There's a lot of talk about digital nomads these days.
In case you’ve been living in cave, these are people whose life and work is pretty-much ordained by a nomadic lifestyle and a laptop connected to the internet. Something that the world’s best known remote professional, Sir Richard Branson, described when he said:
“Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce. One day offices will be a thing of the past.”
I have met a couple of digital nomads such as myself over the past couple of months and Alex Lielacher is one of those who have inspired me in my toddler journey.
He is an Austrian who left a day job at an Investment Bank in London to pursue a digital nomad lifestyle while running a financial literacy blog, Smart Money Smart Living and freelancing as finance writer.
I asked him some questions to find out how he came to be where’s he’s at right now.
And I bet you are interested to find out too.
So here’s how it went:
How and when did it all begin? You know the process of wanting to turn your life around…
Well, I had worked in banking for 6 years and had enough of the corporate rat race so I began looking around for other options. I wanted something more.
I started looking at how to make money on the side. This was 3 years ago. And I got serious at it.
I studied Investment Banking and Financial Risk Management. I used that knowledge to find ways of increasing my financial options and then 1 year ago, I decided to start a blog.
I figured that I needed to teach my generation about money and how to be financially savvy. Something as simple as how banks take advantage of their customers or how to know the difference between good credit and bad credit is what I knew I needed to teach my generation.
When was the exact moment when you decided to go ahead and start the Smart Money Smart Living?
I got acquainted with Udemy and wanted to start some courses, which I did. Three courses.
With that, I figured I would need a blog to go with it. So I began by writing an eBook, The Complete Financial Intelligence Handbook, and I started writing content for the blog.
How did that work out with you still being a fulltime employee?
I was working every single weekend on building my location independent business and I made a plan to quit my job in December.
But then, I got lucky. There was a round of redundancies at my last banking job and I was fortunate to be on that list. I was able to leave my job in October with a nice redundancy check in my pocket. And off I went.
How did friends and family react to your decision to go off travelling while working online?
Surprisingly, the overall reaction was positive except for one or two people who had some fears.
People at my going-away party were both happy and envious.
My parents, as expected, were concerned but not necessarily negative.
How did you choose which country or countries to go to first?
I chose Thailand first because I had been there already on vacation.
I think it’s a great environment. I got to meet many digital nomads and made some really good friends. That’s also where I started freelancing as a finance writer.
How is it being a freelance writer in the finance sector?
There are few people with my background and experience who are out travelling and offering freelance services like I am. So I’d say it’s pretty lucrative.
What or where have been your best moments ever since you began your ‘new life’?
I’d say: Nepal.
I got to spend 4 entire days in a Buddhist monastery. I made friends with a Buddhist monk my age and we ended up playing football and going into the nightlife in Kathmandu.
I also remember a day when I was walking on a beach and thought to myself: “I’ve never been this happy for 3 weeks in a row”.
It was all a confirmation that I was on the right path.
Wow. That’s truly inspiring.
Any tough moments?
Hmm, I don’t think that I’ve had ‘tough moments’ in the true sense of the word.
But, well- I guess it’s Nepal. There were 14-hour power-cuts every other day and the food messed up my stomach a couple of times.
However, I see those as expected challenges. Occupational hazards, so to say.
Which country’s been your best so far?
Malaysia. It was really easy to integrate because everyone speaks English and it’s really multicultural. I spent time in Penang, the second largest city.
What advice would you give anyone thinking of becoming a digital nomad?
I know every other person and blog says, ‘Just Go For It’ but I would say, get set up first.
Ideally, start your remote job or freelancing before you go. Get comfortable with it before you head out to a totally new place or country.
Personally, I made sure I had the website, products and eBook ready before I left.
I had all those things planned out, you know.
On the other hand, if you have savings planned out as your buffer while you travel, then go for it.
So... you are coming over to East Africa in a few weeks.
Will it be your first time?
And what expectations do you have?
It will be my second time in East Africa.
I was in Kenya back in 2014 for two weeks with IVHQ. They arranged for me to volunteer in Komarock at Baraka Children’s Home.
It'll be interesting to be back as a digital nomad working from one of the co-working spaces in Nairobi. I will still arrange to visit Children’s Homes during the weekends and plan to raise money for them.
I also hope to visit Mombasa and go over to Kampala too.
But the thing is I won’t stay in East Africa for too long. It’s more expensive than most places in Asia.
That’s true. Nairobi is relatively more expensive and other cities in East Africa too.
Ok. As we finish….
By the way, thanks so much for your time.
What advice would you like to leave the readers with?
Increase your financial literacy.
Know when and where you are being overcharged by financial institutions and find out how to be smarter with your finances.
Check out my blog here and stay tuned for regular updates.