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Marcus and Felicia (Part 3)

Shit sandwiches and bigger dreams

F: You were asking about how DNX Conference went international. It was the same. We did DNX in Berlin, and as you know there are a lot of internationals in Berlin, it is not a typical German city, and yeah, they saw our posters about the event and they asked ‘Oh, it sounds interesting, can you do it in English?’ We thought, that would be a challenge, but actually we love challenges… so we decided, why not? We did three German DNX and then the fourth one was international. So we had a lot of experience with German ones and it was a great basis to start the international conference. With the DNX camps it was the same. It was like people started asking us for it. And we announced: ‘Ok, after the event we are going to Tarifa (Spain), Maybe some people would like to join us’? And then we got 10 people who joined us very spontaneously, just two weeks after the conference. So we tried this concept when everyone books their own apartment and it was quite hard to get together on a particular time, and then we thought, maybe it would be a great idea, when everyone is in one house, so we improved it next time, and out of this the camps evolved like they are now. And it was also a gut feeling, where we do our camp or where we travel next, so we had no marketing plan…

M: All the locations of the camps are actually the places we already love. We never go to places to set up a camp, we just go and people follow us. It is like we did one in our favourite small fisher village in Brazil, it is called Jericoacoara. People just were following us and then we checked in for the camp.

F: Yeah, no one knows this town. It is not well-known.

M: Or last month, after the conference in Bangkok, we set up a camp in Ko Lanta, a small island in Thailand. It is really-really nice. We were there three years ago and fell in love with it and we decided to come back there one day, and we have a friend there, James, who owns co-working space there, so all things came together, he invited us to set up a camp there and we decided to do it. So we can show people our favorite places and work with them and do business with them, and also have fun with them, have parties, go out, everything.

D: So, it seems like when you have this passion, everything comes together.

F:Yeah, but I think it is also like a puzzle of things we learned or did before, so it does not came out suddenly. You have to see, and it t is the best way to start a business is when you start to combine experiences and skills which only you have, like what you love to do, what you are good at and what people pay you for. You just match them. For us it was travelling and also when we worked in Stepstone, we learned a lot about how the work is changing in special areas, like engineering, there are not enough good engineers, so companies need to do ‘employer branding’ to attract talent and this war for talents will become harder. I also did fares for students and they often were asking: “What shall I do after the university?’ So we had those career topics already in our company around us, so this is when we probably felt that something had to change, the old systems were not working anymore, so this was our touch-point. So this online marketing experience and my travel experience, my conference experience, our networking skills we put all this together.

M: It is like connecting the dots. Sometimes things happen in your life and you do not know why, and you think that there is no purpose or you cannot handle this, but in the end… for example I started my podcast and I thought: ‘Oh, I always like doing sports, I love healthy lifestyle and healthy food, and then I took these topics to my podcast and finally I could connect entrepreneurship with sports.

F: Also we thought: ‘Ok, camps are a cool business, BUT we also love sports and now we do a kite-surf camp in Greece. There is a business aspect, but also water sports aspect. So it is a good combination for us, because we both love sports. And also if you work and you go climbing Batur for example or after two hours of kite surfing your  mind is free and you are really focused again and have new ideas. So it actually boosts your business, when you stop and do sports, instead of just working.

D: So you believe, healthy lifestyle, sports or exercise boost your productivity?

F: Yes. Because the best ideas do not come when you are working. They really come while you are doing other things.

M: And there are also two other things: this circle of life, where you have your relationships, health, job, sports, when something is not in balance it harms also the other parts. If you living an unhealthy life you cannot be productive in your job or bee good in sports, or you are unhappy in your relationship, it is constantly in your mind and you are not free to do good stuff in your business. You see this whole thing is very holistic. And I think, we as digital nomads, running our business on the road and being able to work from everywhere to live everywhere, to do what we want and when we want this gives us the ultimate freedom on different levels, when we can take care about ourselves, because not many people can do it. They work, they have no time or energy to do spots, they have no time to cook/eat healthy food, yeah we, as digital nomads, can afford it. There is so much knowledge in our community, we talked to other people and everybody has the similar mindset and I am very happy to be the part of this movement.

F: and I also think it should not be a goal, like: ‘Ok, I will make this amount of money’ and then what, you are done? It is also boring. Yes, you make money, you travel, but it is not the goal itself. When you reached a certain point, you think: ‘Ok, what’s next?’ Maybe you can do some charity, or you can learn something new, start other businesses, it is not like you get there and there is the end and you just enjoy. You always think about what would be next.

M: It is an ongoing process and we never stop. And if people are not ready to learn lifelong it is not the right lifestyle. But if you are willing to change yourself, to get a better version of yourself and you are willing to learn - this is the best lifestyle ever. And we have a cool mantra, we are living according to, it is called ‘happy in the now’: you should be happy with what you are doing, but everybody needs a vision for the future, where you want to be, otherwise you do not have drive anymore…

F: Yeah, you are in this ‘now-reality trap’ when the vision is missing, that pushes you forward, but when you only have a vision and you are not happy in the now - it is very bad too, when you do not care about yourself and other people around you, but only we think it should be this balance between both.

M: It is a very powerful mantra…

F: Yeah, and when you are happy in the now, these vision things are more likely to happen …

D: It is like positive thinking, the law of attraction, or positive manifestation…

F: Yes, it really works.

D: Talking about all these challenges you love, one of my favorite quotes about that is from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic’, where she says: ‘Every pursuit, no matter how glamorous it seems, no matter how exciting it feels to you, comes with a shit sandwich. So the question is not what do I love, the question is what do I love so much that I do not mind eating shit sandwich’. What is your shit sandwich that you are ready to eat everyday?

M: Oh, it is a very good saying. This is what makes this difference in the end. People are always looking for a shortcut, having as less pain as possible, staying as long as possible in your comfort zone, but then you are like 99% of the population. Whenever you step out of your comfort zone, whenever you are ready to eat this ‘shit-sandwich’, whenever you have to stretch out of your comfort zone. Doing something different and doing something better, you are already extraordinary. Of course, we also have to eat our shit sandwiches all the time, it is not always like you see in instagram, facebook profiles or in our interviews, especially in the beginning, as for every self-employed entrepreneurs: there are always ups and downs. Sometimes you really think: ‘Oh, shit, I am shit, oh shit, do I have to go and find a job again?’ And then someone send you an email, asking what you are doing and you start collaborate with someone and then you think: ‘Wow, I am the best guy ever!’ And then some shit happens again and then it is up again. So with the time you learn that everything goes up and down and you do not freak out anymore.

F: I think that the hardest part in the beginning is that people have this fear that they do not earn a lot of money. You can earn more, when you are self-employed, but not from the very beginning. After a while, you hit the point when you earn as much as you earned before and then it might go up or might be the same. But in the beginning it is quite hard. So you start thinking about going back to ‘normal life’ and having a job. And this is what people are afraid of the most when they decide to become self-employed. For instance, Germany does not support entrepreneurs. People are afraid of starting their own businesses in Germany. There are no people or institutions that support you, like in the US or Australia. Germany is a very negative, unsupportive environment…

D: Do you think that you can change this, through what you are doing, your conferences, with the movement?

M: Yeah, totally. This is why we have this very unique vibe and very intense emotions during our events. When people attend DNX for the first time, they feel really connected to other people. They understand that there are a lot of people like them, who have the same challenges, same problems. They realize that they are not alone and not stupid and they are all actually are doing cool stuff.

F: Also, Berlin as a city helped us a lot to get over this fear. Because there are a lot of people who do what they want, they are very creative, many people are starting their businesses. At one point we thought: ‘Oh, this guy has less know hows than us, why he is starting his own business and we are not?’ We do not have this in other cities in Germany, I would say Berlin as a city was one of these pieces in our puzzle.

F: And as for my shit sandwich, you were asking….I am not the person who really loves writing actually. And when you have a blog - you have to write something once in awhile, right? When I am like: ‘Oh, I do not want to write now…’ I realize that we put so many years of effort into this blog, and you cannot just say: ‘I stop now’....But this is one of these things that makes me think, what shall I do next.

M: For me also, when I do my Podcast ( - there is one long interview and also  two live-hacker episodes every week. Sometimes I think: ‘Oh, no, another show…’ But I just stick to it. If you stick to it, execute and deliver - people love you, because you give them a lot of free content and you are consistent. Some people say: ‘Oh, I am not in the mood, I can do another episode next week, but people get disappointed, because they were waiting for it and then then do not get it’.

D: So you say, that you when you create your own tribe of people, who follow you, you must to deliver and connect with them, because they are looking at you, and waiting for news all the time. It is also a big pressure, right?

F: Yeah, It is sometimes hard to stick to all these tasks and promises.

M: As we said we are doing so many different projects. But we’ve  also learned that we already put so much effort into it, we’ve run 5 german conferences, 2 international conferences, 4 camps already…

F: ...but people won’t forget you if you do not post every day...

M: We try not to do too much, taking every interview, every opportunity, every talk.

F: But at the beginning - you should. Because you need to reach this point where there is an awareness about what you are doing.

D: What is DNX island, by the way.

F: It was also just something that came in our minds and we are still shaping it what it will be exactly. But we thought about real island somewhere (maybe Carribean), maybe in Europe.

M: We have this vision… I am always asking myself: ‘What could be next?’  We did these huge international conferences, people are following us… I do not want to do conferences for the next 10 years, I always want to move and do something more...So we decided, why not have an island and do really cool stuff on this island and bring together the smartest minds from the digital world and maybe some smart people, who are not in this digital world , but who are also visionaries… it is a rough idea so far. We already did some calculations on how much an island would cost, what things do you have to be aware of, so whenever the opportunity pops up - we are ready…

D: Sounds really great, but do not you think that this lifestyle and this digital nomad culture can destroy economies all over the world. Teenagers do not want to work as doctors or engineers, everyone wants to create an online startup and travel….

M: No, I do not think that this will destroy the structures which were built for centuries. Of course, it is too outstanding, and it is not for everyone, you have to be an entrepreneur. It sounds really tempting for everybody who wants to be an entrepreneur, or want to be a freelancer, but there are many people who cannot do it, they do not have this willpower, they do not have this strength, they do not stick to it, they would go for an easy shortcut, they prefer to stay in the bubble of their comfort zone.

F: But you are right. There are more and more people people, who think they can do it. But some come back to reality and see that it is not working without some experience, but there are some for whom it really works. And we agree that school system is out of date now, it has not been changed for decades and it does not teach people to think and take decisions on their own..

M: Also, they way we used to work from Monday to Friday for certain hours was invented by Henry Ford in 1934 it was 82 years ago, when they were building those cars. Now we have facebook, internet. Everyone is connected, and we can work from everywhere, but people are still working from 9 to 5 in this old-fashioned way, in this old system and it doesn’t make any sense at all.

D: What is the main impact, this movement is making right now?

F: I think it shows people that you can get more freedom in your life. For me, for example, 9 to 5 thing is a kind of slavery, so Digital Nomad Lifestyle gives people an opportunity to see that you can do something different. I doesn’t have to be that you have no home and you travel all year, for some people it can be just a small journey, that can change their mindset, they can do a part-time job and all the rest of their time dedicate to making money out of their hobbies.

M: We also try to have a bigger picture and give something back to the local communities. We have so many talented people in our digital nomad world and it totally makes sense to go to school and educate children about these things, about freelancing, what skills you need to be self-employed,

F: ...where you can learn these skills for free

M: Or what we also do, we invite local entrepreneurs to our camps to give talks, we send our participants to go to co-working spaces to share their knowledge, we also did a charity project in Brazil, where we did the Digital Nomad Course - we went to Salvador , it was really cool.  So, being a digital nomad is cool and nice, but there has to be something more.

F: Many people also think that this is the ultimate freedom, but you are never completely free. Because you always work with others, you have friends, relationships, you are always influenced by other people and external things, so you are never independent, you always depend on somebody or something.

D: What is your advice for those who are fascinated about this lifestyle, and they want to become digital nomads, and they do not know where to start?

F: To speak to as many people as possible, who are doing it, and to find out where you could find your position. Maybe you are more of a freelancer, or you have real entrepreneur skills and you want to scale things and not only exchange your time for money.

M: And there are also more and more remote companies where you can get employed and work from anywhere.

F: Look at your skills, that you already have, you do not have to start from zero, because you already have a lot of knowledge and hobbies, you can turn to your business, you can even make an online business out of your passion for kite-surfing, so do not restrict yourself. Actually I would say, you can transfer nearly everything to online. Play around, try things, read a lot, maybe go away from your home-country, because then you get new impressions and a new mindset and new surroundings, new people in your life and it helps a lot.

M: And surround yourself with people who have the same mindset and already doing this, because you are the average of 5 people you hang out most of the time with.

D: Looking at you guys it seems like it is worth trying.

F: Yeah, for sure!

M: I think everybody who is interested, should at least try to get into this, and read more, to listen to podcasts about digital nomads and attend events and conferences or join facebook communities…

F: But you also need to trust to yourself and feel what is right for you.  

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