Have you ever heard of a digital nomad? Over the past decade-and-a-bit (thanks to massive improvements in global internet connectivity), a new group of professionals have emerged.
Digital nomads pay for their nomadic lifestyle through online work.
Some may write for a living, some may be social media influencers, while other simply work off-grid.
They could have a job with a company which allows for remote working.
They could do contract computer programming or work in finance. The key is as long as they have access to a stable and secure internet connection, they can live and work from anywhere.
Digital nomads are, technically speaking, people who don’t like to stay in one place for too long. Ireland has its fair share out in the world, and ICL recently caught up with one, travel journalist Janet Newenham.
She is currently in Egypt after stints in Turkey and, most recently, Iraq.
She writes the award-winning travel blog Journalist on the Run and maintains popular social media streams, including a vibrant YouTube channel.
Her passion for travel goes beyond your usual “sunny holiday” – chatting with ICL, she readily admits she will embark on a months-long journey at the drop of the hat.
“I’m very much a ‘yes’ person, so if I get invited on a month-long trip across Russia – or six-month trip across Africa – by someone I’ve only met once or twice, I’ll pretty much always say yes,” she says from a the boat on which she is currently staying (it’s making its way up the Nile, towards the Egyptian city of Luxor).
“I used to always travel solo, and while I think you can have some pretty unique experiences when travelling solo, I now tend to travel with a friend. I am lucky in that many of my friends are also travel bloggers (and vloggers), so it’s always easy to find someone who is also travelling where I want to go.”
Career, not a hobby
Janet’s website and YouTube channel generate a monthly income, enabling her to focus solely on creating great travel content – which comes from having unique travel experiences.
Creating videos, curating social media streams and maintaining a popular website is a lot of work. That said, if Janet’s job sounds like a made-up job to you, you’re not alone. She comes from a farming family in Co Cork and says it took her parents some time to realise her job was ‘real’.
“My family are super supportive and proud of my travelling lifestyle, although I do think it took them a year or two to fully understand that blogging and making travel videos is in fact my job and a career rather than just a hobby,” she says.
“I won a travel journalism award a few years ago and, as I was in Mexico, I sent my mum up to Dublin to collect the award. She found herself up on stage with Kathryn Thomas and later told me that only then did she realise what I did was a ‘real job’!”
Passion for travel
Janet’s passion for travel can be traced back to her childhood and adolescence. She spent six months in France at the age of 15, followed by a sailing adventure from Ireland to Poland a year later. Then, at just 18 years of age, she spent a year solo travelling around Africa.
“I definitely caught the travel bug from a young age and even while in university, it was hard to shake it off,” she tells ICL. “[Then], while working full time in Dublin doing various PR and marketing jobs, I was always working on my travel site in the background and freelancing for people like Skyscanner and Lonely Planet.
“Once I worked out that I could make over €1,000 a month from my freelancing, I decided to quit my job and book a one-way ticket to South Africa,” she continues. “It took another six months before my own travel blog would make money – and probably a full year before I was able to quit all freelancing work and live off the passive income from my own blog.”
Having been travelling for over a decade now, Janet says she doesn’t have too many bad experiences to report. She likes to make the most of every situation and tends to brush off bad experiences as simply “something to write about later” (though she does mention getting stranded on a desert lake in east Africa and having to “fight off crocodiles”!). As for her most memorable journeys, she says her recent trip to Iraq has been a serious highlight.
“It was by far one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life,” she writes.
“Iraq only opened up to tourists (for the first time in 20 years) in March of this year, so – as you can imagine – the people there are not too used to seeing tourists.
“I’ve never felt more welcome in a country, and we made so many amazing friends – I’m planning to return again later this year. Some parts of the country are still totally devastated by war and it was difficult to visit cities that were almost entirely rubble, but other cities (like Baghdad) are surprisingly modern, and it’s a fascinating country to visit and explore.”
Holidays are special, partly because they are infrequent – they’re a break from work and the daily grind. What happens when travel and “holidays” are just another part of your day-to-day? ICL asks Janet if she ever gets homesick for Ireland.
“Not really,” she explains. “I love my family and friends and miss them, but as the years go on I know that my life is not (and will never be) in Ireland. I try to make it home at least once a year to visit.”
If that’s the case, where in the world would Janet ever decide to put down roots? She readily responds that the Indonesian island of Bali – her so-called “second home” – would definitely be the place.
“I think it’s the perfect place to be based,” she writes. “In an ideal world, and if this YouTube thing takes off, I would also love to own property in South Africa – the only other place besides Ireland and Bali that I would happily call ‘home’. Also, I’d love to buy a Land Rover and drive it home from Asia back to Ireland. Now that would be a dream!”
Read more at journalistontherun.com or follow Janet on Instagram @janetnewenham