Surviving (and thriving within) nomadism from those living without a fixed home.
In part 2 of this series I speak to French digital nomad Jonathan Magnin. Jon helps people and business to gain clarity and grow. He’s into creativity, start-ups and growth hacking with a social twist.
Which area of the world are you living in right now? How long have you been nomadic?
It’s been a month that I live in Medellin, Colombia. Before Medellin, I spent 6 months in Brazil, 6 months in France, 5 months in Dublin and about 10 months in Pereira, Colombia.
I’ve been a digital nomad for about 3 years.
Why are you a nomad? Was it a conscious choice or something that came about through circumstance?
Before these 3 years of online work I spent about 10 years living and working in different countries, mostly within Europe.
I did travel around the world as a “regular tourist” from time to time, as I was always attracted to different cultures and places, and to seeing what would fit me the best.
I understood early on that I needed to give time to a place to really feel it. That’s why I don’t hop in and out of cities.
Another reason is financial, as getting a monthly room and cooking sometimes at home will be cheaper than renting daily rooms. Also, soaking in a culture for a while will allow you to learn the language (if you don’t already know it) and make new friends. I feel that staying for a week here, 2 weeks there, makes the experience pretty lonely and frustrating.
How do you support yourself financially?
For quite some time this was summarised in two words: “Thanks mom!”
She believes in me and in what I do, she supported me when I had no other option than to stop and “get a regular job”. I did work here and there, but her help allowed me to stay focused and move on with my projects as fast as possible.
Now I start to be financially independent – which is the best feeling. It took me time, but the explainer video business I created should be able to scale pretty easily. I designed it that way, with processes at every stage so that I can withdraw from it at some point and focus on a different project.
What has been your most difficult moment so far? How did you cope with it?
I think it was being dependent on money from others, getting into debt -even with one of my parents. That’s pretty heavy.
A heavy feeling of guilt mixed with incompetence at making things work, but being still stubborn enough to not give up. I was certainly lucky to receive my mom’s support, but I’m not sure it was the best thing in hindsight.
I’m not sure how I coped, I guess I transformed all these negative feelings into motivation to move my projects forward.
The thing is, I had no idea about how long it would take me to go from “What’s the difference between a website and a blog?” to mastering the whole array of skills and being able to create and sell something valuable to a specific group of people.
Many talk about 1000 days to get to a business that brings you the cash you used to get from employers.
And the best?
I would agree with this 1000 days period… however with some more experience under my belt, I’m confident I could divide that time by two.
I studied entrepreneurship on my own and only started to connect with other entrepreneurs about two years in. So looking back, many principles I now know would have saved me a lot of time.
“Information gathering is good, but don’t over-do it. Get to work, create something and adjust along the way.” To borrow Roger Hamilton’s words, “when a pilot flies to a destination, if there is wind on the way, he doesn’t go back and start again… he adjusts his flight.”
So that’s the best part… I dedicated about three years of my life to studying but also creating several websites that I monetised, and I learned a lot of practical knowledge on the way.
I found this entrepreneurship journey while learning about myself, about spirituality, the sense of life etc.
It was slow for a long time. But somehow all my previous life experiences turned out to be precious and relevant for what I wanted to accomplish.
Nowadays I’m confident about my choices, I say “No” to many projects and ideas because I know where I want to go and what I want. And that’s an awesome feeling 🙂
Being on the road, how do you feel about having a sense of home? Is it important to you? Do you find it on the road? Do you have any practices that help you with this?
Having traveled on the five continents, I know that Latin America is where I want to be at the moment. I love the weather, the people, the happy mess, the language. It has bad sides like violence or corruption, but they don’t really affect me.
So for me, home is a beautiful place where I can feel safe and connect in a meaningful way with people.
Not much else.
It can be in Medellin, in a village in North East Brazil or in south of France.
Sure, going back to see the family is good, but they’re used to having me abroad and lucky for me, my family is pretty small.
What about your support network? Do you have one? Is it local, online? How have relationships with friends evolved since you’ve been location independent?
There is a growing community of digital nomads creating businesses on the road. The tools we need to manage all that are getting better and cheaper every day – those have been key to the development of what I do.
I’m actually more and more interested to create something useful for this community, as I think entrepreneurship or even just freelancing should be a real option from high school, not something people discover after looking for solutions once they realise they don’t fit in the usual work model. Talking about the digital nomad community, check this fun track if you have a minute: https://soundcloud.com/jeremy-ginsburg/daily-cafe-hustlin-hustlin-parody
Personally, I manage a private network of about 50 friends that do or want to do something to improve the world.
So far it’s simply a newsletter every couple of months, but I’d like to create a private platform where I could internally match a member’s need with another member’s skills. I haven’t looked that much into it, so any recommendation is welcome.
What has been your biggest learning from this experience so far?
Let’s make it short as I spread words all over the page already!
It’s better to invest in knowing yourself and what you want/like/are good at first.
Then learn to focus and persevere to get things done. It will be easy because you will have done the heavy lifting of discovering what you want to fight for early on.
Top tips for those thinking about going nomadic?
Don’t listen to the media, don’t be scared to travel, once you have a hostel and a nice cafe with an Internet connection, you’ll be just fine!
And don’t be shy, connect with me on LinkedIn!: https://co.linkedin.com/in/jonathanmagnin