have you been living this lifestyle? How long do you see yourself doing this?
After working 10+ years in NYC advertising I was burnt out working in the office. I decided to take a few months off and visit my Dad who lives in SE Asia. Friday was my last day in the office and my company asked if I could continue working remotely. I signed the freelance papers, hopped on the plane, and was working in Asia that Monday! I have no plans to stop being a digital nomad.
What are some of the pro’s and cons of being a nomad?
The obvious pros are: Travel the world, meet interesting people, and escape the routine. Living in a cheaper country can also relieve some of the financial burden with starting a new career.
The cons I’ve encountered are that the heat and language barriers make everything an “ordeal”, and loneliness is inevitable. However, if you put in enough effort you’ll be stumbling through a conversation with a local friend, but still sweating your ass off.
What types of places do you stay in when travelling?
If I get a large project I’ll set up an office in a hotel and will stay put for as long as it takes. If I’m not working (and not too exhausted) I’ll travel to a new country every 1-4 weeks. One can always touch up their portfolio and apply to jobs on the go.
The big question everyone wants to know – how do you earn an income to travel full time?
I’m a Visual Designer with clients all across the world, however most of the work comes from US ad agencies. My elevator pitch is that I am based out of Asia, and 12 hours ahead of NYC time. They send me work at the end of their day (start of my day) and I have everything complete by the time they walk into their office the next morning. Its a great option to keep a project moving 24/7 and prevent staff fatigue.
I was once burned out working late nights in the office, now I’m helping people leave the office at a reasonable time.
Do you have any tips for people that want to start the nomad way of living? can you recommend any particular countries to start with? Or what countries you started with and how you found them.
The hardest part is actually taking the leap. Plan carefully, set a date and do it! The first year is always the hardest so I recommend only living in cheap countries so your money goes further. South East Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America are great places to start. I recommend trying to do the same job you did back home, however if this is impossible then you can always try working for a translation service or teaching English. Creativity, determination, and entrepreneurship are what drives success.
What types of things do people need to plan prior to starting the nomad life? (back up money, health insurance, visas, etc) How did you plan the nomad life?
As a Visual Designer living in the third world I needed to add a few things to my packing list. Jailbreak your phone so that you can swap sim cards wherever you go. Buy a big local cellular data plan so that your computer can tether through your cellphone incase the wifi goes down. I have two backup external harddrives along with a secure online server. Also buying a water/ant proof laptop case is always a good idea.
Have you had any scary or funny experiences whilst travelling?
I was walking through a fullmoon party and saw a group of tourists passed out on the beach sleeping the booze off. At that second, a drunken man kicked over a porto-potty. The door blasted open and a stream of excrement washed down hill, engulfing the tourists. Be careful out there!
How many countries approx have you lived the nomad life in? Did you encounter any visas or immigration issues?
Six in SE Asia and four in Eastern Europe. Always read the visa requirements before you go and NEVER overstay. If you’re going to be working make sure you are doing it legally. Nothing hampers a deadline than police raiding your office and throwing you in jail for the night.
As a full time nomad (what is your back up plan) if the money or work runs low?
Most of us can probably resume life at home as we left it. You should always save money for the slow periods. Your full-time job is to either work on projects or pitch for new business. There is no downtime.
Do you do use any freelance work sites to obtain work from? (if so can you recommend any good sites for people to check out or give any tips)
I’ve found that most freelance sites are bidding wars with cheap clients. Upwork is the better of these. LinkedIn Profinder was recently launched and is quite good. Don’t leave home without a few long term clients. Do an amazing job and get repeat business. Ask for referrals and a review after each project ends.
When you reach a particular destination – how do you find work? Do you have a strategy or do you try and secure work before you arrive?
N/A Doesn’t matter where I am.
What factors do you consider prior to traveling to a country for the nomad life?
Work was slow the first year so I was focussed on cheaper countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Things are picking up so more countries are being unlocked!
Have you encountered any issues with adjusting to local customs or the culture whilst you have been traveling? What about language barriers has this been an issue anywhere?
Every country has their cultural rules however people are very forgiving to foreigners. I try to be as polite as I can. Don’t be the ass in ambassador 🙂
Do you travel solo as a nomad? if so what are the pros and cons of this?
Its very lonely to spend months skipping around as a tourist. I’m working to make two or three places my home base, where I can return to good friends and a comfortable place to work.
Has been easy to make friends and socialise – whilst travelling around as a nomad?
Cheap countries tend to be magnets for the worst travelers. It takes time to find good friends. MeetUp.com is good for this as it brings people together that share a common interest.
Do you have any money saving tips for flights / accommodation? Any recommended sites to book on?
I’ve heard that the apps Fareness and Hopper are good for flights, however I’m still a Kayak man. Airbnb is great as it gives you a more local experience. Booking.com is my backup.
What country are you in at present? how have you found the nomad life there? any recommendation for places to check out or places to hang out for nomads? (nomad communities)
I’ve been living in Serbia with my developer friend. I met her when we were both traveling through Thailand. We have become great friends and take on projects together. I thought Serbia was going to be dangerous and boy was I wrong. Great wifi, great food, and no tourists! Belgrade has more going on but Novi Sad is friendlier and more laid back.
What has been some of your top highlights from travelling.
Making homemade Rakija in Serbia, being flooded by people wanting a selfie with me in Java, and having enough friends in Bangkok to call it a second home.
What is on your bucket list?
Most places are loosing their authenticity with Starbucks and McDonalds on every corner. I heard both terrible and wonderful things about India, and can’t wait to go!
How do you see the future of Nomadism?
As laptops become more powerful and more online coworking tools become available I can see a boom in working remotely. None of my clients care where I am, they just want a job well done.
Has being a nomad taught you any life lessons?
Going from a cushy onsite job to having to survive as a freelancer that works remotely from the other side of the world has completely hardened my skills. I simply cannot afford to do anything less than a perfect job since I rely so much on return business and referrals. When I am not working I am constantly pitching and learning new skills. Failure means having to give up on my dream, and I cannot let that happen. Work comes first, always.
Please share one quote you love.
I’ve been to most of the worlds most amazing destinations, and the most backwoods small towns. I’d have to say…..
“Its not where you are, but who you’re with.”