Digital Nomad-icy: A crash course in forced frugality

After spending most of my working life on generous corporate salaries, I’ve had to make several financial adjustments to become my current digital nomadic self. And here is the best bit, it doesn’t really hurt. Not that much anyway.

That old adage the more you earn the more you spend, seems to ring true. And this was particularly true of my urban Melbourne lifestyle, it seemed a vicious cycle, my reliance on my ever increasing salary was feeding itself. The more I made, the more I needed. I always found myself paying more to get less. 

I was clean eating, clean cleaning, clean living. Making good health decisions, paying for my private health insurance as well regular preventative care – which always cost more than my insurance paid. And, the dreaded Melbourne childcare costs – which were almost equatable to my own daily salary. 

It was an every growing mountain of costs and when peanut butter – the good, organic, natural stuff – cost me almost $10 a jar I knew it was a cycle that had to end.

But, here now I find myself – still without a salary – it seems my great Italian dream and my desire to find paid, remote employment are still yet to become a reality. But without all of my exorbitant Melbourne-based-life costs I can survive – and enjoy peanut butter. If I can find it!

It works, it really works. Having reasonable financial savings of course is the secret – and then it seems suddenly you find yourself as part of a movement. The FIRE movement: Financially Independent, Retired Early.

There are elements of the movement that ring true for me, and others that seem to be completely foreign.

We seemed to have skipped the frugality during our early life and embraced it now. Were people live through their working careers saving every penny, we lived our twenties young and carefree. 

But being frugal here on the Italian Riviera is far more glamorous and easy than it would ever be in Melbourne. The good life – or even La Dolce Vita – comes at a much more reasonable price here. 

So maybe we only take holidays when budget airlines offer ridiculously low fares, outside of peak-season. But hey in the last two months I’ve been to Portugal and Prague, with a snow trip coming up tomorrow – all while holding my purse strings tight.

For me the FIRE movement is less about being cheap and more about choosing how you spend your money, it seems some situations force spending in ways that exacerbate the problem. 

Ramblings: Go nomad big, or go small

Santa Margherita Ligure

Should you be a digital nomad in a small town or big city?

When choosing a place to venture to with your new digital nomadic life, you need not be restricted to big cities. Maybe you feel like there are more employment opportunities in the big city, maybe it will be easier to pick up work.

Perhaps, this may be true. But you’re a digital nomad. Don’t overlook remote working and taking up the opportunity to stay in a small town instead. 

Big cities might have a lot to offer, but small towns can offer some things that you might even know you were looking for.

I’m going to walk you through a couple of benefits that we have living in a small coastal town in Italy – population circa 10k.

  • My neighbour brings my parcels upstairs to my door.
  • The courier knows who we are and will call us to find out where we are in town for drop offs –  no need to stay home all day for deliveries.
  • My son talks to all of our neighbours on the balcony – for the days you can’t be bothered going out to be social. You can always rely on one of your neighbours to be hanging out their washing!
  • You can walk everywhere!!
  • My neighbour caught my son running out of sight in town and entertained him until I arrived.
  • Kids get to trick-or-treat in all of the shops, no need to go door-knocking.
  • My son has an ‘arrangement’ with every cafe in town, whereby he gets something ‘gratuito‘ – a biscuit or something along those lines. While I do buy coffee we have established that this is not really necessary. He also has a similar ‘arrangement’ with the Panificio/Bakery.
  • My son has been to my neighbours apartment to have strawberries. Subsequently our own strawberries are now inferior and it is requested that be served “come Maria” – with lemon and sugar. 
  • I haven’t wrapped a gift in two years, the local toy stores does all of the wrapping free of charge. PS They’re doing a roaring trade!!

Sure, you will encounter some limitations – we have no real shopping available to us, save for pricier boutiques. But we’re only 30 minutes by train from a bigger city. To be honest our train trip from suburban Melbourne into the city was longer!! 

Regardless though, yes there are compromises. But in my opinion the benefits far outweigh the limitations.

It also really helps with being a minimalist if you have limited access to everything. You start to ask yourself if you really do need it. And with the ease of online shopping, it doesn’t really matter how far away from a store you are.

Ramblings: Children, the secret to expat life

I think back on the last two years, I congratulate myself on being a ‘successful expat‘ here in Italy. I’m here, I’m still here and I’m staying here. I don’t want to leave.

Then I stop to consider why the biggest threat to expat life, particularly in a smaller town, hasn’t yet struck me. I’m talking about loneliness. Sometimes expat life can get lonely, and the thing calling you home – your friends and family – that’s hard to replicate abroad. That sense of home, belonging and comfort.

So why aren’t I searching for that now. Two years later…

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Ramblings: There’s no work/life balance, it’s just life

Once you’ve found your ‘La dolce vita’ – and no, it may not just be in Italy for everyone.

It’s now been almost two years of living in the remarkable little corner of the world that we stumbled on – by accident of course. It’s changed me, changed my path, changed my drivers and changed my rhythm.

Now when I travel, I dream of coming home – here to Santa Margherita. It’s a surreal place, Ligurian mountains nestled in the bay of Tigullio. You’ve got the Med on one side and a massive national park on the other. We’re a stone’s throw from the lustre of Portofino and the Instagramable Cinque Terre – although to be honest the whole Ligurian coast is Instagramable.

But it’s not these qualities that have resonated with my soul, it is the way of life. The Italian cultural embrace that we have found in this little niche paradise. Yes locals may tell you it’s a small town, with a small town mindset. But I am either oblivious to this, or as an outsider am unaffected.

I thought I was a city-girl, loved to be lost in the crowd. Anonymous.

Ramblings: Is a new series, where I will share my random musings from living my remarkable digital nomadic lifestyle on the Italian Riviera.

Continue reading “Ramblings: There’s no work/life balance, it’s just life”