Digital Nomad in the Philippines

April 21, 2021

The Beach

The Young Journalist

For 30 years Stephania Navarro worked as a journalist for a big company in New York. She was young when she started, so the dynamic working environment suited her very much. She had always wanted to become a journalist. So, when she was able to land a job as a freelance writer straight out of college, she was delighted. She even moved to New York from Wisconsin, even if the freelance job didn’t promise her a stable future.

A year after being hired as a freelance writer, the company absorbed her. She moved into a bigger apartment and prepared herself emotionally and mentally for many years of writing articles.

She started out writing articles about celebrities. The job sometimes meant traveling to California to interview some of them. Then she was moved to a more serious department writing about politics. When the war in Afghanistan started, she, along with a team consisting of 10 people, was flown to the center of the action.

She loved the thrill of being in the center of historical moments. She loved interviewing people who are shaping the world for future generations.

Armed with her trusty MacBook Pro, she typed her way into people’s hearts. She was even awarded several times by her peers who highly respected her work.

The Traditional Working Space

The traditional working space, which meant working in the office, being with people doing basically the same things as her, supervised by senior journalists she respected, suited her very well. The noise of busy people beating deadlines was music to her ears. It drove her to work harder and pushed her outside her comfort zone. It was like being in a battlefield where people with the same mission are you are moving you to focus and do your part.

It helps, she claimed, to be around people with the same mission as you. There were times when I had to drag myself to work, she said, but once I’m with these people, the drive to work hard automatically comes and I’m able to be my best self again.

The traditional work space suited her very well. And when telecommuting, she would often communicate with the people in the office via video call just so she could feel she was still part of the traditional working environment.

Personal Choice

She never wanted children. She loved children, she said. But I just don’t want to have my own. She planned to retire early and travel the world. From the very beginning, she planned to work as hard as she could, save up, retire, and then pack her bags and travel the world.

She had a string of boyfriends all through the years, two even proposed to her, but she had to turn them all down in the end. I’m like the wind, she said, trapping me won’t do any of us any good.

Her love for stories fueled her. She loved writing about what real people are doing. Reporting them and sharing their stories to the world, she believed, was her mission.

In 2018, she took the leap of faith. She retired early, sold her apartment, and traveled to the Philippines.

Digital Nomad

She first heard about digital nomads when she traveled to Thailand. A few of them were in the same coffee shop she was one early evening. She interviewed them, and the business model seemed very interesting.

Digital nomads are people from developing countries. They travel to Asia where the exchange rates are high and the cost of living was low.

The idea of writing on the beach made her change her mind about working in a traditional workplace.

So, when she decided to retire early from her job, she decided to become a digital nomad.

First, she had to switch her writing approach.

She wanted to switch from being a journalist to being a fiction writer. Planning to write about the people she met all throughout her career in fiction form is extremely different from writing about them in journalistic style.

She realized that being a journalist means writing a story as it unfolds. No detail is hidden. In fiction, a lot of details are hidden, a lot of characters placed out of view or concealed and revealed only at the perfect time for better effect. While waiting for the sale of her New York apartment, she stayed home and worked on this new writing style. It was difficult since she had to unlearn everything she worked hard on learning as a journalist. But in the end, she was able to develop a solid foundation.

The Philippines

After sorting out a million things, including the sale of all her furniture, extra clothes and shoes, she packed a single luggage and traveled to the Philippines. It was her first time in the country. She heard about a place near the ocean from one of her digital nomad friends she met in Thailand. It was a co-working space built by a retired US Navy Seal who helped in the construction of the Subic Bay Naval Base.

She arrived at the place and declared it a paradise on earth. She was given her own Bali-styled house with its own toilet and bath. But what impressed her was the co-working space near the water.

The co-working space was packed with Americans and Europeans working as freelancers to big companies in the US. They were young and driven individuals bent on working for a living while enjoying the world.

The space was filled with modern-type office furniture as well. She walked over to one and examined it. It was the Adjustable Standing Desk Pro Series from a company called Flexispot. She smiled and saw how they could use it, seated down and standing up. She also saw their Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair. She tried on sitting on one and she gasped at the difference. No more lower back pains, which often come from hours of working.

“I’m home,” she said with a smile as our interview came to a close. “I’m at my happiest.”

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