Digital Nomad Interviews – Claire from the United Kingdom

Here’s our next digital nomad interview. With this series, I feature people of different cultural, professional and personal background and let them talk about their lifestyle, why they chose to become digital nomads and how they combine work and travel. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to be part of the digital nomad interview series.

This time, Claire from the United Kingdom was so kind as to answer my questions.

Claire is a location-independent blogger and entrepreneur who has recently published her new book

Please check out Claire’s website and social media handles to connect and follow her:

Website: https://clairesitchyfeet.com

Instagram: clairesitchyfeet

Facebook Page: Claires Itchy Feet

Did you miss the previous interviews? Here they are:

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Interview with Claire

Hi Claire! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Hi I’m Claire and I’m a published author and blogger over at Claire’s Itchy Feet.

My background is pretty diverse, and a far cry from what I do now. I started my working life as a professional dancer, after an injury, I  somehow found myself in the British Navy where I served 5 years. On discharge, I went back to my first love, dance, and completed a degree and post-graduate cert in Dance Theatre and Research as well as a Teaching degree. After I graduated I set up a professional Dance company, Exim Dance, where I was the Artistic Director and Choreographer for 5 years. Alongside my role with Exim, I worked as a producer and project manager in the Arts doing everything from fundraising, to marketing. 

I worked with some of the top international dance artists on national and international projects. It was an incredible job and I miss it often, but it was a lot of stress, not much money, and time off was scarce.

Why and when did you set up as a digital nomad?

In 2015 I managed a huge national project, it consumed all of the time and energy for the best part of a year. Coming out of the other end of it I was never the same, I was well and truly burnt out. After years in the public funding cycle of doom (apply for funding – wait to find out if you still have money to pay everyone – get funding – start looking for more funding) and constant job insecurity I was just a wreck. My mental health had taken a big hit and I was struggling to get through the day without a panic attack or migraine.

So I did the unthinkable. I told everyone I wanted to get off the merry-go-round. It took a whole year to be able to exit. My producer jobs I was able to give notice, but my dance company was a whole other ball game. Luckily I had someone in mind to take over from me, she accepted, and over the year bit by bit, she took control. I’m happy to say the company is thriving under her direction.

So in September 2016, I left my life as I knew it and embarked on my new life as a Digital Nomad.

Do you travel alone or with a partner/friend? Which advantages and disadvantages does this have?

I travel alone. I don’t have a significant other so that was never an option. I actually prefer to travel solo. I like the freedom it gives me to make my own choices. There are of course downsides like I have to do all of the research and make all of the decisions myself! And its always a bit more expensive traveling alone as you can’t split the cost of accommodation etc.

Which continents/countries have you already visited? Do you have a bucket list of places you’d like to see?

When I left the UK I had this grand vision that I would travel the world in 2 years. It’s now been almost 3 years and I’m still in Latin America. I started in Guatemala and planned to just be there for 3 months, I ended up staying there for 9 months. I realized quickly that being a Digital Nomad meant that I was going to have to go a lot slower than my backpacker friends. So far I’ve lived in Guatemala, Colombia, and Mexico. But I’ve traveled to most of Central America and to a good number of cities in the USA.

I did have a one-way flight booked to Thailand booked, but I didn’t end up getting on the flight. I found out I have an auto-immune disease around the same time I was due to leave. My health was pretty bad and I knew I was in no way up to the move. So right now I’m pretty stable in Mexico for the foreseeable future. 

How do you handle work vs travel/sightseeing time?

This really is the hardest part! For example, I moved to Isla Cozumel 2 weeks ago so I could do more diving, the scuba diving in Cozumel is amazing, but I’ve yet to do a single dive! In fact, I’ve not done a whole lot of anything as I’m in a big work phase. I am here for another 6 weeks though so I know I still have time. 

Under normal circumstances, I do one of 3 things.

  1. Get up early and do some work then finish around 2 pm, then go exploring.
  2. Get up and go exploring early, then start work around 4 pm and work late.
  3. Work a few solid days and then take a few full days off.

It really is a balancing act and one I’m still trying to master!

Digital Nomad Interviews - Claire Summers

How long do you plan ahead? What are the advantages and disadvantages of planning ahead, in your opinion?

I don’t I gave that up in the first few months. I tried to plan last year and booked the Thailand flight 3 months in advance, and well I already told you what happened there. For me, it just doesn’t work. I prefer to take each day as it comes. Planning maybe a month in advance is good for me.

How do you choose your accommodation? What kind of accommodation do you like best? Why?

I have a system. 

  1. Ask in the local expat or DN groups on Facebook about the best way to get reasonably priced accommodation.
  2. Once I know that I line up some potentials and book in viewings on my first few days.
  3. Then I book 2-4 days in a hotel so I have somewhere to sleep while viewing.

This works down here in Latin America as everything is done last minute. When I moved to Medellin within 48 hours I’d viewed 7 places and moved into my top pick. Same with Playa del Carmen.

I also look out for Dog/ House sits. Thanks what I’m doing right now, it’s a win-win as I get free accommodation and a dog to play with!

How and where do you like to work? Why?

I’ve tried to do the whole working on the beach thing… But as it turns out I have one big requirement for being productive. I have to be cool.

When I can I work at a coworking space because they always have AC and steller WiFi. If I can’t do that then I find coffee shops with good WiFi, where they don’t mind me hanging out all day. As a last resort, I work from home.

I say last resort because when I work from home I might not come in to contact with another human for a week, not good for my mental health.

Do you have plans to settle down one day? If yes, where?

I feel pretty settled here in Mexico. I’m launching a lot of new ventures over the next 12 months so I know I’ll not be traveling so much. Once my work-life settles I plan to spend the winters here in Mexico and then travel during the Summer months. That’s what I did this year, the summers are just too hot here!

Any recommendation for people who would like to start a nomadic life but are not sure how?

If you’re a woman, read my book haha. I actually wrote a book all about being a Digital Nomad called The Solo Girls Guide to Becoming a Digital Nomad. It’s part self-help book and part autobiography. I really spill my guts in it about just how hard (and terrifying) it is to make the decision, and then once you have it’s a rollercoaster of emotions on the lead up to leave. You are probably going to doubt yourself a million times (I know I did), and feel a bit like you are about to step off a cliff with a blindfold on. In the book, I share my personal journey and offer you some ways you can get ready for your new life. 

This Digital Nomad lifestyle really isn’t for everyone, but you will never know unless you try. So my advice is to set a date, book a ticket, and just do it. At the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen? 

If you decide it’s not for you then you can just go home!

Anything funny, dangerous or special which happened to you that you’d like to share?

So many things, I was in 3 big earthquakes and got stung 3 times in my sleep by a scorpion in Guatemala. In Colombia, I ‘accidentally’ became illegal and had to leave. I also missed a flight by 2 whole days. That was quite an achievement!

There have been so many amazing moments too. The thing is when I took a day off in my old life, I’d probably just do housework or watch Netflix all day. But now when I take a day off I go swimming with whale sharks or scuba diving on the second largest reef in the world.

I wouldn’t have it any other way now.

Digital Nomad Interviews - Claire Summers
Daniela Fries

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