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Home Backpacking I’m a Digital Nomad. It’s Not As Relaxing As People Think.

I’m a Digital Nomad. It’s Not As Relaxing As People Think.

by Staff

Carolina Villafuerte has been travelling the world as a digital nomad since December 2022.
Carolina Villafuerte

  • Carolina Villafuerte provides online therapy while traveling the world.
  • She makes it work by committing to early mornings and making sure she always she a steady internet connection.
  • She said that heaving a steady stream of income allows her to travel without a tight budget.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Carolina Villafuerte, 32, a clinical psychologist who has been backpacking since December 2022. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m the youngest in my family and was used to everyone taking care of me. Leaving my small town in Ecuador at 30 wasn’t easy.

But so many reasons compelled me to move. I was inspired by people who had traveled to my hometown to be digital nomads. I also felt that the best jobs in my country were working for the government, and it was hard to land them without connections or bribes.

Before I moved, I became friends with a European couple who had moved to my hometown for a year. They taught me everything I needed to know about building an online presence — how to use hashtags, get followers, and find content people are interested in. I had studied to be a clinical psychologist and I used their advice to build an online therapy business.

When I had a certain number of patients, I left home on a one-way ticket to travel the world.

Netherlands was one of Villafuerte’s first destinations after moving from her home in Ecuador.
Carolina Villafuerte

I left in December 2022 and have since traveled to Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, and most of Southeast Asia.

I have 20 patients and I work 20 hours a week. I also spend some time each week planning and reading journals that my clients send me. I primarily work with people dealing with anxiety, depression, or burnout, and I charge $50 for an hour-long session.

My clients are all Latin American because I find that it’s not just about language, but being able to relate to their culture.

There are some limitations to online therapy — I can’t work with children or the elderly. Most of my clients are between 24 and 46.

Life of limited flexibility

Since my patients are across the world, I have to work unusual hours. I work three days a week from 4 a.m. until 1 p.m.

I used to end my days at 5 p.m., and stay in one place for several days, which left very little room for exploring. Back then, I didn’t know how to set up hotspots or organize my day by working early mornings.

As a digital nomad, I always have something to worry about. I could never be one of those backpackers that say “it doesn’t matter if we are sleeping in a tent, it doesn’t matter if we don’t find a hostel” because I always need the internet.

As a digital nomad, Villafuerte often has to book flights last minute and travel with heavy electronics.
Carolina Villafuerte

I travel with a laptop because a phone is not enough to store all my patients’ archives. I also bring along two batteries.

I plan all my trips and activities around my calls. My trips get expensive because I book flights last minute. Being from Ecuador, I need visas for most places and there is no guarantee of when those will arrive.

Moving all the time and sleeping in a different place every night is hard, too. You make a lot of friends backpacking but the connections are not deep because you likely won’t ever see them again.

I have been backpacking for just over a year, but I feel tired already.

Having a steady income

Because I have a constant stream of income, I’m not dipping into the $10,000 I saved for emergencies. I can also afford to forgo tight budgeting — I eat where I want to eat, and don’t always choose the cheapest hostels.

If I feel like my social battery is draining, I book hotels where I can have a room to myself. On my last trip to Vietnam, I was able to give myself a three-week break because I had saved enough.

I’m currently in the Philippines, and am going to Vietnam for a month to slow down before deciding where I go next.

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