Can you really be a digital nomad, work from where you want and still make good money? Shivya tells you how. ‎

Shivya is ‎Travel Blogger at The Shooting Star, a digital nomad, author of the award-winning travel blog, The Shooting Star. Awarded Best Indian Travel Blogger by Vogue India (2015) and Indian Blogger Awards (2013).

 “The difference between living and existing is how much wonder you find in the beauty around you.” – ShivyaNath

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“I started 2015 on a private island in Panama, with 150 rupees ($2.5 USD) in my account.That’s the lowest my account balance has ever been since I quit my corporate job over four years ago. It was just one of those weeks when every single payment I was expecting got delayed. I had no idea how I would pay for my meals and transfers – they didn’t accept credit cards and my alternate debit card wasn’t working – but instead of panicking, I immersed myself in the Nat Geo-like setting of my hideout (think sting rays doing backflips, dolphins swimming with their kids, bioluminescent algae lighting up the waters).

As luck would have it, by the time I checked out and went to an ATM with my host, one of my payments had *just* come in! PHEW.

The life of a travel blogger (or a freelancer)  is just as adventurous financially as it is in other, more envy-evoking, ways.” ShivyaNath, The Shoot Star ( Follow her on twitter)

For my ‘Too Lazy To Read’ readers, before you start, here is your actionable meaty content:

  • It is very important to find a unique angle to your content. Differentiate your content from others because your content is your voice. Your content should have a personal aspect to it, you need to directly speak to your readers.
  • Publications get thousands of pitches every day, your pitch should stand out.
  • Engagement should be your priority over gaining more followers. Getting a lot of followers with low engagement doesn’t add much value. Let your readers find you. If they find you organically, they are much more likely to stay and engage.
  • You need to have a fall back savings fund or a plan B , in case things don’t go as planned.
  • Influencers and bloggers play an important role in building a brand.
  • Travelling involves a huge risk and high level of uncertainty. Not every day would be perfect, prepare for the worse case scenarios. Be more flexible in terms of work you do and plan ahead.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people, people who love traveling.

Some ways that Shivya funds her travels are:

  • Long term or repeat partnerships with travel brands

She signed her first year –long partnership with a travel brand offering opportunities to her readers to travel across the world. She is also doing some exciting work with Airbnb.

  • Destination-based travel campaigns

She was invited to be part of some big campaigns , including an IAmbassador campaign for European Travel Commission, Must Love Festivals project,  #NotJustBeer Campaign for the German National Tourist Board.

  • Branded Content

She lets brands sponsor a blog post that she wants to write in exchange for a mention.

  • Social Media Partnerships

She does shout-outs for contest or campaigns that are interesting and relevant to her followers.

  • Freelance Work

She writes articles for publications and 100% of her freelance work come via her blog.

Good travel bloggers usually use their skills to make money and travel from the money they make of it. They get paid for certain work and not travelling exclusively. Some of the good places to find work are-  Jobbatical , Upwork , Freelancer and RemoteOk. You can get work ranging from social media marketing , coding, designing to copywriting and video editing. Opportunities are immense!

 The Beginning Of The Journey As a Digital Nomad

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Shivya was  23-year-old daughter of a protective family when she decided to quit her 9-5 job to follow her passion : travelling! Graduated from Singapore University she was lucky to get a job in the middle of a recession and landed a role of a social media strategist at the Singapore Tourism Board.

She taught her self-social media and blogging and help build Singapore Tourism’s global social media strategy.  She followed bloggers and travel influencers and realized that they play a very important role in building brands (especially travel brands).  They traveled the world for a living.

The universe had some exciting plans for Shivya. She participated in a Facebook contest run by Air Aisa that asked her what would she do differently if she had a second chance, she answered saying :

“I will use those chances to accept myself for who I truly was”

She won two return tickets to Paris!

“I was sitting behind a computer screen on a desk, reading about travelers and working in the travel industry but not travelling so much myself. So I decided to take a two-month sabbatical from work.”

She managed to negotiate unpaid leave from work and spent the first month in Western Europe, the second volunteering to develop responsible tourism alternatives in the cold mountain desert of Spiti ,located in India’s northern Himalayas .

She learnt to trek along the peculiar limestone mountains of Saxony, got to know the secrets of Italian cooking and helped curate a ‘monk for a month’ program allowing travellers to live in a monastery in Spiti’s remote village.

“These two months gave me a great perspective about the opportunities out there for someone with a social media and marketing background and for those having good writing skills.

On Quitting Corporate Life and living the life of a digital nomad

I had some savings at work. I earned in Singapore currency and had to spend those in Indian rupees which really helped.

Had I been in a corporate job, I would have been able to see my career progression clearly, earning more money, climbing the corporate ladder and having more and more responsibility on my shoulders. It was a big risk in terms of uncertainty ahead and communicating that to my family was quite difficult but I managed to convince them that I could make something out of this.

Initially, I had planned to work with a social enterprise and go to remote parts of India to understand how locals lived there and bring their stories to masses. I worked with a lot of publications and organization but the thing that really stuck around was the travel and blogging aspect.

I decided that Delhi will be my base because I wanted to be closer to the Himalayas. I took a couple of part-time /work from home jobs . My aim was to earn enough money and spend it all on travel. Whenever I used to come back after travelling, I would pitch to publications and look for more work. Even though travelling abroad was expensive but I still managed to, because I really wanted to travel and I had an appetite for risk.

On Gaining Twitter Followers

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I used twitter even when I was working with Singapore Tourism Board, back then I used to post on digital marketing and social media. I also wrote for a lot of written publications that helped me gain lot traction. Engagement has always been my priority over followers.

When you travel, there might be the days when nothing great has happened as such , you haven’t managed to get a good picture or a good piece of content on such days it is better to not post anything than to post something that is not unique. It is very important to find a unique angle to your content. For example, everyone goes to Agra and posts a picture of TajMehal but if you go to Agra and posts something that is very different and attractive about the city, that’s where you get more traction and engagement .

On Unique Content

The content on your blog also has to be personal; people have to see you through those updates. It’s your voice and your voice needs to be different than others.

I am not a city person, so I prefer going to a remote village or a small town that is not really popular with tourists but still has something different to offer and I try to experience how locals live and create a compelling story. It is really the story that differentiates you.

I follow an organic approach , where I want readers to find me. It is a much slower process but when people find me it is much more likely that they will stick around and engage with me as opposed to me directly marketing to them .

On Reader Demographics

My followers are between 20-30 years still finding their way, wants to explore the options and  between30-40 years who are looking for experiential travellers. 50% are Indians and others are from Europe, South Asia, and the US as well.

On Pitching to Publications

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Initially, as a digital nomad, I was travelling to a certain destination and would find a publication interesting or an organization interesting, I would send them a cold pitch asking them if they would be interested in working with me, the success rate of that wasn’t very high but I would still go ahead and travel to those places and that is something that really helped me!

You should be willing to spend your own money not only initially but later on as well. I fund 80 percent of my travels and 10-20% are sponsored by the brands .It  includes epic adventures in Central America, Europe, Georgia, Jordan, the Caribbean and India!

Travel bloggers and digital nomads are coming by the minute in India and a lot of them do not travel at their own expense but go only on sponsored trips and when you only do sponsored trips your content wouldn’t be that different and the readers after a while will get to know whether you are genuinely passionate about travelling or just promoting a brand.

Publications get thousands of pitches every day. You really need to ask yourself how your story is different than others and why should they choose to publish your story over thousand others. It can either be a destination that they haven’t explored before or a destination that can be covered through a different angel.

On Maintaining Connectivity 

A lot of us have questions about connectivity issues while travelling to remote places. Connectivity is very important especially as a digital nomad as most of the work depends on it. Here’s how Shivya manages it,

“It is a myth that you can’t be connected all the time even while travelling to remote places. I was travelling to a remote village in Ladhak , I was there for a month and even in places as such you can manage to get a 2G or a 3G.

I got an email for a project that would pay me really well but it had to be given within that week, so I asked every single person in that area for Wi-Fi access and luckily I found a cafe with the Wi-Fi, I had to give them a little bit of money to help me upload the large files that were needed for the project. I earned good money and that meant that I could stay a little longer in Ladhak and plan my next travel. It takes a little bit of research and a bit more planning to make sure that you are connected.

For example, if you are travelling to a remote place , make sure you are able to come back to a place of connectivity in three-four days for a day or two and you need to be a little more flexible with your plans.”

On Nomadic Life And Managing Finances

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Follow Shivya on Instagram 

Being a digital nomad isn’t as easy and fun as it sounds.

“Every now and then I get sleepless nights not knowing how would my bank balance look like, it makes me anxious. But I try to think of it as an adventure and the worst case scenario. If my funds are going to fall below Rs 20,000  the first thing I would do is , go back to India ,find a really cheap place to stay and write to everyone to see if they have any work for me. I have a fallback savings fund which I have been building slowly, so whenever I earn a good amount through a project I deposit a certain percentage of that in a different account which I do not use. It just requires a bit of planning.

For example: If I have done a lot of good projects over the past few months and have earned good money and some good opportunities come my way , I negotiate to get a better price but if I am in a desperate position to earn more money , then I would agree to a lot more things than I would otherwise. So you have to very flexible with what you are doing.

A lot of international bloggers earn good money through affiliate marketing .My readers always like to know what I carry for my travels and amazon, for example, if someone buys through my link,then I get a percentage cut. I am yet to understand if that will work in India.”

On The Dark Side of being a Digital Nomad

Even though being a digital nomad sounds like a living one is living the dream but according to Shivya, it’s not all that easy always. Since you are moving quickly from one place to another, you meet all kinds of people everyday.

“You always see a rosy side of things but there is a dark side of everything. You do have bad days, where your limits are tested, where you miss your buses and connections and you have to stay in a shady place and anything can go wrong.

Just like in daily life, not every day can be perfect. This helps you test your limits as a person as well you get to learn how to react to an adverse situation.

Most recently, I was travelling in Costa Rica,  I got in friends with a cabbie after which he mugged me. This incident really shook my trust . It takes a lot of time to build trust and it takes seconds to break it. For a week, I felt that everyone was out there to hurt me, I was on my back foot and on my guard. After that even though it took me a lot of time and I thought people wouldn’t be nice to me, people were nice to me and I could trust again.”

A Day In Life Of Shivya As a Digital Nomad 

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As a digital nomad Shivya, doesn’t work all day long. She has fixed working hours after which she can enjoy the rest of the day and travel.

“I wake up check my email; see if there is something that is to be done immediately. I try to work on 2-3hours a day; it does depend on where I am, I give myself that freedom so it really varies. Every day is different.  I hate routine and I get restless very fast. Right now I am in Ethiopia, from the past two days I have been hiking in the Simien Mountains.”

You can read in detail about how Shivya is funding her travels as a digital nomad here : How I’m Funding My Adventures Around the World Through Travel Blogging.

Have I missed something? Ofcourse ,I have 🙂 

Do you want to be a digital nomad too? Or are you one already? 🙂

Would love to hear your views, questions, and opinions . Comment Below!

Ashmeeta
I am 21 . A dreamer. You can find me sitting in coffee shops in Delhi, sipping a cup of tea. A sucker for good stories and interesting people. I believe every person you meet has a little role to play in your life. Looking forward to hear stories of hustlers , ‘think different kinds’, who love to break conventions and most importantly can add some good value 🙂

If you have something to say you can catch me at ashmeeta@hustleindia.com .

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  1. I love how absolutely open and honest this entire post is! Nobody knows the difficulty when it comes to being a “digital nomad”, which is mostly finances. That’s the same reason I completely ADMIRE the people with the guts to make the leap knowing I never could.

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