Living on a tropical island for free

| Michaela Nesvarova

They were living busy lives just like so many others: commuting to work, running from meeting to meeting, building careers. Then one day they decided it was time for a change, sold everything and began travelling the world while working remotely. Today Diana Zwerink-Vermeij and Steven Vermeij, a married couple also known as the Digital Nomadz, gave a lecture at the UT to share some tips on how to live on your own terms.

Until 2011, Diana and Steven both had successful corporate careers in the Netherlands. However, as they say, they were spending more time in a car than being together. 'Why did we pick this career?' points out Steven. 'Because everyone else was and is doing it. We wanted to lead teams, have responsibility and travel the world.'

'And travel we did, but in a different way than we imagined,' weighs in Diana. 'When travelling for work, you don´t get to taste the country and experience life there. I was not feeling alive. Regardless all the money and fancy shoes, I was not waking up thinking I want to do this over and over again.'

Websites in exchange for shelter

So the couple asked themselves: What would our perfect day look like? They came to the conclusion that it would be cool to just grab their computers and work anywhere. And they did just that - sold their belongings and began freelancing. 'Once you start deciding what you want to do, things are set into motion. We urge everyone to think about their goals. You will be amazed at what doors open,' says Steven.

Digital Nomadz started their adventures in Mexico, with some money in their bank account and a plan to travel the world and work on the road for as long as possible. 'We felt that we were taking a lot, so we wanted to give back. We began helping locals, offering to make websites or photography for free. We found out that we could exchange our skills for accommodation and food, which would make our savings last much longer,' explains Diana.

'We learnt that you should always grab the opportunity to do something you like. The money will follow. You have to trust that everything will work out if you follow your path. Once we understood that, our projects got bigger and bigger and we ended up living on a tropical island, rent free, for a year. We went from working 80 hours a week to working 80 hours a month.'

'You don´t need a Master´s degree to play your part'

There are three main things that Diana and Steven have learnt. 'First: Success cannot be measured, it can only be felt,' says Diana. 'I feel alive every day. It´s much more important to live on your own terms than to be paid to basically build somebody else´s dream.'

'Second: Life will be tough whichever road you take. So why not take the road that looks the most fun? We also had very tough months with no money and eating only pasta with ketchup, but it was still all worth it,' thinks Steven. 'And finally - something that might sound strange in a classroom full of students - the world is your playground and you often don´t need a Master´s degree to play your part in it. It helps, yes. But don´t focus on just getting a piece of paper. Now fly out and do some awesome shit!'

How about the future? Diana and Steven now have a baby daughter, yet they are in the Netherlands only for a short while before they start travelling again. Do they see themselves living this lifestyle for the rest of their lives? 'We are not trees, we can move,' answers Diana. 'If we feel it isn´t right anymore, we can change it.'

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