#24 Katrina Petney from New Mexico, USA

1. How and why did you choose to go nomadic?

While nomadic life has its challenges, it’s what makes me feel most alive. I’m happiest exploring other cultures and working for myself on creative projects. I also love the flexibility, freedom, and spontaneity of the lifestyle.

I was already living as an expat for 7 years (in South America and Europe) and was traveling quite a bit. Becoming a digital nomad was a natural transition for me. One month is the minimum I will spend in a particular location, and I also have a few hubs that I continue to go back to. It’s less stressful and easier to find a rhythm.

At the end of this year, I will have spent 2 months in Europe, 2 months in India, 5 months in Thailand, 1 month in Indonesia, and 2 months in the U.S.

Prior to being a digital nomad, I built local businesses (a yoga studio and a fitness boot camp) and clientele (personal training clients and yoga/meditation students). Every time I moved countries I had to start over again. I decided to focus on building something online (yottaworkout.com) that could seamlessly bring me income during a move. I continue to teach around the world because I love it, but an online source of income offers more financial stability and more flexibility.

The life of a digital nomad just made sense. The lower cost of living means more time to develop my online business. In addition the digital nomad community is full of inspiring and creative people building their own online businesses, sharing advice, and supporting each other.

2. What was it like leaving your home country?

I left the United States in 2008 to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to learn Spanish and the Tango. I didn’t have a job lined up, and I didn’t know a soul. I experienced culture shock the first month. I felt like I made a serious mistake.

They say you hit a 3-month meltdown mark, and I definitely experienced it. I wasn’t sure if I could continue living out of the country. Then I started meeting amazing people and working on creative projects, and life began to unfold in beautiful and unpredictable ways.

What I thought would be 3 months turned into 3 years in Argentina, which then lead me to the Monaco for 4 years until I became nomadic in November of 2015.

3. What are your biggest struggles? Fears?

Struggle 1: The Visa Game

At times I’d like to stay longer in a particular place, but I’m not able to with the visa requirements. My ideal would be 3 months in each place. Playing the visa game has been a bit of a pain, but it forces me to mix it up, for which I’m ultimately grateful. For example, I’d like to stay in Chiang Mai another month because I have a good rhythm here, but my visa runs out so I guess I have to go to Bali 😉 hahah.

You can’t get too attached to the way things are because they are always changing, but that goes for any lifestyle, nomadic or not.

Struggle 2: WiFi

Certain places are more conducive for work. I am extremely productive in Chiang Mai because there are so many great cafes and co-working spaces with fast and dependable internet. I spent 2 months of this year in rural India, which was lovely in terms of learning more as a yoga/meditation teacher; however, consistent WiFi and electricity were hard to come by.

Struggle 3: Friendship

You get so close to people so quickly and then you move on to another place. Goodbyes are really hard at first when you’re not used to it, and keeping up on social media with all of the lovely people that you meet is impossible.

Fortunately, there isn’t an expectation that you have to keep in touch because everyone in this lifestyle is in a similar situation. If we overlap in the same place again, it’s easy to pick up where we left off. The people who thrive in this kind of lifestyle are those who embrace change and who stay in the present moment.

Struggle 4: Relationships

Based on my own experiences and those of other female digital nomads, it’s easy to meet inspiring, intelligent people who have similar perspectives and values, but it’s rare you’ll meet someone who is on a similar trajectory geographically or is open to having a long-term relationship.

I have met many couples who have chosen to leave their countries and live the nomadic life together, and they appear to thrive. I’m not sure what happens behind the scenes, but it seems like a beautiful thing.

Fears:

I sometimes wonder, “Did I miss the boat?” No house, no car, no Nespresso machine… but I don’t give those thoughts much weight. Instead I put my focus on the things that really matter to me — creating something I believe in and loving the people in my life. The rest is insignificant.

And there was a HUGE spider in my room in India. They told me it was good luck, but I was not convinced.

4. How are you funding your lifestyle and what projects are you working on?

I’m about to launch my first digital product — an online fitness/wellness program called Yotta Workout. It’s a 28-day stress-reduction program with dynamic yoga, low-impact cardio, and mental training. I once read somewhere that your calling is where your skills and talents intersect with the needs of the world. In that sense, I feel Yotta Workout is my calling.

I started the year with savings and also worked as a yoga teacher throughout the year. I worked in Europe over the summer, and I’ll be working at a retreat center in Bali in November.

5. What is the estimated monthly cost of living for one of your favorite locations? What lifestyle does that afford?

Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Rent: I pay US$250/month for a single room with a bathroom and a small balcony. The cost includes water and electricity. There’s a full-size bed, a closet with drawers, a desk, a small refrigerator, and a big black box that may or may not be a television — I’ve never touched it. Everything is relatively new and is in good condition. And there’s hot water, which is not always the case within Asia. They clean my room every week and provide new sheets and towels. WiFi isn’t that great, but I rarely work in my room, so it’s fine.

Daily Meals/Coffee/Tea: US$360/month. The purchase of two drinks at a cafe grants you a day of WiFi access. Two teas comes to about US$3–4/day. I usually spend US$3–4 a meal. Portions are the perfect size for the average female, and you can easily find healthy, vegetarian, and vegan options here.

Phone: US$0. I just use Whatsapp or Facebook messenger when I have WiFi.

Laundry: They wash, hang-dry, and fold my laundry for around US$3 a load.

Massage: A 1-hour Thai massage costs less than US$10.

Transportation: I usually walk everywhere. Otherwise, I pay 30 cents to US$3 on a Red Truck (Chiang Mai’s form of city transport).

Doctor: I just went to the doctor. The cost was US$80 for everything — the appointment, the procedure, and two prescriptions.

6. What is your top tip for someone who aspires to earn money online and travel?

Start cultivating online skills. Take classes, but don’t take classes forever. Too many classes can put us in an “I’ll do it when…” mindset, which can make you stagnant. Learning by doing is the best strategy. Make mistakes, get feedback, and pivot when you need to. The internet is full of resources. Every time you encounter an obstacle there is always a solution online. It’s just a matter of knowing what question to ask on Google.

Any final thoughts?

If you are interested in becoming a digital nomad, you may be full of questions and fears. You don’t have to have all the answers nor eliminate all your fears before you choose to make a change in your life. Fears will be there, but don’t take them seriously. Don’t let fear guide your decisions. All questions will be answered in time. Trust in yourself, and trust in those who are already living as digital nomads.

Jump, and you’ll find an entire world on the other side waiting to catch you. Stop thinking so much, stop caring what other people think, stop worrying about success/failure, and stop making financial excuses. Where there is a will, there is a way.