A Prototype of Life: Being a Digital Nomad

Background

Due to the pandemic, we have suffered from different kinds of constraints, for example, scarcity of demand in the job market, loss of connection, no traveling. But from 2019 til now (May, 2022). Things have changed. Some countries reopen and go back to normal. Some countries are on the way (for instance Taiwan, my home country).

Since the pandemic started, I have been acquiring digital technical skills, c’est-à-dire, programming. Even if I am not with the background of computer science and can only code some unstructured code (blah…), I still managed to land on a research associate back in Taiwan to analyse environment variables and develop algorithm of satellite image fusion.

At March, 2022, Covid outbreak in Taiwan finally, hundreds-of-thousands cases reported daily and continue soaring steeply. Therefore, my boss (with a three-year-old kid) told us to work from home with indefinite time schedule to get back. Well, an idea germinated in my mind immediately, why not try being a digital nomad?

Main Body

What is digital nomad?

Digital nomads are people who are location-independent and use technology to perform their job, living a nomadic lifestyle.

I first heard this term and saw my seniors actually doing in American as a project manger and in Europe as a web developer (two different person). It drove the motivation to steer my life to that direction.

Why I chose to do it now?

However, I am just a junior and have worked less than one year. I could risk my job, my reputation or losing my colleagues’ trust by inquiring my boss about working remotely where there is no precedent in the company. It is definitively not a right time to “drop the bomb.”

Months ago, a book club with friends in college kicked out a new book called Designing Your New Work Life, written by Bill Burnett, Dave Evans. Basically the book is the revision of Designing Your Work Life but with an additional chapter to deal with Covid issue. (Apparently Covid is really the elephant in the room these years.)

The book does not encourage to give up if our work is overwhelmed and full of stress, but encourage reader to pinpoint the problem, design multiple doable plans and conduct a prototype to see how work life will change.

After weeks of discussion with my friends, we sort of master the methodologies and discuss our nuance in our work life. The book brought me courage to initiate new prototypes in our work. Therefore, when my boss told us to work from home. I think it is an opportunity to make a prototype towards one of my ideal work life: Digital Nomad. Then here comes an abrupt prototype:

Obtain a 4-day digital nomad experience in Matsu.

Cruise ship from Keelung to Mastu

Where is Matsu and why I chose it?

Mastu 馬祖 is one of an island belongs to Republic of China, Taiwan. But, it is not under Taiwan province, it belongs to LeiChiang County 連江縣 under Fujian province 福建省. It is close to mainland China and the nearest point-to-point is 9.25 km.

Location of Matsu islands on Google Map

Although Matsu is very close to Mainland, the culture, language and lifesytle are absolutely pro-Taiwan. It is no culture shock for me to visit Matsu. However, Mastu cuisine is well-known, different to Taiwanese cuisine. 老酒麵線, 紅糟料理, 魚麵, etc… are fresh even to a Taiwanese foodie. Secondly, the season right now (April — September) is blue tear season. Blue tear is attributed to a dinoflagellate named Noctiluca scintillans, known for its ability to bioluminesce, giving the water a bright blue glow seen at night. To much information is not suitable here so the reason to visit this attractive island please go to their official website.

Accessibility (8 hours sailing or 1 hour flight), culture similarity, exotic cuisine, they are great and chill enough to spend a week protoyping digital nomad(working and traveling) over there.

What I did in this journey

Traveling is always full of unexpected accidents, so I told myself the only thing should be done is showing up the daily meeting. I achieved. The time flexibility of a programming developer is definitively a plus, because I would not have lots of calls or emergent tasks to deal with.

Most of the day I work in the morning from 7 am to 11 am and run into the meeting til 12 pm. Afterward, I get lunch, trek, climb rock, visit villages. At about 4 pm. I get back and work til 7 pm. After finishing my work, I ride scooter to chase the blue tear.

Blue tear image shot by Iphone 12, Nangan island
Granite rock climbing in Matsu (Indian Head Rock, Nangan island)

Only one day I was in Beigan island, where is another island in Matsu nearby where my hostel. I went one day for visiting. I walked all days to explore any corner of this island but I cannot find the public plugs to charge my laptop so I decide to take half day off. (Then I finally found many in the Begian airport but I already reported my absence to my boss…)

Luoshan Nature Trail, Beigan island

Reflection

Work would not be easier (most of time is harder), but I am more efficient and excited. The switch between traveling and working stimulates nerves, generated adrenaline. As brain being exploited, I go straight to the beach and breath fresh air. When feeling exhausted after travel around, I open my laptop and let my body chill. For the long term, the trip could be longer without pressure, because I still make income every day while traveling. As long as the income break even the travel cost. I am able to allow myself to stay longer.

Apart from these goodnesses, there are still some drawbacks. Firstly, about 8 hours of working occupied too much time in the trip. It elongated the days of exploring a place. The best arrangement might be 4 hours of work, 8 hours of travel and 4 hours of rest. Secondly, it is hard when all people are hanging out and having fun but I need to work. This feeling sucks. It would be even inconvenient if I want to travel with friends. The best solution here is being a digital nomad with someone else. One nomad is lonely, but two nomad are supportive. Digital nomads can work, travel, and complain about boss together. Welcome to comment below if you want to be a digital nomad partner with me.

(Contact me via my profile’s email~~~)

Conclusion

It always worths giving a try for being a digital nomad. The mix of working and traveling simultaneously is fresh and exciting.

Prototyping is a low risk experiment not only for R&D a business product, but only can use for R&D our work life. Success for me is persistence on a thing, and failure for me is not giving a try. At least I am on my way of my own success and avoiding the failure.

Departure from Matsu, Dongyin island

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Programmer | Agriculturist | Environmentalist

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AgriEnvCoder

AgriEnvCoder

Programmer | Agriculturist | Environmentalist

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