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

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

I have tried to write this article for over a week now. 

I type out a few paragraphs. I re-read them. Then I delete them again.

It’s been a struggle to put into words how these last 12 months have gone because up until a few months ago, my business was absolutely booming.

I was SO EXCITED about where Eternal Expat was headed. 

For maybe the first time since I started this business, I had a really clear idea of what the next year or two was going to look like for me.

I don’t want this article to be all about the negatives, though.

Because I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky to still be able to do this every day and I want to share both the bad and the good from the last 12 months because there have been equal measures of both.

A Little Background Information

These posts tend to attract new readers, so I’d like to give a little background information for those of you that are new here.

I started Eternal Expat as a blog back in 2016 and was determined to get it off the ground as a business that could sustain me living in Mexico, and hopefully one day, anywhere else in the world that I wanted to live.

While I was working on Eternal Expat during that first year, I did a lot of copywriting work for small businesses. I did some work for other travel bloggers and I started my YouTube channel and proceeded to ignore it for about two years.

By the end of year two as a digital nomad, I was starting to make decent money from my blog and I was able to focus fully on this business without needing anything else to supplement my income.

In 2019, I made the most money I’ve made in a single financial year in my whole adult life.

2020 was set to be even better than the last. But, alas, we all know what happened.  

You can read year one as a digital nomad here and year three as a digital nomad here.

You can read an archive of all of my digital nomad posts with income reports from the early years here.

The Good

July 2019 to February 2020 were amazing months.

They were amazing for this business, for the amount that I traveled, and for the business connections that I made.

More Guidebooks

I wrote two more guidebooks including one all about Merida and the surrounding area and about Guanajuato which sold more in its first weekend than any of my other guidebooks in their initial releases.

I felt like I was on a roll and I was working hard to re-release my Mexico City guidebook to be even bigger and better than ever.

While the re-release of that book is currently on hold, I’m hoping to get back to Mexico City at some point in the coming months so that I can check on the different companies, hotels, and restaurants that I’ve recommended to make sure they survived the pandemic. 

how to make money as a digital nomad

YouTube

I refocused my attention on my YouTube channel at the start of 2020 and I continue to see pretty decent growth in the channel every day. 

When traffic on my blog went down to almost nothing in March and April, people were flooding YouTube to vicariously live through past travels. 

I made a ton of videos about what the quarantine looked like in Mexico City and around Mexico in general. You can check out that playlist here.

It’s earning me more each and every day and I am really pushing to get to 5,000 subscribers in the next few months. 

If you haven’t already subscribed to my channel, you can do so here.

Ad Income

The ads on this blog are my biggest source of income. The income from this grows as the number of readers of this blog grows.

I spent most of 2019 and the start of this year focusing heavily on increasing my traffic through SEO (google keywords) and Pinterest.

I worked with a Virtual Assistant who set up an amazing system through Tailwind.

I hired an SEO expert to do a HUGE overhaul of my blog and tell me exactly what I need to do to make it more Google-friendly.

I have been focusing heavily on writing content that people are actually searching for so that I can actually be found. It allows me to help more people as they plan their travels and in turn, I am able to increase my income.

using an affiliate program for travel bloggers to make money blogging

More Free Time

In 2018 and the first half of 2019, I finally got my passive income under control.

In addition to making a decent amount from ad income, I was finally earning a healthy amount of money from affiliate sales. 

Affiliate sales are when I link to something I love like a pair of sandals, a coat, or a hotel and someone buys or books through that link. I get a very small percentage of that sale at no added cost to the buyer.

I also finally set up email funnels so that people who sign up for my emails about Mexico, Mexico City, becoming a blogger, are all receiving emails that bring them back to my blog. This has been a huge success for leading people to my guidebooks and to my travel blogging course.

All this to say, a whole lot of work went into setting these systems up, however, now they operate completely on their own. I am earning income while I sleep, while I’m at the beach, while I’m on vacation. 

All this passive income allowed me to take most of last summer off without really stressing about anything.

My goal is to continue increasing these systems in the coming months so that when people feel safe enough to travel again, all of these systems will be in place to continue earning more passive income.

The Bad

I want to keep this section short because I don’t think we all need to dwell on the bad of this whole situation. 

making money as a digital nomad

Burnout

Although this now seems laughable, between October of 2019 and February of 2020 I was actually experiencing some serious burnout.

I was finally working with brands that I cared about. I felt like I was really getting to know more people in the Mexico travel industry and making great connections around the country.

I was traveling at least once a month, often for a week or two at a time just to keep content up and meet more people in the industry.

I was finally getting emails from brands and companies that wanted to work with me (rather than the other way around) and I felt like there was no way I could say no – this is all I’ve ever wanted for this business.

I got pretty sick in February and was in bed for over a week. Every time I got out of bed to try to work I felt utterly exhausted. 

During that week, I was chatting to a friend on the phone about how high my anxiety levels were over the fact that I couldn’t work. The unanswered emails were piling up. I was missing opportunities for press trips around Mexico and I was feeling so down about it all.

We talked about slowing down and how hard it is to do at this stage of our lives and careers where things are finally “getting good.”

We talked about our need to always feel busy and to always say yes because we’re so petrified that if we start saying no all of the opportunities will disappear again. We’re so worried that if we’re not busy it means we’re not successful.

I promised myself that I would start trying to figure out how to find a little bit more balance. Turns out I didn’t have to wait very long for a bit of a rest.

The Pandemic

I woke up on March 16th and checked a few stats only to discover that there weren’t any to check.

I lost 90% of my income almost overnight.

The months of March, April, and May were dark ones not only because I was in almost total isolation in my little apartment in Mexico City, but also because no matter how much I tried to revive, adapt, and explore different options for my business, nothing changed my bottom line.

I felt totally hopeless and I genuinely wondered if Eternal Expat was going to survive this huge decline.

It was a strange few months because I had all this time to work on my business, all this time to write and create and edit videos. I had all this time to think about new business ventures. 

But I felt so de-motivated. I fell into such a funk. Writing, something that I love and that has helped me through so many dark times in the past, became something I dreaded. It became a job and one that after only a few hundred words, made me feel utterly exhausted.

I’m not sure if or when my traffic will go back to what it was. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be able to re-launch my guidebook or write another one. I’m not sure when I’ll ever be able to get my ideas for tours off the ground.

But things are looking up and most of these sentiments are long gone.

eating delicious bread at the best roma norte restaurant for pastry, panaderia rosette

What’s Next for Eternal Expat?

As many of you may know, I left Mexico City in the middle of June and I’m not entirely sure when I’m going back. 

I’m on the coast now near Manzanillo and I’ll be here until the end of August. Luke and I were simply looking for a safe and quiet place where we could be closer to nature as this pandemic still plays out around Mexico.

Although things have changed dramatically, I’m feeling hopeful.

June was a great month. Not only because my blog traffic picked back up again, but because I felt like I sort of got my groove back so to speak.

I wrote more articles and created more videos in June than I did for March, April and May put together I think. 

Yesterday I sat down and wrote out all of my business goals for July and August.

I wrote out the exact steps I’m going to take to reach those goals and for the first summer since 2017, I’m in one place with absolutely zero travel plans other than evenings on the beach watching the sunset.

I know I have a long road ahead. It’s sort of like I’ve gone back in time business-wise, but I’m starting to see this as a blessing in disguise.

I’ve had the time to step away and see what my life might be like without this business and I’ll be honest, I’m not into it.

I know now more than ever that there is no alternative and I will do everything that I possibly can to fight for this business and the life it has given me in the last four years. 

Kelsey

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

This article is so well done. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty, Laura. This time hasn’t been easy for anyone, but it’s relieving to hear you’ve finally gotten a real rest, some time to recalibrate, and a renewed sense of motivation. Looking forward to following all the adventures Eternal Expat has ahead!