Ana Dobrevska, 32, is a Digital Nomad and solo traveller originally from Bulgaria. She is currently living in Portugal and is a self-employed Social Media Manager and Content Creator for the health and wellness sector. Ana shares her journey on her Instagram. She has learnt the art of travelling and her nomadic lifestyle lessons on digital nomads are insightful.
After moving to the UK to study, Ana realised just how cheap flights were around Europe. She started to make weekend trips around the continent and discovered she loved other cultures and wanted to get to know different people and traditions. After coming to this beautiful realisation, Ana said she asked herself: “I love travelling, but how can I do this and make money while I’m doing it?”.
When Ana embarked on her journey, few were doing the same, and when asked if she was a pioneer of the Digital Nomad lifestyle, she exclaimed: “Yeah! I was a pioneer!”. As an experienced Digital Nomad, Ana had many valuable tips and tricks to offer prospective nomads.
“For people that are just starting out, look for places where there is a big community of ex-pats and nomads. Usually, when you start researching on Facebook groups, people all go to the same places […] it’s important to be around people like you.”
“Another tip would be when you’re looking for accommodation, look at Facebook groups, see where nomads are leaving a place or asking for a rental. Look on Airbnb at monthly stays as there is always a discount. Try to bargain with the owners, and usually, you can come up with a lower monthly fee.”
Networking is crucial. According to Ana, you can find out a lot about a place before you get there and make friends. So you can explore together.
As for planning her trips, Ana admitted that she followed the stereotypical Digital Nomad strategy (or lack of system): “it’s a trend within the community that we try and escape somewhere warmer when the European winter comes, and for the past two years I’ve tried to do that. When the summer comes, I try to stay within Europe depending on where people go or places that interest me.
“Usually, when you arrive somewhere, people start talking about where they want to go next. But nomads don’t like planning. We make decisions last minute, and that’s pretty annoying. I would love to plan more! As for now, where I’m going after the winter, I don’t know yet.”
Once at a destination, Ana explained: “I stay in a place for two to three months to get to know a place and the people, to get a feel of the community and the country. I like exploring slowly and feeling like I’m at home.”
Despite being an experienced traveller, Ana said there are still things that are on her bucket list, such as climbing Mount Killamanjaro, flying in a hot air balloon at sunrise and feeding giraffes at Giraffe Manor in Kenya. Destinations on her bucket list include India, as she wants to explore the spirituality of the country and South America, as she is yet to visit the continent. She also explained that she wants to take the Trans-Siberian railway that takes you from Russia to China.
However, the reality of being a Digital Nomad, away from the misconceptions portrayed on social media was something Ana was keen to talk about. She confessed there are some challenges that full-time travellers face.
“There is a very big difference in the way that normal people travel, and digital nomads travel. People always think that we are on holiday and we’re not. We’re not always sightseeing, partying or eating out because we’re having a normal lifestyle and working, but we’re just changing the location. So there’s a lot of FOMO.”
“It’s not just working with a laptop from a beach like what people think it is. You don’t know that before I was working on that beach with that laptop, I had an electricity failure.”
The Social Media Manager also discussed the challenges and worries that Digital Nomads encounter while travelling to new nations alone. While she stated it is simple to make friends with fellow nomads and locals everywhere you travel, she added it is tough to form solid relationships and rely on others so quickly.
“The biggest challenge most of us find is building relationships with friends and romantic partners because we’re always moving all of the time, and relationships take time to build up. Finding people is easy. Keeping them is hard.”
“You might end up with someone for two to three months, but then you have to make that decision; should we travel together to the next destination or do we go our own way? You don’t have to ask yourself that question when you’re in a relationship for three months in a normal place because you’re not leaving.”
“I always say that ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ is not the same thing. You’re never alone as a Digital Nomad, and there are so many people around no matter where you go. But a lot of times, you might feel lonely because of the coming and going.”
“Everything is much more dynamic. It’s such a fast-paced life. I’ve had a year that most people don’t have in three or four years. When people say “get out of your comfort zone”, for a nomad getting out of their comfort zone is just being in one place because we’re so used to the extreme.”
One of Ana’s main fears is falling ill and not having anyone to take care of her. She overcame this by recognizing that people are often willing to help even if they are strangers.
“You often end up in very compassionate and understanding communities where people are in the same position as you. I’ve been in situations where peers of mine have had Covid. I’ve always offered to get them food, medicine or anything they need, even if I’ve known them just for a week because it might happen to you.”
“There are all of these people that will help you out if something happens. So it also gives you trust in humanity; people are nice and kind, and I’ve experienced that. It makes you believe in the world and the goodness in the world when you travel.”
But overcoming these fears and challenges has benefits that Ana feels contributes to your character and makes you well-versed to deal with other difficulties in life: “Travelling builds resilience […] It teaches you a lot about who you are, your capabilities, it makes you more resourceful.”
“It’s a great way to learn how to trust others, and it’s a good skill to have. I struggled with that because I was so used to being on my own. And when you are somewhere unfamiliar, you cannot do that, and you have to ask for help. You have to trust others and be vulnerable. What you learn as a nomad can translate into any area of life. Be it your business, intimate relationships, your family, all of that.”
As a seasoned traveller, Ana has noticed an increase in the number of people joining the Digital Nomad community since lockdown as it became popular on social media. The statistics reflect in the U.S alone, where the number of Digital Nomads tripled in the last few years from 4.8 million in 2018 to 15.5 million according to Project Untethered. She expressed that this increase has helped the community as it has led to creating more co-living and co-working spaces for working travellers to utilise.
Her overall message for those thinking about embarking on the travelling and working lifestyle was: “just try it out; you might fall in love with it”.
She admitted that it’s not for everyone: “you have to be okay being yourself, very adaptive, pro-active and open-minded”. Ana insists that people give it a go as there’s always a way out. “The best thing about it is that you can always stop doing it cause your life is not going to end. You still have your job, right?”
“Even if you don’t do it for your whole life, even if you just do it for a year and have your gap year, it’s a great way to meet so many people that have so many ideas, and it’s a great way to explore.”
There is something very valuable in Ana’s message. And you never know what is out there for you if you don’t try to find it.
These lessons on digital nomads are not only informative but also discuss the lifestyle and method to live it.