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[E4C39] Create Your Freedom Business & Work From Anywhere – Nomadtopia – Amy Scott

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Living in Chiang Mai gives me such great opportunities for meeting other digital nomads and location-independent entrepreneurs, and one person I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know recently is Amy Scott, founder and owner of Nomadtopia.

In 2004, Amy quit her office job to travel the world, and has never looked back. She now keeps a home base in Buenos Aires while she and her Argentine husband travel the world. Nomadtopia is not only packed with great info on the diginomad lifestyle, it’s also a virtual community where location-independent entrepreneurs around the world can share their inspiring stories and provide mutual support.

Through her other business, Nomad Editorial, Amy helps non-fiction writers finish their books. Amy also offers a six-week program, ‘Create Your Nomadtopia’, designed to help entrepreneurs start unplugging their businesses and their lives from their physical locale.

Amy and I sit down to talk about the nitty gritty of the location-independent lifestyle – the good, the bad, and the brilliant. Now, location-independence doesn’t mean that you are constantly on the road, it just means that you can work from home, or anywhere – you choose. The truth is, the diginomad lifestyle really isn’t for everyone, but everyone can certainly benefit from more flexibility and freedom. So, in this episode, you’ll discover:

  • How to transition from regular employment to being a location-independent entrepreneur.
  • Important things to consider before quitting your fixed-locale lifestyle.
  • The secret of identifying target customers, and how get your first clients.
  • Strategies to keep your message out there so you don’t miss out on potential work.
  • The pros & cons of being a digital nomad, and how to avoid feeling isolated.
  • How to deal with business institutions that require you have a residential mailing address, and ways to get around this annoying formality.
  • How to determine if the digital nomad lifestyle is truly right for you.

Mentioned in this interview

Dynamite Circle
Yawanawa Festival
Creative Web Biz – Yamille Yemoonya
Docusign
CamScanner app

Where to Find Amy

Nomad Editorial
Facebook Page
Destination Nomadtopia book
Work-from-Anywhere Test Drive
Create Your Nomadtopia
Nomadtopia Facebook
Twitter

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Lorna: Amy it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you and Roberto in Chang Mai, which happens to be a hub of digital nomadic activity. I would love to hear more about your story, especially, some of the places you’ve been able to travel to as a location independent entrepreneur. If you would please introduce yourself to our audience about who you are and how you got started and where your travel had taken you, please.

Amy: Sure, okay, so my name is Amy Scott and I am a nomad, a coach and an editor. And I have two businesses, one is Nomad Editorial, which is working with nonfiction writers primarily to finish their books. Although I also work on other kinds of copy and Nomadtopia is a hub of community and information and inspiration for other people who also want to be location independent or are already are.

Lorna: So what are the different types of products and services that both businesses offer?

Amy: Nomad Editorial is primarily service based. It’s providing editing and proofreading services to writers and I also do writing coaching. And then Nomadtopia, I also do one on one coaching and consulting as well as sell information products.

I have an eBook and a couple of online courses and some other things in the works.

Lorna: So are they addressing different audiences altogether? What are your different customer profiles for each business?

Amy: Yeah, you know it’s funny there are those times to be some overlap. I think because a lot of people, well a lot of my editing clients tend to be entrepreneurs. So they’re writing a book that somehow related to their work or to their business. And a lot of those people happen to also want to be location independent.

Lorna: Fantastic! [Laughs]

Amy: There’s definitely some synchronicity there. And of course if you’re a writer, that’s a perfect location independent career. So, yeah, there’s definitely some synergy between them.

But I have two separate websites, two different web presences and do keep and run them as two separate businesses.

Lorna: Well I really like the idea of working on projects or businesses or just endeavors in general that really supports each other. So that way, I know like, kind of like having an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s really easy to get excited about new projects and new ventures. And then get like really overstretched in terms of all the different things that you are doing and passionate about.

So for me, personally, I have made a conscious decision that anything that I do has got to support something that I’m actually currently doing or I see myself doing in the near future so that I’m not dispersing my energy.

Amy: Yeah, well it is a challenge and especially on the marketing front because I find that – I do find myself sometime spreading myself too thin. It’s like, I can’t do weekly blogs and weekly newsletters and whatever for both businesses. I’m not prepared to at this point. So, having to make some choices about where I’m going to spend my time and I realized, for example, Nomad Editorial, I’ve been doing that since 2005. I have a solid client base and past clients and it’s so much word of mouth that I don’t have to do marketing in the same way I do for Nomadtopia which is a newer venture and kind of structured differently. So it’s much more focused on the online marketing.

So I’ve been focusing my energy on that side and I realize I can’t do it all.

Lorna: Right, yeah, and if you find yourself doing it all, it’s good to take a step back and figure out who can you hire to farm off a lot of the stuff that you really don’t want to be doing or need to be doing but it’s not the best use of your time.

I always think that it’s really important for business owners, especially if you are solopreneur to be able to stay focused on the bigger picture, the high level strategy and not get bogged down by day to day implementation of the operations of your business because the sooner, I believe the sooner that you can create the systems and have the teams in place to run your business without you having to be involved, the better it is going to be for you.

Amy: Yes. And I think that’s actually bigger challenge for me because I like to do all that stuff and I’m not one of those people who, like my eyes glaze over if I have to figure out coding for a website or whatever, like I’ll delve into that stuff and then later on like, wait a minute, is this really the best use of my time?

Lorna: Two hours have gone by. You’ve been trying to troubleshoot that plugin and hack the code yourself.

Amy: Exactly. And sometimes, yeah, I just did this yesterday and I’ve got a solution very quickly. I was very pleased with myself. I’m getting better because I have a VA now who I’ve been working with for about six months. And she’s savvy enough that I can say, “Oh this thing is broken, help.”

And then also my husband is very tech savvy. And he’s a developer and a programmer so I can often have his help as well which has been huge.

Lorna: That is so awesome. I want to have a developer too. [Laughs] I need a CTO. That’s great.

Okay, cool. So, I’d like to take you back for a few years and to the point where you decided to take that leap and work for yourself. Can you tell us how that happened? Did you have a side hustle? Did you just take the plunge? Like what was it like when you decided to stop being an employee and start working for yourself?

Amy: Yeah, well, what’s interesting because my journey was a bit different than some, I think because I was working in publishing in San Francisco. I certainly was aware of the possibility of working from somewhere else because I was responsible for hiring freelancers, editors and indexers. Some of whom were I remember we had one person in Costa Rica, other people in other parts of the US and I thought, I could do that.

But then I think, “Oh that’s hard and scary, you know. I’m [6:30] income and all that stuff.” And so I never seriously pursued it.

And then for some reason, I got obsessed with instead was quitting my job to travel. So it had nothing to do with work. I wasn’t building a side hustle. What I was doing was saving like crazy so I could quit my job to travel. So that’s what I did. In 2004, after a couple of years of saving, you know, being in the expensive Bay Area and not making a ton of money at my job, it took a while. But I was very determined.

And so I quit and was able to travel for about nine months. And it was during that that of course, I was like, there’s no way I’m going back to office. I’ve got to find another way. So I naturally had a great place to start because I have the editing background. I had a publishing background. I had plenty of contacts to get me started. So I basically got back to the US, set myself up in LA actually, in a new city and just told everyone I knew, “Okay, I’m freelancing now, send me work.”

So that was August 2005 and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Lorna: Okay so you’ve been location independent since 2005?

Amy: 2004. That’s when I quit.

Lorna: Okay. So what countries were you able to visit as a location independent professional?

Amy: Yeah, well, I don’t know if I was a professional at the beginning because I wasn’t working. I was just travelling but on that original around the world trip I spent three months in South America. I went to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. And then to India for six weeks and then I was in Southeast Asia for three months.

I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. And then [8:23] on the way home. So that was like, the first, you know, big hurrah. And then I went back to the US and thought, “Okay, I’m going to get my business setup. I mean, my intention from day one was to be able to leave again. So I was focusing entirely on getting clients anywhere. I didn’t want to have local clients. I didn’t want to meet people in person.

I was back in the US for almost two years. Actually, I was bouncing around quite a bit but I was building the business, getting ready, saving money and then I decided to move to Argentina.

So I moved to Argentina in 2007. I thought, maybe I’d be there six months, maybe a year and I really liked it. And one of the things that really strikes me is about being location independent is that, it gives you the freedom to choose. And if you’re perfectly happy where you are, you can just stay where you are.

You don’t have to move if it’s not pulling you. You’re not compelled to that. So I stayed and I ended up being pretty settled in Argentina for I guess about five years, which was not at all my expectation. So if you had bounced around South America a little bit. But I really have to have a home base there. I go back to the US occasionally and that was about it.

Just when I was starting to get antsy I met my husband and I was like, okay, I guess I should stay a little bit longer and see where this goes. But you know, I told him from day one, this is what I want to do. I am location independent. I want to continue to be able to take advantage of that and he was totally on board.

So after we got married, we spent six months in the US travelling around and working online at the same time. That was in 2012. We moved back to Argentina for six months and then left in June 2013 to travel again within mostly in Asia, so about eight months.

Lorna: Which countries have you been visiting in Asia those times?

Amy: We started in Malaysia. Three months in Malaysia, two months in Indonesia really in Bali, two months in India and that will be about three months in Thailand.

Lorna: So when you were living in Argentina, where you mostly based in Buenos Aires?

Amy: Yeah, I actually moved to Mendoza which is in wine country.

Lorna: Oh, I’ve heard good things about Mendoza, tell me.

Amy: Yeah, I was really curious. Actually what happened was, I’ve been in Buenos Aires only like six months, maybe, but I was curious to see what else is out there. I think I was feeling a bit of that I could go anywhere, where can I go? And also it was in a terrible situation with my landlord in Buenos Aires. I just need to get out of here.

So I went to Mendoza. I thought maybe I’d stay a month and I ended up staying two and half months. I really liked it there. It’s a smaller city. It’s of course, with all the fabulous wineries right there, which also brings good food and the really interesting community but I was single and I got bored.

I’ve always been a big city person and in Mendoza, there’s like one strip, like restaurants, and bars, I was like, “So I’m just going to have to go out on this one strip like, forever?” [Laughs]

That was very foreign to me. I’m used to like, go to this neighborhood or this, you know, having a lot of choice and I thought like, “I think I miss the action of the big city.” So I moved back to Buenos Aires.

Lorna: Wow, so there wasn’t much of a dating scene in Mendoza? Are there?

Amy: I wasn’t trying particularly, I suppose at that point. But actually, I met some good local friends through couch surfing and so I wasn’t lonely in that sense. I have people to go out with and stuff. But I don’t know, I just thought like a lot of more action. And then of course, the funny thing is, now that I’m not single I’ve been like okay give that another try. And most of the past eight months we’ve been in pretty small towns.

And it’s been quite nice, actually. So I think that having a break from big cities is not necessarily a bad thing. But yes, it kind of depends on what you’re looking for.

Lorna: Yeah, totally. I could see, for sure, like some of the places that I really enjoyed spending time with are small communities that are really close to nature. And if you’re single, it’s definitely just like a whole lot different vibe.

I think in places like that, like, I spend a lot of time in Alto Paraiso de Goias which is a small community, kind of like an international eco-conscious, really new agey community 230km northeast of Brasilia in Brazil. And you know, to be single there, basically you have to get really used to being alone. And so – and a lot of the people I spoke to that were like, didn’t have a partner or like a young kid. It’s a great place for like, young families. But if you happen to be single, expect to spend a lot of time alone and go deep within yourself. Work on your music or do your spiritual practice or do your yoga. That’s kind of what people did there.

So at a certain point, I started to get comfortable with a lot of alone time. But I can see though like, how it might get feel a bit antsy.

So when you were in Argentina all that time, how did you deal with the visa?

Amy: Yeah, I lived there for about five years on a tourist visa. Americans get 90 days on arrival and there’s actually a large population of expats there who do visa runs every 90 days.

I always, for a long time, I will always have, I will buy round trip tickets from the US. So when I got to Argentina, I could always say, “Look I’m leaving.” I wouldn’t necessarily go back to the US every three months, maybe every six months.

Lorna: You will just move your ticket?

Amy: Well, no, I would get a ticket for maybe six or eight months out and then you can do one day boat trip to Orlo which is right across the river from Buenos Aires and super easy to do a visa run and come back.

There did seem to be a time where they were [15:05] and I felt nervous every single time I came back across the border though because you start to hear stories of people who get hassled at the border. That who, you know, they start to say like, so you’re like living here, and you’re “No, no. No I’m not. I just really love Argentina.” [Laughs]

So I always had story. I was always like, prepared for whatever might happen. But I mean, I actually never really had any problems. I never really got, you know, interrogated about it.

Lorna: So every 90 days, you went to Uruguay?

Amy: There was one time I went down actually to the immigration office and did it. You can do one in person, like, extension without leaving the country.

Frankly, I mean it’s way better to just go to Uruguay and hangout on the beach for the day. Instead of going to immigration and dealing with all the bureaucracy and standing in line all day.

Lorna: Totally. I see you didn’t have to take an international flight out of there. So you can perpetually do the Uruguay visa run every 90 days for a long time.

Amy: In theory, yes. As long as they don’t get too picky.

Lorna: Okay, that’s definitely good to know.

Amy: Yes it is.

Lorna: Okay, awesome. Let me ask you then, what is your typical day look like as a digital nomad business owner?

Amy: It kind of depends where I am. If it’s not a travel day and I’m somewhere that I’ve been for a while, my days are pretty normal. And actually, it also I think varies depending on what hemisphere I’m in. Being in Asia and having most of my clientele in the US has been interesting for my scheduling.

I’m definitely more of a night person than a morning person. So my husband and I have been getting on the schedule where we might stay up until like 2 or 3 in the morning. And then, sleep late because the workday is over in the US.

So, yeah, I’d say, I tend to get up fairly late, relatively speaking. And then we might go out in the morning before it gets too hot. It’s very hot in Chang Mai right now. And then work in the afternoon to avoid the heat and then head out in the evening to go to like, go to the night market, to get some food. We might head out to actually do some kind of excursion.

I like to mix it up. There’s some days where we might work like half a day and then go out to do something the other half of the day to check out wherever we are.

Lorna: So were there parts of the world where you found work business killing to be in? I found Bali to be business killing.

Amy: Interesting.

Lorna: [Laughs]

Amy: Yeah, I can see that. I mean, I would say the first thing that comes to mind for Bali, we were mostly in Hubud.

Lorna: I love Hubud. But the internet’s so bad.

Amy: Yes, exactly. The internet was really bad and specially for Roberto, my husband, dealing with like managing client, like huge client files and things like that, the router in the place where we staying was out in one of those, I forgot what it’s called, like kind of a little open air hut thing? The router was out in the garden, so he would go and sit out there like get as close to the router as possible, hoping for the best connection. Ridiculous.

Lorna: The things you have to do.

Amy: I know. And honestly also, I was very distracted there too because there’s so much other stuff to do that I had a hard time just focusing on work. Why not just go to Yoga all day. [Laughs]

Lorna: I know. Bali is such a delightful place. Okay, so, I’m curious to know – it sounds like most of your clientele is in the United States.

Amy: Mostly.

Lorna: So, how did you find your first clients? And do you think that for someone who wants to start off doing what you do, they need to develop a client base in their local economy first? So, like before they can go and become location independent and leave the country, they really need to cultivate a solid client base, whatever city they’re in first, before they take off?

Amy: That’s a great question and I actually think it is not really location based for me. Like if I had to explain why my clients are in the US, I feel like it’s more because I’m from the US and we all speak English.

Lorna: You work in English. You’re not like doing French copy.

Amy: Right. And so, yeah, I mean, I definitely did not focus my energy on building any kind of clientele in a certain location. It just kind of happened.

In terms of finding clients, in general, you know, the editing business when I first started I just – it was interesting too because I started basically working as a freelancer for publishing companies. And so I was reaching out to all of my publishing contacts, hire me as a freelancer.

And then a couple of years ago, I made the switch to working primarily one on one with writers, directly. Which is, you know, a very natural progression especially as self-publishing has taken off. There are now a lot more individuals who need an editor as well as people – entrepreneurs who are not even necessarily publishing on Kindle or whatever but like, writing an eBook or writing a course and putting it up all on their own.

And thankfully, most people recognize that it’s a good idea to have somebody edit your stuff before you put it out there.

So that’s just the online, word of mouth. It was not at all like, building a network in a particular location but because I did have the publishing background initially, just tapping into that professional network.

Lorna: So do you ever have to do marketing pitches or do you have a steady flow of work where you just not so worried about whether it’s going to dry up?

Amy: There’s definitely some ebb and flow. There are definitely times that I’m super busy. Like right now, I actually don’t have any editing work. It is tricky because since I have another business, I don’t necessarily mind. I’m kind of woooh… free time to work on Nomadtopia.

But I do try to do, actually that was like just right now, I’m like, hhmmm… dry spell. I should post on my Facebook page a little more than I normally do. You know things like that, because the tricky part with having more than one business or more than one thing you do is that it can be hard for people to keep track of what you do. And I think sometimes because I focus a lot of my marketing energy on Nomadtopia, people start to assume I’m not editing anymore.

So I need to make sure that I’m keeping that message out there so that work continues to come in as well. Because that’s what pays the bills.

Lorna: So can you tell us more about the digital products that you have on Nomadtopia. What is it that you sell?

Amy: Yeah, my first product was actually – I don’t remember the order I put them out. I guess it doesn’t matter. Basically the eBook, I have a PDF eBook that I put out that I’ve now switched over to Kindle and I’m just selling the Kindle version so that’s kind of the first step in terms of helping people figure out what the lifestyle looks like for them.

Lorna: The location independent lifestyle?

Amy: Exactly. So it’s figuring out based on your current situation. Do you have kids, whatever, as well as, what’s important to you and your values and what you want your life to look like. What kind of experiences you want to have? Bringing that all together to figure out your vision for the life that you want to have.

And then, I have a six week online program that is called create your Nomadtopia and which is now I’m just selling it as a home study. I’ve done it as a live six week program as well online. And that basically walks you through all of the nuts and bolts for some of that visioning work, all the way through, how are you going to make money while you’re doing this, what you’re going to do with your home and your stuff, where are you going to go, all of the pieces to figure out what needs to happen and create an action plan, set a deadline, get on the road.

And then I also put out a new cart to couple, actually just about a month ago. The work for many were test drive which is a shorter program, you basically will do it as a five day test drive of location independence.

So you have your own business, but you always work at home and so you don’t know if you can actually go somewhere with it. So it’s like, pack up. Go to another location. Stay for five days and see how it goes.

Can you still communicate with your clients? What happens if you have to sign a contract? You know, all of those things that you’ve got figured out at home, how you’re going to do it when you’re somewhere? And then see if there’s things that needs to be tweaked or whatever.

Lorna: Okay so let’s say you have a person that’s still on a day job and they wanted to transition to a location independent lifestyle. What would you walk them through? What would the plan of action be?

So let’s see if you have the sense that they do want to be able to work from anywhere but they haven’t really given it much thought as to like where they want to be. They just want to be work from home entrepreneurs or whether they want to be in Europe or in Asia. Like how do you help them make that decision and then from there, come up with an action plan.

Amy: It’s interesting because I’ve definitely worked with people who thought that they wanted, kind of the typical work and travel at the same time and then, I have one client who was working through this but then was doing some of the visioning stuff. Like, okay, what’s important to you? What is your ideal day look like? You know, some of those exercises, then she realized, I don’t want to work while I’m travelling. I want to work my butt off and then I want to go take a month or two off to travel.

She has her own business but you know, she can still set it up that way. So she doesn’t have to work at the same time. So absolutely, it looks different for everybody. And yes, figuring out, do you know the kind of experiences that you want to have.

It can be very challenging, as you know, to be in a new place and have to work. It’s very distracting if you’re got all these cool things to see and do and how do you sit down and get work done as well. And some people decide they just would rather not do it that way at all. But I try – you know one of the things I really focus on is that, there’s no right way to do this. There’s no such thing as a bad nomad.

It’s so important to figure out the way that you want to do it because if you just follow kind of like, the cool thing to do, you can be totally miserable.

And sometimes you don’t know until you do it.

Lorna: Right, yeah. I think it takes a lot of real honesty to ask yourself, like hard questions. How much can I handle being alone most of the time? Like let’s say if you don’t have a partner that wants to be nomadic with you, like you’re single. So, if you’re doing that nomadic lifestyle, you’re going to be spending a lot of time by yourself. So can you handle it, like, to be disconnected from your primary social networks where you feel a longing for home and your friends, and your confidants.

One thing that I can say is in terms of my location independent experience, I’ve had a great time meeting new people. I’ve really expanded my communities and my social networks. I feel so grateful to have friends all over the world. Some of them are going to be lifelong friends even if we don’t talk everyday and like we just see each other sporadically, like once a year or something.

But the experiences we’ve had together have basically sealed that bond of like lifelong friends. But it’s not the same as like, you know, being around people that have known you for years that you see on a regular basis every weekend or you speak to like, every few days that you can share your deepest feelings with.

I’ve met so many people during my travels but not a lot of people I can really just like get down and “Oh my god, I’m going through this.” This thing is bothering me or just kind of like really sharing, having those soul bearing connections that on one hand, like it’s very nourishing to know that there’s people in your life that you can share in that way. So I think for a lot of people that might be intrigued by the nomadic lifestyle, the reality of the nomadic lifestyle might be very different. Of course, it’s good to ask yourself those questions and then try it. And maybe give yourself certain test phases o f trying different countries too, rather than just kind of like going all out and just like being, “Oh my god, when is this going to be over?” Like I bought this around the world ticket and I want to just be done with it now.

Amy: Yeah, absolutely.

Some people just dive right in one way ticket to wherever, but yeah, doing shorter stints to try it out is a great idea and you know, I love to highlight also all of the different people I’ve met who are doing all kinds of different ways.

Lorna: Okay so tell us some models or examples so we can kind of connect with that.

Amy: Well, yeah, I mean, even way back on my around the world trip, that was, I think were some of my ideas came from because I was meeting all these interesting people. One in particular, I met her in Thailand in 2004-2005. She’s from London and she decided she [29:32] by jobs and whatever and she just decided, I’m not ever spending another one term in London. I’m going to find out a way to make this work and so she just set things up, saved some money and takes off to somewhere warm, Thailand or whatever, every winter.

And I’m like, “Oh, that’s a brilliant idea,” you know? So it’s hearing people like that that I thought, okay, there’s options here. And then the client I mentioned who decided she’d rather work really hard and then take time off to travel. Other people who sell everything and take off and basically have no fixed address.

Lorna: That’s me. [Laughs]

Amy: Yeah, exactly. That’s another model.

Lorna: It’s state sale, that’s how you do it.

Amy: There you go. Exactly. And then like I actually, I rented an apartment in Buenos Aires, so in that sense, I have like a home based to return to and some people choose that option. So, even if like we’ve been gone almost a year but we have a place we can go back to if and when we wanted.

Lorna: So is it empty or do you rent it out?

Amy: In theory it’s rented, but sometimes, you know, no ones booked it. But yeah, we have it up for rent when we’re gone. We’ve also done a home exchange a couple of times. So yeah, I mean, for me there definitely times that it’s a hassle to have a place but it’s also a great piece of collateral so you could also trade with people around.

We did an exchange with a woman in Queens, in New York. We stayed in her apartment in Queens for a week and she went to Buenos Aires. That was great, you know. So the thing that I would love to do more of that stuff and being able to rent it out is good too. So at least, our expenses are covered on that while we were gone.

Lorna: Yeah, I know for me that the way I’ve setup my digital nomad lifestyle is I know that I just don’t want to be aimlessly travelling and going from place to place to place. I think it I would probably just get really lonely, really quickly. So I like to plug into communities. So pretty much wherever I’ve been for the past year and a half has been involved with knowing that there’s an existing community for example of other digital nomads in Chang Mai and having those relationships like online and offline. So online, through the Dynamite Circle community and then offline because of the conference that we all met at in Bangkok and then just kind of like being here and meeting people organically.

So that’s like one community I plug into. And then the a community in Brazil I plugged into were people that I mostly met in the Amazon rainforest when I travelled to the Brazilian state of Acre which is the westernmost state of Brazil and I went to a number of tribal festivals there and I met a bunch of people that were like so cool. The coolest Brazilians I’ve ever met at the Yawanawa festival in Acre in the middle of the jungle this river like 10 hours by river and over the course of a year and a half since I met them, they all moved to the community of Alto Paraiso. So going to Alto Paraiso, I felt immediately at home with people that shared like, similar values, love for the tribal cultures of the Amazon.

So it was great. I knew people and just kind of like really plugged in to that whole life and that kind of eliminates the aimless feeling. And I think if I go anywhere else, there’s another pod of digital nomads in Medellin, Columbia right now. So I’m looking for an opportunity to plug into that whole group of people.

Apparently, Medellin is a, like perpetual spring.

Amy: It’s been on my list for a while.

Lorna: Okay, let me know when you go there. I’ve tried to work out with another person I’ve had on this podcast. Her name is Yamille Yamoonya. She’s a – she has creativewebbiz.com. She helps artists setup their websites and market their businesses and sell it all online. So maybe three of us can work out, hitting Medellin at the same time.

Cool. So, we’ve talked about trying to figure out what lifestyle is right for them. Now let’s say if they’ve decided, “Okay, I am going to go overseas.” How do you recommend that they transition and start to unplug from their location dependency and actually become like totally virtual.

Amy: Yeah, so you mean, business wise? Or everything?

Lorna: Both. Everything. So what are some things that they should consider?

Amy: Right. So partly, again, it depends on what your goal is. Do you want to disengage 100% and take off or do you want to stay somewhat connected. I had a client in San Diego who had a house and wasn’t willing or ready to sell it. And so, she now has figured out a way that they could rent out their house and they travelled for, I forget, maybe like 10 months or something. And now they are back in San Diego. And for now, they’re happy to be there. And so they had to set things up related to renting out the house, figuring how that was going to work. If you’re going to sell everything, the approach is a little different obviously.

And then there’s a lot of things that people might not necessarily think about right away but like, you got to cancel a lot of stuff. Like if you have a gym membership and cable. All of these things. The cellphone thing can be tricky. Like when I moved to Argentina, I just decided I’m just going to keep paying until my contract ends because the fee to end the contract early was more expensive than paying more for three more months of service or whatever.

So you got to look at that stuff. And then you know the other thing too is that if you feel that this is on the horizon for you, I would take that into account now for all of your decisions so I don’t get a new two year cellphone contract. Right? Because then, you’re locked in.

So to be starting to make decisions that won’t lock you in. So whenever it is time to leave, it will be easier to do so.

Lorna: Yeah, and if you know that you’re going to go down that road of totally unplugging, then start to make the baby steps to move in that direction. So start to setup automatic bill pay like one by one for everything that you have been writing paper checks for, for example.

What else? I mean, some of the biggest and most annoying things that I found have been dealing with organizations that just cannot grok the fact that you don’t have a residential address. So I have a mail forwarding company that basically all my mail goes to and they basically scan so I can have the mail processed. It’s either scanned or I can forward it. But in any case like it’s not where I live, right? So some of the banking institutions like, we can’t accept that. We need a residential address. It’s like, well, sorry. I don’t have one. So you’re going to have to figure out how to deal with that.

But legally, we’re required and like, I can’t help you. I’m sorry. I don’t live there. It’s a mailbox.

Amy: Right. You’re right. It’s so tough when people have these boxes to check in their system and you don’t fit any boxes.

I use my parent’s address so it’s funny because there are times on, depending on who I’m talking to, I either tell them I’m living in New Jersey and I give them my parents address or I’m saying like, I don’t live in the US so you can’t do whatever you need to do with my stuff. Like, send it somewhere else because I don’t live in the US anymore. But yeah, there are certain things that you have to have some kind of address for.

Unfortunately, the world hasn’t caught up.

Lorna: Yeah, so that’s annoyance number one. Another annoyance is the need for like, paper signatures.

Amy: I just dealt with that yesterday.

Lorna: Do you have any service that you recommend?

Amy: You know, I’ve looked at a fair number of the ones that are online. I can’t remember the names of any of them right now.

Lorna: Yeah, and you know, I’ll try to research as I want to leave them on the show notes. But there’s this one service where if you need something actually physically mailed, you can like, send them a scan and then they will then print it out and mail it and have it like stamped.

I can’t remember what that service is called but I’ll try to find it.

Amy: Yeah, that sounds familiar. What I find, you know it’s one thing like, if you’re in [37:16] in a contract. There’s like what’s it, Echosign?

Lorna: Docusign.

Amy: There’s things like that that you can use, which are great. But like, I just finished working with an editing client. It’s kind of big institution and they have their own form for freelancers and it’s a PDF. And so I have to fill out the PDF and I send it back which is like, no way, I need your signature. And I couldn’t figure out. It was like a protected PDF I couldn’t like, put a digital…

Lorna: Yeah, like who travels to the printer? It’s such a hassle, right?

Amy: Luckily the lobby desk does at the place I’m staying. I was like, “Oh I need to print this.” And they’re like, oh great, no problem. They printed it for me. And then I took a photo scan on my phone and sent it to them. But yeah, that’s probably one of the biggest hassles. I’m like, really? How about we find a better way to do this by now?

Lorna: I know. I know. Yeah, like I also use a graphic signature that I’ve created. Just like, drag them into like the Word docs. I mean, in some cases you’re not suppose to do that but I mean, I’m sorry. [Laughs]

Amy: I did it too and I can’t but this one was like.

Lorna: And having the apps on your smartphone too like there’s this one that I use that basically will take a photo of any type of document, like a receipt and then you could just like easily send it off as a PDF too. So it’s kind of like, mix it, converts it from being a photo like with all the different shades of like gray. So it’s something that looks a lot clearer in black and white.

There’s a number of like, PDF scanners you can find in the App Store.

Amy: I think the one that I have is called CamScanner. And yeah, it’s way better than actually taking a picture with the camera.

Lorna: Yeah, specially if it’s all crumpled. [Laughs] Yeah, I think another thing too that’s really important is making sure you have the right credit card. So what I ended up doing so that taking out my money and paying by credit card wasn’t going to result in a huge accumulation of ATM service fees and finance charges when they do like foreign transaction fees.

So I got, like, the Chase Sapphire credit card.

Amy: I have one too.

Lorna: And that’s like, no foreign transaction fees whatsoever. No matter what country you’re in. And I also have the Schwabb checking account. And so whenever I take money out of the checking account, they refund all the ATM fees.

Amy: Yes, okay that’s good to hear because I have a local bank in New Jersey which does the same thing. And yes, it has probably saved me thousands of dollars.

Lorna: Definitely. That can add up pretty quickly. Which is why it’s good to do a short trip first because before I even had them placed, I was already overseas for a bit and then I looked at how much all of that, the foreign transaction fees, the ATM fees were costing me like, “Oh my god, there’s no way I can do this for like, you know, 12 months.”

Amy: Absolutely. And also, the new Chase Sapphire, I got mine about a year ago. My parents just got one like four months ago. The new one now has a chip in it. And the chip is like what they have in credit cards in Europe and there’s some places even in Asia where they will not take a card that doesn’t have a chip in it.

So I’m thinking of upgrading to the one that has the chip in it. Actually in Medellin, I know someone who couldn’t get money out of the ATM because all of the ATM’s require the chip card.

Lorna: That’s interesting. Because I was in the country. I actually had to downgrade from the chip. Because I was in a country, I think it was in Mexico where they couldn’t process my credit card that had the chip. They needed something that had the raised numbers.

Amy: Yeah, so you need one of each.

Lorna: Yeah, so I had to like, you know, get rid of that card and just ask the company. I’m like, I’m sorry you have to give me the older model of your credit card because nobody can take [42:34] Sorry I don’t want to sit in the [42:36 unintelligible] country like Mexico is you know, a big country but, I don’t know.

Amy: Yeah, you’ll never know.

In Capital One, I have a card with Capital One as well. They don’t charge any foreign fees. So it’s good to have variety because you never know what kind of situation you’re going to encounter.

Lorna: Yeah, absolutely. Gosh, another thing that when you’re dealing with credit cards and ATM cards and all that, I found it to be very helpful to port my cellphone number to Google Voice. Because I had this original cellphone number as my main contact number for all my banking institutions and everything. And so, in porting my cellphone number to Google Voice, my Google Voice number is now my default catch all, permanent number and then if I never need to get my credit card replaced or my ATM card replaced and they send one out to me, and I have to make to activate it using a number then I have the original number. So I didn’t have to before I left call every single institution that has a part and have them change my main telephone number.

And then secondly, to activate the card, to use a VPN service to run the numbers through like a US server so that you can make that call because I think there’s a point and I don’t know how much it’s changed but like in some countries, Google Voice doesn’t work if you’re trying to make a phone call from that country using your Google Voice number to another country.

Amy: That’s good to know.

Lorna: Especially to the United States. So I had to like trick Google Voice into thinking that I was based in the US for my Google voice number to work in order to activate that card.

Amy: Yeah, I do. I have a similar setup but mine’s all through Skype. So I have like, I did have to setup a new number eventually but I had it since 2007 so it’s a natural phone number based in New Jersey, as far as anyone can tell. But it caused my computer and actually I’ve been able to use that to activate cards and everything. Like everyone thinks that’s my phone number.

The trick is, it’s not a cellphone. So I can’t get text and things.

Lorna: Yeah, you know what’s interesting because Google Voice doesn’t forward phone calls to like, overseas. It was kind of annoying that way because I was like, “Oh, so in case someone ever calls my Google Voice number I’d like to have it forwarded to my local phone in Thailand. But the thing is you can’t set up call forwarding if you’re not in the United States. It’s a weird little thing so I either have to like, spoof it by using your VPN service so then you could setup the call forwarding because you see, I don’t really know what my number is going to be until I get to the country and buy a SIM card so, it doesn’t make any sense. But what I’ve actually ended up doing is I have the same thing with Skype. I have a 415 numbers that’s my alternate number and then with Skype, you can forward to anywhere.

So, if you want to have all Skype calls go to your local phone then that’s easy.

Amy: You know, I do want to mention one other thing really quick to what you’re talking about occupation and credit cards and numbers, a lot of online services like Paypal and Gmail, whatever, you can have mobile verification or whatever. But if you use your US cellphone when you set all that up and then you no longer have access to your US cellphone, you have no way to get to activate or you know, like those verification codes they are sending you.

Lorna: That’s why the Google Voice number works great because when I get the activation code, it’s coming to my Gmail and then it’s coming to like my Google Voice app on my local phone. So I can still, you know..

Amy: That’s good. That’s definitely worth thinking about because I tell Paypal I don’t have a cellphone number because I don’t want to get the wrong one in the system and be screwed later.

Lorna: Yeah, because the catch is you can’t receive text messages through the Skype number. That’s the big pitfall of Skype. You can send text messages from your Skype number but you cannot receive return text messages. So if I’m ever texting someone from Skype I say to them do not reply to this because I’m texting you from Skype and I cannot receive your reply text.

Amy: Me too.

Lorna: That’s the annoying thing. So there’s like the limitation with Google Voice that I use Skype to resolve and the Skype limitation that I use Google Voice to resolve.

Amy: Absolutely. Yup.

Lorna: Ahh… Technology. Hopefully this conversation is helping clarify a lot of the stuff for you so you don’t have to burn the time to research all the solutions that Amy and I have.

Great, so let me see. I’d like to ask you since we’re coming to the end of our interview session. If you were to look back at what the biggest mistake might have been that you made in your journey, your entrepreneurial journey to become location independent, what was that mistake and what would you differently if you had the chance.

Amy: That’s a great question. It’s funny because you sent me this question in advance. I had an answer yesterday now I can’t remember what it was.

So I have to think about it again. You know it’s hard. I think part of the reason I’m having a hard time answering that is because I prefer not to look at anything as a mistake.

Every step of the process has been a learning experience. And in some ways I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t done things the way I did. I probably, if I knew then what I know now I probably would have made the transition sooner from freelancing for publishing companies into working directly with writers.

But it took me some time and you know some advances in the industry as well to recognize that that wasn’t impossible. So you know, like I said, I kind of have to go through the process I did to recognize, “Okay there’s a need there. There’s a market. I can shift into that instead. ”

I’m glad I did though, making that realization at some point. Otherwise, I would still be begging publishing companies to hire me for very little money. So I’m glad those things are behind me.

I’m trying to think if there’s anything else. Okay, I don’t remember what I had thought of yesterday, unfortunately. But yeah, you know, it’s all be a learning experience absolutely.

Lorna: Yeah, you know, I mean at the end of the day if you choose to look at your failures, not your silliest failures but as learning experience then nothing’s really ever a failure, is it.

Amy: Right.

Lorna: So is this business your life’s purpose and if not what is?

Amy: I think between the two of them I kind of have gravitated toward helping people take action on what matters to them and taking action on their dreams, stuff like, “Oh someday I’ll write a book. Someday I’ll live abroad or whatever.”

I feel very strongly about helping people take that action. It drives me crazy when people say that stuff and never do anything about it. So yeah, I feel like that’s a big part of my purpose and I think in some ways, I feel like, yeah, I’m the right person to help people with that stuff. So, I’m glad I get to do that.

Lorna: What would you say is your most important mindset shift that allows you to be the change that you want to see in the world?

Amy: Questions are getting harder. [Laughs]

Lorna: You got it all in advance.

Amy: I know [Laughs] But I got sidetracked talking about Skype, which was great.

Let’s see. The biggest mindset shift. Yeah, I think it’s living by example is a big part of it.

I mean, your phrase “be the change” feels like a really significant part of that. Like that is all what it’s all about is. Living my life in a way that represents exactly what I’m trying to bring out in other people.

But not like in a preachy way or you have to do it in a certain way. I feel very strongly about creating the life that’s right for me and [50:20] you find was right for you. But don’t do it my way, you know.

I know if that’s exactly a mindset shift, per se but it’s an important part of how I operate.

Lorna: Well great! So how can we best stay in touch with you, Amy.

Amy: I am very active on Facebook. So Facebook.com/nomadtopia is a good place to find me as well as Nomadtopia.com. And then for the editing work nomadeditorial.com and also on Facebook, facebook.com/nomadeditorial and @nomadamyscott for Twitter.

Lorna: Fantastic. Thank you so much!

Amy: Thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]

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Lorna Li

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Lorna Li is a business coach, entrepreneur and Amazon rainforest crusader, with a passion for green business, social enterprise, and indigenous wisdom. She helps changemaking entrepreneurs harness the power of the Internet to reach more people and make a bigger impact, while designing the lifestyle of their dreams. She is an Internet marketing consultant to changemakers, and works with innovative tech startups, sustainable brands, social enterprises & B-Corporations on SEO, SEM & Social Media marketing.
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  • Good thing there’she a transcript of the conversation. I forgot my headset and can’t boost the speaker of my laptop here in the library.

    Anyway, I admire Amy’s determination and her journey is amazing. Her decision was risky but she made it through the tough times.

    Cheers!