This Digital Nomad Shares His Remarkable Story Of Transformation And Is Devoted To Helping Aspiring Digital Nomads Through His Resourceful Blog
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GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

Mitch is a nomadic traveler who departed the United States in 2015.
21st Jul | 10 min read

Table of Contents

    Mitch is a nomadic traveler who departed the United States in 2015. His life took a dramatic left turn after stopping in Cali, Colombia to take some quick salsa classes. In dance class, he met a lovely Colombian girl, fell in love, and married her. They now travel the world as digital nomads, running the Project Untethered blog and YouTube channel to teach adventure-seekers how to break free from the rat race, make money from anywhere, and live an "untethered life."

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    What Inspired Me To Start Traveling

    Surprisingly, the thought of travel never crossed my mind for most of my life. I was a huge nerd focusing 110% of my energy and focus on training to become a top physical therapist. Before starting my doctoral program, I had to do an internship in a physical therapy clinic across the US.

    I met a new friend in the clinic who invited me out for a beer. She casually mentioned that she’d always wanted to travel to Thailand, but was scared to go alone. I was in a YOLO mode, and despite just meeting her, I said, “I’ll go with you.” And I did.

    We spent a month backpacking Thailand, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I’d been so focused on my career that I didn’t realize traveling long-term was even a thing.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    After I got back from Thailand, I asked my doctoral program to save my seat for a year so I could backpack the “Gringo Trail” through Central and South America. Halfway through that year, I decided never to go back.

    I was hooked on this lifestyle of freedom and adventure, and I can’t imagine ever going back to “normal” life.

    Choosing The Next Travel Destination

    Well, recently our decisions are mainly based on the pandemic situation. We were stuck on an island in Cambodia when the pandemic hit. Our home is in Colombia, but their borders were closed tight. We didn’t really want to go to the U.S., but that was our only option.

    We ended up using the lemons to make lemonade, bought a campervan, and spent six months traveling around the U.S. — an adventure we never knew we needed until circumstances forced us into it.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    In non-COVID times, we just play it by ear. I have a list of places I want to see, we look for cheap flights and any cool events going on in those areas, and we piece together a route from there.

    Length Of Our Trips

    Our trips have kind of blended together, so it’s hard to say. When I was getting to my wife (then girlfriend) while living in Colombia, we took a few month-long trips to Bolivia and Patagonia. We also take shorter 1-2 week trips to nearby destinations in Colombia.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    But apart from that, our trips normally don’t have definitive end dates. We buy one-way tickets and figure it out from there.

    Nowadays I don’t do nearly as much preparing as I used to. I like to keep things flexible, so if we plan to visit several countries, I just jot down a list of the top things I’d like to do in each country. I have a rough potential route in my mind, but we are constantly changing plans and normally make decisions on the go.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    The Packing Manual I Follow

    My backpack looks way different now than it did when I first started traveling in 2015, and it kind of makes me sad. 

    When I first started, I didn’t carry anything of value. Just clothes, an old iPhone, and my handy-dandy hair buzzer. Those were simpler times.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Now that I have to actually earn money and run a business while traveling, we have multiple laptops, tablets, phones, tripods, drones, hard drives, keyboards, and’s kind of ridiculous.

    I enjoy the freedom that running a location independent business gives me, but I also miss the good ol’ days of carefree travel.

    Favorite Memory Of Meeting New People

    Oh boy, there’s just too many.

    After meeting my wife, my entire life has become non-stop exploring with locals.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    But one of my very first experiences exploring with locals was during that initial trip to Thailand. I was on Koh Tao hunting for a party by myself. It was the first time I’d ever ventured out alone, which as you probably can remember, is extremely exciting.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    I bumped into a Thai girl who was also on vacation. She not only didn’t speak a lick of English, but she was also deaf and mute. We walked around together the entire night, trying different foods, dancing, and people-watching — communicating for hours by acting things out and using Google Translate.

    The Incident That Prompted Me To Start My Own Blog

    When I finally settled down in Colombia, my savings account was running dry. And after meeting Day in salsa class, I realized having a girlfriend is expensive! So I started desperately trying to figure out how to start earning money online.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, and I latched on to the first idea I stumbled on — creating an Amazon FBA store. Long story short, I lost the remainder of my savings.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    After more digging, I realized Amazon wasn’t the only option, there are literally HUNDREDS of ways to make money while traveling.

    That’s when it hit me.

    There had to be other travelers out there like me who were trying to figure out how to transition from backpacker to a permanent travel lifestyle. People who were clueless (like I was) about all the opportunities there are to earn on the road.

    So I started to put together a super-mega-ultra list of best travel jobs — the most ginormous list the world has ever seen.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    That way, I could help newbies avoid making my mistake and latching on to the first random money-making idea they come across.

    From there, the Project Untethered mission was born — to provide all the resources people need to build an “untethered” life, where they can support themselves financially from anywhere in the world.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Number Of Countries Visited And Bucket List Destinations

    I honestly don’t even know. I don’t keep track. I’ve been to most countries in Central and South America, some of the Caribbean, and a handful in Southeast Asia. If it weren’t for COVID, it’d probably be a lot more, but we shifted plans and spent most of the pandemic exploring national parks in the U.S.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    My bucket list destinations are Iceland, South Africa, Africa in general, and lesser-visited Eastern European countries.

    A Memorable Travel Experience

    One of my more recent exciting travel experiences was when we got quarantined on Koh Rong Samloem, a stunning island off the coast of Cambodia. Most tourists deserted the island, and 90% of businesses closed. So we basically had the entire island to ourselves for three months. Best of all, we scored a luxurious beachside bungalow — a bungalow that costs up to $180 per night during high season — for just $15 per night.

    It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Challenges To Starting A Digital Nomad Lifestyle

    It involved a lot of learning and trial and error, but learning new things is exciting for me. I was based in Colombia with an extremely low cost of living, which allowed me to spend most of my time learning and testing new ideas.

    The main reason it wasn’t so difficult was that I was stationary in Colombia. But as soon as I started moving around while traveling, everything changed. Balancing work and travel is a real struggle.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    I love the freedom, but I do miss being able to hang out in hostels, meet new people all the time, and travel carefree.

    As a digital nomad, your travel style changes. You now have more money and more time. There is less penny-pinching. But you also have more responsibilities. Nowadays, we normally stay in Airbnbs, and between work and travel, there’s much less time for partying with strangers in hostels or traveling for days (or weeks) off the grid without an internet connection.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    What I Believe A Digital Nomad Should Have To Sustain Full-Time Travels

    Every digital nomad should have travel insurance. I am accident-prone. And travel insurance has covered two emergency surgeries for me (among other expenses) and saved me over $15,000 in bills. I wrote all about my experience in this Safetywing Insurance Review.

    Seriously, without insurance, you’re one misstep away from financial disaster. Don’t skip it.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    My accident was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had on the road, but fortunately, the digital nomad lifestyle is extremely flexible.

    Instead of flying home, we just set up shop where we were. I lived in Bangkok for two months getting treatment and physical therapy, then had a follow-up surgery six months later while traveling through Cambodia.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Managing Cost During Travels

    So far, most of our travels have been in low cost-of-living countries (except the US, but van life is cheap). That means it’s pretty easy to earn more than we are spending. We always try to find good deals, so we’re not too worried about going over budget.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    However, we do keep track of all our expenses using the Toshl Finance app. This lets us publish realistic digital nomad cost-of-living information on the Project Untethered blog and Youtube channel.

    How I Think GAFFL Can Be Helpful In Finding Travel Companions

    I wish I would’ve known about GAFFL when I first started traveling solo! Many cool places on earth are expensive to visit without someone to share costs with. An app that connects solo travelers to solve this problem is genius.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Some other apps I use are Google Maps, Evernote, Skype, Toshl, Cram (for making flashcards when studying a language, Xe (exchange rates), Google Translate, Windy (weather), Booking, Airbnb, TunnelBear (free VPN), Wise, AllTrails. Most of those aren’t necessarily travel apps, but I use them often while traveling.

    For van life, there’s a bunch of other ones: iOverlander, Campendium, Dyrt, OpenSignal, etc.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Managing Work And Travel At The Same Time

    My best advice is to not be afraid to adjust your travel style whenever something doesn’t feel right.

    Traveling fast while working can be ok for short stints, but it’s exhausting. You have to find the right balance for yourself.

    After two years of slow travel mixed with work, I’d like to experiment with a different style. I think it could be cool to base yourself in a couple of different countries per year where you focus on work (with longer visa options), then take frequent 2-4 week mini-trips from that base where you completely disconnect.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    As a digital nomad, you may find that it’s hard to enjoy anything 100%. When you’re working, you feel bad for cooping yourself up and not exploring your destination. When you’re exploring, you feel bad because there is work to be done.

    I’m hoping that my new travel style experiment will help fix this.

    Lessons Learned Through Solo Traveling

    I wish I’d have known to go with the flow and be more flexible. When I first started, I wanted to plan everything. It’s the natural thing to do as a brand new traveler. You’re nervous and want everything to go according to plan.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    But things rarely go according to plan. And if you’re able to easily adjust your plans, you’ll have a more fulfilling trip.

    I’ve also learned that you’re never really solo as a solo traveler (if you don’t want to be). It’s insanely easy to make friends, especially when staying at hostels or tapping into the local community.

    Mitch A Digital Nomad

    Lastly, solo travel has taught me that I am capable of solving pretty much any problem that comes my way. When you’re out alone in a foreign country where everyone speaks a different language, you’re forced to figure things out. And when you do, it’s extremely empowering.

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.