Tips to Become a Digital Nomad, with Matilde Leitão

Gabriela Molina

Matilde Leitão is a former occupational therapist that became a digital nomad and digital entrepreneur. She co-founded Remote Portugal and a travel and entrepreneur platform, TravelB4Settle. She also works as a community manager at BanskoLab.

Digital nomad expert

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob Podcast. Your podcast about building and leading remote teams. I am your host as usual, Luis, and my guest is Matilde Leitão. Matilde is a former occupational therapist, which became a digital nomad and digital entrepreneur. She co-founded Remote Portugal and a travel and entrepreneur platform, TravelB4Settle. She also works as a community manager at BanskoLab. Matilde, welcome to the show.

Matilde Leitão:

Thank you. Thank you, Luis. Thank you so much for the invitation. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Luis:

It’s a pleasure to have you. It’s a pleasure to have you. So I want to start by asking about the story behind your career shift. We’ve talked before, a little bit before starting recording, I have a somewhat similar, weird career trajectory. So how does that an occupational therapist transition to becoming a digital nomad and then your founding the kind of platforms that you founded?

Matilde Leitão:

In a very harsh way, I heard about digital nomadism actually just a few days after I finished my graduation in Occupational Therapy. That world became… It was super new to me and became super interesting to me and I was in love about all this idea of being able to work online while traveling the world. So I understood immediately that will be very hard with my profession, even though my idea, when I finished my graduation was already to travel. But of course, just to work for a few years in some countries and then change for another country, and it was my idea with my profession.

Matilde Leitão:

But then I wanted to go for digital nomadism and I knew it was very hard with my profession so I started to learn everything I could, self thought in digital marketing because I understood it was also an area that is at that time was easier to start working online. So after working some months in my profession, I went full on this idea. I booked a one way ticket to India and I started my first project, that was TravelB4Settle started as a travel blog and so many people. And then it became now, it’s a platform where we talked about online business, digital nomadism, and still traveling, of course, I still travel. I am a digital nomad for four years. That was the transition from occupational therapy to where I am now.

Luis:

So talk to me a bit about TravelB4Settle. Not only that transition from blog to platform, but actually what kind of value do you use that platform to provide to users? How does it work exactly? What does the platform provide as a platform, as a service?

Matilde Leitão:

So it’s for Portuguese… It’s a bilingual website and we have lots of content on these languages, English, and Portuguese, but then it’s more focused on Portuguese people. The idea is to help the Portuguese people to start working online. There’s a lot of people that still see these, the digital nomad world and also the remote work world as a dream that is not reachable. We want to teach them and to make them see that it’s super easy to start working online if you want. So we have a lot of valuable content from videos to posts on social media, and also blog posts. We also created an online course last year in Portuguese, the online course is called 12 Ways to Start Working Online and it’s all about the… So we tried a lot of ways after I started to learn about digital marketing.

Matilde Leitão:

I started to learn a lot of ways I could, a lot of skills I could use to work remotely. And also in the meantime, traveling the world in these digital nomad communities, I got to know a lot of people working in different areas as a remote worker. So I kind of joined all this knowledge and we did this online course about working remotely. And then we have our clients, our students in a community. We have a community together where we are always learning and sharing knowledge and even some trips we do where we can meet in the next destination and so on.

Luis:

Got it. And then with Remote Portugal, you focus on the other way around, right? In helping people to speak English or other languages to come and work in Portugal as digital nomads, correct? Did I get that right?

Matilde Leitão:

Not quite. So that’s the second –

Luis:

So please enlighten me.

Matilde Leitão:

That will be a second or third stage of Remote Portugal, for sure. But still, Remote Portugal is also for Portuguese people, but the idea is it’s not only for individuals for but also companies and for infrastructures. So our idea, our general mission is to help Portugal become more remote and with that, we are three founders of Remote Portugal and two of us also co-created the TravelB4Settle. We continue to help the individuals starting to work online and to get this information about remote work and then we also have Gonçalo Hall as our third co-founder that helps company starting to become remote. And then we all help the infrastructures like co-workings and co-livings or previous hotels that now livings to start doing this shift to receive these proper digital nomads and remote workers. And that of course can be even Portuguese or international people.

Luis:

So what have you found that are the biggest challenges in terms of infrastructure?

Matilde Leitão:

In Portugal?

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

The existence of them?

Luis:

Well because, I assume that for… This should be valuable for people in similar positions in other countries, right? I have to imagine that at least some of the problems have some overlap, right?

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. So in Portugal started to happen a lot, especially after COVID. What happened was the hotels and all these tourism accommodation places started to understand that they didn’t have more clients and this new shift of tourism that was now long term and it was completely different. So they thought, “Well, okay, so now we want these digital nomads,” and that’s it. But it’s not like that. You can’t just think they will come to you just because, it requires a lot of changes. And the first one is definitely to create these plans for long term accommodation and so they can now continue to charge people per day. If people are staying for one month or two months, that’s the first stage. But then it’s also requires some changes in the place itself, like having places to work with good conditions, have a good internet, and then of course all the marketing because if you want to call these people, you have to talk to them and you have to know where they are to look for them.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s definitely the situation and also from experience, good cafes in Portugal tend to be very noisy. So that’s the… The workspace is definitely something important to take care of.

Matilde Leitão:

Yes.

Luis:

So tell me a bit about your career as a digital marketer. What does the team you work with look like?

Matilde Leitão:

So, as I told you before, I have two different projects. In the first one, we started to do these as freelancers, these jobs, social media management, and doing the digital marketing for some small companies here in Portugal and outside. And then when we created this course, we went full entrepreneurs and we stopped with the clients. But then in Remote Portugal, we started Remote Portugal last year and it’s something that we know that the idea is not to make money out of it, but really is a mission to help Portugal. And we see Remote Portugal more as our… It is more something we can help Portugal with. So right now we are actually changing Remote Portugal for NGO here in Portugal. That’s our idea, we are in that process and we also have digital marketing people and skills there.

Matilde Leitão:

So we have some services inside Remote Portugal because we have now around 30 volunteers working with us and I am managing the team together with Miguel and Gonçalo, the other co-founders of Remote Portugal. So it’s a team of 30 volunteers where inside, we have at least six or seven projects. One huge one is the social media, of course, that I am more in to it. Helping our head of social media and all of our content creators doing our social media. We are around all online platforms except Twitter, that is not a big thing in Portugal.

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

And then we also have different projects. We are now creating our… this is a very, very big news, no one knows yet. But we are now creating our first-

Luis:

It’s a world first in a DistantJob podcast.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah, world first. We are creating our first merch shop with remote work content.

Luis:

Nice.

Matilde Leitão:

So that’s also a new project. We will also launch one academy with all the online courses and skills that the new generation in Portugal, and even everyone, of course. But these new idea that I completely agree that you don’t need a degree to have a big future and to go into big companies anymore.

Luis:

Yeah.

Luis:

That’s true though it’s a bit scary. Let’s talk about this for a minute because it’s slightly scary, right? The idea that because you always get the sense that, this is what people tell me anyway, that when they get a job, let’s say as a director of something. A decent, a good well paying job in an internet company. Let’s say without a degree, there’s a bit of imposter syndrome that kicks in that they feel that, “I got this by luck And if I lose this job, then I’m not going to get something like this anywhere before because I don’t have the qualifications,” right? That’s something that people… that’s a concern that people come to me. That it’s kind of a bit of playing the job lottery as it says.

Luis:

What do you think? What’s your impression? I don’t feel like that at all. I’m in that position, I don’t have the credentials, the college credentials to do the jobs that I do in marketing. But I do feel that if I wanted to leave my job, I have options within this industry. I get a couple of offers every now and then. So I feel that that’s not quite true, but at the same time, I understand that fear and it does make a bit sense. So what do you think about that situation?

Matilde Leitão:

I completely agree with you. I understand the feeling of fear because it’s something that until now, you had this guaranteed. You knew that if you went to college, okay, so now you’re going to get this job because it is what they say, right? And things have changed a lot and now, of course-

Luis:

You have a diploma, right?

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah.

Luis:

That proves you can do this, right? People have checked, I can do this.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. But I am in the same situation as you as I have a occupational therapy diploma and I’m working as a marketing manager and a – And what I feel is exactly like you said, because maybe now people don’t look so much for the degree but more for the experience. So if you have this experience already, why not hire again for this job in another company or so on. What I feel right now is that is happening… In my opinion, that is happening also because the world is evaluating?

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

In a way that the school system is not following. So right now, what is happening, I remember to finish my degree and I was like, “What do I do now? I don’t know anything. I feel like I don’t know anything.”

Matilde Leitão:

And it’s funny because after studying for one year in digital marketing, I was like, “Okay, I got this,” and I studied four years as a professional therapist and I finished and I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t know anything.” So I think it’s just the way when we are learning by ourselves, it’s just so much easier to go to the things we really need and no one else is saying like, “Okay, now we have to learn this. Now, we go to the things we know that we need to know.”

Luis:

Yeah. What I find when I think back about my time even before university, even before college, even just in school, right? I got the sense that when I think back on it and I also have younger brothers and sisters, so I can see them going through those stages, and I get the feeling that the education is just a small percentage. And then another percentage of it is just maintaining the school system. There’re school books that need to be sold, there’s teachers that need to have jobs and I want teachers to have jobs. I not against that.

Luis:

But I’m just saying that it’s not totally, even I would say that the biggest percentage is not really focused on the learning the things that are important. It’s a system that was built over many, many years. It’s very antiquated but you can’t get rid of it from one day to the other-

Matilde Leitão:

No, that’s –

Luis:

Because that can cause a lot of people to leave, a lot of companies to lose money, and a lot of people to lose jobs. And plus, we’ve transitioned to a society where parents have created their lives around kids not being home for the biggest part of the day.

Matilde Leitão:

No, definitely.

Luis:

So there’s-

Matilde Leitão:

I completely understand.

Luis:

Big…So there’s this big amount of factor is that kind of conspire, right? To keep kids and students in a situation that’s actually not optimal for them but really, it’s such a complex situation that we really don’t know how to solve it. So we kind of say, “Well, it’s been working for many years, so let’s not change it too much or it’s going to be a lot of trouble to change it.”

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah, I understand. But I even don’t like… What I mean is I’m not against school at all because I think it’s also for social skills, all these areas very important in our lives.

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

But for example, just adapt some of the subjects. For example, why we never had in Portugal any knowledge about economics and finances if we don’t go to economy.

Luis:

That’s true.

Matilde Leitão:

These thing that we know for sure that will be in our lives and school just-

Luis:

Doesn’t teach it.

Matilde Leitão:

Just ignore them.

Luis:

Yeah. But I actually want to push back a bit because we’re going a bit off, we’re going a bit off track but I want to push back a bit on that socializing thing and the getting social skills thing because this is something that relates to remote work. I get a lot of that thing of if people aren’t working in the offices, people just do remote all the time, how will they socialize? And I would say the same thing for school. I don’t need school. I never needed school to socialize and I never needed work for socials. In fact, I preferred to socialize outside of school and outside of work. I have much better friends from activities that are not related to work and school than activities that are related to work and school.

Luis:

I would say that I would be very happy if my kids wouldn’t have to spend a single day in school, but of course I would absolutely make sure that my kids are part of a sports team or have a hobby with other kids and et cetera. I think that’s how you get the socialization. I really don’t like this idea that people have and now going away from school and going into work, I really dislike this idea that you need work because that’s where you make your friends. I think that’s a terrible idea.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. It was actually funny. You talked about this because I had this discussion yesterday with a friend of mine, she was explaining that she was going into the entrepreneurial world and she gave up because she felt very lonely and she felt she had to go again to a company, she’s not actually working remotely, but just to have friends. And I agree with you, there’s another way for sure. I am an entrepreneur myself for four years. You have to find other ways but there’s a lot of people that don’t. So when you say, for example, that you were not making friends in school, but after school, in other activities, that’s because you or your parents were productive enough to find for another things, but there’s a lot of people that don’t.

Matilde Leitão:

And then there’s also in other cases where locations where it is also harder. For example, I’m now based in a very small town in Bulgaria called Bansko. It has a lot of digital nomads around, but it’s mainly in this winter season because it’s a ski resort. So in the previous months I was a little bit, “Oh my God.”

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

“I’m alone.” But yeah, I went to look for these activities, but sometimes you don’t have those activities in such small towns or you do, but it’s not what you are looking for, of course. So sometimes it’s hard and I understand, this need of some people to whatever, go to schools or go to work because of this.

Luis:

All right. So let’s talk a bit about you were talking about how the team set up, you have a team of 30 volunteers, right? A certain amount of those are in your area and in the social media and marketing. So tell me a bit about how the team organizes, what does their typical day and typical week look like? And how did you interact with that, how do you work as a piece of that team?

Matilde Leitão:

So as it’s a volunteer job, it’s also very different from what you have been hearing here for sure because they can choose how much time they give to Remote Portugal and whenever they want to work for it. So what we asked our volunteers, so we can all be at least a little bit in connection, is we… So we use the platform Slack and we try to ask them in their profile to have when they are away for a few days to get that information in their name. Or if there are some people that prefer to work for example, only Tuesdays and Thursdays, they will put that information on so when I’m working with something that I need that person and it’s a Wednesday, I know that person will be available just tomorrow, for example.

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

So that’s one of the first few things and what else? So we have 30 volunteers and lot of different… like a normal company, lot of different rules and one of our last for saying this was an HR in our team and also a project manager. And that was something that really helped us in the general picture because when we have a remote team, that is also volunteer, one big problem is the motivation.

Luis:

Okay.

Matilde Leitão:

So our HR is doing an amazing job and we are now doing different things such as events and some more social times. For example, now, every two weeks we do a co-working session with pomodoro technique altogether. We are just working and then we do some pauses and we talk with each other. Also, every two months, we are doing a team meet up where we have a little presentation about what’s happening in Remote Portugal. And also, then we just talked with each other and it’s very interesting, but very… It seems like something very simple, but is very important in a remote team that is based in volunteers.

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah.

Luis:

So that’s a bit counterintuitive to me because it would seem that if the team is volunteer based, right? Obviously, there’s a limit to how much people can contribute because they have to spend their rest of their time making money to survive, right?

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah.

Luis:

So it does seem a bit counterintuitive to use those kinds of techniques to spend some of that time that’s already little in getting together and doing fun stuff, et cetera. I see the value in fun stuff, I’m not anti fun, but tell me how that works out? How do you decide that was something that you really want, that you needed to prioritize investing in?

Matilde Leitão:

So after we have some people leaving now and also with the project manager, we had a meeting where we started… We were discussing these problems and after that, we started to ask people. For example, our HR has meetings with them, like small meetings just to see they are liking the job, what’s happening, and also we have from time to time, some questions to know that if everything is going good. And we understood these lack of motivation because most of our volunteers also come to be in a way that they can first learn about remote work and of course they have, most of them already got a remote job just because of us, because if people are helping us, of course our duty is to help them.

Matilde Leitão:

So we help them whenever we can, whenever we know someone that is asking or friend that needs a new position, we always go for our teams first for our remote virtual team. And so a lot of people got jobs because of it, but they also come, some of them just work directly with me and Gonçalo and Miguel. So they also need this time to have some time with us talking and learning with us and not just work, work, work. So now we are doing this and for example, these moments we do every two months, so it’s not very exhaustive.

Luis:

Ah, got it.

Matilde Leitão:

And they love it.

Luis:

Nice.

Matilde Leitão:

And they don’t see it as time for volunteer in Remote Portugal, but they see it as time for some social time with do with friends that they are meeting.

Luis:

Yeah. Got it. So it’s a bit back to what we discussed previously. So what about yourself? How do you as a remote entrepreneur and as someone managing marketing, how do you organize your time? What does that look like?

Matilde Leitão:

So I try to be… So I was a nomad for four years, right? And what I understood is that it’s very hard to have a routine when you are constantly traveling. So in the-

Luis:

Yes.

Matilde Leitão:

Since I started to travel, I am traveling each time slower and slower and staying more time in each location. And I am now in Bulgaria for one year, it’s definitely the biggest amount of time I stayed in one place. So that’s a start, I need to travel slower. And then have my routines on the place, I need to have my exercise, so I go to a place and I try to have each at least or a gym or classes. Something like these, so I can start my day doing exercise.

Matilde Leitão:

And I also need these things, we were saying this social life. So I try to always see if there’s events in the digital nomad community or even in the local community. And for example, in Bulgaria, there was, but it was very… So it’s very funny because in Bansko where I am, it’s very known for the digital nomads, so what ended up happening, it’s a very small town with four co-workings.

Luis:

Wow.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. So we already did some research and we know already that in kilometers, it’s the biggest, the most amount of co-workings happening in the world. And what’s happening is these co-workings don’t have, unfortunately they don’t have the mentality of co-working together between them. And so these communities are very closed, so the events are for each of them and then if you don’t belong to one of them, you feel completely alone in that town.

Luis:

Wow.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. So it’s very specific. Or if you just belong to one, you will not meet the others. So I find this very hard to understand.

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

Also, very likely you said now I’m doing the events in BanskoLab. BanskoLab was the cafe, that’s internet cafe that started this year to all kind of stop this and so they started the place where everyone can go and don’t need a subscription fee and also don’t need to be from any co-working, but everyone can come. But the events were missing so I started to do the events there. It’s like a side job thing and it’s very interesting because I was needing this, so I kind of-

Luis:

Nice.

Matilde Leitão:

Answering this for myself.

Luis:

Yeah.

Matilde Leitão:

And now yeah, that’s very important.

Luis:

You created for yourself. Nice. That’s an interesting story. Thank you for sharing. So tell me about a bit of that learning journey. Let’s go back to the beginning before we end. That learning journey where you said that you were educating yourself about how to do remote work, how to create this lifestyle for yourself. And obviously, doing the research that enabled you to create all the educational content that you put out there on your platform, What are the books that you would give people, if you could give two or three books for people to read, to study? What were the ones that helped you the most? Or it don’t have to be books. If it was some of talk or online course, or et cetera, apart from your own, of course, which we’ll link in the show notes.

Matilde Leitão:

So that’s an interesting question because yeah, I will go mainly for podcasts.

Luis:

Interesting.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. So I like one that is more for the females that are listening to us that is called the Goal Digger Podcast from Jenna Kutcher.

Luis:

That’s a nice title. I like that title.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. I love it. Yeah, that’s true. And it’s very entrepreneurial and so I like that one. Books, I started with the 4-Hour Workweek from Tim Ferriss and it was something that I have always in my mind, trying to have the most time in my life with quality time.

Luis:

That’s surprisingly common in Portugal. Actually, I’ll say I also read that one. I just find that the philosophy is still good today, but a lot of the specific tips have not aged well, I don’t know if you agree.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. So there are some specific things that I reread again the book, one year ago, and there are some things like he goes very… How can I say? Rest in to-

Luis:

Deep into virtual… He used virtual assistants at the time when virtual assistants were very cheap. Now, if you want the virtual assistant, it’s basically a salary, right?

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah that’s true, well

Luis:

That you’re paying

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. That’s true. And all these things to not replying emails and so on. Sometimes it’s not easy, but yeah, I think it’s more the general idea of trying to get a way of working where then you can really enjoy your life and not just being work, work, work.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely.

Matilde Leitão:

Yeah. And what else? And then like you were saying, I started to learn, but no, I’m in a constant learning and I think we all should be. I’m always, always, always learning in different matters. For example, now I’m very focused in personal development and now what I have been seeing more is TED Talks. For example, on YouTube, I just go check some TED talks about whatever I feel I should improve in myself.

Luis:

Okay. All right. So that’s another recommendation. So let’s talk a bit before we close, I have one last question which takes a bit of a longer setup so please bear with me. But it’s basically, let’s say that we’re done with the pandemic and we can all have a dinner safely together. So we’re having a dinner where the leaders of the biggest tech companies in the world are going to attend, and you are the host. During that dinner, the topic of the night is going to be remote work and the future of work and you, as the host and also because the dinner is happening at a Chinese restaurant, you get to choose the message that comes inside the Chinese fortune cookie. So what is the message that you’re going to give these people?

Matilde Leitão:

I think I will just really… Once again, be ensured that yes, the future of the remote work is the future of work.

Luis:

All right. Straight and simple. I like it. Okay. So thank you so much for being a guest. Now, before we close.

Matilde Leitão:

Thank you.

Luis:

I would really want you to tell people, to tell my listeners, our listeners, where can they continue the conversation with you? Where can they find more about you? How can they contact you and how can they find more about your courses, your initiatives, and all that you’re offering?

Matilde Leitão:

Okay, awesome. So, as I said before, you can even look for me and my business is TravelB4Settle, B and the number four, settle on social media and TravelB4Settle.com, where I have one of my projects. The other one is RemotePortugal.pt. We still just have the Portuguese version, but we are also on different social media platforms and on this website. And if you want to talk directly with me, please do it. I am always open to meet new people and to help whoever needs me and you can do it on my LinkedIn, Matilde Leitão. For some foreigners, Leitão, maybe it’s a little bit difficult, but I think Luis will leave it here and you can-

Luis:

Yeah. We’ll have everything in the show notes. No worries. No worries. Everything will be link to in the show notes. So Matilde, it was an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much-

Matilde Leitão:

Thank you.

Luis:

For being a guest.

Matilde Leitão:

Thank you so much, Luis.

Luis:

And thank you for listening ladies and gentlemen, this was the DistantJob Podcast. Your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I was your host Luis and my guest today was Matilde Leitão from TravelB4Settle. See you next week.

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob podcast. And if you enjoy the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in this conversations that are a joy to have for me and I hope they are a joy for you listen to, as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to DistantJob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, any episode, really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help with that, again, DistantJob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you need, and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate. 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob podcast.

 

Most people confuse being a digital nomad with traveling non-stop to different locations. While some enjoy that lifestyle, others prefer to slow travel and give digital nomadism a different meaning.

Matilde Leitão shares her exciting story about becoming a marketing expert (without any experience) who traveled the world. During this podcast, she shares tips on becoming a digital nomad and how slow travel has been her new way of discovering the world.

Episode Highlights:

  • Her shift of profession from occupational therapist to a marketing expert
  • Insights about her digital nomadism blog TravelB4Settle
  • Remote working in Portugal
  • The importance of looking for socializing opportunities as a digital nomad
  • Tips to motivate remote teams
  • How to organize your time when as a digital nomad

Book Recommendation:

 

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