After working as a barista in Saudi Arabia, Valiant published a book on his experience, which quickly became a best-seller and enabled him to travel and work remotely

Q. What countries have you visited and where are you based now?

I have visited Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, England, Scotland, Western Europe, US, Australia. I live in Ubud Bali.


Tell us your journey on becoming a digital nomad.

I worked as a barista in Saudi Arabia and wrote a book about my experience as an immigrant worker. The book (Kedai 1001 Mimpi) was published in 2011, and it became the best-selling book. I use the royalties that I make from the sales to travel and write more – it’s addicting!


Q.What is the most challenging part of being a digital nomad?

Cultural diversity.

I was involved in many creative projects with work partners from various countries, and there were a number of misunderstandings, most often due to differences in our accents, lack of understanding a native-speaker’s idioms. Even between our fellow Indonesians, our accents can be very different between Balinese and Sundanese (from West Java) like me. There were also misconceptions due to different ways of non-verbal communication: like eye contact (too shy to look at your eyes!), difference in physical space (too close!), even our handshakes style (too strong to handle!). 

But, the most challenging is dealing with cultural stereotypes. It’s not always negative, but it can give the wrong expectation. For example, I was expected to be smarter in ‘calculating numbers’ just because I am Asian! This can be more complicated when working with friends who are still affected by a history of antipathy between their nations. The more I experience this misunderstanding, the more I need time to learn about other cultures to understand different perspectives, to overcome narrow-mindedness, and to acknowledge that what one person does shouldn’t be used to define an entire community.

You can read more about this on my blog


Q. How has Covid-19 impacted your life as a digital nomad?

I’m still adapting to the ‘new normal’. I use this moment to get some rest, stay alert, stay alive, keep an eye out for my loved ones.


Q. Favorite destination(s) for remote work and why?

Innsbruck, Salzburg (Austria) and surely Ubud-Bali (Indonesia). A breathtaking view for a beautiful mind. After the Covid-19 pandemic I will visit my mama in West Java, I miss her so much!


Q. What are some of your favorite apps to share with other nomads?

InShot, Grammarly, Snapseed, Upwork, and Voice changer! 


Q. How have you been able to make friends and connect with others?

Online class sessions. I love history, nature and creative online classes! I recommend:

The Ethics of Memory, to explore our own memories, collective memory and memorial culture, and conflicts of memory.

Mountains 101, observing more about the physical, biological, and human dimensions of mountain places around the world.


Q. Tell us your most crazy travel story. / What memory most stood out to you? 

I was arrested by the police for selling Christmas-themed mugs that were apparently illegal in Saudi Arabia. My bad.


Q. What are your plans after Covid-19?

If everything gets better, after first visiting my mother in West Java, I definitely would love to rebook my cancelled trips to Pakistan and Eastern Europe. See you there?


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