In 2014, I had a well-paying job in marketing, but I felt burned out. I was getting tired of the same routine of waking up, commuting, and spending most of my days within the four walls of an office, only to repeat the same process the next day.
This fear I felt was further highlighted because I had just returned from a month-long solo trip to Europe that opened my eyes to the world I missed.
As I struggled to get back to my daily office routine, I kept asking myself, what if there was another way to live that would be more fulfilling? I began to imagine life without financial restrictions. I realized what I really wanted was the freedom to pursue my dreams and see the world without breaking the bank.
With this clear vision in mind, I started working backwards and thinking about the steps I needed to take to get there, starting with creating more revenue streams to comfortably fund my trip. And in 2016, after about a year of planning, I quit my 9 to 5.
Over the next two years, I traveled the world as a digital nomad and created several sources of passive income.
When I returned from my travels in 2018, I decided to resume 9 to 5 for four years. But after a recent layoff, now at 31, I’m officially “retired” from day work. I now dedicate my time to my six current income streams that bring in six figures a year, including my Digital Nomad Quest site and my YouTube channel.
This is how I set myself up for success.
I spent a year and a half preparing my finances
I’ve always been a big saver, but once I locked in my travel plan, I focused on increasing my income and cutting my expenses.
I spent all of 2015 researching how to create passive income. I also held two additional part-time remote positions in addition to my full-time job, which allowed me to grow my nest egg faster.
And at the same time, I also started blogging and selling digital products like resume templates and printable planners on Etsy to prove to myself that I could be successful in creating passive cash flow.
By May 2016 I had enough saved up to cover a year abroad, and with those far sides gigs, I was earning enough to help me transition into full-time passive income businesses. So I quit my day job and embarked on my new journey abroad.
I ended up traveling solo for two years, living month by month in new places while exploring and meeting people from all over the world. I have ventured across Europe and Asia including Greece, Romania, Portugal, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.
By the end of my travels, I had built passive income streams through multiple means that sustained me throughout my journey. These included my Etsy shop becoming an achievement by seller Amazon, creating custom clothing to sell on Merch by Amazon, affiliate marketing, ad revenue from my blog (where I wrote about my experiences) and rental income.
Thanks also to diversified investments in the stock market, some cryptocurrencies and real estate, I ended up increasing my net worth during my travels. This trip finally showed me the time and freedom that passive income can buy.
My perspective on work and what I valued has changed
As I traveled the world, I was struck by the number of different approaches to work. I came to understand that so many of the opportunities I was able to pursue were more accessible due to where I lived growing up in the United States.
In some cities, average salaries ranged from $600 to $1,000 per month. It made me realize my privilege, but at the same time, a lot of those people who were earning maybe less were more present and in the moment than I had ever been.
Many people I have met in my travels have prioritized their loved ones and the things that have brought them joy. Meanwhile, so many people I knew back home were more preoccupied with chasing a fixed idea of business success, a pursuit that didn’t make them any happier.
I realized that there is no right answer to how you should live your life. Everyone’s values are different and everyone has a different definition of success.
I decided to go home and build the life I wanted
When I built my passive income streams, I thought I had “succeeded”. My income covered my minimum daily expenses, including airfare, accommodation, food and entertainment, which meant I could potentially continue this overseas lifestyle for the rest of my life if I wanted it.
But I didn’t feel satisfied with the cash flow alone. I wasn’t happy chasing the numbers, I was just thinking about how to hit the next monthly passive income milestone.
I was in Chiang Mai at the time, and I knew many digital nomads who were very happy to continue on this path. It can be a good life for others, but I realized that wasn’t what I wanted. I was still young and wanted to live my life to my full potential. I wanted to learn, create and do something useful for the world.
So I returned home to the Bay Area in the spring of 2018 to rub shoulders with my loved ones, develop skills, and create something impactful. I started teaching people how to improve their finances, create passive income, and invest through my YouTube channel, Instagram, and my blog.
And after my two-year journey of traveling the world, talking to people from all walks of life, and generating passive income, I finally realized what financial freedom meant to me.
I learned that financial freedom itself is only part of the ultimate goal
Initially, for me, financial freedom meant being able to travel the world. But at some point my priorities changed and I felt unsatisfied reaching an arbitrary number. I had to reframe what my driving goal was.
Now, for me, financial freedom means being allowed to pursue my business dreams instead of waiting for the right moment. It’s a freedom that allows me to take care of my health and well-being, rather than worrying about paying my next rent check.
It’s a freedom that allows me to spend time with my loved ones, rather than working long hours in an office. Ultimately, financial freedom allows me to live a life true to myself.
Sharon Tseung is the founder of Digital Nomad Quest. You can learn more about her from her instagram, Youtube channel, or its website, www.digitalnomadquest.com.
Sharon is an investor and creator who teaches people how to create passive income, become financially free, and design their best life through her YouTube channel, Instagram, TikTok, and blog. She likes to talk about investing and hustling. In the past, she graduated from UC Berkeley and worked for 10 years in marketing at Google and other companies. She quit her job and traveled the world as a digital nomad for two years, while developing multiple streams of income online and through real estate.
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