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Real Estate Investing for Digital Nomads

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Written by Micki McNie

 

I meet a lot of nomads who are interested in real estate investing, but aren’t sure how it fits into their location independent lifestyle. That’s probably because most people think real estate investing means owning rental property. A traveling lifestyle doesn’t have to prevent anyone from owning their own home or rental properties. Real estate investing is so much more diverse than that!

I’d like to introduce you to a few nomad-friendly strategies, along with some questions to help you figure out the best option for your unique situation.

Owning Property VS Owning Debt

On the simplest level we can break things down into two categories. In the first category you own the property. In the second, you own the debt.

Owning property comes with the obvious risks of damage or loss of value. For example: bad tenants who trash the place; repair items like a leaking roof or an old hot water heater; changes in the market that reduce the value of the property.

There are many ways to invest in property that range from owning your own home to owning a share of a large apartment or office building (so called syndication). The upside to owning property is that over the long term it generally increases in value, and you can rent your home out when you’re traveling.

Owning debt has different pros and cons. When you own debt, also called “notes”, you don’t have to fix toilets. You act as the bank and the person paying you is the owner of the property, which hopefully means they intend to take better care of it. The risk with a note is that the person stops paying their mortgage. However, you can always work out a deal with them to get them paying again, or you can take control of the property.

How do you acquire notes, you ask? There are a variety of ways from selling a property with owner finance, to shopping online marketplaces where you can purchase everything from car loans to large commercial mortgages. The key is to buy the note for less than it is worth. For example, I purchased a $55k mortgage for $22k, meaning I collected interest on the full $55k and when they refinanced and paid me off I collected the full balance owed.

Understand Your Goals and Set Some Investing Criteria

Before investing in real estate you should ask yourself a few questions.

Are you looking for short term profits or do you want ongoing income?

How much money are you comfortable investing?

Do you want to manage your investment or be hands off?

Where do you want to invest and why?

Thinking about where to invest is important. Places you are familiar with or have people to help are ideal. If you want to invest in a country where you are currently living or visiting, you’ll need to carefully investigate the laws and tax implications. Maybe you just want to invest where the best opportunities for you are, in which case connecting with local investors in that area is a great start.

Start Investing!

Real estate is a highly creative industry. There are any number of ways to invest and make money, it just takes some education to know where to look for opportunities and how to manage your risk. So where do you start?

Biggerpockets.com has a great podcast that talks about all sorts of investing strategies. When you hear one you like, take a deep dive into that topic and reach out to some people who are already doing it. Real estate investors are some of the most generous people I know, always happy to talk about their success and share what they’ve learned.

I’ve dabbled in all these strategies and am still learning more, so if you ever want to talk about real estate and what might work for you, I’m happy to chat!

Micki McNie has been working and investing in real estate since 2011 and manages Big Why Real Estate. She is passionate about creating financial freedom through real estate investing, and loves helping others do the same. Her favourite thing to do is to turn neglected buildings into beautiful, useful spaces again. You can reach her at micki@33zenlane.com.

An Interview with Jennifer Lachs, Founder of the Digital Nomad Girls Community

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Entrepreneur and founder of the ‘Digital Nomad Girls’ community, Jennifer Lachs is nothing but positive energy!

At Sun and Co. we had the pleasure to host her community of remote workers and female entrepreneurs twice already, and she’s coming back for the third time in June 2019 to run her Digital Nomad Girls Retreat.. Guess where? At Sun and Co. in Javea, of course 🙂

We sat down with Jennifer to talk about how she got the inspiration to start her business, the joys and challenges of life on the road, and how her view of ‘digital nomadism’ has changed with time.

Without saying anything about work, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you value.

I’m a bit of a contradiction actually. In a way I’m a free spirit, but I also have a very analytical, scientific mind. I’m an adventurer, but also a chicken. I love backpacking, exploring all corners of the world but am happiest in Disneyland.

I value friendship and connection, freedom of choice, freedom to explore and the freedom to learn new skills and reinvent myself.

I love food and think it’s one of the greatest pleasures in life to discover new dishes from around the world. My favourite dishes are ceviche, soup dumplings and laksa soup but I love everything to do with noodles or dumplings.

So, what do you do that allows you to be location independent?

It’s a long story, but now I run my own business called Digital Nomad Girls. It’s a community that brings together location independent women from around the world. I’ve run retreats and also have a membership site ‘The DNG Inner Circle’, a virtual coworking community that travels with you.

In the past I was a chemist and then became a freelancer after backpacking and gallivanting around the world for nearly 2 years.

What inspired you to start Digital Nomad Girls? Did it come from a lack of representation or more of a longing to create community?

To be honest, a bit of both. After travelling for a good few years I was really missing having close girl friends. And at the same time I noticed I was often the only girl at coworking spaces or digital nomad events. The online business world can also be quite loud and a bit overwhelming for women I think. So I had the idea to start a Facebook group to meet other girls who were trying to do the same thing as me. And it seemed there was a big need for it at the time.

How would you say that working remotely has impacted your life?

Wow, it has completely changed it. I studied chemistry and have a PhD in it too, so most of my 20s were spent in research labs and immersed in academia. Once I broke free from this to travel the world I knew there was no way back really. Being able to work remotely has opened so many doors. I think if I hadn’t discovered the digital nomad lifestyle I would either be working in a chemistry job I’d resent or be stuck in the work-save-money-travel cycle.

But more than that, working remotely has allowed me to meet hundreds of amazing women (and men) from all over the world, make new friends and even become an entrepreneur. It’s opened a lot of doors for me.

What’s the biggest thing you struggle with while on the road?

Well there are a few things actually, and I think it’s super important to talk about the ups and downs of this lifestyle. Work-life balance and productivity are definitely big challenges but if I had to pick just one thing I’d say it’s a lack of community. Thankfully, I am meeting incredible people all the time and I make new friends quite easily. But it’s hard to have to say goodbye to new friends all the time, and it doesn’t really get easier. That’s why online communities are so important for us digital nomads.

You’ve been here with us at Sun and Co. a few times. How would you describe your experience here to someone who is on the fence about coliving?

Yes, twice already! And well, I’m a little biased because I think you guys are amazing and that Sun and Co is incredible. Apart from the beautiful house and the lovely town (seriously, Javea is dead cute) I think you’d struggle to find many coliving spaces that care so much about their colivers. As soon as you arrive at Sun and Co you feel like you’ve arrived home. The other colivers were always super friendly and open, the vibe is very relaxed, no-pressure but fun and a bit adventurous. I would love to spend time at Sun and Co every year, to get lots of work done and hang out with awesome people.

If you’re on the fence, don’t even think about it anymore and just book! I can’t think of a single thing that I don’t like about Sun and Co. Oh well, maybe that there isn’t one in every city.

Being a digital nomad full-time can sometimes be hard. How would you explain your personal transition over the years from constantly traveling to choosing one place as your “home base”?

Yes it can definitely be exhausting. I think after 3 years of almost full time travel including 1 year of jumping from city to city every month while working basically full-time, I needed a break. It’s hard for a digital nomad to say, ok, I’m staying here for a while and I won’t move. But you have to listen to yourself and your body. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with travelling slowly, or having a home base. I think that’s so important to know.

At the same time, what I am experiencing now is that it’s equally important to listen to yourself when it’s time to move on. It’s easy to get comfortable and get used to your routine. But too much of that is also not good and I noticed over the past months that I was getting itchy feet. I was nervous to hit the road again full-time but since booking the flights I am just excited to travel more again and explore new countries.

When do you feel you’re happiest?

Woah, that’s an awesome question. I think when I am meeting new people and making new friends. When I’m connecting with people who have similar dreams and goals as me. I think some of my happiest weeks have been during the DNG retreats, two of which were in Javea.

Oh and when I eat really good food with my boyfriend Simon.

What is one thing you wish you knew before starting your location independent journey?

There’s no right or wrong way to be a digital nomad and travel. Don’t listen to the gurus, to people who want to teach you how to live this life. You have to figure it out yourself and your travel style also adapts over time.

One thing you can’t leave home without?

Oh so many. My ear plugs and sleeping mask for practical items and my hula hoop for fun.

Imagine that you had one month to travel anywhere in the world (money not being an issue), where would you go and why?

Such a hard question. (20 minutes later…) My first thought was India but it’s such a cheap destination that I think I’ll go with Italy. I absolutely adore Italy and would love to drive around for a month, take cooking classes, stay in little villas, eat cheese and drink wine all day. Sounds like a dream.

Or for something more exotic, definitely Japan. I’d love to see the cherry blossoms and eat my way around the country.

Lastly, where do you see yourself/what do you see yourself doing one year from now?

One year from now I might still be in Mexico or maybe in the States on a road trip. I’ll still be working on DNG and my membership site, the DNG Inner Circle, and I’ll be organising a retreat in Mexico. Or maybe I’ll be back in Europe and living in Sicily for a few months.

Rapid Fire

Window or aisle?  Window

Carryon or overweight?  Overweight!

Favorite city you’ve visited? Sydney

Favorite tool for remote work? Asana and Bear

What song do you currently have on repeat? The Moana soundtrack

Anything else you want to share?

I’m so glad that there are spaces and communities like Sun and Co. who make the digital nomad experience so much easier and more fun. Thanks for what you do guys and I can’t wait to return soon!

Where can we find you on the web and social media?

You can find me on my website digitalnomadgirls.com, on Instagram and in my Facebook Group.  

Interested in joining the next Digital Nomad Girls retreat in Javea? Get in touch with Jenny and mention you’ve heard of her through Sun and Co. to get €200 off the normal price ticket!

What being a digital nomad means for your taxes

What Being a Digital Nomad Means for Your Taxes

By | Business, Digital Nomad, Guest Blog | No Comments

As a digital nomad, what are the tax issues that you need to be aware of? How is income reported, what provisions are there for full-time travelers, and what are the pitfalls? While location independent work is on the rise, tax regulations struggle to keep up with it and there are still a lot of grey areas in the matter. Regulations also vary greatly from country to country, so it’s always recommended to do some research of your own or talk to a tax professional.

However, if you are a US citizen digital nomad you’re in luck! We spoke with Krystal Pino, seasoned accountant, digital nomad and founder of Nomad Tax, a firm dedicated serving the nomad community when it comes to small business and personal tax issues.

Keep reading to find out Krystal’s recommendations when it comes to dealing with taxes for US digital nomads.

Krystal Pino

 

Making a Federal Case Out Of It

First and foremost: the foreign earned income exclusion (FEIE). The tax code provision states that if you are outside of the United States for either a set number of days, or you’re considered a resident of another country, you could be exempt from paying federal income taxes on a portion of your income ($103,900 for 2018 and $104,100 for 2019). Hold your horses though, it’s not automatic simply because you’ve decided to travel. There are tests that need to be met.

First is either the bona fide resident test or the physical presence test. Under the bona fide resident test, you’re considered exempt should you qualify as a resident of another country for a full calendar year. For those of us constantly on the move, there’s the physical presence test (PPT). Under the PPT, you need to be outside of the United States for 330 out of 365 rolling days (which means you can use any 365 day period, not just January-December).

Once you pass the PPT, the next thing the Internal Revenue Service wants to know is where your tax home is. For our FEIE purposes, this tax home is not your residence, or abode (discussed later), but rather refers to how and where you make your money. If you’re self employed, you make your money wherever you are. Congrats, you’ve passed the second test!

W-2 employees take a little bit of an extra look at the nature of their work and assignment. You’re going to have to convince the IRS that your remote work is for the benefit of your employer and not only personal. Not impossible, but it weakens your case for the FEIE.

But wait! We’re not done yet!
The last thing the IRS takes a look at is what is called your ‘abode’. This is a referral to your social, family, and economic ties to the United States. Own a home in the US and not renting it out? Still voting in local elections? Have a car registered? Strong family ties? While none of these automatically disqualify you from the FEIE, they could potentially weaken your case that the US is not your permanent home, and this lifestyle of travel is only temporary for you and you’re trying to get out of paying taxes for a bit.

Self(ish) Employment Taxes

Another important thing to note when considering the FEIE is that it only applies to FEDERAL income taxes. None of us are exempt from paying social security and Medicare taxes. Good news for W-2s: you get to split this with your employer, and it is already taken care of for you. Those of us who are self employed are responsible for the full burden (12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% Medicare), although a credit is offered for half. Self employed and don’t want to deal with SE tax? You can mitigate your SE tax by setting up your business as an S Corporation, but this does subject you additional tax filings.

State of Affairs

So, what about state taxes? While some states do have foreign earned income exclusion provisions, most of the time you’ll still be subject to state taxes. Traveling full time? CA, CT, DE, ID, MN, MO, NY, OK, OR, and WV all offer safe harbor provisions, provided you’re out of the state for a number of days and subject to other residency requirements.

State residency is another hot topic among US digital nomads and something my firm looks at intently. Residency can be both hard to break and to establish, especially when trying to do it from overseas. Thus, consider it before you leave or talk to someone who’s already done all the leg work.

Deductions Reasoning

Finally, another frequent question I get is “what can I deduct?” 
If you’re a W-2 employee: nothing. Sorry. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act basically got rid of anything you could previously deduct.
For self-employed individuals, the answer is: it depends. First, consider the nature of your business and the nature of your travel. The IRS states heavily that business expenses must have a clear business purpose, and nothing that is considered personal is allowed. What you can deduct include coworking space fees, trips made specifically for client/business work, meals with clients, and professional fees, which are still deductible simply as if you were sitting still.

Congratulations, you made it this far! Dealing with taxes can be daunting, but it should be on your top priority list when planning your life on the road.

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5 Tips to Hire Top Talents For Your Remote Team

5 Tips to Hire Top Talents For Your Remote Team

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Going remote can be daunting at first when you want to build and scale a business or agency, but as long as you hire the right team members straight off the bat, you’re well on the road to success. The top talents aren’t drifters; rather, they’ll stick around for the long haul, which is exactly what you want.

However, the hiring process has for a long time saddled all businesses. When we don’t hire the right people, productivity slows down, morale drops, and we have to spend money repeating the process until we get the right person in.

The last thing we want is to hire an individual who suddenly vanishes from the online world.

For your company to be a success, you need to bring the A-players to your team. The thing is that, with everyone working remotely, you might need to be a bit more creative with how you identify and “seduce” the top talent.

Let’s take a look at 5 tips to hire top talents for your remote team.

 

5 Tips to Hire Top Talents For Your Remote Team

Know Where to Look

There are a variety of places to look for remote workers, from Craigslist to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is one of the best places to find your next hire because you get the advantage of seeing an individuals resume, testimonials and credentials there and then. Plus, they’re just a DM away. If you do decide to use LinkedIn, switching to a recruiters account gives you access to perks that a regular account doesn’t have. Then, you need to use keywords like “remote graphic designer” to find potential hires.

Moreover, if a talent really is the best talent, it’s highly likely that they’ll be on LinkedIn. And they’ll probably have examples of their work for you to browse.

Global freelance platforms like Upwork and Freelancer are worth taking a look at, too. These hubs allow clients to post jobs — long term or short term — and multiple businesses have used them to hire the best talent. The problem is that, while there are top-rated remote workers on these sites, there are also lots of dead wood, too. As such, it might take you some time before you find the right person for the right job. However, these platforms allow clients to give freelancers feedback and scores so that you can take a look at an applicants profile to determine how skillful, motivated and reliable they’ll be for you.

 

Outline Your Why

The best remote workers don’t have to work for you. Unlike an office worker who might be terrified of being made redundant because they’ll never find another job, the best remote workers always have other clients they can work for.

This is why you need to sell the job to them.

Outline your company’s ‘Why’. Why should someone work for you? Share your company’s vision with remote workers. Explain your purpose and where your company is heading. What are the perks of working for you? Why should the best talent choose you?

The more attractive you can make your company appear, the easier it will be for the top talent to want to be a part of your future.

 

Go for the Experience

When assessing who is right and who isn’t for your team, it’s a good idea to take a look at how experienced the remote worker is. This doesn’t simply mean how experienced they are in terms of the role — it also means how experienced they are as a remote worker.

For example, if someone has literally just started working remotely, it might not always be the best idea to hire them. They could be a starstruck remote worker who quit the 9-5 grind in the hopes that working remotely would bring them a better work/life balance. Ultimately, however, they have no track record and you don’t know how motivated they’ll be as a remote worker.

Instead, it’s much safer to go for remote workers who already have a proven track record working remotely. If they’ve been doing this for 2+ years now and have strong testimonials to back them up, they’re well worth considering over young pups who may end up like rabbits caught in headlights. They might be good at what they do, but are you taking a gamble?

 

Assign a Test Project

When hiring a remote worker, it’s typical for a company to assign the candidates a test project first. This gives you a better insight into the quality of their work, as well as the speed at which they work. Turnaround time is key, so it makes sense to test each candidate first with a small (but paid) project.

 

Be Communicative

The top talent wants to see a few things from a prospective company they might work for before they commit. One of them is good communication.

The best talent know that communication is the bedrock of all good working relationships, and it’s important to remember the reasons why someone has decided to work remotely in the first place. It might be that they did it for family reasons, but a prime factor is often that the individual doesn’t want to work for a boss they hate anymore.

The top talent can pick and choose who they work for. If they no longer want stress in their working life, they won’t work with someone they dislike.

Poor communication skills can easily make you appear unappealing to a remote worker. If you take too long to respond to messages, or if your messages are often blunt, impersonal and full of criticism, it’s going to put the best talent off.

Be a good communicator. Be friendly, personable and open. Stay in touch with your prospects and your hires. Offer feedback and offer criticism, but offer praise, too. Be positive. That way, it will be a lot easier to hire and keep hold of the best remote talent.

 

These are 5 top tips to hire top talents for your remote team. Look in the right places, sell your company to the worker, go for the experience, run a test project by them and be communicative. If you can do all this, you should be well on your way to building a stronger team.

 

About the author: Aljaz Fajmut is a digital marketer, internet entrepreneur, and the founder of Nightwatch a search visibility tool of the next generation. Check out Nightwatch blog and follow him on Twitter: @aljazfajmut

The Added Value of Coliving: Masterminds

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Written by Alex Barron

I arrived at Sun and Co with a burning desire to come away at the end of my stay with a greater feeling of confidence in the direction in which I was going to take my online teaching business. I had spent the past 5 months trying out new things: creating daily social media content, weekly YouTube videos on topics about the English language and British culture, and my website. And of course doing a lot of reading and learning from others in my domain. Introducing Masterminds…

…What is a Mastermind session? My experience.

Well, a Mastermind session is where the community comes together for an hour, listens to the nature of the personal or profession challenge of someone – or a group (one specific problem works better than many), and then spends the rest of the time offering ideas for solutions. It’s basically a big discussion, but structured around one principal issue.

I’m usually nervous about showing off my work and having it critiqued, but I knew that having fellow co-livers’ opinions could prove very valuable. One benefit of co-living is that the people are quite independent, often experienced in a variety of different fields, and eager to help others. Fresh ideas often come when you don’t expect them.

By the time the second of my near 3-week stay at Sun and Co came around and we were having our weekly family meeting I decided to bite the bullet and commit to holding a Mastermind. I had many different queries and uncertainties in my mind about my project, and hadn’t decided the exact topic of the session until that moment sat in front of the window we use at Sun and Co to write down the weekly schedule. However, pressure can be an effective tool in decision-making, can’t it? I settled on: “Alex’s English Teaching Niche”. This was the main uncertainty I had and if I could get some clarity on this, many of the others would seem less imposing. BOOM! It was written down. I had to do it.

It’s fantastic having access to so many experienced minds in one room; it provides the possibility of having such valuable feedback. On the other hand I think I benefitted as much as I did because I tried to narrow down my question to one that was very specific. In the end it was more like two or three questions around the topic of choosing French speakers as a niche. I would say that the fact that arranging a Mastermind forces you to organise your own thoughts on the matter at hand is a great plus in itself. So I felt that I had gained clarity before the session had even begun!

Masterminds take place at the house at Sun and Co. Mine was held inside so I could make use of the projector. The breakdown of time goes as follows:

• 10–15 minutes presenting the current situation/state of the idea/business/product.

• 45 minutes discussion with the other attendees which takes the form of direct feedback and Q&A’s to help them give better feedback by asking questions.

The Mastermind gave me not only new ideas for business models, how to choose my audience, and how to reach customers, but also confirmed my own ideas. I think the latter was more what I was looking for. Of course the former are going to help me a lot, but what I wanted to have when the hour was over was more confidence in the immediate direction of my business, and I got that. Working solo you often rely on yourself for moral-support, but outside voices that you respect have a huge impact! I would say that a Mastermind is the ultimate representation of co-working.

In conclusion I would say Masterminds have so much value. If you have anything you need input on, be it professional or personal, they can offer a great deal. To get the most out of them, really take the time to think about what you WANT at the end. This will ensure that you come away feeling satisfied. I know I was smiling at the end of mine :).

….

Alex is British and has lived in France for 2 years, has been a freelance web developer for 3 years and an online English teacher for one. He came to Sun and Co to see what the co-living experience was all about, and to have a change of scenery that would allow him to mix with like-minded people and generate ideas of how to progress with his teaching business http://britnchipsenglish.com, which he wants to develop into a one-stop-shop for English learners whose native language is French. When not working Alex is often enjoying the sunshine wherever he may be, and practising a new language.

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An Introvert Discovers Coliving At Sun and Co.

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Written by Rachel Stuckey

I’ve been a “digital nomad” for five years, but I started building my freelance editing business ten years ago. After a few years of freelancing, working from home all by myself, I got restless. And when my main client went digital (that is, they stopped sending hardcopy manuscripts and proofs), I realized that I could theoretically do my work from anywhere.

In the summer of 2012 I had never heard the term “digital nomad,” but I packed up my laptop and left Toronto to travel and pay for my travels by working. At the time, there were co-working spaces in big cities like Toronto and London, but they were relatively new and focused more on local freelancers, telecommuters, small businesses, and creatives who needed office space. So, I worked in hotel rooms, cafés, beach bungalows, and even hostel lounges.

But the truth is, I’m not the best digital nomad—I’m easily distracted by the places I visit and my productivity suffers. I also get lonely. And as much as I love seeing new places and meeting new people, I am an introvert. Making new friends is really hard. And socializing with casual acquaintances and strangers is exhausting and emotionally draining.

And so, despite being a digital nomad for the last five years, I often find myself going home to Toronto. There I can throw myself into my work in a comfortable home office and spend time with the people who know me. Of course, the people who know me don’t always get me. And I really can’t stay home for very long!

This year I decided to check out the new and growing co-working movement as part of my travels in India, Thailand, and Spain. As I suspected, co-working was great for my productivity—combined with the great pleasure living in Thailand with good friends, it made me even more productive than I am at home in Toronto. So, when I travelled to Spain on my own, co-living seemed like the next logical step.

I had already planned to spend some time in Valencia—and I found Sun and Co. when I Googled “Valencia + Spain + co-working.” After a few days of considering my options, I decided to book two weeks and give it a try.

The idea of moving in with a bunch of strangers may not seem like a good fit for an introvert. But while introverts enjoy (and need) time on their own, being a solo traveller can be too much of a good thing. The inclination to hide away from the world can make the digital nomad life a lonely one for an introvert like me. Co-living is the perfect antidote.

Sun and Co. gave me exactly what I needed: a comfortable work space, an interesting destination, and a friendly, supportive community. Sun and Co. was also refreshingly inclusive—so much of the digital nomad world revolves around entrepreneurship and tech—but I never felt out of place for being a boring old freelance editor. In fact, Sun and Co. has convinced me that co-living is right for me—giving me the community I need when I’m facing introvert burn out. 

I never know where life will take me, but if and when it takes me back to Spain, it will definitely take me back to Jávea and Sun and Co.

Rachel is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Canada. She’s been a digital nomad since 2012 and now divides her time between her hometown and the rest of the world. Rachel works on a wide range of projects, from textbooks, to academic journals, to websites and online learning resources, to children’s books. She spent two years running her freelance editorial business from cafés, hotel rooms, house-sits, beach bungalows, and hostel beanbags around the world. Now she is very happy to be part of the growing co-working and co-living movements.  You can find her online as the Nomadic Editor.

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