That Time I Decided to Become a Digital Nomad

Sunday, my new life of living abroad while working remotely officially begins.

Follow my adventures by subscribing to lomicsa, my travel blog.

I’ve spent the last year of my life working remotely from a log cabin located 50 miles outside of Kansas City, Missouri. My former company was a Department of Defense contractor and based in Salt Lake City.

Tough times came for the company when they lost their main contract on re-compete to a software juggernaut, but before that, they were a small company and the proud producers of the largest Federal eCommerce system in existence.

My marketing spiel was basically that I worked for

The entire company was built out around the original patent for the first searchable database and was originally funded by DARPA about 25 years ago.

It’s not an understatement to say that I was thrilled to work there and to work beside developers and sysadmins who had, not only seen it all, but who had been there from the beginning.

When I moved, they let me stay on while working remotely. I ended up in a different city than the original plan, but it didn’t matter because I was working remote and anywhere with WiFi worked just fine to attend meetings via Google Hangouts and to answer company inquiries via email.

In the spring, my mother saw something in a magazine about a travel program for digital nomads.

The article said that they help their community connect with local cultures and business ecosystems, forming lifelong, border-less personal and professional relationships.

I went to the website while I was on a plane traveling to the East Coast to lead a user training session and install some system updates for a client. I filled out the application and wrote a few essays without apprehension.

Then, I hit “Apply Now” with a what-the-hell flourish.

Chances were that this wasn’t going to be the thing.

Surely not my thing.

And chances were that I wasn’t going to be selected. My friends and support systems were far more optimistic than I was. It is truly remarkable how others’ faith in you can lift you up, keeping you buoyant when self-doubt tries to pull you under.

I knew my corporate job as Director of Marketing Communications was drawing to a close, my 13-year marriage had ended only a few months before, I’d just lost my father to a battle of pancreatitis and, frankly, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

It is remarkable how others’ faith in you can lift you up, keeping you buoyant when self-doubt tries to pull you under.

As I completed essay after essay, I received an email each time notifying me that “Congratulations!” I’d been sent to the next round.

Finally, during a round of interviews, I asked, “Do you guys just accept everyone?” incredulous as to how seemingly far in the process I’d gotten.

I asked, “Do you guys just accept everyone?”

The intake officer’s reply, “Actually, we’ve had to increase the fee on the application.” … (There was no fee when I applied initially back in March.)

“Because we’ve had over 100,000 applicants,” she finished.

I quickly assessed that I should’ve been far more nervous for the interview than I was.

A few weeks after the final interview round, I got an email saying that I’d been accepted.

Just like that.

I was stunned, but my supporters were not at all surprised. And while my mother kicked herself for about three weeks straight for clipping that magazine article and tucking it in my laptop bag, everyone was in agreement with my thought that spending a year abroad while I still didn’t have any of those things — save my rescue dog Ayra who will stay behind and keep my mom company after the passing of my father and get her out on her multiple jaunts each day — that bind you to a place.

Furthermore, everyone agreed with my assessment that, if nothing else, it would be a grand adventure.

I looked for another remote marketing director position, but I was picky. I wanted a place that had a solid social aim and an incredible team. I got close a couple of times and those experiences were amazing, but mostly it was a lot of boiler plate rejection letters from companies that just didn’t get it yet.

Those were the companies that didn’t understand that you have to start with why; that even the way you send a “no thank you” matters and says something about your company.

So I read and researched and honed my skills. I volunteered at the local school of the arts and provided marketing advice for friends who run startups and small businesses.

Then, it occurred to me.

Just like that.

I could keep helping the people and companies that I admired and respected if only I was my own boss. So last week I started my own marketing consulting business.

Just like that.

I could keep helping people and companies I admired and respected if only I was my own boss. So last week I started my own marketing consulting business.

If you have a company or startup and want to make a positive impact in the world and share your message through engaging, beautifully crafted stories, contact me.

Let’s have a real conversation.

Let’s talk about why you are really doing this. Let’s talk about what makes your brand human — what makes you human. Let’s talk about what makes us all human. All of us, wherever we are.

These are the stories that people want to hear. This is how you will engage your audience deeply. This is how you will rise above the chatter and the short attention spans.

No matter where in the world you are.

This is how you will succeed. Just like that.

And if this sounds like you, I’d love to help.

UPDATE: Michelle now travels the world on her own as a solo adventurer, connecting with other travelers and locals along the way. If you want to become a digital nomad, check out her How-To Become a Digital Nomad Guide.

Get in touch or follow her adventures as she works remotely and travels:

If you want to start your life as a #digitalnomad, read her Guide to Becoming a Digital Nomad.

Photography by Brooke Kuykendall