Everything’s Changing – My Digital Nomad Journey

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Hey friends,

There’s a bit of a change in my life recently that I wanted to update you about – I’ve started life as a digital nomad ✈️

I condensed all my possessions into two suitcases – one for clothes, and one for camera gear – and a backpack. The plan is to spend the next 12 months (ish) living in different countries and cities for a few weeks to months at a time, and seeing what happens.

I’m now officially 7 days into the journey – I’ve spent the first week in New York, where I was invited by Spotify to interview their CEO Daniel Ek. Planning various jaunts around the US for the next couple of months, before heading over to Asia in 2024.

I’m hoping the experience will be at least somewhat transformative – everyone I’ve ever spoken to who’s done a stint of world travel has said that it’s changed their perspective and their life in ways they couldn’t have imagined. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but medical school -> working as a doctor -> COVID meant that the timing never felt quite right. But now, having fully left the medical field (although I do retain my license, just in case), I thought: “let’s do it”.

There’s one decision I made about the travels that I’d like to share in this email, in the hope that you might find it interesting or useful in some way.

A few months ago, I happened to watch my friend Chris Williamson’s interview with Bill Perkins, on the Modern Wisdom podcast. I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with them both in Austin earlier this year, where Bill cheerfully and graciously hosted us and taught me how to wake surf (Chris was already very good at it).

Bill is the author of the book Die With Zero, which is all about how to make the most of your life, by changing your relationship with money. I reviewed the book on my channel last year, and it’s had a big impact on me (hat tip to Nat Eliason for the initial recommendation).

It was nice hearing Chris and Bill discussing the ideas in the book in the podcast episode, but there was one thing in particular I took away from it.

Initially, my plan for the travelling stuff was to continue to rent an apartment in Central London, and use that as a home base for travelling. I’d spend a month, or two, in each city, and then head back to London for a few weeks. Rinse and repeat.

But after listening to the interview with Bill, my perspective shifted. I realised that the act of continuing to have a place in London would hold me back from living a true life of adventure for a year. The temptation would always be there to just go back to London as a way of settling down, or to spend a few days there in between other destinations. Not to mention, the cost of the place would make me always think “I’m paying a lot for a place that I never use in Central London”.

I realised that I should burn the ships.

The metaphor comes from Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, who upon arriving in the New World, ordered his men to burn their ships. By doing so, Cortés eliminated any possibility of retreat and forced his soldiers to fully commit to their mission.

By not continuing to have a home base in London, that would be like me burning the ships. Sort of. I could always come back and stay with my mum or my brother lol. But by not having a place of my own, I’m less likely to succumb to the temptation to cut my travels short, and more likely to actually commit to the intention I’ve set.

So, I made the decision to let go of my apartment in London. Instead, the plan is embrace a completely nomadic lifestyle during this year of travel. No more home base, no more returning to familiar surroundings. I want to commit sincerely to the experience of being a digital nomad, and to fully immerse myself in it.

My team’s going fully remote, and the idea is that we’ll get together for a week in-person every 3 months to realign. Our next quarterly retreat is in Morocco, which should be fun 🙂

I’ll keep y’all, my lovely readers, updated with what’s going on and what I learn as I continue this year of travelling. But I wanted to share this burning the ships thing because it’s a useful question to ask yourself:

  • Where, in my life, should I consider burning the ships?
  • What action(s) can I take that would force me to fully commit to a path I’ve been thinking about for a while?
  • How can I make sure I actually commit to the experience, rather than retreating back to the safety of my comfort zone?

If you think of anything that changes the way you might approach your own life, do please hit reply and let me know – I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Have a great week!

Ali xx

PS: A massive thank you to everyone who’s preordered my upcoming book, Feel-Good ProductivityThanks to the buzz that you guys created around the book through preorders, we’ve been able to land international publication deals in 24 different territories so far, which is super exciting!

PPS: Having said that, I recently found out that the New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller lists (which we’d absolutely love to hit) only count hardback sales, rather than Kindle or Audiobook sales 😢 If you’re based in the US or the UK, and haven’t yet checked the book out, I’d love if you’d consider preordering a hardcover version of the book. It’s very nice in physical form, and looks great on a shelf, and even better as a gift to a friend 😉 Based on current preorder numbers, we’ve got a reasonable shot at hitting both lists, but it’s nowhere near certain, so every preorder genuinely does help. Here’s a link to the book website, and also a geo-targeted Amazon link in case that’s easier 🙏

PPPS: If you’re familiar with the book publishing industry, or marketing in general, and you’ve got any ideas around how we might be able to drive more preorders (and indeed, sales of the book once it’s published), please could you reply to this email and let me know. Would love some more ideas 😊

❤️ My Favourite Things this Week

  1. Video Game – I’ve been absolutely loving the game Baldur’s Gate 3, which is remarkably playable on a Macbook (most games aren’t). I’ve clocked in 6 hours on it so far, and it’s incredible. One of the best games I’ve ever played. A great balance of storytelling in an immersive fantasy world, with really nuanced and interesting turn-based combat (I’m playing on Tactician, the highest difficulty setting, to make things more interesting and ceberal).
  2. Video Game – I’ve also been loving Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Switch. The Switch is now part of my everyday carry, so if I’m ever waiting around for stuff, I’ll reach for it instead of scrolling Twitter on my phone. I definitely get more joy out of the game than out of social media scrolling 😂
  3. Podcast – Banger episode of the Tim Ferriss show where he interviews Arthur Brooks, who teaches courses about happiness at Harvard Business School. Learned so much from this episode – reverse bucket lists, the four idols, the three macronutrients of happiness, and so much more. Btw, if anyone happens to know Arthur, would love an intro to have him on the pod 🙂

🎬 My New Videos

🧑‍🎓 How to Study for Exams – An Evidence-Based Masterclass – So this is a 3 hour evidence-based studying course that I filmed a few years ago and put on Skillshare, but now I want to make it available to everyone for free. In this class, I’ll take you through the well-kept secrets of how to study effectively and organise your workflow to be ready for exams when they come around. We’ll also discuss why studying effectively and efficiently is one of the best ways to maintain a work-life balance.

✍️ Quote of the Week

“We live in an age of infinite leverage, and the economic rewards for genuine intellectual curiosity have never been higher. Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.”

From The Almanack of Naval Ravikant – Eric Jorgensen, Jack Butcher, and Tim Ferriss. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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Monika Doyle
Monika Doyle
5 months ago

I think it’s amazing that you are traveling the world! I love to travel because it opens my mind to so many different things, you get to connect with different cultures (people, food and places). Our world is so beautiful and I know you will share your kindness with new strangers.

Benjamin Rybolt
4 months ago

Ali – Congratulations on the release of your book – I’m on Part 3 now!
I’m curious what you’re traveling with as a creator on your year as a digital nomad – are filming videos with just an iPhone/microphone? Do you just use your computer camera for podcast interviews? I guess I’m curious how you will continue to make high quality creative work as you scale down to the essentials for travel. Thanks!
Ben