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Ep. 202: How this millennial digital nomad has been able to achieve financial independence and retire early with Eric Richard

In his episode, I speak with Eric who is a millennial digital nomad pursuing FIRE which means Financial Independence in order to Retire Early.

Achieving leanFIRE gave him the confidence to leave his corporate job behind and begin slow traveling the world. 

He also runs the blog/podcast Nomad on FIRE, where he teaches others about combining the digital nomad lifestyle with financial independence principles to design a life with more freedom, excitement, and greater joy!  

Listen on to find out how Eric has been able to achieve financial independence and retire early. 

Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for being here. I am really excited about my guess today. 

I’m here with Eric. Hey, Eric, how are you? 

Eric:

Doing great, Debbie. How are you doing? 

Debbie:

I am great.

Can you tell us more about you, Eric, and why you live an offbeat life? 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. So, hi everyone, I’m Eric. I run the blog and podcast Nomad on Fire. So it’s all about combining the principles of financial independence with the millennial digital nomad lifestyle. 

So, I guess I can kind of jump back in my story if you want. 

Debbie:

Yeah, absolutely.

Eric:

Yeah, so I first came across financial independence. 

I was just kind of randomly scrolling through Facebook one day, which I probably would not recommend to your listeners but it actually works well for me in this situation, and I came across an article that was kind of a clickbaity title but it was, “Oh, see how this couple retired in their early thirties and now they travel the world.”

I’m like, “Wow, that sounds pretty awesome.” Like that sounds like something I would like to do. So I read the article and they mentioned some other big financial independence blogs. Like, Mr. Money Mustache, his the popular one. 

So I just kind of devoured all the information that I could on financial independence. I became really obsessed with it. Like shortly after this too, I had moved to a new city and had received a promotion at work. So I had a pretty nice salary bump. 

So instead of inflating my lifestyle like buying a new car, buying you a huge flat-screen TV, or something crazy, I just dedicated that extra money that was coming into savings and investments.

And then those savings and investments, I didn’t hit my original target, financial independence, retire early, number. But I did have the confidence to then leave my job a few years later last year in 2019. I was just kind of getting burnt out from a work-life balance perspective. I had a long commute, I worked some weird shifts. 

So I worked on weekends, I worked at night. And really just wanted a life of more freedom and a much better work-life balance time and be able to travel and to work on the things that I want to work on and spend more time with friends and family. 

So pulled the trigger, left my job, and then I began my travels as a millennial digital nomad and the rest is history as they say. 

Debbie:

I find it so interesting that whenever I talk to probably 95% of the digital nomads on the show, the one word that always pops up is freedom. And that is really what most of us are craving because it feels like we’re being suffocated when we’re a 9-to-5 and we just don’t have that personality that can stay in that cage.

Having location independence and having this freedom is like being set free and now you can do more with your life or at least it feels like that for us.

Eric:

Absolutely. 

Debbie:

And you were able to do that because you had enough sense that I know you’re saying it was really clickbaity for you or for a lot of people that’s why a lot of these articles got clicked on but it worked out really well for you, right? So that’s awesome. 

Eric:

Yeah. It honestly worked out so well like I would say reading that article completely changed the trajectory of my life if you can believe it. So it’s definitely very powerful. I mean I had read The 4-Hour Workweek before. I think I knew on some basic level if you had enough money you maybe wouldn’t have to work anymore, but it never clicked that on like an average salary. 

I could reduce my expenses and then ramped up my savings and Investments enough that I would be able to retire or leave my job like in my early 30s. Like, well before the traditional age of retirement.

Debbie:

And that’s incredible because most of us are taught to just stay at a stable 9-to-5 until we’re retiring. So when you can do that a lot shorter, that is pretty amazing. 

So, Eric, how did you actually prepare for the journey to make this big change in your life to leave your 9-to-5 to have more of a freedom lifestyle?

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. It definitely was a big decision I would say. Like you mentioned, digital nomads, location Independence, and freedom for us are definitely what we’re craving but I did have some of that. Like, I had some fears around it ‘cause most people don’t give up like a stable high-paying job. 

So I definitely had some anxiety and a lot of conflicting thoughts about it. But I just knew that this is what I needed to do at this point in my life. I had just watched a lot of digital nomad-like content on YouTube and one of my friends had actually done a remote year. 

And he would post articles about it and pictures and it just looked amazing. He looked like he was having the time of his life. So it kind of eases the transition I guess and plan for it. I decided to start my travels with Remote Year. So I had a community of like-minded travelers and them kind of handle the logistics. 

So I did a four-month remote year program throughout Latin America. That was an amazing experience, a lot of fun. I spent time in Chile, Peru, Colombia, and then finished in Mexico City. And then at the beginning of this year, spend some time traveling throughout Southeast Asia. 

So I was in Thailand and Chiang Mai for a while. Then I was in Bali and then definitely had some back and forth. But with covid, I just decided to return back to the US and just spend some time with friends and family.

Debbie:

When you were traveling around with Remote Year and obviously you started traveling around on your own, were there any surprises for you that just took you away from it? Like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening,” or maybe there were some realities that you didn’t think were going to happen to you, and it kind of set you back a little bit. 

Eric:

I don’t know if this is necessarily travel-related but I think it was more like financial independence. Like, retire early related. So like I quit my job and then I started Nomad on Fire and working on that is like my full-time thing. But I think my one big surprise is I had a lot of negative thoughts, I guess, about my job. 

In my mind like, “Oh, this is holding me back. If I didn’t have this crazy work schedule I would be in such good shape and I’ll be doing fun things all the time with all my friends. And I would have the blog and the podcast and everything would be going great.” 

And then I didn’t have a job anymore. and I realize like, “Oh, wow. I don’t have this excuse anymore. If I don’t accomplish anything, it’s on me. It’s my own personal fault that this didn’t get done. 

So I would say that that was a pretty big realization and something to keep in mind, for your listeners, just because you have that freedom, really make sure that you’re consistent, you have a plan, and then you have a good system for exactly what you want to accomplish. Whether it be traveling or in your business so you’re able to achieve that. 

Debbie:

Yeah, as much as we sometimes talk about the nine-to-five being not so great, it’s really steady income for a lot of people and you can’t knock that down and it’s a lot more responsibility. 

Surprisingly, when you start doing this on your own and you don’t have that stable income coming in every single month and you have to do everything yourself and you’re responsible for everything so that is really an eye-opener for most of us when we are starting this lifestyle out. 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. Definitely important to have a plan. 

Debbie:

What would you say has been the biggest setback you have encountered right now as an entrepreneur, as somebody who’s a digital nomad,  as a location-independent person?

Eric:

Besides covid-19, that kind of put a little pause to the travels extensively, internationally, I would say one of the biggest struggles is just growing a brand or growing an audience. 

I mean, I’m sure you can attest to this. I’m sure anyone who’s ever started any sort of online brand or venture can kind of know the struggle of putting yourself out there, putting a lot of hard work in, and then just having that struggle to kind of game traction and grow a following.

But overall, I mean, it’s been a great learning experience. Like I didn’t have any sort of background in blogging or podcasting before I started this. So it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been able to connect with really inspiring, awesome like-minded people. I’m sure you would agree to that as well as having a podcast. 

It’s just such a great way to connect with really cool people. 

Debbie:

Absolutely. And the people that you meet in this community are always so interesting and everyone has a really amazing backstory that we can all relate with but it’s always so different and really interesting.

And whenever you talk to each other there’s always that huge connection. 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. 

I think it’s interesting. I tried to be involved in digital nomad and the financial independence communities and also try to bring them together ‘cause I think there’s so much overlap between those groups of people.

We are going to talk about it before but I think freedom is the biggest thing and just wanting to create and design a life-like exactly how you want to live it. So I think it’s so cool and it’s so much fun meeting other digital nomads ‘cause they’ve taken that step in their journey and they’re on the path of living a life that they want to live.

Debbie:

I agree with you, especially when you’re combining both because there has to be sustainability and this type of lifestyle too. I think sometimes there’s a misconception that we just go off, we don’t have any plans and then things just start to happen. 

But a lot of times if you completely just go out there, you have no savings, you don’t know what’s happening – you’re going to end up going back to your day job and be miserable again. So there has to be a balance of both in order to maintain this type of life. 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. Having the same savings and investments as the safety net, that’s so important. 

I would say that maybe the flip side of that too, even if you’re like a really successful online freelancer or entrepreneur, just make sure that you’re thinking about the future and you’re putting that money away in terms of savings, investing real estate. 

Whether it’s back into the business, whatever it is, to kind of future proof yourself just in case there’s like covid this year, recession, or something happens with the business. It’s always great to have that safety net and make sure that you’re planning ahead

Debbie:

So,  with everything that’s been happening now, how have you been able to make sure that you’re either creating more income for yourself or making sure that your savings aren’t dwindling in order to move forward and even succeed with your business? 

Because right now, especially, all of us have to be more creative in this type of environment. 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest thing for me is just making sure that I’m monitoring my expenses. I mean, personal finance, right? You either want to earn more money or you want to spend less and then you want to save and invest the difference. 

I definitely have been trying to grow on the income side and terms of the blog and the podcast but I’ve focused a lot this year on the expense side. Like, I spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia where the cost of living is significantly cheaper than back in the US.

So I saved a good amount there and then when I returned to the US I was fortunate enough to spend some time with friends and family. I saved a lot in terms of housing expenses and it was amazing to spend time with them. That’s something that I wanted to do anyway. SoI saved a ton of money in terms of that.

Transportation, same thing. I didn’t have a car for a while so I saved a lot of transportation. And then food is the other big bucket, just want to make sure that you’re trying to cook meals at home ‘cause that’s a good way to save money as well. 

Debbie:

Yeah, absolutely.

Now, when you just left 9-to-5, how much did you actually save before setting off and how are you able to make sure that this was going to last? 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. So I don’t share my net worth number but I did have like a year’s worth of expenses. I had right around $30,000 saved in cash for the year and that is just kind of what I had budgeted. 

I just went through and had a budget and I wanted to make sure that that money was in cash and I wouldn’t have to sell off any sort of investments to cover for the year. I think the biggest thing was just doing the planning upfront. 

I had some additional money coming in from selling furniture and some of my stuff but then the big thing was just budgeting for the future. So like while traveling on Remote Year, I had a higher budget ‘cause I knew that it was going to be a little bit more expensive and I would want to do some different side trips and experiences like with friends and family. 

My dad actually came down to Peru so I got to do Machu Picchu with him. That was a lot of fun. And then for the other part of the year, I had a lower budget because I knew that I would save money being in Southeast Asia.

Debbie:

So when you were traveling around on your own sometimes it becomes really lonely and we need to find a community, how do you usually find the people that you can surround yourself with whenever you’re traveling? 

Eric:

That’s a great question. I was traveling with my girlfriend so I did have someone to hang out with. And from a cost-saving perspective, I would highly recommend traveling with a partner ‘cause that’s a great way to save on rent, in Airbnbs, and stuff abroad.

Remote Year was also a great way to meet people. So like even when I wasn’t traveling with the same group of people they have a large extended network and Slack community. So I was able to reach out to people through there. 

And then also just having like the blog, podcast, and online presence. I would say that is an awesome way to connect with other like-minded people and you can search for the location that you’re traveling to and just reach out to people and see if they want to meet up for dinner or something.

Different meetup events. I went to conferences, I don’t know if there are too many of those going on right now in person. But back in January, I did do Nomad Summit in Chiang Mai. That was a lot of fun, met some awesome really cool millennial digital nomads, different Facebook groups. 

I think there’s a lot of great resources out there online. If you’re unsure, I think there’s definitely plenty of people out there to connect with then you have people to hang out with. 

Debbie:

It’s such a tight-knit community that when you know one person I’m sure there’s some sort of a connection with the other and it’s really great when you can find that commonality with each other. And even if you don’t, it’s just like the experience that you have which is really interesting and fun. 

Eric:

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like when you’re traveling you can always talk about traveling and then if you’re kind of slow traveling and you’re doing it long term, kind of like we’re talking about before, I feel like, as a digital nomad, you’ve taken that step that you made a conscious choice.

It’s like this is what you want to do and this is how you want to design your life. So I think it’s always fun to connect with people like that and kind of find out what their motivations were and then find out what their journey’s been. 

Debbie:

What would you say has been the best learning experience for you since you became a millennial digital nomad? 

Eric:

The best learning experience in terms of personal learning like something I learned about myself or just in general?

Debbie:

In general or it can be about you.

Eric:

I think traveling, you definitely learn a lot about yourself. I’ve learned that, I don’t know if this is something I learned but this is something that I guess I confirmed, kind of through my travels in my millennial digital nomad journey, I’m pretty routine-oriented. 

I think traveling, you do need to be flexible and very adaptable so it’s gotten better. But I think it’s just kind of something that’s cemented about myself. So that’s an important thing to realize I’m kind of a personal productivity nerd and I like to have a schedule. 

I like to have a plan. I like to plan out my day the night before and that just helps me be productive ‘cause I feel like for me I’m not able to fully enjoy relaxing if I was kind of lazy or unproductive that day. So that’s just an important thing just for me personally. So I try to make sure I have that plan.

Debbie:

Isn’t it interesting that we left the 9 to 5 so we can have more free time for ourselves? And then we go out there and we’re like, “I need more stuff to do!”

Eric:

Yeah, it is funny. I think the difference is so much like working for yourself or working on things that you’re passionate about makes such a big difference. Like, when I work on blogging and podcast stuff, a lot of times it’s super fun. And it doesn’t even feel like work and the hours just like fly by.

Debbie:

I agree with that and it’s really bad because sometimes this is a really bad thing, but I know I need to stop. But when you just enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t even know what time it is anymore and I have to set an alarm for myself to actually stop working. 

Eric:

For real. Yeah, the hours can just slip by.

Debbie:

So, Eric, let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for? 

Eric:

Wow. Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean I do hope to have a family and children so hopefully, that happens sometime in the future. I currently don’t have any children so hopefully, they will remember me as I’ll leave a positive legacy and impact on them.

In terms of like the wider world, I think just spreading the message of the kind of living the digital nomad lifestyle and basic personal finance and people working towards achieving financial independence.

Hopefully, through a conversation like the one we’re having today I can Inspire other people to make positive changes in their life that can set them up for future success and help them design a life with more freedom, excitement, and greater joy. 

Debbie:

So when you talk to people about your lifestyle, about being location-independent, what is the one thing that you are the most excited about when you talk to other people who don’t know anything about this lifestyle?

Eric:

I’ll give two different examples. I think it’s funny talking to maybe people in older generations like my parents ‘cause sometimes they’re not aware of the technology. 

Like, I remember when I first started traveling and my mom was like, “Oh you’re going to be so far away. How we’ll we talk?” And I’m like, “Well I’m going to have internet.” And then I’m like halfway around the world and we’re on a FaceTime call together and she’s like, “This is so crazy. You’re so far away.” And I’m like, “The internet’s pretty much everywhere. This is exactly the same as when I lived in Austin I’m just a little bit farther away now.”

I think talking to other people is just like absolute freedom in terms of how you can design your life, how you can structure your time, and then where you can live and where you want to be. I think people in the digital nomad community are adventurous. So there are definitely some like millennial digital nomad hot spots and very popular places for remote workers.

But I think just as technology continues to advance, it’s exciting to see new places that nomad communities are popping up.

Debbie:

When you mentioned your parents, I was just thinking, “I wonder what we’re going to be saying like 30 years from now to our kids when they say something crazy and we’re like, ‘What?! Can you do that?’” I’m just thinking about that. 

I’m like, “I wonder what we would think would be impossible and our kids would be looking at us like we’re crazy too?” Like teleportation or something – I don’t know.

Eric:

Yeah, it’ll be so crazy to see where technology evolves too. And I feel like for the most part, stay pretty up-to-date on different technology trends. But yeah, I wonder if one day it’ll just hit me I’m like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know you could do that. That’s so crazy!” 

Debbie:

Yeah, I have a feeling there’s gonna be few moments like that when we’re older for sure.

Eric:

For sure.

Debbie:

So what are you working on that is really exciting for you?

Eric:

The biggest thing is just staying consistent with the podcast for me. So I would say I think I am going to try to break it up into seasons. So this first season has mainly been like digital nomad and travel-focused. 

I have talked to a few people that have achieved financial independence or have a blog or podcast about it. But I think moving into 2021, I’m going to shift focus a little bit and I’m going to talk, I think, more on the financial Independence piece and maybe a little bit less on the digital nomad piece. 

So I’m kind of excited to try to bridge that gap and talk to some more people in the financial independence community and then see if they’re going to utilize Geo Arbitrage as part of their strategy cause that can be a great way to definitely reduce your expenses.

Debbie:

Interesting. That’ll be fun and we can’t wait to obviously hear about that. 

Now if our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you? 

Eric:

Yeah, they can connect with me online. I’m Nomad on Fire on pretty much all the social media platforms. Probably most active on Instagram so you can send me a message, comment, a picture, or something. 

And then yeah, NomadOnFire.com  and then the Nomad on Fire podcast. 

Debbie:

Perfect. Thank you so much, Eric, we really appreciate you sharing your journey with us.

Eric:

 Absolutely. This is a lot of fun. Thanks so much for having me on, Debbie.

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH ERIC WHERE HE SHARES HOW TO ACHIEVE FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE IN ORDER TO HAVE MORE FREEDOM.


Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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