Digital nomad interview: Dean and Laynni, long term digital nomads

The latest interview in my series of interviews with digital nomads features a digital nomad couple: Dean Johnston and Laynni Locke from Routinely Nomadic.

Originally from Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada, they quit their jobs in financial planning (Dean) and public health (Laynni) in March 2008 to travel full-time for 5 years.

Well, those 5 years have since stretched into 12, which means they belong to the “pioneer” generation of the digital nomad movement (respect!)

Long term digital nomads Dean and  Laynni from  Routinely Nomadic
Dean and Laynni

What made you decide you wanted to be a digital nomad?

That wasn’t necessarily the plan from the start – we just wanted to travel more than a month per year and were willing to give up our career “plans” to make that happen.

Over time we have grown and developed our blog and after I wrote my first book, Random Acts of Travel, we started to put more thought into how we could make a living while on the road as we weren’t ready to stop travelling.

We have now been to 76 countries and 7 continents and have no plans to stop any time soon.

How do you make a living working from anywhere?

I think the key for us, as with most digital nomads, is to have multiple sources of income.

Ours all fluctuate quite a bit so having several means we almost always have some cash coming in.

We have our travel blog, Routinely Nomadic, which generates affiliate income and helps promote book sales.

I have written 3 travel ebooks that are for sale online.

I spent nearly a decade as a certified financial planner and I still do some freelance financial writing – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

Laynni writes government grants and does project evaluations, as well as helping out with the blog.

Share one resource that every digital nomad should be aware of

Google Lighthouse. It provides an immense amount of information about any of your web pages with a single click.

What’s your favourite thing about this lifestyle?

I think most people probably say this, but it has to be the freedom.

We love being able to travel extensively but also being free to return home whenever we choose.

It is great to be able to visit places at the ideal times, usually finding good weather while still avoiding the crowds.

What are the best cities for digital nomads from your experience?

The rise of shared work experiences and well-equipped long-term AirBnBs have really opened up the possibilities.

Most of the places we’ve done long stays in haven’t actually been ideal from a digital nomad perspective – internet issues, usually – but it is something we are focusing on more now.

The places we are most interested in returning to for an extended period are Lake Bled (Slovenia), the Algarve (Portugal), Sifnos (Greece) and Buenos Aires.

The first three have lots of easily accessible hiking and beautiful natural settings and Buenos Aires is just a really cool city.

Lake Bled by Routinely Nomadic digital nomads
Lake Bled, Slovenia

These suit us as we prefer being more solitary and prioritize easy to access hiking but those looking to interact more with other digital nomads might prefer places like Chiang Mai (Thailand), Medellín (Colombia), or Ubud (Indonesia) as they all have work hubs, good internet, cheap living and good food.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Balancing work and travel.

Travel generates the experiences and content for our blog and books, but producing a good product and keeping our website up to date usually requires us to stop moving.

How do you stay productive while you travel?

For me, the trick is to never stop writing. Anytime I take even a couple weeks off it seems daunting to start back up (although I really ramble when I finally do). As long as I keep writing every day or two I stay in the groove.

What apps do you use and recommend for digital nomads or long term travellers?

Google My Maps is a good one. I find people engage with travel posts more easily when they have an interactive map to put everything in perspective.

Also, Wikiloc is a hiking app that we use a lot since much of our blog is dedicated to hiking guides.

Have you learnt any important lessons from living the digital nomad lifestyle?

I think it has really exposed us to so many different life philosophies that we have a more open approach to what is possible, rather than what is “normal”.

The goals and expectations of friends and family in Canada are often so different from those of people we meet on our travels.

Without travel it would have been easy to limit ourselves without even thinking about it. So I guess the main lesson is to just be open to any type of lifestyle or work, especially as the digital nomad landscape is continually changing.

What are your plans for the future?

We are finally going to do some extended travel within our own country. We have done plenty of short trips within Canada but nothing longer than a week or two.

This fall we are going to spend 3 months in the Rockies, Okanagan Valley and on Vancouver Island. From a writing standpoint, we are going to continue to narrow our focus to provide hiking guides and detailed info on specific areas.

Follow Dean & Laynni on their blog and on their Instagram and Facebook page.


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