Tech Overlook

On the Road with Cisco’s Digital Nomad


2018-Aug-29

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Digital Nomads, Sabrina and husband Wesley

Raise your hand if you would be willing to give up your home, get rid of most or all of your worldly possessions and work from the road in a souped-up, high-tech vehicle? Anyone? Anyone? … Bueller?

Well, that’s exactly what Sabrina Ahmed recently did.

A content manager in the IT group, Sabrina, along with her husband, Wesley, now literally live in a customized Jeep Wrangler. Together, the newlyweds are experiencing new cities, cultures and nature as they never have before. And — at least through the first couple months of their journey — they are loving every minute of it.

They call themselves “digital nomads.”

This is their story.

Becoming a Digital Nomad

The idea of becoming a digital nomad first came to Sabrina about a year and a half ago, while reading the book, “4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss.

A relatively new phenomenon, a digital nomad is a person who uses technology to earn a living while conducting their life in a nomadic manner.

Sabrina defines a digital nomad as, “Anyone who can work from anywhere in the world — as long as they have Internet access.”

“There were a couple of things in that book that really resonated with me,” she recalls. “First was something along the lines of the richest people are the people who control their time. The other was your wealth is determined by things money can’t buy.”

Those messages got her motor ticking. Sabrina began spending lots of time thinking about the type of life that would yield her the richest experiences and most happiness.

“I have always been distracted by routines — yet have always thrived on continuous learning,” she says. “For me, traveling is a way to explore new cultures, experience new kinds of people and sites that I would have never seen in my hometown.”

So, in August 2017, with the lease on their apartment ending, Sabrina and Wesley — who was every bit as gung-ho about giving the digital nomad lifestyle a try — decided to start the transition.

They first bought a Jeep. They spent the next 10 months customizing it to make it a true home office on wheels. They conducted tons of research on digital nomad do’s and don’t’s and even took a few one- to two-week practice runs.

Last, but not least, they sold or donated most of their belongings. “I knew we would not have much storage, so I kept just a few things,” Sabrina says, adding that she believed the experience from the road would bring more happiness and true value than any possession could.

The couple married on June 16, 2018. Three days later, they hit the road. They haven’t turned back.

Building a High-Tech Home on Wheels

Their digital nomad home is built on the skeleton of a four-door, 2011 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The couple spent $15,000 customizing it to make it as “livable and workable as possible,” according to Sabrina. This, she says, required “ripping out just about everything and starting from scratch.”

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The 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon during it’s customization.

A rooftop tent that folds out into beds is the “upstairs.” A customized chair set in the middle of the Jeep has become the “living room.”

Equipped with a refrigerator, food box, cooking stove, shadowbox (for hygiene products and a minimal amount of clothing) and a laptop table, the Jeep includes a built-in water tank for showers in remote areas (but its occupants rely on a gym membership for workouts and showers in cities).

A dual battery system charges all of their electronic devices and rooftop solar panels power the rest of the mobile office. A Cisco 829 router and signal booster provides Wi-Fi in remote areas. They are also partnering with a Cisco engineering team on a customer live demo, allowing it to collect data for mobile-use cases.

The Jeep Wrangler that enables our digital nomads work, live and explore across America.
The Jeep Wrangler that enables our digital nomads work, live and explore across America.
The Jeep Wrangler that enables our digital nomads work, live and explore across America.

Balancing Work in a Nomadic Lifestyle

Thanks to Webex technology and an already diverse team — with members in the United States, Mexico and Australia — Sabrina’s team dynamic has remained virtually unchanged. She was sure to dot all of the Cisco I’s and cross all of the T’s before making her nomadic commitment.

“My agreement with my manager was that I will come back to RTP immediately whenever needed,” she says. “And, if the lifestyle ever takes a toll on my work, I will return.”

After nearly two months, Sabrina says her work productivity has, without question, increased.

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Hard at work, Sabrina brings remote working to a whole new level.

“I am so much happier living this lifestyle — and feel strongly that it shows my work,” she says. “I feel that the best way to build CQ (cultural intelligence) in today’s world of globalization is to experience all those different things firsthand. For me, travel is the best tool to increase your CQ. This is pivotal for me as I continue to grow my career in communications so I can better tell stories at a global company.”

Could you become a digital nomad too? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.


Where in the World Are Sabrina and Wes Now?

Depending on the day — and time — that you read this, the destination changes. As of mid-August, they had driven from the East Coast to the northwestern part of the United States and recently passed through Alberta, Canada. The goal, Sabrina says, is to travel as far north as possible — and touch the Arctic Ocean.

“It is all very fluid, dependent upon how much we are enjoying the current area,” she says. “And that’s the whole point. I used to be so focused on day-to-day goals and a set schedule. I wanted to take a step back, recognize the truly important things in life and spend more time in places I want to be. And share it all with my new husband.”

Follow all of Wes and Sabrina’s adventures on their You, Me and the Jeep website.

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