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Digital nomads are making the Philippines their very own Nomadland

Many of us may be looking for an escape from the monotony of city life, especially in lockdown. After Chloe Zhao’s Oscar-winning Nomadland introduced people to the life of nomads van-dwellers finding homes wherever their vehicle takes them — some of you may be considering making some changes to your lifestyle. While it does seem quite tempting as the cinematic scenes paints a calming vagabond life, but is it actually realistic?

How practical is the nomad life exactly? And is it feasible for the regular Filipino to adopt as well?

Nomadland van life

This lifestyle is not at all restricted to the confines of the screen. In the United States, the presence of digital nomads has risen by nearly 50% from 2019 to 2020. The creative sector in particular has been drawn to this lifestyle. 

Being a digital nomad and travelling the world, whether in a van or not, has continuously become a more and more common occurrence. The work from home setup and flexible working hours that have been implemented as a response to the pandemic allows both employees and employers to see the major advantages of hiring and working as a digital nomad. 

Nicky Badenoch, co-founder of GENIE, a talent agency which uses AI to pair companies with the talent they require, explains that hiring digital nomads and giving employees the opportunity to become nomads themselves, allows employers to reap more rewards. 

“Feeling and living freely, liberates them to make work that is in fact braver.” Employees are able to explore the world and sustain themselves, while employers are presented with inspired and adventurous workers. 

The digital nomadic lifestyle may not be as prominent in the Philippines, although it is definitely forming a presence in the country. In the Philippines, city worker bees have been fleeing to various beaches to mix their work with some relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Vanlife Adventures

Filipino digital nomads living the #VanLife have also been sharing their experiences online. Youtubers, such as Vanlife Adventure and Geo Ong, provide their viewers with a glimpse into their lives as they inhabit a portable home. YouTube channel Phoebekhins, offers viewers a look into the van lifestyle through a female perspective.

In one of the Vanlife Adventure videos, the title describes a van as a “bahay kubo na may gulong.”

Phoebekins nomad van life

All three channels offer viewers a sense of adventure, living vicariously through the vloggers, as they explore the Philippines and display the full reality of the #VanLife. 

Starting to consider giving it all up and getting cozy in your very own van? Here are six quick tips and factors that you should consider before approaching the first used van owner you may see. 


Choosing the van

Each vehicle has its own strengths and weaknesses. What is important when deciding on what van would best suit you, is deciding on how you intend to use it. Think about what changes you would like to make to the van, and how you will personalize and customize it for your own essential needs. 

Consider the size of the van for both the travel experience and the number of people that you intend to travel with. Will your van be difficult to navigate in tight roads or on off-road terrain? Do you plan on travelling alone? How many other people do you want to travel with? Are you travelling with kids? 


Do you like 9-5 or the weekend? 

It may be helpful to try and ease into the #VanLife by experimenting and taking shorter trips. These trial trips will allow you to get a feel for the digital nomad life and discover what set-up may work best for you. The tests will also help you gauge if you would prefer to live life on the road 24/7 or go out on van adventures only on weekends instead. 


Stay Clean

With all the movement that happens when living in a mobile home, it is always necessary to plan ahead. You must think of where you are going to park your home and sleep that night. Where are you going to shower? Where are you going to… do your number 1’s and your number 2’s? 

It is critical to be aware of all your options and take note of which you are most comfortable with. When looking for a place to park for the night, take note of all free and possible rest stops/parking lots that you may occupy. 

In terms of all things bathroom related, it is possible to have these things attached to your van. Solar showers let van users have heated water in the comfort of their vans, and portable toilets or hazardous waste buckets stored in your van means that you’ll never have to stand in line for the bathroom again. 

On the other hand, if you aren’t so comfortable with doing these things in your van, you always have nature’s bathroom… the great outdoors! If you are still not comfortable, then don’t worry, just make sure to note all public bathrooms and even gyms/recreation centers where they would allow you to use the showers. 

Hygiene is always important and knowing your options in regard to these beforehand (and what works best for you) will help you avoid wandering around aimlessly and save you time on the road. 

This same form of preparation may also be used when considering how, when and where you are going to be getting your food from. Know where you’re going to be eating and/or getting your groceries from in advanced and prevent any long bouts of hunger.  


In case of emergency 

Weather is always a fickle thing which is why it is best to be prepared for anything. Our country can come at you with sweltering heat on one side and heavy rainfall on the other. Make sure to do a full sweep of your van and weatherproof it as much as you can, whether this means adding insulation or ventilation. Pay close attention and patch up any holes that may lead to leaks when it rains. 

Besides weather issues, it is possible that you come across mechanical issues on the road. Be prepared. Enter the road with at least a basic knowledge of your vehicle and familiarize yourself with how to identify and solve minor problems. Proper van maintenance may also lengthen the lifespan of your movable home, so don’t skip out on regular maintenance checkups when necessary. 


Digital nomad on the loose  

Working while on the move is what really makes a digital nomad, not necessarily living in a van. Your work will help keep your van lifestyle sustainable and possible. 

Your set-up should, of course, take into consideration your consumption of WIFI. Having a mobile WIFI receiver and/or antennae may feel like a God send when you are driving through even the most remote places. 

It may be helpful to designate a workspace within your van. Having the things you need, such as WIFI and a work area, allows you to spend less in restaurants or coffee shops to use their internet and space. 

On the road, it’s important to remember that you are still an employee. Discipline is essential in creating a balance between work and leisure. It is thanks to your job that you are able to maintain a digital nomad lifestyle in the first place, so it’s probably best if you stay on top of things. 


Exit strategy 

It may be daunting to think of life after living the #VanLife before you even set foot (or wheel) on the road but knowing your long-term plan and how much time you want to spend on the road assists in your preparation stage. For example, if you only plan on travelling for a short period of time, a simpler van set-up may be more appropriate for you (as compared to someone who has chosen to live in their van indefinitely). 

Having a back-up plan or an exit strategy, serves almost like a safety net. This plan gives you leeway just in case you run out of money or experience burn out from life on the road. 

Part of this is also maintaining relationships made before your digital nomad life and creating and nourishing those that you do make throughout your journey. Having a support system may provide some solace when the #VanLife gets a little bit too much for you. 

Living a digital nomad lifestyle and travelling the country in a van may seem like your perfect bohemian dream. Maybe you have a million and one pictures pinned on your “#VanLife” Pinterest board, but it is also crucial to remember that it is not always as glamorous as it might seem. It comes with its own set of difficulties, but if you are willing to work through them then an amazing adventure awaits you! 

The Philippines has so much to offer both foreign and local travelers, if you do choose to explore the beautiful and magical wonders that our country has to offer then remember to be safe and have fun! 


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