Why I Moved Out of My NYC Apartment, Sold All My Stuff, Quit My Job, and Became a Digital Nomad

More than a year ago, I began seriously considering changing my life and becoming a digital nomad. At the time I had a cool full-time job and lived in the highly sought-out neighborhood of Williamsburg Brooklyn.

From the outside, I had it all and my life was great. But on the inside, I wanted more; I wanted something else. I felt stagnant and lost. Settling was never and will never keep me engaged and content. I couldn’t move forward with a life that was predictable and on autopilot. That’s just not the kind of person I am. Plus, having lived in NYC for four years, it was starting to grow stale for me. Noisy, smelly, crowded, expensive? No thanks.

At the time, digital nomadism was on the rise and becoming more and more feasible. I knew some friends who traveled constantly and who had already made the jump into the nomad lifestyle. So in late 2015 and early 2016 I began seriously planning for my own jump.

If you’re not sure what “digital nomad” means; it’s a person who works and earns a living remotely from their laptop via the internet, and uses that opportunity to live abroad/traveling/on the road. People make this feasible by getting rid of expenses and things that tie them down to a specific place, like full-time jobs and mortgages.

I was able to consider this lifestyle as a viable option because I’m young — 22 — and these next few years are probably the only years I’ll have uncommitted to a spouse, kids, or mortgage. I was financially stable and romantically unattached. It was the perfect combination to be able to take advantage of this rare opportunity to explore the world and create a more enjoyable meaningful life.

Remote working as a digital nomad

The Job

The digital nomad lifestyle stood out for me mainly because I knew it wasn’t so far out of reach. Most questions I see online about the lifestyle pertain to work and how to find jobs that allow for a remote lifestyle. My job at the time was very pro-remote work. I got to practice working remotely from coffee shops, my apartment and other countries.

I ultimately decided that the best move for me would be to go out on my own and be an independent freelancer (front-end developer and product designer) instead of having a full-time job. Freelancing was not new to me; I had done it off and on in the 7 or so years prior, so the transition into freelancing and remote work wasn’t that difficult.

Granted, being a successful freelancer and remote worker is an entire ballgame of its own and requires a lot of planning ahead and networking to get new work. Being able to manage your time, cash flow, legal and financial matters is a part-time job within itself.

The Apartment and Stuff

The 18-month lease at my apartment ended August 2016, and I would not be renewing it. In the months prior, I didn’t buy any new furniture, decorations, or clothes. In the summer I began selling off whatever I could, mostly new clothes and shoes that I had never worn.

The last few weeks before my move out date were brutal. Posting furniture and electronics on craigslist, coordinating pick ups, donating or throwing away whatever I could. Trust me, this is harder than you think! I had way too much stuff, and it was both emotionally and physically exhausting to sort through everything, deciding what should go and how it should go. I ended up donating many bags and bins to Goodwill and to The Bowery Mission.

In everything I did that year, getting rid of my stuff had to be the toughest. In the last few days and hours, I ended up throwing away so many boxes, worth hundreds of dollars worth of stuff that was left unsold. I just wish more of it ended up in the hands of people who would appreciate things like a brand new set of Netrunner and nerdy Photoshop magazines!

Once everything was said and done, I ended up with a few bags and a box — currently stored at my moms house. Even though it was tough, I look back and am really happy I got rid of most of my possessions. I didn’t realize that the stuff was weighing on me, and now I feel so free to just get up and go wherever without worrying so much. I am now more mindful of what I purchase — mostly because it has to be carried with me when I travel and I’ve got nowhere to store useless stuff.

“Moving”

After moving out in August, I brought my belongings to Florida. It’s where I’m from and my new “home base”, so I spent a few weeks there — establishing residency, registering to vote again, getting a new ID, setting up a PO box, registering a Florida LLC, and getting new health insurance. Some digital nomads really do become homeless, but it seemed so drastic. I am lucky to be able to have a place to send my mail, to come back and rest for a few weeks before leaving again, and to spend time with family.

Being a Nomad

As a nomad, I live out of carry-on luggage and Airbnb’s. In the months since I left New York, I have spent most of my time in Mexico and doing the conference circuit in the states. This nomadic lifestyle is isolating; no more weekly meetups in the city, no dinners with friends, no running into twitter nerds at events. So because I am not necessarily getting as much face time on a day to day basis, I make an extra effort to attend tech conferences.

I could talk about Mexico all day and still have more to say. It’s such a beautiful and culturally rich country, that I think most Americans take for granted. From the beautiful and warm sandy beaches of Tulum, to the bustling majestic Mexico City, I find new things to love about Mexico every day that I am there. For instance, in Mexico you are constantly surrounded by passion, empathy and respect for the arts, human beings, animals and the earth. It’s nothing short of inspiring.

Part of what makes it so enjoyable is that when I come to Mexico, my mom usually comes with me! She is an independent graphic designer / illustrator and does a similarly nomadic lifestyle part time. We spend half of our time working and the other half exploring Mexico, and it’s really fun.

Honestly, looking back I am so happy that I made the decision to change my life and go after what I really wanted. The stress and anxiety I used to have is now drastically reduced, and I am more happy generally. Travel is opening my mind in ways I didn’t realize were possible, and I feel more free to pursue my goals, live my life with authenticity and enjoy my time with more passion and energy.

In 2017 I will continue on traveling until I can’t anymore! I’m still freelancing independently, eating tacos, and looking for nerds wherever I go. If you’re into the digital nomad and freelancing lifestyle, I’d be happy to connect online or IRL if our paths cross. This summer I’ll be doing to conference circuit again, and this time I’m hoping I’ll end up in Berlin/Europe.


TLDR; I sold all of my stuff and now I live out of carry-on luggage and work remotely as a freelancer. It’s awesome.


I am taking on freelance clients in the new year. I do front-end development and product design on web apps mostly, but am happy to chat about any upcoming projects or needs. Feel free to reach out at work@nicoledominguez.com.

5 months ago

Working Remotely in New York City

I have lived in a small Queens neighborhood in New York for almost two years now, and exploring the city and it’s cuisines by finding new places to get work done is always my favorite thing to do.

I don’t know about you, but working from home or being in the same environment for too long makes me antsy. Before I started working with the talented folks at Sawhorse, I was an off-and-on freelancer. I found the best way for me to focus and get work done was to get out of my apartment and hunt for coffee and a place to rest my laptop. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Get Lost

You don’t have to stay in your neighborhood! Get on the subway and pick a neighborhood you’ve never been to. Explore the side streets. Take it all in. Spend a few moments appreciating the architecture around you. Walk around, get lost and then settle at a coffee shop for a few hours. Find a bite for lunch and then do it all again! Or better yet, bring lunch from home and find the nearest green space. Enjoy your food without looking at a single screen.

Coffee Shops and Restaurants

Not all coffee shops have power or WiFi, which can be okay depending on the type of work you do. 75% of my design and development work can be done locally without internet. You just have to plan accordingly and make sure you have all the files you need beforehand. As for power? Charge up before you leave your home and spend a few minutes Foursquare-ing or Yelping coffee shops around you that have the amenities you need.

I’m the type of person that will bring my laptop to restaurants and work while eating alone. Surprisingly some restaurants have WiFi and power outlets! I make sure to go during off hours and order food that won’t get messy. Most waitstaff don’t mind it at all. Plus, bathrooms!

Here’s a great list of coffee shops in New York by @semel.

Coworking Spaces

When you need to hanker down and power through lots of work, Coworking spaces are your best bet. My favorite one is New Work City on Canal and Broadway. It’s peaceful, inhabited by independent creatives and there are bean bags! Wherever you end up, spend a few minutes researching cost, location and environment. I tend to stay away from the more commercialized Coworking spaces (Regis, etc) — because community is really valuable and it can be found if you look hard enough.

My new favorite recommendation for coworking in NYC is Croissant. It’s an app where you can essentially walk in and out of any coworking space in the city, counting down from the hours on your plan. Yep, that means you can stay in a space for 28 minutes and another for 2 hours, while only paying for the time you actually use.

Be Efficient

Know what you’re going to work on before you go anywhere. It might even behoove you to organize your tasks into 2-4 hour sprints. That way you can make the most of your time working and the breaks you take will be meaningful. Have meetings or calls? Try to make a plan to work around them. If you’ve got errands to run in the afternoon in SoHo, then get to the neighborhood early and spend the day coffee shop and library hopping.

For instance, when I freelanced I scheduled meetings with clients and phone calls on the same day and went to a coworking space on that day because I could use their phone rooms and conference rooms. Also it became an all day affair because I could make the most of the day pass (~$30) if I got there early and left late.

The NYPL

I can’t stress enough how awesome the library is for working… and it’s free! Seriously, New York has amazing libraries that are perfect for working. Outlets galore, WiFi, plenty of seating, quiet atmosphere, cool architecture — what more could you ask for?

Notably, check out the beautiful Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which is open on Sundays but closes early. Two blocks down is the Mid-Manhattan Library that closes late.

Jelly or Do It With a Friend

Round up a two or three people and work together (typically referred to as a “Jelly”). Likeminded folks will respect that conversation and work can happen peacefully. Organized Coworking meetups in NYC happen regularly as well.

Make sure to bring your headphones, a notebook, MiFi, phone charger and whatever else you might need on the go!

You can work from anywhere, if you put your mind to it. So be free, explore, and find your happy place.

I work full-time at a startup and I still find one day a week to work out of the office. Collaboration, team lunches and pow-wows are great — but sometimes peace and quiet does wonders for productivity and clear thinking. Some people don’t work best sitting at a desk anyways.

3 years ago