Location: Wales, UK (mainly in the Brecon Beacons, with a short stay at Llangrannog)
Duration: 15 weeks
What makes a journey unexpected? The people you meet along the way, the magical places you see, the experiences that shape it, the plans which change and change again.
This journey was a first for us…
We had committed to a life of adventure, what some call “digital nomads”, others call “remote working” or “unconventional living”.
The term “digital nomad” is used to describe professionals who work remotely while traveling the world. Like the nomads of centuries past, digital nomads can move with the seasons, or whenever they feel like visiting a new place.
After giving away what possessions we had, putting the rest in storage and fitting everything we needed into a few suitcases, we hit the road.
After the first 3-4 months of life as digital nomads we can safely say that we have no plans to stop anytime soon, commit to an end date or consider a more ‘traditional way of life’. We’ve never felt so free, alive and inspired.
5 lessons from being on the road
1 – The Places Are Great But The People Make It
After spending nearly 4 months in Wales as digital nomads, our most vivid memories are of the people we met.
When you plan to go somewhere you get the feeling of excitement for all the places you’ll visit and the nature you’ll see. Even though this is a big part of what makes travelling so great, the people are at the heart of it.
We couldn’t have hoped for a better start to our journey than to meet Mark and Hilary, owners of Glanpant Bach.
There’s some people in life you just click with, when there’s never a dull moment and the way you see the world is just well aligned.
Meeting locals wherever you are in the world with a wealth of knowledge about the area and more historical facts than anyone could ever know is a beautiful thing.
A fond memory will be eating olives, drinking good red wine, wrapped in blankets, with the bitter winds blowing over the rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons, and the sound of laughter echoing as we exchange stories with our new found friends Hills and Mark.
Top Tip: Particularly at a time when face masks can sometimes feel like they silence us, take the time to speak with strangers, shopkeepers or even your accommodation hosts as you’ll never know where it might lead you.
2 – No Plan Is Sometimes A Good Plan
Our original plan was to stay in Wales for 6 weeks. We ended up staying nearly 4 months! Alterations like this are only possible when you don’t plan too far ahead.
The world is turbulent, and whether it be a pandemic, natural disaster or something else, approaching the digital nomad life with an ability to ‘let go’ will only play in your favour.
It’s often comforting to know exactly what the path looks like in front of you for months ahead. With a clear plan we can feel like there is less risk and uncertainty, but there is a trade-off for this approach and it won’t necessarily play in your favour. Not to mention the only certainty in life is uncertainty…
Spontaneity and letting go of control when travelling as a digital nomad is liberating and will often mean the risk pays off.
Through meeting people and sparking up conversations you’ll start to see new plans unravel that are even better. That’s how we got to stay in the village Llangrannog for a little while.
3 – Off-Peak Or Out Of Season Is Best
Google ‘when is the best time to visit Wales?’ and you’ll get the answer of Summer, with mentions of warm and dry coupled with the reasons to avoid Winter. Although this is a lovely time of year to visit, you’ll miss the magic of a place which usually only the locals get to see.
There will be moments during an out of season period where you’ll most likely question why on earth you chose this time of year. But these are balanced with other moments which’ll take your breath away.
Authentic, memorable moments which feel even more special as you get the feeling very few others have witnessed the same.
My book review series Green pages gives me the opportunity to sit down with a good book and then review. I really enjoyed reading the pocket sized book ‘Easy tips for the eco-friendly traveller’ by Juliet Kinsman and there’s a key chapter in which Juliet describes how travelling off-peak is one of the go-to ways for reducing our impact. As eco-conscious travellers, this is just another reason to travel to places when most other people avoid them.
By travelling out of season you’ll also gain a different perspective – with the added advantage of enjoying your dream destinations without huddling with the masses of tourists who also want to go there at the ‘best time’.
4 – Slower Is Better
We thought we understood the growing trend that is #slowtravel. We were certain that 6 weeks to get to know Wales would be plenty, right? Wrong.
4 months on and we felt we had only just got started.
When we look back at our time in Wales we feel so grateful for the time we have taken to slow down and really get to know the Brecon Beacons as well as Llangrannog.
This trip has made us reevaluate future destinations and plans. We realised that slowing down meant enjoying the simplicity of the journey, and brought us a deeper sense of a place.
Slow travel is not only an approach to travel, it’s a mindset of quality over quantity. It’s about overcoming the urge to see and do it all in one week, but instead fully immersing yourself in the place, people and the experience.
When embracing slow travel you drop the to-do lists from Tripadvisor’s top 3 and try to forget the Insta-worthy shots – which isn’t always easy to do within a society which has a need for instant gratification.
By focusing on the things that locals do everyday – where they shop, eat, and explore – the more joy you’ll feel. Your travel experiences will be more memorable and impactful than racing to get to the next viewpoint.
5 – WIFI, WIFI, WIFI
Technology is an incredible thing and is the reason why we can become digital nomads, something our parents’ generation didn’t have the same opportunity to do.
But as a digital nomad, a reliable WIFI soon becomes your best friend and a poor connection your worst enemy.
Top Tip: Before staying anywhere ask to see a screenshot of the upload and download speed of the property, this will avoid any surprises. Depending on how many video calls you have to attend every week, we may not need ultra-fast WIFI every time. We tend to aim for 10M download and 5M upload
Sometimes you’ll do everything you could to plan ahead but the WIFI signal just isn’t as strong as you were led to believe, or there will be a power cut, or you have no other choice but to move to your next place regardless of the poor signal.
In any case, thinking creatively and relying on others who also think out of the box can be your saving grace; such as a local café owner who turned her BnB rooms into office spaces during COVID (with superfast WIFI).
In the words of Marie Forleo: ‘Everything is Figureoutable!’
Our top 5 recommendations when visiting the Brecon Beacons, Wales
1. Shop At The Kitchen Garden
The most delicious celery, sourdough bread, sweet potato and parsnips I think we’ll ever taste. The Kitchen Garden is a must-visit for buying local produce and supporting local businesses, if only to rediscover what food should really taste like. This special garden uses organic and regenerative principles. Rae runs the show and is a wonderful lady with a wealth of knowledge for sustainable living.
“Industrial agriculture has not produced more food. It has destroyed diverse sources of food, and it has stolen food from other species to bring larger quantities of specific commodities to the market, using huge quantities of fossil fuels & water & toxic chemicals in the process.”
Vandana Shiva – Stolen Harvest – 2000
2. Visit Hay-on-Wye
Hay is a fascinating, adorable town! Books in the castle, shelves on the streets and more little boutique bookstores than you could ever have thought possible. In total, Hay-on-Wye now has over twenty bookstores, all dedicated to the love of written word. There’s also a local market which is a must-visit.
3. Jump Into Four Waterfalls
The best way to experience these epic waterfalls and experience the breathtaking nature is by simply jumping in. We went gorging with guide Matt at Parkwood Outdoors and had an afternoon we’ll never forget. We were lucky enough to get a private tour, as there were no other people around on the day. Highly recommend this.
4. Climb The Allt
Allt yr Esgair is a hill in the Brecon Beacons National Park commonly referred to locally as simply ‘The Allt’.
It is a hill which is often overlooked. It’s never mentioned as a perfect Instagram picture, nor is it a challenge like a Pen y Fan, but this is where we witnessed some of the most breathtaking sunsets and is more off the beaten path.
If you’re lucky you’ll even be joined by a sunset as stunning like this…
5. Visit The Zero-Waste Shop Natural Weigh
The owners of this cute little shop have a real passion for our natural world. Having previously worked in the environment sector, they have seen first-hand the pervasive nature of plastic pollution. That’s why they started Wales’ first zero waste shop in Crickhowell!
The vegan rocky roads are a tasty treat!