- Michelle Checchi, 29, has been traveling the world remotely since 2019.
- She says her lifestyle is “much more affordable” than she would expect in the United States.
- In 2021, more than 15 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads, up 112% from 2019.
When Michelle Checchi, 29, left the United States in 2019, she had only planned to leave for a few months – the time it would take to empty her savings account.
Today, she still travels the world, working remotely as a freelance writer and video producer — earning $4,000 a typical month while working only 15 to 30 hours a week, according to bank documents reviewed by Insider.
“Instead of feeling stuck in my only place of living, I live in an international environment that is international to me, where I am always a traveler and a visitor,” she says.
A growing number of digital nomads or remote workers who travel for weeks, months or, in his case, “for the foreseeable future”. More 15 million Americans describe themselves as digital nomads, up 42% from 2020 and 112% from 2019, according to MBO Partners’ 2021 State of Independence study. drive that orient oneself is the growing flexibility of remote work, the desire to see the world, and the desire to cut costs.
From June, more than 25 countries had introduced digital nomad visa programs aimed at attracting remote workers and their wallets. According to the World Population Review, only two countries – Bermuda and Switzerland – have a Cost of life than New York, where Checchi grew up. For her, living abroad has been a budget saver.
Earn more money than ever
After graduating in 2015, Checchi enjoyed her job as a local news producer for four years, but says she had a lingering desire to “travel and experience freedom.” In September 2019, she sold most of her possessions, drove across the country and hopped on a one-way flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.
During her first months abroad, Checchi traveled to Cyprus, India and Nepal, where she tried to grow her savings for as long as possible. But after about three months, when it seemed like her fun was coming to an end, Checchi had a “spark of idea”: what if she found a way to make money working remotely? She started browsing Upwork and other platforms for freelance writing gigs.
“I thought, ‘If I have to find a full-time job, that’s going to root me in one place,'” she says. “I really wanted to create a lifestyle where I could maintain my geographic independence.”
Although she found work, the money was “not good” at first – a few hundred dollars here and there – not enough to delay her return to the United States for very long. But slowly his workflow began to develop. After about six months, Checchi was earning as much as she earned in her press job — which paid about $50,000 a year — and working about half the hours, not to mention traveling the world like she did.
She topped her old salary a few months later, snapping $10,000 in earnings in some months, including $17,000 last June — when she did an on-location video production for a convention. Checchi also has more than 68,000 followers on TikTok – where she posts her highlights and travel tips – although she says she has only recently started making “some money” via social media. Checchi says she wondered how digital nomads could afford their lifestyle.
“I was really surprised,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh, okay. So this can be sustainable.’
As she continues to write freelance content — “ghostwriting blogs, articles, and web copy” — she has begun to lean more into her video production roots. Although her clients vary, she often films and produces content for companies in the tourism industry – projects that typically pay for her travel.
Checchi says it’s strange to look back on her time as a local news producer, when she felt her skills weren’t transferable elsewhere.
“Now I’m like, ‘Wow, there’s so much I can do with my skills when you think outside the box a bit,'” she says.
The challenges of a nomadic life
When not traveling, Checchi has a home base in Tel Aviv, which she chose in part for its accessibility to both Europe and Asia. While Tel Aviv can be quite a Dear A place to live, Checchi pays just $871 a month to rent an apartment with a couple — and typically sublets her room when traveling for an extended period. She tends to stay in hostels and Airbnbs, which helps her stick to a monthly housing budget of around $900. That’s a big savings over the average June rent of $3,100 for a studio in New York, where she was previously based.
Airfare is her biggest expense, but since she doesn’t often cross the Atlantic Ocean to see her family, she can travel relatively affordably from place to place. There is also more competition in the European airline industry compared to the United States, helping to keep its flight prices lower.
All was not well, she had to return to the United States and stay with her family in Staten Island, New York, for a time during the pandemic. Other than that, she admits she doesn’t see her family often – although she now makes an effort to return to the US every three or four months. Those flying costs can add up, but she says they’re worth it and if needed, she can look for extra work to offset them. While her best friends are in the United States, Checchi says she has friends “everywhere” and traveling alone has been “a great way to meet new people.”
While she doesn’t think a nomadic lifestyle is right for everyone, she has no plans to give it up anytime soon: “I’m living for myself at this point in my life.”