In my recent post about the detachment of being a travel blogger I said how I was going to the DNX Digital Nomad conference in Berlin. A few of you have commented and emailed asking for a review and to see how it went, so as requested, I’ve interviewed myself all about it.
What is DNX Global?
DNX stands for Digital Nomad Exchange. It’s a ‘conference’ for anyone who’s interested in the nomadic lifestyle whether they’re currently living it or not. It wasn’t necessarily all people who want to travel while working, but people who want to work for themselves on their own time.
The main events were a day of workshops followed by a day of talks, but with so many nomads gathered in one place there were also more events either side.
This was the first ‘global’ DNX, as they’ve held them before but they’ve always been in German. This was the first English one, and I’d say from how much everyone loved it there’ll definitely be another.
Wednesday: 4HWW meet up at Betahaus
Have you read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss? This book changed my life. Many other people will tell you the same. I didn’t know there were 4HWW meet ups worldwide though. The event was at the DNX venue so I thought I’d go along, see if I could make some friends before the conference, and check out where I’d be spending the next day. There were two talks over an hour:
– Marketing Mindset: From Software Engineer to Entrepreneur
Till Carlos – Märketing
– Staying Motivated While Bootstrapping
Heidi Lidholm – SagePublicity
Both interesting and good to listen to, but more for a bit of ‘you-can-do-it’ inspiration, rather than action points to write down for me. Betahaus was amazing, chatted to 4 people all of varying skills and interests in the networking after and then decided to call it a day.
Thursday: Suitcase Entrepreneur Meet Up
I went sightseeing in the day round Berlin and then went to Natalie Sissons’ Suitcase Entrepreneur Meet Up (photo from her talk on the Saturday). My original reason for going was to meet some more people on a smaller scale rather than just arriving at the conference knowing no one, I didn’t actually know of Natalie (or sign up).
Now I do though! Natalie is awesome and I’ve totally stalked her site since. She inspires women (and men) to set up businesses remotely and shows them how to get the most from them by pushing themselves. She’s a charismatic, straight talking Kiwi and really knows her stuff. Her ‘Freedom Fighters’, as the people who do her course are called, were all besotted by her and hanging off her every word, then I realised I was too.
I met some cool people here and from meeting at 4pm I didn’t end up going home till around midnight after dinner and drinks. I was feeling really pumped for the conference now!
Friday: Workshops at Betahaus
We were invited for breakfast at Betahaus before the workshops started. Here I met another awesome female entrepreneur in the queue to sign in. She taught me a alot, chatting over our vegan breakfast (queue was shorter), and I had an epiphany or two as I ate my couscous. The conference hadn’t even started yet.
My morning was spent learning about personal branding – I think I made a bad choice. At lunch other people were coming back raving about their workshops but three hours of branding talk later and after looking through my notes all I have is one point: be an expert.
I had chilli con carne for lunch and a chance to talk to more people. Everyone at the conference was so friendly and interesting, there was never any weirdness as we all had so much to talk about and so much in common.
The afternoon was spent with Christian Haffner who’d set up Fast Bill, and a bunch of other businesses, but still finds the time to surf as much as possible too.
His talk was on how to work less and get more from what you do. To him this basically meant to outsource, which on a personal blog like this one you can’t, and don’t want to, do. But I definitely learnt a lot for the future, for any ideas I have. One of the most inspiring things about him is that he’s managed to make his accounting brand cool.
Friday night: music and networking
There was a performance in the café area and speed networking. By 9pm my brain was wrecked, I’d met so many people they were starting to merge into one supersonic digital nomad, so I decided to leave and go home fresh for 9am start the next day.
Saturday: the main conference day
Today was the big day of speakers: 16 in fact. They all had 30 minutes to do their talk and go. When I saw the line up beforehand I was worried they wouldn’t be able to get into the meat of it in such a short time, but most of them were absolutely brilliant. There was so much information, some relevant to me, some not, but all super interesting. Here’s the full line up of speakers, and I’ll just go through a few of my faves.
- The first, and most interesting, was Derek Sivers (above) who set up a company called CD Baby to sell his music and within 7 years, kind of accidentally, it was worth $22million. He gave it to charity to sell, after it amassed him $8 million and had started to be too corporate for his ideals. What a guy. To hear his business journey from working out how to get a buy it button on his site (took a month and an inspection from the authorities in the olden days before PayPal), to hiring staff, to finally selling, was fascinating.
- Natalie, the Suitcase Entrepreneur, was next. She was all about working out what you can do, what people will pay you to do and how to marry it up. It was a great talk for me to think about expanding my business repertoire. I have way too many ideas right now.
- Pieter Levels from Nomad List did a talk on the future of digital nomads. He predicts that by 2025 1 in 3 people will be a digital nomad. Not sure some of my friends would be too happy about that, not everyone wants this lifestyle. He told us about a place in China that’s being set up specifically for digital nomads, with co working spaces, a separate tax and everything a digital nomad could ever need.
- The Vegan Bros had some interesting things to say, although I’m not sure why they felt they kept having to f word like an emo kid. They’ve bought veganism to a group of people who are not your average hippies and found a unique market for their product. I like that.
- Til H Gross did a brilliant one to end the day: all about getting out of your comfort zone, shaking things up and the psychology of being different. He encouraged us to do comfort zone challenges. which kind of ended in a lot of people lying on the floor randomly. You can watch his TEDx talks here.
Saturday night: Party at Urban Spree
Awesome venue. Awesome.
After going out for dinner with some of my new friends just over the road, we went to the official after party at Urban Spree. It was more networking, I met more new people, chatted more to some of what felt like old friends, but I’d only known them a few days, and then of course tried to round people up to go to a club. Seeing as it was 4am I didn’t get many takers, well, only one so we decided against it. Definitely for the best.
The Betahaus, where the workshops were, was so cool. It’s a co working space, which means people who work for themselves can pay a membership fee and come and use the facilities so they’re not working at home on their own all day. Going to spaces like this is a great way to meet people in your fields – you never know what might happen. The idea for DNX was conceived here two years ago, in the very room I had both my talks. I definitely want to start using co working spaces as I travel, when I stay somewhere long enough.
They’re not just city buildings though.
- The Coboat is an “82ft retrofitted sailing catamaran and floating coworking space” which will set sail in November with 20 passengers on board and you can join at any point, if you cough up the cash, of course.
- The Sunny Office have 5-7 events a year where they’ll set up somewhere in Europe and invite other entrepreneurs to come and share the space.
- The Digital Nomad Cruise is a 9 day trip from Spain to Brazil hoping to link up digital nomads with each other for fun, sun and most importantly, work and inspiration.
There are so many of these initiatives being set up around the world, in fact my friend Travel Dave is working on one in Thailand right now too: Kohspace in Koh Phangan.
I want to join one!
A few takeaways
I have loads of notes from the conference but to sum up in just a few bullet points, here are the key takeaways…
- What’s made me choose this life? Keep that in mind.
- What do you want to optimise your life for? Fame? Money? Freedom?
- Done is better than perfect.
- Make your values and goals be the organising force in your life, instead of emotions.
- If you’re not embarrassed by your first launch, you’ve launched too late.
- You need a good idea and execution for success.
- Invest in yourself.
- What can you do THIS WEEK to get you nearer to your goal?
It was so good to meet other people who were living like this and to see how they were doing it. After the Detachment of being a Travel Blogger post I got a few concerned emails, especially from the mother, but I’m not describing it as a lonely thing, it’s just a side effect of living like this and this was something that was discussed at DNX.
One of the coolest things Felia and Marcus did (the organisers) was to set up a Facebook group of everyone who was going – 346 members – and encourage us all to introduce ourselves. Having only ever been to travel blogger, or blogger, conferences before it was great to read about all the innovation and creativity that would be going to the conference.
It was also a good way to meet people because I did actually sit down and go through at least 75% of the intros, so when I met someone I could be all “Oh yeah, I know you, great website, I saw you in the DNX Facebook group”. Like that.
It’s also a great resource for the future.
There were WordPress developers, personal coaches, UX designers, photographers, bloggers, digital marketers, branding experts, authors, health coaches, consultants in everything you could imagine, filmmakers, nutritionists, travel agents, motivational speakers, freelance designers, app developers and… a few travel bloggers too.
Was it worth it?
I paid €247 for the conference, + €5 for the 4HWW meet up. It took me a long time to finally decide to spend all that and I can confidently say that it was worth every cent. The inspiration, the lessons, the friends and the peer to peer advice I’ve had over the past few days is mind boggling. I need time to go through all my notes and action it all.
As I was at the conference, meeting all these people, I thought about how I would describe it to my friends. I decided it was brainwashing yes, but it was brainwashing to get rid of the social norms and expectations that society gives us from when we’re born, right through school and beyond. The life processes that we’re supposed to go through, just like everyone else to be just like everybody else.
This conference has definitely reminded me that there is a different route and that plenty of awesome people are taking it. There are challenges of course, but for me, making my living digitally so I can live wherever I want and how I want is my goal for the rest of my life and I’ve just met around 350+ people who feel the same.
– All photos by Stefano Borghi