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Three Years as a Digital Nomad: The Good, The Bad & What’s Next

Three Years as a Digital Nomad: The Good, The Bad & What’s Next

It’s crazy to say out loud. I have been a full-time digital nomad for three whole years. I’m not sure exactly what I thought my life would look like when I first moved to Mexico in 2016 and started my freelance career, but I know for certain I could never have pictured what my reality is.

I now earn a full-time living from my blog. I no longer work for anyone else except on a short-term contract basis as a freelancer and that’s really just for one large international publication.

This year has been huge for me both project-wise and income-wise. I have nearly doubled my income from last year and 2019 will no-doubt be the best financial year I’ve ever had in my entire life.

The Good

In the last 12 months, I’ve re-launched my Mexico City guidebook, I’ve started selling it in paperback on Amazon, and I’ve launched Travel Blogging: The Complete Course.

It’s been a pretty wild year and I am so proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve shown myself it’s entirely possible to get tons of work done while still having a life, free time to myself, time to spend with Luke.

where to travel in 2019

I had SO much fun wandering the wineries in Ensenada in January and I didn’t have my laptop with me for the whole week!

Passive Income

One of the biggest things to happen over here at Eternal Expat is that I’ve started earning passive income in real earnest. Thanks to the ads on this site, my attention to affiliate marketing in the last year, pushing to grow my traffic through SEO and all of the products I’ve created, I have been able to take huge chunks of time off this year.

There have been entire months in the last 12 months where I’ve probably only worked a handful of days. I took most of last summer off. I didn’t work for three whole weeks over the Christmas period. I took two weeks off over Easter. I’m in the process of working hard this month so that I can basically just let things run on their own during the entire month of July. 

YouTube

Another thing that has probably happened in the last 6 months or so is that I’m finally making a little bit of money from YouTube. I lost motivation last year because of all of the changes YouTube was making. I was going whole months making basically no income and I felt like I wasn’t reaching anyone with my videos. 

Since January, I’ve worked really hard to create at least two videos a week and am now regularly producing three videos a week. They’re fun, hopefully helpful, and they’ve been reaching SO many more people. I’m loving the creative process and it’s so different from running this blog, so it’s kept me on my toes a lot more than my website probably has in the last year or so. Check out my YouTube channel here.

things to wear in puerto rico

I spent 10 days in Puerto Rico and all I did was enjoy the sunshine, pose for fun photos, drink cold beer, and record it all for YouTube (which I didn’t make until I was back home in Mexico City!)

Working with Brands that I Love

I’m finally working with companies that really align with my brand and that I feel I can bring real value to. I’ve always been really cautious about bringing other brands and people into my business. For the first two years of this blog, I didn’t want anyone telling me what my content should look like. I didn’t want anyone else dictating what they wanted. 

As I’ve grown this blog into something I’m really proud of and created a community of people who I believe I am truly helping, I have started to be more open to brands who can appreciate what I’ve created. This summer I’m working with one of those companies and I’m so excited to be able to combine earning income with creating valuable content. I’m excited to talk about this cool company and how helpful it is going to be for so many people while at the same time being compensated for my marketing abilities. 

The Bad

There really are very few bads to work through. I’ve sorted out my international banking issues thanks to Charles Schwab’s amazing customer service and excellent accounts. I am earning more than I’ve ever earnt in any job I’ve had in the past. There are even more amazing projects in the works and I truly feel like my business has a direction and a purpose.

Of course, no life is perfect.

Losing a Sense of Purpose/Motivation

I went through a period of time during these past 12 months where I lost a bit of motivation. My blog was floating along well, I was selling guidebooks. I was earning enough to live very well here in Mexico and I was saving a bunch.

I looked for a lot of excuses not to work most days. I went out for coffees with friends, I read for hours on end, I scrolled Instagram and felt bad about my lack of productivity.

I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and write. It wasn’t writer’s block, per se. It was just that I didn’t feel like writing just one more blog post was going to make a big difference.

Luckily, lining up some more projects like my travel blogging course and beginning to write a few more guide books has really re-sparked that motivation. Seeing progress with my YouTube channel has also been a huge motivator to keep creating.

what to wear in puerto rico

Exploring San Juan Puerto Rico on my own gave me a decent amount of anxiety. I kind of just wanted to stay in my Airbnb and do nothing, but when I finally left the house and started exploring I had SO much fun!

Social Anxiety

Last year, I wrote about how I was feeling super lonely. I spent a lot of 2017/early 2018 feeling sorry for myself because I’d been living in Mexico City for almost two years and I still didn’t really have any friends.

When I came back to Mexico in September 2018, I was determined to get myself out there more. I went to coworking spaces, I met other digital nomads and people working remotely. I reached out to other bloggers who were passing through. The growing popularity of this blog also meant that people who were traveling to Mexico City wanted to meet up.

My social calendar has actually become fuller than ever. I meet up with different people at least once a week. I head to coworking spaces to work with other remote workers a few times a month. I meet up with people for drinks or coffees or lunch and of course, I still have Luke to spend my weekends with. 

The trouble is, I have grown SO used to my alone time, that I often find myself making excuses not to go to these things. I spent a lot of the early part of this year worried that I wasn’t spending enough time working or feeling anxious about leaving the house. It was a weird time that I’ve worked through a lot in the last few months, but I still find myself wanting to stay in, work, read, watch TV.

I know that I always enjoy other people’s company and getting out and meeting people actually really invigorates me on workdays when I’m back home again, but actually getting myself out there has proven to be strangely difficult.

how to make money as a digital nomad

I don’t actually want to be working like this. I want to be laying on the beach with a book, not sitting on my laptop frantically trying to promote my products. I want to create systems that do all of that for me.

Never Really Shutting Off

This is something that I feel is getting progressively worse and I really want to work on it this summer. Even when I’m not working, I’m working. I’m constantly thinking of new video ideas or I’m filming a video or I’m going onto social media to post or to look at what other people are doing. Every meal we have, every trip we take, I can’t help but think about how I’ll be able to share it on my blog and on social media and on YouTube.

I feel like a woman possessed and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t affecting my personal life. I’m struggling to concentrate when I speak to family and friends. I am always distracted by something that I should be doing for my website.

I’m doing my best to keep my phone turned off in the mornings. I try to spend the morning talking to Luke over coffee. We work out, we have breakfast, we talk about our days. It’s not until about 10:30 that I turn my phone off airplane mode or that I open my laptop. 

But with the launching of my course, I fell right back into the trap of constantly being distracted. I check my phone when I woke up and waited for the coffee to brew. I check my emails before I load a YouTube workout video. I reply to emails while Luke’s in the shower. Before we’ve even had breakfast, I’m already whirling over what I need to do for the day and I hate that.

What’s Next?

As this post goes live, I’ll be enjoying the sun and sand in Huatulco. For the first time since we moved here, Luke and I will be spending the entire summer in Mexico (except for a week where we’ll hop across to Belize!). I’ll be in Huatulco for two weeks and then I’m going to Merida where we’ll base ourselves for probably two or three weeks.

Although I’ve been to Merida before, I’m excited to see more of it. I’m really looking forward to renting a car and getting out to some of the lesser visited Yucatan ruins, eating all the cochinita pibil, and exploring a few more cities like Valladolid and Campeche.

One of the biggest goals of this summer is to be truly immersed in Spanish. We are taking a course with Baselang. It’s called their Grammarless course and it focuses entirely on teaching you how to speak Spanish without the grammar, without the English translations. It’s truly immersive. We’ll spend two hours a day, five days a week speaking Spanish to a tutor and then we can book 30-minute lessons any time that we’re not doing that. 

Work-wise, I’ll be creating some content for Baselang on my blog, Instagram, and on YouTube, so if you want to follow along with our Spanish language journey be sure to follow me in one or all of those places! I’m also working on two new guidebooks that will be coming out in September and October. I’m really focusing on products to diversify my income and because I truly believe I have so much more to offer people. 

Rebecca Coutant

Monday 16th of September 2019

Just found your posts thru Income Reporting searches and I love them! With or without the income reporting! Did you make it to Belize?

Laura Bronner

Tuesday 17th of September 2019

Thanks so much! yes I did, haven't had a chance to write about it yet because I just went a few weeks ago!

Kelsey

Tuesday 2nd of July 2019

Love this article, Laur! Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing the truth. You’ve always been a pioneer in the online world of MY world, so keep doing your thang and I’ll be cheering for you on the sidelines (and hopefully following your bad ass lead)! So proud of you! ☺️

Laura Bronner

Thursday 4th of July 2019

Thanks, Kels! That means a lot!