While “nomad” may imply someone who doesn’t stay in one place for long, the most obvious key to success is having a strong support system around you. The line “no man is an island” from poet John Donne rings entirely true here. Finding like-minded people to surround yourself with, regardless of where you are in the world, is fundamental. Spending time with people like you provides a wealth of local knowledge and connections, which serves as the lifeblood of your constant on-the-go agenda.
As a freelance writer myself — having travelled to Florence, Iceland, London, the Faroe Islands, Stockholm, Bergen, Cologne and parts of Denmark outside of my base in Copenhagen just this past year — I can confidently say that no operation was achieved by my sole volition. It was the people I connected with, the companies I met through referrals, and the friends that helped along the way that made it all possible.
At first confounding, finding the right community is easier than you think. Before landing in a new city, reach out to your existing network. Ask those who’ve been there or live there to connect you with the locals. If you don’t know anyone in the city, find a haunt that speaks to you. Walking into a coffee shop, retail space or independent gallery that feels true to you usually leads to finding others who share your interests.
The reality of being a creative professional abroad, however, is still rooted in the work. To think that exploring a new city for a job isn’t work would be misguided. The itinerary is fully packed every day from the moment you hit the tarmac. While it’s often fun, at the end of a 12-hour workday, it’s still exhausting. And after all that, keeping your information in order, working at odd times based on your travel schedule, and sacrificing hours of sleep to complete a project is the industry norm.
There is, of course, always the administrative work to consider. If you’re Canadian, American, or part of the European Union, depending on the status of your citizenship, looking into the required visas for extended travel or entry is always smart. For those wanting to live abroad who are under the age of 35, many countries have a temporary one-year working visa scheme that enables easier access to this goal, particularly among the Commonwealth.
That’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from this career. While it’s a dream to traverse different parts of the world, experiencing unfamiliar cultures and landscapes — there is still a job that needs to be done. Making those connections takes a lot of footwork. Lining up the opportunities requires a relentless outlook in front of a computer, on the phone and in meetings. But the overall experience on these journeys is amazing, and it comes full-circle the moment you’ve created something for the world to see.
Written by Sheila Lam
Headline photo of Stockholm, Sweden, by Sheila Lam