Feb 28, 2022

[travel guides]

Feb 28, 2022

Processing our First Year as Digital Nomads

This year began rather manic for us, towards the end of last year we decided to finally plan a wedding and to set it for early February to coincide with a trip we had planned back to South Africa. In amongst all the planning, the actual act of getting married (full story coming soon) and all the celebrations, we seemingly missed a super important milestone in our nomadic journey. One Year of living as Digital Nomads!


This means that it has been over a year of no permanent address, of carrying all our belongings in two suitcases and our backpacks and bouncing around every few months. We cannot believe how different our life has become.


Towards the end of 2020 we were living in Cape Town with successful corporate careers, but deeply unhappy with our daily lives and the current path we were headed. Now at the start of 2022, life could not be more different. We have more freedom than ever and have transitioned to owning our own freelancing and design business. It feels so natural that this is our lives now, but at the same time we are incredulous to think that it has been a whole year of our nomadic and remote working existence.

How Did we Start Working Remotely?

Let’s throw it back to March 2020, which for most of us, especially in South Africa, is when life really started to change. We were all dealing with the uncertainty and disruption surrounding the newly emerged pandemic. Our company decided, like most, to head off for what we thought would be a month or two of remote working. Fast forward 6 months to November 2020 and it seemed as though the option to keep working from home was here to stay. We decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to travel, live in another country whilst holding on to our corporate careers. We made a decision and set the wheels in motion. We gave up the lease on our apartment, packed our belongings into storage and planned to head off to Mauritius for 3 months. However, as been the pattern for the last two years, nothing goes according to plan. Two months later after some personal health issues, just as we rang in 2021, we had made another drastic decision. We had resigned from our corporate jobs and committed to making travel our future way of life.

How did this past year go for us?

We celebrated the beginning of 2021 in Underberg, South Africa and spent the first month travelling around Kwa-Zulu Natal, exploring and spending time with family and friends. Towards the end of January, we decided to head back to the Western Cape to spend a month in Melkbosstrand. Due to continued travel bans a month, turned into three, which turned into four. During this time we had both given our 3 months notice to our company and since it seemed borders were unlikely to open soon, we buckled down, saved every penny we could and enjoyed living the South African seaside lifestyle. We then ended off our ‘Cape Town’ stay with a month in our beloved Cape Town city centre. 

By the end of April, we had reached the last day of our corporate careers and decided to celebrate by hiring a 4×4 with a roof top tent and travelling from Cape Town, up the west coast to the Richtersveld and the Kalagadi, before heading inland to wind our way back to Cape Town via Sutherland. This time spent exploring our own country has made us fall in love with South Africa and reignited a few travel dreams. We documented the whole trip on this blog. Click here for more information.

Towards the end of the trip, reality started to set in. We needed to figure out a way to make money whilst on the road and so we headed back to Kwa-Zulu Natal and spent the month of June putting our heads down and starting the initial set up of our businesses. This business, our virtual architectural design, ACOARCH is the reason we can work from anywhere. It has been a slow process, with many of ups and downs but we have some steady clients who provide us with work that keep us fed and liquid. We also began the process of redesigning the blog and have over the year shifted our focus and direction a few times. We even started our YouTube channel. (which is we have grand plans for- Watch This Space – and subscribe if you haven’t already).


Towards the middle of the year, it still seemed unlikely that we would be able to head to Mauritius any time soon and so we started to look at other options. We started contacting visa agencies to see if perhaps we could head to Bali. However, something in our guts told us to hold off just a little longer and so we headed up to Gauteng and planned to spend a few weeks exploring while we figured out our next move.


Within a day of arriving in Gauteng, less than 24 hours before flight departure we were contacted to confirm our seats on a repatriation flight to Mauritius. We jumped at the opportunity and by the end of June, we were finally off. Life, however was not done challenging us. Within a week of landing, whilst in quarantine we both tested positive for COVID and were whisked off to spend a month in government quarantine. That experience was very trying for both of us, but looking back we are grateful for the period of forced stillness and rest. We documented our experience and mental health journey in the following blog post : We Spent 31 Days in Quarantine


Towards the end of July, we both tested negative so we were released. We then spent 6 amazing months living it up on Paradise Island, falling in love with Mauritius, working remotely, freelancing, growing and learning.


2021 truly was a year of exploration, trial and error, healing and growth. Looking back, we cannot believe it has been a whole year of travel and working remotely. There are so many Pros and Cons to this life, but we feel so comfortable in our decision to keep working remotely and enjoying the flexibility and freedom it brings.

So what did our first year as digital nomads teach us?

The biggest lessons we learnt this past year are:


  1. How to become comfortable with the unknown. (this is still a huge work in progress)
  2. Always listen to your Gut and trust your Intuition…. ALWAYS
  3. It’s completely okay not to have everything figured out, to change your mind and to go with the flow.
  4. We love love LOVE tropical climates and living near the ocean.
  5. In tough times leaning on each other, supporting each other and filling our days with as much fun and laughter as possible is the only thing that gets us through.
  6. Freelancing and owning your own business is hard. Both mentally and financially. It requires a lot of creative energy, discipline and forward thinking. It can be very demotivating when you are denied work or potential clients choose to head in a different direction. However, if you persevere it is so worth the challenges. The freedom to design your life as you want is life changing.


At the beginning of this year we pictured ourselves spending a few months in Mauritius and then trotting off across the globe visiting a few countries before ending back with our family for Christmas. Did the year pan out this way? No. Are we grateful that it didn’t? Absolutely! Everything that unfolded for us, unfolded for a reason and we are so glad to be riding this wave. We have learnt so many things about ourselves and the world at large in the last year and we are grateful that everything presented itself exactly as it has. We cannot wait to see where our second year as nomads leads- it’s already started off with a bang.


PS. If you are interested in following more of our journey- follow us over on instagram. Here we share our daily life of travelling slowly and working remotely.

Stay Intentional, Keep Exploring & Play more, 

Until Next time, Sarah and JP. 


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