How to Build a Digital Nomad Dream with Angie Thompson

Have you ever dreamed of being a digital nomad but felt like it was unattainable? It's not always lazing by the pool and soaking up the sun in Bali. Wayne interviews Kevin Eikenberry Group teammate, Angie Thompson, who has been traveling with her husband in an RV fulltime since 2019. They talk about what led to the decision to become a digital nomad, some of the concerns that had to be discussed with her boss, as well as her advice to those who would like to pursue being a digital nomad themselves. 

Question of the Week:

What are the things you would tell someone who would like to be a digital nomad?

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Transcript

Wayne Turmel: Hi everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Long-Distance Worklife Podcast. This is the show where we talk about remote work, technology, leadership, and just generally surviving and keeping the weasels at bay in the world of remote and hybrid work. I do not have Marisa with me today for those of you who worry about such things. I have a really fun interview planned with another member of our Kevin Eikenberry team.


And here's what's going on. Angie, first of all, say hi.

Angie Thompson: Hi.

Wayne: OK, I'll explain who Angie is in just a moment. One of the trending topics, if you will, in remote work is the idea of being a digital nomad. This idea that you "have laptop will travel." And if you look on LinkedIn or you look on the various websites, it's all really hip young people living on the Costa del Sol or Costa Rica or Bali or something.

And it's incredibly hip and glamorous And when you start having that discussion for mere mortals like you and me, it feels not terribly realistic. This is where Angie comes in. Angie has worked with the Kevin Eikenberry Group forever. And why don't you tell them what it is that you do for the team.

Angie: Well, that's probably the hardest question you're going to ask me all day.

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Wayne: You're right.

Angie: I have an official title. There's my cat in the background. I have official title of director of process engagement. And what that means is I build process automation to manage our clients, both our clients and our team members. So I help our clients get connected to what they need online, and I help our team members stay connected to our clients with digital information, database management, that kind of thing.

Wayne: Now, first of all, she has been doing this for a very long time and extremely well. But the important thing is about a year and a half, two years ago, you made the decision, which shocked the heck out of everybody, given the job that you do, which sounds very much like you should be holed up somewhere in a secure facility or maybe even in the office with access to the boss.

But you decided to do something two years ago and tell everybody what you did.

Angie: So it was kind of a strange convergence of events, and it all actually came together at the same time, which was odd. My husband and I first of all, I am not a camper. I don't like the outside. I don't like bugs. But my husband and I decided we wanted to maybe think about RVing and we bought an RV and did the weekend warrior thing and absolutely loved it.


And then we started following all these people on YouTube who live in their RV full time and they travel around full time. And boy, wouldn't that be great? What an exciting life. And I don't know how we would ever do that. And in 2018, the 2018-2019, basically school year we were empty nesters. We had two kids at college, one a senior and one freshman and loved it.

Some people hate being empty nesters and we just really kind of found our groove and really enjoyed it. And then that oldest child graduated and moved back home.

Wayne: As, as one does.

Angie: You know. Yeah. And, and I love her, love her to death but we kind of got used to in that short year being empty nesters. And the more we watched the YouTube stars that were doing it all the time, you know, the bigger the dream became. And all the while in the background was the memory that in

February 17th of 2006. My dad retired at age 59 from his coat and tie sales job. Didn't have to work, but was planning on learning some woodworking skills. He found a handyman he was going to work with and redo doors and window frames and maybe make some furniture like he was going to dig in with his hands and really enjoy it.

February 17th, 2007. My dad passed away after fighting stomach cancer for ten months. He and my mom had planned for a great retirement and saved and they'd been really smart and the thing that they couldn't account for and save up was time and since then, that's just been brewing in the back of my mind of why put it off?

What can I do to make sure that that doesn't happen to me? My mom a few years later was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and she's now in an assisted living facility, and has to have help caring for herself. So neither of them got to live their retirement dream of what a great life it was going to be once you didn't have to work anymore.

And they saved the money. And, you know, there were a lot of things they went without so that they could save the money for retirement. And then they didn't get any. And so my husband and I kind of looked at each other and said, "You know what, 'traveling around in an RV is something retired people do.' Is a load hogwash! Let's just do it." You know, why not?


So we we did a lot of research and we did a lot of planning. And three days after Christmas in 2019, we left our house in central Indiana. And in the terrific care of my daughter and her then boyfriend who is now her husband, they rent our house that's one of the things that full time RVers struggle with.

How do you afford both kinds of things? Well, that's how we afforded it because our daughter and son in law are paying rent now.

Wayne: One of the other ways that you've afforded it is that you kept your job, which, as I say, is central to this organization. I am not kidding when I say Angie is largely the glue that keeps us functioning as an organization. So you're very tight. You have your finger on a lot of buttons that are important to me.

I have to be. But seriously, I know how seriously you take your job. So what were the things that you were concerned about? First of all, in thinking about doing the job you do, which is very connection heavy with being this gad about RVer.

Angie: Oh, it's entirely connection heavy. There's nothing I can do with my job that doesn't require an Internet connection. So that was the first thing prior to actually going on the road. I had worked basically from home for Kevin for ten years, so I already knew that I could do my job anywhere. I wanted to. And we had actually tried a couple of trips where I didn't take the full week off.

We went to Pigeon Forge or someplace, and I worked a few days and I took a few days off and we adventured in the evening, and my husband kind of sat out by the campfire and just enjoyed his days in the peace and quiet. And so we had done a little bit of remote working from the RV, but the, the the biggest single unknown factor is the Internet connectivity.

A lot of parks have free Wi-Fi, but it's not very good. It's not very strong it's not very reliable. And so we prior to even doing this, that was one of the very first things we researched. OK, how's the best way to get a consistent Wi-Fi connection? That's just hot spotting from your phone because everybody knows that's going to run out eventually, you're going to get either cut off on your data or throttled.

Wayne: OK, so that's the WiFi connection.


Yeah, the Wi-Fi connection is part of it. Now you have to go in and you are blessed in that. Kevin, besides being a fine boss in general, you know, we literally wrote the book on remote work. So you know, he was predisposed, I'm sure. But how did that conversation go? What were your concerns? What were his concerns? How did that talk go?

Angie: Well. I did the best I could to try and pre think, what are all questions that are going to come up? What will be his concerns and how can I address them? How many of these can I address in advance? And and basically presold and when I Kevin and I have the great relationship that's not superior subordinate I'm not exactly an equal peer but he doesn't treat me like, you know, a slave in the galley. There's respect and there's consideration and he's known for a long time- I mean I started working for him shortly after my dad passed away.

So he's known all about how my life has progressed. And we've had personal conversations about things going on in each other's lives. And so we're kind of on that level. To be honest with you, I didn't ask for permission. I said, "Here's what we're thinking about doing and here are the challenges that it could create. And here's how I think I can solve the ones I've come up with. And what do you think?"

Wayne: Give me an example of one or two problems that you had to kind of preemptively address in order to make him feel better?

Angie: Well, I did have to. I mean, of course, the connectivity was an issue, like if I can't get on the Internet, I can't do anything. We long before that had centralized file storage on Google, on Google Drive. So all my files, all of all of any of the work that I would be doing is accessible by anybody else at any given time.

We had also long before that implemented Slack. So we had a lot of communication techniques in place standards because almost all of our team is remote anyway. They're not on the road they're in their houses. But almost all of our team works from home at some point, most of them. Right? So we already had established when do you tell people that you're not available?

How do you do that? Do you email them? Do you slack them? Do you call them? When were we going to travel what if what if we were actually traveling on a workday? And how was that going to work out?

And I quite honestly said it's going to take some more diligent communication on my part to tell the team when I am and am not available. And it's going to take some more diligent reading of those notices on their part to know and that's, you know, just some of the stuff that probably right now the single biggest issue I still have is that because of my Internet connection, it is cellular based, but it's not a cell phone.

It's a cellular based router. I still don't get great bandwidth to move large files. So our other tech expert, Marisa, your co-host, when I need to move a large video, she helps me out. Moves the large video, and it's done in 5 minutes when it would take me 3 hours to download it and re-upload it to wherever I need to be.

That's the only so far, knock on wood, the only place I really need assistance still from somebody who's land based.

Wayne: So let's talk about working with the team. Has there been an appreciable change in how you work with all of us? I mean, I'm always an idiot, so I still need help, and I still need you know, what I send up a flare, I need to find you. But has there been an adjustment in how you work with everybody else?

Angie: Well, I don't think so. You'd have you might want to ask some of my teammates. I mean, maybe you could chime in on whether or not it's changed anything. But again, because we're we're almost all remote and hardly ever down the hall from each other, co-located, as we say, communication always, almost always starts with a slack message, an email, a text message, a phone call, just normally.

So whether I was slacking from home or slacking from my RV, you can see I'm in my RV right now.

Kind of didn't matter. I don't think.

Wayne: Now, there were some prosaic things that have to happen when we talked to Laurel for a couple of weeks ago, she was talking about the fact that there is a lot of paperwork and, you know, tech stuff and things that need to be figured out. If people are mobile, you basically have a state of residence, right? Or you're still listed as an Indiana resident? OK, so for tax purposes.

Angie: I'm registered in Indiana. I still own property in Indiana. But you might my kids are just paying their money to me. They're not they're not they haven't taken over my mortgage. I haven't sold their house. Sold my house. So I'm still a property owner and registered to vote. And my mailing address is Indiana and all that.

Wayne: Well, I think, you know, the important thing for those listening is it's not just, oh, I'm going to pick up stakes and get a check. There is some paperwork. There are some things. Right. You're an Indiana resident. I'm a Nevada resident. Regardless of where our butts are at any given moment, there's some very prosaic paperwork needs to go on in order to make this a win win and not put a burden on the company. From that.

Angie: So we've been relatively paperless for a really long time because of the inherent remote nature of our team. Anything, it didn't make sense to have papers to pass around. That's why we have Google Drive to be able to pass files back and forth. And, you know, at the end of the year, when Kevin does my W-2, I can just download it.

Wayne: So Angie gets to take somebody by the shoulder who is thinking about becoming a digital nomad, and you get to have the heart to heart with them. There may or may not be a beverage involved in that conversation. What do you tell people thinking about this besides, you know, make sure you have an Internet connection? What are the things about structuring your time, about focusing your work?

What are the things you want to tell people who are thinking about doing this?

Angie: The first thing I would say is that it's absolutely doable.

And it's not without its challenges. It's I can't just you know, we're in Tampa right now. I can't just it's I can't just pick up on a Thursday afternoon and go to the beach. I have to work. I can't just suddenly decide, hey, we're going to up and move to, you know, Fort Myers today. Let's go. Nope. Got to work.

Thanks. So, you know, there's it's not as carefree and randomly nomadic as you see some of the people on YouTube who I don't know how they afford it. I don't know when they work. They don't really show that part, but they seem to just be on the go all day, every day, wherever they want to go. I'm sure that's because that's the part they want you to see on YouTube.

I don't really have that all that freedom, but I would say do your research try and pre anticipate what what kinds of issues might come up. When we were getting ready and we were, you know, thinking about what we were going to do with a I prepared an entire folder that is now our office that's got our birth certificates, our Social Security numbers, our Social Security cards, all of our insurance information, like all of the things that you keep in your file cabinet at home for important stuff.

I have it with us just in case. I haven't needed it, but I have it and I don't have to worry about how am I going to get that if I need my Social Security card for something, who knows? So but it's it's the biggest thing for me is just don't don't put off life or your job. I love my job.

I love working for Kevin. I love what I do and I'm loving my life outside of work so much more now than I did. And I didn't dislike it before. I just like it that much more now.

Wayne: I think that's a great place to leave it. I mean, as remote work and hybrid work becomes more common and people have had a couple of years of enforced quiet to think about what they want to do, let's not underplay the role that covered and all the changes have played in that people are doing the kind of math in their head that you've done.

And I want to thank you for coming on and not doing the glamorous, you know, sitting in Bali by the pool version of what it takes to make this work and we do make it work. So I want to thank you very, very much. Angie Thompson is part of our team here at Kevin Eikenberry. Group. Thank you for listening.

Those of you who are listening to the Long-Distance Worklife Podcast, you can find transcriptions, links, all of that good stuff. We'll also get a couple of our favorite videos and put links to those on our website. So visit us at longdistanceworklife.com if you want to.

Angie: You can follow us on YouTube and you can follow us on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Empty Nest Roadshow.

Wayne: There you go. There will be links to that. I guarantee it. If you have a question, a comment, a vicious personal attack you can reach Marisa and I. Wayne@KevinEikenberry.com Marisa@KevinEikenberry.com. You're a podcast listener. You know the drill like subscribe, tell your friends, blah, blah, blah. I want to thank Angie for sharing her story with us.

I want to thank you for sharing the last 18 minutes or so with us. And please, please, please let us know how we can help keep the weasels at bay. Have a great day. We'll see you next show.

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