Ever since starting Benvenuti Arts, Founder and CEO Sarah Benvenuti has been living location independently as a digital nomad. With remote work much more common in a post-COVID world, Sarah will share what she’s learned in her years of working remotely and traveling in this series.
I’m writing this post while sitting in the train station in Inverness, Scotland. Over the years, I’ve gotten good at sleuthing out the spots where I can sit with my computer without anyone getting annoyed with me.
I’ve been at this digital nomad thing for 8 years now. Even during that first year of COVID, I would go out to Oregon (with care) for months at a time to help out with my newborn nephew, and work from my brother’s home. For clients who have been with me for years, it is something they are used to: opening up their Zoom meetings with me and never knowing where in the world I’ll be. While I now maintain a home base in Pittsburgh – I was fully nomadic, living out of a suitcase for three years before COVID – I still identify strongly with the digital nomad/location independent community, and am back to traveling as much as possible.
It’s not for everyone, I know. Living life in motion has been the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself, but it does take a lot of organization, purposeful communication, and patience to bounce around the world while maintaining my friendships and community. While I don’t expect everyone to fully dive into the travel life like I did, now that more businesses are open to remote work in some capacity, I hope more of you will try adding elements of this life to your own.
For me, the best part of nomading has been the space I can find for myself, even when work gets intense. Starting a business is hard, and the past eight years have been a see-saw of intensity followed by brief calm as we achieve the next step, followed by long periods of intensity again as we move forward. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t take more than a few days off in a row for the first 5 years of Benvenuti Arts.
But this is where travel saved me.
Maybe I couldn’t “vacation” – i.e. take a week off, not look at email, and relax on a beach – but by “living” in a place for a month while working, I could get a feel for a new city. I could see the sites and museums, experience the culture, and even make local friends. While I had to work, the difference in time zones forced me to put a limit on my availability. Like anyone who works, my evenings and weekends were full. I’ve had a spontaneous sing-a-long with old locals at a restaurant in the Thai countryside, drank too much wine with new friends from a Spanish course on a rooftop in Barcelona, ate and drank with the chef of a ramen joint in Medellin after closing, and hiked the Scottish Highlands (spraining my ankle in the process, which led me to being mocked by a Scottish doctor, but that’s another story!). These are things I wouldn’t have experienced on vacation because they took me being in a place for a time, getting comfortable and meeting people.
Every month (hopefully), I want to share with you tips about traveling while working and making the most of this new way of living that many of you can now try out. The first step: expand what you think of when you think of travel. Even if you just want to go see old friends in another city, is it possible to be there for a week instead of rushing through a weekend, if you just work from there? Have you always wanted to go to Australia or someplace far away, but feel like you’d want more than a week there due to the flight? Maybe you’ve been learning Spanish, and have wanted to use the language more often.
Working remotely helped me to think more expansively about my life; about where I call home, how I maintain my relationships and show up for the people I love, and how I take care of myself. Your solution won’t look like mine, but I would encourage you to start thinking outside the office.