Olumide Gbenro is the founder of the Digital Nomad Summit in Bali. The event was originally planned as an in-person event at the Conrad Hotel, with tickets selling for several hundred dollars. After the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, Olumide adapted the event to be entirely virtual — and free. You can get a ticket here.
Q: Why did you want to hold the Digital Nomad Summit?
A: I wanted to create a platform that is known for having people who are living a life of freedom and are succeeding financially but also getting the support they need intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically — as we know, it’s sometimes lonely on this nomadic journey. I saw an opportunity to bring together leaders of this fast-growing community and start solving problems about the legal aspects of digital nomadism, the environmental impact, and in the mental health area.
Q: Who is the summit for?
A: The summit is for newbies interested in starting their first online business but also for those who have been at it a while and crave community and new skills. We welcome people who are at home right now and want to learn how to make money from their living room — and someday, after this is all is over, travel the world creating an income from their laptops. We want to create a global, central hub for online business owners and travelers — a safe, fun, and engaging place to interact with each other, share knowledge with each other, and grow together.
Q: What was the original plan for the summit, and how have you had to evolve it as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic?
A: Our summit was meant to be in-person in beautiful Bali, where people from all around the world could come to meet here at the spiritual home of digital nomads. We were planning to have a lot of networking and socializing along with our amazing group of world-class speakers.
But no event is worth jeopardizing the health of our community. It was a risk we could not take. We’ve definitely had to be on our feet for this and adapt fast.
We decided to move our entire summit online with the same schedule — and make it free — so everyone from around the world will be able to tune in.
We still hope to host an in-person event December 4-6th in Bali as the situation permits.
Q: Where are you from and how did you become a digital nomad?
A: I’m from San Diego, California. I was born in Nigeria raised in the United Kingdom before immigrating to the United States.
It’s been a long journey. I took all the traditional paths initially. I did my undergraduate college in Ohio and then completed two Master’s degrees in San Diego, California.
During that time I started to learn about marketing. I used to host popular networking events around Southern California that eventually became luxury events for notable entrepreneurs and pro athletes in the NBA and NFL. With the income I was making at the time I could have quit school, but I chose to finish it.
Much of my behavior and accomplishments were driven by seeking the approval of others and of my parents, and by my religion and cultural expectations.
When I graduated, I had to make a choice: go on to a PhD and become a research professor, or travel the world. The rest is history.
I’ve been traveling full time for three years now running my marketing agency. We run social media advertisements for brands around the world and charge a monthly retainer. I also consult with brands and connect them with my network of influencers and professional athletes which I developed while hosting luxury networking events in graduate school.
Q: How has the pandemic affected you?
A: To be honest, it hasn’t been easy in terms of managing the summit. We had to adapt to the news coming in, change our plan, and manage expectations. I’m glad to say our community has stuck with us.
For me personally, the pandemic hasn’t been a huge negative impact. I do miss having the same group of friends nearby, as many have left Bali. I chose to stay to hunker down and plan for the future.
Q: What advice do you have for current and aspiring nomads in light of the pandemic?
A: There is no time better than TODAY. The internet is your best friend. There as so many ways to create an income online right now, even if it’s only a few dollars a day. You can get started with simpler things like affiliate marketing and offering your skills on websites like Fiverr.com.
Q: Where are you drawing inspiration from?
A: The digital nomad community. Every single person who quit their job to hit the road and somehow found a balance that works for them. I really want to curate a world-renowned community of support with the goal being that no one gets left behind.
This Q&A has been edited for narrative and context.
The writer will be a speaker at the Digital Nomad Summit. Her session is “Your Business is Your Brand: How to Make Yours Impactful.”