Welcome to Location Independent Success Stories!
In this series, I’ll be introducing you to inspiring men and women who are using their unique skills and talents to live the location independent lifestyle of their dreams.
In our first interview of 2018, I’m excited to share the story of Rebecca Rosenberg. She became a travel lover at a young age and dreamed of one day making a life of travel her reality. Here’s how she made it happen!
Rebecca Rosenberg is a Digital Media Consultant & freelance copywriter. Travel blogger, live music junkie, and Twitter lover. Newbie remote worker, forever linguist, chronic challenge seeker.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background and what are you doing now?
I am American, 38 years old, from Austin, TX. I have a bachelor’s in Spanish and a master’s in Information Science.
Before becoming a digital nomad I worked as a social media manager and digital content manager for in-house marketing teams for about 4 years and contracted with other companies before that.
I have also taught English as a second language (ESL) to adults and children in South Korea and Austin. I have been a lifelong travel addict and had been aching to get back on the road for a while before I actually took the leap.
Now, I am a digital media consultant and ghostwriter/copywriter for small to medium-sized businesses in a variety of industries, both B2B and B2C. Some of my clients include a real estate firm, a review collection platform, an oral surgeon, and an alternative lender.Learn how to #traveltheworld as a digital media consultant! #digitalnomadjobs Click To Tweet
How often do you travel? Do you have one city that you consider a home base?
Since January 2017 my home base has been in Bonn, Germany. Over the past year, I have seen lots and lots of Germany, plus visits to Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Bosnia, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
I live with my boyfriend but as he is not location independent, I generally travel alone, taking off for 2-3 weeks at a time. Then I come back for a few weeks to rejuvenate, catch up on work, do laundry etc. before taking off again!
Where are you now, and where do you plan to travel next?
I am in Bonn for the holidays and then I have an appointment with the immigration office in January to (hopefully!) extend my German residence permit for another year. If that happens I will be heading back to the Balkans ASAP.
I LOVED Bosnia and became really curious to see the rest of the region, such as Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, etc. I also have plans to visit Malaysia in September of 2018 and am hoping to move to Spain at the end of the year.
How do you typically choose your destinations?
I have to admit, I chose Germany because my boyfriend is here. He is German but lived in Austin, Texas for a year and a half while researching his PhD. We met while I was in the planning stages of the big change and everything weirdly aligned. If I hadn’t met Daniel I would still be working abroad and traveling, but I’d probably be in South America or something 🙂
However, being in the EU was a pretty great alternative, as the Schengen Area makes traveling to lots of different countries fairly easy, flights in the region are cheap, and there are so many cultures to experience!
Otherwise, I tend to choose based upon the weather, activities, recommendations from others, price/cost of living, and language (I speak Spanish so Latin America is always appealing to me).
Plus, we all have those places that, for some reason or another, we’ve ALWAYS dreamed of going to. I try to tick those off as I can 🙂
When did you realize you wanted to become location independent, and what were your reasons behind that decision?
As I mentioned I have traveled a lot in my life. In college, I studied abroad in Mexico and Chile, and after college, I lived for three years in South Korea working as an ESL teacher, during which time I also got to explore Southeast Asia, Japan, and Hong Kong.
So, I already knew that I loved living overseas and had always seen myself ending up in Mexico or something.
At some point, I knew I wanted to get back on the road sooner than later. As I was already working in the digital space doing digital and social media strategy for a company and as I started to see this “digital nomad” trend grow, I knew that at some point I could be one of them!
I felt confident that between my network of people around the world, my foreign teaching experience, and my digital skills, I could make SOMETHING work and in early 2015, the plan was hatched!
What were some of the first steps you took toward achieving this lifestyle for yourself?
Once I knew in my heart that I wanted to move overseas again and make it a more permanent thing, I started saving money like crazy. I made plans in my head for a date to quit my job (connected to when the lease for my apartment would be up) and then set a savings goal to go with it.
So, X dollars by X date, and then I’m out! I liked my job and it paid well, but knew I wouldn’t want to be there forever, so it kind of worked out perfectly. So I kept my plans a secret for a while I saved and then when it got close, I gave my notice and the word was out!
I saved for about a year and a half and I gave my notice in September 2016.
By selling a lot of my things I was able to make over $1,000 extra bucks (US) to take along on my travels! Almost all of my other belongings I gave away or donated, and I left some other important things with trusted friends and family.
Of all the places you’ve lived and worked so far, which one was the best suited for people living a location independent lifestyle and why?
Honestly anyplace can be great if you have the self-discipline and good WiFi!
The hardest thing is making myself work instead of doing fun or touristy stuff.
Inexpensive destinations like Thailand, Latin America or Bali are well-suited to those who are starting out and building clients. They are also very friendly places! I was pretty lucky in that I have a home base with friends where my costs are low, even in Germany.
Tell us about your work. What is your primary source of income?
I am a Digital Media Consultant and Online Copywriter. I write a lot of online articles for blogs and websites, and other web materials such as social media posts, email newsletter content, and landing pages.
I have helped businesses create and implement social media strategy from scratch by setting up their profiles, creating a content calendar and providing customized training.
I helped a commercial real estate firm redesign their website by doing the information design myself and then partnering with a developer to do the hard coding. I also started a blog for them.
It totally depends on the client’s needs and goals, but I can provide a wide range of services.
How did you get started doing this kind of work?
I actually started doing some freelance work on the side in 2016 while I was still working full time so that I would already have a few clients.
What does the average workday look like for you?
It depends! If I am at my home base I generally I work 4- 6 hours per day. I split things between client work/deadlines and building my personal brand and marketing my business, since I’m still trying to grow it.
I work from coffee shops, libraries, co-working spaces, and my living space, wherever that happens to be at the time!
If I’m on the road I only concentrate on deadlines and keeping up with clients. I tend to work less when on the road, but could be up to a couple of hours a day.
If someone else wanted to follow a path similar to yours, what advice would you give them?
Plan and prepare, but don’t overplan.
Give yourself some time to get things in order, but not more than a year or two, as life tends to get in the way.
If you’re nervous to travel, start somewhere that you have a network or a friend and go there! Or, start small by doing some trips in your region while you work, to see how it feels.
Start doing some work on the side before you quit your job in order to develop remote income sources and build relationships. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build up a freelance clientele.
Also, don’t underestimate your options! Depending on what line of work you’re in, your boss may allow you to work remotely. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
How much could someone expect to earn when just starting out? How much do you earn now?
It depends on the month, but I typically average about $1,000 Euros per month.
It’s not a lot, but my costs are low and this allows me to eat, buy data for my phone, travel, enjoy occasional entertainment, and pay a few other small bills while not draining my travel fund.
My goal is to double or triple this in the next year.
Do you have other income sources as well? What are some of the other ways you earn a living?
I also work with a content broker website called Scripted.com, which helps to bring in steady work for when client assignments are slow. Once I am legally allowed to work in Germany I have some opportunities to teach English classes and camps, or offer private English lessons.
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about living a location independent lifestyle?
Making lasting friendships in new places is hard, and repeating the getting-to-know-you process many times with people you meet on the road can be tiring.
For my situation, applying for a German residence permit is a lot of work! And finding the correct information is not always easy. Adapting to the gray skies and lower temperatures of European winter has been tough for this Texas girl!
There will always be those hard days when you’re stressed about money or loneliness, which can be tough. But mostly I’d say it’s all worth it!
What are some of the things you like about it the most?
I love inspiring other people to travel and take risks! I love seeing new cultures and learning languages, and trying new foods.
Most of all I love knowing that I’m following my dreams and squeezing life for all its juice!
How did becoming location independent change your relationship with travel? Do you do things differently now?
It has allowed me to be more flexible with when and where I go. Not having to worry about being back in 3 days for work or save up vacation days has definitely changed the way I plan for trips. My travel goals are much more open and more long term now. Like, I’ll be in X region for a year, then Y for a year, instead of “I’ll be here for 3 days or a week then back home.”
Do you have any great money-saving travel tips to share?
Buy groceries! Breakfast is the easiest meal to buy from the grocery store, and you’ll save tons of money, as restaurant breakfasts can be pretty pricey. Don’t go out every night. Drinks in bars will kill your budget.
Stay in hostels once in a while. I don’t like to do this all the time, as I like my privacy and it’s easier to get work done from an Airbnb or a hotel, but hostels are great for meeting people and they save you a ton of money.
In Europe, BlaBlaCar is a great way to get around cheaper than with trains. It’s like a rideshare service for long distances, with reviews so you can weed out the creepers, haha.
When you’re location independent and not punching a time clock, you can be more flexible with dates. If you base the destination (and dates) on the price and not the other way around, and you’ll save lots of $$.
Also, I have an ATM card that reimburses me for any ATM fees anywhere in the world (through US bank Charles Schwab), and a credit card with a 0% foreign transaction fee. This has saved me hundreds of dollars!
What do you think are some of the necessary traits or skills someone should have if they plan to pursue a location independent lifestyle?
Resourcefulness, patience, resilience.
It is definitely possible to overplan and over-research. Sometimes, you’ve gotta be ready to go for it!
Productivity is a major challenge for many digital nomads. Share with us one of your best tips for staying motivated and getting sh*t done.
Well, the desire to have money to keep traveling is a big motivator!! The fear of going broke is generally all the motivation I need.
Also, I generally like to stay in one place for a longer time. At least a week or two, that way I can give myself a few extra days in a place just to focus on work without feeling the need to do and see everything!
Do you have any location independent role models who have helped you or motivated you to achieve your goals?
Honestly, I’ve been my own role model. I’ve met so many great women through Facebook groups who make me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself and are incredibly inspiring–but all of that came about after I was already on this crazy journey 🙂
What’s one of the best purchases you’ve made for your business–something that wasn’t necessarily expensive, but provided you with a lot of value?
I am a member of IAPWE (International Association of Professional Writers and Editors). Membership is only a few dollars per month but provides reputability and lots of resources, including a job board.
Being a member of Freelancer’s Union is also free and a great resource.
Tell us about one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made and how others can avoid it.
My biggest mistake is always not trusting my gut or second-guessing myself.
Finally, if you could offer your younger, less experienced self one piece of advice for this journey, what would it be?
You should have done it sooner.
Like this post? Pin it for later!
Read More Location Independent Success Stories:
- How to Travel the World as a Freelance Social Media Manager
- Working from Anywhere as a Self-Taught E-Commerce Marketing Specialist
- How One Couple Turned Their Travel Obsession Into a Lifestyle
- Living the Digital Nomad Lifestyle as a Professional Translator
- Freelance Your Way to Location Independence: A Copywriter & Copy Editor Tell All