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Learning How To Be Digital Nomads

Jackie and Clay stare their computers, trying to figure out their rhythm.

Learning How To Be Digital Nomads

Evidently, work-life balance doesn’t just happen because you’re trying it from another country. And we spent most of our time in Paris figuring that out. 

We arrived around 8pm Sunday night (11am Sunday morning for those of you following along from home). We settled in, then tried to go to sleep so we could adapt to our new time zone as quickly as possible. That was moderately successful and we woke up Monday around 7am, ready to start our new life. We did what we always do, took showers, had breakfast, then opened our computers and started working. While that might make sense on paper, 8am in Paris is 11pm in Reno, where most of our clients and business associates are. We worked for several hours before realizing nobody was paying any attention to us and deciding to take a break to get out and see our new city. 

While it felt luxurious enjoying a long lunch in a beautiful city, by the time we got back it was still only 5am in Reno, so several hours before our people caught up with us. When they did, they did with a vengeance though and we played whack-a-mole all afternoon, trying to stay in front of all the emails that popped up. Clay had his production call at 6pm (9am at home), and after that we were ready to end the day and go find a fun place for dinner. When we got back, we still had several more hours of emails to respond to before dropping into bed around 11pm. 

Fun first day in Paris, huh? 

We spent our first week working too many hours, visiting as many local hotspots as we could and getting very little sleep. For those of you who have dealt with the concept of time before, you probably know where this is going. The nagging colds we had when we left Reno continued to nag, and we didn’t have half the energy we’re used to. 

If I can work in a cafe in Reno,
I can work in a cafe in Paris, right?

Not so much.

Our other challenge in Paris is that we weren’t able to find a cafe that seemed to encourage people to sit and work. Instead, they want you to put down your electronics and enjoy your company and your meal. Weird right? I think it’ll be different in Lyon, as we’ve already found several cafes around our Airbnb that offer free wifi (that’s the tell), but we’ll find out. 

We also have to remind ourselves that we’re not here on vacation, but rather we’re here to work in a new and interesting place. Our budget works because, in general, staying in an Airbnb is comparable to our mortgage and expenses at home. It does allow for some fun things, but certainly not all of them. 

Finding our rhythm

Now, as we begin our second week in Europe, instead of finding balance, we’re trying to find what our friend Alison calls, our rhythm. We’ll write and do what we need to do in the morning, then explore the city, have lunch and start working on client stuff in the early afternoon and into the evening. That also allows us to experience cool restaurants during the day, when meals tend to be cheaper. We’ll obviously need to be flexible, as we are going out to dinner and a show for Valentine’s Day, though we’ll be answering emails when we get home. 

This Monday morning, we’re taking the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus around Lyon, something we try and do the first day in every new city we visit — to get our bearings while learning what’s magical about each new home. We didn’t do that until the last day in Paris and we both regretted the lag.

For however many days we’re in each city, we’ll book half as many experiences and spend the other time exploring on foot. In Lyon, where we’ll be for ten days, we’ll book five: the before-mentioned Hop-On, Hop-Off bus; Valentine’s dinner and a show; a walking food tour; the fine arts, printing and Lumiere museums (yes, we’re counting all the museums as one thing); and coffee tasting and making. We’ll let you know more about all of those in our official Lyon post. 

I suspect our rhythm will continue to evolve as we continue to move around. We’ll keep you updated!

Jackie Shelton, APR, is a strategic communications veteran who, after 30 years still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect, so she has stopped trying.


  • Jack Perkins
    February 17, 2023

    I spent my career working remotely, and became a digital nomad as technology evolved. While working from a cafe with free wifi and not-free refills may have an allure, you’ll find it more convenient and productive to purchase the least expensive wireless hotspot and look for Airbnbs that provide a good cell signal (if not free wifi).

  • February 20, 2023

    I rarely have the patience to stay current on reading blogs, but I love yours!! What an incredible experience to share. Thank you!

  • Jacqueline Grant
    February 20, 2023

    What fun to be doing this as a couple and I love that you’re not sugarcoating this. So helpful for those who might want to follow along. Can’t wait to hear about Lyon.


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