20 Critical Lessons I’ve Learned in 14 Years of Being a Nomadic Solopreneur

It was 10 pm and I was tired from travelling all day.

As we walked through the ‘nothing to declare’ lane of the airport I headed straight for the sim card desk. A few minutes and 20 yen later, I fired up Google to work out how to get to our hotel ASAP.

As a DNS error filled my screen it didn’t take long for it to dawn on me that of course there is no Google in China.

Having not pre-planned our late-night route and with the taxi queue outside looking like a 2 – 3 hour wait, I frantically opened what looked like a search engine and sought help from the lady behind the sim card desk.

Unfortunately, the search engine was all in Chinese, the signs around us were all in Chinese, and she spoke only Chinese – spoiler alert, we were in China after all!

Somehow together we pulled up an English version of the metro and with more luck than judgement were safely ensconced in our hotel in Shanghai an hour or so later.

screenshot of map in China
The map I pulled up on my phone

You might be wondering why we didn’t just use a VPN.

Great question.

I did have a VPN, but unfortunately on this occasion, it didn’t work. I didn’t know at the time, but not all VPNs work in all countries. It is down to us to do our own due diligence and check these small facts before we travel!

This is just one of many, many lessons learned over the years while travelling and working online.

Here are some that stand out;

Travel Lessons

1. Your Budget is Your Bible

I’m not the thriftiest person in the world. In fact I’d say I was a bit of an expert in spending money!

However, it’s very easy for costs to spiral out of control if you don’t have a clear budget that you stick to. And there’s no faster way to thwart your enjoyment of a place than to feel like you’re throwing money away with nothing to show for it.

Particularly when navigating different currencies and cost of living standards, make sure you track every expense, no matter how small.

Actionable Tips;

  1. Use tools like XE.com to convert currencies and tracking apps like Trabee Pocket, Travel Spend, or Splitwise, to set budgets and track expenses.
  2. Set aside a contingency fund for unexpected costs.
  3. Regularly review and adjust your budget based on current spending patterns and future forecasts.
screenshot of trabee website

Sticking to a budget is paramount in the unpredictable journey of a nomadic solopreneur. A well-maintained budget will keep you on course and help you travel smarter for longer!

2. Wikipedia is Your Friend

It’s always a good idea to arm yourself with a bit of knowledge before stepping foot in a new country.

Learning some essentials about a country’s culture, customs, and crucial dos and don’ts can avoid any potential awkward encounters.

Actionable Tips;

  • Spend some time researching each new destination, focusing on cultural norms, historical context, and essential local information.
  • Look for community forums or travel blogs for insider tips and advice.
  • Learn a few basic phrases in the local language to show respect and enhance communication.

Wikipedia and just a quick, google search can provide invaluable insights. It’s also a good idea to learn how to say Hello, Thank You and Where’s the Loo in the local language!

3. Make Friends, Everywhere

The nomadic lifestyle is incredibly enriching but can be lonely at times.

Making friends, both online and offline, in various corners of the globe, can help combat this loneliness.

I now have friends who live in France, America, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, various spots throughout Asia, and more.

image of me my family and freinds wearing helmet
With our friends on a trip in Bora Bora

Having a supportive community that can offer assistance, advice, and companionship, no matter where you are is priceless.

Actionable Tips;

  • Start by finding online groups on Facebook, Linked In, or forums filled with like-minded people.
  • Engage in local events and meetups related to your interests.
  • Use social media and networking apps to connect with fellow travellers and locals.

Also, be the person who offers help and value to others. By helping others you’ll attract people to you and you’ll start to cultivate meaningful connections that go beyond mere acquaintances.

4. Embrace Minimalism

Embracing minimalism in both your personal belongings and your business practices can lead to a more focused and liberated existence.

Packing light and owning less not only makes travelling easier but also declutters your mind, allowing for greater creativity and efficiency.

What do you own? Do you really need it?

My friends are amazed that we’ll leave Phuket as we arrived, with 3 suitcases. But having cleared out my Mum’s in 2022 before she passed I can promise you, when the time comes, that rug you got from Venice, or the vase you bought for your first marital home won’t matter a jot.

Actionable Tips;

  • Regularly evaluate your possessions and digital tools, keeping only what serves a clear purpose.
  • Adopt digital solutions for documents and books to reduce physical bulk.
  • Simplify your business processes to focus on core activities that drive value.

5. Make Sure Your VPN Works. Even in China!

screenshot of express VPN website

Accessing the internet freely and securely as a nomadic solopreneur is crucial, especially in regions with digital restrictions.

A VPN also protects your online activity, particularly when working in public spaces.

Actionable Tips:

  • Choose a reputable VPN service with strong security features and a no-logs policy. (I use Express VPN these days, which seems to have great access across the globe)
  • Always connect to a VPN when using public Wi-Fi networks to safeguard your data.
  • Regularly update your VPN software to ensure optimal performance and security.
  • Double check it definitely works in the countries you’re going to – check forums, travel groups etc.

6. eSIMs Rock

For as long as I can remember I’ve hot-footed it to the mobile data counter as soon as I’ve landed in a new country.

There, my sim card is taped to the inside cover of my phone case, a new sim is activated and I’m left replacing my original sim with a paperclip on the next onward flight.

It works. But it’s a hassle.

Not anymore!

eSIMs offer a more straightforward, often cheaper alternative to traditional data cards, providing seamless connectivity across borders without the hassle of physical SIM swaps.

Actionable Tips:

  • Download compatible eSIM apps before arriving at your next destination. (I use Airalo)
  • Buy a package for your next destination and set it up as your ‘travel’ plan.
  • When you land simply turn your ‘travel’ plan on and Bob’s Your Uncle!

When you leave you simply turn it off. No more paper clips and messing about with sim cards.

7. Always Carry Passport Photos

Having extra passport photos can save you from numerous bureaucratic headaches while you’re traversing the globe.

Whether it’s for visa applications, permits, or local IDs, being prepared with passport photos keeps you one step ahead.

Actionable Tips:

  • Keep a digital copy of your passport photo on your phone or cloud storage for emergency prints.
  • Store passport photos in multiple safe places, such as your wallet, travel pouch, and luggage.
  • Regularly update your passport photos to reflect your current appearance.
my sister and I arriving at the maldives
My sister & I arriving in the Maldives

8. Change is the Only Constant, Learn How to Embrace It

The one thing you can be absolutely certain of when travelling is that plans will change, flights will change, bookings will change, times will change, the weather will change.

If you don’t enjoy change, a nomadic solopreneur lifestyle may prove a tad challenging!

However, embracing change rather than resisting it can lead to unexpected opportunities.

A few years back the student protests in Hong Kong caused our flights from Japan to be cancelled and at the last minute we completely changed our route and ended up in Seoul, Korea for a couple of days. What a pleasant surprise that was! I can’t wait to go back and explore further.

Changing tides can actually make you more resilient and versatile as both an individual and a nomad.

Actionable Tips:

  • Stay informed about global and industry trends/news to anticipate changes.
  • Develop a flexible mindset, viewing change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Business Lessons

9. Master the Art of Prioritization

With the absence of a traditional routine, managing your time effectively becomes a challenge.

Identifying the tasks that yield the most significant results can dramatically enhance your productivity and satisfaction, allowing you to focus on what truly moves the needle.

I love the framing of these two questions from Tim Ferriss;

screenshot of Tim Ferries post

Actionable Tips:

  • Use the above questions to determine the most important priorities you need to be focusing on
  • Each week, identify the top 1 – 3 tasks that will contribute most to your goals and commit to tackling them first.
  • Use tools and apps to manage tasks and deadlines efficiently.
  • Regularly evaluate your activities to ensure they align with your priorities and adjust as needed.

10. Build Systems for Those “Off” Days

If I hear one more guy tell me to ‘embrace the grind, even when you’re not feeling it’, I’ll shove his grind where the sun doesn’t shine.

You try navigating the menopause pal; where you wake up one day and the world smells of roses only to wake up the next and feel as if dementors have come and sucked the life out of your very being.

Then you go ahead and ‘embrace the grind’!

The fact is, particularly if you’re a ‘woman of a certain age’, navigating days when motivation is low, calls for a compassionate yet strategic approach.

It’s not always about pushing through. You need the right systems in place to carry you through those moments.

Recognizing the need for rest and giving yourself grace on tough days is just as important as maintaining momentum in your business.

By setting up systems and structures, you can ensure that your business continues to thrive, even when you’re taking the time to recharge.

Actionable Tips:

  • On the days you’re feeling in the zone, take the time to batch create content or prepare up front the more challenging tasks you tend to struggle with on ‘off’ days.
  • Automate repetitive tasks or develop a support network or team that can cover for you or share the load when needed.
  • Give yourself a break. Things will get done when they get done. It’s not like you’re performing brain surgery (unless of course you are and then I’m not qualified to help!)

11. Don’t Put All Your Eggs into 3rd Party Platforms

While platforms like Google, Facebook, and YouTube are powerful tools for growth, they operate on their own agendas. Algorithms change, and what works today might not tomorrow.

Right now as I write this Google is systematically dismantling thousands of blogging businesses. All in the name of progress and ‘helpful content’.

The key is to use these platforms strategically while investing in assets you control, such as your own content platform, ecommerce store, and email list.

Actionable Tips:

  • Create your own platforms. Your own website, your own email list, your own ecommerce store. Even if you’re writing on Medium, selling on Amazon or have a huge following on TikTok.
  • Make building and nurturing an email list as your direct line to your audience, your No 1 priority.
  • Diversify your online presence to mitigate the risks of platform dependency.

Mindset Lessons

12. Live for Now; Tomorrow is Promised to No One

I recently lost a friend way too early.

It’s so easy to get sucked into what we think is important in life, like money, and objects. But what’s really important is all around us.

Just living.

The nomadic lifestyle teaches the value of living in the moment.

By focusing on the present, you can fully embrace and appreciate your experiences, making the most of every opportunity without taking time for granted.

Breathe the air, smell the ocean, feel the breeze, and walk barefoot on the grass.

Actionable Tips:

  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude to anchor yourself in the present.
  • Make conscious decisions that align with your immediate happiness and well-being.
  • Avoid over-planning or postponing joy for “the right moment.”
Image of me sitting on the beach doing yoga
Me attempting to do Yoga on the beach in Koh Samui

13. True Freedom is Choice

We often picture freedom as globe-trotting adventures or the luxury of working from home.

But at its core, freedom is about choice.

It’s the power to decide where you’re headed next, how you spend each day, and who shares those moments with you.

When our choices are not truly our own, our sense of freedom diminishes.

It’s natural to sometimes narrow our options for the sake of loved ones or to consider the wishes of others. But, it’s crucial to stay vigilant, ensuring we don’t inadvertently craft a life more about pleasing others than achieving our own aspirations and joys.

Actionable Tips:

  • Regularly assess your path and choices to ensure they align with your personal and professional goals.
  • Embrace the responsibility that comes with freedom, understanding that your choices shape your reality.
  • Be proactive in creating options for yourself in all areas of life.

14. True Wealth is Health

Around 10 years ago my right knee started to hurt as I walked upstairs.

Not thinking too much of it I left it & carried on about life. 10 years later at the young age of just 51, I have two severely arthritic knees and can no longer play tennis, run, squat, or do anything that causes further deterioration of the already nonexistent cartilage.

As a traveller who wants to hike & explore the world, this is a bit of a pain and something I will have to work around.

But it demonstrates to me the importance of our health above everything else.

It doesn’t matter how much money your business makes, without health, the joys of nomadic entrepreneurship can be severely limited.

Prioritising physical and mental well-being ensures we have the energy and vitality to pursue our passions and overcome any challenges.

things to do in phuket - muay thai boxing
Me looking sporty for once! – Muay Thai lesson

Actionable Tips:

  • Incorporate regular exercise and a balanced diet into your lifestyle especially as you get older!
  • Make strength training and stretching a priority.
  • Schedule regular health check-ups, listen to your body’s needs & try to catch things early!

Here in Thailand, they have packages at the hospital for all over body checks, blood counts, bone density, cancer markers, etc. My husband and I try to do it once a year.

The earlier we can catch anything the more action we can take to reverse it!

15. Let Go to Move Forward

Years ago I had a fantastic tennis coach who, as I was having a John McEnroe moment, would say to me – ‘let it go, focus on your next shot’.

The same is true in life.

Holding onto past mistakes or regrets can hinder your progress.

Learn to let go of past baggage to move forward with clarity and purpose.

Actionable Tips:

  • Practice forgiveness, both towards yourself and others, to release emotional burdens.
  • Focus on actionable steps you can take now to improve your current situation.
  • Use setbacks as learning opportunities, not anchors that hold you back.

16. Question Everything

Accepting information at face value can lead to missed opportunities for innovation and growth.

Just because someone else said it doesn’t make it true for you.

Just because it’s written in a book doesn’t make it true.

Even all these lessons in this post may not necessarily be true for you.

By questioning the status quo and digging deeper, you can uncover truths that align with your unique path and vision.

Actionable Tips:

  • Cultivate a healthy skepticism and do your own research before making decisions.
  • Talk to people with diverse perspectives to challenge your beliefs and expand your understanding.
  • Encourage open dialogue and have friendly debates with your family or community to cultivate innovation.

Next time you read something or learn something new, turn it on its head and ask yourself ‘Is that true?’

17. Everything is Figureoutable

Marie Forleo wrote a book with this title and it’s something I’ve believed for years.

image of the book Everything is Figureoutable

Never more so than when travelling!

  • Like the time my sister & I got (almost) scammed in India.
  • Like the time our longboat broke down in the middle of the Andaman Ocean.
  • Like the time we caught the wrong train in Germany & started going in the wrong direction.
  • Like the time my VPN didn’t work in China!

Facing challenges with the belief that you can find a solution heightens creativity and persistence.

Choosing to adopt a mindset of resilience and resourcefulness will make life as a nomadic solopreneur far easier.

Actionable Tips:

  • Break down overwhelming problems into manageable parts to tackle them step by step.
  • Build a network of mentors and peers for support and advice when needed.
  • Make sure you have a good sense of honour and can laugh when others might cry!

18. Be Kind

image of a women holding paper saying kindness pass it on

Kindness is a universal language that transcends cultural and language barriers.

Small acts of kindness can open doors, forge connections, and enrich your travel experiences in unexpected ways.

A friend of mine would always tell me the reason people were so kind to me was because of my innate kindness to them.

As my Mum used to say – ‘do unto others…’

Actionable Tips:

  • Practice empathy by considering others’ perspectives and circumstances.
  • Offer help without expecting anything in return, whether to a local community member or a fellow traveller.
  • Share your knowledge and experiences generously with others.

It costs nothing to be kind and yet it can bring so much happiness to you and to others.

19. Be a Connector

We very sadly live in a world rife with division.

With global connectivity at our fingertips, instead of kindness and love, we get embroiled in hate and intolerance.

It’s easy to point fingers at external forces like governments and corporations for wielding influence not always in the public’s best interest. But, the real challenge lies not in the external forces but in our response to them.

Instead of getting drawn into fruitless debates or internalising the online chaos, we have the choice to be the change-makers.

By adopting the role of connectors, we can use the very platforms that often divide us to build bridges, spread positivity, and remind us all of our shared humanity.

Actionable Tips:

  • Initiate and participate in community-building activities, both online and offline.
  • Use social media to share stories and ideas that unite rather than divide.
  • Participate in conversations with an open mind and heart, cultivating mutual understanding.

Let’s use the tools we have in our pockets for good.

20. Design Your Own Life

Living a nomadic solopreneur life is the epitome of intentional living.

Every choice, from relocating to a new country to starting an online venture, is a step in designing the life you desire.

Embrace this power of choice and use it to navigate obstacles and craft the existence you’ve always dreamed of.

Actionable Tips:

  • Set clear, long-term goals for both your personal and professional life.
  • Create a vision board or journal to visualize and plan the steps toward your ideal life.
  • Regularly assess your progress and adapt your plans as needed, staying true to your core values and desires.

You are in control of your life. You can choose to move to a cheaper country, start a more enjoyable job, build an online side hustle, etc.

Design your life the way you want it to be and if it’s not possible now, create a clear vision and start working towards it.

Worship the altar of intention and obstacle (as Aaron Sorkin would say) – live with intention, and move beyond the obstacles.

image of feet on a beach
Chillin’ on the beach 🙂

Wrapping Up

There are so many things travelling & running your own business teaches you.

From more tolerance and understanding of people, cultures, differences, etc to learning about yourself, your true beliefs, and values. It’s a journey of self discovery.

On this page are just a few of the lessons that have helped me along the way. I hope some resonate and help you too.

If I were to remember just one, I think it would be about living for now.

My friend who passed away left behind his wife, 19 year old stepdaughter, 10 year old daughter, brother, sister, Mum & a lifetime of friends.

He will be dearly missed.

image of my friend Gee showing thumbs up sign
RIP Khun Gee ❤️

There is nothing we can do that matters more than recognizing life is happening right now. At this very moment. This is life.

Not tomorrow, not yesterday, not next year. Right now. And you need to live it.

Thanks for reading!

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About the author

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