Soul-crushing winters, gig economies, eternal commutes—the urban struggle can be very real. But instead of giving in or giving up, some Torontonians are getting out: they’re packing their laptops (and yoga pants and GoPro cameras) and taking their work on the road. Where to? Places like Bali, Sydney and Medellín, which have become hubs for digital nomads and thriving micro-industries to support them. But mostly, the destination is wherever the sun shines, the Wi-Fi is reliable and the living is easy. Scenes from the new frontier of work.
Who they are: Coleman Molnar, 33, and Lisa Felepchuk, 35, content marketers
Where they do it: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
What it costs: Housing $2,000, utilities $200, transportation $600 on gas, groceries $450,
entertainment $400, work expenses $300, home and vehicle insurance $300, miscellaneous $250, health insurance $160
Lisa: I was working in the publishing industry as the editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine. Coleman was the digital editor of a men’s magazine, and that’s how we met.
Coleman: I had travelled quite extensively. After high school, I spent a year in Bordeaux, France, and during university I went backpacking around Southeast Asia, Australia and Central America. I had dreams to do long-term travel. I knew I’d find a way.
Lisa: We went for an evening run in High Park in March 2015. It was dark and windy and miserable. We were both like, What are we doing here?
Coleman: Toronto winters were definitely the catalyst, but I was growing disgruntled by the pay at work, and I wasn’t satisfied with where I was in my career, either. At the same time, I had started to notice the boom in content creation and opportunities for freelance work. So I quit my job in September 2015 and found a position with a marketing company that created written and video content for various brands. Best of all: I could work remotely.
Lisa: By that point, we were living in a condo at Peter and Adelaide and I worked at Richmond and Spadina. I loved my job. I had started working full time right out of university, so the idea of leaving a stable nine-to-five was scary. Still, quitting was the right decision. As a trial, we decided to buy a 1983 Volkswagen Westfalia and drive across Canada.
Coleman: In May 2016, we got rid of our condo and moved into the van. That summer, we went east to the Maritimes then drove west to B.C. We stayed in Vancouver for while, then in October we went south to Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona.
Lisa: It was a little scary to leave security behind. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to travel full time if Coleman hadn’t been with me. But it got easier the longer we did it. Earlier this year, we spent six months in Southeast Asia working remotely. We’ve been fortunate enough to have contacts through our old journalism jobs. We do traditional journalism and content marketing for brands under our company, Li et Co Media.
Coleman: We also created a brand for ourselves on Instagram, which generates a bit of money. We don’t identify as influencers by any means, but we figured that if we were teaching clients how to create consistent content for a specific audience, we should probably practise what we preach.