Guest Post! The Nomadic Heart: Living and Loving as a Digital Nomad

The V-Day theme continues! But today's going to be a little different with a guest post from my friend and colleague Zack Strebeck, a California gaming attorney who runs the Legal Moves podcast I've appeared on a few times. Without further ado, here's Zack's perspective on romantic prospects and living as a single indie developer when you rock a location-independent lifestyle!

Elegant woman with a suitcase travel and ticket on street of ita

Think you could live out of a suitcase? I'd go with a Delsey hard shell, the kind with side locks can withstand some serious beatings. No one's got time for trying to un-jam zippers!


I’ve been a “digital nomad” for just over two years and loved almost every minute of it. For single game developers, this lifestyle is perfect. Let me explain:

What is a “digital nomad”?

First, we should define what I’m talking about. A digital nomad is someone that does their work over the Internet (the “digital” part) while traveling from place to place (the “nomad” part). Usually, the goals are to keep costs down, see a ton of different and awesome places, and to design a lifestyle that’s not confined by traditional notions of “settling down.”

To do this, you leverage a number of tools that help remote workers. Free communication tools like Skype allow you to keep in contact with co-workers, family members and friends, no matter where you are in the world. Cloud-based systems, such a Slack, Trello and others help you to collaborate with others on your team. Services like Traveling Mailbox and Mail a Letter allow you to interact physically with your old life, such as receiving and sending mail.

Popular nomad destinations are Southeast Asia (particularly Chiang Mai, Thailand), Mexico, South America and certain countries in Europe where the cost of living is lower. However, any country that features speedy wifi will work!

Perfect for indie game developers

Two of the most common issues that indie devs run into are either a lack of money or a lack of time to work on their game.

As a digital nomad living in Thailand, you can live on something like $5-600 a month. If you’ve saved $5,000, that gives you eight to ten months of runway to fully concentrate on your game. Of course, you’ll be living a frugal lifestyle, but if you’re coding all day it shouldn’t be a problem.

If you have marketable skills, you can add freelance income into the mix. Web and software development are common freelance jobs that digital nomads do. There are also a ton of nomadic writers, photographers and bloggers. I’m a bit unique, as there aren’t many lawyers out there.

Really, anything you can do to make money online will work.

These guys can also help you find a location-independent job or series of gigs. Why be chained to a time zone, let alone a desk?


The (sometimes) lonely road

So you’ve decided to take the plunge, sell your stuff and go fully nomad. There’s a problem, which ties into our Valentine’s Day theme.

The life of a nomad can be a lonely one, particularly if you tend to be introverted. You don’t usually stay long enough in one place to develop lasting friendships or relationships. It’s just the nature of the beast; moving around a lot doesn’t usually allow you to make those important connections.

That’s not to say that you can’t have romance. For those like myself who aren’t super outgoing, the Internet allows you a number of ways to meet people for dating and friendship. When I go to a new place, one of the first things I do is start looking for dates. This helps with a number of things:

  • You get to meet and hang out with a local resident who knows the best food and the coolest things to do;
  • You get the benefit of companionship, romantic or otherwise;
  • You have someone with whom you can practice the local language (you are trying to learn it, right?).

Now, I realize that as a white American male, I usually have the upper hand in most dating scenarios. That’s just the sad reality of the world. However, I see all manner of couples in every place I go. It’s a wide world, and there’s got to be someone out there for you! You just need to put yourself out there.

A female perspective

I reached out to a friend of mine for a female perspective on nomadic relationships. Gail Jessen, Coach + Fire Starter at A Series of Adventures, is a fellow traveler. I’ll let her explain:

“Similar to Zack's own unconventional adventure, I sold all my stuff, moved into a backpack, and now live the gypsy life wherever the wind takes me. In my thirties I left a successful career in higher education to start my own business online. My coaching practice and my writing allows me to continue funding my adventures. I've never been happier, healthier, or more fulfilled. Does it get lonely? Sure. It can. But here's the thing…

For a woman who quickly bores of first-date chatter about weather and movies, I'd much rather Skype chat with someone about how we felt the first time we swam in the warm Indian Ocean, or what the Christmas markets in Budapest smell like. If you choose this lifestyle, be prepared to develop an entirely new framework for romantic relationships. Your standards for what turns on your mind and your heart shift dramatically. Being a nomad definitely narrows your dating pool, but the quality of person who's willing to tackle this adventure with you is more engaging than anything I found in my real life back home. Real talk.

I'd be remiss if I didn't counter Zack's point about dating while traveling, specifically from a female perspective. If a dark-eyed stranger across the piazza is really doing it for you - and it feels right with an intuitive gut check - go for it. Unfortunately, there are legitimate safety concerns that women need to be hyper savvy about. Flipping Tinder on in a foreign country is exciting, but don't let the newness of the country distract you from the reality of what you might be getting into. It's really no different than dating at home, truth be told. Pay attention to your attractions because regret sucks, follow your intuition first and foremost, be safe, and go for the story that's worth writing home about.”

Zack here. Yeah, I generally don’t have the same safety concerns while dating abroad. It’s totally understandable, and like everything else while traveling, it’s important that you stay street smart.


The point of this article is to show that, even for those single game developers who may struggle with relationships, the digital nomad way of life has a ton of potential. In both your personal and professional life, there are few things cooler than being a world-traveling [insert profession here]. So start filling up those pages in your passport! If we pass through the same city, look me up. You can keep up with my travels on Instagram by following @zstrebeck. Check out Gail’s instagram by following @seriesofadventures.

If you’re interested in starting your own indie studio, check out my upcoming workshop at Playcrafting San Francisco on March 19th, or sign up to hear about my soon-to-be released online course!


And back to our resident crazy toad lady:

Very cool and enlightening, thanks to Zack and Gail for their insights! Admittedly, the digital nomad life isn't for me. I've always had that urge for adventure, but love coming home to my own place, my amazing toad, and my friends and community. I prefer digital nomaddery in the pretty localized sense, in that my work is location-independent so I don't have to be home all the time which is something I advocate for indie developers and other creative professionals, because you need both the social and creative interactions in coffee shops, parks, libraries, etc. to really thrive.

Still, I like showing my Toadlets other ways of life that go beyond the 9-5 and routines we've had drilled into our heads from birth. Do you think you could pull off the digital nomad life? Why or why not?

Delsey is a partner of Sonic Toad Media LLC, because if I had to live out of a suitcase I'd pick one of theirs. My green hard shell has gotten through many conferences unscatched!

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