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THE SUBTLE ART OF BEING A DIGITAL NOMAD

// Live a life you will remember

AN INTERVIEW BY FEDERICA CIUCI PRIORI

There are just a couple of things I always keep in mind :

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun. Stay wild.”
“Live a life you will remember”.

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Long story short.

I met Franci 5 or 4 years ago.
We were working togheter during Fashion Week in Milan, both very focused on our careers, full of goals and dreams.
We connected instantly. She was so passionate, productive, problem solving and – most important – she was one of the most positive person I ever have the chance to meet in the industry till that moment.
Last year we both left  for a beautiful long summer trip in Indonesia.
After that, I came back to Italy.
She didn’t.
When I met her I thought she would always inspire me for her professionalism and know-how.
But, right now, she’s giving me something more important: freedom vibes, good energy and courage. Lot of courage.
From the other side of the world where she’s happy, wild and a digital nomad.
Ever wanted to run away and change your life for good? She did it for real.
….They call it the “subtle art of not giving a fuck”.
But I know she cares too much to be selfish.

She has only learned to love herself more.

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F. What does it mean to be digital nomad?
Fra. From Investopedia:
“Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job. Digital nomads work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office. The digital nomad lifestyle was made possible through a number of innovations, including cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers.?
Although most telecommuters and freelancers are technically digital nomads, the term is most often used to describe people who are living or traveling abroad while working.”

From one of my post, my definition based on my experience :
“The subtle art of being a Digital Nomad
What an Era we live in – connected 24/7
When you find yourself stuck in a rice field in Asia or in the in the middle of a Rainforest for the weekend with 0.5 bars of connection… working on your laptop from a boat crossing from one island to another in Bali… or from a tiny camping table you keep in your van while stuck in a banana field …or simply “stealing wifi” from the nearest hostel cause it’s better then yours for a Skype call. – I chose this life almost a year ago, the hardest and most hilarious way.? Don’t regret anything at all.?
But I still laugh at myself when I see me, hand up with my phone to get a better connection to hotspot my laptop, to send an email while downloading pictures from my camera with the other hand.”

F. Tell us, what did you do exactly before changing lifestyle? Who was and who is nowadays Francesca?
Fra. If I think about my life two years ago it couldn’t be more different from now.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great life back in Italy, it just didn’t suit me.
I was (and still am) a Photo&Video Producer, a job that I absolutely love.
With Lule Production we had amazing clients, quite important brands that sent us in stunning locations to realize their campaigns; that was and still is one of the most incredible projects I’ve been proud being part of.
I was also working with some of the best casting directors for the Fashion Weeks in Milan.
Basically all my dreams for my carrier came true.
I had an apartment in which I was living with my ex partner and our beloved dog.
Then exactly two years ago my life fall apart. I suffered from a pretty serious medical condition that temporarily paralyzed my right arm, in and out of the hospital for months; split up with my partner and after a long fight against cancer my dog passed away. Those were my 3 strikes basically.
I don’t recall for how long I refused to wear anything else than my pijama pants (purple velvet / absolutely horrible) and my hoodie.

Then one day something in my mind clicked, I always wanted to go to Bali and after the ok from the doctor I booked a flight, packed my bag and left.
I’ve always been traveling a lot, for passion, for work, with family, with friends, by myself…
So I took the (not easy) decision to do my job remotely while exploring.
My project consist in an (online of course) Art Factory 2.0, named IT’S NOT NORMAL CREATIVE.
While traveling I met and collaborated with so many young creatives, amazing Photographers and Videographers from all over the world, that I thought this could have been a great start and an amazing work.
In the past year and a half I discovered how hard and at the same time amazing is to be a digital nomad.
I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime and that’s also great.
I’ve just recently finished my farm work, so that I can apply for my second year visa.
I’ve been picking and packing any sort of fruit or veggie, which is something I would have never pictured myself doing.
I wouldn’t say now I’m someone different but I’ve definitely changed a lot and that’s great because that’s what travel does to you. It opens up your mind, gets you out of your comfort zone, makes you reach your limits and go way further than you could expect.
If I wake up some day and realize there is something I don’t like I do something to change it, because let’s be honest the biggest step has already been taken so it can only be easier.
Now instead of a closet I have a (BIG, VERY BIG) backpack, instead of my apartment I live in hostels (or huts, or tents or vans depending on the country) and I share most of my “home time” with people from all over the world.

I’m still not sure of who I am now, but I can proudly say I’m happy.

F. It all started about a year and two months ago with your holiday in Indonesia. An endless journey, with some breaks on the way, but that you have not finished yet. When did you understand that you would no longer “come back”? When you left for Asia, at the beginning, did you already have the presentiment that you would make this decision? Remember that your backpack was already bigger and heavier than necessary!
Fra. Some people said it was about to happen, most of them knew it before me, it looked like I was the last one to realize that ahahah It’s always been in my head tbh, I always wanted to be a full time traveler I just didn’t expect it to happen this way…
I guess we can say it has been like an epiphany!
I was traveling around Bali, meeting lots of other travellers without actually considering the option of not coming back…
Then one day I met Stijn, he became one of the best friend I could have possibly found.
He literally canceled my booking at the hostel I was staying then started to travel with him and his group.? We became very close friends, travel buddies, then one day (couple of days before my departure) he asked me if I was happy with what I had back home.
He was leaving that day, going to Malaysia then Thailand… we found out that one of my stop over on the way back home was Kuala Lumpur (Classic). So I took that first flight and missed the others…
Traveled with him for months after that.
I know it might sound crazy, I remember everyone’s shocked faces when I went back home for Christmas and told this story.
Tbh, he’s been a great friend that supported me everyday with one of the hardest decisions of my life and I can’t possibly thank him enough…

F. Where did you find the will not to come back? Mentally,phisically and with your heart.
Fra. That has been the hardest part tbh.
I kept repeating my self one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain, like a mantra: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
It’s been a very long process, I remember all the phone calls I had to make, the messages I had to send, how hard it was to explain that I was not sure if I’d come back or when.
On top of that, the different time zones and the very poor connection didn’t help much.
I know I upset a lot of people with my decision, some said I could have planned it better…. But that’s the thing, I didn’t plan it! Every traveler you’d meet would tell you that the best plan is not to have a plan, because that’s how you get the best out of everything.? Obviously I’m not saying you have to be reckless and don’t worry about a single thing but to choose to experience what comes with your life without planning every step of it.
That’s how I found the strength to make this decision.
By finally realising that I was not happy with what I had, I thought about what a shock the previous months have been for me and decided to make a change for good, for myself to be happy and proud again.

I’ve always been a Yes (wo)man, always thought that that’s how you get to experience most and the best. But most important, I’m very incapable of saying NO.?

And this has been the first and biggest no I managed to say.
“No, I’m not coming back”.

As rare as it is in Italy to hear such a story as normal it is in the travellers community, that’s been my everyday support.

F. The “lack”: what does it mean for you, when it manifests itself, in which moments do you miss more home and especially what is for you now “home”?
Fra. This is probably the hardest question.
I always had hard times identifying the meaning of “home” for me .
Last year home was Pai, a small village in the north of Thailand I was living in….
I usually prefer to live for the moment, to trace my life through the people I’ve met, the experiences I had, pictures taken, songs sung, scars made, tears cried. It’s just the attempt of making an impact on every step that I took, or simply just to be happy.
Although I have to admit that while traveling you don’t constantly think about the things you miss since you’re mostly focused on discovering; but there are very specific moments when you can be quite upset by missing your friends and family.
Home is my notebook, where I keep track of my travels, all my memories, letters, photos… It’s my best friends that still live in Italy but always with me in my heart…

In one of my posts I wrote :
“This journey is not only about the places, it’s about the experiences, the people, the feelings.?
Being traveling for over a year now and words can’t possibly describe this experience.?
Sometimes you miss people, sometimes you miss home.?
You get to know incredible human beings even just for a short amount of time. Or you get to share months with them, daily things that make you feel home. Breakfast, laundry, brushing your teeth. Incredible nights out or long days at work.
The Goodmornings and Goodnights.?

Small or big, be sure that these are the memories you’ll keep in your mind.”

Definitely the first place I’d think would be Coogee Beach, Sydney. That’s where we all met, where it all started…
Home is a hug.
Home is that good smell that brings back memories. Home is a picture.? Slowly home turns from a place into people.
Home now is the Boys.
Floor, Matt & Zak; the 3 guys I’m lucky enough to share my everyday since 8 long months. Traveling together and always having each others back.
This is us, this is home.

F. What misses you the most about Italy?
Fra. Definitely my friends and family, the hardest part is to combine this lifestyle with keeping in contact with them, knowing that I’m not physically there with and for them.
The hardest part is missing birthdays and big events, especially being so far is very hard to go back for just a couple of days.
It’s also the little things, for example going to the local market on Saturday Morning, or the morning coffee before going to work in the same cafe? of the past 10 years.
These are things that I do here as well, just in a different way.
The Markets are massively big and the coffee is to go…

F. All the stages of the last year out … geographical, mental and psychological.
Fra. I’ve visited and lived in so many countries I can’t even list, so I’d say it’s something I always had in me.
I left on the 1st of August 2017.
Been traveling since then, I went back to Italy for Christmas and recently for the wedding of a good friend (and obviously to see all my friends and family).
Since then I’ve been in Bali for a month, stopped in Malaysia, Thailand for couple of months, back to Bali then off to Spain till Gibraltar. Now I’ve been in Australia for 8 months
Sydney – Cairns – Road trip n°1 with a van ( Cape trip, The Daintree forest, the Great barrier Reef) – Road trip n°2 with a van ( from Cairns to Brisbane along the coast) – Brisbane— Munduberra for 5 weeks for farm work – Gatton for 10 weeks for farm work – 2 weeks back in Italy in the meantime – Melbourne.
In the meantime I’ve been the happiest and the saddest. The most amazed and most unimpressed.
I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had dreadlocks and colourful braids in Asia and domesticated straight hair in Australia.
I’ve been worried and stressed out, I’ve also learnt how to not give a f*** about other things that don’t really matter.

F. When and how did you communicate to your family and friends that you probably would not be back to Italy and how did they take it? How did you do for clothes, computers, things left unfinished at home, and for all those goods that may be essential – or that did you think they were – and that you did not have with you? How hard was it to let go of material things?
Fra. It’s honestly easier than expected to live without a lot of things we consider essential. The easiest way to realise what you need and what you don’t is whatever doesn’t fit in your backpack is not that much needed, if you can’t carry it you don’t need it that much! I had a massive help from home from my best friends, they packed most of my stuff so that the apartment could get rented! They took care of everything, I wouldn’t have made it without them, they’ve been amazing! They also got my laptop so that I could connect to it from remote. When I went back to Italy for Christmas I packed everything I needed for work… laptop, hard drives, go pro, camera and so on. That made it much easier!

F. The hardest moment?
Fra. I cant talk about the hardest moment, that’s very private…
The very second hardest moment has been A year ago, when one of my closest friend was going through the hardest moment of his life and I couldn’t physically be there for him, if not by the phone.

F. And the happiest moment.
Fra. The best has yet to come.
Although I’d say when Federica asked me to do this interview.
It made me realise I made it, it may sound silly but I don’t think about it that much and now I acknowledged that I realised my dream, achieved my biggest goal and especially how free and happy I am now.

F. What did you learn from yourself until now?
Fra. I always knew that great things don’t come from comfort zones, although some days I had to push my limits way further than I thought. I realised that no matter how big your problems are you’ll always come to a solution.
That I don’t always have to think that I have to do everything by myself but that I can also ask for support.? Especially when stressing out or going through hard times.
I learnt that if I miss or love someone it’s always worthy to say.
I learnt that it’s worthy to take a risk, to beat the odds, to expect the unexpected.
I also learnt how to live with and travel despite having anxiety, that it is not the end of the world or something to be ashamed of.
I always had hard time trusting people, I always thought I had to make it by myself. But I’m learning to trust again, to say how much I care, to say when things are not ok.
I realised I can be strong enough but also that I’m softening up.

F. What are you doing now? While we are talking and in general.
Fra. I’m sitting on my bed, in my dorm in a hostel in Melbourne (while Floor is playing music, Matt’s snoring and Zak watching Netflix. – We are still recovering from the weekend, Melbourne has the best nightlife you could imagine. )
While in my everyday life I’m working, working on my project, get to know more people, more freelancers and creatives around…

F. Logistical moment, the questions that everyone would like to ask you: how difficult was it to give up everything and leave? How did you make a living in the last year and what are you working on now? But above all, how difficult was it to always find a roof under you could sleep?
Fra. This is the first question I always get ahaha?.
It was not too hard in Asia tbh, if you’ve been around there you know…
But what must be said is that I travel as a backpacker! That means cheap hostels and a on-a-budget- everyday life.
Also if you’ve been traveling for a bit you’ll know there are a couple of tricks (for ex. when or how to book a flight)
There are specific days or hours when booking is waaaay cheaper, how to redirect your vpn, incognito mode. When you’re a traveler the biggest value is your time, you need to be patient and a bit of know how (which is quite easy with some googling).
I was also renting my apartment with Airbnb and worked for a bit in an amazing hostel in the north of Thailand, planning nightlife events.

F. Have you ever felt lonely or lost during this adventure, with doubts about what you want to do with your future?
Fra. Of course I had plenty of doubts! Whether I took the right decision or made the biggest mistake of my life….
I left my country as a solo traveler and met thousands of people in the meantime.
There are times when I felt lonely, that comes with the ups and downs of this experience I guess.
What most people don’t understand is that traveling for longtime you experience the same issues you’d experience back in your country. Your lifestyle might be different but most of the problems are the same.

F. How difficult was it for a girl under 30 to travel alone and to re-invent her life far away from her country?
Fra. I actually liked being a solo traveler.
Before leaving, quite lots of people expressed their concern about that, but it’s actually been one of the best experiences of my life; I really needed some time for myself.

F. Advice and warnings for those who would like to do it or for those who think they can do it …
Fra. There is a movie I would definitely recommend to watch to better understand the traveller/backpacker lifestyle. It’s very interesting but especially very true.
“ A map for Saturday” – Brook Silva-Braga
One of my worst defect is that I hate being unprepared, I love to study and to always be prepared .
So I did a lot of researches, read thousands of articles& stories about how to be a digital nomad… That’s something I would highly recommend!
But the biggest advice would be to be passionate about what you do and to have fun while doing it, if not it’s not worthy.

F. Would you tell us your typical day? At least from the last week..
Fra. Well, it’s different every day…
Right now we are staying in different hostels every week… it’s a great way to see most of the areas of the city you’re in… depending if we work or not we go explore the neighborhood or other areas.
When I was traveling around Asia it was totally different, everyone’s just traveling.
While in Australia everyone’s traveling and working at the same time.
That usually means 10 different alarms in the morning, sharing the bathroom with everyone while getting ready, having breakfast with at least 30 ppl and then either go to work or out…
Everyone comes back from work at different times, that usually means taking a shower it’s easier. Sometimes we like to go for happy hour after work, sometimes we are just too tired so we make dinner, prepare the lunch for the next day and chill. Some hostel have amazing cinema rooms or hostels night, if not we watch a movie with one of our laptops.
Right now it’s still quite cold but during summer we used to go to the beach a lot after work or during the weekend, doing barbecues …
When not working it’s a completely different story, traveling with a van o with a car you can wake up early and go explore all day….? Camp at the beach, in the forest, go scuba diving, snorkelling…

F. Our generation carries a big burden, made up of expectations, economic or physical investments on the part of our parents to see us “get” to play roles in specific societies, careers, a place where we can “settle”. And so often you do not find the courage to give up everything not to disappoint them and these expectations. Have you ever felt that you have disappointed someone with your alternative choices?
Fra. The biggest and most honest lesson I learnt is… FUCK THAT!
A friend of mine actually wrote an amazing post about this topic and here I quote him :

“YOU’RE NOT LATE AND YOU’RE NOT EARLY. YOU’RE RIGHT WHERE YOU NEED TO BE.?
Life’s not a race, so stop trying to compete.?
I’m flipping through my social media accounts trying to stay up-to-date with friends from back home and all around. I’m at that age now where many of them are getting married, and having kids, and buying houses. Meanwhile, others are starting their own businesses or finishing their post-secondary degrees.?
A younger version of me would have undergone some serious anxiety wondering why I haven’t taken these steps yet. Present day me is a bit wiser and I honestly couldn’t be anymore thrilled for my peers and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings for them.?
Each of us are in our own different time lines and we make decisions because it’s the right choice at the right time. No one can know that better than you.?
Sometimes we take longer to do things; Sometimes we’re quicker. It’s okay to not be ready; Its okay to want to slow down; It’s okay to pull ahead; It’s okay to stand still; It’s okay.?
You’re not late. You’re not early. You’re right on time.” – Brian

F. Where do you see yourself from here to 10 years? Will your wander – at least physical – stop at a place you will call home or will it continue as a lifestyle? Do you ever think of going back to Italy? Would you ever give up the freedom you have experienced in the last year? What does it mean for you to be free?
Fra. I really can’t picture myself in 10 years, I don’t even know where I’ll be in couple of weeks hahaha
I honestly doubt I’ll go back to live in Italy. I don’t know for how long I’ll keep traveling, hopefully for long time! It’s a kind of freedom I wouldn’t give up…
What freedom means to me? Hard to describe….
It means sitting in a cafe in Bangkok while chatting with the locals; it means having a stroll around Chiang Mai while taking pictures of the kids playing in the streets…
It means walking for hours in the jungle to jump off a cliff and swim in a waterfall.
It means waking up and go pet an elephant cause they live next door.
It means camping with a small tent in a forest on a cliff in Spain with no connection for 3 days…? It means driving your car on Rainbow beach while the boys play football…
It means detouring for 2 hours just to see Zoe before she flies home.
It means waking up at 5 to do a photo shooting with Sammy for Sunrise.
It means laying in bed all day with Maxime and Halloumi (the cat) just because.
It means being thrilled to experience my first Birthday and Christmas at the beach with 45 degrees instead of having a snowball fight….
It means going through the pictures on your phone and realise what month they’ve been taken basing on the country. It means not having a clue of what the date is, but knowing for how long you’ve been away.? It means experiencing all this, because one day I decided not to go back.
What would you do if you had to go back to Turin tomorrow? First sensantions..
I’d go to a very special place, “Monte dei cappuccini” … It’s a hill from where you can see all the city. My favorite place there, I used to go there when I had something to celebrate, something to think of… and start from there….

F. Did you leave what you were and what you had in your country or did you leave your country?
Fra. I just left my country. I couldn’t believe that It could be it, I wanted to experience more, see more, dream more. But I’m still the same.

F. Are you happy?
Fra. I am.

F. Who did you fall in love with this year?
Fra. I don’t know if I have an answer for this.

F. A funny anecdote.
Fra. It’s very hard, the best thing about this adventure is all the fun I had…. It’s very hard, the best thing about this adventure is all the fun I had…. It was St Patricks day and I was working, all my friends were having a barbecue. I joined them on my lunch break. Iwas wearing the uniform t shirt and definitely didn’t expect what happened next. A massive color bomb fight started and I had to go back to work coloured from head to toe.

F. What’s next?
Fra. Oh I don’t know, and that’s the best feeling.
Remember:
“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

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Francesca Gatti interviewed by Federica Ciuci Priori

Images
1. Thailand (Kho Phi Phi – Pai – Bangkok) – Francesca Gatti
2. Thailand (Kho Phi Phi – Pai – Bangkok) – Francesca Gatti
3. Sydney, Coogee Beach  – Collaboration with Sammy Jane Freeman
4. Bangkok, Thailand – Mitchell Carmody 
5. Outback, Australia by Francesca Gatti
6. Sydney, Coogee Beach  – Collaboration with Sammy Jane Freeman 
7. Thailand (Kho Phi Phi – Pai – Bangkok) – Francesca Gatti
8. Bali – Mitchell Carmody  

 

 

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