Digital Nomads
May 1, 2014 by Brennan Gamwell

Olivia Amter’s journey as a Digital Nomad started back in 2007 when she was a newly minted high school graduate. At the time, she was unsure about practically everything: what to study in college, what career she would choose, where she would live. Her mother suggested she take a “gap year” before college to leave her home in Washington, D.C., to explore, grow, and reflect.

Olivia left for Europe, spending most of the year in Italy and Spain. It was her first taste of international living, and even after she returned to the United States to attend college in 2008, she craved more time and adventure abroad.

On the advice of one of her favorite professors, Olivia decided to spend a year studying abroad in Buenos Aires, where she met her boyfriend and perfected her Spanish. At the end of her year there, leaving Buenos Aires felt like leaving home — she loved the culture and people of the vibrant city.

Then, shortly before graduation, another professor challenged her to spend a few years becoming “the most interesting person you know.” Olivia took this advice to heart and decided to become a Digital Nomad.

Starting your life as a Digital Nomad

Olivia in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Olivia in Lalibela, Ethiopia

After graduation in 2012, Olivia launched her Digital Nomad career full time, using Buenos Aires as her home base. There, she reunited with her boyfriend and now earns her living through online work.

She has a voracious appetite for travel, having visited much of South America, Ethiopia, South Africa, and the U.S. in the past few years — working along the way.

She also loves to return to the U.S. to visit friends and family, recently making pit-stops in New York City and Miami. But she still has a soft spot for her adopted country south of the Equator.

Olivia believes anyone can do what she’s doing. “Being cool or interesting doesn’t necessarily mean finding your profession right off the bat. It means doing what you love, having life experiences, meeting new people and — of course — making a little money to keep you going.”

For aspiring Digital Nomads out there who are looking to “become the most interesting people they know,” Olivia has a few tips before embarking on any adventure.

  1. Tie up loose ends: “Get your life in order just enough to make leaving easier,” Olivia said. “It’s never going to be easy to take the plunge and move abroad, but knowing that things are in order back home will put your mind at ease.”
  2. Be prepared…to know nothing! “Whether you are getting to know a new city or trying to master a foreign language, you’ll probably stumble few times,” she said. “It doesn’t feel great being the new kid, but that stage doesn’t last long if you get out there.” Olivia also suggests asking for help when you need it — because you may just make a new friend out of it!
  3. Have money in your bank account: You don’t have to use it, but having some funds to fall back on can mean the difference between staying weeks and staying months. “It gives you the flexibility to splurge now and then! Who knows when you’ll be back?”
  4. Have an open mind: “You can’t possibly know what’s coming,” Olivia advised. “So stay open to the possibilities.” Having an open mind also means being flexible, whether that’s changing your travel plans the night before, or trying a food that you wouldn’t have dreamed of touching a few months ago. Olivia’s mantra? “If not now, when?”
  5. Learn how airline miles work: “Make accounts with all the airlines you fly and make sure you start putting those miles away,” Olivia recommended. “Every flight you take is potential money off your next adventure.”
  6. Just go: “The worst thing that could happen is that you have a really great couple of week, months, or years,” she said. “Being a Digital Nomad doesn’t have to be a permanent lifestyle.”

What kind of work helps Olivia live the life she loves? Because Olivia enjoys travel so much, she has worked extensively as a travel writer, lending her curious nature and adroit pen to a number of travel, event, and gastronomy websites — including food blog Como Sur. She’s also worked as a scout for Yelp Argentina and lent her time to StartUp Buenos Aires, which promotes entrepreneurs in South America while connecting them to international opportunities. Olivia is currently working remotely for an app that recently launched in various U.S. cities called RideScout.

Brennan Gamwell

Communications Manager

Brennan Gamwell is a Communications Manager at oDesk, where he focuses on managing the customer reference program to share the inspiring stories of the amazing professionals using the platform. Brennan brings with him extensive experience in non-profit and advocacy communications from his time in Washington, DC, and is just slightly obsessed with grammar and punctuation (especially hyphens). He holds a Bachelor's degree in international communications… read more