Andrae Smith: A Digital Nomad Story

Hey, I’m Andrae, and I’m a digital nomad. 

Until about five years ago, I was the marketing director for a South African IT startup in education. However, as time passed, I found myself increasingly disillusioned with the confines of traditional office work. The daily grind began to feel suffocating, stifling my creativity and I wanted more opportunity to travel than 15 days a year. 

The Turning Point

In 2018, a pivotal moment arrived when I negotiated a short-term remote work contract. This newfound freedom opened doors to a world of possibilities. I embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly, diving headfirst into a lifestyle of remote work and travel. Little did I know, I was laying the foundation for what would become my identity as a digital nomad. Back then, the concept was still in its infancy, and the term itself was not yet a household name.

Discovering the Nomadic Lifestyle

Following a business conference in London, I stayed there for a few weeks and from there, I embarked on a journey that took me to the enchanting cities of Prague and Budapest, where I immersed myself in the local culture and way of life. It was during these months of discovery that I first recognized the signs of a burgeoning digital nomad lifestyle taking shape within me.

Founding Work Wanderers

Fuelled by a newfound sense of purpose and a desire to share my experiences with others, I took the plunge and founded Work Wanderers while still working at the company in South Africa. After my European adventure I had to come back to the office and that reality made me realize it was time. This venture aimed to facilitate coliving experiences for digital nomads. Through Work Wanderers, I sought to create a global community of like-minded individuals united by a shared passion for exploration and deep connection.

Launching the First Nomad Trip

With the vision of fostering meaningful connections and facilitating authentic travel experiences, I embarked on the first organized nomad trip to Bali in June 2019. Armed with little more than determination and a sense of adventure, I curated co-living and co-working retreats, offering participants a month of communal living in rented villas. The response was overwhelmingly positive, reaffirming my belief in the power of community.

Expanding and Overcoming Challenges

One of the biggest challenges running a small business for me was lack of funding and support. For our first big retreat in Bali I invested all of my savings (over $5k) in order to take the risk on the business and make it happen. This was hard financially for me but also from a mindset perspective. For those who don’t know, I am South African and our exchange rate is very weak. That amount in savings took me years to acquire and in one trip it was gone. I was all in and there was no going back.

I had another initial downturn. On one of the first trips I got really sick with a virus and had to go to hospital and get an IV. Luckily I had I had travel insurance which I always recommend to my participants when on our trips as you never know what can happen. SafetyWing Nomad Insurance is our insurance of choice as it is specifically designed for digital nomads and you can pay it on a monthly basis which makes it super flexible.

Despite the initial challenges and uncertainties, each trip brought with it new opportunities for growth and learning. From exploring local temples to navigating language barriers, every experience served to strengthen the bonds of camaraderie among participants. As word spread, Work Wanderers attracted a diverse group of digital nomads from across the globe, reinforcing the idea that shared experiences are the cornerstone of meaningful connections.

The Pandemic

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented challenges that disrupted our plans in ways we never could have anticipated. I vividly remember the moment when business came to a screeching halt almost overnight. It was a typical Thursday, and I was co-working with a group of fellow nomads when conversations about an unknown disease started circulating. Within hours, the atmosphere shifted, and many expressed a desire to fly back to their home countries, uncertain of what lay ahead.

In the blink of an eye, all our carefully planned nomad trips for 2020 were canceled, leaving me grappling with the sudden realization that my business was on the brink of collapse. For three months, I found myself in a state of limbo, unsure of what steps to take next. It was a period marked by uncertainty and anxiety as I navigated the turbulent waters of an ever-changing landscape.

However, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, a glimmer of hope emerged. Fueled by a sense of determination and resilience, I made the decision to pivot towards an online model, offering workshops and live coaching sessions on how to build a sustainable remote career and embrace the digital nomad lifestyle. It was a leap of faith into the unknown, but one that ultimately proved to be transformative.

The Digital Nomad Accelerator

In October 2020, we launched our signature coaching program, The Digital Nomad Accelerator, designed to help individuals create an exit strategy from the traditional 9-5 and build sustainable remote careers. The program was met with overwhelming enthusiasm, attracting participants from around the world eager to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle. I adopted a 5 point system that has helped 100s of aspiring nomads navigate career uncertainty and build their own freelance businesses from scratch – moving from the 9-5 grind into a purpose-driven career. 

Professional Evolution

Transitioning into coaching allowed me to leverage my eight years of experience in marketing and strategy to empower others to pursue their dreams. Witnessing the transformations and successes of my clients served as a constant reminder of the power of perseverance and the limitless potential that lies within each of us. I decided to become certified as a Results Coach through an ICF accredited program and was in awe of the journey this digital nomad path had taken me, not just personally but professionally as well. 

I was also very proud of being chosen as the Digital Nomad Ambassador for Zagreb, Croatia in 2021, being a speaker at nomad events & having hosted trips in countries I visited for the first time such as Egypt & Turkey in 2023. 

Reflection and What’s Next?

As I reflect on my journey over the past five years, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for the experiences and opportunities that have shaped me into the person I am today. Leaving behind the confines of the traditional 9-5 was a leap of faith that ultimately led me to discover my true passion and purpose. I remain committed to empowering others to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle, fostering a global community united by a shared passion for exploration, learning, and connection.

What’s next? We have just launched our online community platform called the Work Wanderers Hub which we hope to use as a platform for connection and growth of our members. We also have some exciting nomad trips planned for 2024 in Vietnam, Thailand & Bali with more to follow. Lastly we have just launched the Digital Nomad Accelerator 2.0 version which has extra private coaching support, group sessions, an extensive online course and a meetup trip for the aspiring nomads in bali later this year. 

Lastly I just want to say a resounding THANK YOU for all the supporters of Work Wanderers out there. As a solopreneur the journey can be super tough sometimes and even the smallest ounce of support goes a long way.

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