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The life of a digital nomad

Ever wondered what it’s like to live as a digital nomad? Or perhaps with the latest travel news, you’re looking to find some great deals on places to stay. We caught up with Chris Cerra, digital nomad and owner of RemoteBase. A service providing the best monthly discounts on Airbnb, on all things work and travel.
ONENINE5: Hey Chris! For any of those who don’t know about you, could you let us a know a bit about you and what you do?
CHRIS: My name is Chris, and I’m what some people call a ‘digital nomad’. What that really means is I travel around the world while working online. Another way of describing it is ‘location independent’, because I don’t need to be in a particular spot to work and make a living. I typically spend 2-3 months in a given place, and I run RemoteBase, where I share amazing accommodation deals to help others who live the digital nomad lifestyle - or want to!
ONENINE5: That sounds amazing! Living and working all over the world is something most people dream about but may have never experienced, so what can you actually expect from being a digital nomad? Does it spark inspiration for work?
CHRIS: It's the best decision I ever made. Of course, work is still work, it demands some of my time and attention. But the real difference is the moment you close your laptop at the end of the day, from that point on your options are whatever you want them to be. I can be more focused on work when I know there’s a margarita on the beach, or a live jazz night at the river waiting for me, and not that 40min journey on a crowded bus/tube, or sitting in rush hour traffic. That’s no way to end the day if you ask me! Of course, you still need to things like laundry, and I still have those long work days where, by the end I just want to flop into the sofa and put Netflix on but those are a minority, not the normal routine. The idea of spending weeks working tirelessly just to enjoy a couple of two week holidays a year seems so backwards, you could just be working from those places. It doesn't have to be a dream if you don’t want it to be. 
ONENINE5: As someone who has been living this amazing lifestyle for over 3 years, could you highlight some of the pros & cons of being a digital nomad?
CHRIS: Pros-
  • Before ‘nomadding’ I tried to travel at every opportunity. So being able to do that alongside work is a massive pro for me. People think travelling has to be expensive, but the reality is you can bring the cost down hugely if you ‘slow travel’ staying in places for a month or 2, so nomadic living not only gives you the opportunity to connect with a place on a deeper, more authentic, level but it can make a lot of financial sense, too. 
  • Two things can really amplify this, one is letting go of your ‘home base’ so either stopping renting (if you rent) or if you’re a homeowner, it could be renting out your home whilst you work and travel around the world. The other thing is working for an employer, or clients somewhere with a stronger currency than where you want to spend your time - meaning, if you earn GBP, but are in Thailand, your money goes a lot further there because the cost of living is so much lower. 
  • A lot of life's stresses result from financial worries, so getting yourself out of that ‘earning to spend’ cycle can really boost your mental wellbeing and quality of life.
  • Going back to connecting to a place (and the people there) on a deeper level, there’s something that changes when people notice you’re around for more than just a holiday, the barista remembers your order, and your name for example and it feels more like home. You connect more with the locals wherever you are, as well as meet other digital nomads!

Cons- There’s a few things you could consider… 

  • I talked about ‘giving up’ your home base, and the financial benefit, but not having a base in your hometown, or the area where all your friends are can be a downside too. You really feel it when you do spend time back in your home country! 
  • There’s so many moments I wish I’d been able to share with certain friends or family, but you can't just pick up all your friends and family and take them with you. Hopefully as remote working becomes more and more popular, that’ll change, and in the meantime it’s always great to meet new people who’ve also chosen this lifestyle.
  • It might not be the lifestyle for you if you easily feel a lot of pressure to ‘tick society's boxes’. This flexible living nomadic lifestyle doesn’t lead you as neatly through the classic milestones of get married, buy a house, have 2.4 babies as grandma might like. Something worth considering for sure. 
ONENINE5: If anyone is wanting to get involved in this lifestyle, you have definitely highlighted some really important points there. As we all know,  the travel has been impacted severely in the past 18 months, how have you found it living the digital nomad lifestyle in the midst of a global pandemic?
CHRIS: It’s been full of cancellations, delays, and general uncertainty on the travel front.  Thankfully, being able to work from anywhere since way before the pandemic hit, I wasn’t so impacted on the work front. I did have some friends get in touch to ask for tips on how to work effectively while remote though! Lot’s of them couldn’t work from home before (as in, they could, but their company or their boss wouldn’t let them), but that’s slowly changing, and I think a lot of them are eager to join me on some working-travels as the world and the travel industry gets back on its feet. Which I’m obviously really excited about.
Through the pandemic, I worked mostly from the UK, Portugal, and Austria. It was interesting to see how different countries' governments handled the situation (imposing rules etc). Equally, it was interesting to observe how people reacted differently across countries to those different rules that were put in place. 
ONENINE5: Finally, for those wishing to embark on this exciting journey to become a digital nomad, what are some of your top tips you would offer them?
CHRIS: Lots of people treat it like some kind of dream life which is out of reach, and I guess my biggest tip would be to challenge the idea that it’s out of reach. Start by really considering what is the worst that could happen if you gave it a try for 1 month?  I get why people hold back, they think because it’s a lifestyle choice, it’s a commitment to permanent change, but it’s exactly the opposite, it’s the most flexible way to live and to travel. If you don’t like it, or really miss wherever you consider ‘home’, you can just go back.  If you love travelling already, you know the world isn’t going to come to you, you have to go out and explore it. Equally, home will always be home, so don’t be afraid to leave for a while because you can always go back. There’s quite literally a whole new world out there to unlock if you give it a chance. If the blocker is financial, think about pairing up with a friend and being ‘nomad house mates’ to keep the costs down - you can always check out RemoteBase for discounts, too...
ONENINE5: Which brings us nicely on to the topic. Tell us more about RemoteBase and why you started this? 
CHRIS: Before I started living out of Airbnbs, I was waiting for my rental agreement to end, mostly because I couldn’t afford to pay rent in London on top of flight costs and a whole month of accommodation somewhere else. But searching Airbnb, I discovered some hosts were offering discounts - and you can get these discounts for different reasons: ‘early bird’ discounts for booking way in advance, special offers for booking last minute, weekly discounts etc. - which are applied just once to the whole booking as opposed to a monthly discount which you get for each month you stay.  There’s no way to filter specifically for these kinds of deals in Airbnb, but I had a lot of time on my hands while I was waiting for that rental agreement to end. I found loads over the space of a few months. Initially I was saving them to a ‘wishlist’ in Airbnb but after a while I started keeping my own dedicated list. Occasionally I’d find one that was just mind blowing, where you can save thousands, so I’d share with friends who’d then ask me to send a link. I didn’t really know what I was on to at that point though, I hadn’t even started living the digital nomad lifestyle yet. It wasn’t until a year later, when I came back to this idea of distributing the best deals so this work and travel lifestyle can be more accessible to people. I was working from the Algarve in Portugal, when I decided to set up the website and just like that, RemoteBase became ‘a thing'.
ONENINE5: What is the process of sourcing and finding the best AirBnB deals? Do you have a criteria?
CHRIS: I set pretty strict criteria, yes! And it varies depending on location or season - as an example, you’d probably prefer heating in a chalet in the alps at winter time, but air conditioning if you’re spending August in a villa in Greece. It’s a common sense rule really, but when your search isn’t limited to a particular place, you have to factor that into the criteria. It’s completely different to when you book for a holiday, so we’re careful to only include places that have a washing machine. In places like the UK it’s common for homes to have a washing machine, but in some parts of the world, that’s not the case! There’s lot’s of less tangible stuff, too, like inspecting the photos and figuring out if a host has tried to sneakily move furniture around to try and make the place look bigger or something. Little things like that you just pick up on through searching over the years. There’s other ways to understand how much of a deal you’re getting, for example you can look at occupancy rates for all airbnbs in that location - but that’s not something you can easily find in airbnb, so there’s some additional work that goes into making the newsletter happen!
ONENINE5: What’s the best deal you’ve ever found for an Airbnb?
CHRIS: The July 21 Edition actually had the best deal found so far! 85% off in a Villa in Bali! The saving was over $2,000! A close 2nd would be an amazing apartment found on Airbnb in Lisbon with a huge 78% off! It’s not always about the highest percentage discount though, sometimes you can get an amazing apartment with 35% off, which actually costs less than $500, and that can be to super luxurious or private, if you’re looking at a country like Bulgaria, Mexico, or Thailand.
ONENINE5: WOW! They are amazing and very varied! I’m sure you know the horror stories of an Airbnb that doesn’t match up to images and descriptions. What’s your advice when it doesn’t quite go to plan?
CHRIS: Unfortunately, I’ve heard horror stories, and have some of my own tales to tell from my early days living in Airbnbs (places that haven’t been cleaned for example). From my experiences though, these are minority cases, and more often than not, hosts are happy to… well… host. Once we asked a host what’s a good place to buy a blender, because we wanted to make a recipe that needed one, and they just organised for one to be delivered, no questions asked. Other times, we’ve had hosts upgrade wifi packages so we can get faster speeds and stay online. So I think the majority of hosts are good hosts - spotting the bad eggs is the hard part. If something isn’t right with a listing, my top tip would be that let the host know early, and run all communications through the Airbnb chat (as opposed to a text or a whatsapp), this way, if it does for some reason get escalated to Airbnb, they can see all the communications.  Not really a tip, but something to remember is, your host, or the person managing the place is another human, and is probably trying their best. Be nice, and they’ll probably be nice(r) back to you - especially if you’ve booked to stay with them for a month or more!
ONENINE5: If we had to pin you down and you had to pick one city/ place to live forevermore, whats your choice and why?
CHRIS: That is HARD. I’ve been really drawn to Portugal over the last 18 months, as it’s been one of the few places accessible to me through the pandemic.  But I’m a big fan of island living whether it’s Bali or Hawaii!  Let’s go with Portugal if you’re asking me based on ‘I have to pick TODAY’. The people are friendly, the weather is great, the wifi is fast and the food is delicious! A big plus here is it’s on the same timezone as the UK where my family are, and that helps us stay a little more connected.
We loved having a virtual chat with Chris, if you want to keep up to date with great AirBnb deals, be sure to sign up to the RemoteBase newsletter! Or if you want to follow Chris’ travels, you can find him @Remotebase on Instagram too.