Camping in Scottish highlands presented challenges for operation digital nomad.

Hi, it’s Jake with my monthly report on Operation Digital Nomad, our quest to monetize our slow travel blog and turn our year abroad into a sustainable lifestyle.  This is the third post in the series – don’t forget to read the first and second reports for context. Our (extremely ambitious) goal is to earn $4000.00 a month through our website. And because sustaining the slow travel lifestyle is a part of the lifestyle, we thought it would be a good idea for me to share how it’s going each month.

In this edition, the focus is going to be on how we (re)learned the hard way that pushing yourself and your family too hard can actually be detrimental to your productivity. But first….

Here’s the bottom line from September:

Net Income: -$57.79


  • Adsense: $0.54
  • Total: $0.54

We made $0.54 using Google Adsense. Like I said, it was kind of slow month. This month, we had a few affiliate links up on our site, but so far no sales.


We don’t include any of our living expenses, or expenses that we would incur even without Operation Digital Nomad. That’s why things like lodging don’t show up, even though our focus is on slow travel. We treat it like our rent because we aren’t paying for a home back in the U.S.

Let’s see how that compares to last month:

As you can see, both our income and our expenses decreased. Though it’s tempting to see that the expenses decreased by more than the income and declare victory, September was definitely not an improvement. As I mentioned last month, the expenses for August were unusually high because of some of the one time expenses associated with revamping our blog. I also pointed out that our priority was to increase our income, rather than decrease our expenses. In other words, even if we brought our expenses down to zero, it brings us no closer to our $4000.00 a month goal if we don’t get our income improving every month.

What Went Wrong:

It’s often hard to pinpoint a simple explanation for a problem, but in this case it’s fairly obvious. The problem was inactivity. I’ve said that the most important – and hardest – part of improving our traffic and income is to keep producing content for our blog. In September that productivity simply broke down. Between this post and last month’s edition of Operation Digital Nomad, we only published one other post (Fairy Glen, Family Fun on the Isle of Skye, Scotland). This was one tenth the productivity of August (10 posts), which was in turn one half of our productivity goal (20 posts per month).

So did we get lazy or what? Here’s where it gets a little harder to explain. As you know if you’ve been following us carefully, we spent most of the Summer tent camping in Scotland. It certainly had it’s challenges – bad wifi, bugs, unpredictable weather – but by the end our month on the Isle of Skye, we had reason to be optimistic. We had heard stories about the harsh weather on Skye, and we were relieved to have produced ten posts during our stay there. We even went the extra mile to drive into town for a faster internet connection when it was time to upload photos. We posted to Instagram every day and, of course, the scenery was amazing!

When we arrived at our campground in Glencoe on a beautiful sunny day, we were dazzled by the mountains and forests that surrounded our site on the shores of Loch Leven. We were excited and ready to go, but we ran into problems when the weather took a turn for the worse. On Skye the weather was indeed severe at times, with winds gusting at 45mph some nights, and downpours that occasionally soaked the earth and even blew into the kitchen area of our tent.

In Glencoe, the only problem was rain. But there was just so much of it. After the first day of sunshine it rained for two weeks straight. As we got farther into September the temperature began to drop as well. It wasn’t long before we could see our breath in the morning. As the ground became saturated, the soil beneath our tent turned to mud, and soon it felt as though we were sinking every time we walked across the floor. The locals confirmed that it was rainier than usual.

I want to stress that we weren’t in any danger or anything. We had made sure back in July that we would have everything we needed to keep warm and dry. Our sleeping area was thoroughly waterproof, and our sleeping bags were warm enough for freezing temperatures. But the psychological effect of being holed up in a small space for so long was brutal. If you’ve ever been stuck in the house with a toddler on a rainy day, you know it can be hard. Just imagine that the house is only about six square meters and you have to walk a couple hundred feet through the rain every time you go to the bathroom.

Needless to say, tensions started to flare. For the sake of family happiness, we decided that we needed a little vacation. We couldn’t change the weather, but by setting our work aside for a while we avoided letting perpetual frustration with the circumstances turn into frustrations with one another. It meant we got almost nothing done on the blog, but by the end of it, we felt closer together instead of farther apart. Work will always be important, but family comes first.

Reasons to be Optimistic

Back in the City

We’ve arrived in Prague, and it is like a different world. The skies are clear and our apartment is spacious and comfortable. Our wifi is blazing fast again, and we have a table to do work on. As I write this, Lisa is sleeping in the other room, and my stomach is full of stew that Dannie cooked on a four burner stove. Also, there’s no more midnight pee bucket. All of a sudden productivity feels easy.

Travel has been a series of highs and lows, and clearly camping was no exception. Dannie and I committed ourselves to camping for three months in Scotland, and we are both glad that we saw it through. It was an experience so different from what we’ve encountered so far in the cities and villages of Europe, and riding that roller coaster together makes us kinder and more compassionate toward one another. It makes us more optimistic as well. We all have a lot more faith in one another, in ourselves, and in our family as a whole. It feels like we can take on anything.

Going Strong

If we ran a grocery store together, the goods would have spoiled while we took a break. Luckily for us, we just run a blog, and it actually didn’t do that badly without us. In the month we did essentially no work on it, we went from 2748 pageviews to 1829. That’s a decrease of about 33%, but it means that we’re getting traffic from links and from google, even when we aren’t actively promoting ourselves.

After we finished camping, Dannie and Lisa both came down with severe colds. We had a week to make it to Heathrow airport in London, and we decided to take it extra slow. I focused on making sure that Dannie and Lisa had everything they needed, and they focused on getting better. Dannie felt bad not editing any photos or posting on Instagram. But when we finally signed back into our account, we were touched to see that instead of jumping ship, our followers were posting messages wondering where we were and hoping we were alright. We really felt grateful to know that people weren’t just following us, but rooting for us as well.

I have to admit, that we had moments of doubt about Operation Digital Nomad while we were huddled up in our sleeping bags between a pile of baby toys on our left and a pile of dirty laundry on our right. But there’s something about walking down the streets of Prague that makes us feel like we’re at home again. All of the enthusiasm and energy that had started to drain from us is rushing back with a vengeance, and Dannie, Lisa and I feeling like our old selves again. So for those of you who were missing us in September, it’s October now and we’re back!

Don’t forget follow us on Instagram, and stop by regularly see what’s going on! Thanks again to all of our readers who have been so patient with us for the last month. We really can’t succeed without you!