We are Ryan & Alex, two 26-year-old Art Directors who decided to take life in an unexpected direction. We are full-time professional digital nomads who live and work out of a converted sprinter van, and are co-founders of our branding agency, Creatives in a Van.
It all started at a party. We first locked eyes as we sang Colt 45 on stage in Miami, Florida where we were going to graduate school. At the time, we were both pursuing a supposedly glamourous life in advertising. We pictured ourselves at a desk in a giant agency, sitting next to people we would stay late at the office with 5 out of 7 nights a week, sharing ideas and getting underpaid.
Then it hit us; we didn’t want to grow old, look back at our lives, and only see a life of advertising. We wanted to be true artists, doing our own thing and pursuing our own dreams. That’s when we committed ourselves to a life of adventure and we purchased a 2008 dodge sprinter van. We understand that you only have one chance in this life, and we both knew we had the creative skills to do something incredible together. We were confident in our work and our passions, so we knew we had to take the leap. Now that we’ve taken the leap, we want to help others achieve the same lifestyle and mindset that we’ve found. These are our top 5 steps to truly becoming a professional digital nomad and shifting your paradigm.
Evaluate your life. Look at where you are RIGHT now. If you were to die today, would you be satisfied with the way you lived up to this point? If you’re not happy, think about what’s missing or what you need to get rid of. Think deeper. Why are you where you are? How did you get there? How can you get to exactly to where you want to be? These questions are essential when it comes to finding out who you really are. The only way you’re going to figure it out is by thinking for yourself.
There are going to be a lot of people who try and sway you down a road that’s full of security. Being a digital nomad is all about taking the path less traveled, and more importantly, creating your own path. This is the only way you’re going to find true satisfaction, but in order to do it, you first have to know who you are and exactly what you want.
If you want to improve yourself and life, start by looking at what you admire in others. Think of the best, most successful people you know (whether that’s personal or virtual) and pay attention to their mindset. Don’t listen to the people in your life that bring you down, or doubt your dreams. Focus your attention on the ones who HAVE made it and let them inspire you. If someone else has done it, you can do it to. If you listen carefully and act on your intentions, other successful people’s mindsets will become your own.
One of the people who inspired us most was Joseph Campbell, a philosopher who is known for helping others find their bliss. Bliss is that thing where, even if you had all the money and time in the world, you’d still do it out of pure love. Your bliss should be your obsession. If you don’t obsess about something, you probably haven’t found your bliss.
We found our bliss in Art Direction; Ryan is more focused on photo and video, and Alex is more focused on brand identity and design. We always knew we were creative, far before we met, but we didn’t necessarily completely align our passion for creativity with our careers until last year. Our bliss is also to be true artists, where we can be wild and free with our creativity. Living on the road allows us to navigate life without boundaries. But It takes a while, finding your bliss. You need to try, try, try until you really find it. It took us 25 years to figure out what our bliss truly was, and that came with a lot of trial and error. It was all worth it, though, because now that we’ve found our bliss, we feel more inspired and happy than we ever were.
If you haven’t found your bliss, don’t be discouraged, but always make sure you force yourself to actively look for it. Out of any step, this is by far the hardest one. But once you find “your thing,” life will never be the same. Hint: if you haven’t found your bliss, a good place to look for it is in who you were as a child.
This doesn’t only include things; it includes people, places, jobs, vibes, anything that doesn’t add to your overall happiness. It wasn’t easy getting rid of everything. It was super, super hard. We had to let go of some meaningful items and some meaningful people to pursue a digital nomad lifestyle. We even had to get rid of our previous dreams of working at an ad agency. We haven’t regretted one darn thing, though.
It’s natural to be afraid of leaving a life of security to become a digital nomad. But we’ve found that If you’re afraid to fail, you don’t have a chance at being successful. It’s the person who fails a thousand times that finally becomes the champion. If you don’t take the risks in life, you’ll never receive the rewards.
There was definitely some resistance and fear when it came to starting our own business and converting a van. What would people think of us? Would we be able to make enough money to get by? Can we live minimally? These were only a few questions we had to ask ourselves before we began our journey. There were a lot of reasons not to become digital nomads, but the fact of the matter is, there were WAY MORE reasons to do so. It’s all mind over matter. No good things are easy, and the only way you’re going to achieve any form of success is pushing through the potential of failure. So instead of putting all of your attention on the possibility of losing, focus on the opportunity to experiment and do things that excite you. Try everything, especially the things outside of your comfort zone. Life’s greatest moments are on the other side of fear. Always take the risk and figure it out as you go.
People often ask us how we were financially able to convert a van, and how we are now financially able to be digital nomads. Let’s start from the beginning. Ryan sold his car, which is how we bought the van. We had a few grand saved up for the conversion, but quickly found out it wasn’t going to be enough. We then took it upon ourselves to get new clients and make more money. We actually started our business before we lived in the van, which we focused a lot of energy on in the beginning stages. Our motto is basically to just figure it out, no matter what. We always make our dreams a reality because we work SUPER hard to make it happen!
Now that we’re happily living in the van and are comfortable with our new schedule, it’s much easier to deal with our finances. Our goal is to create as many revenue streams as possible. Diversifying your income is a sure way of becoming successful as a digital nomad. That’s why you’ll see vanlifers on Youtube and selling e-books or gear, all while they run their own business or work seasonal jobs. The more ways you have to make money, the easier your life as a digital nomad will be.
Learn, make, repeat. Have the fire to work on yourself and your passions everyday. Continuously create, experiment, and play. Don’t just stick to what works; have the confidence to go outside of your normal routine to discover a new skill set.
For instance, Ryan started his filmmaking career in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Rather than sticking to this specific style he knows his audience loves, it’s more fun and interesting for him to take risk in creativity and dip his toes in different genres, like travel and crowdfunding. He also makes sure he implements new techniques in every video he creates so his skills grow and his films progress.
As time passes, connecting these different skill sets is what will give you your unique, authentic voice. And that’s what will make you stand out from everyone else. Above all, never quit. You never know how close or far you are from success. Don’t be worried about other people’s expectations. Trust yourself and always be your own person. Constantly work toward new goals and don’t stop until you accomplish them.
Anything worth doing takes incredible amounts of work. However, if you are following your passion, you won’t work a day in your life. Spend more of your time perfecting the craft and eventually people will value what you do. Never stop learning and remember to take risks along the way. Being a digital nomad is more of an art than a science, however you must take that first step if you want to make it your career.
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