Sara Baroni is a digital nomad from Italy who has worked while traveling for many years. We asked Sara to tell us about how her remote lifestyle has affected her relationships with people back ‘home’, why she is well-suited to freelancing and what she finds challenging about life on the road.
Please can you give us some background on who you are, where you’re from and what you do as a digital nomad?
I’m originally from Italy but I have now spent more than half my life in the UK, which is the place I call “home”. I have been working as a freelance translator (specialising in videogames), copywriter and writer for 10 years, always remotely, so this lifestyle lends itself very well to travelling a lot!
What is a typical day like for you?
Well, variety is the spice of life! But it may look something like this: waking up not too late, doing something like Pilates or a Muay Thai class (which I just started doing), then working through the day (a mix of writing and translating) at a co-working space. Taking a break at sunset to enjoy it on the beach (and maybe have a swim). If work is not too busy, that may be it for the day, otherwise a couple more hours of work, followed by dinner with friends/other nomads. After that, relaxing in my room with a TV show, reading or catching up with family and friends via Skype. Sometimes I’ll go out for a drink after work but not too often.
What pushed you towards a nomadic lifestyle?
I worked for many years in a “normal” office and remember looking out of the window and seeing people doing other things, they seemed “free”. I yearned for that, so, when it was time to move on, I decided I wanted a job that gave me some freedom. In addition, as my family was still in Italy, I wanted to be able to visit when I wanted without interrupting work and I also didn’t want that to count as a “holiday” (which it never is!). I started translating and as soon as the internet around the world was good enough for me to travel, I went! I didn’t even know what a “digital nomad” was until after I started being one.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive in a new place?
Get the wi-fi password! After that, get the lay of the land: basic needs like food, phone, transport, coworking/coffee…
What have been your favourite places so far and why?
My favourite place so far for nomading has been Koh Lanta, mostly due to the amazing KoHub. I now call it my happy island. It has everything I need: chilled out vibe, not too touristy, great coworking, fabulous beaches, Thai food, good fintess options, a great community and of course at Thai cost of living. I can see myself coming back every year. It’s a very productive place, just don’t party too hard!
What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of being a freelance translator?
My favourite aspect is that it is a stress free job, I never have problems, I take on jobs (or not) and deliver them to my clients. I have no headaches. Sometimes I have to work a little hard/long hours, but I don’t mind when the work I do is actually funny and interesting (I also sometimes need to play games). The negative aspect is the long hours in front of the computer, but that’s not very often.
What should you look for in a good client?
Good communication, reliability, open practices, on time payment. And the client being aware that we’re on the same team.
How has your lifestyle evolved during your time as a nomad?
When I’m in London I tend to be more sedentary and to eat badly (entirely my fault). Out on a tropical island I find it easier to be healthier. I have also started waking up earlier, as the days are much shorter in the tropics and I want to make the most of them.
How has your lifestyle affected your relationships with people back ‘home’?
There’s no denying that being so far away, most relationships don’t have the same quality. As for my family, since I already lived abroad, there isn’t much difference. But with my London friends, I leave the good times for when we catch up face to face.
What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?
A place where I feel safe and comfortable. Not a physical location.
Has anything ever scared you as a digital nomad and how did you deal with it?
Not scared as such. More worried about making sure I would have a good enough work connection/set up to deliver on my projects. Other than that, it’s thrilling!
Do you prefer to travel slowly or quickly and why?
Definitely slowly. I work a lot so if I travel slowly I have more time to get to know a place, and people, and to see things. I hate rushing through a place. And on top of that, if I don’t have a bit of a routine I end up defaulting to my worst habits (junk food, no exercise etc), so slow is definitely the way to go for me. I like to become one of the “locals” wherever I am.
Can you tell us about one or more of your favourite moments as a nomad?
Meeting again with other nomads around the world after having met in another location. Instant homecoming!
What have you found challenging about the digital nomad lifestyle?
As I said above, keeping healthy is crucial so I have to plan my travels accordingly. The other aspect of this is any ongoing medical issues (from big to small) you may have, are hard to deal with because you’re not in the same place, being seen by the same doctor. I tend to bunch up all my medical issues until I am in London (or sometimes other places too) and try and solve them all at the same time, which often isn’t really practical. Finally, the dating aspect. It isn’t easy to find people to connect on a deeper level (I already find this hard at home, and here the pool is even smaller).
How do you choose where to go next?
Weather/friends/specific events (weddings, births etc.)
What do you expect to be doing in ten years?
Living and working out of 2-3 bases around the world. Still spending good chunks of time in interesting locations. Hopefully with someone by my side.
What are the main aspects of your personality that have allowed you to live as a digital nomad?
I am able to talk to anyone, and to relate to most people.
Do you have any daily routines or habits that you always stick to?
I always have my phone on silent. It’s the secret to a long and stress-free life.
Do you take holidays? If so where and how?
I haven’t really taken holidays as such since nomading, and the idea now of going on a holiday with someone who isn’t a nomad, who isn’t planning on doing any work, seems like such a weird thing.
It is hard for me to take time off, but it is very easy to carve out moments, hours, half days here and there and be more flexible, that I prefer doing it this way. Holidays always come with such high expectations…
What do you wish you had known when you started as a nomad?
That I am not going to be the oldest person out there doing this!
What is the best food you have eaten as a digital nomad?
Thai food as a whole. I will never get tired of it. Closely followed by Vietnamese.
How have your friends and family reacted to your lifestyle?
Most don’t really understand. But a good group do understand and are supportive/envious. They see it makes me happy so they are happy, but I do think they question the longevity of it.
How do you define success?
Which books have had a big impact on you?
Nothing non-fiction aimed at DNs. Probably one of the best books I’ve ever read, which gave me a lot of food for thought, was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
What are the creature comforts can you not live without?
Private bathroom. Regular massages. A decent wifi connection at home to stream TV shows. Oh, and granola and yoghurt!