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Expert advice from real kiters
How to Become a Digital Nomad (and Live Your Life Kiting)
Could you quit your day job, become a freelancer, and spend your life chasing the wind?
It’s one thing to dream it, but to do it is altogether different. Miriam from Wake Up Stoked is a do-er, not a dreamer. We recently turned the tables and interviewed her to find out how she managed to have her kitesurfing cake and eat it, too.
Welcome to the life of a kiting-obsessed digital nomad.
image credit: Action Edit
A day in the life of a kitesurfer (who works on the side)
Miriam has successfully managed to re-distribute the work life balance so that it favours the life bit, as opposed to the work bit. That’s not to say she doesn’t work; on the contrary she thinks that these days she probably does so more than ever before. It’s just that kiting takes centre stage.
Wherever she is in the world - from South African to Europe to Latin America - Miriam allocates her mornings to graphic design freelance work and her afternoons to kitesurfing. She follows the wind, the warmth and the strong wifi connections. In doing so, she’s carved out a successful career as well as an enviable lifestyle.
It all began with kitesurfing lessons in the Dominican Republic
Almost a decade ago, Miriam went to Cabarete in the Domincan Republic, where she took some kitesurfing lessons. The bug bit down hard, to the point where she returned home three weeks later, promptly bought a one-way flight back and stayed a full year teaching kitesurfing. The wind was on-tap but unfortunately for Miriam, her savings were not (and she was not earning enough to continue without dipping into them). Eventually funds ran close to dry and Miriam realised this carefree kiting caper was going to have to come to an end. Gulp…
image credit: Action Edit
Back in the real world
Returning to her home city of Munich, Miriam walked pretty much straight into a job interview as a Graphic Designer (she had secured an interview before even departing from Cabarete). Working alongside a brilliant bunch of people and with a sensational boss, she had indeed landed on her feet. However, something wasn’t quite settled within her; there was a subconscious pull towards somewhere else.
Miriam began registering for workshops and events, looking for the lifeboat that would pull her on deck and take her to wherever it was she needed to be. Her life revolved around kitesurfing holidays - scheduling and anticipating them helped take the edge of this hollow that otherwise dogged her. Instead of a pay rise, she requested an additional month’s leave to go on kitesurfing adventures, which her boss granted. However, it was a short-term fix that ultimately just left her longing and wanting more.
The digital nomad conference
A digital nomad conference came up on Miriam’s radar. She’d never heard of the concept before and thought it sounded interesting. She registered, and spent the weekend attending talks and meeting the most inspirational professionals with the most coveted lifestyles.
This was it - something just clicked into place for Miriam. She knew if she thought about it for too long or didn’t act fast enough, she would talk herself out of it. On Monday morning she arrived at work and promptly resigned, giving her agency five month’s notice.
Becoming a freelancer - the practicalities
That also meant that Miriam had five months to get herself sorted. She decided a website would be her ticket. With no prior training, she purchased a WordPress site and began to build Wake Up Stoked. She had no idea what she was doing. She hadn’t even used Instagram before. All her spare hours outside agency work were invested in the site. She would monetise it and that would fund her kitesurfing nomadic life.
But when does life ever present opportunities so neatly?
Needless to say, things didn’t go to plan. Thankfully, the German Government provided for start-up entrepreneurs, and so Miriam applied for six-months of seeding fund. It was enough to progress the site, but not enough to turn it into a major revenue generator just yet. She was going to have to freelance as well. Miriam fell back on her professional skills and was able to garner a number of clients in mostly Germany and Switzerland. A combination of graphic design work and Wake Up Stoked has meant Miriam is living her dream as a digital nomad, chasing the summer and the wind.
image credit: Tarifa Wind Experience
A digital nomad life
Because she more or less has complete freedom in her day, Miriam has to enforce structure. She does this in the mornings, following a routine (meditation, exercise, solid work) until lunch time. Once the afternoon arrives and the wind is up, Miriam figuratively clocks off and heads out onto the water.
Her first few years were spent on the move quite a bit, covering a lot of territory. Time and experience have slowed things down and these days Miriam will spend upwards of five months at any given destination. She’s settled into a fairly good routine now that divides her year mostly between Cape Town and Tarifa, although other destinations will occasionally punctures her calendar. She finds South Africa and Spain offer the right combination of needs - reliable wind, warmth and wifi. They also provide the kind of infrastructure she appreciates these days - a good gym, quality supermarkets with organic produce, a sensational digital nomad community and, of course, an awesome kitesurfing culture and vibe.
In the early days she would experience the occasional wise-crack from clients and certainly she learnt to never divulge her location. They just couldn’t compute paradise with productive output, even if she proved them wrong time and time again. It’s funny how Covid-19 has changed this culture. Not only is she no longer asked the question, it’s understood that professionals can work from anywhere when they’re, well, professional.
image credit: Action Edit
Miriam’s top kitesurfing destinations
Asia and Australia are still in her kiting crosshairs, but Miriam definitely has amassed an enviable selection of favourite kitesurfing destinations to date. They include:
- Los Roques, Venezuela - this would have to be her all-time highlight so far. Staying on the main island and then every day taking a boat to a different island and just kiting the whole time. Sigh.
- Brazil - where the wind is pretty much guaranteed every day and where the warmth means you could literally spend the whole day out on the water if you wanted.
- Cabarete, the Dominican Republic - a bit of a soft spot, but for good reason given it’s such a classic Caribbean fantasy destination.
- Egypt - the water here is next-level beautiful and mostly flat. When the wind is low, you can go diving instead. It’s a win-win.
Digital nomad living - the pros
OK, so the really obvious one is, of course, all the kiting. If you could spend your life out on the water every day of the week, what else do you need? For the interests of trying to present a well-rounded argument, here are some additional bonuses:
- Genuine freedom - to choose where you work, when you work and even to a degree (if you’re established enough) for whom you work.
- Owning your own day. It’s windy in the morning and not the afternoon? No worries - head out now and catch up on work later in the day.
- An endless summer - needs no further explanation, really.
- Different cultures - Miriam is constantly learning new foods, new vocabularies, new ways of doing things.
- Meeting such a diversity of interesting people, and becoming a part of the digital nomad culture which moves in waves and washes up familiar, lovely faces time and time again.
- Learning to step outside your comfort zone. Miriam is an introvert at heart, but becoming a digital nomad has meant she’s really had to get out of her shell. The kiting community makes it so easy to do this - there’s an instant universal commonality and passion that makes interaction so effortless.
image credit: Action Edit
Digital nomad living - the cons
OK, we don’t want to play the down card, but if you’re seriously considering this lifestyle then you should factor in some potential set-backs. After all, there can be trouble even in paradise… Miriam’s caution-look-before-you-leap tips include, for example:
- Work volume - as far as Miriam’s concerned, you have to spend more time working when you’re a freelancer than you would as an employee. Your work extends beyond simply just doing the work (there’s accounting, invoicing, marketing) and it can be difficult to switch off.
- Less security - the very nature of freelance means you cannot really map the year out for yourself.
- Social challenges - it can be difficult to find let alone maintain a relationship. Digital nomads are a particular breed living a very unique life.
- Life is not all one big holiday, as it is for everyone else. Remember, when you’re living in a holiday destination, everyone around you is on vacation. Resisting the temptation to lie in, head out on that boating adventure, or have that really huge night midweek can be challenging.
- Wifi - we’ve touched on this before, but it really is a huge factor. If your wifi is compromised, so too is your productive output and the image you present to clients.
How to become a digital nomad - Miriam's advice
We may have paused writing this article to go off and do some research into secondhand campervans. If you’re equally enticed by Miriam’s life choice, then she has some gold nuggets for you to consider. The include:
- Start with baby steps. Perhaps don’t commit to a completely different lifestyle all at once. Take extended leave and sample things. It’s one thing to be on a holiday and occasionally work; it’s altogether something else to be in holiday destinations working.
- There is a lot of great advice, learning and connections available online. Visit Facebook groups, follow bloggers and learn from their experience and mistakes. Talk to people about the negatives and go into this eyes wide open. Equally, though, get inspired by these people as well!
- Research your potential destinations and ensure they have what you absolutely need. For Miriam, that is those blessed three Ws. Her time in Brazil, for instance, taught her that it’s an awesome kiting destination, but still not really geared to host nomadic professionals.
- Have a wifi plan B. Make sure you have a sim card or something you can fall back on if the wifi isn’t what it’s supposed to be (note to anyone interested - that is not so straightforward in Brazil, either).
We’d love to write more, but we’ve got our eye on a motorhome eBay auction…
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Special thanks to Action Edit for the cover shot.
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