10 mins of reading
26 April 2020, Bratislava
Kika is a digital nomad – someone who makes a living by working remotely, and with the help of only a laptop and internet connection can work from anywhere around the world.
Is a nomadic lifestyle compatible with responsible travel? Kika will share with us, how nomads perceive this connection, why many of them can be a role model for us and what she has learnt in a year of digital nomadism.
For many of us traveling and exploring new places and cultures is part of our DNA. We dream, plan, save for our next adventure. Looking for that feeling of freedom, the feeling of belonging everywhere, while we do not belong anywhere.
In fact, our ancestors lived that way – to a certain extent, they did not travel looking for experiences, but rather for food, when they were still living as hunters and gatherers and before the era of agriculture began. (If you were not paying attention in history class, we recommend the Sapiens book by Yuval Noah Harari, where you will also learn that our species has the track record of leaving behind not much else but destruction. Please check your small local retailers before you default to the ‘most obvious‘ online book seller). The good news is that there is more and more of us who care about our impact on the environment and society. That‘s why we are looking for footourists at home and around the world, so that we can broaden our horizons together, learn from each other by sharing experiences, and promote values and a lifestyle that might help us save our reputation in the history of Earth.
Although we started a little bit on the dark side, but a) we really care about sustainability and sustainable travel in particular – that’s why we do what we do and b) the quarantine, and having more time at hand make us think about where we are going as humanity. Anyway, please read on and shortly you will feel the sun and desire to travel again (ehm, responsibly please). Until the circumstances will allow us to, we invite you to follow the footsteps of digital nomad Kika.
Kika (31) works with a Czech startup Cowork Booking and upon checking their website you will find that her job title is „Mother of Dragons“. Kika has been a full time digital nomad since over a year. During this time she has visited at least 8 destinations and found her new home, where she had also planned to move. Her plans were however ruined by the virus.
What did your nomadic life look like until recently? Is it really such a wonderful and carefree life as we imagine?
I love the sun, traveling, freedom, meeting new people and living minimalistically, so the nomadic lifestyle is made for me. Over the past year, I have lived in Porto, Valencia, Lisbon, Malaga, Prague, Athens, Tbilisi and on the Canary Islands. I got to know many amazing people, cities as well as their surroundings and nature. Everywhere I travel, I get to know a community of digital nomads as well as locals, so I have friends all over the world. It is much more difficult when we try to meet again, as we all travel and follow our own individual paths, which do not always cross. Of course, we are used to communicating digitally always and wherever we are, so the quarantine or social isolation does not significantly affect our way of working and communicating.
Can you tell us what a ‘Mother of Dragons‘ does? What does your position entail and why the name?
I work as a Key Account Manager and I am in charge of communication with clients and business partners. I also do new clients acquisition – which are actually coworking spaces. Another big part of my role is social media and marketing, email campaigns, I do a lot of interviews with interesting people and write for our blog. And why Mother of Dragons? Those of you who know Game of Thrones will probably guess.
For us at Footour it is important to leave only a positive footprint behind when traveling. How do digital nomads approach the topic of responsible travel?
We are minimalists, consumerism and mass consumption is not what we do or support. Our life style allows us to own only what fits in one suitcase. Of course, we may travel more than the average European, but we often look for better alternatives to air travel. On average, I spend a month or two in one place, but many of us are in one destination for 6 months or for over a year. I try to compensate this by not buying almost any clothes at all, and when it comes down to it, I look for small local shops.
“We are drawn to simplicity, nature, culture, people, not “fancy” stuff. We treat our temporary homes responsibly, we learn the language, get to know the culture, it is different from mass tourism. Many co-living residences are gradually moving to operate with eco-principles, or are striving for a more sustainable operation.”
Many of us are looking for opportunities to help locally, but these are difficult for us to find. There is certainly a need for a platform to link these initiatives (or even just ideas) and us digital nomads. Of course, it is only natural that we help with digital or remote projects, such as websites or social media. For example, I am starting to work with an organization focused on Women‘s Leadership in Asia – WEDU. As part of their mentoring program, I will become a mentor to a young girl from India.
Many of us are now experiencing the highs and lows of remote working (thanks to Covid-19 ). But some of us lack the beautiful views of sea and the feeling of freedom that are so typical of Instagram accounts and travel blogs of digital nomads … Are those beautiful photos a reality or a bit of an exaggeration?
It’s about 50/50. In my experience digital nomads work hard to enjoy the benefits of this lifestyle. 80-90% of us are freelancers, looking for clients, projects and therefore many of us do not have a guaranteed income. If we slack off for a day, we compromise our income too. Of course, work discipline is a prerequisite for success, and at the same time the biggest challenge. Flexible working hours and being our own boss often means that we actually work much more than the average employee. However, people don’t usually show this off on instagram.
Because we are on the road so much, we often do not have a place to call home. And relationships – whether friendly or romantic – are great while we are in one place. Then it usually gets complicated.
“We are very much aware of this flip side of nomadism and that is why we actively work on our mental health. In co-living places it is perfectly normal for the day to start with meditation and yoga. People are constantly working on themselves, listening to podcasts, audiobooks, learning about psychology, emotional intelligence … Being part of this community is extremely inspiring and it constantly gives me energy and motivation to work on myself too.”
Where were you when Corona was finally taken seriously in Europe and Slovakia? How did it affect your plans?
I was in Georgia – I love that country, and my next destination was going to be Portugal, where I actually planned to move, exactly the day after Slovakia got “disconnected” from Europe. Although theoretically I could still get to Lisbon (I was flying from Tbilisi via Budapest), I decided to wait out this period at home in Bratislava. Now I am enjoying a “forced” break at home, and following a 2-week quarantine, I also get to spend time with my parents, who otherwise don’t have me around much.
What does your day look like now during the pandemic?
I work from home – nothing has actually changed there, we are just dealing with more ad-hoc things, we also focus more on the current topics and challenges in our comms aimed at the nomadic community. I write on a blog, sharing advice on how to run a freelance business and stay motivated during the pandemic and especially how to stay healthy.
In a month, a lot has been written and talked about how to make the most of our time, while staying at home. I don’t like how much pressure we put on ourselves in this area. We also need to enjoy the everyday activities we haven’t had time for previously. I am happy I can finally try new recipes, practice yoga, go to the forest almost every day and have time for long conversations, both online and offline.
Q: What is happening now in the lives of digital nomads? Many must have stopped traveling.
Although work as such has not changed much for our community, there are certainly challenges associated with the overall economic decline and travel as such. Many nomads are used to slow travel and stay in one destination for over 6 months. I believe that the current situation will further affect this trend positively. In my experience, after the first year many of us slow down and enjoy the benefits of familiar places and close relationships. Coworking spaces have, of course, closed during the pandemic, so that’s a big change, but there are a lot of online events and a lot of activities in general to support and build online communities.
Q: What awaits you after the corona, or when travel restrictions are lifted?
I think about it a lot. I would like to choose a place where I can stay longer and where I will feel at home and at ease. As of yet, no one knows how and when we will get back in gear but I am already looking forward to how certain aspect of life and the world will change – I believe positively.
Q: Where is home for you? Where do you feel your best?
For me, it is Prague and Lisbon at the same time. They are beautiful cities, not too big, there is always something going on, the people and culture are great. During the winter, I’m happy to be in a warmer climate And of course it’s also about the community and the experiences, so these cities will always be special for me.
And so we say goodbye to Kika, and we can’t help but wonder about the human desire for freedom and sense of security alike. We want to belong – somewhere, to someone. Probably, the most beautiful thing is that we really do have the freedom – to choose for ourselves. To try what works for us and what doesn’t and to find the right balance. Let‘s not forget that this is a privilege, and more often than not, our decisions have an impact on our society and our only planet.
This article has been published as a part of a series called Humans of Footour. Our wanders through life and world have brought us many stories and new, unique perspectives on the world and people around us. For now, we no longer wander, instead we are staying at home and build our capacity. We are working hard, so that we all can travel more responsibly and only leave a positive footprint behind.
We can’t wait for our joint adventures – once it will be safe again, until then we would like to share with you stories from Slovakia and around the world. Stories of people, who are close to our heart and our philosophy. People, who are Footourists by nature – who care and look to understand their impact, who help and make this world a better place, and inspire others to do the same. For more info about our future travel adventures click here!
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