Making a living from taking photos while you travel sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
This interview is part of a series of interviews with digital nomads, sharing their unique experiences and tips.
Sophie Clapton and Adam Marland are two landscape and travel photographers who recently entered the blogging world and now run the travel blog We Dream of Travel.
While both had been solo travellers for years, most of those adventures were done without goals or any concept of the future in mind.
It wasn’t until they found each other and had someone on a similar life path that they began thinking about how to turn their lifestyle into a livelihood. That was three years ago.
Sophie had actually just finished a degree in midwifery in London and decided to take some time off to travel before beginning her career.
As the weeks of roaming went on, the thought of returning home to a life of schedules and routine felt increasingly daunting and the decision was made to continue traveling until it no longer felt right. That feeling still hasn’t arrived.
Adam, meanwhile, was working for a luxury hotel in Portland, Oregon. One very bad night nearly took everything and trying to go back to a life of cufflink shackles and suit tie-nooses felt impossible.
He hit the open road weeks later, not necessarily to travel, but to discover something deeper. A search that continues to this day.
What made you decide you wanted to be digital nomads?
Neither of us ever intended to be digital nomads.
We both had compelling reasons to travel and fell in love with the liberation that comes with it.
After experiencing true freedom, going back to a life of bosses and schedules and routines felt impossible.
Upon meeting and traveling together for a while, it became clear that we enjoyed traveling together and had an opportunity to build a life together without compromise.
It is rare that you find someone who shares your passions, rarer still your values and lifestyle, and this became our motivation to find a way to make it sustainable.
How do you make a living working from anywhere?
We began making some money through Sophie’s Instagram @travelsofsophie, which was at about 35k followers, through sponsored posts and collabs.
At the time, Adam didn’t even have an account, so we created one for him and began growing that as well.
For the first couple years, this was our primary source of income, but it became clear that Instagram was not going to be sustainable for the long term.
This was when we decided to diversify by creating our travel blog We Dream of Travel to provide something more stable and consistent, as well as growing the photography business.
This has allowed us to generate some passive income, as well as bring in money from workshops, print sales, and image licensing for businesses and tourism boards.
What are the best cities for digital nomads from your experience?
Anywhere with a climate & culture you enjoy that has reliable internet and affordable cost of living can be home for a digital nomad.
We have lived in Canggu (Bali), Chiang Mai (Thailand), and Valencia (Spain) and found each appealing for different reasons, but none have felt like home. The good news is, we get to keep searching!
What’s your favourite thing about this lifestyle?
Being free to work on what inspires us, and when we are inspired is truly fulfilling.
Knowing that we have the ability to grow without roots means we can “settle” anywhere if and when the time comes.
This is especially helpful as we are from two different countries and frequently visit both of our homes, which we would be unable to do without the ability to work remotely.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Recently, visas. Specifically, the US denied Sophie her visitor visa for inexplicable reasons and being unable to spend holidays or visit Adam in the US has been extremely challenging.
This problem has been exacerbated by the Covid outbreak which has closed immigration offices and embassies for the foreseeable future, leaving us facing time apart for 7 months and counting with no foreseeable end date.
Generally speaking, however, we have struggled most with balance.
Furthermore, these periods of breakneck travel are usually followed by weeks of sitting at a laptop working on deliverables from the trip prior, while sending pitches and reaching out to companies to get the next trip going.
This swinging pendulum is the priority we hope to address once we are able to be together again.
How many hours a day do you work on average?
None… or all!
This is something we talk about often. All we ever do is travel, work on photos, send pitches, or build the website.
There is always something to be done, so “downtime” is something we have to force.
Then again, we’re doing something for a living that we used to do WITH our downtime, so is it work?
When we find ourselves at the laptop out of obligation more than desire, it feels like work, but we’ve stopped trying to quantify that and focus on daily goals instead.
How do you stay productive while you travel?
That’s the easiest part!
Because our income is generated by taking photos and building blog content, everything we do in the field is “productive”.
The harder thing is finding the ability to take mental breaks without feeling guilty for it!
What’s your favourite travel gadget?
Each of us has a camera bag that is packed with travel photography gear: laptops, lenses, cameras, drones, underwater gear, filters, batteries, etc… we don’t have any room for any travel gear that isn’t a tool for our photography.
That said, I think we both have completely fallen in love with Whisper (our drone) over the years.
Having access to the skies is extremely liberating for anyone interested in photography and landscapes.
It has opened up the third dimension and that is an incredible thing!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s starting out as a digital nomad?
We are extremely careful not to offer “advice” as it implies we have the answer.
There are lessons we have learned the hard way and those are things we try and share, but just because we failed or succeeded at something does not mean you will have the same journey or results.
Anyone who has tried to grow an Instagram in 2020, for example, will encounter a far tougher algorithm, more bloated competition, and overall more difficult growth than what Sophie had to contend with in 2016.
The only “advice” general enough for such a broad question is this:
Joy is a product of expectations and appreciation – if you cannot find joy at home, you will not find it abroad.
What are your plans for the future?
First and foremost, solve our visa issues!
Beyond that, we are really in a “wait and see” place right now. Coronavirus has crippled the travel industry, and there is no way of knowing when it will recover and how it will look when it does.
Every hardship brings opportunity. We are using this time to carefully consider what those opportunities might look like and hoping to position ourselves accordingly.
Follow Sophie & Adam and their beautiful travel photos on their blog We Dream of Travel, on Facebook, Sophie’s Instagram and Adam’s Instagram. Also check out Adam’s Facebook page for even more amazing photos.