#17 Zoë Björnson from California, USA

Hey everyone, I’m Zoë. I’m currently working as a product marketing manager at about.me while I’m traveling and living in 12 different cities over the course of a year with Remote Year. I’m a big fan of cheese plates, shoes, and social media. My favorite place to be is on the beach with a book.

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

Post-university, I struggled to “settle down” and make a decision on where I wanted to live next. I spent some time at home with family, and living in New York City, New Orleans, and Denver.

While living in New York City, I came to a point where I was thinking about finding a permanent apartment. A few things didn’t quite work out as planned, and I realized I was allergic to permanence, so I decided I’d revisit the whole move to New York City thing and be nomadic for a bit. Shortly thereafter, Remote Year opened up applications for the next round of programs. I applied, got in, and felt like my dreams were coming true.

I was in the right place, mentally and physically, at the right time for me. I’ve been nomadic for almost two years now and really enjoy the spontaneity and freedom that comes with it. Right now, I don’t want to be tied down to a place, an apartment, things, etc., so right now, being a nomad really suits how I want to live my life.

2. What was it like leaving your home country?

Total excitement.

I have spent a fair amount of time abroad and have dreamed about living abroad more permanently, so kicking off my time with Remote Year in South America wasn’t terribly jarring. Of course there were the hurdles of language and getting used to not having the little luxuries we have back in America; however, the fun that comes with getting to know a new place outweighs the stresses of leaving America. I think it was more the length of time that I was going to be gone that was a bit overwhelming. A year is a long time!

3. What are your biggest struggles? Fears?

One of my biggest struggles is developing a routine that still allows me to be spontaneous, while still feeling accomplished and productive in my work.

It’s also a tough feat to keep up with a team that’s based in California, while I’m so many hours ahead. I even had my first intern as a remote worker, which was tough, but we made it work! Remote teams are the future, so it’s been a good exercise for me, as well as my team, to be successful as we communicate and work from afar.

Plain and simple, one of my biggest fears is really just something terrible happening to me in a totally foreign place. When you take a leap like this, you think a lot about what would happen if you didn’t come back for one bad reason or another. But it’s not something I focus a lot of my time or energy on.

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

Before Remote Year, I saved up quite a bit to be able to afford this lifestyle, plus the extra traveling I’m doing in between. I’m currently a full-time employee at about.me and work as a product marketing manager, so that’s where most of my time is spent. On the side, I’ve been writing a lot on my Medium publication, Chronicles of a Zomad and taking classes on product management and user experience design.

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

Remote Year costs $2,000 each month for travel between locations, accommodations, community events, and a work-space. Remote Year is a true community that a lot of digital nomads or remote workers lack, so while it’s hard to put a price on that aspect of the program, I truly feel like I’m getting what I pay for in that regard. Additionally, I spend around $1,250 on other expenses, like food and travel every month.

My accommodations with the program change monthly, so there isn’t really a norm, but I always have my own bedroom and a flatmate. It’s hard to say which spot was my favorite, but I think Prague, Czech Republic was the best for all around comfort and stability as a digital nomad. A meal out wouldn’t cost more than $20 USD per person and beer was maybe $3 USD. Public transportation was super easy and affordable, but the city was also quite walkable. I’d recommend any digital nomad check out Prague for some time!

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

Know how you work.

This isn’t just about the actual work you do to make money. It’s how you function: how you meet others, when you like to travel, what places you like to stay in, if you like to cook, what hours of the day are your most productive, etc. You need to know yourself well in order to be successful traveling and working.

If you’re thinking about doing Remote Year, you should check out this post on 3 things to think about before you commit to the program!