A newbie digital nomad’s tale

October 20, 2015 . by Aaron B

I am sat at Gibraltar airport waiting for my flight back home to the UK; it’s been six weeks since I left. After getting fed up with the poor weather and feeling like it was time for a change, seeing as I can work anywhere from my laptop, I decided it was time to scratch the itch I have had for the last two years… travel and work.

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I didn’t fancy doing what everyone else who makes the jump to the digital nomad world does and immediately gets on a plane to Thailand. So, I did some research and, after reading a blog post about a small town in the far south of Spain, Tarifa, I booked my flights for a month away, to test the water. This was all very new to me and it felt quite liberating to just quit the UK for a month to work in Tarifa. I still had my worries that first, I would struggle to get enough work done, and two, that it would be difficult to keep existing clients happy while I was out of the UK.

If, like me, you are worried about the same, then stop. You have nothing to worry about. Yes, it might be hard to work all day when the sun it out and you’re in a beautiful location. But think about why you’re doing this in the first place. Of course, we have to work, but we should also enjoy the freedom of being freelancers; I know that’s why I went solo to begin with.

Tarifa is the new up and coming location for digital nomads in the EU, being just a one hour taxi ride from Gibraltar, and a short 45 min ferry away from Morocco. The town is famous for the kite surfing scene. As I mentioned before, the reason I picked this location was reading a blog post that instantly sold it to me: I booked the flights straightaway and was on my way two weeks later. Johannes, who wrote the blog post in question, had also setup a Facebook group for all the nomads already there, arriving soon or thinking about making the leap. For the two weeks before I arrived I was constantly checking it out to see what was going on; the community was very much alive, and still is, even in October!

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I arrived on 2nd September, just in time to miss the start of the poor weather in the UK. I had booked my ticket to fly back (don’t do it! Get one way. You WILL want to stay longer!) and the apartment for the month, in the old town next to Chillimosa (best food in the world!). I spent the first week on my own, getting a feel for the town, and hired a bike for the week from the local shop. I think I needed this time alone so I could adjust to the Spanish way of life. There is plenty to see and do; the walks along the beach while watching the sunset are to die for, and no two sunsets were the same.

After my first week I started to get more involved with the Facebook group; this is where the whole experience changed for me. I have been to meetups and Wordcamp London, but this was different, missing the hard sell you normally see. From then on the group would take over small bars and work together, share tips and help each other. This was lovely to see and be part of. The mix of people also blew me away; there were people doing all manner of different things, not just blogging or development.

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The weekends were when the fun started. Tarifa is only a small town, but it really knows how to party. If you like that sort of thing, you will have an absolute blast. The second weekend I was there we had the ‘La Feria’, a week-long mini festival the locals put on every year. We watched the 500 horses march through the town, slipping and sliding. All the women dress up in brightly coloured dresses and it’s just a weeklong party. If you can get to Tarifa for this I highly recommend that you go. It was an amazing sight; we just don’t get this sort of thing in the UK.

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Johannes did an amazing job while I was there, setting up talks with some amazing and bright people, BBQs and sunset drinks after work.

Like I said, I had already booked my flight to come home after one month, but in the second week I had decided I wanted to stay for my birthday. My advice is to book a one-way ticket; flights aren’t bad priced and you will want to stay. I’m sat in the airport desperate to run away and turn back, but I have meetings back in the UK next week, so sadly that can’t happen. I will be back very soon, though (April).

Accommodation prices depend on what you want and where. I found an AirBnB place for £315.00 for the month with good Wi-Fi, in the Old Town and walking distance from everywhere. It wasn’t five star but all I needed it for was to work and sleep. In any case, I spent most of my time working in Bossa, a bar next to the Old Town gate (best coffee in town).

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After getting to know a few people I started to hang around at the La Cocotera, a co-working hostel. This was an amazing place. The staff were amazing and the roof terrace was brilliant for some down time, or just to sit and drink coffee and watch the world go by.

After I had been at the apartment a month, I wanted to move in to the La Cocotera hostel, as I had fallen in love with the place. This was the best two weeks of my whole trip. All four of us in the room got on so well, we worked together and went out together. I will miss that place, and Marina and Veronica.

To all who I met in Tarifa, thank you for such an amazing time. I hope to see you all very soon on the next test: six months out of the UK.

Anyone thinking of trying out the nomad lifestyle, what’s stopping you from a month, maybe two, to see how you get on? Join the group on Facebook and come and say Hi!

If you have any questions or comments, let me know and I will get back to you.