Courtesy of Ignacio Nieto Carvajal and Miguel Piñas Rodríguez
Ignacio Nieto Carvajal and Miguel Piñas Rodríguez met by chance at a gay bar in Madrid, shortly after Nieto Carvajal moved to the Spanish capital for work.
Nieto Carvajal almost didn’t go out that night, but he says he’s very glad he did.
“With Miguel it was love at first sight, I knew it from the first time I saw him,” Nieto Carvajal told CNN Travel today.
“At first it was like this crazy thing with butterflies and everything.”
A few months later, Nieto Carvajal and Piñas Rodríguez were living together. Less than five years later, they were married.
A year after their wedding, the couple decided to get up and travel the world together, working remotely along the way.
Piñas Rodríguez quit his 9-5 corporate job and started working for himself in the web design / SEO field. Nieto Carvajal was in his second year leading his own development company.
The two sold all of their furniture and most of their belongings in Spain and have become digital nomads in their own right. Now in their forties, they say they’ve never looked back.
The couple’s first stop was Riga, the capital of Latvia.
“We had been there before and loved the city; it was affordable, small and comfortable, ”explains Nieto Carvajal. On previous visits, they had also made connections in a collaborative workspace called TechHub, which made it easy to set up.
Soon after, the couple traveled to Berlin, and soon they became addicted to the fun of exploring a new place, and what Nieto Carvajal calls the “freedom” of not being tied down.
“You are exploring new cultures and new people, and it’s so exciting,” he says.
The couple have since spent time in destinations such as Vietnam, Bali, Estonia and Malaysia.
“Let’s go out there and see what happens,” is how Nieto Carvajal describes the couple’s journey process.
Whenever they arrive at a new location, the two typically find an Airbnb “at least for a few days or weeks,” says Piñas Rodríguez.
From there, they’ll usually find a somewhat more permanent place to settle down for a while.
They like to get to know other travelers, but mostly like to meet locals and get their tips. The couple say the only downside to their lifestyle is saying goodbye to people and places along the way.
“Whenever we travel from one country to another, I am very sad at the beginning, because I miss the previous country and I miss the people,” says Piñas Rodríguez.
But before long, they’ll embrace a new culture and make new friends – and for Piñas Rodríguez, those connections often come through food.
“I’m a foodie. You learn to cook new recipes, amazing recipes,” he says, citing Thailand and Malaysia as two of his favorite food cultures that he’s adopted over the years.
While Piñas Rodríguez and Nieto Carvajal love to travel, they say there are challenges that come with the digital nomadic life – from handling fishy WiFi on arrival to vacation rentals that don’t look like the photos. in line.
And in addition to those more minor ups and downs, the couple also need to safely navigate as gay men.
“Some countries are more welcoming than others for this,” says Nieto Carvajal, who explains that the couple was particularly worried before traveling to countries with little or no legal protection for LGBTQ people, such as Malaysia.
But Nieto Carvajal and Piñas Rodríguez say the locals they met in Malaysia were very welcoming and overall their experience as gay digital nomads has been overwhelmingly positive.
When visiting countries known to be less tolerant, Nieto Carvajal and Piñas Rodríguez usually don’t come across as a couple.
Instead, they say they let the people they meet come to this understanding independently.
“People accept it better than you think,” says Nieto Carvajal. “They get to know you, and they come to the conclusion that these guys are together after a while.”
“Everyone will know,” adds Piñas Rodríguez.
“Eventually they realize that these two guys are working together, traveling together, together all the time – they are a couple,” says Nieto Carvajal.
The couple are also wary of public displays of affection in some countries. But if they adapt their behavior in certain situations, the couple say they are very aware of the importance of staying true to themselves when traveling.
Nieto Carvajal’s advice to other LGBTQ travelers is to be aware of your surroundings and know the culture and context, but “don’t try to hide either.”
Piñas Rodríguez echoes this: “Be natural and don’t hide.”
Digital nomads in times of pandemic
At the start of 2020, Nieto Carvajal and Piñas Rodríguez were in Croatia. Within weeks they had moved to Serbia.
They hoped to get to Canada that spring and then cross the United States and go to South America.
Then the Covid-19 hit Europe.
“When we were in Serbia, everything started to explode,” recalls Nieto Carvajal.
The couple moved to Bulgaria at the end of February, when Italy had become the European epicenter of the coronavirus. They remember Bulgarian customs officials assuming they were Italian and initially refusing to let them in, only to learn they were Spanish and pass them through.
A week after arriving in Bulgaria, many European countries closed their borders and entered detention. Nieto Carvajal and Piñas Rodríguez met in Bulgaria for almost a year.
“We decided to wait until at least we were vaccinated and everything was more stable,” explains Nieto Carvajal.
He adds that the pandemic highlighted a consequence of the digital nomads’ way of life that they had been unaware of until now: as they were not permanent residents in Bulgaria, they could not get vaccinated right away.
But in the spring of 2021, they had their chance and headed to Turkey, then Spain for a long-awaited reunion with their family and Estonia for the next leg of their adventure.
Before the pandemic, the “digital nomad” was already becoming a bit of a buzzword.
And now, while many people have spent much of the past 18 months working remotely, more and more workers might be wondering if they will be able to connect remotely in the future.
Piñas Rodríguez and Nieto Carvajal’s best advice for future digital nomads is how you’re going to make money before you hit the road.
The couple also warn against assuming social media or blogging will be a source of funds. In fact, which is somewhat unusual for digital nomads, Piñas Rodríguez and Nieto Carvajal largely avoid social media – Piñas Rodríguez sticks to changing his Facebook status when changing countries and occasionally uploading the photo to Instagram. .
Nieto Carvajal doesn’t use any social media apps at all, but maintains a work blog.
Today, Nieto Carvajal and Piñas Rodríguez both work for the same organization, Your Company in Estonia. Nieto Carvajal is the CEO and Piñas Rodríguez is the Marketing Director.
“We had different companies in the past, but this joint project really took off, so we focused on it and closed our previous companies,” says Nieto Carvajal.
Nieto Carvajal says the company helps entrepreneurs run online companies based in Estonia, taking care of tax, accounting and compliance.
While the couple advocate getting your things in order before you start full-time travel, they also admit that sometimes you just have to step into the unknown.
Don’t think you’re too old or too late, they insist.
“The worst enemy of yourself is probably your own fears,” explains Nieto Carvajal. “Don’t be so afraid to try.”
Some digital nomads may see their trips as a short-term disruption rather than a long-term lifestyle choice, but Piñas Rodríguez and Nieto Carvajal say they have no plans to stop traveling.
They hope to someday visit Canada and Latin America, and they also have Georgia and South Africa on their long-term visit list.
They sometimes meet former digital nomads who have fallen in love with a particular destination and have chosen to perpetuate their stay there.
Piñas Rodríguez believes he could have stayed in Bali, while Nieto Carvajal loves Estonia.
But for now, the couple have no plans to put down roots.
“Maybe when we’re 60 or something,” says Nieto Carvajal.
“It’s exciting to be able to share this together and we are grateful for every minute we spend together and every new place we discover hand in hand.”
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