• Michelle Checchi, 29, has traveled the world whereas working remotely since 2019.
  • She says her way of life is “way more reasonably priced” than she’d count on to have within the US.
  • In 2021, over 15 million Individuals described themselves as digital nomads, up 112% from 2019.

When Michelle Checchi, 29, left the US in 2019, she solely deliberate to be gone for a number of months — so long as it took to empty her financial savings account.

At this time, she’s nonetheless traversing the globe, working remotely as a contract author and video producer — making $4,000 within the typical month whereas solely working 15 to 30 hours per week, in keeping with financial institution paperwork reviewed by Insider. 

“As an alternative of simply feeling caught in my one place of dwelling, I stay in a global setting that is worldwide for me, the place I’m nonetheless a traveler and a customer,” she says.  

A rising variety of digital nomads, or distant staff that journey for weeks, months, or — in her case — “for the foreseeable future.” Over 15 million Individuals describe themselves as digital nomads, up 42% from 2020 and 112% from 2019, in keeping with MBO Companions’ 2021 State of Independence examine. Driving this development is the rising flexibility of distant work, a longing to see the world, and the will to chop prices.

As of June, over 25 international locations had launched digital nomad visa applications aimed toward luring distant staff and their wallets. Per the World Inhabitants Evaluate, solely two international locations — Bermuda and Switzerland — have a better value of dwelling than New York Metropolis, the place Checchi grew up. For her, dwelling overseas has been a budget-saver.

Making extra money than ever

After graduating in 2015, Checchi loved her job as an area information producer for 4 years, however she says she had a persistent want to “journey and expertise freedom.” In September of 2019, she bought most of her possessions, drove cross-country, and hopped on a one-way flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.

In her first months overseas, Checchi traveled to Cyprus, India, and Nepal, the place she tried to stretch out her financial savings so long as attainable. However after about three months, when it appeared like her enjoyable was coming to an finish,  Checchi had a “spark of an concept:” What if she discovered a approach to generate income working remotely? She started searching Upwork and different platforms for freelance writing gigs. 

“I used to be considering, ‘If I’ll get a full-time job, it should root me down to 1 place,’ she says. “I actually needed to create a life-style the place I may keep my location independence.”

Whereas she discovered some work, cash was “not good” early on — a number of hundred {dollars} right here and there — not sufficient to place off her return to the US for very lengthy. However slowly, her workflow started to develop. After about six months, Checchi was making simply as a lot as she had in her information job — which paid roughly $50,000 per yr — and was working about half the hours, to not point out touring the world as she did so.

She surpassed her outdated wage a number of months later, breaking $10,000 in earnings some months, together with $17,000 this previous June — when she did on-site video manufacturing for a conference. Checchi additionally has over 68,000 followers on TikTok — the place she posts her journey highlights and suggestions — although she says she solely just lately started to make “a little bit bit of cash” through social media. Checchi says she used to surprise how digital nomads may presumably afford their way of life.

“I used to be actually stunned,” she says. “I used to be like, “Oh, okay. So this may be sustainable.” 

Whereas she continues to do freelance content material writing — “ghostwriting blogs, articles, and net copy” — she’s begun skewing extra in the direction of her video manufacturing roots. Though her purchasers differ, she usually movies and produces content material for corporations within the tourism trade — initiatives that usually pay for her journey.

Checchi says it is unusual to look again at her time as an area information producer, when she felt her expertise weren’t transferable wherever else.

“Now I am like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot that I can do with my expertise if you suppose exterior the field a little bit bit,’ she says. 

The challenges of a nomadic life

When she’s not touring, Checchi has a house base in Tel Aviv, which she selected partly for its accessibility to each Europe and Asia. Whereas Tel Aviv could be fairly an costly place to stay, Checchi solely pays $871 per thirty days to hire an condominium with a pair — and usually sublets her room when touring for an prolonged interval. She tends to remain in hostels and Airbnbs, which helps her follow a month-to-month housing price range of roughly $900. That is an enormous financial savings in comparison with the common June hire of $3,100 for a studio condominium in NYC, the place she was beforehand based mostly.

Airfare is her largest expense, however given she does not cross the Atlantic Ocean usually to see her household, she’s in a position to journey comparatively affordably from place-to-place. There’s additionally extra competitors in Europe’s airline trade in comparison with the US, which helps preserve her flight costs decrease. 

It hasn’t all been roses, she needed to return to the US and keep along with her household in Staten Island, New York, for a time through the pandemic. Except for that, she admits she does not see her household usually — although she’s now making an effort to return to the US each three to 4 months. These flight prices can add up, however she says they’re effectively value it and that if want be, she will be able to hunt down additional work to offset them. Whereas her greatest associates are within the US, Checchi says she has associates “in all places” and that touring alone has been a “nice approach to meet new individuals.”

Whereas she does not suppose a nomadic way of life is for everybody, she has no plans to offer it up anytime quickly: “I am dwelling for myself at this level in my life.”