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Digital Nomads: Can They Destroy the German Pension System?

An Interview with Barbara Riedel; author, blogger, businesswoman and freelance translator

· Work and Travel,Entrepreneurship,Girlboss Interviews

Barbara Riedel started out on her nomadic adventure in November 2014, when she didn't want to be "part of the system" in Germany anymore. Three years later, she now has 60K followers on her blog Barbaralicious, owns her own business Nomad Collection, and publishes City Guides for Digital Nomads. Find out how she did it all.

What made you unhappy about your life in Germany pre-travelling?

The answer to this question is pretty complex since there were several factors that made me want to leave. One thing was that I never just wanted to do just one thing (like being JUST a teacher or JUST a translator). But I felt like I had to choose what I wanted to do with my life because that's how society works. When I found out about digital nomads, I saw people who chose freedom, but not "just one thing". Additionally, I felt the pressure of getting older. People expected me to find the one, marry him and have at least three babies to save the German pension system (I hope you get the ironic tone). This drove me crazy. Another problem was that I almost got depressed from being indoors all the time. It's hard to venture outside when it's always so cold in Germany. I had headaches all the time, I didn't move about a lot and I didn't eat healthily because it's so much easier to get junk food than to cook a healthy meal. All this changed when I hit the road. I started working outside, I did daily workouts (because who is not motivated to do it when you can wear just a bikini everyday), and I started eating healthily because it's much easier to get healthy food options in Latin America or Asia.

How did you prepare for the digital nomad life?

I didn't really. I had planned my trip around the world but I only did fairly basic planning for that. I started saving 8 months prior to the trip and put 8K Euro into a separate bank account. When I moved out of my apartment, I simply moved back into my parents' place where I still have most of my stuff today. Although every time I'm there I throw away so many things. I don't really need any of it anymore.

What did your friends and family say when they heard you were moving away?

I got some support for my trip around the world although even then people didn't understand why I wanted to do it. I didn't tell them when I found out about digital nomads. It was during this trip around the world when I started talking about this lifestyle more and more so as to to get them used to the idea. One day I said: "You know what? I think this nomadic lifestyle is great and would like to go on travelling after my trip around the world." Obviously, I had made the decision to become a nomad long before. I would say that it took them another year until they finally gave in and stopped trying to convince me to come back to my old life.

You didn’t have much collaboration in the beginning! How did you manage to grow your following?

Yes, exactly. I had to focus on growing first. So I did a lot of freelancing to finance my life and I didn't earn anything at all with Barbaralicious. I was still working up to 80 hours a week for my blog though! Growing your following is tough work and it takes time. I engaged a lot, trying to focus on one network at a time. For a while my focus was on Instagram, then I switched to Twitter. Now, I have enough followers to get most of the collaborations that I want to have.

While travelling, do you prefer to work in co-working spaces, in cafes or at home?

I prefer to work at home. I feel like I waste a lot of time when I go to another place and I have to pack my stuff, go there, unpack, have a quick chat with somebody I know... And before I know it an hour has passed! But it totally depends on the place, the people and my mood! Sometimes I enjoy going to see something different. In Thailand for example it was part of my daily routine to go to a beach bar and work from there for a few hours. Or in Bali I got 100 hours in the co-working space as a birthday gift from a friend. So I obviously spent most of my time there and I totally loved it!

What is your favourite social media channel?

I love Instagram! Interacting and engaging is easy there and works well. I think I spend around 4 hours every day on Instagram only. Commenting, posting in my feed and doing InstaStories takes time.

What are your future goals for yourself and your business?

I want to continue writing my blog, publishing (e)books, creating online courses – and inspiring other nomadic people. I just want to do what I love for the rest of my life and be happy.

Being location independent gives you the freedom to travel as you please, do you have a favourite destination?

Not one country, but I always loved Latin America for the possibility to communicate with locals, since I speak Spanish and Portuguese. But now I've just been to South East Asia for four months (it was my second time there) and now I realise how important a strong nomad community is. So at the moment, I prefer South East Asia as a region. In terms of where... I loved almost everywhere: Bali, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta, Koh Chang, Singapore... I liked Bangkok and KL a little less, but I didn't have enough time to immerse myself in the community there.

What does your daily routine look like?

I don't have a routine. Two years ago I did a short workout every morning and a quick meditation session afterwards. That was great and I have tried to get back into this routine ever since. Even though I know that this routine is good for me, it's still difficult. Most of all because I think "I'll just answer this email quickly" and then I have 10 more messages or comments to reply to when I'm finished with that one.

What is your favourite quote?

"Collect Moments, Not Things!" It represents very well my change from being a university student, who did a lot of shopping because that was the only thing that made me happy, to being a digital nomad who is no longer attached to things. Now I want to live in the moment and try to have as many memorable moments as possible – sharing them with my followers.

Where can we find you?

My blog is called Barbaralicious and I'm on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,Google+ and Pinterest.

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