I took a 6-month 'sabbatical' after months of cheap living while traveling. The best thing about the digital-nomad lifestyle is having options.
- Julia Masselos quit her startup job to travel to Greece in 2019 — and has kept traveling ever since.
- She worked for two years in a remote job, while living in Greece, Portugal, Germany, and Argentina.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Julia Masselos, a 26-year-old from London. Insider verified her income with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Working for a marketing startup straight out of university, I started to feel like the life I was living wasn't mine. I was in a conventional pipeline and dissatisfied with my life.
I found myself stressing about things I didn't care about. I was worrying about saving for a mortgage at 23, while living at home in London with my parents.
I knew what I wanted to do was quit, even though it was against conventional wisdom. Years ago, when I was 16, I'd come across a Facebook page for digital nomads. I saw people living a totally alternate life and traveling the world. I knew I had to try it out.
I quit my job with no plan
I quit my job in July 2019 with nothing lined up. I decided to live in the moment and not worry about the future. I worked for a few weeks at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Then, I decided to travel to Greece with 200 euros, or about $215, in my pocket. I stayed on Crete for a month and lived in three different places. From there, I went to Vietnam. I spent a month traveling from north to south.
I applied for remote jobs when my savings ran out
In Vietnam, I ran out of money. I started applying for jobs but knew I wanted to keep traveling. I searched for remote jobs exclusively.
In my previous job, I'd been promoted to a marketing executive, but I'd never had a management role. I applied to four remote jobs, focusing on management. I got a remote job as the head of marketing for a recruitment-tech startup.
I started it and decided to move back to Edinburgh in February 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I moved home to my parents' house in London. I was super lucky.
My colleagues were dispersed around the world, but my division was new and very small. We were confined to European time zones for communication. But we didn't have any set office hours.
We operated asynchronously, with a policy to allow 24 hours for a colleague to reply to a Slack message. That freedom took a whole year to get used to. I could be offline from 5 p.m., sunbathing, for example, and start work again at 8 p.m. There was no one watching my hours. It alleviated a lot of stress.
I went back to Crete when the COVID-19 lockdown ended in the UK in June
I was put in contact with a friend of a friend who was looking for a roommate. I ended up living with him in a village for six months, where I saved more than half my income.
It was so calming to live by the sea. I'd go to a coffee shop by the beach to work. In the evenings, my roommate and I would get together with friends from nearby villages, hang out, and watch movies or make a big dinner.
I was making between $3,500 and $4,000 a month at my job. My rent was 90 euros a month. Food was much cheaper than in London. A coffee cost me 1 euro. I was saving more than 50% of my paycheck each month.
I moved to a digital-nomad village on a Portuguese island
I'd signed up for a place at a "digital-nomad village" in Ponta do Sol, a village on the Portuguese island of Madeira, and moved there in May 2021.
When I arrived, I had one week booked in a hostel. I found roommates through the Slack channel for the nomad village.
There was also a midterm rental accommodation space and a free coworking space. Everyone there was in the mindset of wanting autonomy. It was inspiring.
There were weekly activities, like workshops or yoga on the beach. It was paradise.
I started freelancing using Upwork
It was the dream lifestyle, but I wasn't fulfilled with work anymore. I had savings from working in my marketing job.
My degree is in medical science, and I wanted to work in science communication. I quit my remote job in August 2021 and left Madeira. I started freelancing as the head of events for a New York healthtech company while traveling.
I knew I wanted to work just enough to maintain my savings. I worked about two hours a day — though sometimes more like 10 hours if we were near an event. I traveled to Poland, Germany, Italy, and Serbia. One week, I was organizing an event while on a road trip from the Balkans to Amsterdam with a man I'd just met.
I gave myself a 6-month 'sabbatical'
I no longer wanted to be tied to having to be somewhere with a WiFi connection. I decided to quit everything in February 2022 to fully enjoy my travels.
On my "sabbatical," as I called it, I went to Argentina, where I met my partner while hiking near El Chaltén. We hiked for a month together. I left to travel more. I traveled to Texas, home to London, and then to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
I started my own remote-coaching business
I had an itch to start working again in October. I came back to Argentina to see my partner the following month. We've been living with his parents for the past five months.
I also started posting on TikTok about my travels and my struggle with ADHD. A business coach reached out to me, and I completed one of her courses about building a business.
I started coaching in January. I offer one-on-one coaching sessions for people who want to transform their lifestyle and live how I live. I want to teach people how to make money online using skills they already have.
When I posted a TikTok video about my business launch, it got 50,000 views. I offer a 12-week program, and I've made about $5,000 in revenue from it this year. I've just signed a couple of clients and have a couple of more.
My partner and I are planning to move to Italy. For me, my lifestyle isn't about how much I make or how much I travel. It's about having options.
- India's GDP growth surges to 8.4% in Q3, 2023-24 growth rate pegged at robust 7.6%
- Fiscal deficit at Jan-end touches 63.6% of full year target: Govt data
- Cabinet approves 3 semiconductor fab units, to generate 80,000 jobs
- RIL shares climb nearly 1% after announcing mega merger
- Key infra sectors' growth slows to 15-month low of 3.6% in January