We had a chat when she was in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she was staying with her partner, Luca Mussari. Both of them are digital nomads working remotely.
Irene Lidia is originally from Italy, and she is half Italian and half Chinese. This, as it turned out during our interview, had a great influence on her attitude to the nomadic lifestyle.
How did you become a digital nomad?
I’m a freelance UX and UI designer, that’s my source of income.
I moved to the UK to study history of art and specialised in painting. After doing a master’s at Oxford, I worked at an auction house in London.
I wanted a transition into a career that would allow me to be a digital nomad, not having to stay in one place, and ended up becoming a UX-UI designer.
Why did you want to become a digital nomad?
The main goal of my move to the UK was to be free; being mixed race I never felt I quite belonged.
But the move to the UK wasn’t enough, I wanted more freedom and needed to explore more avenues.
To me being nomadic is about identity. Being able to embrace that ambiguity, that duality. Being able to belong nowhere and everywhere. I’ve always tried to pursue that.
Going nomadic really allowed me to travel and not have to identify with where I was staying.
That’s a refreshing attitude to the digital nomad lifestyle. You focus on identity, rather than just making money.
In my mind, being able to earn a living while travelling allows me to explore myself, my different identities and the fluidity and ambiguity that I’ve always felt.
It allows me to discover myself in ways that are not necessarily restrained or linked to my career.
At this point, I realise that a sense of belonging has to do more with people than a place. I’m at home with people that I love, and I’m at home with myself as well.
It’s not necessarily about where you were born, where you studied, or where you work. It’s not about a country or a nation.
Tell me a bit more about Freaking Nomads.
Freaking Nomads is a passion project I co-founded with my partner, Luca.
It started from our own pain points as digital nomads and our own wishes to find a place that has information and inspiration to support our nomadic journey.
We don’t have to rely on it financially, which allows us to be creative. It’s a project that responds to what people need and what’s useful, without thinking too much about the ROI.
We wanted to infuse Freaking Nomads with a more human aspect, so it’s not only about working remotely. That’s why we have real stories from digital nomads contributing to this community.
It speaks to my own experience – the digital nomad lifestyle is not only about financial gain or a career, it’s also about human connection.
Freaking Nomads is about creating an inclusive space where you can feel at home anywhere in the world; you don’t have to belong to a specific place, you can belong anywhere. You don’t necessarily belong to a geographical location, but rather to a community of like-minded people.
What kind of feedback have you been receiving about Freaking Nomads?
It’s been really positive. We didn’t expect any kind of feedback, to be honest, and the feedback that we got was very good.
When people ask us about exploring more topics beyond the ones we already have on the site. We take that as a way to expand the experience. We welcome people’s feedback.
How do you stay productive while you travel?
Productivity can be an issue for nomad. Travelling gives us the energy to be more productive. When we’re constantly travelling it’s really inspiring, so we get that push.
We try to work Monday to Thursday, so on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we’re always out and about, exploring and travelling during the weekend.
As a digital nomad, you’re able to design your own day. I think planning is very important. We work no more than 8 hours per day.
It’s important for us to have that kind of balance, which we didn’t have when we worked at our corporate jobs in the past.
The freedom to design our own day also means we can work more hours, but we are mindful of that and try to work less.
With Freaking Nomads we have more to do on top of freelancing, but because we don’t want to compromise on quality, we plan how to dedicate time to the project and give it the attention it deserves.
What do you wish you had known before you became a digital nomad?
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I would do it long term. For me, it was only a test. I have a test-and-learn mentality. I always like to try things out, and that was a successful test.
After a few weeks, I knew that it was going to be long term.
I underestimated how liberated and free it would make me feel.
Where have you lived and travelled as a digital nomad?
We went to Madeira first and later continued to travel in Europe. We’ve been to the Canary Islands, most of the Balkan countries and Turkey. We’ve also been to Cape Verde.
When we wanted to try something different, we spent 7 months in South East Asia, in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.
What are the best cities for digital nomads in your experience?
Of course, Madeira has a very special place in our hearts because it was our first destination. We stayed there for 3 months, which seems a lot for such a small island, but there’s so much to do, we didn’t even manage to see everything.
We also really liked Sri Lanka. The vibe is relaxed.
In Bansko, Bulgaria, we stayed a little over a month and it’s a really nice place. The strength is the community, you meet so many people.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to go to Morocco and then Central and South America for 7-8 months. We’re very excited and don’t know what to expect.