Nomadic Tales #3
Welcome to Nomadic Tales, where we showcase the journeys and experiences of digital nomads around the world. Today, we have the absolute pleasure of featuring Samantha, a travel blogger and freelance writer. Join us as Samantha shares her nomading experience in one of the most underrated destinations in the world and how it impacted her life for good.
Growing up in the US, I never traveled abroad even once, but even as a child, I was enthralled by South Asia. I begged my family to take us to Indian restaurants, I read every novel I could based on the Subcontinent, and even wore my own Desi clothes, all under the age of 11.
What seemed to be a childhood obsession began to materialize into real life, when in 2017, I when I had the opportunity to join some fellow university students on a backpacking trip to Ecuador.
One hour in, I was hooked. An entire world was indeed out there.
My backpacking trips escalated until I finally found myself in India in 2018. I didn’t have much time though and vowed to return on a truly open-ended trip the following year post-graduation. While that trip did bring me back to India, it also brought me to Pakistan, a country that can best described as beautiful chaos. I wanted to see it all, and my nearly four-month introduction was not enough.
Though I had hoped to continue backpacking Pakistan ASAP, the pandemic forced me to spend more than a year at home. Disappointed as I was, it was during that time that I got my first freelance gigs, spent more time working on my blog, and even started learning Urdu (Pakistan’s national language) with a teacher on Skype.
In 2021, I came back to Pakistan and soon found a wild and magical valley deep in the Karakoram Mountains to be a place that truly felt like home. At this point, I’ve traveled to every province and territory of the country, and while I’ve loved it all – it’s Hunza that feels like some kind of idyllic other planet altogether. And somehow even at 8,500 feet – we have fiber cable WIFI! I’m now permanently based here while I wear many hats as a freelance writer and run my website, Instagram, and Youtube channel that all focus on life here in Pakistan.
1. How did you start your journey as a digital nomad?
I started out by creating my travel blog, where I then wrote many guest posts for other bloggers. This provided me with a portfolio that got me my very first paid writing commission. Around the same time, I also got my first social media management job. It was so exciting to make those first few dollars completely remotely, a feeling that extended to my first $ made directly on my blog via affiliate marketing.
2. How has being a digital nomad changed your perspective on life?
Being a digital nomad has made me infinitely grateful for what I’ve seen and the place I get to live in part thanks to this lifestyle. I hated the culture and mindset most Americans have, and I love being able to live somewhere with low costs and less materialism. It now blows my mind the amount of money people I know from back in the US spend, considering how far it would go here in Hunza or in many other locations around the world.
3. What is an underrated destination for digital nomads?
This high-altitude hamlet of Gilgit Baltistan is absolutely nothing like the Pakistan you’ve heard about in the media. While I’ve honestly spent safe all over Pakistan, Hunza is a truly special place that has ALWAYS been free of crime, violence, and terrorism. In fact, even during peak instability in Pakistan back in the late 2000’s, Hunza remained peaceful.
The vast majority of those living in Hunza are Ismaili, which is known to be the most liberal sect of Islam. Because of this, people are extremely tolerant, welcoming, and very used to foreigners. As locals have told me, Hunza was extremely popular with backpackers back during the times of the Hippie Trail. The valley is spectacularly beautiful, with dozens of record-breaking snow-capped peaks, Gatorade-blue lakes, and the best hikes in the world if you ask me.
While more foreign backpackers are starting to come through, few stay longer than a week. And they’re missing out! Not only is Hunza is a hiking heaven, but these days the fiber wifi is REALLY GOOD and honestly comparable to Western standards for most things.
There are many cute cafes to work from in Karimabad, and an endless number of day trips to explore. Plus, the cost of living is really low. You can definitely spend around $500-$600 a month in Hunza as guesthouses give monthly discounts.
4) How do you balance work and travel?
If I know I’m going to be hiking or otherwise adventuring outside of service zones, I’ll typically try to get ahead in my work before I leave. I’ll also schedule content to be released while I’m gone.
Otherwise, I usually work in two sessions regardless if I go out somewhere in Hunza for the day, or if I’m actively traveling and moving between places.
Having a schedule is extremely important as a nomad, and definitely something I’m perfecting as I get more and more freelance work.
5) What are some misconceptions about this lifestyle?
People of course love to act like being a freelancer or a digital nomad isn’t a real job, but in reality, it’s MULTIPLE jobs. I have to be a writer, editor, SEO specialist, photographer, videographer, researcher, graphic designer, and more to run my various ventures and deliver for clients. It’s definitely hard to get people set in traditional careers to understand that.
I think people (at least some I know) assume that living in the remote area I do means things are uncomfortable or hard. But the reality is, I absolutely love it and truly feel like I’m living in my dream place. For me, there is nowhere on Earth as beautiful as the Hunza Valley, and the people are just as incredible as the views.
Follow Samantha's nomading journey on her Instagram (@intentionaldetours)