We recently chatted with Brendan Connelly, a 23-year old digital nomad from the United States. Brendan is currently living a nomadic lifestyle while working remotely as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer. Before having to return back to the United States due to the covid-19 pandemic, Brendan spent almost 11 months backpacking and living in South America.
Considering the name of our company, let’s touch on the nomadic lifestyle first. Why did you decide to become a digital nomad, and how did it materialize?
I’ve always had an extremely curious nature, I love to travel and experience new cultures, and this curiosity was stronger than ever upon graduating college, to the point where making long-term plans that would keep me in one location indefinitely actually gave me anxiety. That’s when I set out to find a job that allowed me to work remotely, from any location in the world, so that I could make some money to fund my travels as I was actively bouncing around the globe. This is an essential part of being a digital nomad, and something that we sometimes forget to touch upon because there is this focus on glamorizing the experience, but you need money to travel. That would be my first tip for anyone who is looking into the nomadic lifestyle – make sure that you have the income to support your travels. Next, I would suggest that you deep dive and really research the lifestyle. From financial costs to personal implications, there is a lot of research that goes into being location independent.
Tell us more about your remote job and how it works in practicality?
I work as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer. Thankfully, the tech industry in recent years has increasingly been going digital (especially since covid-19 started), which has only helped the possibility of a digital nomad lifestyle. I find that working remotely and having the freedom to live nomadically is the perfect work-life balance.
A lot of people dream about traveling the world, but very few actually act on it. What turned the dream into a reality for you?
Getting a remote position was essential, there is no doubt about that. But it didn’t fall into my lap, I made an effort to find work that would allow me to travel. It can be overwhelming to figure out but think about what you need to make it happen and then start checking things off the list. In terms of what ended up fueling my fire, it was a trip to India and Sri Lanka a few years ago. It was an incredible experience from start to finish, and it truly created an insatiable hunger for me when it came to seeing the world and all of its unique, beautiful differences. I’ve been on a mission ever since, and I have hopes and dreams of visiting every country in the world.
The three founders of the Nation of Nmds live nomadic lifestyles and are working hard to inspire others to do the same. With that said, we want to be transparent about the challenges and realistic in our communication with our +20K and growing community. So, tell us about the biggest challenges that come with being a digital nomad, in your experience?
Finding steady income and a company to work for that understands and is okay with your lifestyle can be difficult, of course. I expect the nomadic lifestyle to become more common in the coming years, but we’re not there yet. But we see an increase in people working from home, being given flexible schedules, and a general shift towards better work-life balance.
In terms of the practical aspects of the digital lifestyle, it’s always a challenge to travel light, being able to fit everything in my bag. But you get the hang of it pretty quickly, learn to only pack essentials, and adapt as you travel through different climates and cultures.
With that out of the way, let’s see if we can inspire others to take the leap. Any advice?
It’s going to feel intimidating, overwhelming, and confusing at first. You’ll need to build up the courage to get rid of the intimidation, but feeling overwhelmed and confused is easily cured by doing research. Being educated about the lifestyle will also make you more courageous and confident in your decision to live like a digital nomad. So, do your research and do it thoroughly. Read about the experiences of other digital nomads, contact them with questions, and find answers to your most pressing questions and concerns. There are a ton of people who have been in your position before, you wouldn’t be the first person in the world to embrace a nomadic life, and that is your advantage. Learn from their experiences and mistakes. This’ll make it less frightening and more feasible. Last but not least, just make sure that this is what you truly want to do, as it still requires a leap of faith, hard work, and ability and maybe even desire to just roll with the punches. I am living day-to-day, without concrete plans or vacations booked months in advance, and while I thoroughly enjoy it, it takes some getting used to. I love the incredible flexibility that has been added to my life, I feel truly free, and I have no plans to sacrifice that any time soon.
Let’s talk about the most incredible aspect of being a digital nomad; travel and new experiences. What has stood out to you so far and what are your recommendations?
As previously mentioned, India and Sri Lanka really inspired me to travel more. It was a culture shock for me, in the best way possible, with societies and cultures that are the polar opposite of western countries. It was so incredibly fascinating to experience, and I would recommend others to find their own versions of this. Go somewhere that is nothing like where you are from, soak it in, and grow from it.
A close second would have to be South America, which was my first experience as a digital nomad. I spent about 4.5 months backpacking around the continent, visiting 9 countries in that period of time. After backpacking around, I just couldn’t resist the idea of living in one spot in South America for an extended period of time in order to concentrate on improving my Spanish and really immersing myself into the culture. As a result, I chose to live in Buenos Aires for what was supposed to be 4 months but turned into 6 months due to the national lockdown that was imposed in Argentina in March due to covid-19 (check out the article about my lockdown experience in Argentina on my blog). After spending half a year in Buenos Aires, it quickly turned into one of my favorite places in the world; there is just something indescribable about the people and culture that I fell in love with.