Digital Nomad. A term and lifestyle that is gaining popularity and yet, this may be your first time hearing of it. Forbes defines a digital nomad as “any individual who adopts a non-traditional office space in which to conduct work,” whether it be their local coffee shop, their van in a national park, or even on a remote beach. A digital nomad works remotely to travel the world and fulfill her wanderlust, and often has a full-time job that requires her to live a mobile lifestyle. The growing community of is brimming with so much energy and ideas and rah-rah that there are even subreddits dedicated to the digital nomad lifestyle.
To understand this remote working trend, we’ve sat down with one of our longest partners, professional adventure photographer (and digital nomad!) Russell Holliday, to get an exclusive look into his lifestyle. You might recognize from our videos.
Russ taught us that being a digital nomad not only isn’t easy, but sometimes shouldn’t be easy. Moving around is one way Russ pushes himself to become a better photographer: in a profession where every detail matters, working in unfamiliar places teaches Russ to expect the unexpected and in turn capitalize on those unplanned, magical moments he loves to capture. In our exclusive interview, Russ reveals his advice on how to build out new skills and excel at your profession by working from new places every day.
Before we dive deeper into his experience as a digital nomad, let’s get to know Russ.
EcoFLow (EF): Hey Russ, we’re excited to get to hear your story. What have you been up to lately?
Russell Holliday (RH): I’m currently on my way back to California from a photoshoot in New Mexico with a buddy of mine. We’re in Arizona as we speak.
EF: Awesome! Sounds like an amazing road trip. Can you tell us a little more about your story – how did you get started in photography?
RH: I’ve been using a camera since elementary school! My first camera was a point-and-shoot Canon and I used to take pictures of friends. My dad was an architect and so I grew up with a lot of cameras and video equipment around the house. It wasn’t until college in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo when I studied business & marketing that I began to take photography seriously. Photography became the lens through which to bring my classes and coursework to life – I felt that everything I was learning could be applied to photography. And at the time, I didn’t have any intentions of being a full time freelance photographer; I had thought it was best to look at working at an ad agency. But it just so happened that Chris Burkard was looking for a photo editor for his studio – and that’s how my professional photography journey started.
EF: What was your experience working with Chris Burkard?
RH: Though I stepped away from his studio earlier this year to go freelance, I spent my first three years out of college working for Chris: from being his assistant to photo editor to studio manager as his studio grew. I was able to get a rock-solid handle on the industry and learn the ins-and-outs of commercial photography. Of course, I still have a lot to learn creatively and photographically. Working with him was such a formative experience.
EF: What has adventure photography allowed you to do?
RH: Outdoor photography has taught me how to be nimble and be able to spend time in the places that I travel to. If you fly into a location and leave right after the shoot, you don’t get to experience much. Lately, I’ve been driving out in my campervan – playing digital nomad – with my two RIVERs so I can be more mobile for the pre- and post period of the job. I’ve been able to spend a couple of weeks on-the-go in my van, and still be able to plug back in. Through the whole experience, I’ve been able to explore a lot of different cultures and experiences. It’s made me a way more well-rounded person.
EF: We’ve recently read a lot about the digital nomad lifestyle. What does it mean to you?
RH: There are a lot of people who are really striving to live that way and I guess when I hear those words, I have a different understanding of it. For me, living on-the-go and being a digital nomad also means a whole different skillset as a photographer – it means just being able to move around and never being tied to a certain location, because you never know when you are going to turn the corner and find the most incredible location to shoot.
For many it means adventuring: I have friends that are riding their motorcycles from Alaska to Patagonia. It’s much more attainable to live on-the-go these days. There’s never been an easier time to live our life that way, as long as you are willing to make it a priority in your life, then it’s very attainable.
EF: How do you prepare for your shoots, especially given that you often go to remote and unpredictable environments?
RH: Before I go on a job, I try to familiarize myself with where I am going. I do as much research on the location beforehand, so I can come into a location with intel which gives me an advantage. I’m always cognizant of the weather and make sure that I know the gear I need and what I can or cannot travel with. Knowing what appropriate gear and photographic equipment to travel with allows me to be nimble and make game time decisions.
EF: What equipment do you use and what has been helpful in allowing you to connect while on-the-go and off-the-grid?
RH: It’s a luxury to take everything you want. Trying to be minimalist inevitably makes things simpler and smoother. The more self-sufficient you can be, you can show up and do your job and impress the client with a level of professionalism. When I’m on the job, I know being tethered and reviewing images in real time ensures great feedback and results, so I bring my laptop and my mobile Digitech station to handle the data. Because I can bring RIVER onset, I know that I have portable power and that I am squared away and can eliminate some of the unpredictable variables.
When you fly to a location, that’s where it gets a little tricky. That’s what’s nice about RIVER Bank – it allows me to be way more self-sufficient. With portable and clean power, I’m able to offer high production value with as low footprint as possible. This is a huge value to the clients I work with. Having on-the-go power in your go-to kit adds production value and that really goes positively in the client’s perception of you.
EF: What do you like the most about being able to work from anywhere and having a portable office?
RH: Feeling like you’re not tied to a certain location! It’s nice to have the ability to work with the environment around you and allow yourself to be open and compelled to shoot. It’s important and healthy to get comfortable with moving around. As a traveler and as a photographer, being willing to move around and being in that specific moment and place is how you’re going to be different.
EF: Any tips for those who are interested in a digital nomad lifestyle?
RH: The experiences that you cherish the most will be going to a place not because you’ve seen it in a photo, but because you feel like you’re going to get something meaningful from the experience. As a traveler, I’ve found that it’s the “in between moments” that are the most meaningful. I always carry my camera with me to capture those unexpected moments. You don’t have to know when or where you want to shoot, but you know it’s meaningful for you.
EF: Before I end, I wanted to ask some fun rapid fire fun questions for your fans – What is your favorite song to listen to while on the road?
RH: Anything by Pink Floyd. Hands down.
EF: Coolest story you had on the road?
RH: We were driving to a location to shoot the Northern Lights in Iceland with Chris Burkard. We were pretty much dismayed because the forecast predicted it was going to be cloudy. However, as we were driving, the sky opened and the lights began and I thought to myself “Man, I can’t believe this is happening.”
EF: Who do you look up to?
RH: Renan Ozturk. He’s a director, super badass climber, and all-around creative person. He is so invested in and passionate about his craft to where he is wanting to do everything, even he could have easily had someone else do it. When we were in Iceland, it was 3-4am and he was on the phone with his tech back in the US to fix his drone. He is able to do things himself and not have people to rely on. That is what I aspire to be.
EF: Thanks Russ for speaking with us today about your lifestyle as a digital nomad and on-the-go professional photographer!
Whether this was your first experience learning about digital nomads, you are looking to join the digital nomad community, or have wanderlust to travel to the far corners of the globe, we want to empower you to #PowerAFreeLife. As Russ mentioned, living a nomadic lifestyle requires having the right essentials for your gear kit, living in the place and moment, and not being afraid to be different.
The power is yours,