Chris Backe has been an expat for over a decade and wrote a 250+ page book that teaches others how to transition to the nomadic lifestyle. Hear his story.

Chris literally wrote the book on how to become a digital nomad. After over a decade living abroad and consulting with aspiring nomads he has amassed a wealth of experience in helping people transition to this lifestyle. In this interview Sean and Chris discuss how Chris got his start on the road, flag theory, the most common pitfalls facing aspiring nomads, tips for finding community while traveling, highlights from Chris’ book and more. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Time   Topic
0:01:54   Welcome and context
0:02:35   How did you begin your Nomadic journey?
0:06:46   What inspired you to write the Becoming a Digital Nomad Book?
0:10:00   What are the most common mistakes that people make when transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle?
0:12:50   What are some of the initial consulting questions you ask your clients?
0:15:06   What percentage of people that you work with end up becoming nomadic?
0:17:02   What’s the point of the “What’s your why?” book opener?
0:18:52   What is your WHY with this book?
0:20:19   Tell us about your travel blog
0:25:54   Were your blog and your book related somehow?
0:28:24   Can you tell us what flag theory means?
0:33:57   What is it like to be living a married life nomadicaly?
0:41:21   What do you find most appealing in Eastern Europe?
0:46:15   What is one book that profoundly affected you in some ways?
0:46:25   One person you’d love to have dinner with?
0:46:43   What is your favorite tool or hack that saves you time, money or headaches?
0:47:34   One piece of music or artist that is speaking to you lately?
0:48:32   What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
0:49:45   If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 20 year old self?
0:51:53   How can people get in touch with you?


One Weird Globe
Entro Board Games
Worthy Go
Becoming a Digital Nomad
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Google Docs
Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata
The ONE Thing
Ep 27 with Miles Anthony
Ep 14 with Alex Hillman
Becoming a Digital Nomad Website


Sean Tierney (01:54):
All right. Hey everybody. Welcome to the podcast. My name is Sean Tierney. I am your host and I am here today virtually with Chris Backe. Chris has been living abroad now since 2008 where he met his wife and they have been nomadic since 2013 haven’t gotten their start in the nomadic lifestyle where Chris was teaching English in South Korea, has since traveled to 39 countries. He recently sold his travel blog, one weird globe, and now designs board games under the name intro games and has a new travel blog entitled or the go. Chris is author of the book becoming a digital nomad, which is now in its third edition. Welcome Chris to the show. Hello. Thanks for having Sean. Awesome. so Chris, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got started. You said you’ve been abroad for quite awhile now. How did this journey begin for you?

Chris Backe (02:43):
Sure. So I need to rewind the clock back to 2004 actually, this is kind of where the story starts. I am a graduate of college and I’m living in Lexington, Kentucky. Kind of the big city near where I went to school. And I have to say the job prospects don’t look particularly good or particularly interesting. I was a accountant with the Kentucky state government for a few months. I sold mattresses for a little while. I delivered newspapers finally got a job teaching computer classes at the local library. And these started with let us gentlemen welcome. My name’s Chris. This is a keyboard and I’m holding up the keyboard to the class. This is a mouse and again, doing this with adults here. So I never really found a job that seemed to fit my interests or whatever. So this is now three years, three and a half years after I graduated college.

Chris Backe (03:45):
And is this really what life’s supposed to be like? Just, just eking out some, some basic wages to, to make a life and yeah. So December, 2007 ish, I learned about people teaching English in South Korea and my first thought was, can I do that? Is that possible? You know, at the time you needed a bachelor’s degree in any discipline you needed. A some, some teaching experience of some kind and you needed to be really needs to like kids, be good with kids. And once that’s done, you know, just kind of be willing to go through the process and spend a year in South Korea. So I felt like, okay, let’s, let’s check this out. So I sent him my application and resume and the next day I got a call from the recruiter who asks more questions. We did a little interview and finally he said, okay, I think I can get you a job.

Chris Backe (04:44):
Hold on. And so a few days later we had a formal phone interview with the, was the principal of a school and everything from there was just a matter of getting the visas in place and the usual stuff like selling your car and getting a passport ready and all that other stuff. So I left the U S for South Korea in March, 2008 and it’s been kind of a whirlwind ride since then. Before I left, I started a blog on Blogspot, which is now blogger, I think. And blogs at the time. Weren’t these like over elaborate things that were more like journals for friends. So I told the people that knew I was going was like, Oh, you’ve gotta, you gotta send me pictures, you get to tell me the stories. What’s it like over there? It’s so amazing that you’re doing that. Okay, sure. So one friend became five friends, five friends became 10 friends.

Chris Backe (05:39):
And eventually I just said, look guys, I can’t email all of you individually. I’m going to start a blog. Read it if you want, don’t read it. If you don’t want it will be there for anyone to read at any time. So so I had started this blog as a way of kind of documenting the adventure and yeah. So when I got to Korea I realized I saw a lot of people going to the same, the same few bars, the same few places. And I didn’t want that. For me, I wanted to do something different. So from the very beginning, I said to myself, I want to go to at least one new place every single week. And this might be a new place in a city, this might be a new city altogether or what have you, but somewhere new every week. And that gave me plenty of content to work with and has been a big interest ever since.

Sean Tierney (06:34):
Yeah. So what’s interesting is you did this, but then I kind of think of it like, you know, blazing a trail through the, you know, the wooded part and then turning around and laying a road so other people can do the same thing, which is interestingly enough, exactly what I did with my course. So my question would be, what, what, what possessed you to write this book and why do you want to help other people do what you did?

Chris Backe (06:59):
Okay. so the book is called becoming a digital nomad. It is a seven step process to go through the, basically it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great thing, checklist if you want to think about it that way. It’s a way of making sure everything gets done as best as possible and it really talks you through every element of probably the biggest transition of your life. So I wrote this book because I didn’t know of another book that talked about this transition. And it is a scary transition for some folks. It can look like you’re giving up your home, you’re giving up your car and you’re giving up everything you own for what to sit in a beach chair and Bali and you know, SIPSA mojitos and work on a laptop. It feels really scary to do anything that big especially in what might feel like a very short period of time.

Chris Backe (07:55):
You might go from your ordinary life to a digital format in a matter of a few months, maybe even over, maybe even over the year you’re transitioning towards it. But most of the time the transition itself happens fairly quick and big, quick transitions are probably the scariest ones of all. So with that market, with those people in mind, I wanted to, wanted to create the guide I wish I had when I first became a nomad. I wish I knew what to expect. And in the book I go on a bit more about the, the physical things you’re thinking, like in terms of what you do with your stuff. I talked about the emotional aspects. How do you handle being away from the familiar? I get into some of the psychological aspects as well. And one part of it really comes back to a, just a rule which is just to be proactive.

Chris Backe (08:55):
This is, this is a, a founding statement of the journey. You know, as a nomad you are in control of every aspect of your journey. You know, there’s no one telling you, Oh, you should go here or you should stay here for this length of time. You know, most of the time, like in terms of tourist visa, the government, the government will say, yeah, you can be there for 90 days, but there’s usually way of staying for longer if you want to deal with the bureaucratic red tape or work out another type of visa, there’s ways to to do that. And it starts with what you want out of your journey.

Sean Tierney (09:30):
Okay. So the book you wrote, the book and this is a 247 page book, it’s available on Amazon. We’ll give you guys the link there at the end. So this, I reviewed it. It’s pretty extensive. And as you, as you know that I have my own course, but this is like a deeper dive into some of the topics that I cover in my online course. You use this presumably as a lead magnet for then consulting with people. I noticed on your website you have like a, a one on one consulting practice where you actually work with folks who are trying to make the transition. Like what, what have you seen, what is the most common issues you see with the people that you work with?

Chris Backe (10:09):
Sure. So I don’t mind the term lead magnet, but basically I want the book to be a $10 standalone thing. It’s good for most people in most situations, in most most lifestyles. It’s meant to be used by virtually anyone. That said, the, the circumstance, the ability to put all the answers to every single person is impossible. So the consultations are really there as a way to give even more personalized advice to someone looking for the specific advice to their specific setup, their unique needs, whatever. It’s, it’s more of a buy the book, read the book if you still have questions, let’s talk. And some people, I’ve, I’ve actually had some people message me through the site and they’ve said, we, we bought the book half expecting it to just be a lead magnet that we, that we’d still have lots of questions. We’re, we’re writing to let you know that we’re thankful that’s not what you did. We, you answered all our questions. We will probably still consult you at some point in the future, but we don’t feel the need to. So in terms of setting you up for success, everything you need is in the book. And if you want a little bit more help or a little bit more personalized help, then the consultations are there as well.

Sean Tierney (11:30):
I got it.

Chris Backe (11:32):
Yeah. So the most common things that come up with consultations tends to be the feeling that I’m leaving my family, I’m leaving my friends. It becomes more a fear of the unknown. How do I do this? How do I react to this? And part of that advice comes back to this, your journey. This is your opportunity to proactively live your life your way. So my job is not to tell you what to do. My job is to help you feel comfortable in telling yourself what to do. And when people realize how empowering the lifestyle can be, you are in control of where you go, how long you stay, how much stuff you bring with you. That’s all on you. It’s all your choice. And it goes eventually from somewhat terrifying to incredibly freeing. And that’s a, that’s that’s a mindset change that does take some time to get to.

Sean Tierney (12:34):
So without giving away any of the secret sauce, you know, obviously we want people to pick up the book, but can you just step someone through that decision tree of what, you know, what types of questions should they be asking themselves? I noticed in the book, you know, you say what’s your goal of travel and what’s your why and these these types of questions. But like, how do you approach, like when you, when you work with someone, how do you approach it and what are the kind of initial questions that you work with them on?

Chris Backe (12:58):
Sure. So Oh man, secret sauce. I love that term. So one of the first things I’m asking them is like, how did you hear about it? Everyone, like by the time you’ve gotten to meet, you’ve heard about the digital med lifestyle, you’ve made, it sounds interesting or appealing. It does not sound like the sort of thing that you can just leave tomorrow quick job and jump on a plane to Thailand. You know, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. So you’re still in this stage where you don’t quite know what you don’t know. And my job is to help you understand, kind of get you from don’t know what you don’t know, to know as much as you can to make an informed decision. And my first, my, one of my goals for a first session with someone is really to get to that informed decision.

Chris Backe (13:51):
And with some folks, it’s not my job to tell you you can’t do it. It’s not like I have to tell you you shouldn’t do it. But sometimes a person will not be ready. And over the course of a session they will learn that maybe this lifestyle isn’t for them. And if that’s the case, I tell them, well, you’ve spent 60 bucks on a session here, you’ve saved a bunch of time, you’ve seen that you saved a plane ticket only to get to the country and then realize you hate this lifestyle and I to come back and try to restart your life however you’re living for. So really it comes, it starts with, is this the right lifestyle for you? Is this what parts of it feels scary? What parts of it feel interesting? Where do you want your life to be? How do you want to live your life? What do I feel is missing in my life? What would I change about my life? And I really encourage people to be as narcissistic here as, as they want to be. Because this is about you. This is about your journey and whether that’s for enlightenment or education or just to get a bunch of stamps in a passport, it’s your dream. Let’s, let’s make it happen.

Sean Tierney (15:07):
And would you say like, of the people that come to you, what percentage end up actually pulling the trigger and doing, you know, making the transition and becoming nomadic?

Chris Backe (15:16):
The vast majority of them, 75, 80%.

Sean Tierney (15:19):
Okay. Wow. I mean, that’s, if anything that’s a Testament to your book. If you’ve given some really valuable information, like I see a far less percentage of that in terms of the people that go through my course and the ones that ultimately finish and do it.

Chris Backe (15:31):
Yeah. No, I should, I should also mention that part I, like I said, part of my job is not to tell someone they shouldn’t do it, but my hope is that as we’re, as we’re discussing things, they’ll realize they’re not quite ready. So they might take six months to save up some more money or they need, they need a longer transition period than others might. So this is not me telling them, no, you should not be a nomad. This is me telling him this is me asking him the questions that makes them think and they themselves come to that decision. I have had some fun, I’ve had at least one person that we had a couple of sessions, they sounded like they were really interested in it, but they were had some other things in their life they had to deal with first and the, and I told them, well, you know, take six months, figure out what you really want that apply, figure out what’s working or not working for you.

Chris Backe (16:24):
And if you want to talk again, I’m, my door’s always open. You know, the, the, the notion here is not, it’s not a one and done thing. This is the, this is a relationship we’re building that can be as long or as short as you want it to be. I’m somewhere between guy at the bar and professional. I don’t have like a professional psychiatrist title to my name, but I do speak from experience and I hope that when people finish a session with me, they’re able to use my experience to help them create a better life for themselves.

Sean Tierney (17:02):
Nice. I noticed in the kind of the preparatory section of the book, you’ve got a question where you ask what’s your why? And I don’t know if you’re referring by chance. Is that in reference to Simon Sinek and the start with why? Or is that just more generically? What’s your why?

Chris Backe (17:19):
It’s more, it’s more generic. I don’t think I’ve read Simon’s cynics book. But everyone has a reason for what they do and it’s very easy to forget what that reason is. In my psychology one Oh one class that professor talked about, everything that we do comes back to seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. So on those, on, on some basic level, everything we do comes back to seeking pleasure or pain. And a lot of times it’s very easy to get stuck in a routine because that’s what, that’s what is less. That’s what is least painful or it is it, it, cause it does give us some pleasure. So we go to work because we need money and if we don’t go to work, we might have more pleasure in the short term, but then the bank account goes dry and we in pain.

Chris Backe (18:15):
So seek pleasure, avoid pain, that sort of dichotomy. Really understanding the why is important to understanding the rest of the story. If you’re doing this to, to travel and see some cool places, amazing. If you want to settle into a different sort of lifestyle, you want to get up at noon and go to bed at 4:00 AM okay, that’s fine. You may not need to be a nomad. Do that. You might just need a different job. So that, that’s part of the questioning that kind of comes into plays. There’s something about this, the digital nomad lifestyle specifically that that interests you.

Sean Tierney (18:52):
So what would you say your why is with writing this book? What was your goal?

Chris Backe (18:58):
My why was a, well, to make money on one level of course. But at some level, again, going back to my needs, right? This book is I want to show my expertise. I want to use my expertise to help other people. And on some level at the time I wrote the first edition, this would have been mid to late 2017 which came out in early 2018. I did not know of another book like it. And so my thought was that you’ve got all these people trying to become a nomad, but there’s no guide. There’s no tool really tells you how to do it. So my why was to put out good information from someone that wasn’t trying to sell you a, a fit, a $5,000 course or create a, create a system by which you are, you’re living the digital med lifestyle in their way, you know, Oh, the book is to get you living the nobodies lifestyle your way.

Sean Tierney (20:02):
Yeah, no, and I definitely appreciate that you didn’t you know, impose one particular approach here. You kinda more play the role of just asking the right questions to get people to think about, you know, what they need to consider to be able to do this, which is you know, hats off to you for doing it that way. So I wanna shift gears a little bit. You had a travel blog. Like what, tell me about what happened with this. How did you sell it? What did that, how did that come about? You know, it’s a pretty crowded space. There’s a lot of travel blogs out there. So what, how did that play out?

Chris Backe (20:33):
Sure. So so to go back to Korea in 2008 when I started traveling around the country and making it a point to go somewhere new every week, I also made it a point to, to write about it. And about six months after arriving in Korea, I installed a hit counter on blogger because that was a thing people did before Google analytics came along and I had like 5,000 people coming to this site every month. And my first thought was, Whoa, I was just writing this for friends and family. Who are these people? And I learned later on that some, quite a few people from Korea, other ex-pats, other teachers that were in Korea. They looked to it as a site to learn more about travel and stuff like that. So that was definitely a lot of affirmation that I was doing something that people were interested in.

Chris Backe (21:31):
So I kept doing it over time. I connected and networked with other bloggers, other travel bloggers in Korea and up at one point, the blood was at about 50,000 hits a month. So 2013, I leave Korea. I’ve gotten married and my wife and I have moved to Thailand and I realized I can’t keep writing a blog about Thailand on a site called Chris South Korea. So I started a new site, Chris and Same same original naming scheme there. And after some more trips around Southeast Asia, I realized it shouldn’t, right. We’ll blog about, of lug posts about Lao on a thing called Chris in Thailand. So I rebranded to one weird globe. And the focus also changed a put bit. I wanted to focus on the weird, the off-beat, the unusual, the bizarre the sort of places that tourists may not hear about or may not know much about.

Chris Backe (22:33):
And that was my focus from about 2014 to when I sold it. And 2019, mid 20, 19 after a decade plus, I was getting a bit for our town. I wasn’t really putting in as much time into that project as I should have. And I was also getting really busy working with game stuff as well. So, Mmm. A person I know who has asked to remain nameless mentioned that, that they were buying blogs and I told him about my blog and said I could be persuaded to sell if the price was right. He took a good look at the statistics and the content and came back with an offer. We negotiated a little bit more and we eventually came to an offer week of both live with and once that, once the payments were made, we begin the process of getting everything transitioned over.

Chris Backe (23:37):
So if you’re looking at one weird globe today the site’s going to look very different from what it used to look like. I can’t say really thrilled with a lot of the changes, but it is someone else’s property right now and I don’t have the right to tell them how to run their website. So one thing that came out that came up pretty early in that process was, was my books. I’ve written a couple of dozen travel guide books and itineraries. And as soon as, because the books were not part of the sale, it was just the blog and the, and the website that was for sale. Because the books were not part of the sale. I needed to rebrand those books to something else fairly quickly. So as to avoid any confusion with directions and whatever. So in time I chose the name where they go because it kind of reflected a change in what my wife and I were interested in seeing when we traveled.

Chris Backe (24:41):
We were seeing some places were very mainstream and very good. They’re definitely worth seeing definitely a thing that should be enjoyed. And we also saw that just because a place was off beat did not make it a better place to see. Sometimes they’re off beat and they’re unknown and for a reason. So the, so the focus changed from being about weird stuff to being about worthy stuff. I still have a soft place in my heart for the unusual, the bizarre the offbeat. And it’s also kind of been tempered by looking for what is genuinely good out there in the world. Just because the place has 10,000 TripAdvisor reviews. Does that make it a good place or an interesting place? It just means it’s a popular place and there’s a world of difference between popular and good. So

Sean Tierney (25:36):
Sure. I mean Shangu Bali now and it’s maybe epitomizes that idea. Like you can get a ton of reviews and turn it into like a nomad hotspot, but that doesn’t necessarily speak to you know, it, it’s an echo chamber of sorts. I had another guest, so a question for you. So I had another guest, the founder of nomad summit, Johnny FD, I think he was guest 16, and he wrote a book, but the way he got started was by doing a blog first and then he eventually converted his blog into a book. Was that kind of your process or was the blog independent of the book altogether?

Chris Backe (26:13):
Okay, so what’s on the blog is mainly destinations. Places we’ve been around the world. The book content for both the guidebooks and itineraries and becoming the doula that are all different. So becoming a digital event has one goal, which is to help you become a nomad. The other guy, books and itineraries, the goals here are a little bit different. The itineraries what’s happening with the itineraries, they’re either three or seven day guides. It’s like having a virtual guided tour. So instead of just telling you, here’s a lot of places in a city, good luck. I say, go to this place first, then jump on bus one 45, go, five stops, get off when you see the big white thing, you know, then go to this place. And then when you’re done there, get on the subway, go get online to the subway, go four stops, get off at this place, take this exit to the street level and then go to the next place and so on. So step by step directions from one place to another to get to the best a city has to offer. So each book has a slightly different purpose, but none of it is just repeating blog content.

Sean Tierney (27:29):
Gotcha. But did you, did that help give you an audience though such that when you unveiled the book you now had some people to sell to or was it just purely unrelated?

Chris Backe (27:40):
I wouldn’t say they’re completely unrelated, but writing that, writing the book, writing the books has only partially been about marketing to, to current readers. I’m hoping that books find an audience of their own beyond blog readers. And I, I’m hoping that one builds the other. I’m hoping that as someone discovers the blog and like the style, they like the advice, then they’ll find the books helpful. At the same time, if someone has written or has discovered the books and they like the tone there, then they’ll tune back into the blog to see what’s happening there. So I do hope one builds each. I hope. I do hope each one builds.

Sean Tierney (28:23):
Cool. so something you talk about in the book flag theory, this has come up a number of times for the people who are not familiar with that term, can you just speak a little bit about what that is?

Chris Backe (29:13):
Sure. So flag theory is this term based back to a 1964, I think. And it’s basically coined by a guy named Harry D. Schultz. He was a novelist and this unfunded, and it’s like theory is a diversification strategy to protect your money, increase your privacy, pay fewer or zero taxes and retain as much of your freedom you can. So you look basically it’s kind of like giving your government a report card on what it’s doing well, what is not doing well and then using other governments, other entities to get what you want in a legal way and goes from there. So for example, he might look at, if you have an LLC set up in the U S you might ask, how much am I paying in taxes there? How much am I paying in account fees? And then zero fees, am I getting the best service?

Chris Backe (30:15):
The other phrase that’s commonly thrown out is to go where you’re treated best or to, to stay where you’re treated best. So it kinda, it does, it’s the same mindset of proactivity. You’re looking at what is available, what is on offer. And we’re not just, we’re not, we’re not just allowing a nurse shot to, to tell us or dictate to us where we keep our money or what passport we have. You might be under the impression that my passport is only available from your home country, the place where you grew up or whatever. And I’m here to tell you that if you have a significant amount of money and you want a passport from another country, you can get one. And this is part of what flag theory can get into. You might have a passport from a country that lets you travel even better or even easier than you currently can. You might need a passport or a residency in a certain country to open a bank account there. But once you have the bank account, the fees are lower. It’s easier service, it’s friendlier service, things like that. So yeah, just in a sentence, flag theory is looking at governments as how they serve you

Chris Backe (31:32):

Sean Tierney (31:33):
Yeah, I mean we’re all familiar with diversification. I think in the financial sense, you know, it’s like why is to not have all your eggs in one asset class? It’s just, it seems to me that flag theory is basically taking that concept to a geo political level and not putting all your eggs in so to speak in that one basket, which is very interesting. It was a new term. I’d never heard it before, but it makes complete sense. And I’m actually doing that myself with I have residency in Portugal and that’s the intent is that all stay there long enough to eventually get the passport.

Chris Backe (32:07):
Yeah. So yeah, so and just to, just to bring it even more home, you might have a passport from one country, you might be a resident in another country. You might have a bank account in a third country and you might incorporate your business or have the legal framework for your business in a fourth country. You know, you’re making each of these choices based on how your taxes are handled, how your money is treated, if you get a better interest rate, what the tax rates are, what kind of red tape there is and so on. So this is the sort of thing that if you’re listening to this and you haven’t yet made the transition to become a digital nomad, this is way down the road for this is over the horizon. This is just a thing to think about way down the road for now knowing that you have the ability to go where you’re treated better. You don’t have to stick with the, your, your home country’s bank account. And that you do have many other options that are available. The exact options are going to be based on your goals, your country, your nationality how much money you have. And this is the sort of thing where consulting with people that do this for a living is, is going to be helpful.

Sean Tierney (33:24):
Yeah. And for sure.

Chris Backe (33:25):
And that’s not me by them. I’m not plugging myself to that one.

Sean Tierney (33:27):
Yeah, no, there’s, there’s other sites out there. We’ll link to the one the main one. It just like put yourself in the shoes of someone living in let’s say Argentina or Venezuela. And imagine had you diversified and not had all your money in the local currency. I think you would be a lot happier. So this is just another strategy of how to make yourself more resilient, more immune to issues and like you said, optimize and get the best utilization of your resources. Cool. All right, well let’s shift gears yet again. So you have lived on the road married. So can you talk just a little bit about what that’s like, you know, traveling with your significant other and your, your wife you know, is it challenging? How have you guys made that work?

Chris Backe (34:15):
Sure. So traveling with your partner is fucking amazing. It opens so many doors and allows you to delegate some different stuff. From, from the very first dates we had four, we got married. Travel was a really big part of our interest in a part of our lives. So it was a really, it was really important that I find someone that also liked to travel. And since then yeah, it’s, it has been like nonstop flowers and rainbows, but we have our fights like any couple does. But traveling with your partner makes, makes some things easier and it makes some things a little bit more challenging. If I was by myself then needing to choose where to go next is just, okay, I feel like going here, you know. So when you’re married or traveling with the partner, you are, you must absolutely must consider their interests, their needs as highly as yours, if not higher.

Chris Backe (35:23):
In some cases this comes down to, well, we both want to go to country X, but we, because we have different interests, we’ll go to different places. A great example of that. We are, so we’re in Warsaw as we’re recording this and there’s a lot of lots of Nazi stuff. Let a concentration camps, a lot of fairly depressing history. I’m not personally all that interested in. So yesterday last weekend she decided she wanted to go to one and that became sort of an operation separate ways sort of day. So instead of traveling to the same place, she’ll go her way. I’ll go my way and we can come back for dinner and talk about what we saw. In other cases, it’s just easier to have a person that’s in your life that you to know and love and trust to do anything from like watch your luggage at the airport where you go to the bathroom to just buying and looking at stuff. So looking at Airbnbs, we can both put our own set of eyes on it. We can both see if a place would be a good fit. And one of us might catch something the other person missed. So it comes down to making it a little bit easier to create the life we want. And

Sean Tierney (36:45):
Yup. And I noticed in the book you talked about like the importance of allowing space and like, you know, getting places sometimes where it gives you your own personal space or like you said, branching off and doing two separate activities in the day and not constantly spending all your time together. I think that’s a pretty good tip for sure.

Chris Backe (37:04):
Yeah. So when, when you’re thinking about living spaces obviously the husband and wife or partners, you’re living with them. But I need, you still want your own space. You don’t want to be physically next to them all the time. So one thing we learned pretty quick was that we needed to have at least one and ideally more sets of doors that we could close. So I’m recording this podcast in Warsaw again, and we’re in an Airbnb with two bedrooms. So my wife is in the living room because there’s more natural light there and she loves the natural light. And I’m in one of the bedrooms, which has a nice door. I can close and I can record in relative peace. So she doesn’t have to listen to everything I say. So allowing for some space, allowing for some privacy. I can watch a movie on my computer without disturbing her. She can watch whose line is it anyway on her computer without disturbing me. And when it’s time to, to come together we can meet each other in the middle and you know, it put the clothes on and get ready to go wherever we’re going.

Sean Tierney (38:12):
Cool. Yeah. No, it’s, it’s, it just seems like a crucible. Like if you make it work, it’s probably a really fantastic way to build a relationship. I just know from experience that on the road, the highs are super high, the lows are super low, but if you, you experienced that with someone else I’m sure that it’s just, you couldn’t be closer, so. Very cool.

Chris Backe (38:35):
Oh yeah. And and a lot of times I, I should also mention if you’re traveling, if you start single, if you start the Nevada requests, they’ll single and you’re hoping to meet someone along the way. That’s an awesome and amazing goal. And I wish you the best of luck with it. It is hard to date as a nomad than it is probably anywhere else. Any other type of dating in the world. Part of that is because you’re moving around a lot and you need to create that, connect someone pretty quickly. So my free piece of advice here is to again, make your lifestyle work for you. If you find yourself ready to ready to partner with someone, if you’re ready to get married you know, don’t feel like you have to rush this, don’t rush this period. If the timing of it doesn’t quite work, then maybe that’s fate.

Chris Backe (39:33):
Maybe that’s a sign that you need to chase them a little bit. And they want to be chased. Of course. You know, I’ve, I have heard some success stories of, of nomads that met in the same hostel and then they traveled for a few weeks and then they decided to change their plans and travel together. And whether, whether, whether they’re a union is done or created by an I, a church or a proper wedding or whatever is not as important as you might think. We are married as husband, wife because when we were getting started leaving Korea we were hearing from how in some countries, some hospitals will, like if you’re in an emergency room, they’ll only let the husband or the wife or the spouse, they may not recognize a common law partnership or just life partner. That’s a really backwards view of things, but you don’t want to be denied the ability to do that. There may be some tax benefits if you’re quote married versus just, you know, not traveling together. But you know, consider that for yourself. Consider whether marriage is the best answer for the two of you. And again, you know, you’re traveling, making your life, you’re weighing. This all comes back to the same same mindset. You know, you’re making your life the way you want it to be. And for a lot of people it’s going to be better with someone in it. Sharing it with you. Mmm.

Chris Backe (41:12):
Yeah. So

Sean Tierney (41:15):
Cool. I want to ask you, so you’re in Warsaw, Poland right now, but I noticed from your submission there, your guest emission, you’ve been all over yet. Serbia, Slovakia, Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, a lot of Eastern Europe. What is it about Eastern Europe that appeals to you so much?

Chris Backe (41:32):
Sure. So I, I could probably write a book on this or give a Ted talk. The, the simple answer is that Europe has a ton of history, a ton of culture, a ton of things to see. Eastern Europe is a little bit, unexp is comparatively less explored from Western Europe. There are two other main reasons for this. One, in Western Europe you have what’s called the Schengen zone. The Schengen zone is the area of the region of Western European countries that has no internal border controls from one to the next. So when you go from France into Germany, you’re not stopped at the border and check your passport and getting it stamped in and stamped out. There’s no, there is still a border, but there’s no border control. So you get 90 days. If you have an American or Canadian passport or other first world passport, you get 90 days in the country or in the region, and then you have to leave for nine days.

Chris Backe (42:30):
For Europeans. This is amazing. Just having, having fewer borders makes it easier to travel and get around for everyone else. It means you can stay open only for three months, then you have to leave for at least three months. This makes life a little bit more challenging to, to be a nomad in that region. So the suggestion that I, that I send to myself people is look at Eastern Europe. If, assuming you still have a first full passport, you are getting into each country for their own visa requirements. So most countries will just give you three months on a rival, no paperwork, nothing to fill out. Just present your passport once you, once you land and you’re good. Mmm. I know Georgia, actually the country, Georgia, not the state. Georgia gives you a year up to a year on a tour as a tourist on a tourist visa with no like paperwork required.

Chris Backe (43:32):
At least a couple of people I know have said the act, they also give you a small bottle of wine for free at the airport when you arrive. And I thought fucking amazing. So but yeah, Eastern Europe it’s relatively easy to get around. Because you get three months in this country, you can then go to the next country for three months. You can string them along to be in the region for as long as you want. And if you want to go back into Western Europe, you can tend to ping pong back and forth from Western Europe to Eastern Europe. The other big thing is price. Here in Poland, it’s actually a little bit more on the expensive side compared to the book arrests in the key of the world. But still you know, alcohol’s cheap food is pretty cheap. If you’re coming from a, let’s say somewhere in the U S where you can’t leave a restaurant without paying about 25 bucks a person, you’re going to be floored when I, when like we went to a, to a burger place close to home no better example, we went to a milk bar, which is kind of a Polish cafeteria and I think our, I think it was about 25 zlots for each person.

Chris Backe (44:48):
So about six bucks, you know, food, drink, everything. Yeah. So the, the prices are a little bit cheaper or the standards are still pretty high. Poland has a ton of history here and yeah, lots of, see, lots of do.

Sean Tierney (45:05):
Yeah. I have not been to Poland. I did a month in Belgrade, Serbia that was part of our remote or remote, your experience and yeah, it was amazing. Super cheap. Really had kind of an up and coming, you know, gritty feel to it and I can highly recommend it. We did not make it to Turkey. We were supposed to go there, but that was right around the time when they had the airport bombings and so they actually ended up rerouting. Yeah. Cool.

Chris Backe (45:33):
Yeah. So, yeah, but really, and it kind of does come back to what you want to see, what you want to do. If you, if you’ve been dying to live in Paris, for example, let nothing stop you from enjoying that goal. In terms of in terms of a longer term mindset, right? This is our life. This is what we, this is how we do. And you know, you got to live somewhere and every few months we go to a new country. That’s how we do.

Sean Tierney (46:04):
Cool. All right. Well, Chris, I think this is probably good time to wrap up. I do have a last little part called the breakdowns. Are you ready for the breakdown?

Chris Backe (46:11):
I’m ready for the breakdown.

Sean Tierney (46:12):
Break down, baby. What is one book that has profoundly affected you?

Chris Backe (46:19):
Seven habits of highly effective people.

Sean Tierney (46:22):
That’s a good one. I don’t disagree with that. All right. What is one person that you would love to have dinner with?

Chris Backe (46:29):
Hmm Jesus Christ. Not because I’m religious, but because I’m curious to see what the man himself was like, not what history claims, not what a Bible claims.

Sean Tierney (46:43):
Cool. What about, what is one tool or hack that saves you time, money or headaches?

Chris Backe (46:51):
Google docs? So basically everything that I, everything that I wrote in terms of books was Google docs. You’ve got the collaboration, you’ve got the download as a document, downloads a PDF, just makes writing texts and working with texts. The Latins here.

Sean Tierney (47:08):
Fair enough. Have you played with a tool called Scrivener by any chance for book writing?

Chris Backe (47:13):
I have a Scribner is actually a really good tool for fiction writing. And part of what it does is it helps fix your writers because you tend to write a bit differently depending on the genre and the type of book. So Scribner is actually really in terms of offering a lot of tools that a nonfiction writer like me hasn’t really needed.

Sean Tierney (47:34):
Cool. All right. What about, what is one piece of music or musical artists that speaks to you lately?

Chris Backe (47:41):
Oh, I don’t really listen to a lot of music to be honest. If I ever need to relax and versus kind of need to zone out something I can put on the Moonlight Sonata. That’s a classic piece of classical music or whatever. But I’m sure it is a, it’s a very relaxing piece.

Sean Tierney (47:59):
That’s the, the piano. The Ta-na na-na na-na-naa. Yeah,

Chris Backe (48:04):
That’s, that’s fairly Moonlight Sonata. It’s, it’s a Beethoven piece. It’s, it’s, it’s one of the, it’s one of those pieces that has like three different movements. Each one has a very different sort of sound multi time. You want to relax. You put on the first one. The second one is a bit more upbeat and the third one, the third one I could almost see like being remixed by out by a metal band.

Sean Tierney (48:28):
All right, well we’ll link that in the show notes. Clearly. I need to listen to it cause I got it wrong. What about two more? What important truth. Do very few people agree with you on

Chris Backe (48:39):
Being proactive, consciously choosing everything is incredibly important and remains even a decade later. Very difficult. Sometimes.

Sean Tierney (48:51):
The difficulty of being proactive about stuff and deliberate choosing.

Chris Backe (48:57):
Yeah. Yeah. Deliberately choosing everything that you do of trying to, you don’t necessarily, okay. Schedules and routines and patterns. They’re not bad, but they can be, they can be anesthetizing. It’s they’re, they’re very easy traps to fall in. And before, you know, you go, how did I spend two months in this venture and I’ve barely seen anything. Or I was supposed to get something done today, but I got distracted by this other thing, you know?

Sean Tierney (49:29):
Yeah. I recently read a good one, this one thing book by Gary Keller and it’s super all about that. Like slice through everything else that you could be doing. Like how do you determine the one thing that you should be doing? I think it’s a highly, yeah. Cool. All right, last question. If you had a time machine to go back to your 20 year old self and give yourself any bit of advice, what would you say?

Chris Backe (49:53):
Buy Bitcoin.

Sean Tierney (49:55):
Fair enough.

Chris Backe (50:00):
I understand what it is, how it’s going to change the world. I don’t think it’s changed your world yet. I think it’s been a little bit misunderstood in this aligned but you look at a thing that was once fractions of a penny that is now about $10,000 per Bitcoin. It’s going to change the world. It’s going to scare the crap out of some people who are control and it’s going to be a technology that does much more than just being a currency.

Sean Tierney (50:36):
Good advice. I agree with you and I think the rough edges of Bitcoin will get worked out over time. It’s kind of similar to any disruptive technology when it first takes hold. It’s maybe it doesn’t even have parody with the experience of the incumbent technology, but it’s a completely radically different way of doing it. So I think the people who get it are overlooking the warts on it and realizing just how incredibly disruptive this is.

Chris Backe (51:03):
Yeah. Like if you look back to what the worldwide whim was before browsers came out, it was complex. It was just difficult to make a connection, difficult to find anything to do. And then the first browsers came out, the first pieces of software that let people make websites came out. So as the process of creation becomes easier, there’s more to see, there’s more to do things continue to advance, whatever. And we’re not there yet with Bitcoin, but I do see a very bright future for it.

Sean Tierney (51:36):
Yeah. For the people that are listening who are interested more in learning about that. We did have an awesome guest miles, Anthony, I think he was around 23, 24 episode, a really good conversation that goes deep into the crypto and blockchain and Bitcoin stuff. So if you want more, that would be a good one to listen to. Chris, where should I send people? Where can people get your book?

Chris Backe (51:58):
Sure. So the book is at You can learn more with the book, you can read some of the testimonials, you can get direct links to the Amazon page, the Barnes and noble page, Apple page, whichever platform you prefer. I also write the travel blog at and we didn’t actually get to talk much about the games, but I also do make board games and if you’re curious about those there at And what I usually tell people is that I do have some pictures of prototypes and like description on stuff. If you find a game on there, the two curious about, send me a message through the website and I’ll send you a free print and play of that game. You know, you, you, you download the file, you take it to your print shop or print it off the home do a little bit of assembly and you’ve got a game to try it.

Sean Tierney (52:56):
Very cool. Chris, thank you so much for your time and yeah, we look forward. We’ll send people there and I think we said we’re going to, we’re going to try to do some kind of discount code. I don’t know what that would be exactly. Nomad podcast. The discount code. Yeah.

Chris Backe (53:11):
Yeah. So if so, if you’ve read the book, whether you’ve read the becoming a digital and I book for a not the consulting service is a confidential one-on-one session, just talking to people on Skype or zoom or whatever. The goal here is to help you is to give you advice from the voice of experience basically, and this normally costs $60 per one hour session. For, for the listeners here, I’m going to do $20 off your first session and I want you to use the nomad podcast, coupon code nomad podcast, one word, all lowercase. Perfect. All right, Chris, thanks so much, man. It’s been great talking to you and best of luck. Thanks a lot, Sean.

Contact Details

Chris Backe
Blog or Personal Site
Current Company
Worthy Go
Current Title
Head honcho
Something noteworthy or an accomplishment?
Been living abroad for a decade – 5 years as an expat and will be 7 years as a nomad in March 2020.

Written dozens of travel guides (they’re all getting an update for 2020).

United States of America
Countries Visited
  • Albania
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Czechia
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea (Republic of)
  • Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia (the former Yugoslav Republic of)
  • Moldova (Republic of)
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Peru
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • United States of America
Where in the world are you now?
Kyiv, Ukraine
Where were you living when you decided to start a nomadic life?
South Korea
What were the initial set of circumstances or motive(s) that led you to experiment with a nomadic life?
TL;DR: wanting a better life, which led me to teaching English in South Korea. After almost five years of that, I met a girl and we were ready to try something new.
Was there something specifically you were looking to gain or escape from that you’re willing/able to share?
What was it and did that play out as you were hoping?
The ability to travel, enjoy life on our terms. It’s going great. We’ve had the occasional rough patch or trip that didn’t go as expected, but we’ll be digital nomads for as long as we’re physically able.
What did you do for income/work while traveling?
Oh man, what *haven’t* I tried? Web development. Editing / proofreading. Travel blogging. Writing books. Photography. Board game design.
Did that situation change at all during the course of your travels?
Are you still doing the same work today as when you went nomadic?
Did you find it challenging to do your work from abroad?
What type of personal or business growth did you expect to experience and how did that turn out in actuality?
This could turn into a book or TED talk at some point. I didn’t go into digital nomad life seeking *growth* or *salvation* or some other buzzword. If I would point to some growth, it would be maturity that comes from experience, patience that comes with age, and wisdom that comes from living a life I choose.
Was there ever a point at which you gave serious consideration to quitting the nomadic journey?
Was it hard to re-integrate back into society after your travels?
I’m still traveling!
What can you not “un-see” at this point?
Corruption, political craziness…
What would you say to someone considering taking a leap like this?
Read my book! It’s written and organized to set up to help you succeed.
What’s your best travel hack?
Just one? There’s sort of a calculus that goes into what to pack vs. what to leave behind and re-buy.
Is there a piece of gear you could you not live without at this point?
Any particular routines or rituals that kept you fit/healthy/sane throughout the year?
No specific *one* ritual, just the notion that my wife and I try to create routine whereever we can.
Any ideas for a product or service to solve a pain point for nomadic travelers you believe should exist?
Details your willing to share on this envisioned product or service:
My book!


Sean is host of Nomad Podcast, author of the Nomad Prep eCourse to help others successfully transition to the nomadic lifestyle. Sean is also founder of Problemattic, a global movement to mobilize knowledge workers for good. Read more from Sean on his personal blog or his business blog.

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Nomad Podcast is a series of conversations with nomads, founders and domain experts to help get more people unstuck through transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle. Add your email to get special access to private AMA sessions, pre-release products and other VIP shiz.