- Michelle Checchi, 29, has traveled the world while working remotely since 2019.
- She says her lifestyle is “much more affordable” than she’d expect to have in the US.
- In 2021, over 15 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads, up 112% from 2019.
When Michelle Checchi, 29, left the US in 2019, she only planned to be gone for a few months — as long as it took to drain her savings account.
Today, she’s still traversing the globe, working remotely as a freelance writer and video producer — making $4,000 in the typical month while only working 15 to 30 hours per week, according to bank documents reviewed by Insider.
“Instead of just feeling stuck in my one place of living, I live in an international environment that’s international for me, where I am still a traveler and a visitor,” she says.
A growing number of digital nomads, or remote workers that travel for weeks, months, or — in her case — “for the foreseeable future.” Over 15 million Americans describe themselves as digital nomads, up 42% from 2020 and 112% from 2019, according to MBO Partners’ 2021 State of Independence study. Driving this trend is the growing flexibility of remote work, a longing to see the world, and the desire to cut costs.
As of June, over 25 countries had introduced digital nomad visa programs aimed at luring remote workers and their wallets. Per the World Population Review, only two countries — Bermuda and Switzerland — have a higher cost of living than New York City, where Checchi grew up. For her, living abroad has been a budget-saver.
Making more money than ever
After graduating in 2015, Checchi enjoyed her job as a local news producer for four years, but she says she had a persistent desire to “travel and experience freedom.” In September of 2019, she sold most of her possessions, drove cross-country, and hopped on a one-way flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.
In her first months abroad, Checchi traveled to Cyprus, India, and Nepal, where she tried to stretch out her savings as long as possible. But after about three months, when it looked like her fun was coming to an end, Checchi had a “spark of an idea:” What if she found a way to make money working remotely? She began browsing Upwork and other platforms for freelance writing gigs.
“I was thinking, ‘If I’m going to get a full-time job, it’s going to root me down to one place,’ she says. “I really wanted to create a lifestyle where I could maintain my location independence.”
While she found some work, money was “not good” early on — a few hundred dollars here and there — not enough to put off her return to …….