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  • Writer's pictureSarah Turnbull

You're doing WHAAAT? A Digital Nomad? At your age?

In December 2021, I upped sticks and left the UK, becoming a ‘digital nomad.’

View from a balcony overlooking the ocean

Hmmm, is digital nomad the correct term? I mean, I don’t traipse from place to place with a knackered old rucksack on my back (quite frankly, I’m a bit old for that), which I think is the traditional view of a digital nomad. But I have followed my dream to relocate to the sunshine of Mauritius.

A digital nomad uses available comms to perform their work, working remotely from any spot, instead of being located in a traditional office. If Covid has shown us anything, it’s demonstrated how remote working does work and how people can be trusted to get on with what they need to do.

That’s for employees. Freelancers have always had to deliver whatever environment they work in, because otherwise the bills don’t get paid. But I think people have become a bit more accepting of the concept.

So actually, location isn’t that important.

The term ‘digital nomad’ first came into use in the late 90s, with the rise of mobile working and internet usage. At first, digital nomads were mostly young ‘uns who used technology to telecommute or freelanced from coffee shops, home or other public places. But as digital nomads have become more common, they've been joined by remote workers of all ages and backgrounds. And that includes me.

We can work pretty much anywhere. We can travel and live in different places at our own pace. We’ve got flexibility to work when we want and how we want, but obviously need to meet deadlines and deliver on commitments. As a freelancer, I have the autonomy and freedom to work how I want.

One of the things that concerned me when I left the UK was whether I could maintain relationships with clients and have a steady flow of work because of the geographical distance. But with tools like Zoom and WhatsApp, it’s easy to have great comms with clients. I’m also lucky that I have some great networking contacts and we pass work between us.

I came to Mauritius for the first time in early 2019, fell in love with the place and haven’t looked back since… The place is beautiful. It has so many plusses, but I’m also not blind to its flaws.

The weather is pretty amazing, the people are a bit bonkers and the driving is a challenge. You run the gauntlet of mad bus drivers and people who drive at night with their lights off! I think it's the belief that they'll save money on fuel, but I’m not entirely sure. It could be down to complete madness and daredevil attitudes - or, after a lift on the back of a friend's motorbike recently, just the fact that the wiring was dicky - who knows?

Recycling is almost non-existent. You see people just chuck trash out of their window when driving along. The thinking is that there are authority workers employed to clean roads and pick up litter, so by chucking rubbish out of the window, they’re being kept in a job (insert face-palm emoji). It’s frustrating, but it’s going to take a lot of education to stamp out this thinking.

When I talk to clients, I often say ‘I’m overseas,’ rather than saying specifically where I am. I think it's from the fear that they think ‘Jeez, she’s earning too much money if she can afford to live there!’ But living is inexpensive when you don’t have wall-to-wall waiting staff, 24 hours a day buffets and a private pool in your 5-star bungalow!

One of the huge benefits of where I live is that I’m 3 or 4 hours ahead of the UK, depending on British Summer Time. I’m also 8 – 13 hours of the US, so I can get feedback from clients and turn things round by the opening of business in either country. I can be super-efficient!

My plan is to get back to the UK a couple of times a year to see family and friends, but in the meantime, I can use the comms to stay in touch. And we’re all a lot more used to it than we were 3 years ago.

Pink Leaf Fish

Work/life balance is a work in progress. I can see and hear the ocean while I’m working. When I’m not working, I’m often in it, indulging in my passion for diving. The water temperature is falling right now, so I’m starting to bulk up with extra wetsuit layers - but it still beats diving in a quarry in Leicestershire or the North Sea!

I'm a dive instructor so, on weekends, I get to share my love of the ocean with people discovering it for the first time, which is pretty cool! It also means I meet loads of new people, which I love too.

So, what are the ups and downs of living and working overseas? I miss my family and friends, obviously. I don’t miss the British winters. I love being a few hours ahead as it adds a level of efficiency to my day-to-day work and I still get to network with business friends and colleagues.

It’s something that’s working for me right now. Let’s see where it takes me next or whether I’ll stay here forever… Check back in five years, I’ll let you know 😊



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