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The nuts and bolts of making a living as a digital nomad

Modern communications mean that reporting to work can be as simple as firing up your laptop and connecting to the internet. But what does being a digital nomad (aka remote worker) really entail? We catch up with SA Expeditions Destination Expert Jeanie O’Halloran for the lowdown.


Where are you located?


This is something I often get asked – and my answer can change from one week to the next! Being a Destination Expert with SA Expeditions means having the skills, knowledge and resources to be able to work independently without being tied to any one location. When I first took on the position I didn’t fully grasp, nor was I prepared for, the freedom and opportunities which came with the role. I spent almost a full year working exclusively from my living room in Lima, Peru, learning the ropes and slowly coming to the realization that working in your pajamas is simply a bad idea!


A trip home to Sligo in the West of Ireland opened my eyes to the possibilities of working while traveling, and before long I was making plans for my first ‘digital nomad’ experience. This choice has led me to so many valuable professional and personal life experiences which I would surely have missed out on otherwise.


Jeanie exploring Mindo
Jeanie exploring Mindo, Ecuador on the weekend. 


Where to go?


As a Latin America Destination Expert, the obvious choice has been to spend time visiting the destinations I sell the most. I often set up base in cities like Rio, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, working Monday to Friday and spending my weekends exploring places such as Patagonia, the Wine Valleys of Chile, or the San Blas Islands of Panama. The opportunity to visit these places first-hand has given me invaluable knowledge to successfully plan and help execute trips for clients. Having now visited many of South America’s highlights, I’ve recently begun to explore Africa and the Middle East.


Close of business at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. 

 How do you get any work done?

While the terms ‘remote worker’ and ‘digital nomad’ are often touted as ways to escape the daily treadmill of life, keeping a work routine is key to maintaining a sustainable work/travel balance. Sticking to a strict schedule allows you to not get distracted by the sights and sounds of a new place. This means ensuring I am online to wish my fellow colleagues ‘Good morning’ every day – even if it is 5pm at my current location! On the other hand, having a computer at hand 24/7 means it can be tempting to use any and all of my free time to work. Getting the balance right has been a learning curve and a valuable lesson in how to maximize both my professional and leisure time.

Wine tasting in Valparaiso

 Where do you work?

Being a remote worker means my movements are dictated by my accessibility to quality internet. Big developed cities are great – isolated islands are a no-go. If you see a hotel guest having a meltdown due to the poor Wi-Fi, it could very well be me! Many people have the idea that remote workers spend their days lounging at the beach, answering emails while sipping water from a coconut. If this were the case, we would all have sand in our keyboards, sunscreen on our smartphones, and overflowing inboxes. That said, choosing to work near the beach is often very possible. Many cafés offer strong Wi-Fi and value the number of beverage breaks a remote worker will take during their day.


When the jazzy coffee house music gets on my nerves, I simply move to a co-working space – that wonderful 21st century concept which allows you to rent a desk space for an affordable hourly rate. It is in these spots that I tend to meet like (and not so like)-minded, self-motivated and creative individuals, forming connections (sometimes lasting, often fleeting) with people from all corners of the world.

Jeanie couldn't wait to get to the office when she arrived in Cape Town, South Africa.

How do you manage relationships?

 Being a Destination Expert with SA Expeditions means I have a constant pool of online colleagues and friends who are just as passionate about South America and travel as I am, and who are always up for taking a trip together. Most often our trips coalesce around SA Expeditions’ annual company summit, an exciting time that brings our whole professional network together. What’s more, working from different locations means I constantly meet fellow remote workers who share their unique insights and skills.


Probably the most valuable realization I have come to is that while working remotely has given me the chance to spread my network of friends and colleagues all over the world through travel and enriching experiences, it also allows me to come home and be with those most important to me whenever I want to and for however long is necessary. There are no deadlines and no permanent goodbyes. There is no need to ask, ‘When will I see you again?’, because ‘again’ can be tomorrow if needed.

Jeanie and the rest of the SA Expeditions team on a kayak excursion on the Tigre Delta at our Buenos Aires Summit.

 The final word

 In a couple of months, I will be entering the last year of my 20s – a decade marked by self-growth and adventure through over 40 countries. None of this would have been possible without being able to earn a decent and stable living through working remotely for SA Expeditions. While I hope to continue to work and travel until the excitement wears off (probably never!), at least I know that if that day ever comes, I can continue to do what I love, where I love.


Are you now wishing you could have a job like Jeanie’s? Visit our careers page to take the first step in making your dream job a reality.

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