Today we share an insightful post from digital nomad Mike McLeish. A keen cycler Mike has found his true calling in life as a bicycle blogger, Pinch-Flat
The original name for this site was “Mike The Bike” but I had to change it after people were getting the wrong impression.
So with that, Pinch-Flat was born.
and he is currently taking full advantage of the of the warm weather in SE Asia. You can find him cycling through traffic in Kuala Lumpur, attempting to drink coffee from a plastic bag, or eating Nasi Lemak at a local corner shop.
“I have enjoyed every second of my journey, but to get to where I am now has been harder than I ever imagined it would be,” he says.“If you have more motivation than ability (like me!) and are looking for inspiration on how to take action, then read on…!”
Smug laptop hammock shot taken especially for this post. If I’m honest hammocks are uncomfortable, and I’m way too pale to be out in the sun!
Why did I decide to make a change?
To quickly summarize a cliched story – I had a job with potential, but I knew I’d never be happy working for someone else’s company and living someone else’s dream all my life.
It’s not that I disliked my job. It’s just that I got to the point where I found myself dramatically asking “is this it?” on more than just a Monday, and I found myself complaining about the little things more than enjoying the good things.
I first came across the term digital nomad on a typically hungover Sunday while feeling sorry for myself.
Live anywhere while working from your laptop.
I’d be lying if I didn’t immediately have a Dan Bilzerian style daydream as I lay weakly on my sofa in rainy Southern England.
A big dream was of being a “location independent entrepreneur.” was born. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. So I began to plan.
My plan of attack
With my idea set, I visualised the steps need to get there and listed them out. All I needed to do was:
- Save some money
- Tell friends and family
- Quit my job
- Buy a plane ticket
- Learn a skill
- Sell my skill
The first step to reach my goal was to save some money…
How much money I needed to achieve my goal
Before I left, I was living with my mum and working as a returns administer. Not quite a rock star lifestyle but living at home meant I had very few outgoings.
I never bought anything I didn’t need, and I cycled 10 miles to and from work each day. This lifestyle was super boring, but I didn’t care, I was on a mission!
My frugal ways enabled me to save £5000 ($6200) in eight months.
With the money in the back pocket, I moved onto the next step. Telling my friends and family.
How people around me reacted to my decision
Not surprisingly my plans were met much like people’s opinion to marmite.
Reactions varied from being slapped on the back and bought a drink, to people seriously questioning my sanity.
While I think it’s important to listen to what people say, it’s also important to stay true to your original reasonings for wanting to do something like this in the first place.
Be honest with yourself and be very careful who’s advice you take. Sometimes people with the best intentions will negatively impact your decisions. Ultimately the choice is yours, and only you know what’s best for you.
The double-edged sword that is my immense stubbornness enabled me to stick to the plan. With telling friends and family out the way, the next step was the big one for me. Quitting my job.
How I felt when quitting my job
I’d recently finished a degree in public health, and the job I had was one the first that I could find. I started out stacking boxes on the factory floor and then moved into the offices. I was a returns administer but I was being considered for higher paying roles.
I felt I had an opportunity to climb the corporate ranks and quitting was like slamming this door shut for good. It was a big deal for me at the time and one that caused me question myself.
In reality, I’d only just started out, so I had nothing to lose.
After realising this, I was able to stop being a wimp and hand in my notice. I still remember the shocked look on my manager’s face and choking up when handing it over.
If I’d been further along in my career this step would have definitely been harder. I have great admiration for anyone who decides to do something like this who is further along their career path.
At the time I was on a temporary contract which meant I only had to give two weeks’ notice.
Handing in my resignation made it official that I was leaving. Up until that point, it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere, so there was no real sense of urgency to plan anything.
Getting everything ready to leave
Not planning anything meant that the two weeks after handing my notice in were rushed. It fact, they resembled someone who had overslept their alarm and was already 30 minutes late for work.
In those two weeks, I did everything from booking my flight, renewing my passport, and buying sun cream. It was all a bit of a blur, but I think that was good for me, as I didn’t have time to question my decision.
How I eased the transition
Something I did that helped to ease me in to my new life in SE Asia was volunteering for two months at a community bicycle project in Kuala Lumpur. I did this through WorkAway, which I’d used numerous times before in Europe.
Bike Shop, Kuala Lumpur
Using WorkAway felt familiar and it was a good way to let anyone who was finding it difficult to understand my plans that I was doing something useful and meaningful with my time. Spending a few months volunteering and then coming home to a proper job is a slightly easier pill to swallow for many.
As well as working in the bike shop I helped to launch it’s brand new cafe – Makan at The Basikal
Whilst I was here, I learned basic web design and started to build a site for my bicycle project, Pinch Flat.
New skills I picked up and how I learned them
Once I’d successfully broken free of my old life and completed two months’ volunteering it was time to learn some more.
There are many remote working jobs out there, and I enjoy Search Engine Optimisation [SEO]. Luckily there are sites out there that give excellent advice on where to start. Some, like Niche Pursuits, have huge free case studies that you can follow. Using them, together with a few other resources gave me all the knowledge I needed to get going.
The skills I learned enabled me to get a job which involves Youtube SEO for an infographic company. Working for around one-and-half hours a day earns me enough to support my modest life.
My goal right now is to expand my cycling blog so that it can support me financially. I hope to do this through articles like this for affiliate earnings and this for Google Adsense earnings. Once I’ve done this, I’d love to move into developing products, but this is a little way off yet.
The biggest challenges that I faced while learning
After I’d finished volunteering and looking for places to stay in Kuala Lumpur, I checked into a Sleeping Pod hostel. I had a bizarre case of self-doubt and decided to spend almost 24hrs in my pod eating peanut butter from the jar….
Luckily for my sanity (and waistline) I snapped out of this mindset and was able to carry on.
I’ve found that while learning, I’ve had feelings of elation combined with feelings of utter despair – often in the same day! The biggest challenge for me is what goes on in my head!
The truth is that I’ve worked more recently than I ever have. For the first two months after leaving the voluntary project, I worked at a co-working space from 9am-10pm seven days a week. I lived in a $3 a night, 10-bed dorm room with a fan to keep cool. I only really spoke to other guests when they asked me to turn off the light, and I was woken most nights by either mosquitos or bed bug bites on my hands.
It would have been much easier to check into a nice hotel, but I was conscious that I was living on my savings, and they wouldn’t last forever. I was tired, dirty, and loving every second! I knew it wouldn’t be for long and living in a hostel motivated me to work hard so I could get out of there!
What a typical day in my life looks like
Five months down the line things are easier; I’ve left hostel life behind and I now rent my own room.
If I wanted to, I could live on the money I earn from freelancing and work around one-and-a-half hours per day, but I want more than this, so I put lots of time into my own projects.
I’m currently living on an island called Langkawi in Malaysia. I’ll be finished with this post at around 2pm, and I think that’ll be enough for today.
I’m going to walk 10 minutes to the beach and spend the rest of the day playing football with some other remote workers I’ve met.
My life is unrecognisable to what it was just half a year a go. This is the first time I’ve really reflected on what I’ve done and I’m so happy I made this change.
Ultimately, my dream is to grow Pinch Flat so I can continue to offer my readers the best news, tips, and travel recommendations for bicycle-related business.
Advice to others
Sensible advice to others considering this way of life is to: learn a skill that you could do remotely while you’re at home; get some online clients; and save enough money to live comfortably while you make the transition into the life of work and travel.
Of course I did absolutely none of that rubbish and went in all guns blazing like a scene from Die Hard.
Doing it the way I did meant I was fully committed and my motivation was sky high. The only other piece of advice I’d give is to make sure you find a place where you can work effectively, be persistent, and believe in yourself.
For more information about Mike visit his website.