“Escape the Rat Race” Case Study – Nate Hake – Travel Lemming

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Originally from Denver, Colorado, Nate is a recovering corporate lawyer turned travel blogger, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. His travel blog, TravelLemming.com, focuses on promoting emerging destinations around the world as a solution to the problem of overtourism. He also founded a small B2B software company, Collection Harbor, and has done some freelance writing work along the way. 

Here’s an intimate (and inspiring) look at the ups and downs of his adventure. If you’re looking for insider advice on how to escape the rat race and build a location independent life, this is for you.

How long have you been traveling? Where have you traveled?

I was raised in a military family, which means that in some sense I’ve been traveling my entire life (I lived abroad in Japan for middle school). 

But in terms of full time travel, I left home in 2016 to travel the world on what I thought would be a year-long journey. That trip has never really ended, and for the past three years I’ve been full nomadic. 

In total, I’m at nearly 70 countries during the course of my lifetime, including almost 50 countries across six continents these past three years. I’ve spent significant chunks of time in Mexico, Georgia (the country!), and Thailand among many other places. 

Man standing inside beautiful cenote in Mexico

What was your life like before you started your adventure?

Working as a corporate litigator means working a lot. 

And, honestly, I kind of liked the work. I was a trial lawyer, which meant I actually got to spend time in court (most lawyers don’t), and I really enjoyed the public speaking aspects of the job. 

Plus, the income helped pay down my enormous student loans and carve out a decent life living in Denver, a wonderful city. 

But after five years in the rat race, I at some point realized that my work had become my life – something I never really intended to have happen, and something that bothered me deeply. 

See also: Why I Kissed My Promising Career Goodbye to Travel the World (And Don’t Regret It)

What inspired you to start your life of travel and/or build a location independent lifestyle?

I didn’t start out thinking that I would work online and travel the world – I just kind of fell into it. 

I originally thought I would leave work just for a year on a sabbatical to “see the world.” And, though that’s a near-impossible goal, I did my best – I covered 43 countries in my first year on the road. 

About halfway through that year, though, it occurred to me that I might never want to stop traveling. That’s when I started my travel blog and, shortly after that, my software company. 

I wouldn’t say there was a single “lightbulb” moment when I decided to become a digital nomad. It was more of a slippery slope from “normal” life to this exciting and unusual lifestyle. 

What struggles did you face when deciding to leave the security of your old life behind (emotionally, financially, relationally, etc)?

I think the hardest part about becoming a digital nomad is just figuring out how to make it all work. 

I mean, we all know how to work. 

And we all know how to travel. 

But when you combine those two things into a full time lifestyle, it becomes a different challenge entirely. 

I know that when I started, I had no clue whatsoever what I was doing. I hadn’t even heard of the term “digital nomad” (and initially resisted describing myself as one when I did). 

And that lack of knowledge about where to even begin at the start was a definite hurdle. 

How did you overcome those struggles? 

For me, I just had to kind of figure things out. 

I took a lot of online courses in different skillsets, read more books and online guides than I can remember, and tried so many different paths to making an income online. 

Eventually, I figured some of it out. I’m still figuring new things out every day though – I think living the nomad lifestyle requires a constant process of learning. 

To help folks following behind me, I recently created a huge 50-video online course called The Travel Lifestyle Course, which walks through a lot of the lessons I learned the hard way on the path to becoming a digital nomad. I also created a free mini-course that helps aspiring digital nomads avoid costly mistakes when getting started.

But this is a relatively new lifestyle and, even for me, it requires constant adaptation and learning. 

Note from Mitch: I just finished going through the Travel Lifestyle Course myself and was blown away. This would’ve been SO handy to have 3 years ago when I was first starting out! If you’re interested in becoming a digital nomad and want someone who’s “been there done that” to give you step-by-step instructions and guide you by the hand, this is the best resource out there (that I know of). I recommend starting with his free digital nomad mini-course.

I am an affiliate for Nate’s course and will receive a small commission if you sign up using my link. That said, I recommend this course whether you use my link or not.

How have you supported yourself financially throughout your journey?

These days, it’s almost exclusively off income from the travel blog (mostly in the form of affiliates and also some ad revenue). 

But along the way I’ve done a variety of things freelance, especially writing, to help support myself. 

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How has your life improved since quitting your “normal” job?

I get to wake up every day and decide for myself what I do with it!

Oh, and I’m always waking up in some place that I find super interesting (and if I don’t, I just leave!). 

Need an extra dose of wanderlust? Check out this huge list of inspiring adventure quotes!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

I think it’s always a challenge to maintain a sense of home on the road. I’ve learned ways to cope and to “create home” on the road, but even the most nomadic among us always have that pull for stability. 

Traveler posing with Ankor Wat in background

What’s one thing you know now that you wish you would’ve known first starting out on your adventure?

That the most powerful tool you have for creating a remote income are the skills you already have applied in a new context. 

See also: Best Travel Jobs: 107 Killer Ways to Make Money Traveling

Anything you would’ve done differently?

Oh, we always have regrets – but I try not to live in the past.  

The one thing I really wish I had done sooner was to hire a team. It’s been such a game changer having a staff to support me. 

What’s the biggest life lesson travel has taught you?

That people are more alike than they are different. 

Traveler smiling with mountain background in Georgia

What one piece of advice would you give readers thinking about leaving behind the 9-to-5 to build a location independent lifestyle?

Start planning now, even if you don’t think you’ll leave for a few years. It’s a big transition, so the sooner you can get a head start, the better! 

⚠️ HOLD UP! Before you peace out to explore the world—have you thought about travel insurance? If not, let me tell you a little story…⚠️

Any final words of wisdom?

At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s right for you – whether that’s setting out to travel the world, or staying home to focus on other priorities. Listen to what others have to say, but ultimately tune them out and make your own decision about your own life.

Man lighting lantern during Lantern Festival in Chian Mai, Thailand

For even more inspiration, check out these other Escape the Rat Race interviews:
Nomadic Matt
Mapping Megan
The Professional Hobo.

***Do you have a successful “escape the rat race” story? Wanna be featured in an upcoming case study? Shoot me an email for more information.***

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