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BOOK REVIEW: UNTETHERED – Living the digital nomad life in an uncertain world


By Hector MacKenzie

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By Nathan James Thomas

Exisle Publishing £14.99 (softback)

Life of a digital nomad shared by Nathan James Thomas.
Life of a digital nomad shared by Nathan James Thomas.

TRAVELLING to exotic lands, meeting interesting people and enjoying limitless adventure is the dream of many working the 9 to 5 grind.

And for the vast majority of us it will remain just that – a dream.

Nice idea, but scratch the surface and the practicalities of making that leap seem overwhelming as life's existing obligations form an orderly queue to dissuade you.

Right?

Well, not necessarily, as Thomas reveals, mining not just his own experience but that of case studies from around the world.

His leap into the unknown came with the purchase of a 20,000km ticket on the Greyhound Bus network in Australia at the age of 17.

Over the next decade he lived in China, Spain, Poland and Hungary, visiting and experiencing dozens of other countries along the way.

He founded a digital travel magazine called Intrepid Times, steering it towards becoming a global community of thousands of writers and travellers.

He found a niche copywriting for websites and turned a making-ends-meet hustle into what he terms respectable earner which allows him to live the life he loves.

He relays a warts-and-all experience of not only find yourself but losing yourself too.

An inspiring foreword by B.A. Van Sise points out that the first person you ever met slapped you until you screamed, suggesting that life doesn't amount to much without a share of shock, pain, noise and love.

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Natahn James Thomas – his leap into the unknown came with the purchase of a 20,000km ticket on the Greyhound Bus network in Australia at the age of 17.
Natahn James Thomas – his leap into the unknown came with the purchase of a 20,000km ticket on the Greyhound Bus network in Australia at the age of 17.

Offering the contrasting alternatives of a relatively safe life defined by boxes (the house you live in; the car you drive; the gifts you give and receive from the parcel courier) and one in which you embrace the feral animal that you really are, he points out that this is all there is. Becoming untethered from the predictable and the expected is not easy but – he argues – no one ever found paradise by waiting for it to come to them.

"Almost everybody on earth lives outside my apartment and almost all of them have something to teach me," he says of his decision to live life on the road.

James picks up the theme and shares his experience – and that of others – who have found a skill that allows them to combine travel and work and offers tips on branding yourself as the go-to in your space, negotiating what you are worth and getting the job done between flights, check-outs and adventures.

He doesn't shy away from some of the downsides – you still have to deal with the many curve balls the world of work throws at you whilst also finding suitable places to stay and ensuring that your employer doesn't simply see you as a chancer out for a good time on someone else's dollar. And many digital nomads admit to occasional feelings of loneliness on the road too. There can be a balance of adventure over income; solitude and freedom over calm and company.

It's an excellent and realistic introduction with hard facts and alternative viewpoints which mines personal experience and shares plenty of resources to find out more and tap should you decide this is the life for you.

His closing words are addressed to those who decide that perhaps it is: "Make a plan. Book a flight. And get ready for an adventure."


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