I am living the dream…my life on my terms. Making a living, no fixed office and the freedom to move and work from wherever I like. So can you.
This Make Money and Travel series exists as a source of inspiration. By sharing examples of real people around the world making money from anywhere and living the lifestyle they want, proves where there is a will, there is a way.
We have been following Technomadia for at least the last two years and chances are if you have considered RV’ing you already know who they are (or you will want to). Cherie and Chris have been on the road since 2006 and have been blogging, working and exploring ever since with no intentions of stopping anytime soon.
I don’t know if it’s their extensive and thorough collection of helpful Tech and RV information that keeps me coming back time after time or their on going ups and downs with the vintage bus (or Kiki the cat, she is pretty stinkin’ cute) but they are one of very few RV blogs that I check in on regularly. After this interview, I think you will be right there clicking next to me. So, lets dive in and find out how they fund their life of travel!
Describe your working situation and what line of work you’re in; If you have multiple streams of income that fund your lifestyle, tell us what they are.
Previous to hitting the road, Chris was the Director of Competitive Analysis at mobile computing company Palm/PalmSource – essentially he was their ‘Chief Spy’. He traveled the world and collected information about what the competition was up to, and he was tasked with mapping out the future of technology. Despite having always wanted to eventually hit the road full time, it was a dream job too good to give up. When PalmSource imploded, it was prefect time for him to ignore other Silicon Valley job opportunities and instead pursue his dreams of perpetual travel. He initially hit the road (solo) funded by his severance package and some investments, with a goal of getting into independent consulting.
Then he met Cherie…
Cherie has run a location independent software development business with her family since the early 90s, which she ran from her home. She had frequently integrated in travel with a normal workday, so when she met Chris it wasn’t that much of a stretch to just add wheels under her concept of home.
Together we kept supporting the existing client base, and they took on other interesting short-term technology projects as well.
However with the recent passing of Cherie’s dad (and primary programmer for the old client projects), we have now transitioned those clients to other providers.
After a bit of a sabbatical from a ‘day job’ we’ll start thinking about how best to contribute to the world with our skillsets.
In the meantime we have built up some side residual income sources – our mobile travel apps and eBooks.
State Lines (tracks over 50 state laws that affect us travelers – from seat belts, helmets to buying beer in the grocery store – available for iPhone and Android).
Coverage? (overlays the coverage maps of the major carriers so us bandwidth junkies can best keep connected – available for iPhone & iPad, and soon Android).
The Mobile Internet Handbook (our book to help RVers assemble their ideal mobile internet arsenal – WiFi, cellular, satellite, etc. Available in PDF, ePub, Kindle, iBooks and print.)
No Excuses: Go Nomadic (our ‘how to guide’ answering many of the common logistical questions we get – from handling your mail, family, pets, healthcare, domicile and more. Available free as a blog series, or on a ‘pay as you wish’ PDF eBook.)
We’ve also been known to take on short term fun projects – custom app development, in-depth market analysis, unique product launch orchestration, project management, technical writing, volunteer hosting a lighthouse, campaign work, to even packing boxes at an Amazon.com warehouse.
We like to mix it up and explore and grow as individuals. We figure, we can do just about anything for a month or two!
Have you always had this job? At what point did you realize that you could bring in enough income to continually fund a location independent lifestyle?
We’ve both grew up with technology, its in our blood. And we’re both variety-o-philes with diverse backgrounds that keep us agile to take on new challenges.
Living on the road can be done pretty affordably, and the monthly expenses can be as little or as much as you want them to be. If we have a low cash flow – we can find a campground to volunteer at a few hours and get a site for free, or find a low monthly rate. We can control how much fuel we consume by how much we drive. Controlling monthly costs like that in a traditional home just isn’t possible – you have a set rent or mortgage payment you must make.
So we figured.. what’s the worst case scenario? We find a low cost place to park our RV, and find local jobs. Heck, even working in a fast food joint or retail store can be fun for a bit! But we trust in our ability to be resourceful – we’re capable of anything we put our minds to, and will always find a way to keep feeding the cat.
So far in all our years on the road, we’ve never felt any sense of scarcity.
How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?
That varies a lot for us. If we’re actively working on a project (either one of our own apps or doing custom work for a client), we can easily pull 80-100 hour work weeks. We prefer to focus intently on the project we’re on with few distractions. We’ll generally find a location to park at with interesting things to do nearby for quick breaks, and then get a lot of focused work done.
When we’ve gotten the product finished, our projects can go more into a maintenance mode, perhaps just needing a few hours a week of attention.
So it’s not unusual for us to work solidly for several weeks in a row, and then shift into a more relaxed work mode for a couple months when we can focus on exploring, friends, volunteering, family, conferences, events and more.
If you are willing to say, what is the average yearly salary for someone in your line of work? How long did it take for you to start earning a comfortable/typical living for this line of work? If you don’t feel comfortable giving numbers tell us, are you scraping by, are you able to put money in savings and pay your bills or are you raking it in?
The life of the entrepreneur is feast or famine. Some months we do really well, some months on paper you could say that we are barely scraping by, or less. The key is knowing this is a normal cycle, and to stick the money aside when you have it to help the famine days go easier.
We find that life on the road is a perfect compliment to this – as we can also adapt our expenses to the ebbs and flows.
But in the wash of it all – we’re doing quite comfortably, and actively saving for the future and managing our investments. We have minimal bills and no debt, so it really isn’t that difficult.
What are the most essential pieces of equipment or programs you need for working while traveling?
Our most essential tool is of course our minds. We’re creators – whether we’re writing, developing apps, researching or consulting.
Next comes the technology. Our computers are our most essential tools – we’re an Apple house, with MacBook Pros, Minis, iPads and iPhones. Our mobile internet arsenal is also essential – we need to get online to earn our income. We have multiple cellular data pathways, boosting equipment for WiFi and cellular, routers, amplifiers and we even carry a satellite Internet dish we can deploy for really remote work.
Who are your clients? Do you find them or do they find you and how? What is your rejection rate? How many clients do you pitch to finally win over one? You don’t have tell us who your clients are directly, just how you go about getting the work.
For our custom development work, all our clients find us. Word of mouth and referrals is the absolute best start to any working relationship. We don’t seek out consulting or development work, but instead carefully evaluate if an opportunity presented to us is a fit into our desired lifestyle.
For the rest of our products – the apps and eBooks – our customers tend to also be fans of our blog, or people who heard about our products from existing happy customers. We developed all of our travel products as a result of our travels and sharing, and try to keep the blog personal with the apps/books just part of our story. It’s a tough line sometimes to not come off as marketing constantly, as you have to make mention of your products for people to know they exist.
What are the best things about working while traveling? Those things that make you think wow; I really am living the dream.
We love that there’s really no distinction for us between life and travel. We’re always traveling, we’re always at home and we’re always at work. When we’re attending an amazing event – like Burning Man or a music festival – we’re not necessarily taking time off. We’re just there.
Some folks think it sucks that we might have to put in a few work hours in the middle of such an event – as they’ve had to take precious vacation time to be there. But we just think it’s pretty fricken cool that our normal every day ‘work life’ can include watching incredible flaming art cars moving across the playa past our office window, or an incredible million dollar view of the Golden Gate Bridge while we work, or even sitting in the parking lot of a diesel shop working on apps while our engine gets worked on underneath us.
We also love that we can integrate in true quality time with loved ones, without it impacting our work life or income sources. It’s priceless that we got to spend an incredible amount of time with Cherie’s dad in his final year of fighting cancer before he passed away. All without worrying about the lawn back home, or if we’d have a job to return to.
What are the most frustrating things about working while traveling? Any ways you’ve found to avoid or cope with this frustration?
The constant battle to keep online is definitely at the top of the list. Internet access is so variable when you’re on the roam. Sometimes Verizon is the best carrier, sometimes AT&T, or sometimes another carrier we don’t have onboard. Sometimes campground WiFi works, then it sucks. Sometimes you’re online at blazing fast speeds, then you burn up your data allotment before the month is out. Sometimes the speed is so slow that it might just be better to have no internet at all. Sometimes your equipment just fails when you need it most. We find keeping a box of wine on board helps that frustration.
The other frustrating part about balancing life and work on the road is that you just have to be good with the reality that you can’t do it all. You’re not on a permanent vacation. Sometimes you just have to skip going to that awesome sounding event, because there’s just not enough time to get your work done and take care of the laundry, wash the dishes and worship the cat.
Oh, and your friends and family might not understand that you just can’t be there for everything. Sure, you have a life of mobility – but getting from point A to Z takes time (and money!), and it’s impossible to attend every wedding, graduation, birth and special occasion of everyone you love.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a few pieces of advice about starting in this line of work, what would it be?
We’d be tempted to say: “Technology is frustrating – find another field!”
But despite the frustrations, technology is what makes this all possible – and it is fabulous to be in the tech industry.
Our only advice going back in time would perhaps have been encouragement to to get started living mobile even sooner!
The Fantasy Job
What is one of the most creative ways you’ve heard of someone funding a location independent lifestyle? The one that made you wish you had thought of it first!
In our now 7 years on the road, we have come across some darn awesome and inspiring ways to earn a living on the road. We’ve even met a nomad who funds his travels by crafting balloon animals for tips at restaurants! The only limit is really your own passion and the permission you give yourself to ‘fail’ and try again.
We’ve found our own way to make it work without compromising our passions and lifestyle desires.. and we’ve got the bruises to prove it. It’s up to everyone to find their own path.
What will inspire you every morning? What will be your contribution to the world and the people you encounter? What will make you smile at the end of the day?
That’s really all that matters.. not comparing yourself to what someone else is doing.
Now it’s time for you to think outside the box. There’s no set of guidelines and anything is possible. Of course, some jobs are naturally easier to perform remotely such as webmasters, software developers, writers, and bloggers. While doctors, teachers and firemen will have to do some creative thinking, there is always a possibility. Stay tuned, we have some work campers, a traveling nurse and some other ‘outside the box’ interviews coming up!
So, what did you think? Are you a technomad or could you be? Pop on over to Technomadia to learn a bit more about Chris and Cherie, download their apps (seriously, they are super helpful even for the occasional traveler), like them on Facebook, sent them a tweet and check out their videos on YouTube. They have a great interview series with fellow travelers.
Got questions or comments, please post them below! Everyone likes a good conversation.