Nicole Fu has always had the travel itch. The itch started young, being raised across countries and cultures in Canada and Singapore. Her family also traveled a lot, so she was exposed to a lot of cultures at a young age. As an adult Nicole continued her own global explorations, bouncing between cities including Tokyo, Halifax, and Montreal.
Eventually Nicole found herself in the intense, fast-paced world of tech startups. But even while juggling a career as a full stack marketer, she took every opportunity to travel. One year she managed to take 17 trips across six countries for a total of 89 days! That didn’t include day and weekend trips, either.
But three months of travel was just the start. The itch kept getting stronger, until finally Nicole decided to make the leap to become a full time nomad. At the end of 2015 she took a convenient job layoff as an opportunity to book a one-way ticket to Asia. Since then she’s been living her lifelong dream of being location-independent, working remotely from exotic locations around the world.
Working remotely in Van Vieng, Laos
Nicole admits that she’s still figuring it all out, learning as she goes. Below she shares a few pieces of advice from her experiences as a digital nomad:
How do you strike a balance between work and experiencing the places you are in?
I stick to a pretty normal schedule. I work Monday to Friday 10-6, and go exploring on the weekends. But this is flexible if there is say a yoga class or activity I want to attend but it's during the day. For example, I recently went wakeboarding on a Thursday as the place had a deal from Mondays to Fridays, 10am-12pm.
This works as I usually stay in one spot for a month. If you only stay somewhere for say a week, it'll be tough getting work AND sightseeing in. You'll either only work and miss out seeing the place (and have FOMO!), or compromise on your work. I find 1 month is a good pace as you'll get to really experience the city, and slowly take in what it has to offer.
Which cities have you found to be most conducive to a productive digital worklife?
Chiang Mai and Taipei were pretty great - good wifi was easy to find and they're very affordable cities.
Hiking in Yangmingshan, Taiwan
What advice do you have for people who view your lifestyle and dream of doing the same, yet don’t know where to get started?
Read my blog post on How to become a Digital Nomad in 3 steps ;) In a nutshell:
In what ways has traveling enhanced your ability to build a business/get work done?
In a typical 9-5 office job you'll get distracted and Facebook now and then, etc, and it doesn't matter as much because you'll still get your paycheck at the end of the day. Now, my main source of income is marketing consulting (and I'm trying to build up other sources of online income). Since I bill hours, I know "every minute counts" and if I slack off, I'm not being paid for it.
Also, I know I have to meet my deliverables in order to retain the client and keep them happy, and also so I can enjoy sightseeing etc. guilt-free.
Setting up base in Hualien, Taiwan
Are there any software tools you’ve found to be indispensable to your work?
Say you jumped into a Delorean, gunned it 88 mph back to when you first started traveling - What’s one thing you’d tell your younger self?
Take it easy! Don't be those snap-and-go tourists, you don't have to see it all. Go at your own pace, be present.
Be open-minded, talk to strangers and locals. Smile, be kind. But always trust your gut! If something feels funny, get out of there.
Nicole Fu is a Digital (Marketing) Nomad. Vancouver-born and Singapore-bred, she's traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 5 cities. She considers herself a true citizen of the world and loves working with tech/startups. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @nicolejfu.