It’s not everyday when your group of friends consists of digital nomads, but for me, my closest friends have chosen to work remotely. It’s not because they don’t want to travel to work, but because they want to travel.
One of my friends, who I met by leading an accountability group for SheSays Chicago, is almost into her first year as a digital nomad.
She’s traveled to Europe and the Eastern Seaboard and she’s about to take a Greek Mythology course in the very country. Her name is Molly Koeneman. I had the pleasure of catching up with her after I ran into her at Hostelling International, where she was staying and where I happen to volunteer.
We caught up over a basic dinner – kale and french fries at State and Lake while she was in town checking in with the company she works for in Chicago.
Windy City Cosmo: What inspired this change?*
Molly: I traveled to Munich and Berlin with my masters program last spring, and it was the first time I used my passport in almost 10 years. It was a wake-up call; I have always wanted to travel, and I didn’t know what I was waiting for anymore.
Windy City Cosmo: How far in advance do you plan out?
Molly: Not very far at all (insert awkard laugh). I like to think of it as planned spontaneity; I outline where I’d like to go and where I could go, but normally don’t buy the transit or decide where I’m staying until the time is near. Especially being international, I like getting local and other tourists’ perspective of what can be skipped and where to find the hidden treasures.
It’s really stressful; I don’t recommend it. And yet, I’ve been living my life like this for almost a year, so maybe I do recommend it.
Windy City Cosmo: Where do you find your deals?
Molly: I use Skyscanner and other cheap flight sites for travel, but I haven’t perfected the cheap flights yet. My best travel hack at the moment is to book a hotel or hostel directly. Booking.com, Hotels.com and Hostelworld.com are great for shopping for a place, but they normally upcharge, especially on weekends.
Windy City Cosmo: How do you keep in touch with friends and family?
Molly: I got an international phone plan through T-Mobile. It’s pricey, but it comes with unlimited media that I can use as a hotspot for work if I need it, and it comes with free text messaging. For calling, I use Google Hangout. It’s free to call US numbers and cheaper to call international numbers. My T-Mobile charges 20 cents a minute, so Google Hangout is a cheap-cheat. Other than that, I’m on Gchat for work and that’a how I banter with my coworkers and my friends during the day.
Windy City Cosmo: Are you a Nomad?
Molly: That’s the colloquial, sure. I’m a digital nomad because I live and work wherever I happen to be. The joke I use most, though, is that I’m homeless… or that I live with my parents. All of the above are true to some extent.
Windy City Cosmo: What is the hardest part of working and traveling?
Molly: Time management. When I first started working remotely, I was in Germany with a 7-hour time difference. I’d wake up and work during the day, trying to get ahead, and then feel obligated to be on the computer during Chicago office hours. So, I was basically working all day. I was home sick, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, and it was tough. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself and to enjoy this opportunity. Jobs and deadlines will always be there, and there will always be another, but having a beach all to yourself for sunrise… you don’t get that very often.
Windy City Cosmo: How do you stay on Central Time when you are traveling in different time zones?
Molly: I actually have a more difficult time with Eastern-Central time difference; it’s just close enough to confuse me. Being in Europe is great, though. I basically have the entire day to do what I like and then work at night. Sure, it sucks that I have to work at night, but my boss is very understanding about my flexible work. He might even have the impression that I’m always working, which benefits me.
Windy City Cosmo: Do you network or grow your professional community while abroad?
Molly: I’ve gone to a few networking events that I found on Eventbrite, but mostly I’m meeting other tourists or locals who work in completely different industries. As you can imagine, people find my work-life very interesting. Most of professional community is cultivated online.
Windy City Cosmo: What’s your best tip for travelling while working?
Molly: Enjoy it. Enjoy where you are. Even if you don’t travel very often and even if you’re in an office from 9 to 5, make sure you are enjoying your day. You can get another job, you can make more money, but you’ll never get this day back.
Now we want to hear from you. How do you find time to work and travel? Let me know by tagging #windycitycosmo on social media.
*Editor’s note: The answers to these questions have been updated as of July 4, 2016.
Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.