Man travels the world while working – and now lets his employees do the same
The idea of working remotely abroad has catapulted into the mainstream since the pandemic.
But one man from Belgium was living this ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle long before March 2020.
Six years ago, Andy Stofferis decided that day-to-day life in his hometown wasn’t serving him anymore, so he packed up his things and started travelling to destinations around the world – while still working full-time.
The 31-year-old has since travelled to more than 40 destinations – including the likes of Kazakhstan, Chile, Budapest and Turkey – all while running his own digital marketing agency.
Now he spends his weeks working from his Airbnb (or short-term rental accommodation), co-working spaces or in cafes – and uses his free-time to explore different cities around the world.
Currently Andy is living in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where he plans to remain until the end of the year.
‘I didn’t really think too much at the beginning, because I think if you think too much you’ll never take the leap,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I was very excited to take that leap – it’s a great feeling of freedom and happiness to see new places, meet new people, and to know that you are going to do it all the time.’
The move was possible for Andy because he runs his own digital marketing business, called Sendabee.
After acknowledging that his customers didn’t need him in their offices, Andy realised that working remotely and travelling could be an option for him.
And following a few initial months in London to see if it would be possible, he took the plunge and decided to get travelling.
Since then his company has expanded and all his employees are working remotely as fellow digital nomads around the world, or are freelancing from their hometowns.
He says: ‘I haven’t had any problems with my customers or team members, maybe because we are all working remotely and we all have the same mindsets.
‘I work with some team members in Portugal, some in Mexico, other ones in Australia. It’s sometimes difficult with the time zones to make sure we can have a call together on some projects – but apart from that it goes very smoothly.
‘We’ve found a way to work together, but at the same time we can work alone on different tasks, without waiting for other people.
‘It’s called asynchronous work – it’s a way to work separately and be able to continue the work without getting any answers from the team members. Time to time we need meetings, to make sure we are aligned, but we try to work separately as much as possible.
‘We all go to co-working spaces to meet others, and interact with other people when working remotely.’
Andy also likes to ‘travel slowly’ so tends to stay in each destination for at least a few months.
This way he can learn the local customs and culture, as well as achieve the best balance between work, well-being and social life – something he says can be really difficult as a digital nomad and requires a lot of self-discipline.
Andy adds: ‘You need to find your own routine and this is something you acquire along the way.
‘I work a lot in the morning and then in the afternoon, I have more free time to do whatever I want. Even though I also work in the afternoon, it’s more relaxed and I can accept (or not accept) any opportunities to explore the city or meet new people.
‘So I try to achieve as much work as possible in the morning, while everyone is still sleeping.
‘This is how I try to keep that balance – but it is difficult. I have to say “no” a lot of times to people I meet, which is a bit painful because you meet very nice people on the way. A lot of times I have to say “no” because I work full-time.
‘This is something very unique – especially at the beginning, when digital nomadism was not so widespread. It was difficult to make people understand this, because they thought I was going to their country to enjoy it as a traveller or backpacker, but this was not the case at all.
‘But now, due to the pandemic, everyone understands what working remotely is.’
Some of Andy’s favourite spots are in Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where he stayed for almost 10 months before the pandemic.
He continues: ‘They are quite unusual and exotic, and are not touristic at all – at least compared to other places in Europe, like Barcelona or Lisbon. I also really liked the hospitality there and the food is good.
‘Once I have the opportunity again I will head back to Central Asia.’
Andy was living in Italy when news of coronavirus broke. Thankfully, he managed to get on one of the last flights to Budapest, where he had a property to stay in. And, despite not being able to travel for most of 2020, he still made the most of it.
He says: ‘I like Budapest so it was very enjoyable without the tourists. It was nice to see that city empty and I went to some of the neighbouring countries, like Austria and Slovenia, during the summer.’
This year he’s been able to travel more frequently to countries like Turkey, Albania and Georgia – where he’s now living.
Typically he uses platforms such as Airbnb to book his stays, or other sites for mid-term stays (for around three to six months).
He stresses that a good internet connection is the key thing to look for when booking – considering a lot of your time will be spent working.
Andy also says that he always tries to learn some language basics for the country he is heading to next. However, most of the time he can get away with using translation tools or by speaking English.
‘I try to, as a good tourist, learn the basic sentences. Most of the time the locals and elderly like it as they see I’ve made the effort and we try to communicate somehow,’ he says.
‘Sometimes I use Google Translate or other applications that can translate directly what you want to say – or with younger generations in most capitals or big cities, they can all speak English almost fluently.’
In terms of advice for others considering working remotely abroad, Andy says it’s best to not overthink it. Also, consider whether the lifestyle change is really right for your personality.
He adds: ‘Check if digital nomadism is good for you, it’s not the case for everyone. I would suggest to try working remotely abroad for a few months then get back home and figure out what worked and what didn’t and decide if you want to do it or not.
‘It’s good to experiment first before going “all-in” on digital nomadism, as it’s not that easy.
‘There are pros and there are cons, we all see the Instagram pictures, where we see people enjoying the lifestyle – but it’s not all like that in real life, that’s just Instagram.’
So where is next on Andy’s list?
The business owner says it could be Kazakhstan again or the USA or Canada. But simply put, he hasn’t decided.
He says: ‘I really don’t know yet, that’s the magic of being a digital nomad. In the end, I don’t know where I’m heading to.’
Updates on Andy’s adventures and business can be found over on his blog at andysto.com
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