Flight from Saigon to Singapore, 2018. Shot on Samsung S7

I’ve achieved my dream of living nomadically and pursuing my passion of photography. I want to share a little bit of how this lifestyle is, and why I enjoy this lifestyle.

Flight from Saigon to Singapore, 2018. Shot on Samsung S7

So first of all, for myself; I prefer this nomadic lifestyle. Why? I like being uncomfortable and challenged; it allows me to constantly challenge my beliefs, to learn new things at a much faster rate, and also it has strangely enough helped me simplify my life, to focus on what is truly important to me: learning, philosophizing, creating, sharing and teaching.


How to become a digital nomad photographer

Simple:

  1. Have very low expenses
  2. Cover your expenses with income you generate through photography
  3. Live in a certain city or area for a few months at a time, before going to another destination.

For me, the last 2 years I’ve been living on the road with Cindy as a “digital nomad”. Digital because I do my work on the internet (like this blog), and nomadic because we will live in a certain place or city for a few months at a time, before we’re “onto the next one”.

The last 2 years (after our wedding) we’ve cycled through Mexico City (honeymoon), suburbs of Los Angeles, Hanoi, Hue, Sapa, NYC, Saigon, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, San Francisco, and back to Saigon and now Singapore. Next stops include going back to LA (our home base), San Francisco, NYC, Mexico City, and maybe back to Saigon and Dalat.


How to make money as a digital nomad photographer

This is the tricky part: making money as a photographer, while living nomadically. Some ideas:

  1. Make money in a certain home base location (let’s say making lots of money in photography in San Francisco, New York, London, Tokyo, then spending the rest of your time living in more affordable cities such as Hanoi, Saigon, Dalat, Kyoto or Osaka (you can find cheap apartments online), Suburbs in America (like the LA suburbs), etc.
  2. Make money teaching photography workshops in different cities around the world.
  3. Make money as a “destination photographer”— like shooting weddings in exotic foreign cities all around the world for your clients.
  4. Sell photographic products in your own “Woocommeece” store, or Amazon Fulfillment store, and live nomadically on the road. This is what we do for HAPTIC INDUSTRIES; we have a Woocommeece WordPress plug-in that works for this website (runs on 1and1.com and WordPress.org), and our HAPTIC AMAZON shop, which gets fulfilled by Amazon Fulfillment Services.
  5. Make a bunch and save a bunch of money at a traditional job for a year or two, then use your savings to life nomadically in cheaper cities. Then shoot photos on the road as your passion.

To me, the concept of being a “digital nomad photographer” doesn’t necessarily mean you must make money directly through photography, or even related to photography or travel. Instead, the lifestyle I propose is to live simply, minimally (with just one or two backpacks), nomadically (living for a few months at a time in different locations), and pursuing your passion of photography by making lots of photos. And probably shooting digital for convenience on the road — like RICOH GR II, or shoot film and figure out how to get it processed and scanned when you’re on the road, or back at your “home base” (whatever city your family lives in— for me, that’s Sunny Southern California suburbs).


Why live a nomadic lifestyle?

I believe that it’s in our human DNA to life nomadically. It seems that humans were healthier, happier, and more courageous when we lived as nomads —in uncertain and random, chaotic, and even dangerous environments, in which we had to constantly exercise our skills to survive and thrive. It seems that most of modern ills have come from humanity “settling down” into domesticated agricultural, and now office 9-5 city work lifestyle.

Now this is the tricky philosophical part: I don’t think a nomadic lifestyle is the best lifestyle for everyone. I think it’s a good lifestyle for many people, but once again— not for everyone. Nor should it be the best for everyone.

Everyone has the power to choose or dictate/elect how to live their lives. Unfortunately, not all of us are afforded that opportunity —especially if you’re born into developing countries with indentured servitude, extreme abject poverty, or even in some cases —slavery (yes, slavery still exists today. But for some reason they use the term, “human trafficking”. I think they should call it “human slavery”).

Anyways, if you’re reading this, I assume you’re from somewhat of a privileged background, considering you have access to the Internet, and perhaps some aspirations of making your passion of photography into your living. Therefore, if you’re reading this, and you desire to become a digital nomad photographer —I encourage you my friend! Take a risk! Don’t live a boring and slavish life, wondering, “What if?”

As my buddy Horace says, “Don’t have false distant hopes into the future. Today is your day, and the choicest opportunity to live your life to the fullest. So seize today, and let us drink from the elixir of life!” (My paraphrase).


Equipment for living as a digital nomad photographer

What I’m currently living with on the road, which I also recommend:

  1. MacBook Pro 13’’ Touchbar laptop. Get a maxed out refurbished version on the Apple online store. I bought the previous generation one, and saved a ton of money.
  2. LUMIX G9+Leica 12mm f1.4 lens: Good for still photos and 4K videos. Love the in camera body stabilization for videos, and the autofocus is insanely fast. For a lighter setup, I recommend RICOH GR II.
  3. Thinktank Perception Backpack: The 15 version is good for lighter setups. I bought the Pro version now that I have more video equipment, including a Rode Video Microphone.
  4. Black merino wool clothing: Get 2x of everything merino wool in black: t-shirts, leggings, socks, and for underwear I recommend Exofficio boxer briefs. Every night wash your clothes with shampoo in the shower, then wring dry it for the next morning.
  5. iPad Pro 10.5 inch: Great for reading ebooks, processing photos and videos, doing sketches with Procreate app and screenshots, and editing and selecting photos with Dropbox. Also good to play around on long flights.
  6. Beats X headphones: Good as earplugs or headphones, especially on flights. Super small and lightweight, and good bass and sound.

Other nomad living hacks:

  1. If affordable, live in a cheap hotel. Having people clean your room is super nice, as well as the chance to get free breakfast buffet, and also chatting with the staff. I stay in Airbnb when it’s cheaper, but if a hotel is cheaper or the same price as Airbnb, I recommend Airbnb.
  2. Boiled eggs for the win: I ask the breakfast hotel staff to boil me 6 eggs, and I eat it at the evening for a post dinner snack, as I practice intermittent fasting and follow a ketogenic diet (I usually don’t eat breakfast or lunch, only a big dinner).
  3. Find good coffee shops to work at with fast WiFi. To me, Hanoi and Saigon are phenomenal places for digital nomad photographers — good for street photography, amazing food, cheap cost of living, and super super super fast WiFi (and amazing coffee). I can upload a 1gb video to YouTube in 5 minutes at any random coffee shop in Vietnam.
  4. If you’re living somewhere in Asia, get affordable massages once or twice a week. Ultimate life hack; I feel super energized after intense 90 minute massages, especially in Vietnam.
  5. In Southeast Asia and Japan, usually the best food for the best price is at the mall. In Saigon, I absolutely love the food court on the top of Saigon center. Shibuya in Tokyo has a great food hall in the mall, as well as Singapore for food courts and chicken rice.
  6. Try your best NOT to accumulate and buy stuff when on the road: The more stuff you buy, the more a hassle to repack your stuff, and have more issues at the airport for your luggage being too heavy or bulky. If possible, carry everything you need to live in one backpack.
  7. I prefer a simple lifestyle: I haven’t used TripAdvisor in the last two years. I just ask locals for their favorite places to hang out, drink coffee, or eat quick meals. I also don’t care anymore to eat the “best” food or go sight-seeing. I’m more interested in creation — writing poetry, making beats, writing, reading, philosophizing, making photos, making videos, etc. I think that’s the whole purpose of living nomadically —simplify your lifestyle, to focus on what’s truly important to you — probably making art, photos, videos, or whatever sparks joy in your heart and soul!

Life is flux, adaptation, and evolution

My whole life has been in a state of flux since I was 18 years old. I’m 30 years old now, and still learning, changing, evolving, adapting, and growing! I have no idea what lifestyle I’m gonna be living when I have a kid, or when I get older.

Ultimately for me, I seek to live a lifestyle which keeps superfluous distractions to a minimum, and allows maximum artistic creation. That’s the most important thing to me now, but of course it’s gonna change in the future. So I don’t plan on getting married to this “digital nomad photography” lifestyle forever. Ain’t nothing good lasts forever; and nothing forever is good.


So friend my takeaway point for you is this:

Ask yourself what you truly desire in your life, ask yourself “why?”, then take entrepreneurial risks to make your dreams and desires into a reality!

BE BRAZEN AND BOLD!
ERIC


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