Sean Tierney

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  • in reply to: Introduce yourself! #574
    Sean Tierney
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    …and I’ll kick it off…

    • Tell us a little about yourself:
      I’m Sean, founder of NomadPrep and Director of Sales for Pagely, Inc. My first introduction to nomadic working was via Remote Year. I was in the Darien cohort from May 2016- May 2017. You can read more from me on my personal blog here.
    • Where in the world are you now?
      I’m currently living in Mexico City but just recently got my residency visa for Portugal and will be moving to Lisbon on Feb 5th.
    • What motivates you to want to become a digital nomad?
      So I wrote a long post before I departed for Remote Year but the TLDR; is I believe this type of travel awakens us in miraculous ways and that cultural exchange where you go and truly immerse yourself in other living situations is the fastest accelerant to personal growth. Beyond that though you leave immeasurable ripples wherever you go and there’s no way to quantify the impact you have on the locals in all these places you go.
    • What are you hoping to get out of this course?
      ummm… students? 😉

    • What’s something ridiculous about yourself that you’re willing to share?
    • The day I left for Remote Year I arrived at the airport only to realize I had left my laptop on the kitchen counter at my parents’ place. Yep. The guy who is advising you on how to prepare effectively didn’t even make it to the airport with his laptop on his departure flight. Fortunately I had left with plenty of time to spare and was able to run back and grab it but, yea, that’s who you’re learning from here ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    in reply to: How did you handle the phone situation while abroad? #572
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    I had Verizon prior to traveling because it had the best service in my hometown, Phoenix, AZ. I switched to T-Mobile just prior to leaving and was very happy with that decision. As Director of Sales for Pagely I did about 5 sales calls per day so I needed to have flawless phone service. T-Mobile was a great option and worked in all 18 countries I traveled with the exception of Morocco. It’s worth noting they now have a 70% domestic policy that requires the majority of your roaming be domestic-only. I have not actually seen this enforced however and I still use T-Mobile to this day despite having been abroad for 1.5yrs.

    I also opted-in for the optional local SIM program with Remote Year and would put a local SIM in an unlocked crappy burner iPhone everywhere we went. This did a couple things:

    1. allowed me to have redundant ability to tether for data
    2. ability to have a local number

    We were using Uberconference for conference calls at the time and they have local dial-in number options for most countries which meant I had a fully redundant method based on the PSTN (public switched telephone network – not VoiP) everywhere we went. This was maybe overkill as I only needed it a handful of times but it was great in terms of having that confidence that I could always get on a call regardless of the local internet or T-Mobile situation.

    Sean Tierney
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    I highly recommend the book, Vagabonding by Rolf Potts as a first read. It will get you fired up for the experience and once you have sufficient motivation to make the leap, everything else can be made to work and just falls into place. There was a guy in our Remote Year group, Eddie Contento, who has a YouTube channel that is pretty fantastic and worth watching. First-hand blogs from nomadic workers who have taken the leap then documented it are a great primary source to learn about the good & bad of this lifestyle. I run the site RemoteYearBlogs.com that is an aggregator for bloggers from this particular program. It’s got a bunch of non-sugar-coated, primary source info. Other than that I recommend reaching out to people who have done it (and obviously taking the full Nomad Prep course here ;-). Most travelers are super approachable and willing to share their experiences with people considering making the leap.

    in reply to: What are the downsides to becoming a digital nomad? #570
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    I can’t speak for others but the decision to go nomadic was one of the top 2 decisions of my life and has been almost entirely positive across the board. In terms of the downsides I would say the following:

    • Friends and family: uprooting from where you’ve lived most of your life is a jarring thing for sure and I do miss a lot of my friends from AZ but the reality is most were starting to get married and settle down anyways, so the opportunity cost here isn’t truly as bad as you think. Remote Year gave me a whole new base of 70 friends to do stuff with and really revitalized what was a dwindling social scene. I’m still able to visit my folks when I go back home and they actually were just here visiting in CDMX which was great. But yea I’d missing close friends and family from home is the #1 downside of this lifestyle.
    • Creature comforts: sounds silly but the two luxuries I missed most while traveling are my Nutribullet and SodaStream (I know). I’m currently settled temporarily in Mexico City before an impending permanent move to Lisbon so I picked these items up on the last trip home and increased my luggage footprint for the sake of having these luxuries again. If you’re wedded to “stuff” then you might miss the various material possessions you have at home but these things melt away in importance surprisingly fast when you’re traveling and experiencing other cultures daily.
    • Freedom of having a car: so there’s two sides to this coin. I had a 4×4 Tahoe in Arizona and loved the ability to drive up north and go offroad. I miss that ability to leave on a whim and go anywhere at any time but on the other side of that coin it’s been super liberating not having a vehicle to worry about. Your US driver’s license and renting a car abroad depending on where you are is typically way cheaper than US prices. I just sold my Tahoe and it felt great to shed that final anchor and be fully detached. But if you value the freedom of having a car, that would likely be something that you’ll miss.

    Other than that I have had surprisingly little homesickness or fomo from being away from home.

    In terms of what I wish I had known prior to making the leap: I wish I wouldn’t have stressed about it as much as I did. I was 50/50 at one point on doing it when adding up the pro’s and con’s and it could have gone either way. All the counter-arguments and downsides we come up with are largely just fear-based and irrational – I would tell my former self to weigh those more realistically and not let them threaten the prospect of doing a once in a lifetime adventure like this while you can.

    Sean Tierney
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    So I only have first-hand experience with Remote Year but I have a ton of friends in their admissions department and a fairly clear understanding of their recruiting process and who they take. I know they don’t just take anyone. There are a series of gating filters that you basically have to pass before getting accepted:

    • Have a job that’s remote-compatible: if you’re a bus driver or a welder it’s just not going to work. You don’t have to currently be remote for your employer but you need to either be in a role which can conceivably done remotely or be in process of starting your own remote-based business. They’re pretty strict now on the job requirement FYI whereas previously when I went through the screening process they were a bit more lax. We had a few people in our group who never had a job the whole year and were living off savings. I don’t believe they allow that now. 
    • Have the financial capacity to pay for the program: Remote Year when I did it cost $27,000 for the full year ($5k up front deposit + $2k/mo – last month is part of your deposit). Obviously if you don’t have the financial capability to pay for the program it’s not going to work. It assumes you can afford it. 
    • Not have any dependents that would preclude you from going: RY doesn’t currently allow travel with children so if you have young kids it’s not going to work. That may change someday. I know there has been talk of programs for families but they don’t exist today. 
    • Not be an axe murderer: or felon. There is a screening process where you’ll talk with two different interviewers.RY accepts applicants from any country but you have to be a sane person and in good standing with your citizenship to do the program. 

    In terms of tips for getting approved I’d say these things (again this is specific to Remote Year since that’s the program I know – I can’t comment on other programs but perhaps participants of Wifi Tribe, Hackers’ Paradise, Roam and others can comment here): 

    • Just be yourself and speak candidly about why you want to do the program. Their admissions staff is super cool and their job is to make it possible for anyone is wants to join (and is qualified) to do it. 
    • Do your homework and read up on the program from what’s publicly available on their site. BONUS: read blog posts from people who have done Remote Year for even deeper understanding and primary source material. Show that you know what you’re getting into. Having sat next to admissions team daily for over 3mos you’d be surprised the number of calls I hear where the would-be participant thinks Remote Year is giving them a job. Don’t be that person. 
    • Have a list of good questions for the call. This shows you’ve researched the opportunity, thought through things and have genuine interest. 

    Last thing worth mentioning: Remote Year now offers a referral program which enables you to get $300 off your deposit if you mention who referred you. Use the “refer me” link in the footer to claim this $300 discount (disclaimer: I get $300 too in that situation which helps pay for hosting this site. Every little bit helps so take advantage of that if you’re intending to do RY). 

    in reply to: Will my health insurance work abroad? #568
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    This is something you’d need to research with your current health insurance provider but at least most US-based domestic health ins programs DO NOT work once you move abroad. Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna and others all have fine print about coverage being applicable only in US. The good news is traveler’s insurance is dirt cheap relative to traditional US health insurance.  I talk in depth about this on Day 5 of the NomadPrep course but you can get Traveler’s Insurance via various sources from $500-$1000/yr. I would recommend talking with your HR department or your employer to verify whether your current health insurance will cover you but in all likelihood be prepared to terminate that and purchase Traveler’s Insurance when you go nomadic. 

    in reply to: What do people do with their physical mail while traveling? #567
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    There are services like Earth Class Mail which you can use to open, scan and send you your mail electronically while on the road. You just open an account then go to your local post office and put in a forwarding order on your current address so that your mail gets delivered to your ECM address. They’ll open and scan your mail then email it to you. You then have the option of requesting that the physical item be forwarded to you or trashed. You can also set them up with access to deposit checks on your behalf. 
    I’ve not personally used this service but I know people who swear by it. I just had my mail forwarded to my folks’ address and now use their addy for all my snail mail correspondence. I get very few things physically mailed to me. It’s worth going through all your current mail and switching over to eStatements on everything. The few things you can’t do that with are voting ballots (depending on where you live), juror summons and IRS correspondence. For this stuff you’ll need to have a solution but between ECM & family handling it on your behalf this shouldn’t be a blocker. 

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    It’s largely dependent on where you go and how much daily interaction you have with locals. I’m fluent in Spanish and half of our travel for Remote Year was in Spanish-speaking countries so those were all easy for me. Plus most of our time was spent at the workspace with others in the group and doing our jobs so there was maybe only 10% of the time where we were actually interacting with locals.  The Slavic countries (Czechia & Belgrade) and Morocco with its Arabic/French were the most difficult for me. We didn’t do Asia. 
    Some useful hacks: 

    • Programs like DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone are great for helping you get the basics. For integrating culturally and learning languages the normal 80/20 Pareto rule is more like 99/1 in that you’d be surprised how much goodwill a warm smile and learning just a handful of words can get you. “please, thank you, sorry, where’s the bathroom, food, delicious, hello, goodbye” are the staples here that can get you through most situations. 
    • You can use the audio recognition feature of Google Translate to have an entire conversation relatively easily. We did this with our cab drivers in Morocco and it worked really well. Just open the Google Translate mobile app, speak into it in your native tongue and have it translate to the target language. Show the recipient the screen then have him/her do the same. You can have an entire conversation in Arabic this way and never speak a word of Arabic. It’s really powerful. 
    • Google just recently announced some earbuds that in theory can translate languages in real-time. I’ve not tried them and I don’t believe they’re shipping yet but if you’re traveling in locales where the language barrier is steep, those may be worth investigating. 
    in reply to: Any recommendations on packing and luggage? #564
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    Yes. Bring exactly 1/2 of whatever you THINK you need 😉
    No but seriously, you will over-pack. That is a fact. Here’s my best advice on the packing front:

    • Bring only one large checked luggage item. I started Remote Year with a 61″ Samsonite hard shell suitcase and a 55-liter REI internal frame pack. It was just double what I really needed and I ended up paying the $70/mo extra baggage fee on every flight. Dumb. 
    • Having traveled now for a little over a year and a half, I’ve found that 2 weeks worth of clothes is the optimal amount. Less and you’re doing laundry more than you like. More and it’s just excessive stuff. 
    • Bring mostly darks. You won’t likely be separating your laundry when you wash it which means your whites will get dingy over time unless you’re disciplined enough to separate them and do dedicated loads for darks/lights.  
    • I settled on ditching the Samsonite hard case and just using the REI pack. This gives you good flexibility if you are changing locales frequently and end up having to walk a lot with your luggage over uneven ground. 
    • TSA luggage locks have been compromised and are mostly worthless. Zip ties make a great poor man’s luggage lock in this ^ situation. I cover this and other hacks on Day 5 of this course. 
    • Make sure you bring a collapsible day pack if you intend to do side trips. Most of the people in our group (including myself) used the New Outlander day pack. It’s a light-weight option that collapses down to nothing and allows you to do weekend trips without bringing a massive suitcase. 

    You will literally never once say “I wish I had brought more stuff,” only the reverse so take that into account. Last bit of advice: if you know the airlines you’ll be using ahead of time it’s a good idea to research the weight limits and baggage constraints of checked and carry-on luggage. Most airlines limit to 23kg (~50lbs) so plan accordingly. 

    Sean Tierney
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    Yes. Remote Year has started offering 4-mo programs for people who aren’t able or interested in committing to a full year. Wifi Tribe offers a different ala carte model where you buy “chapters” that are periods of 4-6wks that can be used at any point during the next year with volume discounts based on how many you buy. We Roam allows you to go monthly with just a one-month commitment up to a full year. 

    You would need to research the individual programs to understand their policies in terms of suspending service, refund policies, minimum commitments, etc. But there are plenty of ways to dip into the nomadic life without committing to a full year. That said, I do think there is a unique dynamic to a group that comes together having just “burned their boats” and committed to a full year. I can only speak to the experience I had having done Remote Year for the full year but it was a very special bond that our group developed and I’m not sure that would have been possible on a shorter term. 

    in reply to: What do most people do with their car while abroad? #562
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    So if you’re only planning to travel briefly, you love your current vehicle and are for sure coming back, storing or loaning your car is likely the best option. If you’re doing open-ended travel with the chance of continuing indefinitely you may be better served just selling it now. It also depends on other questions like “is it paid off?” “What do comps on eBay motors suggest you can get for it?” And, “do you have a free storage location or a friend who could take care of it in your absence?” 

    Personally I stored my Tahoe at my parent’s cabin and had them start it and move it periodically. This worked great for a full year and a half at which point I realized I’m not coming back and promptly sold it via eBay motors. I had originally assumed I’d be coming back after my year abroad but on conclusion of our program I was still ready for more travel and not interested in returning so the vehicle equation changed. 

    Whatever you do I believe the more you can eliminate anchors of stuff like cars, leases, other possessions, it helps you to make more unfettered decisions prioritize experiences over stuff. The last thing you want is a bunch of open loops around things like insuring a stored vehicle, paying for storage for your stuff, worrying how to break a long-term lease… to the extent you can minimize your obligations and “stuff footprint” over time, the easier it’ll be to make the leap to going nomadic when that time comes. 

    in reply to: How were the accommodations on Remote Year? #561
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    We had 12 months and 12 different apartments on Remote Year. I’d say:

    • 9 were good
    • 1 was stellar (Bogota, Colombia)
    • 2 were crumby (Rabat & Lima)

    Rabat was a Riad and the uniqueness of the dwelling and living in a Medina made up for the fact that there was mold and drainage issues. I ended up moving out of my place in Lima because I was allergic to something there. In all, Remote Year was very accommodating in putting me into a different spot in Lima once it became clear that I was allergic to something in my first apartment. 

    I did a video in every city we stayed that showed the accommodations and the workspace. If you want to watch a sampling of those and get a feel for the apartments in which we lived see those videos here on my blog. 

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    Travel programs aren’t for everyone. If you’re: 

    • Well-traveled and comfortable traveling on your own
    • Have enough time and interest to dedicate towards booking travel, accommodations, activities
    • Are extroverted enough to meet locals and integrate on your own
    • And basically don’t need the “gateway drug” to get you to the point where you can go nomadic on your own

    Then you likely don’t need (and won’t like) being part of a program like Remote Year. 
    For everyone else, this type of program is a great way to “wade into digital nomadicism” slowly and remove a lot of the unknowns and the scary parts. I liken it to having this aircraft carrier that you can orbit around and rely upon as you travel the globe. 
    One of the most unexpected values of Remote Year for me was the community aspect. Going into it I saw the program more as a glorified travel service solving all the logistical issues associated with this type of remote work. That was the perceived value of the program but the more we got into it, the value prop shifted to being squarely around the community and the event programming & unique opportunities to connect with locals and experience activities we couldn’t have done on our own. 
    I’d say the litmus test for this question is this: if you value freedom, independence, don’t need assistance wading into remote working and are fully-comfortable doing solo travel, go for it. If you have doubts though I would explore one of the options for managed remote work experience travel. In my own situation Remote Year was the tipping factor that compelled me to take the leap – I likely would not have ventured out and attempted this on my own. At this point having gone through the year-long program and having continued extended travel now for 6mos beyond that, I’m fully confident in my ability to solo travel. In this way RY served as a successful “gateway drug” to digital nomadicism in my situation so mission accomplished. 

    Sean Tierney
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    I have yet to hear of any of these stories if they exist. Remote work travel programs I think largely tend to self-select for types of people who meet a baseline level of coolness, tolerance, resilience, adventure seeking, etc. We may have just had a particularly lucky batch of folks that got along well but as a group we were very compatible. Of course people will have their quirks and you’ll gravitate towards certain ones but I think this was one of those fears that was unnecessarily overblown going into it. 
    If by some unlucky alignment of the moons you were to find yourself in a totally dysfunctional group with people you didn’t connect with, nothing is permanent. Just roll the dice and switch to a different program in that situation… It would be a shame if this fear kept someone from venturing out on one of these programs. The shared vulnerability and experience of going into the unknown together binds the group in unspeakable ways. The best advice here is to reach out to people from current and past travel programs and ask them this question. I think you’ll find it to be a very uncommon occurrence and an irrational fear.  

    Sean Tierney
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    First, I am not a CPA and also I cannot speak for the experience of non-US citizens but absolutely there are dramatic tax implications (in a positive way) for nomadic “itinerant” workers. This is a huge topic and it’s covered in depth in the intermediate Nomad Prep course but suffice it to say there is something called the FEIE which you should research as it can pay for your entire year abroad if done properly. We have a full 1-hr webinar with a CPA who has successfully secured the FEIE for hundreds of nomadic workers and he will take you through all of the qualifying factors, key preparatory steps and make you aware of the potential gotchas for taking advantage of this program. 

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