As a freelance web developer my job has always made me more location-independent than most, and in 2013 I decided to explore what a the lifestyle of a “digital nomad” might look like. I spent a full year traveling and working, literally circumnavigating the globe, through 18 countries.
From Portland to Argentina, Iceland, Kenya, Turkey, Japan and many, many more places inbetween, it was a very ordinary year (in some ways) set against an extraordinary backdrop and sprinkled with extraordinary people and experiences. I worked. I cooked meals at home with food I’d find in the markets. People came and went in my life. I’d go on long runs in the woods, or beaches, when I could.
Good things happened: I made new friends that I’m still in touch with. I ate amazing and exotic foods. I saw beautiful things I’d only seen in photos. I was touched by the incredible kindness and trust of strangers all over and — in what was probably a highlight — met long-lost family members for the first time in Serbia to put a bookend on a family story 60+ years in the making.
Some bad things happened too: I was robbed after a lapse in judgement. A long-distance relationship fell apart. My grandmother passed away and I found myself homesick, from time to time.
But most of these things could happen in an ordinary year, even if I’d never left Portland. It was, in words I found in an email from that year, when describing this endeavor to a friend, “a year like any other year, just somewhere else.”
George Mandis has been a freelance web developer in Portland, Oregon for over a decade. Beyond that he likes to also describe himself as a frequent traveler, intrepid flâneur and occasional educator.