The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Rowena's links:


Check out Rowena's new LinkedIn course: Becoming a Digital Nomad




Tyler Sellhorn (00:02): 
Are you a software developer that wants to work remote? Clevertech is where software developers experience remote done right, live limitlessly, add world class accomplishments to resume, live a life beyond the ordinary, join team members in creating the future all while making memories and being close to what's important to you. Visit clevertech.biz/jobs to apply. Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. 
Tyler Sellhorn (00:31): 
The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire. Today we are blessed to be learning out loud with Rowena Hennigan. Rowena is a speaker, professor, and globally recognized expert in remote work, and has successfully mixed travel and work since 2007. She recently published a LinkedIn Learning course where she explores the key benefits and challenges of this digital nomad lifestyle, as well as what you need to know before embarking on your first adventure. Rowena, awesome to be here today with you. Please tell us, we'd love to learn a little bit about what you're building with your new course. 
Rowena Hennigan (01:09): 
Thanks so much for the invite, Tyler, and it's another pleasure to be here. Really delighted we made it happen at last. It's so exciting being in the remote workspace for as long as you've been, or these many years. It was wonderful, first of all, to get invited to be a LinkedIn Learning instructor, I'm a big fan of the platform and the video learning courses on there. And when I got a chance to pitch to them, I actually thought it was going to be on remote work. And the discussion moved to some of the travel I've been doing with my family over the various years and the whole digital nomad lifestyle and concept. 
Rowena Hennigan (01:45): 
And I couldn't believe it, Tyler, after I pitched it to them, they went for it and we've got the first Digital Nomad content going on to LinkedIn Learning. And it might even be on there now if you've got access to the platform. So as we say it on there, I was absolutely delighted, chuffed, to be invited to do that and to bring this new awareness of the maximum benefits remote work can bring to you. It's not all about working from home. We can enable travel, we can explore, and nomadism is one part of that. And it's fantastic that a major platform has taken such a keen interest, Tyler. I'm really, really delighted. 
Tyler Sellhorn (02:24): 
I'm so excited to be learning alongside you. Obviously that's what we're doing here. How we introduced you that we're learning out loud with you today. I guess maybe the thing that I'd be interested to learn more is for you to pull apart that catch phrase of this moment now that people are traveling a bit, tell us what you mean when you say digital nomad. 
Rowena Hennigan (02:45): 
Really good first question, because like any definitions like when we all got thrown into working from home, there's so much jargon, there's so much terminology. For me, and you can look up the different definitions and they'll all be slightly different, if you want to go to the Oxford Dictionary or any of those places, but nomadism is about combining travel and work. And it's about looking at how you can work and travel. Now, a workcation could be a small example of that, but as we extend it out, obviously the extreme and, just like we had the original trailblazers in fully remote, the original people back in the seventies and eighties who were looking at moving around and working and exploring communities that way, then we bring in digital technologies and suddenly some of them were saying to themselves, "Well, I can work from anywhere or I can use email or I can do these different things." 
Rowena Hennigan (03:38): 
Back then when I first encountered nomadism in 2007, I was based in New Zealand, down under near Australia, and I was on a project where the client said, "We've some deadlines, but you can go and work from home." Basic internet connection, and I actually went off and start a traveling a little bit around Australia and around Fiji at the time answering emails and doing bits and pieces, and the same as I was on my way back to Europe. And this was the early types of nomadism. And obviously the purists will argue and say, "Well, you need to have no fixed abode, Tyler." That's how they would say it, a nomad has no fixed abode. But just like it's horses for courses and we're all individuals, nomadism can mean different things to different people, and it's about the freedom and flexibility of unplugging the laptop and going where you can, even if it's not permanent. 
Rowena Hennigan (04:28): 
So say someone takes a career break to write a book, or maybe they've got a side hustle where they're earning some money as well in some way, they may decide to travel and to work a little bit, two days a week or something like that. So what I'm looking at on the course and what I'm open to discussing and learning, I learn all the time when I hear from people with their different models of how they do this, and when I share my model of how my family does it, it's really something that like remote work, it's evolving, Tyler. So I'm not avoiding answering you, but there isn't a concrete definition because someone who could try a workcation could eventually then go to nomad for a month, for example, working either part-time or for one week out of that month, but they're still working and traveling. And that's the bit that's really exciting for me. 
Tyler Sellhorn (05:15): 
Well, I don't hear you dodging the question. I hear you inviting us to the very same adventure that you've been on. And I think that's so much of what remote work and remote work advocates have been about. It's been about inviting people to integrate their work lives with a better version of themselves, and I think that you've demonstrated how to do that. You just run down the bullets of what you just said. Well, I was in New Zealand and then I went to Fiji and then I went back to Europe and then I was doing... You just rolled off the tongue as if it was a normal life. I'm here to tell you that is very unique, that is very special, and we're super interested to learn more from you and your experiences. You used a phrase, workcation, and I think that your idea of, say, hey, we're going to combine some amount of travel and work, and that's what digital nomadism is, but break it down for us what's the difference between, say, taking a workcation and being a digital nomad as a lifestyle. 
Rowena Hennigan (06:26): 
Someone embarking on a workcation, it depends of course on your status. And I cover this off on the course. And the status could be that you're employed, you're fully employed with a contract, but it's okay, you can take a workcation, for example, from, say, somewhere in America to another state, to Alaska, up to Canada maybe, depending on your contract, and you might totally be honest under the global mobility standards with your employer. So that could be a workcation that's no problem, maybe it's encouraged depending on your employer, but a digital nomad we find often the real purist there, they have no fixed abode, they're traveling out of a case, maybe they've let go of either a lease on an apartment or their home, or they've moved all their stuff to their parents, or whatever, a family member, and they've gone on a one way ticket. So all those extremes, within all that there's different definitions, just like remote work, about making it for you. 
Rowena Hennigan (07:20): 
Exactly what you've said, we learn because we need to make our work, our lives integrate together by embracing the flexibility and finding what works for you. And the thing is that really came home to me. I settled in Dublin 10 years ago, I met my partner, we had our daughter, and my daughter was ill in Dublin. Anyone who knows my story knows that we actually moved from Dublin, from Ireland, to Spain using global mobility. Again, it's all about being flexible because luckily we both had remote flexible jobs that would let us move. One wasn't fully employed, my partner, and myself in a freelance contractor role, and we moved countries completely to help her health. So any version of that, whatever works, I want people to be open minded because I also feel I need to be more inspirational, maybe slightly more extreme in my examples, Tyler. And here's why, because we're making up for the forced work from home during the pandemic and we have to bridge that gap because some people still think it's only work from home. 
Tyler Sellhorn (08:27): 
Well, I just want to say plus one to that sentiment, that work from anywhere is not work from home, and that you're inviting us to make it work for us and embrace the flexibility that allowed your family to thrive. You are inspirational. You said, "You know what, my child, this location doesn't work for them. Okay, well then how can I make my work come with me and our family to where they are best served?" And to even just to reorient our attitudes towards work in a way that recognizes that truth, to say that this is in service to the rest of my life instead of my life being in service to that employment. 
Rowena Hennigan (09:18): 
Exactly. And you have such good listening skills because you've got that sentiment exactly, and that's why we didn't realize at the time, because with the sick child we were just desperate to find a climate that would improve her health and change. So it wasn't even conscious, but when we got to Spain and we were faced with deciding and settling where we were in Zaragoza in the north of Spain, we said to ourselves, "Hang on, we're not going to buy. We're not going to take the most expensive, beautiful apartment that will crash our income. We want to move all the time. We want to have the flexibility to move within school holidays." Now, let me quantify that, and again, it's different in every country. So we made it our home because Spain has three months of summer holidays. 
Rowena Hennigan (10:04): 
This year from the 22nd of June to the 12th of September, I have a child that I have to entertain, I want to travel with, and over those five years in Spain, we've been to Indonesia, we've been to Bali in the summers for up to three months, we've covered off in Vietnam, we've also been to Gran Canaria, we've been to Tarragona, and we're going to Portugal this summer. So it's three months a year. And the thing is we couldn't do that without working for some of that time, so we bring the work with us and we embrace that flexibility. That's the way I've done it, that's the story I tell on the LinkedIn Learning course. And people say to me, "I never thought of it like that. I never thought of it like that." Believe me, Tyler, it was so obvious during the pandemic, when we were in a lockdown city at one point that was really difficult to get out of, we were able to go down to the coast. 
Rowena Hennigan (10:57): 
As you say, we make work serve us. It's important, but it's not the most important thing. A beautiful thing that sets it up for me is a nomad said to me, "Wherever I lay my laptop, that's my home." We're knowledge workers. We've been like that for years. Those listening have been through the first dot boom like me that have been around the block, make it work for you, many of you can travel and combine the two. And with what's happening in the world just now with the Great Resignation, reshuffle, whatever we call it, the doors are opening. We can talk about the socioeconomic benefits, but make it work for you. So if travel resonates with you, if flexibility resonates with you, investigate, look into it because it's an wonderful world out there. It really is. If you can bring that joy into your life to have the flexibility to explore, travel is such a gift that we have as human beings, and that's why I'm passionate about it. 
Tyler Sellhorn (11:56): 
So you started listing some locations. We've got to do the stack rank. You've got to give us your favorites or you can say them and say they're all your favorite children, as it were, but I'm listening very closely to which ones you say first. So just speaking of having things serve you and serve your family best, which places have served your family best? 
Rowena Hennigan (12:21): 
In recent years, I have to say that Gran Canaria, and anyone who knows the remote work community will know Nacho Rodriguez in the [inaudible 00:12:29] 
Tyler Sellhorn (12:28): 
Shout out Nacho. You beat me to it, I was about to say his name as well. Thank you Nacho for showing us how to do this well. 
Rowena Hennigan (12:35): 
Exactly. And that part of Spain, that region in Spain have been a leader for many, many years. And the infrastructure in the Las Palmas, I call it out in the course, is amazing for families. And we had a wonderful almost three months there last summer where we based ourself in Las Palmas, we traveled around. And here's the thing, we're a family. We're not a young beach slinger sitting on the beach with the laptop trying to work in the sun. It's not the cliche. We have to organize activities for our daughter. We have to make sure that maybe we have a little bit of childcare. So that infrastructure is really important. And Las Palmas has it all with lots of people who speak English, so it would be the top there, coming totally closely second and evolving. So I have to be careful about my favorite children, but just because it's been later to join the club is Madeira in Portugal. Amazing. Gonçalo Hall, another trailblazer in our community who has just done such amazing things for that part of Portugal and that island. 
Tyler Sellhorn (13:38): 
We love you too Gonzo. 
Rowena Hennigan (13:39): 
We love you, Gonzo. And so these places, these regions, what people have to understand is they're giving a socioeconomic injection, bringing their spending there. They are personally, and their families, and if they traveling groups, they're benefiting wholeheartedly from the infrastructure put in by hardworking communities and people who have trailblazed, but then they're paying those community back by spending their dollars or euros, whatever, there. And so it's just amazing. It's just amazing. And then, of course, those places have visa. They've special help for people arriving. So I have to add into the mix an old favorite of mine, I'm biased because I have family who live there, so it's very easy for us to be there, and that's Bali. Any part of the south of Bali where I nomadded first many years ago, my brother was there at the time surfing and I was working a little bit with him, and it is wonderful for families as well for all those reasons. 
Rowena Hennigan (14:33): 
And when I talk about infrastructure in a place, I'm talking about coworking, I'm talking about meetups, I'm talking about affordable accommodation. Jump onto any of the nomadism lists, any of these places and you'll see the categories there, good wifi, easy to access with transport, all those things, but they're my three favorites for different reasons. And I just think for especially younger people who care about how they impact the world that might be listening, once you do a bit of reading you'll really realize how you can really impact local communities when you arrive. It's amazing. 
Tyler Sellhorn (15:07): 
This has been a phrase that I've used. I am full on Midwestern United States family dad. The life that I've built for us and for our family has been very much so rooted to this place. We're raising our family near family and that's been our version of ourselves that's been best for us. And I like to use the phrase for the digital nomads, you all have been the astronauts of remote work, blazing the trail and building the tools. Why do we have microwave ovens? Well, it's because of the space program. It's not like they built that for it or that was it, but it became commercially viable because of that. And I think that is what digital nomadism has done, is to say, "Here are the things that you've got to do to be a successful worker who is location independent." 
Tyler Sellhorn (16:03): 
And I think one of the things that I'm wanting to maybe hear you speak some more about is as someone who is gainfully employed and is also living a location independent lifestyle, what are the things that you've had to do? What are the things that are adjacent to that location independence that you've had to create for you and your family as it relates to being successful as a worker and as a family person? What are those things that you've had to do? Because I know that I've learned lots from those of you that have really gone the distance. And I mean the distance literally not just figuratively. 
Rowena Hennigan (16:40): 
Totally. Things like being really, really organized with the basic administration, paperwork, passports, passport cards, being really good at research when you pick a place to understand compliance for entry, for visas, whatever, yes, 100%. Obviously some people going to Bali for the first time might be a bit overwhelmed by the visa on entry, et cetera, but we've done it many times, so we're really good at that. We're really good at packing light. We live very light. We have really good suitcases and packing. So I know it sounds really boring, but that's the practical stuff. And again, that's what's important. Before we moved to Spain, the only thing I owned was my snowboard bag, and it was a really good one to carry my snowboards, and we moved with literally basic sports equipment, things that people were like, "Why you don't have X, Y, and Z?" 
Rowena Hennigan (17:31): 
No. Minimalism is a real thing, and actually one of the sections on the course talks about that because there's a big [inaudible 00:17:37] in between minimalism and not collecting stuff, and being able to travel lightly and being sustainable, Tyler. The environment thanks us, the planet is grateful when we don't accumulate. So it's a big link there. So those are some of the first things that come to mind. Obviously because we travel as a unit and my partner, before I met him, he had lived in other countries. A lot of Irish who lived abroad, it's that welcome and openness to travel, to try new experiences, and because we've been to so many places now, my daughter can be dropped into any situation, she'll say in English or Spanish [foreign language 00:18:13], do you want to play to children around her. So she's very social in that way. And that's not to be underestimated, but you'll see it when you move in these circles that children are citizens over the world. 
Rowena Hennigan (18:27): 
It sounds cliche, but they're able to interact in any situation. So I'm covered some of the sort of first things that have come to mind. It's really interesting at the moment, because here in Europe we've had lots of coverage about problems in airports and problems with travel. That sort of stuff never phases me because after almost 70 countries and traveling with small baby to many countries, and a small child, I've seen it all. I've been stuck in places, I've had visas rejected. So again, there's a thing about, I use the word maybe resilience or durability for humans, travel, it's so character building, Tyler. It's so character building because it takes us out of our comfort zone. 
Rowena Hennigan (19:11): 
And I really like the point you made about astronauts because I think it's really interesting, because when I was first researching back five, six years ago my business in remote work and looking at remote work skills, it was the blogs by nomads that were talking about productivity, communication, life work balance, being entrepreneurial regardless of whether they were contracting or maybe founders. Again, Matt Mullenweg, they all talk about this freedom to move. So there's a big thread there that you've harnessed. And so I think to anyone listening, go and find out, go and look for these nomad communities. They're fascinating. And they were the trailblazers, for sure. 
Tyler Sellhorn (19:58): 
You've hinted at it a little bit and we need to have the hard talk. There are some things that must be accounted for if we are going to stay on the right side of the law as it relates to location independence and working. You mentioned mobility standards, global mobility standards, you talked about basic organization of your papers, talk to us a little bit more about what do we have to get sorted to be able to do this in a compliant way? 
Rowena Hennigan (20:30): 
That's a really good question, there's a whole section on the course on this. And the thing is even while I was designing the course in recent weeks, every day there's another inch of... 
Tyler Sellhorn (20:39): 
It's a moving target. 
Rowena Hennigan (20:40): 
It's a moving target. So the thing is that to be compliant you have to check with your employer. It depends on your status. So when I say status, we have two big factors in status. And I'm going to say something that people don't always think about because we need to be careful in the developed world about our privilege, passport. Passport really influences. So someone can be your freelancer in India, have quite a good setup, could maybe travel around their regions, but they maybe can't travel too much outside of India because of passport, for example. Passport is the foundation. Then it's our status in terms of us being, as I said, fully employed, contracted, et cetera, or a freelancer or whatever. Of course, if you're a freelancer, and again, I hinted that because what's helped me move, even though I would have some solid contractors under my belt do contracts after so many years, but in the middle of me recording the initial program, Airbnb came out with the amazing announcement of that they're going to enable 170 countries for their workers. 
Rowena Hennigan (21:44): 
And there's other examples, but this was the one for me that said it all, because anyone who knows about remote work will know that employer of record and all these services are coming in to help companies be more international and compliant. And certainly for certain industries it is starting to move that way. And what they said at Airbnb is they said, "We're going to offer 170 countries and we will figure it out using the systems that are coming in open source globally on the internet and people will be able to travel there." So they're leading the charge as well. And certainly for some sectors, which suit maybe nomadding or this type of remote work for tech, even for content writing, marketing, et cetera, there has been big moves in that way. So you have to be compliant with your status as a worker, but also then when you go, you have to be compliant in the country. 
Rowena Hennigan (22:36): 
So if you've taken up a visa, you have to adhere to those visa standards. And again, that's changing all the time, you need to look at do I have the right level of income? There's all these terms. And I'm touching on a few of them, insurance, terms of how long you can stay, et cetera. You also then need to be aware and you need to be well advised, but what's happened is astounding. So when I was researching the course back in 2020, there was only Estonia 2019 with the nomad visa, I think there's 80 now. Every week there's new announcements. 
Rowena Hennigan (23:11): 
And what these nomad visas do, for example, Croatia, which is a big leader, they create the infrastructure, they provide you with the formalized way of applying, they provide you with agents, probably a lot of which are for free, that will help you apply, there's a helpline in Croatia because essentially it's what's happened is these countries and regions have said, just like Madeira said, just like Gran Canaria, who were the early trailblazers that said, "We need this income, we need these people coming in because they're not fast tourism." And that is the thing that people also need to realize as well. So if you're listening and you're saying, "But my current status doesn't fit," keep an open mind, and that's what I'm trying to do with educating, with learning out loud, with using also the terms workcation or extended work stays, mixing work and holidays, because there's a lot of assumptions about any type of travel and remote work. And for me, we just need to push the conversation along, you said it, work from anywhere or almost anywhere or work from where you can. 
Rowena Hennigan (24:19): 
One last point, which people don't think about, and when I'm teaching the course I talk about local or regional travel, here I am in Europe where I can go to Portugal in four or five hours in my car, people don't even think of outside their states sometimes in America. In Australia, they don't think... There's an amazing movement in India for internal travel and moving around. And again, are they nomads? Well, they haven't gone to another country, but India is huge and they've moved in X number of regions. Again, it's about taking out the wealth from these urban centralized locations and dispersing it. And the more people that do that, life changes everything for that local location. 
Tyler Sellhorn (25:04): 
Well, shout out to the folks in Deli that have made the decision to you know what? I'm going to be a digital nomad cliche and go surfing in Goa. 
Rowena Hennigan (25:15): 
Exactly. And so we've got congestion in Delhi, we've got everything centralized in these urban places, and so you can see now, because I'm sure you've done interviews, we're leaning on rural regeneration, we're leaning onto equality in jobs across countries where it's not all in one place. Again, that's why I avoid tight definitions, even though I work and wear an academic hat, people need to be aware. And what people need to realize is just like what's happening in these last few months, forcing people back to offices, mandating, vote with your feet. And if this resonates with you, look around your industry, look for employers that are more open minded, and if you still get frustrated, there's a whole world of freelancing and contracting out there as well, or there's a sabbatical where you can maybe look at taking some time and working on a passion project. 
Rowena Hennigan (26:10): 
There's lots of ways of doing it, but I think as human beings we need to remember how important travel is, we really do. And we need to embrace the flexibility that remote work has given us. And we need to hold onto it because it is a gift. It really is. 
Tyler Sellhorn (26:26): 
I want to conclude with my favorite framing, especially for people like Euro that were the 2019 remoters, long before the pandemic forced us into this new mode of really embracing the idea that we're going to work through our screens and that be the primary mode, give us a little bit of a breakdown of those periods of time, to say, okay, this was 2019 and before as it relates to your specific expertise here that we're talking about digital nomadism, and then talk about what happened during the pandemic. And we're still dealing with some of the effects of that right now, but let's also imagine a future that is maybe starting now and on into the future of tell us the before, during, after of this pandemic times of what is the differences and what are the things that are still the same between those different things? 
Rowena Hennigan (27:21): 
Well, I think if we think pre-pandemic there was I'm working remotely, I was doing work in a big telco, I worked in about Nortel Avaya and Vodafone earlier in my career, and we were working remotely, but it wasn't called that. It was, oh, you're just working from home. And the systems, there was no videos. There wasn't any of the tech tools that there is now, not even comparable. There was the earliest version of Microsoft Communicator, but there was a strand of trust. We get to the pandemic, everyone's forced and that trust was built. This is the strand I see now, the trust is built, and trust as human beings we take it on board and we can become braver. We can become more open-minded. 
Rowena Hennigan (28:08): 
Because we can say, "Well, hang on, I can take my laptop into the garden, or I'm going to go down to that local cafe. Or, hang on., My elderly grandmother is sick and I want to spend some time with her so I'm going to do a long weekend and build a day here and there. I'm going to say to my boss..." Et cetera. So it's, again, trust. That trust is built. And again, the Airbnb policy shows this, it shows it in action, the trust is built, and as we build the trust, anything is possible. So coming off for after here's the best way I can summarize what's happening, Plumia, who are the sister company of SafetyWing, amazing insurance for nomads, creating a global safety network for nomads and for remote teams, Plumia are looking at total borderless world. They're looking at all the things that have to be done there. 
Rowena Hennigan (28:59): 
They're looking at a digital nomad visa that's worldwide. They're working with the policy side. They're doing amazing work. So in the community I move in with nomads and travelers, we're even that step on again, why would you need to be? And I don't have a problem with corporate employees, but why are you dependent on the big boss? Make your own future, control it, there is an element of this that is very entrepreneurial as well. And trust yourself to be the entrepreneurs. And there I'm bringing it back to the trust. Don't depend on someone else, create your own income, make it fit for you, and then what do we do to the world? We create a world where people are able, they're not reliant, and it's not all dependent on these companies that can often hold too much power, so that's also what's in there. 
Rowena Hennigan (29:50): 
And I see now in this stage after COVID, that penny has dropped for a lot of people, the doors are opening. They realize they can trust themselves to do good work and therefore they can be their own bosses through a freelancer model, or they can find a company that aligns with those values. And hopefully I've explained that well, but for me that's what I see the difference now, we've all matured so much in that thinking, but the trust has really spread. And along with that, of course, is all the tech tools have evolved, et cetera so it's just amazing. It really is. 
Tyler Sellhorn (30:23): 
Well, Rowena, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today and learning out loud with us. We're excited to be learning out loud with you and your new course. Thank you very much for joining in with LinkedIn and creating that content for us to be able to reference and learn from. And hopefully we can count on some amount of moving targetness with the course materials. I know that's a difficult thing. You even mentioned some important news in the midst of you creating the content, so thank you for being willing to take the leap and doing that for us, and we just appreciate you. 
Rowena Hennigan (30:57): 
Thanks so much, Tyler. It's been a pleasure. 
Tyler Sellhorn (31:01): 
Thanks so much again for listening to the show and be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at [email protected]. That's [email protected]. Thanks so much for listening and we'll talk to you next time. 

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